Back to Chuping, Perlis, 9 December 2013

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_Chuping_091213_IMG_6435Manchurian Reed Warbler_Chuping_091213_IMG_6430

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.

Red-throated Pipit_Chuping_091213_IMG_6970Flight views of Red-throated Pipits were all I was able to get here!

Red-throated Pipit_Chuping_091213_IMG_6882 Red-throated Pipit_Chuping_091213_IMG_6710bFor some reawagtails and pipits_Chuping_091213_IMG_6959son all my sharp shots were of birds with their wings closed!

Walking through the long grass produced ‘clouds’ of wagtails and pipits!

Eastern Yellow Wagtail_Chuping_091213_IMG_7025 Eastern Yellow Wagtail_Chuping_091213_IMG_7128A couple of Eastern Yellows.

wagtail sp_Chuping_091213_IMG_7053And I suppose this must be one too, though it does look odd.

Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7068No wonder Pied Harriers regularly hunted over this field – in this case a juvenile and an adult female together.

As the day wore on, raptors frequently came into view, but none ticked the Buteo boxes.

Eastern Marsh Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7265 Eastern Marsh Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7244 Eastern Marsh Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7204This juvenile Eastern Marsh Harrier initially raised hopes that it might be a Western, or at least have some Western genes, but I guess it’s just a dark Eastern.

Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_6652A juvenile Pied Harrier.

Osprey_Chuping_091213_IMG_6761I 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.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail_Chuping_091213_IMG_7168 Eastern Yellow Wagtail_Chuping_091213_IMG_6548There were countless thousands of Eastern Yellow Wagtails in the fields, and I spent quite a bit of time searching for something different among them, to no avail.

Stejneger's Stonechat_Chuping_091213_IMG_0340This female or first winter Stonechat (variously termed Common, Siberian or Stejneger’s!) was one of several seen.

Short-toed Snake-eagle_Chuping_091213_IMG_6573I 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.

Short-toed Snake-eagle_Chuping_091213_IMG_6582 Short-toed Snake-eagle_Chuping_091213_IMG_6619

It obligiingly hovered not far from me, and was then taken to task by a resident Black-shouldered Kite!

Short-toed Snake-eagle_Chuping_091213_IMG_7426As afternoon became evening, there was still no sign of the buzzard, but perfect lighting conditions and an abundance of other raptors made the second half of the day especially memorable.

Eastern Marsh Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7202A male Eastern Marsh Harrier just as it noticed me and veered away in alarm!

Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7283 Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7284 Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7285Mesmerizing point-blank views of a hunting female Pied Harrier! I think the bill was open because she was panting in the heat.

Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7353 Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7354 Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7362 Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7368Another fly-past. Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7446

The light was so perfect I just wanted to stop the clock!

Short-toed Snake-eagle_Chuping_091213_IMG_7386

Short-toed Snake-eagle_Chuping_091213_IMG_7407 Short-toed Snake-eagle_Chuping_091213_IMG_7411The Short-toed Snake-eagle reappeared, giving even better views this time round.

Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7464 Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7462 Pied Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7461Best of all, I had superb views of several stunning male Pied Harriers.

Pied and Eastern Marsh Harrier_Chuping_091213_IMG_7318A male Pied getting chased by a juv female Eastern Marsh – quite a size difference!Red-throated Pipit_Chuping_091213_IMG_0458 Red-throated Pipit_Chuping_091213_IMG_0457 Red-throated Pipit_Chuping_091213_IMG_0443

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!

Red-throated Pipit_Chuping_091213_IMG_0437 Red-throated Pipit_Chuping_091213_IMG_0427 Red-throated Pipit_Chuping_091213_IMG_0425 Red-throated Pipit_Chuping_091213_IMG_0403

Red-throated Pipit_Chuping_091213_IMG_0419I 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.

Grey Wagtail_Chuping_091213_IMG_7579How many can you see? I counted seven in this photo.

At first, there were just a few, but as I waited, more and more started dropping out of the sky.

Grey Wagtail_Chuping_091213_IMG_7627Grey Wagtail_ Chuping_091213_IMG_7654I was astounded to see that they were ALL Grey Wagtails! The largest flock I had seen previously was about 5!

Grey Wagtail_ Chuping_091213_IMG_7651 More and more arrived. At one point a couple of Eurasian Kestrels flew over and they all flew up. I estimated there were about 400!

Grey Wagtail_Chuping_091213_IMG_0459Eventually the birds took off and flew into the patch of sugar cane to the left of the track.

Chuping_091213_IMG_0464Another view of the roost site (on the left).

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.

4 thoughts on “Back to Chuping, Perlis, 9 December 2013

  1. In the Philippines I sometimes find flocks of several hundred Grey Wagtails gathered on recently ploughed fields on migration. I too had not heard of this behaviour before, but I see it regularly every autumn…

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