The International Steam Pages

An Armchair Guide to Seaview Fauna, 2012

Click here for links to the other early 2012 Penang pages.

Seaview Garden is perhaps the best placed of Penang's many condos to observe nature as it barely a tree covered 100 metres from the sea and backed by jungle uninterrupted to the top of Penang Hill. Don't look here for a learned dissertation or stunning pictures, instead here's where you should be and there are many more like them, especially for bird lovers:

Below is a list of our incomplete observations together with a few pictures from a couple of toy cameras more suited for children's birthday parties than serious stuff. It is a 'friends and family' page intended as a primer for any visitors we might have... Having spent more than half a lifetime looking at steam trains through a camera lens, I'm not sure I want to buying a decent camera and end up doing the same for birds when there are obviously plenty of people out there doing the same thing and probably better than I could achieve without a lot of practice. Far better to sit back and enjoy the spectacle and use their efforts to confirm my observations.




  • Black Giant Squirrel - - Seaview's iconic mammal, there are several of these living in the area, frequently seen in the area immediately behind the Condo, even in pairs - I once had a perfect sighting just a couple of metres away for several minutes from the swimming pool area - amazing for an animal described in the link as 'extremely shy'. Occasionally, they get almost to the main road.



This is an extraordinarily difficult subject, there are thousands and thousands of 'birders' out there but in my admittedly limited experience, most of them have almost as much difficulty identifying anything beyond the blindingly obvious as I do. It's not easy, there are an awful lot of 'Little Brown Jobs' out there and enough local variations in colour and other markings to make production of illustrated books a publisher's nightmare. It's too early to comment on Penang, but in our country house in Jiaojiehe, North China, the local birds gave every impression that if they had read the classic bird books, they certainly didn't think very much of the illustrations.

Many of our birds are near invisible, apart from a few which like 'fresh air', you can hear a mass of sounds especially around dawn and dusk. Even at night, there are owls at work in the forest behind. If in doubt in my assignments, I have assumed the 'common or garden' variety. Basically we have 'garden birds' and 'edge of forest' birds, it seems that the area around the lower part of the Hill Railway is a similar environment judging from the species seen there (obviously no sea eagles), since I saw what I assume was a Pied Fantail there, I hope to see one at Seaview sometime. One bird I don't expect to cop here is a Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker, one of which we photographed near the Temple of 1200 steps.



Bee Eater



  • A female olive backed sunbird (plain olive chest, no neck colouration, is a regular visitor to our balcony. I suspect it has a nest on one of those where no one lives and has trouble finding it. The camera was never ready when she came of course, until one day she wandered into the bedroom and sat on a curtain - a male with with a dark chest/neck is an occasional visitor:


  • Just one seen briefly above the access road, unmistakable with its unusual tail feathers. It was all black but I didn't see it too well, but if I had to make a stab it would be the greater racket tailed-drongo.


  • Oriental Magpie Robin - one seen in a garden on the access road, rather bigger than our British Robins but with a very characteristic white streak along the side when resting.


  • Two of the 'large blue' variety were seen sitting on the roof of the lower block in November 2012. These are birds which are more familiar to me in more open countryside, for instance they love to sit on railway telegraph poles.







  • Glossy / White Breasted Swiftlets. They swoop around all day and delight in dipping their fronts in the swimming pool even when it is in use. Occasionally they take a brief rest on the balconies of unoccupied flats.



  • There are always a few Peaceful / Zebra Doves hanging around outside the houses in the access road.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson