Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Terns on the Move.


On Saturday I was carrying out a routine Turtle Patrol and noticed that Terns had started to build in numbers on the island whilst I had been away in Australia. I decided that the following Day (Sunday) I would take my camera out with me in the hope of getting some new and improved photos.  Above shows you a really smart looking juvenile Black Naped Tern. There is currently around 90 Black Naped Terns on the island which have gathered on the rocks at the north eastern side of the island but I could only find 7 juvs in amongst the mass of adults. Below shows you an adult Great Crested Tern of which there was 5 present today. Great Crested Terns are rare actually on the island as I have only ever had 1 previous record and that was of a single bird back in early August. All other sightings of Great Crested terns have come from the surrounding waters or the roost at Mersing.



The Black Naped Terns are becoming quite vocal as they build in numbers, I decided to include a few of the shots I took on Sunday here in this post. I must admit it was quite difficult taking these photos from a kayak as the waves were not only bobbing me up and down but also pushing me in to the rocks where the Terns were roosting. Below are few of the better shots I managed to get. Also present on Sunday was 7 Common Sandpipers and 2 Lesser Sandplovers which were all present on Turtle Beach.






Friday, 21 September 2012

Mersing Estuary 19/09/2012 (2 New Site Species of Wader)


It goes like this 05:00hrs the day began with a 1 hour drive Brisbane to the Gold Coast airport + check in time, 8 hour flight Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur, 1 hour taxi from KL airport to TBS (bus station) wait around time of 5 hours. 6 hour night bus journey KL to Mersing arriving in Mersing at 04:30hrs = a total travel time of 25.5 hours door to door including 2 hour time difference. In bed at 05:00hrs, alarm goes of at 07:30hrs, in shower by 08:00hrs, breakfast by 08:30 (Roti Chennai + Teh Tarik) and then start walking out on to the mudflats of the estuary by 09:10 hrs to start wadering

Above shows a juvenile Grey Tailed Tattler of which there were 2 juveniles and 1 adult present today. The best bird of the day has to be the juvenile Pacific Golden Plover below. This stood out like a block of gold glistening with the sun on it. This photo really does not do the bird justice but it was truly mouth-watering just take a long look at it. I don't recall seeing such a pristine / fresh looking PGP before.




Lesser Sandplovers are the most abundant wader present and seemed to have stabilised in numbers at around the 800 mark, including at least 20 juveniles still looking smart. 


The Broad Billed Sandpiper above and below was a right nice surprise for me as I couldn't believe my luck when I first located it in amongst the masses within the high tide roost. This is the first broad Billed  Sandpiper I have had at Mersing and so is a nice addition to the site list. 


Terek Sandpipers have a huge increase with up to 700 birds present including the flag ringed individual A6 which was trapped and ringed at Mai Po marshes Hong Kong remains faithful to the site but sadly also remains the only colour / flag ringed wader present on site, or should I say that I could actually locate.

Todays totals below:

Lesser Sandplover 800+ including at least 20 juveniles.
Greater Sandplover 27 including 3 juvs
Terek Sandpiper 700+
Malaysian Plover 1 adult

Grey Tailed Tattler 3, 1 adult 2 juvs
Broad Billed Sandpiper 1 (New personal site species)
Red Necked Stint 3, 1 ad, 2 juvs
Little Stint 1 juv (New personal site species)
Pacific Golden Plover 30+ adults, 1 juv
Grey Plover 1 adult
Redshank 7
Greenshank 2, 1 ad, 1 juv
Turnstone 3 adults
Whimbrel 9 flew over
Common Sandpiper 7
Bar tailed Godwit 4 ads.

Great Crested Tern 90+ all adults.


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Swinhoes Storm Petrels - 19/09/2011


The Swinhoes Storm Petrel season is upon us and after reading an email about a pelagic last weekend in Singaporean waters that resulted in a total of 470 birds being seen I was left feeling rather deflated but what unfolded next is something that I guess was just meant to happen.

