Friday, May 04, 2012

1 May 2012: Pelagic off Tanjung Dawai, Kedah

Labour Day, but the fishermen weren't taking a day off, so Choo Eng, Hakim and I decided we shouldn't either! (Hakim's account of the day is here.)

First thing in the monring as we left the estuary, we passed these two fishermen in their cheerfully-coloured boat.

Two Indo-pacific Humpbacked Dolphins raced us right under the bows as we left the river. Taking these pics involved hanging over the prow of the boat and staring at the water surface rushing past about 2 metres away! Not good for the stomach! The pink-nosed one has a dorsal that looks remarkably similar to the one I photographed last September. I guess there's a good chance it is the same animal.

The sea was completely windless, a sure sign of approaching rain (and those clouds were an extra clue!). A lone Great Egret migrating north was trying to get ahead of the storm.

 A rare waterspout - only partial and momentary, but a remarkable sight while it lasted.
And then the inevitable! Rain on the sea's surface transforms its appearance totally!

Just before the storm, this 'flock' of Long-tailed Skuas flew past. Rather neatly, they were a first year, a second year and an adult!
After the storm, the weather brightened considerably, but there was still no wind and... what's wrong with this picture?? The nets are out, but ... NO BIRDS! This was the first time in all my trips that I had experienced completely bird-free nets! So - very hot, no wind and no birds - wonderful! Oh well, the crew still seemed to be having fun!

I've never met a nicer bunch of hard-working, happy blokes as the crew of this boat. In all my time on the boat I can't remember an angry word being spoken, and there's always lots of laughter, joking around and singing.

Maybe they're laughing at each other's choice of headgear! But at least it keeps the fish-scales out of your hair!
Control centre. This is where the captain sits, 'drives' the boat and detects the fish, using a combination of high-tech equipment and experience.

There were a few Short-tailed Shearwaters about, always distant. It was amazing what a difference lighting conditions made to the colours. I do think the bird in the water was genuinely pale - whether as a result of bleaching or pigment aberration I couldn't say.

An Aleutian Tern put in a typically fleeting appearance in the heat of the day. I'm thinking of renaming the species Aloof Tern - it seems they never hang around the boats. Even when seen distantly, there's something very distinctive about the shape - short head and long tail projection, coupled with a more bouyant flight style than Sterna terns.

OK, so a few terns did start showing up around the nets later in the day. Numbers of Bridled Terns are starting to build up. The majority are 1 and 2 year old birds, but there were a few smart breeding plumaged adults, like this one.

Long-tailed Skuas put in appearances throughout the day, mostly distant. I'm beginning to think that a strangely pale vent (and a prominent breastband) is a feature of 2cy birds, after seeing a similar bird on the last visit.One Long-tailed Skua did come a bit closer, and in doing so, made the day worthwhile, but I'll save that for another post.

At least someone found fish! Our boat only let the net out twice today, and headed back to port early.
Tanjung Dawai in the late afternoon sun. It's not often we come back in daylight, but today was a public holiday!
As we came into the estuary, there was the same colourful boat and the same men we'd seen on the way out that morning! Good to see they'd changed their shirts! We saw the dolphins again too. A strangely symmetrical day!

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