The former mining ponds of Malim Nawar in Perak have been hosting exceptionally rare migratory water birds for the past few seasons. Thus, the slightly more than two-hour drive from Penang is a very small price to pay for potential mega lifers. Together with Hor Kee, we set out well before dawn for this birding adventure. Upon our arrival at the Sunset Pond, a name passionately given by birders to a particular pond, we found that it has been flooded with too much water and is now avoided by the water birds. The pond on the opposite side of the access track, on the other hand, was a different story. Hundreds of Little Egrets have gathered there to rest and feed gracing the vicinity with their poise and beauty.
There were at least a dozen Little Cormorants present as well. This species is gradually becoming commoner here in Peninsular Malaysia. It was most unfortunate that none of them ever came close to our position and flying shots were all that I managed to obtain today.
The adjacent ponds held spectacles of nature themselves too. This is the highest density of Oriental Pratincoles that I have ever laid eyes on and I have seen my fair share of Oriental Pratincoles prior to this.
Their numbers were easily a thousand strong in total. And whenever they took flight, they darkened the sky. And their calls, echoed throughout the vicinity.
We did scrutinise these flocks for the much rarer Little Pratincole that is known to occur here. We figured if there is ever a chance to find one, it would be today. In the end, the Little Pratincole remains elusive and our hopes, dashed.
The migratory terns are back in full force and their angelic presence is always a welcomed sight. The Little Tern occurs both in fresh and saline water habitats. Although it lacks the size of the other terns, it still possesses the aerial elegance and agility synonymous of this family of birds.
There are a few reasons behind the high concentration of waterbirds here. The availability of food is definitely one of them. Here, an adult Purple Heron was photographed making off with breakfast. Nothing like a hearty meal to start off the day...
The Grey Heron is another large waterbird that is always present at these ponds. Suitable habitats for this beautiful bird are disappearing rapidly in my home state of Penang and possibly, neighbouring states like Perak are the only places I can observe it in future.
As the migratory season is now in full swing, flocks of waders had to be given their due attention. When it comes to waders, you just do not know what rarities might be mingling with the commoner species. There were no surprises among the Little Ringed Plovers however...
A few of them were still in their striking breeding plumage and rightfully deserved some space in my camera's SD card.
Stints are the smallest, and the cutest, of all the waders. Due to their diminutive size, identification can be challenging at times. The Long-toed Stint is well-marked enough to be quite easily told apart from the other species. In fact, it is one of the most attractive of all the stints in winter. Although it was the only stint species present, the sheer number present and confiding nature made the encounter a memorable one.
Odd-sized stints were scrutinised for possible Pectoral and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. I know I just mentioned that Long-toed Stints are quite distinct. But these are waders we are talking about and wader identification is never straightforward. Anyway, there were no Pecs and Sharpies to brighten up the day.
To wrap things up for this trip, a lone Oriental Honey-Buzzard was seen in flight and most probably on passage to its wintering ground further south. I guess it is that time of the year again when we will spend countless hours gazing up into the heavens while observing yet another spectacle of nature - raptor migration.