Thursday, May 17, 2012

10th May 2012: Pelagic off Tanjung Dawai, Kedah

Pelagics from Tanjung Dawai start at 7 a.m., which means we had to be on the boat before that. This is the boat we used to go on - with the twin dolphins. The new boat is much more spacious and better for observing birds. Just Hakim and I were on board to enjoy the ride today.
The dock just before casting off.
Heading out to the mouth of the River Merbok, with the sun behind us and who knows what goodies before us! It's always a great feeling - heading out of the estuary as the sun breaks the horizon.
Behind us, Gunung Jerai is an unmistakable landmark. This view probably hasn't changed much in the last hundred years!
Within a few hours it was obvious we were going to be in for a hot day.

Not many fish, and not much wind. Between 8 and 9 am we watched about 400 Bridled Terns steadily heading north, but after that, not many birds either - just the odd distant Lesser Crested, Common and Sooty Tern.
Birds started to appear once we finally put the net out. There were very few Common Terns about. This one had a largely reddish bill, so was presumably 'tibetana'. The Lesser Crested was stunning in its full breeding plumage.
It struck me that this is a more likely bird to mistake for Chinese Crested than Greater is.
We got our first proper looks of the year at Short-tailed Shearwaters today. There seem fewer around than this time last year, but this one put on a virtuoso display! The plumage has a velveteen quality, so appears in a wide variation of colour tones depending on how it reflects or absorbs light - from near white to black, and every shade of brown in between!

Note how the secondaries appear white at some angles. This impression was given frequently as the birds banked in strong light.
It's also interesting how the light can have an effect on the apparent thickness of the bill. In strong light it can look quite fine, while in shade it looks distinctly chunky.
I had my first ever 'three-skua day' - with this adult breeding plumaged Arctic being the only representative of the species today.
One of two Long-tailed I photographed. I reckon this is a second winter, aged by the adult-like upperparts (but not well-developed cap) and limited underwing barring. Unlike other 2nd year birds I've photographed this spring, this one doesn't have well-grown central tail feathers.
And this one must be in either retarded moult into1st winter plumage or in mid-moult into 1st summer plumage. Howell states that it isn't clear whether skuas undergo one or two complete moults between juvenile and 2nd pre-basic moult, so... it's complicated!
At last, our first undoubted 'Pom' of the year, and incidentally, our first ever not to be in adult breeding plumage. The fact that we are getting non-breeders coming through suggests we have missed the main passage completely this year. After looking at so many Long-taileds and Arctics, this stood out a mile, and made me sure that, whatever it was, the bird I saw on 21 April was not a Pomarine!
A classic 'bruiser' of a Pomarine, with nice double flashes on the under primaries. I would say a first winter, going, as always, by Howell's article.
This brief fly-by Sooty Tern was a nice surprise. A juvenile which has not yet begun wing moult, this is clearly a different bird from the ones seen on 21 April and 7 March. I had my attention drawn to it by Harom, eagle-eyed fisherman and budding pelagic bird expert, who identified it without the aid of bins as it flew by with several Bridled Terns! Nice one!

Also courtesy of the crew, a mixed pod of 2 Indopacific Bottle-nosed (top) and 7 Indopacific Humbacked (below) Dolphins, as we made an early return to port.

1 comment:

John Holmes said...

Nice shots, especially of the Short-tailed Shearwater !