After an excellent day out in the estuary and covering the high tide wader roost at Mersing I decided to return back home to the island just prior to dusk. The journey was as uneventful as ever up until 18:43 when I was totally stunned to watching a Swinhoes Storm Petrel flying passed just in front of the boat. My bins were packed away in my bag due to the usual spray when using the small boats and so a frantic rummage  through the bag finally found them although by this time the bird was long gone, however I couldn't believe my double luck when a second bird flew passed at 18:51 and this time watched well through the bins.

Both birds were flying strongly south and were not deviating. I am totally stunned to have seen these 2 birds on the west side of the islands as all other interesting seabird sightings (including Swinhoes and Bulwers Petrels) I have had in these waters has always been to the west of the islands to Tioman Island and beyond. Not a bad way to end a week in Australia and returning home to Malaysia. I am now stuck at work until early next week when I will try to get out in the surrounding waters.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Caloundra - 17/09/2012.


With an afternoon to spare it was decided to take a slow drive up to Caloundra for a stroll, some fresh air and to see if there were any early returned Wandering Tattlers present. The weather was a mixed bag with a dark sky above, a strong on shore wind and a couple of small showers. It was strange to actually feel cold for the first time since Russia last June. It is spring here in Australia and even though most days provided a classic Brisbane blue sky above and and warm sun the evenings were cold and even the heating was on and a duvet on the bed (I'm not kidding). 

A nice long walk along the headland at Caloundra helped clear the head but no Wandering Tattlers could be found. Not a complete let down bird wise though as it was nice to see 4 Sooty Oystercatchers present including the individual below. I don't get to see to many of these so I decided to just sit on the edge of one of the rock pools and enjoy watching them feeding and dodging the incoming waves.


There were plenty of Great Crested Terns present fishing offshore with at least 40 birds roosting on the headland including the individual below. After this it was time for a pot of tea in one of the many coffee bars along the seafront taking in the view of the bay before returning back to Brisbane.


The one thing I thing I really love about being out in the field is the space and freedom it provides me, you know, that ability to loose oneself in amongst the waders, that at peace feeling where the every day hassles seem to disappear but also the space to think and reflect on things. I realise how lucky I have been during the previous 19 months, where I have travelled, what I have seen and the people I met have along the way. I sat there watching the Sooty Oystercatchers where it all kind of makes sense to me, where what is important and I feel I am kind of at peace with things right now. - (("Blue Adidas hooded sweatshirt, "Hmmm" I wondered where that was))


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Mersing Airfield & Mersing Stadium.


On route and making my way slowly to Australia I had an afternoon in Mersing to spare. The tide times were not good and so I decided to venture a little further out and have an explore. I don't get the time to do this kind of thing so often what with work schedules and when I do have the time I concentrate on the estuary and roost areas permitting good connecting tide times etc. I have been doing a bit of google-earthing of late with Fang and found this old disused area which was once Mersing airfield. Even though it is currently disused and has been for a long time it still has an active helicopter pad. Fang and I had a wander and I must say I really fancy something on this nice flat open grassy area, on the coast,  right next to the sea it surely has the potential. Something like an Oriental Plover and Little Whimbrel are the species that springs to mind. Will have to try and keep my eye on this. 




After leaving the airfield we made our way to the Mersing Stadium, I have been keeping my eye on this site since I first arrived here and again I have often thought of nice vagrant wader being on here, all I have ever seen has been Common Mynas and Spotted Doves up until last Friday that is. I was walking by on my way to the jetty for a connecting boat back to the island, I had no bins, no scope, no camera and so what do you ? there on the pitch were 7 PGP's great but gutted no camera to click and save the memory moment.  Today was quiet with just 2 White bellied Sea-Eagles over head. 

This stadium is very small and it brought back memories of Plough Lane when I used to go and watch Wimbledon FC many many moons ago. I sat there with Fang telling him this and how I was fortunate enough to watch the true "crazy gang" back in the day. Such a shame what happened to that club. I mean, really - Milton Keynes Dons- who are they ?? (insert loud tut and rolling eyes here)


Monday, 10 September 2012

Mersing Estuary - Development - CANCELLED !


