Tuesday, 3 January 2012

31/12/2011: Pulau Burung (Penang)

Initially, I wanted to do some forest birding at Bukit Palong but Mother Nature had other thoughts. A pre-dawn drizzle made me altered my plans and it was off to the marshlands of Pulau Burung again. Despite the cold and gloomy weather, most of the birds were already out and about like this adult Purple Heron.

Lately, I have been quite lucky with Changeable Hawk-eagles here. First it was the light-phased adult and followed by the dark-phased individual. Today, it was this juvenile’s turn to perform. Now, I have a series of close-up portraits depicting the complete plumage range of this variable raptor and all from a single locality.

During my observation, it dived into the undergrowth and I immediate got my gear ready to capture the outcome of the hunt. Although the raptor was completely hidden, I could see movements among the vegetation and there was a whole lot of squawking noises as well. After a while, the raptor finally reemerged from the undergrowth but the hunt was unsuccessful. The intended prey managed to survive the attack of this formidable predator and live to see another day.

There were quite a few raptors recorded this time including this immature White-bellied Sea-eagle, gliding menacingly low over the marshlands.

The Brahminy Kite is certainly of the commonest raptors in Penang. Due to its abundance, it is often under appreciated despite having a striking appearance. I still lack reasonably good images of this raptor at rest and this would have been a good one if not for the blocking leaves.

The Grey Heron is another large heron that can be found at this locality. Today, I came across this lone bird foraging out on the vast expense of mudflats.

Breeding season will soon be in full swing and looks like this pair of Greater Coucals are getting a head start with the male courting the female just next to the access road. However, Coucals are notoriously shy and the pair made a hasty retreat into the undergrowth once my presence was felt.

The Blue-tailed Bee-eaters are starting to perform like the good old days again by allowing close approaches and looking their best for the camera.

I was so preoccupied with photographing the Bee-eaters that I almost miss out on the highlight of the day. BK, another regular birder to Pulau Burung, stopped his car just behind mine and started to shoot in the general direction of the Bee-eaters. Initially, I thought he was shooting the same subjects until he casually said to me the Gargarneys are pretty close today and gestured towards the water. And true enough the celebrity ducks were resting on a floating log just beyond the Bee-eaters.

Now, this is the life…

Putting our perseverance and patience to the test, they finally began to stir from their siesta after quite some time and provided photographic opportunities of their behaviour – other than napping that is.

The first order of business was preening…

When both of them extended their wings simultaneously to stretch, it was a moment I was hoping for as it could help determine their gender once and for all. The eclipse male (as identified by Dave before) revealed his pale greyish upperwing coverts while the other sported brownish coverts indicating that it is a female.

All the activity does build up an appetite and finding food was next on the agenda.

I noticed that they tend to forage and feed among the vegetation. I cannot be completely sure if this is their usual habit but it does explain why they occasionally keep out of sight.

After feeding, it was back to the floating log again to rest. As for me, I can think of no better way to end an extraordinary year than with another memorable and rewarding birding experience courtesy of this scarce winter migrant.


Anonymous said...

Great shots of the Garganeys
Choo Eng.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Choo Eng.

digdeep said...

Great shots Mun, and well done for successfully sexing the ducks, Interestingly the female looks brighter overall than the eclipse male.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Dave.

Angad Achappa said...

Very nice post..loved all the images... :)

mike kan said...

Hi Mun
What kind of distance we are looking at to shoot the Garganeys. I only got a EF400mm le

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Angad.

Mike, they usually stay quite far away. I got lucky a few times and they came to about 50'.