Monday, July 21, 2008

July 20th: Bidor and Kapar Ashponds

I planned this visit to Kapar ashponds exactly a month after my last visit, in the hope of seeing some early returning breeders.

On my way south, I stopped at an area of old tin mining ponds near Bidor, Perak. My particular interest there was to see if there had been any signs of breeding by Little Ringed Plovers. Six birds were present, but they were probably first summer birds that had oversummered here rather than breeders.

Several Yellow Bitterns were hunting dragonflies on the mats of water hyacinth on the ponds.

A tale of two dragonflies! As I was photographing the bittern disposing of one dragonfly, I caught a Blue-throated Bee-eater in pursuit of another one!

Purple Herons were also out a-hunting.

This young bird wasn't bothered by my presence at all!

Watching it hunt was like watching a snake preparing to strike!

A young White-throated Kingfisher chose a spiky perch!

I rescued a couple of mediocre Little Grebe shots by making them 'arty'! The beauty of Photoshop!

At Kapar, the roost site has changed from the spring, possibly in response to changing water levels. It's no longer so easy to get close to the birds, so I had to content myself with lots of flight pictures!

An Osprey was a surprise visitor - an early returnee or an oversummering bird?

Among the Redshanks was this odd individual - partially leucistic and/or extremely bleached!

Disappointingly, almost all the waders seemed to be oversummerers, as during the last visit. Nevertheless, there were some marked changes in numbers, notably among the Whimbrels and Eurasian Curlews. (v = numbers dropped since June 20th; ^ = numbers increased; - = no change)


v Grey Plover 15
v Pacific Golden Plover 1
^ Lesser Sand Plover 400
v Greater Sand Plover 30
^ Eurasian Curlew 2,300
v Whimbrel 300
v Bar-tailed Godwit 200
^ Black-tailed Godwit 4
^ Common Redshank 500
^ Common Greenshank 40
v Terek Sandpiper 40
v Ruddy Turnstone 1
v Great Knot 150
v Red-necked Stint 40
v Curlew Sandpiper 40

TOTAL 4061


v Grey Heron 10
v Purple Heron 1
v Little Egret 10
- Great Egret 1
^ Little Heron 3
^ Lesser Adjutant 1
v Little Tern 1
v Gull-billed Tern 6 v


A nice illustration of the difference in bill length of Whimbrel (centre two birds) and Eurasian Curlew.

Bar-tailed Godwits and Great Knots 'whiffling' down to the roost site. Whiffling is the term given to birds 'shipping' air in order to rapidly lose height. In order to increase the speed and angle of descent, they will twist their wings and bodies into odd shapes, sometimes even appearing to turn upside down! More information on whiffling can be found here.

Good for counting practice! Click on the photo to see a larger version. Look at it for a few seconds and estimate how many birds are in the picture. Large flocks of birds present a challenge for counting, especially if they are moving fast, because it's impossible to count them one by one. Counting in tens (or hundreds if the flock is very large) can increase accuracy over just making an overall estimate. Try counting off ten birds, then counting in blocks of approximately ten. The answer is at the bottom of the page (don't peek!). You could also try to see how many species are here, and identify them.

Here's another one to practice on. To start with, would you say there are more or fewer birds in this photo than in the one above? Click to get a larger version and then try counting in tens again. Finally, see how many species you can spot!

In my experience, most people tend to underestimate rather than overestimate numbers. The larger the flock, the larger the margin of error usually. Also, when people are counting with other people, their instinctive desire not to exaggerate may cause them to estimate a lower figure than if they are counting alone (that's true of me anyway!).


Upper picture: 153 birds; 5 species: Terek Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Sand Plover, and Black-tailed Godwit.

Lower picture: Hopefully you thought there were more than in the upper picture!
435 birds; 8 species: Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Terek Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Lesser Sand Plover. There's probably a Greater Sand Plover in there somewhere, but I couldn't find one!

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