The weather has been gloomy and wet of late and a bright sunny dawn last Saturday was a much welcomed sight. My birding addiction took me to the marshlands at Batu Kawan in Penang this time and even the usually grumpy Brown Shrike seems to be in a very good mood as she soaked in the warms rays of the sun.
My home state is blessed with a healthy population of kingfishers and it is not unusual to record 5 different species at a single locality. The Common Kingfisher is a common winter visitor to Malaysia but on this beautiful morning, this female was the only kingfisher that provided a reasonable photographic opportunity.
A brownish Finch-like bird foraging on the ground level immediately captured my undivided attention. Initially, it remained quite hidden among the grass and the anticipation of waiting for it to show more of itself was killing me. Gradually it did but much to my disappointment, it was only a Baya Weaver. Well, the encounter certainly left me with a significant amount of adrenalin in my system.
Some birds are quite challenging in terms of positive identification and then there are those that are just plain impossible to identify. The Swinhoe’s/Pintail Snipe is certainly one of them. I have practically given up trying to separate the two in the field. Maybe they should call it Swinhoe’s Pintail Snipe. That would certainly save us a lot of headache! Anyway, this individual was trying very hard not to attract my attention and I left it in peace after taking a shot or two.
The highlight of the day came in the form of Striated Herons. This is by far the commonest heron species in Malaysia. Who would have thought that this humble species had what it takes to keep me entertained for a good half hour. Apparent, this species here (or is it just these 2 individuals) have learned that they could get an easy meal by following the “weekend” fishermen. These fishermen will usually discard tiny fish and shrimps from their nets along the access road. The herons will then casually stroll in and devour the tasty morsels.
I have not witness this behaviour before despite countless visits to this locality and I can only guess it is something new. The herons exhibit very little fear of human presence and although this species is generally not that shy but it can still be quite wary of humans. But not this daring duo. I decided to test just how bold they can get by parking my car just next to some dead shrimps lying on the access road. One of the heron came and started picking up shrimps literally from beneath my stationery car! Then I got to thinking. If only their bigger cousins start to learn this trick. Imagine a lanky Grey Heron feeding just next to your car. Better still, a Lesser Adjutant.
So for the time being, I have to settle for only the Striated Heron but what a delightful encounter it was.
A vast area of the palm oil estate on the opposite of the road is being cleared and now flooded with water. I am not sure what the actual plans are in store for the area but for the time being, the water birds seem to have taken a fancy to this new “wetland”. Purple Herons can be seen resting on the dead palm trees.
“What is good for the heron must be good for the egret”, thought this Great Egret.
There is a rather big number of Grey Herons present as well and this area now shelters the largest concentration of large herons in the state of Penang. It does look promising but only time will tell if this temporary sanctuary will become a permanent one for the birds and birders to enjoy.