Wednesday 29 January 2014

A jolly good tick (18/01/2014)

When news broke out of a Northern Shoveler wintering at the one of the former mining ponds of Malim Nawar in Perak, it was just a matter of when I had the time to make the 4-hour round trip to the locality. I had to endure 2 weeks of agony before I suddenly found myself with a free Saturday and together with Choo Eng and James, we arrive at the pond slightly after dawn. 

This is the second consecutive season that this locality has produced rare wintering ducks. Last year, it was the fourth confirmed record of a Tufted Duck in Peninsular Malaysia. However this year's Northern Shoveler, the third confirmed record in Peninsular Malaysia, makes it even rarer than the former. Like the Tufted Duck last year, it did not take us long to locate the celebrity duck.

The Northern Shoveler is considerably bigger than the other ducks that I have encountered before. But despite its size, it is quite shy and wary of human presence. Most shots were taken from a distance and I was lucky to manage a couple of closer ones after some stalking efforts. All in all, the Shoveler was an impressive species and a memorable mega tick that is up there among the best for me.

We had to keep our enthusiasm for better shots in check because of the presence of feral water buffalos. Although not as aggressive as the African Cape Buffalos, they can pose quite a threat to a wandering birder and even more so when there are young ones around.

The Northern Shoveler was in the company with a pair of Garganeys. The latter is a scarce migrant to our shores as well. The Garganeys were, surprising, even shyer than the Shoveler and good shots were certainly not possible. A couple of years back, a pair of Garganeys turned up at my local patch in Pulau Burung and they were certainly not as shy as this pair. But then, Pulau Burung always had a way of "taming" the birds that seek refuge there. 

Some of the other waterbirds that we managed to capture while waiting for the Shoveler to put on a better performance were this Yellow Bittern - looking for some breakfast.

And there were quite a number of Long-toed Stints present in the vicinity as well.

Snipes were also a common sight this trip and this is a Common Snipe resting at the water’s edge.

Purple Swamphens are one of the most distinct waterbirds that occur here in Malaysia with their enormous size and bright colouration. Unfortunately, none of them came close enough for any really good shots this time round. 

The majority of the terns here today were White-winged Terns and their number was in the hundreds.

With the breeding season in full swing, territorial calls are on overdrive and one of the most distinct ones today is the persistent and piercing notes of the Plaintive Cuckoo. Both the male and female put on quite a show for the visiting birders from Penang.

A handsome Common Iora striking a pose for some visiting birders…

The Greater Coucal was also more accommodating than usual and I took full advantage of its gracious mood today.

In fact, they seemed to be everywhere today. Here’s one enjoying a good tan…

The only way you can ever get close to Red Junglefowls on foot is to be able to make yourself invisible. And since I am no magician, I have to be content with shots like this.

The third notable sighting of the day was a flock of 6 Temminck's Stint foraging on some expose mud at the edge of one the ponds. In fact, this is the highest number I have ever recorded of this species. The Temminck’s Stint turned out to be a lifer for both of my companions and we took the time to appreciate this plain-looking but scarce wader.

To everyone celebrating the coming Chinese New Year, I wish you Gong Xi Fa Chai!