Brown-backed Flowerpecker

On Saturday Feb 19, 2012, Danny Lau, his son Jia Sheng and myself were bird watching in Panti Forest.  We had spent the early hours near the second stream and sometime after 9 am we decided to backtrack towards the entrance of Bunker Trail.

But not far from the second stream we were greeted by a tree which had recently fallen across the road.  Not able to move it easily, we had no choice but to turn around.  Knowing that the loggers would probably send equipment to clear the tree fall, we headed towards the logger’s camp.  Around 9:30 am we were driving near the third large stream, the one that is about 8 km in, towards the end of public access and the logger’s camp.  Actually this stream has a name, it’s Sungai Merbau.  Seeing a lot of activity on a figging tree we stopped and got out.  Very quickly Danny shouted Brown-backed Flowerpecker, and after a bit of excited pointed and squinting we all started to get views of it.

We stayed at the tree for about two hours, watching the activity.  Sometimes the birds would all be gone, but they would come back.  Altogether there were five species of flowerpeckers, three species of leafbirds, one barbet and a couple of bulbuls.  But the star of the show was undoubtedly the Brown-backed Flowerpecker, a rarity throughout peninsular Malaysia and sparse throughout its range, seldom seen and seldom photographed.  Usually this species dwells high in the forest canopy but on this day it was feeding on a figging tree that wasn’t overwhelmingly tall.  The best views were when it came to the lowest branch on the right.

We noticed that one of the flowerpeckers had a whitish pectoral tuft, so we assume this is the male, and the one without the female.  This feature does not appear to be described in any of the field guides.

Listed on the peninsular Malaysia checklist as a very rare resident with a frequency of sightings at less than once per year.  Needless to say, the rest of the day’s birding wasn’t nearly as exciting as having seen this rarity.  Thanks to the fallen tree for forcing us go to back this way!

Another team of bird watchers tried the very next day, but unfortunately the Brown-backed weren’t there, or at least not while the birders were watching.  They do come and go.  You may have to try several times.

July 2012 Figging

I was back in Panti on Saturday, July 7th, 2012.  I noticed the same tree was full of fruit again.  Lots of birds were feasting on the tree, including a Red-crowned Barbet, several adult and juvenile Blue-eared Barbets, several Brown Barbets, Red-eyed Bulbuls, an Asian Fairy Bluebird, Blue-winged Leafbird, Greater Green Leafbird, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Thick-billed Green Pigeons, and a number of brown colored flowerpeckers.  I took pictures of as many brown colored flowerpeckers as I could, I wasn’t able to determine the ID in the field.  But once I viewed the images at home, sure enough, there was at least one or more Brown-backed Flowerpeckers feeding on the tree.  Although I missed the bird on July 10th and 14th, several other people saw and photographed the Brown-backed Flowerpecker over the next week as the tree still have plenty of fruit, at least on July 8th and 15th.

December 2012 Figging

I was in Panti several times in December – 11, 15 and 22.  The fig tree was again in fruit, and after four hours of viewing I was able to see and photograph the Brown-backed again on Dec 15, but not on the other two dates.

April 2013 Demise

On April 30th I found the Sunda Fig in this sad state.  It had apparently been knocked over by a storm within the past few days.  Sad to see this great stake out for the Brown-backed Flowerpecker go.

Sunda Fig - fallen

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