My Monday morning plans were thrown into disarray late on Sunday night, when a casual perusal of Facebook brought me to a picture of an “Oriental Pratincole”. It was not the photo itself which rearranged the following day’s schedule, but the identification of the bird in question – because it was actually a SMALL Pratincole! A little more research uncovered that it had been photographed at Malim Nawar on 11 January – nine days ago. Unfortunately the photographer had not realized the significance of what he had seen – and so had not posted the photo immediately.
There is only one previous record of a Small Pratincole in Malaysia, a single observer record in Johor on Christmas Day 2010, so, even though the trail was somewhat colder than I would have liked, I felt this was something I needed to follow up. After all, Small Pratincole pushes all the right buttons for me – it’s rare, it’s a wader, and it’s a smart-looking bird!
Among the hundreds of Black-winged Stilts were a couple of birds with extensive black on the head and neck. I’m convinced now that this is within the range of ‘normal variation’ and doesn’t signify anything else (like White-headed Stilts or Avocet x stilt hybrid!).
A couple more flight shots of Long-toed Stints. They have a distinctive dark leading edge to the underside of the wing which is more extensive than that shown by other stints (cf Temminck’s underwing here).
Their slow, methodical feeding style reminds me of a clockwork toy that’s slowly running out of umph!
The outer tail feathers of Temminck’s Stint (right) are white, where as all other stints have grey or brown outer tail feathers (like the Long-toed on the left). To be honest, this is not the most useful of field characters but it’s an interesting piece of trivia perhaps!
By now it was apparent that there were no pratincoles of any proportions around the pond, so I went to check out a few other places, like the duck pond, where the Garganey couple sat nervously in the fringes.
I noticed that when danger (i.e. me!) threatened, one of the Garganey went and sat by the male Northern Shoveler (which, by the way, is starting to show signs of moulting into decent plumage – wonder how long he’ll stay?).
I also visited a stretch of the Kinta River where there are extensive sandbanks. It looks perfect habitat for Small Pratincole and Long-billed Plover, just like the Mekong in northern Thailand (except that it’s not quite as wide and is festooned with plastic bags and other garbage – a peculiarly Malaysian feature of riverbanks – sigh). There were Little Ringed Plovers aplenty, but no Long-billed or pratincoles.
Giving it one last try, I went back to the original place where the pratincole had been photographed. I decide to walk along the bund around the pool, which nearly proved to be my undoing, as I was followed, and at one point, chased, by this very persistent female Water Buffalo. I had never encountered an aggressive individual before, but I shall certainly be treating this species with more respect henceforth! Before you ask, no, I didn’t take any photographs of her as she was running at full tilt toward me – sorry for being a wimp!