Thursday, March 15, 2012

7 March 2012: Pelagic off Tanjung Dawai, Kedah

It's been a long, almost 4-month break since I last set foot on the boat, and on this trip, I was hoping for some early Pomarine Jaeger action.

On the way out of the river, we passed this White-bellied Sea-eagle. As I watched, it swooped down and picked up this sea-snake.

I think it was a Banded Sea-snake - extremely venomous, but with little defence against the scaled and feathered talons of a Sea-eagle.

The eagle seemed in no hurry to consume its catch, so I wasn't able to see the conclusion of this encounter.

Quantity, rather than quality, was the order of the day. Commonest of all were White-winged Terns - I estimated at least 4,000 birds, and things got pretty congested when the net went out!

This reminds me of trying to find a parking spot in Penang!

At times, they would soar up high - most un-ternlike.

And at others, they would fly by all friendly-like, which was just what I wanted!

These are in chronological order, so they give a snapshot of what the lighting was like between 11am (the first photo) and 5.30pm (the last).

Spot the odd one out! You should be able to find a Little Tern in amongst this flock of Commons.

A first year Common Tern minus tail streamers.

Note the very much narrower wings of this (similarly-aged) Little Tern. This helps explain why Little Terns flap very rapidly, almost like bats, while Common Terns have a much slower, more relaxed wing action.

This adult Little Tern was one of about 50 present.

There were about 2,000 Common Terns, but I've already taken more than enough pics of these on other trips, so I restrained myself (ish!).

Very few were in breeding plumage yet (or maybe breeders have mostly already left?). Common Terns, for all their 'commonness' are stunningly graceful, well-proportioned birds!

Perhaps a second year bird.

More in-flight entertainment!

Surprisingly perhaps, no Poms today, but I was not entirely disappointed...

This graceful adult Long-tailed Jaeger gave a brief fly-by.

It was a bit lacking in the tail streamer department - early days still.

And a juv Sooty Tern eventually gave reasonably close views, having spent some time harassing the other terns jaeger-style, at a distance.

It's interesting to note that it's already in primary moult. This is a distinguishing feature of young Sooty Terns - their first post-juvenile moult is a full one, whereas Bridled only has a post-juv body moult, and doesn't start to renew its wing and tail feathers till its second moult, when it's approximately a year old.

Incidentally, there were only about 3 Bridled Terns today - it's still early for them, and for the jaegers. I expect in a couple of weeks it will be a different story!


Unknown said...

Cool shot of the WBSE with snake. You're referring to Laticauda colubrina right..they are actually a sea krait but some still call them banded sea snake. Some also call them yellow-lipped sea krait. They are are from different family than the usual sea snake.. Sorry to mumble a lot bout this serpent thingy..hehe..

John Holmes said...

Fab to see all the Terns.... some may be on their way here...