Another rarity was discovered a few days back and this time, it was an Asian Openbill. This vagrant was first recorded in
about 3 years back in the northern state of Perlis. Unfortunately, I was still held back from birding at that time but the recent sighting in mainland Malaysia Penang was a golden opportunity not to be missed. I was at the locality just after dawn and despite scouting around the area quite carefully, the stork was no where to be seen.
As I had to rush back to work, I did not stop for most of the commoner birds and concentrated on finding the rare visitor. The only shot I took was of this Black-winged Kite looking for breakfast from a vantage point.
Later in the day, I got more precise locations of the stork and I decided to try my luck again after work. As I was making my way to the exact location where it was last seen, I came across a House Crow giving a Brahminy Kite a hard time.
What is the best way to get rid off pesky crows? Just fly low above a birder…
Things were looking much brighter than the morning’s excursion when I came across a pair of juvenile Eastern Marsh-harriers on the hunt at the stork’s locality.
Gradually, one of them flew quite close to my stationery vehicle. These graceful raptors are certainly a sight for sore eyes. I always like to use floating instead of flying when describing the flight pattern of harriers because they really do float.
Once the harriers floated out of sight, I waited patiently in the vicinity for the celebrity bird to make an appearance. The thought of dipping for the second time in a day has started to creep up into my mind. A rather confiding Pond-heron posing beautifully against a green backdrop of paddy stalks could not prevent me feeling more and more disappointed.
Just then, a motorcyclist stopped next to my stationery car and he turned out to be Hakim – the guy that discovered the stork last week. He told me to follow him to the other end of the access road and pointed out to me the area where the stork has been roosting for the past few days. And then, just like a dream come true, a large bird flying in the vicinity turned out to be the Asian Openbill. Thanks, Hakim!
The coloration of the bill and legs suggests that it is still a juvenile bird. It was rather wary of our presence and after circling around for a few times, it alighted on a distance clump of Palm Oil trees. Large water birds are one of my favourite groups of birds and a rare one makes the encounter even more memorable. I have to admit that I did not expect to see this species in my home state of
Penang but that’s the beauty of birding. Anything can turn up anywhere.