Sunday, 1 April 2018

The savage sea

I decided to visit Sungai Burung in Penang Island with whatever time I have left after work before meeting Hor Kee for some wader watching later by boat on the mainland. I was hoping to catch the Grey-tailed Tattler before it flies back to its breeding ground up north but a brief view was all that was given today. The commoner Terek Sandpiper was much more obliging today but there was little I could do about the harsh lighting as the noon hour was fast approaching.

The Chinese Pond-Herons were coming into their breeding colours nicely. With no signs of the other two rarer Pond-Herons, this time the commonest one was given its due attention and admiration.

The Brahminy Kite may be the commonest raptor in coastal areas but a full-fledged adult is still a striking bird. On a day when things are far from exciting, this scavenging bird of prey is a welcomed sight.

This Jungle Myna made me look twice as the colouration of this individual was very similar to that of a Javan Myna. There are still no records of the Javan Myna that I know of here in Penang but at the pace it is spreading up north, it should be only a matter of time.

After I quick lunch, I met up with my companions to embark on a rented boat to observe waders along the Bagan Ajam – Teluk Air Tawar coastline. It was a hot day but the heat was the least of my worries. The sea condition was less than favourable and the choppy waters drenched us despite all the efforts of our boatman to keep us dry. The constant rocking of the boat also made it difficult for photography. Luckily, our group had relatively strong sea legs or this wader excursion would have been a very short one. When we finally made our way to the waders, I tried my best to obtain some images in this testing condition. Godwits, both Black-tailed and Bar-tailed, have remarkable breeding plumages. Combined with the sheer size of the birds, stood out from their drab companions.

The Black-tailed Godwit provided better photographic opportunities and for that I am most grateful.

I often wonder if it is necessary to include “Far” in the Far Eastern Curlew’s name. Well, after all these years this is the only type of images I have of this scarce migrant. There is no more doubt about the name anymore. However, even at this distance the long decurved bill of the two birds resting on a mud bank still looked amazing.

A number of Brown-headed Gulls in their smart breeding plumages were also recorded today.

Some of them were using the concrete poles of the clam farms to rest and that gave us an opportunity for a more intimate observation.

The regular users of the poles, the terns, did not seem troubled by the presence of the larger gulls. Even the mighty Greater Crested Terns were dwarfed by them. Due to the strong waves, the boat could not remain at ideal shooting positions for long and that hampered our efforts for better images.

Not to be outdone by the gulls, some of them were sporting their full breeding plumages as well...

The Whiskered Terns are truly striking in their breeding plumages. I could not obtain any images of them in flight as they followed our boat today. I am grateful the sea did not rob me of all attempts to photograph this tern.

Birds may not be part of the White-bellied Sea-Eagle’s diet but I guess it is still intimidating for the terns to have a predator resting at such close proximity.

Back at the estuary, the boat ride was much more comfortable as we were protected by the mangroves. Humans are not the only ones who find shelter here. A number of egrets were seen resting here as they wait for the receding tide to exposed nutritious morsels to feed. The Great Egret, as the name implies, is the largest species presence and the most conspicuous.

The last bird for this marine adventure was a Javan Pond-Heron. Looking absolutely gorgeous in full breeding plumage, this blonde bombshell is all ready to fly back north for the breeding season. This may well be my last visit to the mudflats as the migratory is about to end. This season did not produce any truly significant moments for me. Hopefully, I will do better in the next one.

The checklist of birds recorded:
1. Sungai Burung
2. Teluk Air Tawar


kezonline said...

Great photos once again Wai Mun. The Brahminy kites are a daily occurence where we live at Mount pleasure Penang. Beautifully back lit photos you share with us. Another photo packed posting, nice one!!

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Keiron. Brahminy Kites from your back yard - lucky you.