Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Nature photography locations near Penang: Juru and Batu Kawan


GPS Location: N 05 18.831   E 100 24.732

Location of Juru, Batu Kawan and Byram

Local fishing fleet at Juru

Juru, Batu Kawan and Byram  are mainland Penang locations that face Penang island. They are accessed from Penang Island via consecutive off-roads along the North-South Highway with Juru being the first in line on the Southern drive.
The shooting territory at Juru consists of a reasonably wide  road that runs parallel to a mangrove forest that is interspersed with inlets hosting a local fishing fleets.  Segments of the road abut the forest directly while others have a tidal ‘ditch’ in between the road and the forest. The road runs North and South so the morning sun lights the forest well. Discerning nature photographers need good light and for birds………..good perches. Batu Kawan has a range of good perches within lens range and Byram has many excellent perches in the form of dead trees, bushes, stumps and randomly exposed submerged wood. Juru does not have a plethora of perches in the clear but you are adjacent to nice forest that is well lit by the emergent sun.

The road and mangrove forest

The forest and muddy tidal ditch

Typical mangrove forest running parallel to the road

Long-tailed Macaques forage in the mud of the mangroves when the tide is out which is really their traditional hunting grounds as they are an ancestral mangrove species that has subsequently adapted to other environments. Some fair sized Mudskippers ply the mud and defend local pools of water during low tide. 

Alpha male Long-tailed Macaque

Mudskippers squaring off

In the months from November through to March Blue-tailed Bee-eaters chase insects along this segment of the coast but they do not nest locally. The local Kingfishers; the Collared and White-throated species can be found in and around the mangrove forest that also hosts Coppersmith Barbets, Sunda Pygmy Woodpeckers as well as Babblers and other insect seekers. Seasonal migrants include the Common Kingfisher.

Blue-tailed Bee-eater with a dragonfly

Collared Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher (migrant)

Coppersmith Barbet at a nest hole

Of the coastal locations it is my opinion that Juru offer the least photographic opportunities of the three area featured.

                                                         Batu Kawan

GPS Location: N 05 15.216   E100 25.103

Dirt track at Batu Kawan

Several members of a family of Smooth-coated otters
A wary Smooth-coated Otter checks the surroundings

Further south along the west coast of mainland peninsular Malaysia and sandwiched between Juru above and Byram below is the photographic location of Batu Kawan. The access road is a somewhat pitted and narrow mud track. Access could be quite weather dependent and an SUV would appear to be a distinct advantage. The north-south-running track offers potential shooting on either side with the west being favoured in the morning and the east in the afternoon. The Eastern side contains a number of isolated trees and stumps in tidal, marshy ponds that are in reasonable range of a 500/600mm lens. The more open seaward side has fewer potential perches  but when the Northern migrants arrive from October to April this is good for waders. During this time the camera-shy Black-capped Kingfishers can be seen here as well as the more ubiquitous and less reclusive local species of Kingfishers. The first sight of any species on my first visit was an extended family of nine Smooth-coated Otters that crossed the road from the seaward side into the marshy pond area..

Black-capped Kingfisher

White-throated Kingfisher

Little Heron

The tall grasses on the edge of the track often contain industrious flocks of munias and the omnipresent squadrons of Pacific Swallows can provide photo opportunities when they alight for rest after zig zagging across the airspaces in search of flying insects.

Chestnut Munia

Pacific Swallow take-off

The ponds obviously provide a food source for the various birds species us photographers seek. The downside of this location is that the ponds are extensively fished by the local human population, making them essentially in competition with the birds. There are more houses being built in the vicinity so in the future the competition could become somewhat lopsided. However species seen here include; Great Egrets, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Little Heron, Red-wattled lapwings, Terek Sandpipers, Pacific Golden Plovers, White-browed Crake and a recent rare recording of Oriental Darters. Raptors are represented by Changeable Hawk Eagles, scavenging Brahminy Kites and the soaring White-bellied Sea Eagles. There are also regular sightings of the ubiquitous White-breasted Waterhen and the skulking, ponderous Water Monitors.

White-browed Crake

White-breasted Waterhen

Water Monitor
Purple Heron

Great Egret

Wood Sandpiper landing

In August I did note one maverick Blue-throated Bee-Eater hunting in the vicinity. Maybe he was on his way home and stopped for a quick bite.

Blue-throated Bee-eater
I have not visited either location with the same frequency as the other locations I consider more photographically productive. I refer the reader to the blog of Choy Wai Mun http://penangbirder.blogspot.com/ a more experienced local birder, other species he has observed at Batu Kawan can be accessed via his citation index on the right of his blog.
Please note also that I consider myself a Nature Photographer and not a dedicated birder and would welcome any corrections, information on potential interesting subjects or any questions that are within my photographic compass.

Graeme Guy August 2012


  1. Great stuff as usual, Graeme. Looking forward to your next post.

  2. Stunning photos of gorgeous birds... what more could a person want?

  3. I like your blog Secret Photography Techniques is there to improve photography techniques and Ipad Training Course to know how to use ipad.