It does not matter how early in the morning you start, photography in Mangroves is a hot sweaty business! You may lose a few kilos, but its rewarding.
The focus of last weeks trip to Kuala Gula, a small fishing village up the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia that surrounded by a large expanse of unspoilt mangrove forest may have been focused on photographing raptors, but it delivered a number of other interesting photo opportunities. The mangroves of Kuala Gula are alive with a huge variety of wildlife and birds, and I can’t think of a better more natural place in Malaysia to observe and photograph them. sadly, most of Malaysia’s best natural resources have been destroyed in the name of “progress”, but fortunately, at least until now, the mangroves of Kuala Gula have remained untouched.
The Kuala Gula mangroves are separated by winding channels that separate and meander through the forest. We set out early. The tide was low. Large expanses of mudflats were exposed on either side of the channels which in some places were barely deep enough for the boat to travel over. Hardly had we entered the first channel when we spotted a large troop of Long Tailed Macaques foraging for a breakfast of mud-crabs way out in the mudflats. This is not the first time we have seen Macaques eat crabs, but we never expected them to be so bold and to head out over such soft mud so far out from the shore.
Later in the day during the return trip we were very surprised to see something in the middle of a wide channel. Thinking it was an otter, we swung the boat in its direction to find that it was a young macaque swimming across from one side of the channel to the other. We never expected to ever see this. I mean…who would imagine monkey’s swimming. But they obviously can, and they obviously do!
In keeping with our attempts to continue to add flavor to the blog, we also have a short video of the Macaques. Enjoy!
Another primate resident of Malaysia’s mangroves are Silvered Leaf Langurs. They are bigger and darker than macaques and are exclusively vegetarian, feeding on plant leaves and shoots. They are usually quite shy animals, but for some reason, one of them posed in a fantastic position for a wonderfully crisp portrait. Always the sucker for a poser…I had to shoot his picture!
Seeing Otters in the wild is always a fantastic experience. In Malaysia, Smooth skinned Otters are commonly seen along channels and waterways just in from the coast. They are notoriously shy animals and its not easy to get close up shots of them. So it was on this trip. A lone Otter made a point of staying just far enough ahead of the boat to make it difficult to get a decent shot. When we stopped he stopped, resting on a half submerged log, before laughing us off with a wide smile.
Generally the rule is if you want Kingfishers you don’t come with us. For some reason Kingfishers don’t like us. As a result my overall collection of Kingfisher shots is very thin. However, this past trip we managed to add a few more. The first bird, at the top of the page, and top below is a Common Kingfisher which for some reason allowed us to get close enough for a number of nice shots. Credit, where credit is due, this was mainly due to the skill of the boatman who, having spotted the bird, positioned the boat so it drifted up to the Kingfisher.
The same tactic was employed with two Stork Billed Kingfishers, one which was perched relatively high up, and the second which repeatedly dived into the water of a low perch to bath. Unfortunately we were just too slow to record this with either the cameras or the video.
Finally, to close off the blog we have a Bird Identification Quiz. As we trawled the mangrove channels we were very surprised to come across what I think is a Peregrine Falcon. To be honest, I can’t find any image of a similar looking bird in any bird book so the identification could be miles off. I have asked the help of a number of Facebook friends who are birding experts, so lets wait and see what their opinion is. Meanwhile if any of you have an opinion, it will be interesting to hear it. All comments appreciated!
To paraphrase the Take Home Chef on TV who at the end of every segment pre-warns viewers to expect him to approach them the next time they are in the supermarket…”Next time you are in Kuala Gula, don’t be surprised by what you find!”