Not many weeks ago, there had only been a single record of Asian Openbill in Malaysia. Then Hakim found one at Kampung Permatang Nibong. A week ago he texted me to to say there were now two birds. And last night he sent me another text to say he was watching EIGHT soaring in the late evening! He watched them go to roost, so I was there before dawn this morning.
I couldn't find any roosting, but as I was scanning the area I spotted three juveniles flying low over the padifields. Here are two of them, about to land. Once they landed in the uncut padi, they were not visible.
A rustic scene as the sun rose over Bukit Mertajam.
While waiting for the three to reappear, I spotted another bird in the distance flying south. It went down behind some buildings.
Both Pied and this Eastern Marsh Harrier were quartering the fields. This is a juvenile.
The two new grey central tail feathers reveal that it's a male.
Harriers have extraordinarily long legs - all the better for seizing prey in marshy habitats!
Among the many Zitting Cisticolas sitting in the tops of the padi stalks were a couple of Rusty-rumped Warblers. This one stayed in view long enough for me to digiscope a few photos.
It even stayed long enough for a video!
Although not closely related, Rusty-rumped Warblers and Zitting Cisticolas could easily be confused. Both skulk in padifields, have a rusty rump, streaked upperparts and white-tipped tail feathers. The cisticola, apart from being much smaller and shorter-tailed, has a much paler and plainer 'face', lacking the dark eyestripe of the warbler.
The same Peregrine Falcon as I saw on 23rd January was sitting on the same pylon this morning!
It's a big bird, so I'm pretty sure it's a female. What's she looking at?
The local gang of thugs had arrived, aka House Crows! She started calling nervously for a while.
Then she decided she could do without the hassle so early in the morning!
So she flew off to the next pylon!
Meanwhile the openbills had reappeared, and soared around for about 20 minutes before going down in the same area as the fourth bird seen earlier. Hakim and I located them roosting in some bushes, but getting close proved impossible.
At some wet padis I found this well-concealed snipe. With its longish bill and well-marked face pattern I wondered if it might be a Common Snipe at first.
But then it shuffled forward a bit and revealed typical Pintal/Swinhoe's coverts. The long bill makes it more likely to be Swinhoe's than Pintail, but I didn't see the tail, so it had to go down as unspecified.
Among the many Wood Sandpipers was this one with a deformed bill. Odd how the shorter bill makes the bird look fatter! The pink eggs are those of the Golden Apple Snail, a pest species that has invaded Malaysia from Thailand, to be closely followed by Asian Openbills, which feed on them!
The upper mandible appears to taper toward the tip almost like a normal mandible, but the lower one is square-ended and extends slightly beyond the upper.