Any faint-hearted birder probably would not have gone through it. All the discouraging signs were there: target bird not seen the day before, heavy rain falling early in the morning, strange sounds coming from the car when driving over 80 kph, me not feeling too well…
But we had determination. We got faith. We pressed on towards our goal.
At seven in the morning our friend, Prof. Tirso Paris, was escorting us inside the fallowed grounds of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). He led us to the fields where the rare migrant, the Oriental Plover, had been seen and photographed. Tirso was telling us that just two days ago these uncommon birds were quite close to where they parked their cars. Today, so far, nothing. However, Oriental Skylarks seem to be everywhere! Cynthia and I have never seen so many of these tiny brown birds in a single place!
At the next stop, Prof. Tirso pointed out a tiny speck among the green grass. It was our target bird allright but unfortunately too far and too hidden for passable photographs. Looking through my binoculars I even discovered there were actually two of them, one still sporting traces of its breeding plumage.
Tirso decided to scout the nearby area to see if there would be more of these birds (there were supposed to be about seven of them) while we stayed put and photographed the more oblivious Wood Sandpipers.
Soon we got a call from our friend saying he found them. We rushed to where he was and there three Oriental Plovers were busy hunting for food. They stayed at a distance unlike in the past but still afforded us some good enough shots.
After having our fill of the Plovers we took a break to have a snack with our host and to enjoy the Birds of IRRI exhibit were most of the photographs on display were taken by our beloved Prof. Then we explored the lowland area where Oriental Pratincoles were quite plentiful. Today must have an "Oriental" theme, what with lots of Oriental Skylarks, Oriental Pratincoles and even a few Oriental Plovers.
Soon Tirso was pointing at a smaller wader mingling with a Black-winged Stilt. "Marsh Sandpiper" he informed us. It was somewhat unusual for this species which prefers coastal areas to be inland and even on a ricefield so we added that to our list of birds photographed that day.
Rain started to fall again so we all agreed that it was to time to go. Our heartfelt thanks goes to our dear friend, Prof. Tirso, not only for accompanying us inside IRRI but also for locating our target birds for us.
Gedau Estate, Sandakan
14 hours ago