The first of two aerial surveys took place today, to locate high tide roosts along the coast from Kabong to Muara Tebas, east of Kuching. The survey team consisted of Daniel Kong, Tony Sebastian and me.
Our vehicle of choice - a Bell helicopter provided by Hornbill Skyways and piloted expertly by Capt Yusoff Ali. In the photo are Daniel Kong (right), Anthony Wong (centre) and yours truly.
The view from the top. As photographer, I was sat in the rear on the left, with my camera pointed out of a small open window. Our survey altitude was 150-200m.
Surveying at high tide makes location of concentrations of birds at roosts easier.
Eroding coastline. The coconut palm trunks offshore mark where the coastline once was.
The thick coastal mangrove fringe and strong waves make access to potential roost sites a challenge whether by land or sea!
This is the kind of thing we were looking for - a raised sandbar at a rivermouth.
And bingo - a roost!
As the birds took flight, they did so in several groups, curlews (at the top), terns (right) and smaller waders (two flocks, left). This was quite a sizable roost - about 2,000 waders and just over 160 terns (all Gull-billed except for 1 Little!).
Some of the terns (spot the solitary Little Tern!).
Part of the curlew flock, which consisted of about equal numbers of Eurasian and Eastern (just over a hundred of each). Eurasian can easily be distinguished by its white rump, back and pale inner wing.
Terek Sandpipers are particularly numerous along this coast (spot the lone sandplover!).
Tereks commonly roost in mangrove trees, making them particularly tricky to count if only land-based surveys are carried out.
Me and my shadow! Terek Sandpipers have a similar wing pattern to Common Redshanks but have no leg projection beyond the tail.
A small flock of distinctively plain Pacific Golden Plovers.
Some Lesser Sand Plovers.
And another couple with a Red-necked Stint. I'm thinking of writing an paper on 'Identification and aging of Stints and Peeps from the air'!
More Lesser Sands.
An interesting pair of images of Lesser and Greater Sand Plover, showing the ...er difference in leg projection beyond the tail ...!
A couple of Kentish Plovers with Lesser Sand Plovers. The apparent leg projection of these Lessers is pretty variable between individuals.
Most egret roosts were in mangrove trees - either right on the tideline or some way inland.
Chinese Egrets were much the commonest species at these roosts!
Mangrove roosts were also favoured by large flocks of Whimbrel...
There was one large flock of mangrove-roosting Bar-tailed Godwits.
Inland of the coast, we checked out aquaculture ponds like these.
Even where ponds are full, if there are vegetation-free bunds, birds can use them.
By the time we flew past Sejingkat power station ashponds, a known roost, we were fast running out of daylight.
A twilit view of Kuching to finish off a very successful first day!
For details of how you can volunteer to take part in the Sarawak Waterbird Survey, see here.