Monday, 25 March 2013

Sometimes wishes do come true (23/03/2013)

With the migratory season drawing to a close, I decided to visit the marshlands (I have to stop referring to the wetlands here as marshlands because they now look more like lakes) at Pulau Burung, Penang to check if there were any migratory waterbirds around. However, it was not the birds that caught my immediate attention upon my arrival but the row of newly-planted trees along the water's edge. My last visit to the area had me thinking what are the plans for this area and now, it is crystal clear. Dave was right - the local authorities are going to turn it into a "proper" landscaped lake. I don't mean to be a pessimist but I sincerely doubt that their vision of a landscaped lake and mine is the same. I just hope that the birds will gradually be able to adapt to this change.

As I was moving along the adjacent mangroves, I jammed on my brakes when I heard the diagnostic call of the Mangrove Pitta. When I finally traced the call to the source, a river stood in the way between me and my quarry. With no crossing anywhere within the vicinity, I had no choice but to take a few record shots from a slight distance. My only other record of this elusive species here was about 2 years ago. Although Pittas are terrestrial birds, they do have a tendency to call from a lofty perch and this one was belting out its territorial call persistently from the very top of a scrubland tree. 

How does one get close to a Black-capped Kingfisher? I have absolutely no idea. This shot like the many others I have taken of this extremely skittish species is from a distance. I find this behaviour rather odd for an open country kingfisher especially when the other kingfishers that share its habitat are more tolerant. 

This snipe has the utmost confidence in its ability to camouflage itself when threatened and rightfully so because I would have missed it if not for the lone Common Sandpiper that was foraging next to it. 

Some birds, on the other hand, do not have to rely on stealth for protection simply because they have no natural enemies - except for man that is. A good example is this Crested Serpent-eagle perched conspicuously on a dead tree next to the mangroves. I am not sure if it is out of curiosity or fear but the raptor actually turned around to face me when I started photographing it. But then again, maybe it just felt like turning around. 

The pair of Asian Dollarbirds from my last visit was still present at the same area. Unfortunately, this time they were a little hesitant to perch as low as the last encounter. 

The mangroves here are certainly one of the best places in Penang to see the Greater Flameback - a species that is confined to such habitats. In fact, I think it is more regularly encountered here than the similar-looking but more widespread Common Flameback. 

The Cattle Egrets have started to sport their smart breeding plumage. The landfill has become an ideal feeding ground for these egrets and despite the sanitary issue, they seemed to be really thriving with this way of life.

Just before I concluded my visit here, a Blue-tailed Bee-eater gave a performance that was reminiscence of the good old days when the marshlands habitats were at their prime. It was as if the little fellow was trying to reassure me that everything here is going to be fine. I certainly hope so, bud. 

My next destination for the day was the paddy fields at Permatang Nibong, Penang. The Pond-herons have also started to sport their breeding plumage but for today, only the Chinese Pond-herons were recorded.

At the Asian Openbill haunt, I could see even from a distance that there were quite a big number of them present this time. I made myself comfortable (I have a feeling I was going to be there for quite a while) in my car at a strategic spot and pretty soon I was surrounded by Asian Openbills. Most of them were resting on the trees as usual and true enough, I eventually counted about 120 individuals - making it an all-time high personal record.

There were a few that were flying about and some were just coming in to join their resting compatriots.

There were even storks resting on perches overlooking the former fish ponds.

A Great Egret alighted in the middle of one of the ponds and momentarily distracted me from the storks. And unlike the storks, it does not seem to mind getting its feet wet. 

I have been lamenting to Choo Eng that the storks here somehow do not fancy standing or resting on the ground - unlike other places. Even when they do, they become wary of human presence. But today, they certainly proved me wrong. At least 2 groups were taking refuge among the paddy stalks...

And some were even standing out in the open. And to think that I thought I will never get to photograph them standing from a reasonably close distance. 

I know the Asian Openbill is probably not a big deal anymore in Malaysia. Particularly every birder here and even Singapore has now seen it thanks to the huge influx this season. However, I guess I am still spellbound by these storks. I made a wish for the Asian Openbill to hopefully become a regular sight in Penang when I saw my very first one a few years back. It looks like that wish is coming true. Seeing them in such huge numbers and at such a close proximity was simply an incredible affair. A scene like this is more likely to take place in India or Thailand but instead, it is here in my home state of Penang. This encounter has left quite an impact on me. I honestly do not know how to describe this overwhelming feeling inside of me. I guess you just had to be there. Anyway, this juvenile provided the best photos for the day. In fact with the green background, they may be my best images of this charismatic species yet. 


Tabib said...

Beautiful series, and I love that 1st Blue-tailed Bee-eater pic

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Tabib. Yes, the Bee-eater was a very good model that day.

Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok said...

Nice selection of bird species. Interesting to see so many openbills there. Right now this species has spread even further northward to southern China!

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Ayuwat.

deep_end said...

So happy to know that there's still a chance for Pulau Burung :)

Nice AOB pics !!

These storks in Perak can usually be found feeding on the ground in the soaked padi fields, and we can get about 10-15m from them

Choy Wai Mun said...

Yes. I'm certainly hoping for the place to recover.