When a Glossy Ibis was reported at the paddy fields of Kubang Semang in Penang, it did not take long for me to find myself there scanning the very fields for this vagrant. It is still one of my dream birds despite the fact that I have seen it once before in Thailand many years back. But as always, my Peninsula Malaysia life list is the one I hold closest to my heart and no effort was spared in trying to obtain this lifer. Unfortunately just like the Black-headed Ibis a couple of years back, they showed themselves on only one occasion to a privileged few and the rest of us were left to use our imagination. This time, I was reduced to shooting the closest thing present that remotely resembled a Glossy Ibis - a juvenile Striated Heron.
The recently planted fields at the vicinity attracted a lot of waders but nothing out of the ordinary. A small flock of Ruffs did not stay long enough for me to capture their images. Even at a distance, they were wary of my approaching vehicle. The Little Ringed Plovers, on the other hand, did not even give me a second look and when about their business.
There was a number of Long-toed Stints foraging about as well. That is until a White-throated Kingfisher suddenly alighted on the muddy earth out of nowhere. I do not think it was after the stints but its action sent them flying into the horizon.
At this time of the year, the number of egrets foraging along the paddy fields is at its highest. Of the four species that occur here, the Intermediate Egret is the least abundant. I really like how this image turned it in the end. The overcast skies helped tremendously on the wholly white plumage. The young paddy stalks provided the ideal background and the gaping mouth of the egret completed the photo.
The migratory Brown Shrikes are also back in full force but unlike the egrets, they are quite shy. Open perches are their favourites from which they terrorize anything they consider as food...or competition.
While searching for the ibis, I came across a female Common Kingfisher a few times along a particular stretch of a ditch and yes, I went round in circles. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I finally gave her the admiration she deserves just before I left the locality to search for another rarity.
Another exciting report that came in earlier this week was Choo Eng's Indian Roller at Juru. Although not quite in the class as the Glossy Ibis but it has been 4 long years since my last record here in my home state. Seeing that I have not been to that area this season, its presence was a good enough reason for a visit. I went straight to its favourite hang-out when it was here the last time but the roller was no where to be seen. Rollers have a tendency to perch conspicuously and the possibility of a double whammy was starting to take shape. A Coppersmith Barbet on a perch too high for any good images did very little to lift my spirits.
The Crested Mynas are doing well here. In fact, this is the only place in mainland Penang that you can regularly see them. Apparently something is holding back the population here on the mainland unlike on the island where they have established themselves to be one, if not, the most dominating species of all the mynas.
There are certain things in life that you just cannot change no matter what you do. You will make things a lot easier on yourself once you accept them as they are. For example, all Black-capped Kingfishers images are to be taken as 'habitat' shots and nothing else...
A flock of pigeons were waiting out the rain on a tall dead tree. I was delighted that they were Thick-billed Green-pigeons and did my best to obtain some images despite the weather and lighting conditions. Not as common as the Pink-necked Green-pigeon, their confiding nature and beauty momentarily took my mind off the roller.
As I reluctantly made my way out, I caught a flash of purple flying across the main road and suddenly, I don't feel the rain seeping through my slightly winded-down car window anymore. My ray of sunshine is here. The Indian Roller was on the hunt and it could not have timed it any better to finally reveal itself. Welcome back, bud…
When it gradually settled down on an electrical cable overlooking the buffalo pasture, I drove my car as close as possible and just enjoyed the moment. I did not risk driving onto the soft ground of the pasture and the roller appeared to be slightly apprehensive of my presence. So, trying to stalk it on foot was not an option. Despite all the obstacles, I am pretty happy with how my shots turned out in the end.
The last locality for today's birding was the marshlands at Batu Kawan. Like many other birding localities, this place is a far cry from its former glory days. And to make matters worse, this locality is now a hotspot for developers as they capitalize on the recently open second Penang Bridge. Residential and commercial projects are springing up like mushrooms and the local wildlife, bearing the grunt. A flock of Red-wattled Lapwing provided the only images from the visit. Then the storm came and washed away any intentions of prolonging my stay here.