Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sanderling in Jaeren and Kuala Baram

The inaugural trip to Jaeren last Sunday yielded Dunlin which has always been on my list even before I came to Norway. I vaguely recalled seeing it on one of the print adverts for one of the local banks in Malaysia. "Wow! Dunlin, we have them here!"

I'm not aware of any records of Dunlin on that side of the flyway but they are sure plenty here along the East Atlantic Flyway ... plenty enough to be categorised as "common". Since we don't have Dunlin in Miri, let's get back to Sanderling.

Sanderling (Calidris alba) have been recorded in Kuala Baram, Lutong Beach as well as other parts of Miri coasts ever since MNS Miri conducted our wader surveys (the annual Asian Waterbird Census and the recently concluded Sarawak Waterbirds Census). Though the numbers are not many, at least between 10-20 individuals have been sighted every season. It feeds with distinctive dashing running around action ahead of breaking waves, and likely the cleanest looking wader on the beach.

In Miri they are sometimes seen foraging alongside the more common sandplovers on the sandbanks well away from the breakers. It's about the size of a Dunlin but locally it's more probably easily confused with stints. Lack of a hind toe (you'd have to be a very keen observer to notice this) as well as it's whiter than white plummage normally gives it away.

We have not been very successful in making images of these Sanderlings in Miri due to their active feeding nature. I myself only managed some decent shots from outings at Lutong Beach one year while shooting from a car on the beach during those early bubok season, very early morning while they were still mabuk on krill.

Survey crew from the Sarawak Waterbirds Survey last year scouring the beaches near Bakam looking for waterbirds.

A group of mix flock waders were spotted on Bakam Beach, among them 5-10 Sanderling foraging together with sandplovers.

Kuala Baram Sanderling tend to at times move further inland into the sandbanks well away from the breakers, here they are sometimes seen with stints.

The Sanderling sighted on Lutong Beach.

Sanderling from the East Atlantic Flyway photographed at Revtangen, Jaeren, Norway at the start of the autmn migration.

Feeding amongst these waders are also keen predators. In Jaeren Peregrine Falcon swoops down like a fighter jet onto unsuspecting waders. Similar to the situation in Miri. Peregrine Falcon have been spotted on Pulau Bawai, Kuala Baram Lagoon, Lutong Beach as well as Peliau Cliffs on several occasions in the past. Their common target : the unsuspecting waders! At Lutong Beach, I once witnessed a Peregrine Falcon actually mobbing a Chinese Egret!

The agile predator from Revtangen, mobbing Dunlins, Sanderlings, Turnstones and Ringed Plovers.

This is a good season to be at the beach to watch waders. Post breeding season in the far north, these amazing feathered wonders are now making their way south. Those on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway will end up in Australia to winter; those on the East Atlantic Flyway will be spending their winter in West and South Africa.

Images and words by N Abghani/NO-2012.

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