Tuesday, 16 February 2016

No rarities, no problem (11/02/2016)

I have been quite consistent with my visits to the former mining pools of Malim Nawar in Perak during this time of the year. This locality does have a good record for producing mega lifers and I thought I will try my luck here on day 2 of my festive birding spree. The 200km drive was slightly taxing than usual due to my level of intoxication from last night’s festive drinking session. There have been records of the scarce White-shouldered Starling a few months back and I decided to start off today’s excursion from the spot where a pair of these migratory starlings were last seen. Luck was not on my side and despite a thorough sweep of the area; there were no signs of the starlings. So, I turned my attention to the next best thing – the uncommon Sand Martin. There is still some confusion about the true identity these martins and Malim Nawar is one of their regular wintering grounds. I am a simple man. Until, they find a way to differentiate the Sand Martin the Pale Martin (which is near impossible); they will all be Sand Martins to me.

At least 5 birds were present in the vicinity and they have a habit of resting along the wires, in the company of Barn Swallows, above the fish ponds. When compared to the latter, they are smaller and duller-looking but sometimes status supersedes everything else. With no way of getting any closer to the martins, I soon left them to their sunbathing and searched for other interesting species to document.

You are bound to see a few Cattle Egrets when birding in open country habitats like this. In winter, they are small and don their boring non-breeding plumage. Come spring and you will see an astonishing change for the Cattle Egret sports the most vibrant breeding plumage of all the egrets found here.

That remarkable breeding plumage is further enhanced when in full breeding plumage with the purplish hue to the lores and reddish glow to the legs. Exquisite is the word...

The Long-tailed Shrike is a beautiful bird and certainly beats the rest of the shrikes hands down. Unfortunately, it is also the shyest. I have come to a stage where I will not even attempt to try and reduce the distance for a better shot whenever I come across one in the field. Sometimes, God works in mysterious ways. I was not even trying today and the bird just happened to be along the route I was taking. To my astonishment, this Long-tailed Shrike did not budge. It still remained put when I raised my camera to focus on it. That’s more like it.

But the sound of the shutter must have struck a nerve because it flew across the trail after a few clicks. Luckily by then, I had already obtained my best images of this species to date. The lighting from this angle was better and the rays of the morning sun brought out the true splendour of the bird.

A colony of nesting Baya Weavers is not something you can easily miss. First of all, there is the presence of all those architectural work of art these birds call home. So amazing are these nests that are collected to be used as interior decorations. Unfortunately, these unscrupulous nest collectors lack conscience and humanity. Nests with fledglings still inside will not be spared and that just makes my blood boil. Secondly, the birds at a nesting colony tend to make a racket that can be heard from far away. There were at least 3 colonies within the area and I am glad this species is still doing well despite all the senseless prosecution.

As there was nothing much about, I took my time to observe a relatively new colony told by the big number of bachelor pads. Most of these pads are newly-constructed as they are still green. From these bachelor pads, all the hot-blooded males will sway, sing, shout and do whatever it takes to entice a female to join him. Not so much different from human beings, I guess.

This is the reason for all the activity at a colony – the dull female.

Once a male manages to find a mate, he will finish up the nest – turning his bachelor pad into a family suite. Again, this sounds very familiar. Anyway, this is what a completed nest looks like.

The Little Cormorants have settled in quite well to this locality. A handful were seen during this trip but they were extremely skittish and nearly impossible to approach even by car. These skilled fishers of birds were the only relatively uncommon waterbird that crossed my path today.

The commoner waterbirds, however, were very gracious and did a fine job hosting me during my visit. I absolutely adore Black-winged Stilts. There is always an aura of grace and poise about them. This male was so confiding that I could not help but to stop and photograph this common but striking wader.

It felt like there is a slight drop in the number of Grey Herons. In the past, I used to be overwhelmed by their sheer number. In fact, these large herons are one of the reasons I love this birding hotspot.

The same applies to the Purple Herons. It will be real shame if these two giants can no longer find sanctuary here in Malim Nawar. I could be a little paranoid but I have seen how these herons are losing grip of their home at the marshlands of Batu Kawan in my home state of Penang.

On the other hand, egrets like the Great and Little Egrets are finding life to be sunny and blissful here...

It is not that often a Greater Coucal allows itself to be photograph in the open. This cuckoo is shy despite its large size and common status. The deep booming call is frequently heard in a variety of habitats and is the best indication of its presence. Having said that, I guess having a few twigs in the way of my attempts to capture images of this skulker is not a big deal after all.

While taking a breather from intense searching for possible rarities under the blistering sun along the rows of former mining pools, a lone Eastern Yellow Wagtail wandered very close to my stationery vehicle. I certainly do not need any invites to start shooting this confiding individual. Now this is probably one of commonest passerines that spend their winter here in Malaysia. In suitable open country habitats, their numbers can be impressive. But a close encounter like this does help ease the disappointment of the lack of rarities for this trip.


Wilma said...

The sand martins are lovely. The purple heron is my fav, though, such a striking bird.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Wilma.