Kuala Gula is famous nationwide for its wealth of waterbirds, though in fact, in the last 10 years, the numbers using the site have declined enormously. I was more interested in discovering if the small and sporadically-present population of Rosy Starlings was once again in residence.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this bird. It looked like an adult Javan, but had no crest and a paler central belly. Juvenile Javans have bluish eyes when very young, and older immatures don’t have such yellow eyes as this bird. Very odd!
We were more interested though in the soft chacking calls of a secretive Dusky Warbler on the landward side. As is typical of this species, it proved to be a challenge to actually see, and these two pics are the best I could get.
This singing Pallas’s Grasshoppper-warbler was scarcely any easier to see! At least this picture shows the reason for its other name – Rusty-rumped Warbler. Unlike Dusky, these are extremely common in northern Peninsular Malaysia in the right habitat – paddyfields, marshes and Acrosticheum fern-dominated wetlands.
This Greater Coucal was scant consolation!
This Crested Serpent-eagle was interesting in that it was in a plumage I don’t see often. It had completed its first body moult but retained all juvenile flight and tail feathers, so was in first ‘winter’ or formative plumage – quite a smart-looking bird in flight!
Fat body, short, broad wings, no ‘neck’ and a long, full tail. White throat with practically no mesial stripe, dark-looking eye, white thighs and vent, pale outer tail feathers – oh you lovely beast! It had to be a male Shikra!
Even though the broad, bulging wings made it look like a large accipter, when it flapped between glides, it suddenly looked much smaller, owing to the fact that its flaps were extremely rapid and deep.
It quickly moved away, and I took some more distant shots for future reference. The broad wings with a pronounced secondary bulge,long, slightly wedge-shaped tail and very short head projection gave the bird a distinctive shape.
Until last autumn, this species was virtually unknown in the country, with scarcely any reliable sightings in the last 20 -30 years. However, this bird brings the total for the ‘season’ to at least 4 separate sightings. It was my first, after a ‘possible’ at Bedong last November, and one I was really happy to set eyes on!
After Kuala Gula, we made our way back toward Penang via the coast. The paddyfields at Tanjung Piandang were dust-dry, and we watched a flock of Red-rumped Swallows hawking over a fire which was burning up the grass along the coastal bund.