The sound of rain pouring onto the roof when I woke up before dawn wasn't an encouraging start, but I decided to press on anyway. By the time dawn arrived the sky was clearing encouragingly!
Sun rising over Bukit Mertajam.
Some Grey-headed Lapwings were still sleepy enough to allow a close approach for a change!
In a nearby field hundreds of egrets gathered for breakfast.
When you got your order it was time to move out ... fast!
Because there were always scroungers around hoping for a share!
As well as bullies who weren't so polite!
Found a quiet spot at last - time to enjoy!
A moment to reflect!
Great Egrets ruled the roost till ... a Grey Heron arrived!
Me and my shadow, part 1...
...and part 2!
Even the Grey Heron got hassled!
Time to go.
The Brahminy Kites were also at the party - waiting for someone else to catch their breakfast for them!
Eels were their favourite, and any lucky angler faced the same problems as the egrets - hanging on to their catch long enough to enjoy it!
On the look out.
All of this was just the snacks before the main event of the day. As it got near to nine o'clock all the egrets queued up to wait for the tractor drivers to arrive and start ploughing.
In the quieter fields waders could still be found. Snipe always pose a stern identification challenge!
The very thin black loral line and bulging supercilium in front of the eye eliminates Common Snipe, and this is confirmed by the pattern of the lower scapulars, which show a buff fringe on both sides of the feathers, and the wing coverts, which lack a dark central line. The relatively short tail suggests this may be a Pintail rather than Swinhoe's Snipe, but without a clear view of the tail feathers it's impossible to be sure. So, like most of my snipe sightings, it has to go down as one or the other!
Some easier waders - Little Ringed Plover...
And a Long-toed Stint (first winter - as can be told by the white-fringed lesser coverts).
A sad sight at Bandar PERDA were the hundreds of meters of mist-nets strung up all over the paddyfields. This one had three live Ixobrychus bitterns in it - one Cinnamon and two Yellow. I managed to release two of them but had to kill the third as it was beyond saving. There were body parts of several other bitterns in the net. Locals put the nets up to catch Black-crowned Night Herons and Watercocks to eat, but the by-catch must be enormous. I disabled this particular net, but it would take a large operation to take down all the nets in the area. I have contacted the Wildlife Department, and they have said they will send a team there 'as soon as possible', so let's see what happens.
My main aim today was to see if there were any migrant raptors coming to feed at the ploughing. Frequent scanning eventually yielded a distant juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle being harassed by crows.
Bringing my rally-driving skills to the fore, with Hakim keeping an eye on the bird and me keeping both eyes on the road, we sped and bumped our way to a point where our path dissected that of the eagle, so that it was directly overhead. Nice!
We decided to cross over to the Kg Pertama fields to see what was happening there, pausing to photograph a juv Purple Heron and a Yellow Wagtail on the way.
A kobotor tractor was being attending by a small flock of hirundines, which included at least two probable Pale Martins.
We watched another Greater Spotted Eagle - an adult this time - drift overhead, so decided to head back to the fields at Bandar PERDA.
We found a tractor ploughing near a small copse, which turned out to be a favourite spot for raptors to rest in the heat of the day.
There were at least three subadult Greater Spotted Eagles and one adult.
Here's the adult digiscoped at 60 x magnification!
This is probably the juv we saw earlier in the day.
It put on quite a show for us...
OK - that's probably close enough - starting to feel a little uncomfortable!
Phew! Evidently it decided we were not edible!
Something a little smaller - a Black-eared Kite to finish off with.