A few weeks back now, a very competent birding guide that has since become a good friend advised me that I was accidentally in the right place, at exactly the right time, and proceeded to share a little “insider knowledge” with me. I was in the Genting hills area of Malaysia, just north of Kuala Lumpur and apparently, there was a specific tree that was bearing fruit . Lots of fruit. As in fruit that, for barbets at least, is “to die for”.
I’d previously seen Coppersmith Barbets in Singapore whilst they were nesting and I knew how much they loved to go in search of this kind of fruit… they GORGED themselves on it! They bring this fruit back to their mate (see left), with a cavernous beak crammed full when they are excavating a nesting hole, or when eggs are being brooded and finally for mates and chicks once they have hatched.
I was told that nearby to this fruit tree, barbets were nesting. Lots of barbets. Different types of barbet too. It was even mentioned that in a day, in one tree, I could photograph perhaps no less than 7 different species of barbet, along with other birds, gorging themselves on this fruit!
Yeah, right. 7 species of barbet in one day? Hmm… that doesn’t quite sound too plausible. And previously, I’d seen merely 2 species of barbet in my lifetime birding. But this birding guide buddy of mine, Liew WK, both knows what he is doing and is trusted – if he tells me something like this, I’m not going to dismiss this as wild speculation! Note : This guy really knows his stuff… if you ever need a birding guide in Malaysia (or landscape guide for that matter – have joined him to do this too, and it was awesome!), look him up!
So off I went in search of this fruit tree high in the Berjaya Hills Area. I’d been given directions and promised I’d not publicise the whereabouts of this tree (though later others showed up to shoot there). I still haven’t shared its’ exact location :). I set up with a Canon EF500mm f4 lens and a 1DX Canon body, all mounted on tripod, and watched, eager with anticipation. But not for long! The first barbet I saw was so close I couldn’t even adjust my lens to the nearest focal range before it flew off!
Then the barbets started to arrive, bird after bird, in waves. Many were deep in the tree and I struggled to get a good view of them, let alone shoot them. And they’re remarkably well camouflaged too and just ‘blend in’.
Look at how vibrantly coloured this barbet is, with the background monochromed… such emerald hues! So to get better shots, I shifted my stance to a place where I could see some branches that were not so obscured by foliage.
To be honest , I had seen many pictures of different barbets in my birding guides, but hadn’t paid enough attention to the distinguishing features. I thought I’d “shoot like a madman” and then compare shots with reference guides later. Which I did and can now comment…
I quickly began to notice those lovely colours around the head and throat which essentially are a barbets’ main distinguishing features, for many of the species I was to see that day.
Wow. Greens that made emeralds pale. And then gold, red and blue, on a relatively small bird. It was as if barbets have given inspiration to artists of the ages. Such vibrance. What palettes. So, so pretty. I thought I was dreaming. The barbets kept coming. And I thought of having to text Liew to thank him! Alas I had no time for that and was thoroughly engaged in a veritable “barbet fest”. Yehey!..
I imagine that you can see how this fella got it’s name? 🙂
At this point I was getting confused. There were birds everywhere. Each of them extremely mobile and my lens was up and down like Tower Bridge! I’d no sooner focused than the bird was gone, or a better opportunity presented itself. Being spoilt for choice wasn’t helping. So I told myself to focus and stick with that.
I shifted the focus of my lens as I espied another superbly camouflaged beauty. This one looked a little different. And it was! The Black Browed Barbet obviously is named for good reason. Of them all, this is possibly my favourite.
The distinctive Brown Barbet put in an early appearance, and whilst also adeptly camouflaged, was never going to be confused with the others.
The Red Throated Barbet was somewhat larger than many of the others. I think the “all green” barbet I showed earlier was maybe a juvenile Red Throated, as the size was also quite large, but I may be mistaken.
What I thought was my 6th and last species of Barbet came next, the Blue Throated. This bird was almost as big as the Red Throated and again it’s that head and throat colouration that provides the distinction.
I’d only got my camera LCD screen to reflect upon all the different bird shots and whilst pretty good, isn’t quite the same as having your iMac computer screen to review the images on. So I was really happy with 6 Barbet species… awesome! Aside from that, I’d previously shot bulbuls in many places around Asia in the past. Many consider these birds to be totally passé as they’re common. And usually brown, lacking any ‘wow factor’ in the main, owing to their colouration. I still like them though.
There were a pair of them and they were skittish. Eventually I managed to get some shots of them too.
I had no idea what type of birds they were, and vowed to ‘look them up’ when I had my birding guides for reference, back home.
To my surprise, these ARE bulbuls.
Scaly Breasted Bulbuls… this was yet another first for me! Naturally I was delighted to even see such a pretty bird, let alone shoot it!
Anyways, after a wonderful trip, shooting in new places and new species, and perhaps more importantly made new acquaintances and friends, at home I began to survey the photos from that week and do my post production. Eventually I got to the day where the barbets were in the tree. And then. To my surprise. THERE he was. Barbet species number 7! The Gold Whiskered Barbet.
7 species of barbet in a day!
I guess in birding terms that’s kinda special. From a birding friendship perspective, well Liew really outdid himself on this occasion… and he was guiding others someplace else and didn’t even get to witness this himself!
What a day. All those birds. Great opportunity to observe and photograph them. And all in one tree.
All I can say is, that was “TREE-mendous”!
Have a great weekend everyone and Happy Days 🙂
P.S. If you liked this posting, or any of my others thus far, drop me a “comment or like”. And if you like this Blog, please “follow” the future postings by hitting the follow button. Feel free to invite your friends to come see the blog too 🙂 SHARE this blog with them if you like… I’d love to have you all visit from time to time.
Lastly, thanks for visiting this time – I hope to see you back soon.
AND Finally, finally, in a future post in the next few days I promise I’ll include some “passport portrait photo shots” of the Malaysian Barbets… if you see them, you’ll definitely know which is which! It ISN”T easy to tell!… PLUS, they’re really gorgeous 😉