Back to Kuala Gula, 31 January 2014

Last trip I felt that I hadn’t given Kuala Gula the time and attention is deserved, so when Tim suggested a day out yesterday, I was quick to come up with the idea of Kuala Gula again.Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0774

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.

Jungle Myna_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0471More myna checking! A Jungle Myna in flight.

Javan Myna_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0430I 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!

Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0451The bund is a great place to observe woodpeckers, and particularly, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker.

Dusky Warbler_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0604We 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.

Dusky Warbler_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0582Dusky Warbler is a scarce winter visitor to coastal mangroves in Peninsular Malaysia. I have heard about 10 or so birds over the years, but I think this was only the third time I’ve seen one!

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0472This 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.

Ruddy-breasted Crake_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0527A wait-and-see at a promising-looking opening to a drainage ditch eventually produced this shy Ruddy-breasted Crake.

Ruddy-breasted Crake_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0511 Ruddy-breasted Crake_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0507Despite the burning red eye, it blended right in with the dark background. It was one of six rallids we saw in the day – not a bad haul!

A brief Chestnut-winged Cuckoo eluded our attempts to photograph it – how does one see those birds perched?!Greater Coucal_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0643

This Greater Coucal was scant consolation!

Lesser Adjutant_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0780Birds in the sky were a little more obliging. Kuala Gula is famous for its Lesser Adjutants, and several duly obliged.

Crested Serpent-eagle_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0767This 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!

IMG_0759Less impressive when perched.

Shikra_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0686Looking up, I spotted an accipiter which I assumed, on bare eye views, would be a Crested Goshawk. However, as soon as I got my bins on it, it was obvious that it was something FAR better!

Shikra_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0658Fat 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!

Shikra_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0693When we got a glimpse of the side of the head, the silvery grey cheeks and dark eye were apparent.

Shikra_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0673 Shikra_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0701It had obviously eaten recently.

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.Shikra_Kuala Gula_310114_IMG_0734

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!

Red-rumped Swallow_Tanjung Piandang_310114_IMG_0835 Red-rumped Swallow_Tanjung Piandang_310114_IMG_0803After 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.

Common Sandpiper_Pulau Burung_310114_IMG_0877We called in at Pulau Burung, where there were many Lesser Whistling-ducks, including some with young ducklings. This Common Sandpiper posed at the roadside.

Wood Sandpiper_Pulau Burung_310114_IMG_0861As did a Wood Sandpiper.

Wood Sandpiper_Pulau Burung_310114_IMG_0864It even let me take a passport photo (complete with blue background!).

Swintail Snipe_Juru_310114_IMG_0919 Swintail Snipe_Juru_310114_IMG_0910 Swintail Snipe_Juru_310114_IMG_0907Our last stop of the day was Juru, where we flushed several “Swintail” Snipes from the lapwing field in the early evening.

cat_Juru_310114_IMG_1004My last pic of the day was of a black cat on the prowl. A nice end to a good day!

 

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6 thoughts on “Back to Kuala Gula, 31 January 2014

  1. The Shrika is certainly one handsome raptor. Well done, Dave. You have to beg and bribe to get a CW Cuckoo perch long enough for you to shoot!

    Mun

  2. You’re right about the Shikra – probably overlooked in Malaysia. I have read from a source somewhere that it may be more common in the east coast, but I really can’t recall the source.

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