Last night had ended on a high, and in the euphoria I decided to check into a hotel and stay another day. I was up and at ’em early, but as I drove toward Chuping it became increasingly clear that it had rained heavily during the night. The tracks were now slippery and muddy, and I became afraid of getting stuck in some remote corner of the vast area. My decision to extend my stay was looking foolish!
En route to one of the ponds in the area, I came across a plantation vehicle up to its axles in mud, and despite my best efforts to help, the best I could do was ferry the driver back to the FELDA workshop to summon the services of a tractor. This was clearly no place for my Proton Saga, so I opted to take the tarmaced road. Arriving at the pond, I was stunned by the number of birds out on the water. In the end I counted 46 Common Moorhens, 27 Little Grebes and 6 Little Cormorants!
With the rain continuing, I decided to take a detour to Timah Tasoh in yet another attempt to find Bronze-winged Jacana. This was, as usual, doomed to failure, though some consolation was found in the form of another 7 Little Cormorants and two Cotton Pygmy-geese juveniles.
I had made a promise to myself that if it had not stopped raining by the time I left Timah Tasoh I would head straight home, but the day began to brighten up, and I decided to give Chuping one last try for the buzzard.
The photos I had seen of the buzzard were of the bird sat in a ploughed field, so I decided I would head for wherever ploughing activity was going on. I also felt that I would have seen the bird yesterday had it been flying about, so I focused hard on scanning likely fields.
Bingo! Finally, after a day and half, I had found my bird! It had been sitting virtually invisible in some stubble. Fortunately for me, it had been close enough to the track for my car to disturb it, otherwise I am sure I would have driven straight past.
A composite picture of the Penang buzzard (left) and the Chuping bird (right). Structurally, the Chuping bird has a longer head, a more prominent supra-orbital ridge and a larger, more powerful bill. Plumage-wise, they were pretty similar, but note the presence of the all important post-ocular stripe on the Chuping bird. The iris colour indicates that both were juveniles.
The bird resembled a Long-legged Buzzard in most respects, but the feathering extended well down the tarsus, which is one reason why Dr Chaiyan and Bill Harvey have identified this as a hybrid Long-legged x Upland Buzzard.
It was difficult to get sustained views of the bird in flight as it flew short distances from one perch to another. If anything, I would say it looked shorter-winged than the Penang buzzard, but heavier-bodied.
The Penang buzzard is on the left. Plumage-wise, apart from the wing coverts (both upper and under), they were extremely similar. Structurally, the heavier body and more robust head of the Chuping bird are evident from this comparison. Overall, rather tricky!
Eventually the bird decided it had enough of seeing my car and took off for a proper soar. It was accompanied by an unidentified harrier, but I can’t say much about relative size, other than it was bigger!
It just remained for me to add my 12th raptor of the two days in the form of a male Peregrine and attempt some flight shots of Red-rumped Swallows before I headed for home, thoroughly happy that I had decided to extend my stay after all!