Friday, 10 February 2017

Duck Central

The former mining pools at Malim Nawar in Perak state proved once again to be the place for rare migratory ducks when a Northern Pintail decided to winter here this season. However, I was only made aware of its presence a few days before the Lunar New Year and whatever plans to twitch for this duck just had to wait. And the wait became almost unbearable when Dave came back on the first day of the New Year not only with images of the Northern Pintail but also Malaysia’s second Blyth’s Pipit. I found myself embarking on the 4-hour round trip to the site the first chance I had and with Hor Kee as my companion. Ducks rarely winter here in Malaysia and even when they do, the males will usually be in their drab eclipse plumage. This male Northern Pintail, on the other hand, was almost in full breeding plumage. For a waterbird enthusiast like me, that is almost like striking the lottery. Upon arrival, I immediately went for the Northern Pintail. My companion, having ticked off both birds on his last visit, tagged along to seek improvements shots of the Blyth’s Pipit and as it turned out, to provide moral support as the duck was no where to seen at his usual spot. And all the excitement built up in me during the journey here died off completely.

A careful sweep of the adjacent ponds was the next and only course of action. There is a God after all and among the reeds of one of the other ponds, the Northern Pintail was paddling leisurely whilst looking for breakfast. Life, is beautiful once again. Of the three rare ducks that this little piece of birding paradise hosted through the years, this male Northern Pintail is the most stunning in my book. The only thing lacking from his splendid plumage is the elongated tail feathers. That would have made it perfect.

The duck was reasonably confiding but the lighting was against me. The thorny scrub vegetation and the presence of temperamental Water Buffaloes prevented me from improving my position. Taking into account my miserable state of mind minutes earlier, I was not too disappointed with the natural elements that were not in my favour. I finally connected with a male Northern Pintail and it was truly an uplifting experience.

While I was being uplifted by a duck, a group of Selangor birders that arrived later came across the Blyth’s Pipit near where we have parked our car. As we were making our way out to search for the pipit, the Selangor birders were making their way in for the duck. Information was exchanged and my pace quickened as there was now a chance for a double mega lifer today. And the moment of truth came not too long into our search…

But it was not meant to be. Every single pipit that we managed to dig up the whole morning turned out to be Paddyfield Pipits including this one. I was not expecting much to begin with as the celebrity pipit was not seen for the past few days. I am glad that today someone saw it. Even if it was not me who was in the vicinity at that time - honest. I bet if I had look really hard from where I was crouched down observing the Northern Pintail, I would probably had the Blyth’s Pipit in my binoculars. But seriously, if I have to choose between the duck and the pipit it would undoubtedly be the former.

Anything that even slightly resembled a pipit received our undivided attention including Eastern Yellow Wagtails…

In between our stops for pipits and wagtails, a few other species did manage to garner our attention. Malim Nawar is the best locality in Malaysia for Bank Swallows – a scarce winter visitor. Although there is much debate and confusion as how to differentiate the Bank Swallow from the Pale Martin, I like to keep things simple and consider all 30 birds that were present today as Bank Swallows. That number itself would have brightened up any ordinary birding excursion. But today is no ordinary excursion.

Not much waders were present today and a lone “Swintail” Snipe (again, I like to keep things simple) momentarily distracted us from our search for the pipit.

A large raptor circling overhead turned out to be a Crested Serpent-Eagle…

Just before we called it a day, we returned back to the pond area for the Northern Pintail. He was no longer alone and was enjoying the companionship of 4 Garganeys. Although the Garganey is the commonest of our rare migratory ducks, 4 of them at a single locality is certainly a noteworthy record and a fine way to end yet another successful twitch for a rare duck at this locality.


kezonline said...

3 weeks without a birding episode, I was having withdrawal symptoms haha. Great to see you back after CNY and a treat for us again. Great photos and variety as usual from your birding adventures. Keiron.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Keiron. I do what I can.