Tioman Island: 17 November 2012

Green Imperial-pigeon_Tioman_171112_IMG_2129After a quick change, we met up in the homestay garden, overlooked by a Green Imperial-pigeon. Rafi had been on the island recently for the raptor survey and told me these were common. Nevertheless, I took a few ‘insurance shots’ and as it turned out, this was the best view I had the whole week. Better safe than sorry!

Green Imperial-pigeon_Tioman_171112_IMG_2270Later in the day we saw several flying in and out of a fruiting fig on the Berjaya Golf course. The ‘green’ on these birds is a unique colour – I can’t think of any other species which shares it.

fruit-bat_Tioman_171112_IMG_2136As we walked north through Kampung Tekek, we passed under several trees full of large, noisy colonies of Large Flying-fox Pteropus vampyrus. We wondered what, if anything preys on these beasts, and were told later in our stay that White-bellied Sea-eagles are occasionally known to take them. I think I’d stick to fish!

Purple Heron_Tioman_171112_IMG_2134This juvenile Purple Heron standing incongruously in the police station compound was the first suggestion that there might be some migrants about, despite the settled weather.

Red-throated Pipit_Tioman_171112_IMG_2143Just north of Tekek we wandered into a half-finished housing project, and were immediately attracted to a damp corner where several Little Egrets were hunting. A walk through this produced a couple of Red-throated Pipits, which flew up uttering their distinctive, high-pitched teezzz call, and then landed on the rooftops of the new houses.

Red-throated Pipit_Tioman_171112_IMG_2170Red-throated Pipit_Tioman_171112_IMG_2216These small, streaky pipits are superficially similar to Pechora Pipits (which I saw on Mantanani Island last month). The most obvious differences are habitat preference (wet areas for RTP, coastal scrub for PP) and call (PP rarely calls on migration). Plumage-wise, RTP tertials entirely cover the primaries, whereas PP’s shorter tertials leave the primary tips exposed on the closed wing. PP is more heavily streaked above, and has very obvious whitish tramlines down the mantle (these are present but much less obvious on RTP). These RTPs had a much more defined ‘face’ pattern than PPs – a more obvious supercilium and eyestripe. Compare the pics above with this one of Pechora.

Yellow Bittern_Tioman_171112_IMG_2232The same little swampy corner produced 4 Yellow Bitterns as well as a few Little Egrets and pond-herons. We nicknamed it ‘Magic Swamp’.

In late afternoon we headed south toward Berjaya Hotel and jetty.

Clouded Monitor_Tioman_171112_IMG_2300Though Water Monitors were present in the larger ponds and streams, Clouded Monitors seemed more abundant. These were remarkably tame and approachable. Clouded Monitors can be distinguished by the crescent-shaped nostril midway between the eye and tip of the nose. On Water Monitor, it is circular and right at the end of the snout.

Hill Myna_Tioman_171112_IMG_2321Hill Myna_Tioman_171112_IMG_2310There were plenty of Hill Mynas about. Rafi told me that the name ‘Tioman’ is derived from ‘Tiong Man’ – which translates from the local dialect to ‘My Hill Myna”.

IMG_9625The view looking north along the west coast of Tioman from Berjaya Jetty. Very scenic, but not the kind of weather we were wishing for! The largely cloudless sky meant that the frigatebirds, which roost nightly on Pulau Renggis, just off the jetty, kept high and distant until well after dusk, rendering specific identification impossible. I had been banking on getting Christmas Island Frigatebird as my 566th species for Peninsular Malaysia on this trip, but suddenly it was looking far from being a certainty!

Pied Imperial-pigeon_Tioman_171112_IMG_2350When we arrived at the jetty, a constant stream of Pied Imperial-pigeons was already in progress, heading out to roost on Pulau Renggis. We counted 589 birds, but the actual total must have been several hundred higher. Once it gets 1000+ frigatebirds on it as well, that island must be pretty busy at night! Amazingly, considering the generations over which the birds have roosted there, the trees seem unaffected by the volume of guano which must be deposited there.

As dusk fell, we nabbed a few other good birds – an Osprey soaring with the frigates, 2 Pacific Swifts flying through, a Red-rumped Swallow among the many hundreds of Pacific and Barn Swallows swarming the place at dusk, and a silhouetted assassin of a Japanese Sparrowhawk which suddenly appeared among the swallows.

IMG_9631A rivermouth after sunset on the walk back to the chalets. We could see the stars as we went to bed praying for rain!


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