Thursday, 5 January 2017

Starling Central

It was a gloomy morning at Sungai Sedim when I started off my first birding excursion for the year. Definitely not the kind of start one wishes for. I am not sure if it was the cold air or the coming rains but the birds were not out and about. I had to work hard to show some forest denizens to my British guest, Rod. It was not a total let down as we did managed to experience some of the bird life here but it could have been better. A lone Crested Goshawk perched aloft a tall dead tree provided the only photo from this locality for me. As the raptor gazed towards the approaching rain clouds with a sense of uncertainty, we birders knew what had to be done and it was to seek better pastures elsewhere.

A detour to check on the Barred Eagle-owls of Kulim has become part of the routine after any visit to the forest of Sungai Sedim. The weather improved very little and the light drizzle made this roosting owl even more sluggish. A quick glance over the shoulder to make sure what these humans were up to was all the owl was able to muster. And it was back to sweet slumber from then on.

The waders at Bagan Belat have certainly found a new area to roost and feed. My last visit here was a disappointment as the regular thousands of roosting waders were absent. The outcome today was the same and the magic of Penang’s only Important Bird Area could be drawing to an end. The foul weather trailed us all the way to Air Hitam Dalam. The Mangrove Blue Flycatcher did his best to try brightened up a gloomy day and despite the rain, performed admirably for a couple of visiting birders. The last destination for the day was the paddy fields of Permatang Pauh in mainland Penang. Even from a distant, the pale colouration of the White-shouldered Starlings stood out like a beacon in the dark as they foraged among a clump of medium-sized trees in the middle of the fields. After the umpteen time, I was elated I managed to capture the images of this rare migrant. It may not be what one would consider to be a quality shot of this handsome male but I am not complaining. The day was finally turning around and so did the weather.

A drab-looking starling was next to held my attention and I knew it was the juvenile Rosy Starling that has been entertaining birders for the past week or so. For the second time this season, the Rosy Starling firmed took its place in my birding excursions. One thing that I have noticed about this scarce migrant is its preference to forage on the ground and often enough it can be seen together with mynas and not other starlings. However, its choice of company this time is somewhat questionable – a Brown Shrike.

Unfortunately, the one starling that I was really hoping to see remained elusive. A careful and tedious sweep of the flocks of Daurian Starlings present could not produce the desired male Chestnut-cheeked Starling. The sky began to darken again and rain was emanon. A lone female Daurian Starling that stayed back at a berry bush instead of joining others of her kin at a roosting tree found her way to my memory card.

A number of Pink-necked Pigeons were also present at the locality. They continued to feast on the berries despite the rain drops that have now trickled down from the heavens above. This species may be the commonest of our green pigeons but the male is undeniably striking. It would have been a sin if we did not spend time observing the water birds that were present today as well. Temminck’s Stint, Grey-headed Lapwings and Black-winged Stilts may be regular migrants here but they certainly deserve some affection. 


kezonline said...

5 destinations in one trip, can't be bad. I went to Air Hitam Dalam myself a couple of days ago, sooo quiet, hardly any birdlife and what's with that unrepaired concrete boardwalk, still not repaired after the fallen tree long ago. Good to see you still found some interesting highlights to kick of your 2017 birding trips. Bfn. Keiron

Choy Wai Mun said...

Yes, Keiron AHD is struggling to be its former self. Thank you for your comment.