Quiet place to spot wildlife

A Green-billed Malkoha.

A 210m-long suspension bridge offering visitors a bird’s-eye view of the dense peat swamp remains the main attraction of the Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest in Sungai Dua, Butterworth.

Linking the bridge are two observation towers, about four storeys high, that give visitors a breathtaking panoramic view of the surroundings and the Prai river next to the forest.

Visitors can also explore from closer to the ground using a network of canopy walkways spanning over 1km.

While explorers appreciate the fresh air and sights of flora and fauna, the sounds and sights of birds are the reasons that see bird photographers making up the majority of visitors to the forest.

According to eBird.org, an online database to track sightings, sounds and photos of birds, a total of 241 species have been spotted within the Air Hitam forest reserve.

Hneah Joo Aun, 51, one of the database contributors, spends most of his free time photographing birds at the forest.

“This forest is among the most popular places in Penang for birdwatchers.

“So far I’ve spotted birds such as Black and Red Broadbill, Spotted Wood Owl, Streak Breasted Woodpecker, Indochinese Blue Flycatcher, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Banded Woodpecker just to name a few.

Along with other photographers, Hneah has been contributing photos to the database as a means for scientists, researchers and amateur naturalists to get information on bird distribution and population.

The 11ha forest is managed by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).

It lies at the confluence of three waterways – Sungai Air Hitam, Sungai Jarak and Sungai Prai.

Besides lizards, crabs, otters, squirrels and several species of monkeys, birds such as the Asian openbill storks, Asian glossy

starlings, Mangrove pittas, Racket-tailed drongos, Crested serpent eagles, barn owls, and both Collared and Ruddy kingfishers have been spotted in the forest.

Admission to the park, which is open daily, is free.

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