A week ago I had not seen any Buteo buzzards in Malaysia. Now, just a few days after having photographed a Himalayan Buzzard in Penang, I received news that there was a probable Long-legged x Upland Buzzard hybrid in Chuping, so I decided it would be good to try to see this bird to compare it with the Himalayan. I never need much of an excuse to go to Chuping anyway!
I drove north predawn and as it got light it was obvious that the weather was perfect. My first stop was the Manchurian Reed Warbler spot, and I managed to get better views and photos than the first trip.
Manchurian Reed Warbler – almost in the open!
From there I made my way slowly along the network of tracks which run between the fields, scanning both the sky and the fields for any sign of the buzzard. In the course of my meanderings I took in the ‘pipit field’, which again had large flocks of Eastern Yellow wagtails and Red-throated Pipits.
Walking through the long grass produced ‘clouds’ of wagtails and pipits!
As the day wore on, raptors frequently came into view, but none ticked the Buteo boxes.
I did spot a pale-headed raptor sitting in a ploughed field, but it turned out to be this female Osprey feeding on a fresh catch. She decided I was too close for comfort, and flew off to finish her meal on top of a pylon.
I confess I actually felt disappointed when a new raptor proved to be ‘only’ a Short-toed Snake-eagle! I wouldn’t have felt that way a month ago! This is the moulting bird I saw very distantly on 19 November.
It obligiingly hovered not far from me, and was then taken to task by a resident Black-shouldered Kite!
The light was so perfect I just wanted to stop the clock!
I came across a field where Red-throated Pipits were gathering before going to roost, and I could actually view them on the deck – a nice change!
I think the last pic shows a first winter, while the others are adults. My reasoning is that the last bird shows no hint of pinkish on the head, and the median coverts, which are in active moult, seem rather worn and white-tipped, while the other birds show varying intensity of pink on the head and have fresh pale greyish-buff-tipped median coverts.
As dusk fell I witnessed an amazing spectacle of a different kind. I noticed one or two Grey Wagtails walking around in some burnt stubble by the track. These were the first I had seen all day.
At first, there were just a few, but as I waited, more and more started dropping out of the sky.
Despite the lack of buzzards, I ended the day on an absolute high, having witnessed something I would not have believed had someone else told me! Later I checked for other records of communal roosting Grey Wagtails. Wells states that the species does not roost communally, and past records seem to bear this out (the largest flock I could find was 20 birds). Well, they do at Chuping!
I made the decision to stay the night and try again for the buzzard tomorrow.