Friday, September 19, 2008

19th September 2008: Bagan Nyior and Sungai Semilang, mainland Penang

The area collectively known as Juru is a promising little area comprising several coastal habitats just a few kilometers south of Penang island on the mainland. There's a small forest reserve there where both Orange-breasted and Cinnamon-headed Pigeons have been recorded in recent years. The enormous mudflats off Sungai Semilang are not easily watched, but at high tide, reasonable numbers of Redshanks roost, with a few other species mixed in. Nordmann's Greenshank and Chinese Egret have been seen there in the last few years.

Just inland, at Bagan Nyior, there's a large expanse of flooded fields, slated for development as a school but currently used only by cattle. In winter it can hold over 100 Grey-headed Lapwings, and there have been some intriguing sightings of small pipits and buntings there too. It's an unusual habitat type in this area, and I hope to be able to visit a few times over the coming migration season.

Today was probably a wee bit early for migrant passerines - just a few Yellow Wagtails about, but there were a few waders, including a flock of about 70 Pacific Golden Plovers.

I reckon this is a better place than most for an Oriental Plover or Little Whimbrel to drop by some day.

Plovers whiffling! Amazing how they can turn their bodies and wings upside down and keep their head the right way up, and keep flying!

While tramping around for passerines I flushed this Crested Serpent Eagle, living up to its name. Can anyone identify the 'serpent'?

There were snipe aplenty, all Pintail or Swinhoe's for sure, and Pintail probably, judging by the feet extending beyond the tail tip, call and habitat.

I'd like to go back to try to improve my snipe flight shots. The light could have been better this morning.

It was good to see that the first Grey-headed Lapwing has already arrived. The flight is much more leisurely than the similar Red-wattled Lapwing (seen on the ground below the Grey-headed) and it is much quieter!

I didn't take any pictures of pipits but saw loads of Paddyfield Pipits. They make various calls, including some quite explosive ones - which I described as 'chIp!' or even 'chEEp!', as well as a quieter 'chup'. None however, have the loud, drawn out quality of Richard's, which is well-described as 'schreep!' I saw several Paddyfields hover before landing, which some say is diagnostic of Richard's. I suspect the way they land has more to do with the kind of place they're landing in.

At Sungai Semilang I saw this very interesting Collared Kingfisher. Orange flanks are a distinguishing mark of Sacred Kingfisher. However, Sacred should be smaller, have a darker head and a peach wash at the base of the nape, so I concluded that this was just an exceptionally bright Collared.

In flight this bird could almost have been passed off as a Black-capped.

This is what Collared Kingfishers are supposed to look like!

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