Today we went to check out a couple of roosts we'd found on the first day of heli surveys. The was this one on the bund of a fish-pond near Jemukan. This site is remote and not visible from any road, and really demonstrated the value of doing aerial surveys to locate roost sites.
We had just set up our makeshift hide when the birds arrived pretty much en masse.
Lots of birds (1,900) but not many species (just 5)!
Four of the five species can be seen here: Curlew Sandpiper, Lesser Sand Plover (both numerous in the picture), Greater Sand Plover (two bird in the centre, one above the other), and Broad-billed Sandpiper (the alert bird on the extreme right, just below centre). The fifth species (missing from this photo) was Pacific Golden Plover.
The birds packed together on top of the bund made counting a challenge!
And I took lots of flight pictures in case we had missed anything unusual in the packed roost.
Which indeed we had! Minute scrutiny of photos of the flying birds after we got home revealed this...
A leg-flagged Curlew Sandpiper. All along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, shorebird researchers from different countries attach uniquely coded plastic bands to the legs of birds they catch. As these birds are sighted by other researchers up and down the Flyway, gradually our understanding of different populations, routes and important sites builds up.
This bird had a pale blue flag above an orange flag on its right tibia. By checking the EAAF leg-flagging protocol, available here, we discovered that the bird had been flagged on Kyushu, the southernmost major island in Japan [Edit: Sharper eyes than mine have determined that the colour of the lower flag is yellow, not orange, which means that the bird was flagged in the Bay of Bohai, China. Good job we got photos!] All sightings of leg-flagged birds can (and should!) be reported to the Australasian Wader Studies Group using a simple online report form.
Another piece of the puzzle!
Another check of my photos revealed that it was there in right front of us! A case of not seeing the wood for the trees!
Just before dusk we went to check out the second roost, some fishponds in mangroves. No photos - the light beat me, but a notable roost of 150 Chinese Egrets, and a calling Nordmann's Greenshank among the 100 Common Greenshanks rossting at the ponds.
For details of how you can volunteer to take part in the Sarawak Waterbird Survey, see here.