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We would like to thank Zari Malaysiana for keeping in the public eye the frightening cable car project for Bukit Larut, known affectionately by many of us as Maxwell Hill. We are distressed that a project that has had so much opposition from nature lovers can continue to be planned by the authorities.

Bukit Larut is one of the premier highland nature site in the peninsula, if not the best. A cursory visit to Cameron Highlands will reveal the almost total destruction of the once beautiful site. Genting Highlands is rapidly declining and Fraser’s soon to join them. Bukit Larut, the oldest of the hill stations, remains the best location to observe nature in its element. The bird life there is rich and many bird watchers come from various parts of our country and abroad to appreciate its wonder.

Any planned development of the hill, including the cable car will only spell destruction. Not a single nature site in the entire country has been developed without a significant and excessive amount of destruction and loss of the natural habitat, and resultant loss of bird life. The beauty of the current situation at Bukit Larut is that the difficult access to the hill is what preserves it. The lack of amusement and activities at the hill top keeps it from destruction. What is the purpose of rushing people up the hill so that they can then rush around to eat, buy, play loud music, and ignore the nature all around them? Almost every nature spot we have caters to an immature Malaysian local tourist. One that thrashes the site, wants more concrete, one that complains about the lack of amusement. From karaoke in the jungle to adventure biking and growing piles of rubbish, our pristine nature sites are being degraded by a sheer lack of sensitivity to nature.

I am sure we will be assured of an environmental impact study that approves the cable car project and that minimal destruction will take place. Look at the reality in Cameron and Genting Highlands. We could not understand the recent huge outcry against the Penang hills development when the Pahang government has already raped not just Cameron Highlands but the entire 20-30 km stretch of highlands on the road from Camerons to Gua Musang (it could be longer, we had no heart to see more). An environmental disaster of epic proportions fueled by greed and corruption.

We plead with the Perak state government and our federal government to leave Bukit Larut alone. It is a resource not just for Perak but for the whole country. Let it be a site where we can at least continue to see the beauty of our country’s flora and fauna and not in a caged zoo. Leave the rickety old jeeps alone. They will bring up the discerning nature lover from abroad and locally who will gasp at the beauty of the more than 250 species of birds there and be in awe of the towering trees. From rapidly moving Streaked Spiderhunters to the yellow-crested Sultan Tit, from migrating thrushes from Siberia to magnificent local Hornbills (rapidly dying out in our country). The lack of amenities means only those who are serious and love nature will come. The best way to care for nature is not to touch it.

May we please keep Bukit Larut alive for our children, as there is no hope for the other hill stations. Leave this undisturbed natural sanctuary alone. It is a gem among stones.

Thank you.

 

 

Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Lim Swee Im (Datin, Dr)

On Behalf of the Malaysian Nature Society
and Perak MNS Bird Group

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My Garden Bird Watch 2013 was the perfect week-end to inaugurate the Kinta River Nature Walk. To the delight of the organizers, 31 people of all ages came to help find birds.

Wow, the birds are so near with a telescope!

Wow, the birds are so near with a telescope!

The experienced birders were there to show keen primary and high school kids how to use binos and get a close-up view through a telescope. All the birds were seen from the Jalan Leong Boon Swee bridge to about 200m downstream. We were very pleased to have recorded 21 species of birds and will look again during migration season.

The attractive walking path along the bank of the river is a greatly underutilized resource through the center of Ipoh Town, there are plenty of large shade trees and seats in some sections. Bonus of the day must had been the Crested Goshawk, a medium sized raptor that is often found in mature urban gardens but not always an easy bird to spot.

Group photo of the participants

Group photo of the participants

Bird List:

  • Little Egret
  • Pied Triller
  • House Swift
  • Purple Heron
  • Common Iora
  • Spotted Dove
  • Cattle Egret
  • Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  • Little Heron
  • Lineated Barbet
  • Pacific Swallow
  • Oriental Magpie Robin (heard)
  • Common Tailorbird (heard)
  • Asian Glossy Starling
  • Black-naped Oriole
  • Zebra Dove
  • White-breasted Waterhen
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Yellow-vented Bulbul
  • White-throated Kingfisher
  • Crested Goshawk
Crested Goshawk, a good find

