Monday, September 25, 2006

Tuesday 19th September

I did a whistle-stop tour of Kuala Juru/Kampung Sembilang Juru, Bagan Tambang/Teluk Air Tawar/Kampung Molek and Tanjung Tokong this morning to try to get an idea of wader numbers at all the sites. I visited Kuala Juru and Kampung Sembilang Juru first, and there were only a few Common Redshank - maybe 1-200. The tide was still well out, so this was probably not an accurate reflection of the numbers present there.

By the time I got to Bagan Belat/Teluk Air Tawar/Kampung Molek the tide was already covering much of the mud. I counted 2 Eurasian Curlew, 30-40 Whimbrel, 6 Red-necked Stint at Bagan Belat and Teluk Air Tawar, and at Kampung Molek there were small numbers of Common Redshank - 30-40. The area at Teluk Air Tawar that was favoured by waders in the northward migration is being rapidly colonised by mangroves, and I saw no birds there at all.

I would guess that the birds that traditionally feed at Teluk Air Tawar are now favouring the Tanjung Tokong site, as it is directly across the strait and easily visible from there (haze allowing!).

Map showing known wader roosts in the area. Pink - Kampung Juru/Kampung Sembilang Juru; green Bagan Belat/Teluk Air Tawar/Teluk Molek; red - Tanjung Tokong.

At Tanjung Tokong, numbers were well down on the usual - only 4-600 birds at the high tide roost. Numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits (20) and Marsh Sandpipers (10) were up but most other species were down. Highlights were Red Knot (1), Great Knot (20), Ruddy Turnstone (7) and, best of all, a Little Stint.

Once I got into the hide, one of the first birds that caught my attention was a stint that seemed rather long-legged and long-billed. At first I wondered whether it might be a Long-toed Stint, but it didn't seem to have pale legs. I should explain that I don't usually take my binoculars or telescope into the hide with me, so I was limited to views through the camera viewfinder. I managed to get a few shots, as it stood resting some distance away from some Red-necked Stints that were feeding busily nearby. The bird was harassed from time to time by these stints, and eventually they chased it off completely and I didn't see it again.

Subsequent examination of the photos convinced me that the bird was an adult Little Stint. The legs, especially the tibia, were markedly longer than on Red-necked Stint, and the bill was also longer, finer-tipped and slightly down-curved along the lower edge. These features are good structural pointers to Little Stint. It was also obvious that the bird was a different shape to the Red-neckeds, with a rounder, less slender body and a bigger-looking head. The plumage can't be seen in detail from my photos unfortunately. However, the upper breast is clearly streaked (it would be either white or brick-pink on Red-necked, never streaked). The non-breeding scapulars have a noticeable dark central wedge, whereas most Red-neckeds have only a dark shaft streak.

Little Stints in Asia generally winter further west than Red-necked. They are the commonest small stint in the non-breeding period in Bangladesh and India, and small numbers are seen in Hong Kong annually. Despite there being only two published records to date in Malaysia, they almost certainly occur more regularly among the thousands of Red-necked we get here each year.

A head-on view, showing the bill and leg structure and length. The upper breast is faintly streaked and rather sullied, and the head is large.

A side-on profile. Some non-breeding scapulars can be seen, with prominent dark central wedges. The supercilium is broad, especially over the eye, and turns upward behind the eye.

This view shows clearly the structural differences compared with the Red-necked Stints on the left.

Still haven't managed to get really close to a Greater Sand Plover yet, but this shows the features of a juvenile bird reasonably well.

The juvenile Little Heron was again curious about me today, coming for an even closer inspection!

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