YES…!!!! Finally, after numerous attempts to get shots of Brahminy Kites fishing today we came away from another trip up to Kuala Gula with something worth posting.
Kuala Gula is a two and a half to three hour drive each way, which makes it a long day in the car for no shots worth keeping. But today we were better organized and prepared and it finally paid off, with each series of successful shots better than the last. In keeping with my usual standards I still shot a pile of blurs and blanks, but at least today I got some stuff in the middle of the junk to show for it!
Brahminy’s also known as Red-Backed Sea Eagles in Australia are a familar sight along the coast from India and Sri Lanka down throughout SE Asia down to Australia. As can be seen from the photos Brahminy Kites are attractive birds with distinctly colored chestnut brown wings and body feathers that contrasts with a white head and upper body and black wing tips. What we observed the last few trips is that once one starts feeding others quickly arrive on the scene which quite quickly develops into a mini feeding frenzy requiring quick reflexes and concentration not to miss the birds as they dive down grasp their meal and swoop off.
Basically its a three frame process, four if you are lucky. The first is the approach, wings spread, legs outstretched, claws open, followed by the grab and the uplift. Until today my usual effort were blur,blur, blur, sharp splash, sharp drops…but no birds…which makes todays efforts doubly pleasing! Considering the camera takes 10 frames per second you need to be quick to track and shoot in order to get sharp shots. I have to say it helps a lot when your Boss acts as a spotter warning you when a bird is approaching and when to start pressing the shutter!
The most well known location for Brahminy fishing action in Malaysia is Langkawi Island. Interestingly Langkawi is named after the Brahminy. However, having tried both locations, in my opinion Kuala Gula beats Langkawi hands down. For starters Kuala Gula is not spoilt, whereas Langkawi is a tourist trap and you are forever surrounded by boat loads of noisy tourists. In Kuala Gula you are alone with the birds. The trip into the mangroves is also interesting as you get to see the local fishermen going about their daily routine fishing for cockles or mud crabs. The mangrove waterways are filled with Kingfishers, Macaques and if you are lucky the occasional Otter, so not only is it peaceful and pleasant there’s plenty to photograph besides the birds.
Birding trips like this obviously need a boatman and guide who knows the backwaters of the Kuala Gula mangroves like the back of his hand and I recommend Tan Eng Chong, a local Eco Guide to anyone wanting to make a trip up there. He’s not only a fantastic bird spotter, but also is an expert in positioning the boat exactly right for the light and perfect in terms of distance. Tan’s mobile number is + 60 16 5400028. For those not sure of where to go the GPS coordinates of the jetty are N 04, 56.161, E 100, 28.057.
In my opinion, this is a bird spot well worth visiting!