Would you Adam & Eve it ? I am in a kind of smiling shock state at present. It all started with a telephone call on Sunday morning but I have been on medical leave for the previous days as I have suffered concussion and so I wasn't sure if I had actually dreamt it upon re-awakeing up. Then I searched the net and it was confirmed. The Mersing development / Laguna is cancelled. I heavily suspect that this will re-raise its ugly head in time again but some respite for the moment at least. Check the 2 links below.

http://www.nst.com.my/latest/mersing-laguna-project-cancelled-1.140436#

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/9/9/nation/11996436&sec=nation

Saturday, 8 September 2012

"September Wadering" = The Cabo.


Being based here in Malaysia at present has given me the opportunity to spend a lot of time studying the estuary of Mersing and especially trying to get to grips with both Greater and Lesser Sandplovers. I must admit I have really enjoyed every moment and observation of the juveniles of both Greater and Lesser Sandplover and have been able to obtain plenty of photos of both, however there is a "But" and that but is the lack of  those fresh juvenile American vagrant waders. After reading the recent RBA weekly round up and seeing photos of a stunning Bairds Sand in Wales and Holland see Vincent Van Der Speks excellent blog: http://babbler.blog.com/ Then the big news of the Short Billed Dowitcher in Dorset made me think back on the British and European scene during the autumn months. From Shetland through to Scilly there will be a steady flow of interesting and exciting waders throughout. I have been fortunate enough to visit the Azores for the previous 7 years and as I often quote "Cabo da Praia quarry, Terciera island, Azores is one of, if not my favourite wadering destinations". The list of waders at this location is truly impressive and the potential of new and exciting species continues. See RB's recent post on his blog: http://rothandb.blogspot.com/ of a Terek Sandpiper find just recently which added a new species of wader to the ever growing list. So you can choose to travel Shetland to Scilly and Ireland to see various species of American wader or you can just head to the Cabo quarry and soak a load up in one hit. Here are a few photos of some of the species I have been lucky to encounter during my visits. 

Above shows you a Lesser Yellow Legs of which are annual at the quarry and below shows a Semi Palmated Plover. Numbers of Semi P Plovers fluctuate from year to year but I don't think I have ever gone there and not seen one. Below shows the "old boy Semi P Plover in the quarry. I first saw this individual during October 2005.






I really like Pectoral Sands as there is always a lot to look at on them, above shows you a heavily worn adult with a nice fresh juvenile below.



Above shows another nice juvenile Pec with an adult White Rumped Sandpiper in the background. 


Above shows an adult White Rumped Sandpiper with a nice juvenile below.




Above shows a juvenile Bairds Sandpiper, this individual is the only Bairds I have seen on the Azores. It was on the hit list for quite some time before it finally gave up the ghost. Bairds & Buff Breasted Sand both fell the same year leaving Greater Yellow legs, Solitary and Stilt Sandpipers remaining to fall. Greater Yellow Legs finally fell the following winter still leaving Solitary and Stilt Sandpipers to fall (have to leave something for another day I guess). 


Above shows a juvenile Semi Palmated Sandpiper. Pre Azores I had not seen that many Semi P Sands, 1 on a gravel pit near chichester, Sussex & 1 on Porth Hellick beach, St.Mary's, Scillies and I think that is it ? but the Cabo has really sent a lot of these in my direction. Below shows a cracking "fresh in" juvenile Western Sandpiper. Admittedly not originally found at the Cabo but at the Praia da Vitoria marina just up the road. This bird soon found its way in to the quarry where it remained for much of the autumn.


I have included this photo below just to give you some idea of how close you can actually get to some of waders out on the Azores. This photo, for me really does say it all. The other beauty of the quarry is that if you put your time in you really can get some great photographic opportunities.




Then there is the Dowitchers, above shows you a nice juvenile Long Billed Dowitcher in September 2010 with below showing a classic juvenile Short Billed Dowitcher. It took a while for me to actually get to grips with Short billed Dowie out on the Azores as the regularity of them seemed to dry up for a while but luckily it finally fell for me September last year.


