Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Wonderful and Exasperating Waders at the MNS Wader Identification Workshop

The Bird Conservation Council (BCC) of the Malaysian Nature Society's Conservation Division has been conducting a series of workshops to help interested amateur birdwatchers who are fully paid-up MNS members learn how to identify waders. 

I have never considered myself anything other than a casual  birder, and Aravind is still very much a novice when it comes to birding, but when I heard from Mark during our last committee meeting that they had spotted the very rare and critically endangered Spoonbill Sandpiper at the Kapar Power Station Ash Pond during their last workshop, I requested to join the final workshop for the year. And so that was how I managed to cajole Aravind into joining me for the intensive 2-day wader identification workshop conducted by the MNS Bird Group volunteers, designed to recruit more volunteers to help out with the Asian Waterbird Census. 

On the first day, 31st Jan,we went birding along the mangrove beach in Jeram and I took this blurry photograph of a Painted Stork with his egret friends through Seng's digiscope. 

Egret with his plover friends. Another blurry shot.

Bling for my Chucks. 
I put the shells back later because we must take nothing but photographs. I hadn't realised that we were going to be on a shell beach. In any event, it was easier to walk on than mud. 

Egret with his curlew friends. Again, bad photo quality, can't do a better ID. 

Birding under the trees, which provided scant relief from the heat. 

Grey Heron (I think) perched on a marker out in the sea. 

I lost the others the following morning and so ended up going on a birding jaunt on my own with Aravind. He was so upset and angry that you would have thought he was dying to get a Waders' Workshop certificate or something, rather than a disinterested companion. He cheered up significantly only after we stopped by an old-timey Chinese coffeeshop in Jeram for a leisurely Sunday breakfast. I told him that we shouldn't have difficulty spotting at least some birds in this biologically diverse area. I was right. We stopped by a beach and immediately spotted lots of Little Ringed Plovers. 

I think these are Common Sandpipers. 

Egrets fraternising with the other waders.

Tubeworm (known locally as pumpun) hiding among the barnacles. 

Beach creepers in bloom. 

Quiz and assessment session, as well as the launch of World Wetlands Day. 

Our trainer Mr. Ang is an excellent trainer, and made an otherwise difficult, challenging and dry subject very fascinating indeed. I didn't think it was possible for me to cram all the information I had acquired over the last two days into my thick skull, but my team did manage to get a perfect score in the quiz. Still, I appreciate that it is easier to identify a bird from a high-resolution, stationary, heavily magnified image on a screen. Birds in real life are exasperating little things if you are trying to photograph, sketch or identify them. They're always moving and flying off and poking around in mud and hiding their feet and wings and other distinctive features that could otherwise help us identify them. 

We had a certificate presentation ceremony and tea session at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park seminar hall, and were given t-shirts for the launch of World Wetlands Day. We (i.e. the Malaysian Nature Society) are hoping to have the Kuala Selangor wetlands gazetted as a RAMSAR site, but acknowledge that more must be done to improve the facilities, cleanliness and services at our Society-run Nature Park. Perhaps with our newly acquired knowledge (which I doubt I have retained), we the volunteers can help provide valuable input on promoting birdwatching-related ecotourism and conducting nature tours in mangrove and coastal forests. We will keep trying to improve, and wade on!

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