Sungai Sedim, Kedah: 9th Feb 2015

When I last walked the Bintang Trail at Sungai Sedim, in December, it had been very birdy, so I decided to give it another shot. This time it was, if anything, even better, with a total of 84 species recorded (you can see a full list here).

Finsch's Bulbul_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_2925 Finsch's Bulbul_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_2895

A few early birds like Diard’s Trogon, Grey-headed Babbler and Chinese Blue Flycatcher got things rolling nicely, but things took off once the sunlight hit the trees, with one fruiting tree attracting a regular procession of bulbuls, including Finsch’s…

Cream-vented Bulbul_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_2941


Buff-vented Bulbul_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_2957

…and Buff-vented, making it difficult to know where to point the camera at times!

Near the start of the upward climb I saw the distinctive chubby shape of a Malaysian Honeyguide. I lost track of it momentarily, but then heard a low ‘growl’ and saw it chasing another honeyguide through the branches! Having seen off its rival, it consented to pose for a few photos, even though the light wasn’t the best.

Malaysian Honeyguide_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3034 Malaysian Honeyguide_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3023

As the morning heated up, levels of bird activity continued to be good.

Great Iora_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3225

I added more Chinese Blue Flycatchers (at least five) and this Great Iora moved through as part of a mixed flock.

Wallace's Hawk-Eagle_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3250

I glimpsed a raptor landing in a tree through some thick foliage, and was lucky enough to get a shot  as it flew off, enabling me to identify it as a Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle. The very next bird I saw was a Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle, flying overhead calling repeatedly.

Light and shade_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3287 The wondrous corss_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3246

The strong overhead sunlight by this stage made for some striking patterns in the foliage.

Red-throated Barbet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3301


On my descent I came across a close Red-throated Barbet which was obviously too full of fruit to be bothered about flying off. What should have been a golden opportunity for photos was frustrated by the thick foliage and strong overhead lighting, so these are the best I managed. Still, what a bird! It takes a lot to beat a male Red-throated Barbet!

Red-throated Barbet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3313

I was astonished by the length of its rictal bristles, but I guess that’s how barbets got their name!

Red-throated Barbet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3333

You can see how these would be useful in guiding fruit toward the bill.

Black-nest Swiftlet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3080

There were 20 or so swiftlets flying above the forest canopy. From the full, broad-based tail and very grey colouration I identified these as Black-nest Swiftlets. I saw some at this locality last year, as well as some birds I identified as Himalayan Swiftlets, so I spent quite a bit of time photographing these birds.

Black-nest Swiftlet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3151 Black-nest Swiftlet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3149 Black-nest Swiftlet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3085

The extent of tail notch was very variable. I surmised that this was a factor affected by moult (in the case of adults) and feather development (in the case of juveniles).

Black-nest Swiftlet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3340-41

The two photos above are of the same bird, showing how the deepness of the tail notch is also affected by whether the tail is held closed or spread.

Black-nest Swiftlet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3378 Black-nest Swiftlet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3376 Black-nest Swiftlet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3358 Black-nest Swiftlet_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3394

Later I was able to photograph some juveniles (aged by their evenly fresh plumage, with no moult visible in the wings). Against a darker background, the lack of warm tones in the plumage is evident.

Later on in the afternoon I took some photos of Germain’s (in Kulim) to try to make comparisons.

Germain's and Black-nest2 Germain's and Black-nest1

Lighting conditions were very different, so probably not much can be said about the apparent colour differences in these photos. Structurally, they do seem extremely similar too, though in the field, Black-nest seems to have a relatively larger head and shorter neck, broader tail base and possibly broader wings. All of these are extremely subtle and perhaps subjective differences. I admit the main basis for identifying the Black-nest as such was the fact that they were in forest far from any known ‘swiftlet hotels’, though the very grey plumage tones add support to my identification.

Black-nest and Germain's Swiftlet_090215_IMG_3394 and 3548

Juvenile Black-nest (left) and adult Germain’s (right) showing the warmer brown tones of the latter. I have not yet seen any Black-nest with gloss on fresh feathers, as can be seen on Germain’s.

Germain's Swiftlet_Kulim Hi-Tech Park_090215_IMG_3437 Germain's Swiftlet_Kulim Hi-Tech Park_090215_IMG_3495 Germain's Swiftlet_Kulim Hi-Tech Park_090215_IMG_3513 Germain's Swiftlet_Kulim Hi-Tech Park_090215_IMG_3525

Some Germain’s for comparison – browner, subtly slighter in wing and body and with a smaller-looking head.

Germain's Swiftlet_Kulim Hi-Tech Park_090215_IMG_3547 Germain's Swiftlet_Kulim Hi-Tech Park_090215_IMG_3548 Germain's Swiftlet_Kulim Hi-Tech Park_090215_IMG_3566 Germain's Swiftlet_Kulim Hi-Tech Park_090215_IMG_3587

Some more shots showing the upperpart tones of Germain’s.

I have to say that, even though I am confident of the identity of these birds, I don’t think I would be able to tackle a mixed species flock! My working assumption is that all swiftlets on the coastal plains in rural agricultural landscapes are the farmed ‘white-nest’ type, aka Germain’s, and that swiftlets in extensive forested landscapes well away from swiftlet farming activities are more likely to be Black-nest, especially if they are greyer and ‘colder’ brown than Germain’s.

Asian Palm Swift_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3362 Asian Palm Swift_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3375

Asian Palm Swifts are very different in shape – really skinny with a big rounded head and long, deeply forked tail.

Cream-coloured Giant Squirrel_Sg Sedim_090215_IMG_3352

And finally – a Cream-coloured Giant Squirrel. According to Mammals of South-east Asia these are darker orange in the north of the Peninsula than in the south, which this one certainly is. I wondered how one would eliminate the possibility of this being a hybrid with Black Giant Squirrel, since it has black feet and black in the tail.




One thought on “Sungai Sedim, Kedah: 9th Feb 2015

  1. Looks like you certainly had a very good trip. The Wallace and honeyguide are 2 species I haven’t seen there for a very long time. The swiftlet images are just amazing.

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