Thursday, April 30, 2009

29th April: Air Hitam Dalam and Penaga ricefields

Following tantalizing accounts of a showy Mangrove Pitta at Air Hitam Dalam, I succumbed to the temptation and took a half day off work to go look for it. The bird had apparently showed for two hours by the boardwalk at the weekend, so it seemed to be a dead cert.

However, the bird was not calling, and the sense that I would inevitably see it which I had when I arrived gradually gave way to gloom and increasing certainty that I would not! After an hour or so, the bird suddenly began calling and moving closer, and suddenly, there it was, close by on an exposed tree trunk.

I had taken the camera off the tripod and was hand-holding it when the bird appeared, necessitating the use of flash.

I tried one shot without flash, and was much happier with the truer colours. Unfortunately, as I was putting the camera back on the tripod the bird flew, and that was the end of the show. Ah well, I'm happy with these few shots.

Mangrove Blue Flycatchers, Asian Paradise Flycatchers and Black-winged Flycatcher-shrikes were all active but distant, so I decided after another couple of hours to go and check out the rice fields at Penaga. These were largely empty of wagtails and waders, in contrast to a few weeks ago.

I did find a small flock of Pacific Golden Plovers, some of which were in splendid breeding plumage.

By now it was midday, and the heat haze prevented photography of all but the closest birds. Here's a shaky video.

A lone Intermediate Egret was still hanging around.

A large flock of what I assume to be German's Swiftlets was feeding over one field, so I stopped to try my hand at getting some flight shots.

These are the very pale-rumped birds which populate 'swiftlet hotels' in the north of the peninsula, building white nests of their own saliva which are then harvested to be made into birds' nest soup. The birds in heavy wing moult must be adults, and perhaps the fresh-plumaged birds are juveniles.

This female Cinnamon Bittern chose a paddyfield that didn't offer it much cover!

A nearby male had found a safer place to hunt. The bright red lores are an indication that the bird is ready to breed.

In flight, the uniform chestnut wings are the easiest way to identify this species.

This male Cinnamon Bittern was feeding at exactly the same spot as the bird I photographed on 24th March, and is probably the same bird. Now his lores are bright red too. Interestingly, this colour changed once he realized he was under scrutiny.

Did he go pale with fright, or was losing the bright colouration a defence strategy?

He decided to run for cover...

...where he quickly got his colour back again!

Once he decided I was no threat, he reassumed his hunt for lunch.

I decided to end up at the coast, where high tide was approaching, to see what waders were still around. Very few were (3 Redshanks!) but on the mudflats I noticed an unlikely species - a Barn Owl! On closer inspection this appeared to be attached to a long piece of fishing line by one wing, which was in turn attached to a long pole stuck vertically in the mud. I waded out to it and found that the bird had been deliberately tied there (there was no hook). I got it back to the shade of the trees and removed the line from its wing. The feathers were badly messed up but at least none seemed to be broken, and the bird was surprisingly vigorous considering it had been in the direct heat of the sun. I dripped a small amount of water into its bill, then wrapped it up in my hide cover and brought it home, where I installed it in an upstairs bathroom (what a long-suffering wife I have!).

Twenty-four hours later it appears to have made a good recovery from its ordeal and I hope to release it this evening. Here's a pic of it roosting on our shower head!


Burdr said...

I think you need to take a half day off of work more often!

Great photos as usual! Love the closeups of the Cinnamon Bittern.

Jason Bugay Reyes said...

My friend, nice looking Mangrove Pitta !!!

I need this bird :)