Monday 31 October 2016

Langkawi Bird Watching: Birds With Long Red Skinny Legs and My Lifer

This was about two weeks ago and it was a rainy week like this week. Bek, Rishad and Mark had me for four days to do casual birdwatching and some sight-seeing. Due to the rainy weather, we drove around Langkawi a lot and observed our feathered friends being soaked in the rain while we watched them...sigh...what a life..

The rain is indeed good for the rice paddy fields as the water is much needed in most areas for ploughing and replanting. As well as the wet paddy fields bring in the birds activities. I do think that Mother Nature has her ways in setting the season that favours the waders or water birds as they arrive here during their migration period. As these waders were on their migration route from the Northern hemisphere to the South, they would be able to find abundance of food in the wet fields.

As we were driving on a narrow stretch of road through a patch of rice paddy field, I was telling Mark to keep a lookout for Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus. Black-winged Stilt was spotted in the month of October and November last year. And I missed it! And this year, I was wishing to see a Black-winged Stilt.

My gut feeling somehow told me to make a stop in the middle of the road. The rain has stopped and I told everyone to come down from the car to take some landscape photos. Mark and I were scanning around when he suddenly said calmly, "There is the Black-winged Stilt". That got me really excited. Without even looking at it with my binoculars, I dashed to the car and grabbed my camera...and the excitement got me carried apologies, my bad :P 

Taa..daa...The photos of Black-winged Stilt at a far distance, not only one but two:
One of the Black-winged Stilt feeding. This individual was far away.

The other one was flying back and forth. This one here displaying the pair of black wings.
On flight and with loud "keek" and "kee'it"
I love their long, skinny red legs :)
Another lifer for me in Langkawi before 2016 ends! Thanks, Mark!

Black-winged Stilts breed from Central Asia to South and continental South-East Asia. The northern breeders migrate to South, probably like these two here. They feed in open inland marshes, rice fields, coastal and estuarine mudflats. Their diet mainly consist of aquatic insects but also take on molluscs and crustaceans. Like many shore birds, they don't swim for food. They feed by pecking for food items while wading on shallow water. 

The scientific name Himantopus, from specific name Charadrius himantopus Linnaenus, 1758, Black-winged Stilt. himantopus in Latin refers to wading bird now generally identified with the Black-winged Stilt. 

I am unsure if there is any record of this sighting before year 2015 for Langkawi. Whether there is or not, it is great that they are back for this year. In 2015, that individual which was spotted didn't stay long. It was not seen since mid-November 2015 until now.

Not too far from the Black-winged Stilts, I spotted another migrant wader has returned. The Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus seems to be back here regularly now. There were two together.
Grey-headed Lapwing...Welcome back!
A snipe, another migrant was spotted next to the Grey-headed Lapwing.

And the rest of the photos of birds on the rice paddy field are here: 
Four individuals of Common Redshank Tringa totanus seen feeding together! Another species of wader with skinny red legs but shorter than the Black-winged Stilt.
Record shot of an uncommon migrant raptor, Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus which was far away.  
Our common resident wader, a Red-Wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus

Overall for that day, Awesome!

1. Jobling, J.A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names: From Aalge to Zusli. A & C Black p. 192
2. Bhushan, B., Sonobe, K. and Usui, S. (1993). A Field guide to the waterbirds of Asia. Tokyo: Kodansha International. p. 116, 124, 138
3., [Accessed 31 October 2016]

Contact Wendy for guiding services on birds of Langkawi.