Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The season is off to a good start (20/09/2014)

I found myself with a few hours to kill on a Saturday morning yet again and the urge for another visit to the mudflats of Bagan Belat was simply too strong to be denied. At the break of dawn, I positioned myself on the man-made rocky outcrop, slightly hidden and eagerly anticipating whatever that is in store for me. A flock of Black-crowned Night-herons flying back to roost was the first to capture my attention.

Unlike the last visit, my timing with the tide was better and the weather was also on my side for a change. This is probably as good as it is going to get for a visit to the mudflats. The rest, however, will depend on the waders. And today, they were kind enough to go along with the plan.

The Lesser Sand-plovers foraged the closest to me yet again. But how can I ignore a face like this?

One of them has yet to moult completely into its winter coat and stood out rather like a sore thumb. Not that I am complaining. It does add a touch of colour to the all the shades of grey and brown that were present on the mudflats. 

The Terek Sandpipers, on the other hand, swapped positions with the Curlew Sandpipers. So this time, I had ample time to observe the Curlew Sandpiper up close and managed to obtain quite a few good shots. 

The majority of the larger waders kept to the far end of the mudflats - as usual. The only access to them is by boat or trekking through the mangroves and mud. But both are not an option today due to the time constraint. The Marsh Sandpipers graced the vicinity with their presence today and were the closest of the far flocks. 

An unfamiliar shape caught my immediate attention as it foraged among the smaller peeps. It turned out to be a Great Knot and there were two of them. 

The morning suddenly just got a whole lot better and there was more to come as the birds gradually made their way to my direction. Great Knots are not rare but I have had very little luck with photographing them. These two juveniles are certainly adamant of changing that today. And I, trying to keep as still as possible as I shot the knots, was in wader heaven. 

In the midst of shooting the knots, a larger wader suddenly alighted not too far from me. Now, who said wader watching is boring. Certainly not me! I find them to be fascinating. The only thing is that I occasionally get their identification wrong. But then again where is the fun if you got it easy all the time, right? Anyway, back to the encounter. This impressive Bar-tailed Godwit certainly made a great day better. Unfortunately, it did not take long for it to decide to join others of its kind at the far end away from human disturbances. But luckily, not before I took the shots. 

Now, the godwit may have ended its performance but the knots are far from done. They continued to forage quite close to shore and this is by far the best encounter I had ever experience with this species. They were quite active waders as they frequently probing the mud and shallow pools for prey. At times, I even had difficulty keeping up. 

The Purple Heron is not that common in this area - to me anyway. So when two of them flew leisurely overhead I was a little surprised to say the least. I cannot recall if I have ever seen any on mudflats before. However, it does occur along mangroves and we certainly have plenty of that here.