Wednesday, April 16, 2008
15th April, 2008: Pelagic trip off Tanjung Dawai, Kedah (Part 2)
Terns in the rain! Luckily, we were able to stay reasonably dry.
Bridled Terns were the most numerous after the Common Terns. Their brown upperparts makes them easy to identify. These are usually deep sea terns, and are very rarely seen from the mainland.
Adults have fairly uniform brown upperparts, and a blackish crown with a white eyebrow extending to behind the eye.
First year birds were more numerous than adults. The white fringes to the mantle were variable in extent, but could make them appear to have a white or pale grey mantle in flight.
On board a piece of Nypah palm trunk. Typically, Bridled Terns preferred to sit on some floating debris, whereas Common Terns seemed to prefer sitting in the water.
I'd like a shake please! Trying to get rid of waterlogging in a rain storm.
Something a bit special! The second Aleutian tern for the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The first was a 1st year bird, but this one was a fine adult.
It didn't join the other terns but just flew straight past. Here's a good view of the distinctive dark secondary bar on the underwing.
On the upperwing, there's a dark wedge formed by the outer primaries (similar to Common Tern), but then a pale wedge on the inner primaries, contrasting with the slightly darker secondaries. Another thing I noticed about this bird was that it held its head up, looking straight ahead, unlike the Common Terns, which usually look down toward the water surface.
Flashing those black secondaries. You beauty!
Shaking some water off. Aleutian Tern seems much slighter than Common Tern, with a more slender bill.
Later in the day, I was surprised by a peculiar waderlike call - 'tree-ree-reep' - very different from the terns around the stern of the boat. I looked up to see this Aleutian Tern flying past at height. Not a great pic, but identifiable due to the pale wedge on the inner primaries. I saw it better than this, but was too busy trying to attract Choo Eng's attention to get better pictures. He missed both birds. Ouch!
Ghostly beauty! A Black-naped Tern joined the melee of terns at the nets. We saw a possible breeding colony of these terns in the distance, but only a couple came this close all day.
The underside of the wing appeared yellowish. Not sure if this was the effect of blood vessels showing through the translucent plumage, or genuine pigmentation.
We were hoping for a tropicbird, but this was as close as we got to one!
Long-tailed Skua is classified as a vagrant to Malaysian waters, but perhaps that should be amended to 'under-recorded'. We had 12 sightings during the day, including a flock of 4 birds. It is probable that we saw some birds on repeated occasions. Nevertheless, we estimated that there were probably 4 - 8 birds involved. This is a juvenile.
A particularly pale morph juvenile.
The same bird flying away. Notice the strongly barred uppertail coverts.
Settled on the water. Almost all the skuas we saw were initially sitting on the sea, and then flew and settled further away when flushed by our boat.
An adult trying to swallow a fish.
Notice how plain the wings are. Other skua species show prominent white flashes at the bases of the primaries. The long central tail feathers are not yet fully grown. All the adults we saw had partially grown central tail feathers.
A different adult. The smokey grey-brown upperparts contrasting with darker secondaries is characteristic of adult Long-tailed. Other skuas are much darker and browner.
The clean whitish throat and breast below the black cap, and the dusky rear body are also good pointers for adult Long-tailed.
This picture shows how narrow-based the wings are.
We also had 6 sightings of Pomarine Skuas, including a flock of 3 adults. At least 4 individuals were involved. Note how stocky this bird is compared to the Long-tailed. The thick breastband and scaly flanks, the prominent underwing flash and spoon-shaped twisted central tail feathers also help identification.
A bit blurred, but this gives a good impression of the difference in size and structure between Long-tailed (right) and Pomarine Skuas. Surprisingly, the Long-tailed was seeing off the 'Pom'!
Two Pomarine Skuas on the water. The 'spoons' on the tail and the breastband help identify them.
The birds stayed with us till dark. A Long-tailed Skua followed the terns that were following us, but sadly my battery had died!
A golden end to a great day!
Heading for port at the end of a long day! After we docked, the crew still had to unload the boat and clean it out for the next day's fishing. You won't find me complaining about the cost of 'ikan bilis' again!