Crested Goshawk, a good find

Little Egret, a waterbird that has survived in urban areas

Little Egret, a waterbird that has survived in urban areas

Reported by Vera Radnell, Perak Bird Group SIG

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10 members with families from Ipoh and Taiping participated in this trip. We left 8:50 am from Ipoh on 24th May after having breakfast together. Along the Kpg Raja-Gua Musang highway, we stopped for an adult pair of Bat Hawks with their newly fledged juvenile at a known Bat Hawk nesting site. After lunch at Gua Musang, we continued our journey to Tasik Kenyir. Along route 185 from K Koh to Tasik Kenyir , we were treated with the sighting of 8 Rhinoceros Hornbills congregating on a fruiting tree and Black-thighed Falconets with a full grown chick, stuck out from its nesting hole. We finally arrived around 3:15 pm at the Lawit Lodge where we were supposed to be accommodated for the whole trip duration through earlier booking. However there was a hiccup made by the Lodge management and we wasted the whole afternoon sorting out an alternative place to stay and finally putting up at a Home Stay nearby. Fortunately we were able to check in at the Lawit Lodge on the following day onwards.

Participants sharing and enjoying their common passion

Participants sharing and enjoying their common passion

On the 2nd morning, Mr. Wee, a local friend of Trengganu MNS Branch took us to bird along Jalan Pengkalan Utama, a popular birding trail. We were not disappointed as the density and diversity of birds along that stretch of road were very good, helped by the good weather condition and many seeding trees along the trail. Many species of birds were sighted including Crested Jay, Green Broadbills, Great Ioras, Green Ioras, bulbuls, leaf-birds, Black Hornbills, Wreathed Hornbills, Rhinoceros Hornbills, Wallace’s Hawk-eagle etc .etc. We spent the whole day birding there with mid afternoon breaks for lunch and rest at the Lodge. On the same night, we went for “owling” along the same road and were rewarded with the sighting of Buffy Fish-owl and Brown Hawk-owl.

On the 3rd day, it rained during the best birding period of the morning and it continued to unsettle our birding schedule with heavy downpour from around 4:30 pm till late at night but it did not stop us to drive 45 km away to Wakaf Tapai, a Chinese town at Marang district where we ordered some sumptuous local Chinese specialties for dinner with recommendation from a local friend of one of our participants. Needless to say, the number of birds seen on the 3rd day was limited by the persistent rain.

A pair of Wrinkled Hornbills seen during the trip

A pair of Wrinkled Hornbills seen during the trip

On the 4th and final morning of the trip, we checked out early to drive in convoy and bird in leisure along the quiet route 185 with good sunshine and blue sky. In sheer delight, we finally “nailed” one of our target birds, the male and female Wrinkled Hornbills in high perch under excellent light preening their feathers along side with Black Hornbills on the same tree. Though they were still pretty far from our photographing and videoing equipments, everyone had a long good look at those beautiful hornbills with memorable images/video clips to take home. Added to our joy, there were many raptor species that we came across along route 185.

Proceeding on with our return journey, we made a turn-off to Kuala Koh National Park for lunch to facilitate a few of our participants who have not been there before. After that, we continued our journey and reached Ipoh by 6:30 pm.

A total of 85 bird species, 5 mammals and 1 whip snake were recorded for the whole trip.

(Reported on 29 May 2013 by Trip Coordinator Ooi Beng Yean)

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An MNS Perak Bird Group birding trip was organized to Bukit Larut on 22-24 February 2013. It was a 3D2N stay in Angkasa Bungalow (1036m asl), an enjoyable, productive and learning experience for the 15 MNS members who participated.

Participants for the trip

Participants for the trip

Birding and nature photography were carried out from the 123 year old Sri Kalliamman Temple right up to Cottage and the Telecoms towers (1400m). A total of 60 species of birds were sighted, including 7 migrants, 5 residents & migrants and 48 residents. A few rarely seen species of birds were sighted: the Blue-and-white Flycatcher (a rare passage migrant and winter visitor), the Chequer-throated Yellownape (more frequently seen in lowlands) and the Brown Wood Owl.

Star of the "day", oh.. I mean "night"

Star of the “day”, oh.. I mean “night”

Other sightings which made good photographic subjects were a Muller’s Blind snake, a well camouflaged cricket, a skink and a crab!

Birders in action

Birders in action

At night, there was a power-point presentation of ‘The Birds of Bukit Larut’ by Ooi Beng Yean and ‘The Fauna of Bukit Larut’ by Chan Ah Lak.

Watching slide show by Ooi

Watching slide show by Ooi

Besides birding and nature appreciation, we also had interesting sessions of physio-therapy, cookery discussions and mahjong, especially when it was raining on the morning of the last day!

Champion for mini bird race

Champion for mini bird race

Meals were catered from Keasarjoo (Rajoo) who cooked and arranged for Lunch and Dinner to be transported up to us.

