Tuesday, 19 April 2011

15/04/2011: Permatang Nibong (Penang)

A short birding excursion to this locality yielded quite rewarding results of Pond-herons and to start things off was this splendid Javan Pond-heron foraging alone at a distanced patch of paddy fields. I guess my fascination with Pond-herons has a lot to do with the fact that you simply cannot tell the 3 species apart when they are in non-breeding plumage. Come April all the suspense built up over the entire season will finally reach its climax as the Pond-herons will start to reveal their true identities. And another thing, 2 out of the 3 species are reasonably scarce outside of Penang.

There was one particular patch of the paddy fields that had a number of Pond-herons foraging together with some egrets. I paid extra attention to those still in winter plumage just in case I miss out on any Indian Pond-herons in partial breeding plumage. I was utterly delighted when one of the paler Pond-herons turned out to be an Indian Pond-heron almost in full breeding plumage.

Its presence was a good enough reason for me to settle down at this location and using my car as a hide, hope for better photography opportunities to arise. Once it got used to my stationery vehicle, it started to foraged closer and I, started to fill my memory card with reasonably good images. And that is something I have been waiting for quite some time now.

The rather subdued plumage blended in well with the surrounding environment. This and the colour similarities to Pond-herons in winter plumage are probably some of the factors why this species, the rarest of them all, can be overlooked.

The Chinese Pond-herons were in their usual high numbers. Sorry buddy, this photo session belongs to your rarer compatriot…

An Intermediate Egret in breeding plumage foraging in the same vicinity was an added bonus. However, the plumage was still in its early stages and the breeding plumes are yet in their full glory.

There were quite a number of Yellow Wagtails in the vicinity as well and all of them were sporting their smart breeding plumages. Their extremely active nature made it quite a challenge to obtain clear and unobstructed images.

Looking over the shoulders of the foraging birds was this Black Drongo. Occasionally, it would swoop down and snatched insects that the birds below had flushed out. But this did not go well with the Wagtails because Drongos have been known to take small birds as prey. Whenever it swooped down near the Wagtails, they will utter their alarm calls and make a quick dash away. Better safe than sorry...

I continued on with the rest of the locality and found myself face to face with a second Javan Pond-heron. It was paler than the earlier individual and slight colour variations are not uncommon among the Pond-herons. Individuals in various stages of transition moult can appear quite different from each other as well and this just makes accurate identification of Pond-herons in partial breeding plumage anything but straight forward.

To top it all off, I spotted a second Indian Pond-heron as well. The discovery of this second bird was a huge satisfaction for me and compensation for all the earlier dips.

I knew I was in for treat when it found what appeared to be a carcass of a snake.

Although the snake carcass was quite a mouthful, the Pond-heron made quite short work of it…

A little water to help it go down…

And off it goes to find a relaxing spot (away from a peering birder) and digest a hearty breakfast in leisure.

3 comments:

Tabib said...

Beautiful breeding plumage series and feeding series too.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Tabib. It was my lucky day.

jytou said...

wow, never knew you can also see the breeding plumage of the Intermediate Egret in Malaysia, as it is rarely described in books that we do need to keep a look out on that, it seems to gain the breeding plumes here but this is the first time I knew they turn their bill color before departing, might cause certain confusions with the Little for the beginners....

Nice pond herons, I was lucky to find an Indian in my garden last Saturday but not something so close for such crystal clear shot and also limitations of my gear, due to fenced up region, I was forced to watch from 70-80 meters away.....