Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sept 21 2011: At sea, off Tanjung Dawai, Kedah

This was my first trip out in September (we have between us now covered all the other months of the year), so I was somewhat hopeful, especially as there had been a count of 510 Swinhoe's Storm-petrels off Singapore the previous weekend!

The weather was nice too - proper seawatching weather, with a succession of rain squalls pushing birds toward the coast. Things looked good!

Great Crested and Common Terns vying for space on the fish-traps close inshore in the early morning. There had been rain overnight and more looked likely!

Rain coming.

Rain arrived!

Before one of the squalls hit, I was rewarded by the magnificent sight of three Brown Boobies arcing high over the sea heading toward the coast!

I've seen Brown Boobies closer than this before, but never so much 'in their element' like this, enjoying the wind and behaving like real ocean-going birds - fantastic!

This is one of the other birds - looking rather heron-like with almost no tail. All were subadults, perhaps from Pulau Perak, which is about 200km to the south.

Later on, one of the birds came to feed around the net.

Point of entry. Amazing how thin they make themselves as they enter the water! Whenever I've seen Brown Boobies fishing, they always dive at a shallow angle like this, and from only a few feet above the water. Maybe this is because their prey is near the surface, but it is different from how I remember Northern and Australian Gannets hunting; I only recall seeing them diving from much higher above the water and almost vertically.

That was pretty much it, as far as interesting seabirds was concerned. No petrels sadly, though plenty of Bridled Terns - I estimated over 400, including many fresh juveniles. The Singapore pelagic had recorded about 500, clearly on passage. In our case, it's harder to see that birds are migrating, since we mainly see them milling around the nets and feeding, but a quick calculation of maximum numbers we've recorded by month reveals that September is one of the two peak months in the year.



A study in contrasts. A 1st winter Common Tern (left) with an adult Black-naped Tern.

Black-naped seem to shine against the dark rain clouds!

Numbers of Common Terns have not built up yet, with only about 200 in evidence, and, as last month, most were the red-billed 'tibetana' race.

I tried my hand at photographing them from the stern as the birds followed the boat. Pretty tricky!

This one looks like the 'longipennis' race.

Sometimes the birds got a bit close!

Juvenile/first winters have noticeably shorter and more paddle-shaped wings than adults (rear).

A couple of more mature first winters.

Younger birds still have some brown on the forehead and a red bill base.

A couple of Great Crested Terns briefly came to check us out.

They have a jaeger-like, somewhat predatory head-on profile.

This bird appeared to have an almost completely white head.

It didn't hang about.

The last noteworthy sighting of the day was a small pod of dolphins which appeared briefly near the boat. I think these were Irrawaddy Dolphins (I'm happy to have someone confirm or correct this). The pink on the dorsal is either a wound or lack of pigmentation.


Erwin said...

beautiful photos :-)

John Holmes said...

Those "longipennis" Common Terns were fairly up-close-and-personal, weren't they !

Fine supporting cast.... the Booby in front of the weather front must have been great, too.