Tuesday, March 06, 2007
March 5th and 6th, Tanjung Tokong
Way back in September last year I entitled a post 'The waders are coming!' Perhaps I should entitle this one, 'The waders have gone!'
The most prominent feature of the mudflats over these last two days has been oranges! Over the weekend the 15th day of Chinese New Year, or Chap Goh Mei, as it is known here, was celebrated by hundreds of young people throwing oranges into the sea, apparently in the belief that it will bring success in romantic endeavours! I don't pretend to understand exactly how, but it seems like a waste of perfectly good oranges to me!
Anyway, more to the point as far as the waders are concerned, Chap Goh Mei is the first full moon of the Chinese New Year. It seems that the full moon and the clear skies that accompanied it was the signal for the Big Departure to begin. In contrast to the tideline thronged by thousands of birds last Friday, the mudflats were eerily empty - except for the oranges - yesterday and today!
Yesterday, at the main roost site, I counted:
Kentish Plover 9
Lesser Sand Plover 4
Red-necked Stint 20
A flock of 210 Pacific Golden Plovers rested briefly on the mudflats before taking off and immediately ascending to a great height and setting off northwards at 1540. Another sign of 'vis mig' (visible migration) was a steady stream of Barn Swallows - 2 or 3 every 10 minutes or so, flying northwards over the mudflats.
The Redshank roost area still had its regulars, plus a couple of new Black-tailed Godwits:
Common Greenshank 27
Marsh Sandpiper 6
Black-tailed Godwit 2
The godwits were starting to show signs of breeding plumage. Another bonus was a leg-flagged Redshank, black above green on the right tibia (just as the bird seen on October 6th last year, which was ringed in southern Thailand). It was surprisingly difficult to see the leg flag. If the bird tucked its right leg up into its body, or if another bird stood in front of it, it was easily missable. This made me wonder whether the bird is a genuine new arrival, or whether it has in fact been here the whole winter.
This morning I was at the site at dawn. I heard Terek Sandpiper and Whimbrel before it was properly light, but these were obviously just passing birds, as a daylight count revealed even fewer birds than yesterday - 6+ Kentish Plvoers and 10 Red-necked Stints. Another largish flock of Pacific Golden Plovers (c270) flew high northwards at about 9.30am. There was a solitary Yellow Wagtail on the mudflats too.
So is that it then? Is that the last of the large wader numbers at Tanjung Tokong? Already the construction has made the original roost site on the red earth no longer suitable. The mudflats are growing increasingly polluted and disturbed. I watched a group of Myanmarese labourers harvesting fish from a net put up overnight today; a reminder of the richness of this habitat, but also of the intensity of the pressures it is subject to.
What will the site look like when it is time for the waders to head south again in four or five months' time? Hopefully there'll still be a place for them at Tanjung Tokong.
A resident Paddyfield Pipit which won't be leaving just yet!