Look! There is one over there!

Look! There is one over there!

(Reported by Sharon Chan, Trip Organiser)

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The Bird Group trip to Tg Tuan from 9 – 11 March for Raptor Watch Week 2012 was a sell-out with all places fully booked. Twelve members and their families headed to Port Dickson to attend this MNS signature event which celebrates the spring migration of raptors at Tanjung Tuan.

RWW organizers worry every year that the raptors will not show up. As it turned out, this dreaded situation happened on the opening day which was attended by the Chief Minister, actress Maya Karin, Miss Malaysia-Universe and a large expectant crowd. Mother Nature did not oblige that day and only 17 raptors were counted. Good thing there were other distractions for the visitors including guided nature walks, children’s activities, nature exhibits from Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Philippines and sales of nature books, souvenirs and birding equipment. Our Bird Group exhibit on migratory raptors of Taiping was well-received and many visitors tried their hands at folding origami raptors.

Fortunately, the raptors redeemed themselves on Sunday. The fine weather, with light onshore wind was a positive sign. At mid-morning, to the relief of the organizers, the much-awaited message came from the counters at the lighthouse – Oriental Honey-buzzards are arriving! Not long after, excited shouts signaled the appearance of the first flock of buzzards over Ilham Resort. Soon, more flocks of buzzards glided in, cheered on by the enthusiastic crowd. The raptors circled low over the hotel grounds and spiraled upwards to form ever larger flocks before sailing off effortlessly to continue their homeward journey. At the end of the day, an amazing 5,338 raptors were counted!

Viewing exhibit on Taiping raptor migration

Viewing exhibit on Taiping raptor migration

Folding origami raptors

Folding origami raptors

Bird Group members at RWW 2012

Bird Group members at RWW 2012

Reported by Lim Kim Chye, Bird Group Coordinator

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Words and images by Lee Poh Peng

Introduction

Since young, I have loved art drawings and pencil sketches. I have an artbook titled “Secrets to Realistic Drawing” by Parks & Parks promising that everyone with a desire to draw can draw! Though I still believe in it, I guess my desire is a wee bit low on energy since I still can’t draw a horse to look like a horse!

Recently, I came across this software by AKVIS called Sketch – a software that converts your digital photo into pencil sketches and watercolor drawings. Sketch is rated #1 on their Top 10 softwares’ list. You can download a free 10 days trial version, available for Mac and PC system from their website http://akvis.com/en/index.php . This article is to share my 10 days of joy and fun working with the software.

AKVIS SKETCH

When I first tested Akvis Sketch software, I was really awed with the pencil sketch results – to me, the final output really looked like an artist’s sketch. I have already converted a few of my badger’s series into art sketches. Because the Sketch’s interface was very simple, I could achieve a very satisfactory result with just a few clicks of button using the presets supplied.

This is what I did.
(1) Open an image in Photoshop (PS) (p/s I duplicate a copy of the image into a new layer so that I can keep the original background layer untouched in case I need further editing)
(2) Under the ‘Filters menu’ in PS, I choose ‘Akvis Sketch’ which bring me to a new screen below.

(3) Choose a preset – here, I have chosen ‘Akvis Charcoal High’
(4) Click the “After” tab to preview the sketch in full view.
(5) Click the “Tick” button on the top right to accept the conversion.

(6) Sketch interface closes, and revert to PS with the layer converted to a sketch image.
(7) Save the file – Finish! Easy and in mere seconds!!

More on Preset

I mainly use the ‘EXPRESS’ mode and the default Presets to convert my images during my 10 days trial period. EXPRESS mode have only a few parameters that you can adjust to fine-tune your sketch (edges strength and midtones hatching). You can select “ADVANCED” mode if you want more control over the sketch output.


American badger Preset : Akvis Default

There are a variety of parameter settings that can be adjusted under Advanced mode such as ‘length of strokes, its angle and direction, strength and width of edges, hatching intensity, background effect, choices of canvas effects and option to add text into the image. The Software also allowed you to set your own parameters and saved them as custom presets for future use.

There are 11 presets available in Akvis Sketch.

‘B&W Sketch’ preset is my all time favorite. Lines and strokes on details are so varied, making the image very interesting and artistic. With the subject on a smooth bg, most of the bg would be rendered white making the subject stood out really well. I find the software ‘catches’ the edges of the subject so well that I am beginning to wonder whether this can add up as a selection tool for masking work.


