Since our first sighting last week of the migratory Asian Openbills in Permatang Nibong, Penang this season, the numbers reported seen from the area have rose to an all-time high of 250 storks. The news of the influx of this rare migrant to Malaysia has even made it into the newspapers. When I found myself with about an hour to spare, I decided to visit the locality hoping to immortalize this phenomenon into my digital database. I was so full with anticipation and excitement that it almost felt like I was going after a lifer. Unfortunately in birding, there is no such thing as a sure thing. There were only 16 Asian Openbills present when I finally reached the locality. The rest could have shifted elsewhere or migrated further south. I was utterly disappointed.
I consoled myself slightly when I managed to finally photograph this stork on the ground. As unbelievable as it sounds, this is the first time that I saw one actually standing on the ground and they have been wintering here for four seasons now. A few of the others gradually did come to the ground but I found them to be relatively wary and shy. All these seasons, I have had little difficulties approaching them when they are resting on the trees but I found out today that it is a different story when they are not within the safety zone of the tree tops.
While waiting in my car for the better photographic opportunities with the storks, I had ample time to observe the other birds that were present in the area. This area is quite the center of activity as the abandoned fishing ponds and secondary growth are now a prime habitat much like an oasis in the middle of the desert. Only here it is among the vast expense of paddy fields. One of the species that were constantly attracting my attention was the flocks of Purple-backed Starling. A Chestnut-cheeked Starling or any other rare starlings would have compensated the disappointment with the storks but it was not meant to be.
The distinct and loud calls of the Oriental Reed-warblers were heard throughout my stake-out. But actually capturing one that is not partly hidden by vegetation was a lost cause. I literally had to beg this one to stay still long enough in order for me to obtain this one single shot!
A splendid male Yellow Bittern trying his best to avoid detection. It could well have worked if he was not moving about the bush right in front of my stationery car before he realized that he was being watched.
The Yellow-vented Bulbul is probably one of the commonest birds in Malaysia. Being able to adapt and live alongside man is a trait that will probably guarantee your continuous existence in this fragile world of today. And this bulbul has certainly mastered that trait. Although not as conspicuous and bold as the Crow, Myna or Sparrow, it is still a bird that even a non-birder will recognize. In fact, it was one of the first few bird species that I went after in my neighbourhood during my early birding days and observing this individual brought back fond birding memories of a distant past. So, I began this short excursion with feelings of disappointment but ended it with a sense of nostalgia and it is all courtesy of a humble, drab-looking garden bird.