Teluk Air Tawar-Kuala Muda IBA: 15 August 2013

Every new wader season, I try to search out the best vantage points. The coastline changes so fast that even the places where I enjoyed great views back in April may not be so good now. Mudbanks are moved around by storms and changes in offshore currents; clear views of mudflats are obscured by quickly colonizing mangrove saplings – it can be a frustrating business, or I can strike gold, as I did back in 2009, when a construction site provided a perfect high tide roost site where I could get right in amongst the birds – but for one season only – the place is a housing estate now!

This season, so far, it looks as though there’s nowhere to get up close and personal with the birds, so I will have to be content with more distant views!

Common Greenshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_2867A flock of Common Greenshanks coming in to feed on the fallling tide. They underwing looks surprisingly white on one or two birds.

Common Greenshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_2876Many are still in heavily worn breeding plumage.

Common Greenshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_2880A largely white uppertail and underwing are usually good features of Nordmann’s Greenshank, but not in this case!

Common Greenshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_2891The flock included some very yellow-legged birds.

Common Greenshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_4745An adult moulting into non-breeding plumage.Common Greenshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_4750

Three similar sandpipers! From the left, Common Greenshank, Common Redshank and Terek Sandpiper.Common Redshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_2928

Common Redshanks are always interesting, because there are four races we could potentially get here: craggi, eurhinus, ussuriensis and terignotae. You can only tell them apart by the pattern of the breeding plumaged tertials, so I was glad to see some still in that plumage.

Common Redshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_2917 Common Redshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_2903Breeding and non-breeding (top right) plumaged Common Redshanks. In August, birds in worn breeding plumage can look so dark that they are sometimes mistaken for Spotted Redshanks. Spotted Reshanks are not commonly seen in intertidal environments, nor are they likely to be dark coloured at this time of year.

Common Redshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_2908Of course, the wing pattern is also completely different.

Common Redshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_4738 Common Redshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_4768The very heavily barred tertials identify these birds as the ussuriensis race.

Common Redshank_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_4771I don’t think birds in non-breeding plumage are racially distinguishable in the field.Curlew Sandpiper_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_4713

Way in the distance, where most of the birds were, I came across this small calidrid (left) which appeared to show symmetrical blackish markings on the underparts. Initial hopes of a Dunlin were dispelled by the fact that structurally it was identical to the Curlew Sandpipers around it. The apparent blackness was probably just the effect of shade and distance.

Leg-flag Red-necked Stint_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_4762A little closer, this Red-necked Stint was my first flagged bird of the season. The commonest leg-flag combination in Peninsular Malaysia by some distance is black over white – which is the code used by wader-ringers on Chongming Dao, an island in the mouth of the mighty Yangtze River in China. This shows that a significant number of birds of several species use both the Yangtze River estuary and the coasts of Peninsular Malaysia as refuelling points on their epic migratory journeys. Some of them probably fly direct between the two.

Lesser Sand Plover_TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_4747This one is on its first migration – a juvenile Lesser Sand Plover. Mortality among juveniles is higher than for adults, but if they make it through the growing years, waders can live for 15 years or longer.

TAT_KM IBA_150813_IMG_2814The people of the coastal communities in the IBA have relied on its natural productivity for generations. Long may this continue!

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3 thoughts on “Teluk Air Tawar-Kuala Muda IBA: 15 August 2013

  1. You are lucky to see them with so much remnant of breeding plumage. In Melbourne that’s not common, although we do see some changing into it i the autumn before they fly back.

  2. “..Yangtze River estuary … the coasts of Peninsular Malaysia .. refuelling points on their epic migratory journeys. Some of them probably fly direct between the two.”

    We certainly don’t get so many Chongming Dao birds here in Hong Kong, so I’m sure you’re right, they’re (mostly) overflying us. I think our commonest overseas flags are Australian ones.

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