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Sunday, 15 July 2007

The White Throated Kingfisher

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Halcyonidae
Genus: Halcyon
Species: H. smymensis

I often jog at paddy field close to my parents' house for the air is fresh and the scenery is spectacular. It's a totally different experience jogging in the midst of green ocean of paddy. The land is so flat that it is only bordered by the sky. You could watch the live documentary of clouds forming and the drama it plays together with the wind. Sometime, rainbow add to the climax; Or rapid approaching thunder storm come as surprise.

Often catches my eyes was the Kingfisher that darted away when shocked by my sudden and rather silent approaching.

White Throated Kingfisher is the most common bird, amongst others , in this paddy field. It is a magnificent bird with metallic blue/green coat on its back and equipped with an effective preying tool, the big red beak. It could dives with head first (or rather beak first) into deep water to catch fish, or swoops down, with feet first at the shallow water. Apart from fishes in the wet seasons, lizards, frogs, insects, etc. make up the bulk of its diet.

Bask in the warmth of morning sunlight.

Lack of gadgets as profesional wild life or particularly, bird photographers equipped with. I have to plan my strategies, and hoping for some lucks, i made my ambitious attempts with my point-and-shoot digital camera. I well aware that i have to get close to them, real close, in order to capture their images.

A cold morning after heavy downpour the previous night was just the right moment that i have been waiting for. The birds are cold and hungry. They need to replenish their energy after consumed it for warmth to get over the cool night. They will conserve and focus their energy for hunting, no unnecessary flight will be made at this time as the air is cold and heavy. Another trick that i have learned is that never approach them on foot. To them, anything with moving legs are dangerous.

Still wet after a few fruitful dives, this bird is anticipating for more.

Intense focus before plunge down.

The White Throated Kingfisher is a sit-and-wait predator spending long period perch above potential spot for preys. They are said to be territorial. I believe so as i have not seen 2 or more birds hunting together.

I moved to and fro along the small paddy road with my motorbike, stopped at every wooden bridge across the canal. Each bridge offered a kingfisher. I managed to get as close as around 10 ft to them. The noise from the engine didn't bother them as long as i don't get down from my bike to show my legs. They will still fly away after lost their patience with my persistent presence, and returned to their position soon after i left for another bridge.

I was surprised by their sudden disappearance after i made a few to and fro rounds. I was in total puzzle as i just saw them a minute ago, and now not even one could be found on all bridges. I stopped to look around. To my great shock, the sky was quickily covered by thick black clouds, moving fast toward my direction, and i could even see the rain they carried along.

....The birds read it first. This is their land, they know it best.....

The White Throated Kingfisher occupied this agricultural land from a different dimension. They have become a part of this "natural habitat", ...coexist without interfering human activitives in there.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

The Flying Dragon

Common name: Flying dragon; Flying
lizard; Flying Draco; Draco lizard.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Agamidae
Subfamily: Agaminae
Genus: Draco

This marvellous lizard is common in rainforest of west Malaysia. They can also be found in fruit orchards as well as rubber plantations. However, they are not easily spotted due to its colour that camouflage tree trunks. When they take flight (glide), their graceful glide resembling fallen leaf from the canopy.

The master of camouflage.

They start their glide by move to a higher trunk, head facing the ground, leap off with their bright coloured wings spreaded open. They parachute down gracefully, with its tail swinging midair manoeuvring its direction and land on another tree trunk. They can sometime glide for as far as 50 m. However, understandably, they will not glide during rain or when it is too windy.

The wings of flying dragon are made of membranes called patagium supported by rib bones. They are usually of bright colour that differ between males and females. The wings are folded on both sides of their body and spread open when they glide.

The images of flying dragon flapping its dewlap as sign of warning.

The flying dragon eat ants, termite and perhaps some other insects that found on the tree. They seldom come down to the ground. During mating season, the males defend their territories and dsplay their bright yellow dewlap to attract females. The females lay 1 to 4 eggs on the ground under the tree.

The flying dragon picking up ants with its short tongue.

It was a cloudy noon time at the Metropolitan Garden, Relau, Penang, Malaysia. The weather was unusually comfortable at this time after intermittent rain the previous night. I was strolling amongst the hibiscus trees with my camera looking for freshly bloom inflorescense. Out of sudden, i noticed something was moving on a tree just 5ft away. It was a flying lizard taking its lunch just 4-5 ft above ground level. This fellow must be very hungry as it didn't shy away despite of my presence at close distance. He continues to feast on ants on the tree trunk after gave me a few cautious stare, and occasionally reminded me on its dominance by flapping its dewlap.