Sunday, January 08, 2012

7th Jan 2012: Kampung Permatang Nibong, Penang

Still getting back into the swing of things, so I decided to check out the paddyfields today.

After a brief early morning check of the pylons - no raptors surprisingly - perhaps they were already up and on the hunt, I went to the 'openbill ponds.' This is a fantastic spot just oozing with potential for something rare, but it's also extremely difficult to watch, as there's so much dense vegetation for things hide in. It would make the perfect spot for a ringing station I reckon.

A selection of birds flying over, which is about the only way you can see birds here! Black-crowned Night-herons.

Little Egret.

Great Egret.

A pond-heron of uncertain nationality. Now there's a good project for someone - work out how to identify pond-herons in non-breeding plumage!

A fly-over Eastern Yellow Wagtail.

What do think this is then?

An Asian Brown Flycatcher flying across the paddyfields!

Here's the same individual in more familiar pose!

This should be easier!

Brown Shrike.

Barn Swallow.

I spent a long time grilling the Purple-backed Starlings, hoping for something else in with them. In any case, they're really smart birds, reminding me in flight of Bohemian Waxwings which I had been watching not so long ago!

My heart did skip a beat when this odd yellow bird popped its head up! Nothing rang a bell for a moment, till it turned round...

...when I realized it was 'just' a Purple-backed Starling, but a golden-yellow one!

The colouring looked like natural pigmentation rather than any artificial staining or dye. It was strongest on the rump, which was bright golden-yellow. A very smart bird - too bad I couldn't get any closer.

Here are some more normally-coloured birds.

I drove over to the Permatang Pauh side and managed to sneak up to this confiding White-throated Kingfisher.

There were good numbers of waders in the pools where paddy hadn't grown. There was a flock of over a hundred Black-winged Stilts, including 4-5 with dark necks (which some claim to be White-necked). Most birds were a little too distant for photography and the light was getting harsh.

There were good numbers of snipe about.

Common Snipe.

Swinhoe's or Pintail Snipe. The most obvious differences are in the wings - Common has a much blacker, more pointed outer wing and a broad white trailing edge to the secondaries, compared to 'Pin/Swin' Snipe's browner and blunter outer wing, and lack of clearly demarcated white trailing edge.

Telling Swinhoe's and Pintail apart is much harder, you need to get a good view of the tail to be sure, and this is where photography helps!

When they fly, as the bird above eventually did when flushed by a passing motorcycle, they often fan the tail when braking as they come in to land. This bird shows broad white tips to the tail and fairly broad outer tail feathers (though the outermost may still be hidden). I think Pintail should show much less white in the tail than this, and should show a least a suspicion of fine pin-like outer tail feathers. So I reckon this is a Swinhoe's (I've yet to see a definite Pintail in Penang!)

There was even a male Greater Painted-Snipe sitting quietly on a bund. When I checked him out, I realized why he was being so cautious - he had a brood of four chicks in tow!

I like their chestnut back stripe!

There were a few Red-rumped Swallows around. They had almost no pink or reddish tones at all - practically white on the rump. Perhaps they were worn birds; I didn't get a good look.

The usual loose flock of about 30 Grey-headed Lapwings was dotted around here and there, and this bird remained long enough for a few shots.

I can't remember a day at this location when I saw so few raptors - just one Brahminy! But once the rice is harvested the place should be good for waders and raptors alike. Something to look forward to!


Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok said...

Many interesting flight shots here! Several Purple-backed Starlings with weird colouration have been spotted in Thailand too. Here's a few of them with orange and pink plumage

digdeep said...

Thanks for this link Ayuwat. So that solves the mystery - someone's been catching and dying these birds. The pet trade sometimes does this to common cage birds like munias to increase their trade value. I suppose they get released by people buying and releasing caged birds for merit.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Interesting info on the dyed starlings. I've never encountered dyed birds before. Great image as usual.

Hor Kee said...

Great pics Dave, especially of the snipe. The paddyfields at Sg Dua around the Air Itam Dalam area are being harvested now. This might explain why there are less raptors at Permatang Nibong where the rice is still far from ripe (I last saw the Imperial Eagle on New Years Day). It may be worth checking out the Sg Dua paddyfields as Mr Lim Aun Tiah has recorded rarities like the Short-Toed Eagle there quite a few years back.

Anonymous said...

Just a note that the Air Hitam Dalam boardwalk is under repair now, not possible to walk on them, we shouldn't as renovation is in progress. Choo Eng

John Holmes said...

Identifying non-breeding Pond Herons ? Not for me, thanks !

Nice to see so many birds in one spot, though !

jytou said...

Do hope someone will pick up the pond heron project.... quite frustrated not to be able to identify them in the winter to figure a better distribution and occurrence of the 3 species in Peninsular Malaysia, but lucky for me, at least I get to see all 3 of them in breeding plumage before in my garden but would definitely love to know how they did in the winter.....