Tuesday, June 02, 2009

2nd June 2009: Bukit Pancur Forest Reserve and Pulau Burung, Penang

It's June, and all the migrant waders are gone. What to do? It seemed a good time to get the camera serviced, which Canon did FOC (another reason why I love Canon!), and so today was a first outing with the newly serviced camera.

Bukit Pancur is Penang State's only remnant of lowland forest. It's small, and I find seeing birds is tough there. Today was no exception, though there were plenty of birds calling.

My attention was caught by the wing-shivering and begging calls of a young Purple-naped Sunbird. Here the parent is feeding it some kind of fruit.

I spent about an hour tracking a strange call coming from the forest below the trail. Eventually the caller revealed itself - a daytime calling Buffy Fish-Owl! I suspect it had young in the vicinity.

While I was waiting for the owl, I watched a Black Giant Squirrel gorging itself in a fruiting tree.

The only other half decent shot I managed was one of a noisy party of Rufous Woodpeckers.

Despite the unpromising date, I couldn't resist a trip to one of my old hunting grounds - the Landfill Site at Pulau Burung. The old site where I once watched waders roost is now under several metres of stinking landfill, but the area to the north of the access road is still attracting numbers of waterbirds.

I was surprised to see four Grey Herons have taken up residence. This species is quite common in the south of the Peninsula, but relatively scarce still up here.

Purple Herons are more regularly seen. There were also about 200 Cattle Egrets - presumably all non-breeders.

Little Grebes are in smart breeding plumage year-round, but don't seem to be breeding at the moment.

There were at least thirty Whiskered Terns around, and these look set to oversummer. This bird is clearly a 1st summer bird, as there are traces of darker-centred juvenile lesser primary and secondary coverts, and it has retained juvenile tail feathers and perhaps also some secondaries and the outer eight primaries.

There were also a number of birds like this, which looked much more adult-like. In the end I decided that they must also be first summer birds, as they seem to have some old juvenile-type tail feathers, though they are more advanced in moult.

Oriental Pratincoles have established a breeding colony up on the disused landfill (do they have no sense of smell or do they just get used to it?!), and birds were constantly overflying the lagoons going off to hunt and then returning with food. I can't work out what this bird is carrying - a leaf? Fruit? Small mammal? Very strange!

With the pratincoles now nesting, the site now boasts four breeding species of waders of the six in Malaysia. Apart from the pratincoles, Red-wattled Lapwings and Black-winged Stilts still breed, and Greater Painted-Snipe has done in the past. The other two are unlikely to ever be seen here - Malaysian Plover and Beach Thick-knee!

The UK seems to have been deluged with pratincoles in the past month, and I've been following the discussion of the identification of various ones online - very educational. So I decided to try to get a closer look at these Orientals.

Away from the colony, small numbers of pratincoles were sitting on the laterite road, using it as a look-out from which to go on hunting sallies after insects.

This one picked off a large insect that was feeding on a flowering roadside bush. A number of the birds, like this one, had thin buffish or whitish tips to the secondaries, a feature that used to be considered diagnostic of Collared Pratincole.

This pic shows the tail pattern well. Oriental has only the tip of the outermost tail feather black, whereas the equivalent feather on Collared is black for about about half the feather length.

The thin whitish tips to the secondaries can be seen on this bird. It has begun to replace its inner primaries and primary coverts, and there is also a row of fresh median coverts, which seem to have a greenish gloss to them. The outer two or three primaries look newer than the three between them and the new feathers. If they are, this may be because Oriental Pratincoles suspend primary moult at the end of the breeding season, so that the outermost are replaced some time later than the inner ones.

The same or a very similar bird in flight.

This shot shows a black line at the base of the underside of the bill. I'm not sure if Collared shows this feature.

Nostril shape is a distinguishing feature from Collared - oval-shaped on Oriental and more slit-like on Collared. The black line at the base of the underside of the bill is visible here, as are the long legs and peachy wash below the brown breast.

A juvenile flying back to the colony. Oriental Pratincoles usually seem to rear two broods in a season, and the first batch of juveniles hangs around the colony while the second brood are reared.

For more on the differences between Oriental and Collared Pratincole, check out these links: An Oriental that was initially identified as a Collared Pratincole in the UK; comparison of the heads of Collared and Oriental in Kuwait; interesting discussion on identification

A common bird to finish off with - a White-throated Kingfisher posing for me!


Jason Bugay Reyes said...

Excellent shots from your newly serviced camera Daveh hehee

Choy Wai Mun said...

Great write-up as usual. It has been quite a while since my last visit to these 2 sites.

Anonymous said...


The unknown food on the flying
pratincole was also photographed,
(in another forum)
or at least something similar.
it may a "leech looking" worm
or larvae of some sort. Could
be one of the food prey of the
waders at Byram.

Choo Eng.