Friday, September 11, 2009

The Helmeted Hornbill (Buceros vigil)

"Imagine being on the tropical island of Borneo and drifting quietly down a steam in a dug-out canoe. The giant trees of the rainforest rise on each bank like cathedral spires, and the creepers which festoon them form cloisters that conceal the dark damp interior. Raindrops pattering on the foliage and distant rumble of a retreating thunderstorm form a backdrop of sound, though which penetrates a single mournful hoot. More hoots follow at intervals, accelerating in tempo until they break suddenly into peals of maniacal laughter. Two huge birds then burst across the dome of the sky, their naked red heads extended and metre-long tail feathers trailing behind. Cackling loudly, they ram into one another like mountain sheep’s… Male Helmeted Hornbills are busy in defense of their territorial boundaries."

(Alan Kemp from his book HORNBILLS -1995)

The Helmeted Hornbill has captured the imagination of a lot of people since it was first discovered in written science by the early explorers to the tropical rainforest of Asia in the early days. The unmistakable size of this hornbill, reaching up to more than 1 metre plus its long elongated centrail tail feathers, its distinctive reddish yellowish casque which is Solid and its interesting hooting to eventual laughing call makes this species of hornbill unique in its own way. 54 species of hornbills occur in the world with 8 of them being found here in the island of BORNEO. The 8 are the Oriental Pied Hornbill, The Asian Black Hornbill, The Bushy Crested Hornbill, The Wreathed Hornbill, The Wrinkled Hornbill, The Rhinoceros Hornbill and also the Helmeted Hornbill.

This species are considered to be a rarity of sightings these days as their numbers have significantly dropped due to the loss of its natural habitat ie the lowland dipterocarp forest. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the helmeted hornbill is evaluated as Near Threatened. If you do see one, you will realized that it is not an easy proposition to photographed this bird as they rarely descend lower from the canopies of most trees. They are also very shy and wary, a behavior which have most likely developed due to the pressure of hunting for its casque and feathers not so long ago. This are some photos of this rare hornbill which I hope to get a better photograph one day. Wish me Luck!! :P

Photos taken along the main Kinabatangan River, (N 05 32. 118' E 118 17. 442'/Pangi Forest Reserve - Fig Tree) Sukau Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife sanctuary on 16 June 2009.

Nikon D300 + 70-300mm VR at 300mm F 8 ISO 500

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Part 1 - In Search of the BB

Word of mouth by some of my fellow birder friends of the reappearance of the BB (our acronym for the rare Bornean Bristlehead) in our favourite birding backyard motivated me to wake up early last sunday and rushed to our patch to go in search of it. Frankly speaking, my last personal sighting of the BB was somewhere around the second week of January this year and I haven’t seen the BB since then. A combination of not being there on the right time and moment plus my own busy work schedule prevented me from having the opportunity to observed them again since January. So, hearing the good news of the BB reappearing back again at our birding backyard made me smile in delight as at last I will now have a chance to take a reasonably decent photo of this bird.

A nearby fruiting fig tree (where a small band of 6 BB was last seen) became my main look out point as I waited patiently for the appearance of the BB. But as luck was to go that day, I wasn’t that lucky. There were no signs of the BB at all. Tough luck. Fortunately, my day was brighten up by the presence of another “BB” who kept accompanying me throughout the day and that is the.. Brown Barbet (Calorhamphus fuliginosus).

A total of 9 species of barbet occur here in Borneo including some highly sought after endemics such as the Golden Naped Barbet (Megalaima pulcherrima) and also the Mountain Barbet (Megalaima monticola) which can be found mainly on higher elevation areas ie Mount Kinabalu and the Crocker Range. Unlike most of the other barbet species which are uniformly green in colour with patches of either red, yellow or blue on the crown, the brown barbet (as you might have already guess from its name) is quite dull brownish with a distinctive orange brown throat. The Brown Barbets call is also different from the other barbet species as it makes only a wheezy like kind of whistle compared to other barbet species which makes several repetitive boop and trook repertoire high up on the canopyHere are some photos of the brown barbet feeding. Enjoy.. :P            

           The Brown Barbet feeding on a fig fruit...

   Tossing it up a bit...

Going down slowly...

Almost there...

       OOPS.. Looks like its too BIG...

But alas.. Emmm.. Yummy!

Part 1 - In Search of the BB (To be Continued)

All Photos taken in Sepilok Forest Reserve on the 6th of September 2009 using a Nikon D300 + 70-300mm VR Lens.

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