Thursday, August 19, 2010

14th August 2010: Teluk Air Tawar IBA, mainland Penang

Today I went back to the place where I discovered the wader roost on August 11th, this time armed with an assurance from the guard that he would let me in.

My excitement at the prospect of seeing the fishpond full of waders at close quarters received a severe blow when I arrived,to find a fishpond full of water! The heavy rains of the night before had filled it to a depth of one or two feet - too deep for all but the longest-legged waders! Still, I figured that the birds wouldn't know this, and would at least come in to look for a place to roost, so I set up the hide and began the long wait.

Birds started arriving almost as soon as I'd entered the hide, but not finding anywhere to land, they flew around for over an hour. As they did so they were wasting precious energy which they will need to continue their onward migration, and I couldn't help feeling bad for them. Eventually, they decided to roost on the bund between two fishponds.

Sand Plovers were the first to arrive... these are Lessers.

And here's a Greater (right).

As the tide rose, more and more birds arrived, but couldn't find anywhere to land.

Once a few birds took the big decision to roost on the bund, the rest quickly followed.

Counting and looking for leg-flags was pretty tricky!

Common Redshanks were the most numerous species.

The adults were still in breeding plumage, although the flight feathers looked remarkably unworn and fresh, making me wonder whether they have completed a wing and tail moult before migration, which would make a lot of sense I suppose.

By contrast, the first summer birds (below) have extremely worn flight feathers - these are still their first set of juvenile feathers which they've had since fledging over a year ago! The white secondaries and inner primaries, which lack pigmentation and are therefore weaker, are particularly worn.

This year's juveniles are, of course, still in pristine condition.

A mixed group of adults (dark, streaked below), 1st summers (plain, greyish above) and a juvenile (top right, facing away).

Some late arrivals.

The roost had several distinct species sections. This was the Redshank residence...

The sand plover, sandpiper and stint suburb...

... and the curlew compartment!

There was also just room for a gathering of godwits - a Black-tailed (left) with two Bar-tailed, showing the difference in bill structure nicely.

Aren't Black-tailed Godwits brilliant?!

Asian Dowitchers aren't bad either! There were only two today, and I didn't see them land.

A small flock of Curlew Sandpipers arriving.

This short-billed individual is probably a male.

Eurasian Curlews. Most birds were in heavy wing moult.

A flock of Great Knot flew over but I didn't see them land.

Juvenile Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers side by side. Generally speaking, juv Greaters are much colder brown than juv Lessers, lacking strong peachy colouration.

This young Grey Heron flew in, making the waders uneasy. Eventually it's presence spooked the Common Greenshank at the bottom right of the last picture. I wondered if Grey Herons would ever try to catch waders as prey.


Gyorgy Szimuly (Szimi) said...

Superb collection. Are you also counting shorebirds? I would love to add those records to our database. Please consider to help us. :)

Cheers, Szimi

digdeep said...

Hi Szimi. Yes, I will add my counts.



Hawkeyes a.k.a Kiah said...


This is really wonderful to see so many waders stop by our coastal line.

Gyorgy Szimuly (Szimi) said...

I would much appreciate it :) Thanks.

Cheers, Szimi