Sunday, 12 August 2012

Nature photography locations near Penang: Bukit Hijau and Bukit Panchor

        It is my intention in this article to outline some locations within an hours drive from Penang Island that offer nature photography opportunities. One of my major aims with my photos is to provide illustrations to interested or dis-interested parties as to the beauty of the natural world and what they stand to lose with unthinking and self-interested ‘development’. I prefer to share information rather than sequester it, which too many photographers tend to do. There is always a danger of overpopulation of the long lens brigade that is witnessed currently in land-restricted Singapore. Malaysia is big enough to a greater population of hopefully well-intentioned photographers so my aim is to help them or the overseas visitors. These folk provide the visual window to our precious natural heritage.
       I have separate blogs to the delights of the prime photographic locations in the region so those mentioned below are considered secondary sites. Most will have seasonal variations also. I will add information to these as I visit them more in the future. The information is for photographers, which means avoiding the general public as much as possible.

Bukit Hijau

GPS Coordinates: N 5 30.083   E 100 46.333

Location Map
A mingling of stream and forest

The domain of several primate species and Woodpeckers 

               The park, situated in Kedah State in the Gunung Inas Forest Reserve, is famous for its seven-level cascading waterfalls that result from Sg Mempelam from Gunung Inas that flows through the park. The geological formations are of ancient origin possibly from the Cambrian age. There are large specimens of tualang (Koompassia excelsa) trees hosting beehives within the park (NB. there are small but very aggressive bees and these are to be avoided). There is an open grassed area surrounded by car-parks and some food-stalls with smaller tracks leading to the waterfalls. The area has been planted with local flowering plants that often attract nectar-seekers from the forest catchment area.

Crimson-winged Woodpecker

Blue-winged leafbird

       There are a number of chalets in a separate niche in the park, which attracts a number of picnickers during weekends and public holidays. My main impression of the whole facility is that it is inefficiently run, looks rundown and there is far too much trash that in an eyesore and health hazard. Reports from 8-10 years ago also highlight the abundant trash, which is a sad indictment on the habits of the visitors and the will of the park curators.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters

Magpie Robin

        Gibbons howl in the trees and long-tailed macaques and Spectacled Leaf monkeys are common. Sunbirds interrogate the cultivated flowers, Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters chase insects from lofty perches, various species of Bulbuls fly between shrubs, Magpie Robins salute the morning sun with their melodies, White-rumped Shamas add to the sounds, Crimson-winged Woodpeckers probe holes in the trees, Leaf-birds forage for insects and gliding lizards glide from tree to tree.

Olive-backed Sunbird (male)

White-rumped Shama

Male Common Gliding Lizard (Draco sumatranus) displaying

       At the right time this park can be largely photographed from a car. Vehicles are good mobile hides and should be used if possible in preference to walking around with a heavy, tripod-based set-up. The best time is to arrive at dawn during week-days and drive slowly around the roads and the car-parks.

White-throated Kingfisher

Spectacled Leaf Monkey

Bukit Panchor Forest Park

GPS Coordinates: N 5 09.631   E 100 32.889

Located in mainland Penang State Bukit Panchor State Park, or Taman Negeri Bukit Panchor, is a tract of protected forest in Nibong Tebal, Penang. It covers an area of 445 hectares and reaches a height of 416 meters. The Bukit Panchor State Park is located within the Bukit Panchor Forest Reserve, which was established in 1963 in Seberang Perai Selatan. It was created as a general recreational area for the public while at the same time, helping them ‘learn to appreciate the forest better’.
The entrance to this park is rather cryptic but in contrast to Bukit Hijau it is a well-maintained park. For photographic purposes I refer to the flat part of the park as the upward trails would be a challenge to take heavy gear. There are several bat caves in the upper part of the park. The ‘ground floor’ has some rather grand trees surrounding a part of the stream reserved for swimming. There are a number of workers in the park, cutting the grass, sweeping leaves and clearly keeping it tidy. The swimming facility is a little over embellished but this is always better than neglected. At the side of the park a fence separates what appears to be an abandoned orchard and at the end away from the entrance is a boardwalk and mixed regenerated forest. 

Designated swimming area amongst the trees

There are some majestic trees surrounding the stream

A morning visit is recommended for photography and the sun comes over a small hill across the abandoned orchard. In the first light various species of woodpecker do the rounds of their favorite trees, collared kingfishers call to each other from their choice perches, ubiquitous Yellow-vented Bulbul pairs scout the neighborhood, the haunting called of Gibbons cuts the misty morning air, Spectacled Leaf monkeys rummage through the tree-tops while various species of squirrel including the Giant variety run rapidly along a disjointed aerial highway. This is a tripod and long-lens shoot, position yourself near the fence with the morning sun at your back and scan the trees in the morning sunlight for activity. Another place to wait is near the boardwalk and see what passes. I have seen a variety of Bulbuls here as well as a Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot.

Collared Kingfisher

Checker-throated Woodpecker

Common Flameback Woodpecker

This park seems well supplied with great Racket-tailed Drongos and they probe the trees for insects and chase each other around the trees. Several trees, nicely located for photography have clean-cut circular entrances by Woodpeckers strongly suggesting seasonal nesting activity. 

Yellow-vented Bulbul

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

Plantain Squirrel
Graeme Guy August 2012


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