Other waders I have seen here include Spotted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Hudsonian Whimbrel, American and a Pacific Golden Plover (a truly monster vagrant find). So what could the future have in store in terms of species here at the Cabo ? well I personally have a small "wish list" which includes both Stilt and Solitary Sandpipers, Surely a Willet will stick around long enough to fall but isn't it about time for a Tattler ? and going in big a Marbled Godwit, although not a such a long distant migrant I guess it still remains out there as a possible-possible. Thats the yanks but what with an old record of a Sharp tailed Sandpiper, the PGP and now a Terek what will be the next beast from the east ? an adult Red necked Stint would be nice but how about a nice fresh Juvenile ?  


And so above shows you an adult Husonian Godwit in the quarry on that faithful date of the 25th July 2007 showing that the Cabo can strike at any time. It is only matter of time before another Hudwit falls again out here but how about a nice fresh juvenile in with the Blackwits the next time ? All of the above and a whole lot more in this one small area of an inter-tidal quarry below. 

Where is your next wadering destination going to be ? Mine will be Mersing when I pass through on route to KL as I have to make my way to Australia for a visit in a few days, of which is a necessary visit and I doubt I will get any birding in.   So sadly for me I can't see me making it to the quarry this year but it is only matter of time before I will be walking along that gravel entrance track wondering what could be lurking on those edges and pools in the photo below.......


Friday, 7 September 2012

Mersing Estuary 04/09/2012.


Another visit to the Estuary today but unfortunately the tide cut-away early and the waders seemed quite unsettled a lot of the time with the Terek Sandpipers departing  well before the turn of the incoming tide. The Sandplovers stood strong and so I again decided to concentrate on getting some photos of the juvenile Lesser's. I stuck with it from 09:30 until 14:00hrs but then decided to get the early boat back to the island.


Todays totals:

Lesser Sandplover c600 including 18 juveniles
Greater Sandplover 27 ad, 3 juvs

Malaysian Plover 3, 1 ad, 1 juv
Barwit 21- increase in numbers
Great Knot 1
Terek Sandpiper 130+
Turnstone 3 adults
Redshank 4 adults
PGP 11 adults
Common Sandpiper 3

Great Crested Tern 156 increase 
Common Tern 7

A pretty quiet day in comparison to recent visits, still nice to see that the Barwits are continuing to increase in numbers. Be interesting to see what they peak at and how soon they will move through the area, a flag ringed bird would be nice.


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A Soirée with Sandplovers - Mersing Estuary 03/09/2012.


I managed to get some time off work and so of course I headed to one place- Mersing. I walked out along the beach this morning and by 09:30 it was real hot and the sun was burning my skin again. I made my way to my usual spot on the northern beach and took up position. I first scanned the shoreline watching the waders being pushed up  real fast and then went through the high tide roosting flock. A construction worker from the development site was walking along the shorelineand flushed the flock which I watched fly and pitch down on the southern beach. Even though the river mouth is small it is far to deep to wade across and to walk to the Southern beach you have to walk through the town and this takes around 40 minutes site to site. So I decided to sit it out as it was only a matter time before they would get flushed from some other person walking the beach that side. 30 minutes later they returned and it was then I was able to start counting and taking a few photos. As always after scanning I decided to concentrate on the Sandplovers but the Greaters have really dropped in numbers and  so it appears they have already moved on, however these juvenile Lesser Sand's are really cracking and so I just stayed with these for as long as possible as I have to make the most of the time here with these as I may never have Sandplover roost so close to me again. 



The adult Lesser Sandplover above has some kind of deformity to its upper mandible giving it an almost hooked like appearance to the tip. I don't recall seeing that much deformity in waders, the odd leg or half leg missing or the even the odd foot but I have never seen a deformed bill before.




Whilst going through the high tide roost flock which was tightly bunched I had 5 Redshank and whilst checking them I thought to myself " A Grey tailed tattler would be nice and surely one is over due now" 20 minutes later the individual above appeared as if by magic in the roost but I had to wait until the run off of the tide to get close enough for any photographic opportunities.


Malaysian Plovers are always nice to see and the individual above was one of 5, 2 adults and 3 juvs of which 2 were very fresh indeed, so as suspected there has been a second pair nearby. I was looking for last visit's flag ringed Terek sandpiper A6 and so was more than happy when I picked it up in the high tide roost. It was always tightly bunched and I couldn't get close enough to photograph. 

