I am seriously starting to miss the migratory season. To be more specific, migratory open country and water birds. So much so, that I made an off-season visit to the marshlands of Pulau Burung in mainland Penang. The presence of a few early arrival or over-wintering waders like the Common Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper did very little to compensate my yearning for the return of the migratory season. Cattle Egrets are found in big numbers at this vicinity throughout the year but I am not sure if they have start breeding here as well.
They have adapted well to the way of life here with the landfill providing an everlasting supply of food and the surrounding habitats, a place for them to thrive and indulge. I guess the birds have found their own little piece of heaven on earth.
Despite all the destruction that the marshlands had to endure of late, I am quite relieved to see the Black-winged Stilts still breeding and calling this place home. Their elegance and beauty will be sorely missed if they decide to abandon this site for greener pastures. And we have no one to blame but ourselves – humans. The so-called intelligent life form that is capable of creating something from nothing. Sadly, humans are also capable of turning something into nothing. The concrete walkway and benches, the perimeter fencing, the tarmac access road, the “clean marshlands” is slowly but surely killing off the place. This is a snippet from an article I wrote back in 2009 about this locality in the Naturalist, a quarterly magazine for the Malaysian nature Society. “I hope the day will never come when the ballerinas (Black-winged Stilts) are forced to perform one last time in the audience of angels (Whiskered Terns) before departing from a diminishing paradise and never to return again.” Well, that day is almost here. It is just a matter of time.
With that aside, I am delighted to see quite a number of young birds out and about. It looks like it was a relatively good season for the birds here. The Red-wattled Lapwing is another sedentary wader that breeds here. This young bird is enjoying some time in the sun.
Like the Cattle Egret, the Jungle Myna also relishes the company of cattle and can be seen striding on the backs of the mammalian companions. This myna is one of the few native mynas to Malaysia but the population is struggling against the more aggressive and adaptable introduced species of mynas. But at least here they seemed to holding out fine. Quite a number of juveniles were seen foraging under the supervision of the parent birds. One was a little more inquisitive than the rest and came quite close to investigate this huge, lumbering beast on four wheels.
The surrounding mangroves have always been the domain of the Collared Kingfisher. Bold, loud and beautiful - it is one bird that one can rarely miss out on any given day. I caught this young one taking a breather from learning the lessons of life and survival from its parents. But moments later a piercing call from one of the parents sent him deeper into the safety of the mangroves.
Parent birds have every reason to be cautious because danger is ever-present. Where there is prey, there is bound to be predators. Brahminy Kites are one of the several raptors are regularly seen here. Being more scavengers than true hunters, they normally not pose any threats to other birds. However, an ignorant juvenile could make an easy meal.
Zebra Doves are used to be called Peaceful Doves and I find the old name describes this species more accurately. They are indeed docile animals and most of the time, confiding and tame as well. The population throughout Malaysia is doing relatively well despite the fact that this little dove is trapped for the bird trade.
The Oriental Magpie-robin is not so fortunate. Cursed for being amazing songsters, its population has been reduced significantly by the bird trade. Once occurring in gardens and parks, the beautiful song of this robin may one day be completely wiped out even from the rural settlements let alone well-developed areas. Anyways, this handsome male is a fine way to end a surprisingly good trip despite the fact that it is not the best time of the year to make a visit here because the migratory season peaks in October. That is the time when this locality truly comes alive.