Sunday 19 July 2020

Island Life

Though not a true tropical paradise island, Penang Island has always been home for me. The traffic congestion and unbelievable rate of development is part of the norm here. On the other hand, so is the delectable food and colourful culture. In terms of birding, the Pearl of the Orient usually provides only mediocre affairs. However, once in a long while, something significant will pop up and restores my faith. And this time, that something significant popped up outside one of the busiest malls in Penang – the renowned Gurney Plaza.

Among the species of pigeons that occur here in Malaysia, a few are only found on islands. The Pied Imperial-Pigeon is one of them. Although this elegant bird is not new to me, it has been years since I last saw one. For the past days, a few have been regularly sighted on the trees outside the mall and showed little fear of human presence. With an hour to kill on a beautiful Saturday morning, I decided to try luck. By the time I arrived it was mid-morning. It was no surprise to find other birders present as the Pied Imperial-Pigeon is not commonly encountered in Malaysia. And they pointed out to me one of the three birds present today. It was resting in a shady spot among the foliage of one of the trees. Looking absolutely comfortable, the pigeon was unlikely to shift position anytime soon and I had to settle for this less than ideal image.

Catching up with my fellow birders helped to pass the time as we waited for a better photographic opportunity. The commoner birds present also played their part to keep me occupied like this ragged looking Collared Kingfisher.

A few Little Egrets were present as well and one was just enjoying the cool sea breeze while soaking up the warm rays of the morning sun. This, ladies and gentlemen, is island life.

However, the egrets are outnumbered by the Striated Herons here as the latter are doing well in coastal vicinities throughout the island.

When one of the Pied Imperial-Pigeons shifted position, it was the moment everyone was waiting for including yours truly. And the timing could not have been better. The lighting condition grew harsher by the moment and the weekend crowd have started to throng to the mall. Our presence with our gear and all, drew the usual stares and that is one of the things that irritates me when birding in a crowded area. But the pigeon drown out all of that by alighting on some dead branches to reveal its true appeal. And it was certainly a beautiful bird. And my faith in birding on the island was definitely restored...

It remained there for a few minutes before joining a second bird in flight and disappeared among some tall trees in a distance. I got the shot that I wanted and with the noon hour approaching, there was little point to linger here anymore.

The shoreline of Gurney Drive is a known stronghold of the Black-crowned Night-Heron for as long as I could remember. Despite all the destruction of habitat in the vicinity, the population endured. As I made my way home, it was nice to see such a beautiful water bird along a popular coastal boulevard like this in full view of everyone. However, exactly how many actually realise the existence of this bird in their proximity is anyone’s guess.