After spending days, if not weeks, spent searching for and staking out pittas in the steamy, leech infested jungles of Taman Negara for very little return, I was cursing all those who had written trip reports boasting of ‘mind-boggling views of a confiding pitta’.
Pittas must be on the shortlist of all birders visiting South East Asia and the quest to find them has even warranted some to write a book. Despite their bold, brash colors, they are however highly secretive and hard to find in the gloom of a rainforest.
Whilst at the Rainforest Discovery Centre (near Sepilok, Sabah, Malaysia) in March 2013, I had heard a Black & Crimson Pitta mournfully whistling one morning and eventually found it high up in the canopy – too high for any decent shots though. Consoling myself that I had at least seen this little beauty, I resolved to try back in the area another time.
Walking back from an afternoon up of one of the towers, I heard a faint whistle close to the path and I offered up a whistle of my own. It did the trick as I then caught a glimpse of something dark moving right by the edge of the path in front of me. Another whistle from me then had the dark shape bound out of the gloom – a stunning pitta.
It then proceeded to call and forage in front of me, reassured by a whistle from me every so often. Time seemed to go quickly but the time stamps on my first and last photographs was 5:40pm and 6:10pm – so I was watching the pitta for a full 30 minutes! And in that time I took over 180 shots, most unusable due to errant leaves and twigs and from being forced to handhold at speeds of 1/8 to 1/25 in the fading light (no flash). No bait or playback was used at all.
The below are some of my favorites – all just under full frame with a 300mm (minor cropping only to aid composition).