Pulau Mantanani: 8 – 12 Oct 2012: Starlings

If there was one mantra I learned from Chris Kehoe’s article on vagrants in East Malaysia, it was “Check the Asian Glossy Starling flocks”!

Occasionally, I could watch them like this.

More often, views were like this! Nevertheless, Chris’s advice was sound, and there were quite often some goodies to be picked out from the flock. You might notice a couple of very white looking birds at the top of the tree – false alarm I’m afraid – just a pair of resident White-breasted Woodswallows. But on further scrutiny, you might pick out another pale bird in the top right of the topmost clump of pine needles…

Nice one – a male Chestnut-cheeked Starling! These aren’t as rare in East Malaysia as they are in the peninsula, but not to be sneezed at nonetheless.

Two of a party of four Chestnut-cheeked Starlings, which were almost the first birds I put my bins on after arrival on the island. This turned out to be my only multiple observation of the species.

Routine checking of starling flocks finally paid off one evening as I was counting frigatebirds flying to roost. The light was practically gone, but I noticed a pale bird (bottom left) and went for a closer look.

Sandy plumage and a banana bill.

Even in semi-darkness and at a ridiculously high ISO, the unmistakable features of a juv Rosy Starling can be seen. There’ve been less than half a dozen records in Borneo, making this the rarest bird of my trip. The last one I saw was on the Isles of Scilly in the UK when I was probably only just out of my teens, so it was good to renew the acquaintance!

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