Wow – it’s been a while! Not much birding was done over the ‘summer months’ (this was the exception), but now that the waders are starting to come through, it was only a matter of time before I visited ‘the mud’!
The tide wasn’t a very high one (it never is in the morning) so the birds were generally distant, with a few exceptions.
Lesser Sand Plovers are among the most confiding of waders, especially juveniles (like this one).
An adult Greater Sand Plover for comparison. As a rule, if you think it’s a Greater, it probably isn’t. When you see a Greater, there’s usually no doubt about it! The reverse seldom seems to be true (i.e. people often confuse Lessers for Greaters, but rarely the other way around).
Another view of this not very difficult individual.
A couple of fly-by Lessers. The last one is known in bird photographers’ circles as a BIFFIM. Bird In Flight, Food In Mouth! Both of these are adults, as can easily be told (at this time of year) by the active wing moult.
Juveniles, by contrast, have a neat trailing edge to the wing of feathers of equal age.
A smart juvenile Common Redshank.
An adult Curlew Sandpiper still showing traces of breeding plumage.
And a pristine juvenile.
Examining my photos later, I came across this unusual Curlew Sandpiper. According to all the field guides, Curlew Sandpiper should have a white rump. But I have noticed previously that in breeding plumage, they often have some black-spotted feathers on the central rump area. On this bird the effect is extreme, caused by a combination of worn breeding upper rump feathers (dark spotted), and some missing upper tail coverts revealing the dark, new central tail feathers, which are just growing out.
A more typical Curlew Sandpiper rump pattern is shown on the left here. A dark central rump would normally suggest another calidrid species (there are many with this pattern) such as a Red-necked Stint or Broad-billed Sandpiper (centre). The right hand frame is the same pic as above flipped for easier comparison. The dark central rump line is, in fact, much thinner than it would be on any genuinely dark-rumped calidrid.
A juvenile Great Knot flying in.
It had already replaced some scapulars for non-breeding feathers.
This adult was already largely in non-breeding plumage.
And an adult in very worn breeding plumage.
Early on there were ten adult Asian Dowitchers keeping company with a flock of 30 Black-tailed Godwits.
Later, these were replaced by four juveniles, with their characteristically warmer plumage tones accentuated by the morning sun. When a large flock got up north of the river mouth, I counted 34 birds, the largest flock I have ever seen in Penang. These are most likely birds migrating through to winter further south of us.
Part of a mixed flock. The lighting conditions were good enough to show off the characteristic differences in underwing pattern of the two godwit species and the dowitchers. I make it 4 dowitchers, 3 Black-tailed and 1 Bar-tailed, with a Great Knot and a Pacific Golden Plover making up the numbers.
Terek Sandpipers are difficult to age when on the deck, but much easier in flight. The neat trailing edge of the wing reveals that this is a juvenile.
I spent a long time scouring the usual paddyfield areas for waders, but they were in short supply. I did catch this smart Common Moorhen escaping from a rotavator turning the old padi into the mud.
Wherever there is a tractor at work, Brahminy Kites and egrets have learned to pay close attention, in the hope of snatching a rat, frog or fish from the disturbed area.
Spotted something – going in!
Was the kite after an egret? They didn’t seem too sure!
End of panic, as the sharp-eyed kite snatched a fish from the mud which the egrets had missed.
That’s lunch sorted!
I did eventually locate some waders – over 200 Wood Sandpipers, a few Pacific Golden Plovers, a Curlew Sandpiper, and about 20 of these little beauties – Long-toed Stints. Nothing more exciting among them, but it’s still early in the season!