Teluk Air Tawar-Kuala Muda IBA, Penang. 29 August 2013

The tide was hopeful but the haze was horrendous! Still, it was good to see a selection of juveniles, some of them my first of the season.

Great KNot_TAT_290813_IMG_3364As the tide exposed the mud in front of me, seven Great Knots made a graceful landing.

Great Knot_TAT_290813_IMG_4954All were adults moulting into non-breeding plumage, but they stayed only momentarily.

Common Redshank_TAT_290813_IMG_5025My first juvenile Common Redshanks of the season. Both of these were really densely-marked dark individuals. The one on the right had already grown some new first non-breeding scapulars.

Common Redshank_TAT_290813_IMG_5026The left hand of the two birds above. Look at the crown colour – very dark.

Common Redshank_TAT_290813_IMG_5030Another juvenile with a worn breeding ussuriensis on the right. This juvenile was so pale and speckly that the resemblance to a Wood Sandpiper was more than passing!

Common Redshank_TAT_290813_IMG_5028The same two birds with the juvenile behind. I wonder if this is just an exceptionally pale individual, or whether there are racial differences in juvenile plumages. The covert and tertial patterns are so different from those on the darker juveniles above. It’s no wonder we find waders confusing sometimes. Confusing, but fascinating!

Curlew Sandpiper_TAT_290813_IMG_4984Curlew Sandpiper_TAT_290813_IMG_4988Here’s another example of marked variation in plumage colours between two birds of the same species and in the same plumage – both juvenile Curlew Sandpipers.

Eurasian Curlew_TAT_290813_IMG_5001And another! Two juvenile Eurasian Curlews, but quite a difference in plumage tones. I watched the left hand bird for a long time to check it wasn’t a Far Eastern. I’ve never seen a Eurasian with such buff colouration behind the legs. Note the white vent though. This individual had distinctive dark subterminal marks on the greater coverts. Here’s a real juvenile Far Eatern taken a week earlier in Hong Kong by John and Jemi. Those tranverse bars on the flanks are a reliable feature when in doubt.

Far Eastern Curlew_TAT-KM IBA coast_130813_IMG_4671This is an adult Far Eastern which I saw on 13 August, my only one so far this autumn. The broad-barred tertials which form a shaggy cloak at the rear end and the plain face lacking any strong contrasts are other distinctive features of Far Eastern (adults at least).

Eurasian Curlew_TAT_290813_IMG_4962Back to the 29th – two adult Eurasians – a contrasting head pattern, pencil thin flank streaks and weakly marked tertials compared to Far Eastern.

Eurasian Curlew_TAT_290813_IMG_4957 Eurasian Curlew_TAT_290813_IMG_4998An adult (top) and two juvenile Eurasian Curlews. The top bird has a mud-encrusted bill, so that’s not a real difference!

I videoed this adult Eurasian Curlew on 22 Aug. It passes a Whimbrel (much smaller and darker, with a shorter bill), then a Curlew Sandpiper (even smaller!), before crossing paths with a Little Heron and a Common Redshank, and then catching up with another Eurasian Curlew and showing us how it gets a muddy bill! Unlike Whimbrels, they have no need to run after crabs because their bills are long enough to simply pick the creature out of the bottom of its hole. No place to hide!

Lesser Sand Plover_TAT_290813_IMG_3369Juvenile Lesser sand Plovers have been around for almost a month, but it’s not so often that one comes this close to feed. From my observation, Lesser Sand Plovers mainly locate prey by listening for movement.

Lesser Sand Plover_TAT_290813_IMG_3393I’ve looked carefully but can see nothing on the mud surface which would indicate the presence of prey…and yet…Lesser Sand Plover_TAT_290813_IMG_3394

Ta-daa! So it must be hearing the movement of these small gastropods as they move about in the mud, or perhaps detecting small surface movements by sight.

Lesser Sand Plover_TAT_290813_IMG_3419That might explain why it stopped and waited patiently for a rather noisy plane to fly over.

Lesser Sand Plover_TAT_290813_IMG_4977More individual variation – an exceptionally orange-buff juvenile Lesser Sand. Some of these differences in colour and tone may be attributable to feather wear, but not all.

Greater Sand Plover_TAT_290813_IMG_4969A smart juvenile Greater Sand Plover.

Broad-billed Sandpiper_TAT_290813_IMG_5047My first juvenile Broad-billed Sandpiper of the year, with an adult Red-necked Stint on the left.

Bar-tailed Godwit_TAT_290813_IMG_5036An adult Bar-tailed Godwit.

Terek Sandpiper_TAT_290813_IMG_4951Judging by the extreme contrast between the fresh and old coverts on this Terek Sandpiper, and the fact that it seems to be missing all its median coverts, I think this must be a one-year old bird moulting from first breeding to second non-breeding plumage.

Common Sandpiper_TAT_290813_IMG_5054Here’s something you don’t often see – a “flock” of Common Sandpipers. They looked distinctly suspicious of each other – as if they were wondering “How on earth did this happen?” A Lesser Sand Plover carried on oblivious!

Asian Openbill_Kamloon_290913_IMG_5065I did a brief midday visit to the Openbill roost. No sign of breeding yet, but quite a number of birds in smart black and white colours. Looks like they’re getting ready!

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