Monday, May 09, 2011

4th May 2011: At sea off Tanjung Dawai, Kedah: Part 3 - Terns

One of my ambitions is to see ten tern species in a day on a pelagic trip. I've seen 8 tern species in a day once before, and we equalled that total today.

At times, Bridled Terns were the most numerous species. This superb photo is by James Eaton.

Common Terns were the other numerous species - this is the rarer, red-billed 'tibetana' race.

There were a few White-winged about - these were taken at last light late in the day. A couple of flocks of Whiskered Terns flew north in high, close-knit flocks, but didn't linger.

The first 'good' tern of the day was this typically solitary Aleutian.

Although it never came close, it did at least remain in view for longer than the usual brief fly-over, enabling us all to get prolonged views of this stunner.

There's something very distinctive about the short-necked, long-winged jizz of this species.

They say one good 'tern' deserves another, and it wasn't long before we had this juv Sooty Tern flying around the boat. Unfortunately, it was rarely in good light.

Another bird with a very distinctive shape - looking like a gigantic 'marsh' tern, and often flying with the body angled downwards towards the front.

They seem to do this a lot too!

James had a brief view of an adult, but it didn't hang around, sadly. Last year, Sootys started showing up in early June, but perhaps they're early this year, like the shearwaters.

Near dusk we saw the juvenile again, not close, but easily 'pickable' by its odd shape.

Peter scanning for petrels! One of the crew reported seeing a very small all-dark bird dancing over the surface of the water the previous day, which sounded very like a petrel. I've been hoping for a Swinhoe's this month, but no joy yet!

The eighth tern of the day (we also had Black-naped) was this stunning adult breeding Roseate.

This is James's version!

Like the juv Sooty, this bird appeared again at dusk, following the boat. Its pale plumage contrasted with a much darker Common Tern (right).

No Little or either of the crested terns today, so I reckon a ten-tern day is definitely possible! Still, we were very happy with having had a superb spread of birds and many close range views. May seems to be THE month for pelagic birding off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia!


Ghost said...

What a nice trip with so many beautiful in flight birds

John Holmes said...

Nice to see clear shots of some of the terns we get in Hong Kong too.

A "Ten Tern" pelagic - you're bound to get such a day sooner or later !! Good luck.