Boat survey of the Teluk Air Tawar-Kuala Muda IBA, Penang, 21 Feb 2014

Having got the snipes out of the way, I have a bit of catching up to do. First up is this boat survey carried out last month as part of the Cemex/MNS/BirdLife Biodiversity Action Plan project.

Boat surveys don’t always offer very good photo opps, as the birds tend to be rather distant, and the focus is on counting.

small wader and gull roost_WP178_210214_IMG_4545If you are a wader buff though, this is a good opportunity to hone your identification skills of birds at a distance.

Great Knot_WP166_210214_IMG_4393Great Knots tend to form dense flocks. Common Redshanks do too, but a glimpse of a black breast on several birds is sufficient to confirm that these were mostly Great Knots.

Red Knot_WP179_210214_IMG_4725Spotting Red Knots is easier at this time of year, as they are begining to develop their rich chestnut underpart plumage.

Asian Dowitcher_WP166_210214_IMG_4403A flock of Asian Dowitchers – they look quite a lot smaller than Bar-tailed Godwits (the sleeping bird in the centre).Black-tailed Godwit_WP172_210214_IMG_4456

Black-tailed Godwits are distinctively long-legged.

Black-tailed Godwit_WP171_210214_IMG_4438Of course, they are unmistakable in flight!Eurasian Curlew_WP173_210214_IMG_4496

Eurasian Curlews are ghostly pale compared to Far Eastern and Whimbrel.

Far Eastern Curlew_WP171_210214_IMG_4445Far Eastern Curlews are scarce. This single bird was foraging along the bank of a river estuary.Nordmann's Greenshank_WP178_210214_IMG_4651

Rivermouths are deeper and have more steeply shelving banks than the shorelines between estuaries, enabling the boat to approach a little more closely. This first winter Nordmann’s Greenshank watched our approach suspiciously…

Nordmann's Greenshank_WP178_210214_IMG_4652…before deciding we were getting a little too close. It gave us a glimpse of its pure white underwings as it flew off.WP178_IMG_4598 WP178_IMG_4592 small wader roost_WP178_210214_IMG_4595

Rivermouths also tend to be roosting or pre-roosting areas, as the tide rises.small wader roost_WP178_210214_IMG_4716

This is where the camera comes into its own, both for counting and identification of individual species.small wader roost_WP178_210214_IMG_4504

For example, with this roosting flock, I took photos regularly as I scanned slowly through the flock.

small wader roost_WP178_210214_IMG_4569Then, later that evening, I pored over each frame carefully, looking for anything unusual.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper_WP178_210214_IMG_4552For example, you might be able to spot something interesting here!Spoon-billed Sandpiper_TAT-KM IBA_21.2.14_IMG_4552

I shot two frames of this part of the flock. On the first, the preening bird’s bill was concealed; on the second, it was perfectly outlined against the white flank, revealing the unmistakable profile of a Spoon-billed SandpiperEastern Marsh Harrier_WP178_210214_IMG_4665. What are the chances of that??!

While watching the wader roost at high tide, we were surprised to see this subadult female Eastern Marsh Harrier approach low over the mangroves. She obviously knew what she would find there!

Eastern Marsh Harrier_WP178_210214_IMG_4687She gave us a wary eye, but did not seem unduly perturbed by our presence – one advantage of being in a boat!

After tallying up the counts, we had seen 12,550 waders of 22 species, 150 egrets and herons, and 746 gulls and terns.

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2 thoughts on “Boat survey of the Teluk Air Tawar-Kuala Muda IBA, Penang, 21 Feb 2014

  1. Pingback: Wadering in mainland Penang, 13 March 2014 | Dig deep

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