Canadian goose Preset: Akvis B&W Sketch

The first preset, ‘Default’ preset, also renders the image very well and in most cases, I noticed that it would also shade the bg to a darker shade. It would be fine for subjects that have lots of white space.


Chickadee Preset: Akvis Default

‘Charcoal’ presets – both the High and Low Charcoal presets were also interesting with bold dark strokes on the outline, making your images very artlike indeed.


Crested serpent-eagle Preset: Akvis Charcoal High

For landscape images, I find the Charcoal’s bold strokes can be a bit overbearing, so I would prefer ‘Akvis Sketch’ or ‘Akvis Sketch Light’ for landscape images.


Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park Preset: Akvis Sketch Light

Color pencils and pastel presets are like the B&W Sketch and Charcoal respectively except that the output is in color, ie using the colors of the original image. Although interesting, I still prefer the classic B&W pencil sketch much better. I am a real B&W addict.


Changeable lizard Preset: Akvis Color Pencil High

I didn’t like the Watercolor presets in the software though. None of my images converted with this preset turned out acceptable. The result looked just like a ‘blur filter’ has been laid over the subject. I like my subjects sharp, so I didnt like this blurring effect. ”Lead pencil” preset used very fine and light strokes for the image, and thus, I find the end result still looked too much photo-like to be called a sketch.

Having tested all the presets, I observed that I get best result with images that are sharp and have good details. I love getting my changeable lizards’ images turned into sketches because of the texture of the lizard’s skin!


Changeable lizard Preset: Akvis B&W Sketch

Noise and denoising can have effect on your final output. Noise may appear as specks of dots all over upon conversion whilst a very denoised image may end up with a ‘painted over’ look due to blurring of details/edges….or left ‘empty white’ as highlights.

With Noise Reduction it is less spotty but check the dark shadows – it looked painted over rather than sketched.

Another extreme example of noise on image (left) and after denoising (right). This image was highly cropped and because of shadows in the background, there were lots of digital noise on the image. Noise reduction is applied before converting it into sketch. NR saves the day for this one ….


For human portraits, unless the model have very smooth complexion, I find the default Presets may ‘create’ scars or wrinkles on the face which is not very complimentary to the model, especially if it was a lady!! In this case, I would choose to work in Advance mode so that I can control the strength and intensity of the strokes, edges, and so forth.

A young Mexican girl Preset: B&W Sketch

My only main working grouse on the software is the need to toggle the screen in order to see a full view of the image with the applied effects. Each time you select a preset or change its parameters’ settings, Sketch gives a 1” square preview to show the result of the effect chosen. You can move the square to preview other parts of the image.

In order to see the overall sketched image, you have to click on the “AFTER” tab. And you have to click the ‘AFTER’ tab each time you want to see a full view, because any adjustment made will bring the view back to the 1” square preview. I wished it could stay in full view (or at least half of the image view) while I am making the adjustment because I cant judge the effect of a change without looking at the overall image.

A 1 inch square preview of the sketch result

In summary, I love to convert my photos to sketches and Akvis Sketch has made the journey beautiful and simple. I’ve tried built-in filters in Photoshop and external parties plugins to create B&W art before…but I have never been entirely satisfied. They either looked like a very washout desaturated image or a messy outline of a subject’s edges. Definitely not “arty” from my perspective. Some PS tutorials have such lengthy instructions that I get tired just reading it.

Having said that, Akvis Sketch is not a freeware. The price of the licenses are – Home license – US$72, Home Deluxe – US$89, and Business license – US$154. It can work as a plugin to image editors’ softwares (see list of compatible image editors for plugins http://akvis.com/en/compatibility-software.php ) or as a standalone. The software can be purchased & downloaded directly from their website.

I would like to use the sketches to make greeting cards, collages, banners on blogs, or simply, just as prints on the wall to enjoy. I would get this software immediately if I am into the business of creating art and sketches for others, otherwise this would be a rather expensive toy for me to just ‘play play’.

Hope you enjoy reading my 10 days ‘artist’ journey here…..Do test out the trial software….you never know – maybe a record shot could turned up to be a real keeper as a pencil sketch!! 🙂

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Cycling in Ipoh

Dear friends

My wife and I have been cycling for many years in Ipoh City & surrounding areas. We have noticed a recent progressive upsurge in people cycling for pleasure & hopefully this activity works towards saving our environment in some small way.

Some time ago we wrote up one of our favorite routes for a local cycling group and would like to share with an MNS members who would like to cycle or encourage others to do so.

Click this link Ipoh City Cycling Route to view pdf file of map and description.

Blessings
Amar & Lim

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