For a week or so my old friend Harom had been reporting a 'large' skua/jaeger from the boat, so I was tempted to go check it out, in the hope that it might be one of the southern hemisphere Catharacta skuas. Brown has occurred in Sri Lanka,and South Polar has been seen in several North Asian countries.
At the nets there were fewer birds than I can remember seeing - the commonest being Bridled (c50 birds).
This non-breeding plumaged bird has recently moulted the outer 4 primaries (p10 is still growing). The inner 6 are significantly older, indicating that wing moult was suspended at some point.
This breeding plumaged bird is just starting to replace the inner primaries. P1 (the innermost) is new, along with its equivalent primary covert. The tips of the older primaries show some unusual patterns of wear, and make me wonder whether these were caused by abrasion against rocks on the breeding grounds.
There were a dozen or so Common Terns, a mix of first and second summer birds and a few adults, the latter of which I took to be genuine returning migrants. In midwinter off Malaysia, the black-billed 'longipennis' ('Eastern Common Tern') is overwhelmingly the most numerous race, with perhaps only 5% of the many thousands of birds seen being of the red-billed 'tibetana' race ('Tibetan Common Tern'). What was interesting about today's birds was that all the adults I saw were 'tibetana', suggesting that they have a distinctly earlier southerly passage period than longipennis off Malaysia, which is something I hadn't realized before.
Adults are very attractive, with their bright postbox red feet and bill base and lavender grey underparts. All three pics are of the same individual.
Another bird. Note how distinct the dark tips to the upper primaries are on this one.
This one has a Forster's Tern-like rump and tail pattern (grey tail, white rump).
A second summer 'tibetana'.
Compared to a second summer longipennis - the only one of this race I noticed. Longipennis always looks a heavier-set, heavier-billed bird in the field.
A first summer Common. The presence of so many adult tibetana, and the fact that this bird had bright red legs made me wonder whether leg colour may be a reliable indicator of this race in 1st year birds.
This first summer Common has a grey rump AND tail - supposedly a distinguishing feature of White-cheeked. Not the first subad I've seen showing this feature, but I've yet to see an adult like this.
My first returning Barn Swallow of the year!
Since there were no birds about for much of the day, I turned my camera to other things, and was especially taken by the two different types of flying fish we caught. This one is surprisingly bird-like in shape!
This one is more typically fish-shaped.
I took some pics of the crew.
All good men and true - we've become good friends over the years.
These are my favourites!
I was deeply touched when the Captain Anwar presented me with a painting of the boat he'd done for me. Awesome colours! Note the (Black-naped!) Terns just visible on the rock at the top left of the picture!
After the trip I met up with Harom and showed him pictures of various skuas/jaegers. He unhesitatingly pointed to a pale phase Pomarine Jaeger as the bird he'd seen, thus putting my mind to rest that I hadn't missed a 'first' for Malaysia!