Thursday, 29 December 2016

A little Christmas cheer is better than none

Paddy fields are one of the very few man made landscapes that are actually beneficiary to birds as well. During the migratory months, these expanse of open country habitats provide sanctuary to countless birds. Here in Penang, we are truly blessed that the paddy fields on the mainland are not only birding hotspots but easily accessible by car as well. This season, one particular migrant stands out from the rest and it is the White-shouldered Starling. This scarce migrant is not new to the area but usually occurs singly and records are far and few. This year, at least a 10 birds are present and a whole lot of birders got to see it for the first time. I have seen this species before in the past and also the ones here this season. Despite the fact that they are showing well, I still do not have any good images of this species to this day. Since Christmas is almost here and all, I was hoping my luck might change. But in the end, the only starling that found its way to my memory card was this Daurian Starling. The White-shouldered Starlings were present alright and I even got them in my sight but somehow, some way they managed to elude my camera’s sensor. And at the time of writing, I found out that James Neoh, whom I bumped into at the site, even managed to photograph a Chestnut-cheeked Starling in addition to the White-shouldered Starling. The former is a long, sought-after lifer for me. So much for the magic of Christmas...


There is one raptor found in Malaysia that has my utmost admiration and respect – the beautiful but deadly Peregrine Falcon. The ones that occur in the paddy fields here are of the nominate race and they occur in the locality only during the migratory season. Their presence, however, are not so welcomed by other birds that form the diet of this formidable falcon.


I missed the actual kill and by the time I managed to relocate the falcon, it had a feral pigeon clenched firmly in its talons. The stoop as the falcon goes in for the kill makes it the fastest bird in the world. There is no shame in admitting I was simply too slow to follow its movement. Anyway, the falcon settled down on one of the pylons to saviour the meal to come. It was a distanced observation but I would not miss it for the world. Some Christmas cheer for me after all...




A little effort was required to seek out some of the wintering water fowls but not that many were present today. I was delighted to come across a couple of Temminck’s Stints foraging together with the commoner waders. This site is one of the few places where this scarce peeps is regularly recorded in Malaysia.



The graceful Black-winged Stilts also winter here regularly and their presence provide additional charm and beauty to the surroundings. End of the year may be the holiday season but it is also the busiest time of the year for me. Work as expected had been taxing these past few weeks. Spending time out in the field will certainly do me some good. A pair of Black-winged Stilts foraging on a flooded patch of paddy field is a picture of total bliss and no other revitalizing treatment can come close to this.


A small flock of Asian Openbills spiralling down to rest on an isolated patch caught my immediate attention. The storks have chosen their resting spot well as it was inaccessible from any direction unless you can fly. So, I had to be contented with this record shot of the resting flock.



A confiding Brown Shrike wrapped things up for this time. Being a migrant, this feisty little guy spends its Christmas in the tropics each year and it is commonly encountered here where the paddy fields provide refuge from the bitter cold up north. Merry Christmas, bud...

4 comments:

kezonline said...

Another great post and cracking pics. Where were these paddy fields on the mainland you mention? Much off the beaten track?

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Keiron. It is at Permatang Pauh. Not too far from the main road.

tripletrogon said...

Hi Wai Mun, fantastic pictures of Peregrine Falcon feeding on the pigeon in Permatang Pauh. Birdwatching in these paddy fields was very memorable for me last December 2016 post-AGM of Wild Bird Club Malaysia. I missed the White-Shouldered Starlings that day. We were there at the paddyfields by 7.45am in Ang's jeep. We had breakfast at the town by 9am and resumed birding at the paddy fields by 10am. We stopped birding at 12 noon and still no White-Shouldered Starlings sighted. Was happy already to see so many Grey-headed Lapwings in almost every patch of paddy fields in Permatang Pauh - not common down south in Peninsular Malaysia.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you for your compliment and comment.