Todays totals:

Lesser Sandplover c800 with at least 28 juvs counted today

Greater Sandplover 44 including only 3 juvs. A big decrease in numbers and so I suspect that this species has hit it's peak passage period here in Mersing and has now already passed through and moved on ? 

Terek Sandpiper c450 - with a noted increase in juveniles with at least 40+ counted today. Also the flag ringed bird A6 still present today.

Grey Tailed Tattler 1 adult
Great Knot 1 
Pacific Golden Plover 26 all adults
Grey Plover 1 adult
Turnstone 6, 5 ads, 1 juv
Barwit 17 - 15 juvs, 2 adults
Whimbrel 2 Juvs
Redshank 5 adults, 1 juv  - more on the Redshanks at a later post.
Red Necked Stint 1 adult
Malaysian Plover 5, 2 ads, 3 juvs
Common Sandpiper 7

Great Crested Tern 151 increase in numbers
Lesser Crested Tern 1
Gull Billed Tern 1 first of the autumn
Common Tern 9

Lets see what tomorrow brings....


Monday, 3 September 2012

Mersing Estuary / Laguna Development August 2012.


Photo above shows you more excavation machinery here at Mersing Estuary today 03/08/2012. I spent today out on the estuary watching the high tide run up, roost and run off of the tide. I decided not to walk down in to this area of the bay for several reasons but one is because it totally saddens me that this area of inter-tidal habitat that is proving to be an important area within the EAAF is to be lost. I will update more in time. Thank you for reading.


So here it is just like so many other areas of inter-tidal habitats around the world Mersing can now join the official reclaim & develop it club. 


The images here within this post are what I took last week when out on the mudflats of this small but productive estuary. I have only been watching Mersing estuary a short while but already the signs are starting to show that this estuary is totally under-watched and that there are more waders than originally believed to be are using the location. I am now of the opinion that maybe more waders are coming in to  Mersing estuary due to being pushed out from other estuaries that have or are currently being reclaimed and developed else where within the EAAF network. It is definitely a good area for Sandplovers and I have also found a pair of nesting Malaysian Plovers here with a suspected 2nd nesting pair within the area. Currently I have only had 2 flag-colour ringed waders. A Barwit ringed in China and a Lesser Sandplover ringed in Singapore. It has a good number of Great Crested Terns passing through the area, presumed to be highest roosting number of birds in peninsular Malaysia. It is also believed to be the best locality for Grey Tailed Tattlers within peninsular Malaysia. Other interesting records I have had is Chinese Egret, Great Knot and Red Knot. There are also a couple of sporadic historical records for the site and this includes an Oriental Plover, Asian Dowitcher, Marsh Sandpiper and Broad Billed Sandpipers. I believe there is much more to this estuary and with constant effort surveys even more would be discovered and so is this the end for Mersing Estuary ?and also I guess it should be ackowledged that the surrounding off-shore Islands could also be affected by a development on such a scale as this one. The offshore islands have good open areas of Sea-grass beds of which Turtles and Dugongs use as feeding areas. I was advised only recently that 2 Dugongs were found dead earlier on during this year on one of the islands. For more on this 22 Billion MR development click on the following link and please read page ES7 "Shorebirds"



And now for the official Mersing Laguna You-tube video clip below. Don't get me wrong, I know that developments like this are needed to sustain good economic growth, also this will create many more employment opportunities throughout from the ground up, construction through to the hospitality service when complete BUT and it is a really big BUT will this project really be completed as per the designs and time scales ? I really don't think so or will it run over budget, over time scales and either grind to a halt and remain un-completed for ever and a day or will it be trimmed down and left in a state of limbo ? Mersing is a nice little town, which was once nothing more than a sleepy fishing port. There is no doubt it will be good for the local people and economy, I see this, I get this and some what agree with it but surely some areas need to be set aside and either protected or new areas created to compensate the environmental impact this development will have. I think I will finish typing now and just leave you to remaining photos etc.