Monday, August 24, 2009

23rd August 2009: Teluk Air Tawar coast, Penang

I don't think I can remember a day with weather like today. It rained from before dawn till after dusk more or less continuously! I headed back to the roost I had discovered yesterday - the pool was considerably larger!

Nice weather for ducks ... and waders!

A Greater Sand Plover and a Common Redshank. Not sure if it's possible to tell the race of the Redshank, given that its breeding tertials are heavily worn. However, it looks like one of the more well-marked races - eurhinus or ussuriensis.

An astonishing size difference between two Common Redshanks! My guess is that the front bird is a first summer moulting into its second winter plumage. The extreme wear on its feathers may contribute to the impression of its smaller size.

A different 'shank' - a Common Greenshank.

Joined by its smaller relative - my first Marsh Sandpiper of the autumn.

Apart from the usually obvious structural and size differences, Marsh Sandpiper has a much more contrasting head pattern than Common Greenshank - a white supercilium and a dark crown.

Talking of size and structure, this pic illustrates nicely the differences between Greater (left) and Lesser Sand Plovers.

At times the weather got pretty nasty!

Curlew Sandpipers, with a supporting cast of Red-necked Stints, Terek Sandpipers, Lesser Sand Plover, and Common Redshank.

Gradually the number of birds, instead of building up as the tide rose, dwindled away, and I became certain that I was missing the main roost, so I decided to do some scouting in the rain! I drove down one dead end road and could see a new housing project just across a small river, obscured by a small bund. I asked a local fisherman if there were any birds there, and he looked at me rather pityingly - "No birds there, you should try looking further down the coast." I got back in my car and was about to drive off, but the bund seemed to be drawing me. Braving the rain I decided to go take a look over it, and there were the birds - thousands of them! Bingo!

It took a while to work out how to find a way in, but eventually I managed to drive right up to the birds.

The birds seemed to accept my car as part of the scenery pretty quickly, and soon I found myself in the middle of the roost, with birds on three sides!

Birds fore and aft!

Still raining!

A small section of the roost. I estimated there were about 6,000 birds in all.

Some birds came so close I thought they were going to shelter under the car! Here's a Greater Sand Plover.

A couple of adult Lesser Sand Plovers in very ragged breeding plumage, just starting to moult.

And two juveniles. Some people mistake them for adults because the peachy wash on the breast looks similar to breeding plumage. I've noticed that young Lesser Sand Plovers often have a yellowish or pinkish tinge to the legs.

Adult Greater Sand Plovers (left) tend to have a better-defined breastband than adult Lessers, as if it's been painted on using a broad brush.

A lone Ruddy Turnstone came to join the party.

A flock of Great Knot were in a variety of stages between breeding and non-breeding plumage.

And a lone adult Red Knot.

Still raining!

Guess what!

A Terek Sandpiper in power drill mode!

I'd been looking for yesterday's Little stint for a fair while before it suddenly appeared right in front of me!

Judging by the complete lack of fringing on any of the visible wing feathers, I'd guess this is a first summer bird, retaining last year's juvenile coverts.

With a Red-necked Stint for comparison.

Same bird, different camera! This was taken with my DSLR.

Still raining!

This is what I'd expect an adult Little Stint to look like at this time of year - with nice broad chestnut fringes to the wing coverts. I found this second bird just before it was time to leave.

It was busily preening the whole time, so difficult to get a clear head shot, as this video shows.

I was really chuffed to see five Asian Dowitchers which dropped in with some Whimbrels and Eurasian Curlews as the tide reached maximum height. This is an adult.

As is this. You can see a juvenile in the background.

Juvs look very different. The fresher ones have a beautiful peach wash to the breast and head. There were three juveniles. This is the dullest of them.

Hiding behind a Great Knot.

Eventually I had to drag myself away. But I'll be back! Happy days are here again!


Unknown said...

Unbelievable! What a sight!

Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok said...

Wow I really enjoy reading this entry with all these incredible photos! Waders in the rain is absolutely an artistic sight. Congrats for so many rare species.