Thursday, February 16, 2012

A date with Christy

Poise, elegance and speed in one truly leggy package.

It's February ... Valentines Day was just over; smells of dried bubok and fresh belacan now fills the air. I've got a date with Christy, every February at Lutong Beach.

Digiscoped via afocal coupling. This image was cropped to get rid of the vignettes at the corners.

600mm, uncropped.

600mm, uncropped.

Took the liberty of ordering a couple of odds and ends from to match the Sony SLT33+50mm with the Leica APO Televid 77 on 20-60x eyepiece for digiscoping. So far the "afocal coupling" is rather fiddly and cumbersome, alignment is mostly via eyeballing which is less than perfect and sometimes resulting in most dismal output. Presently hoping that a JJC 52mm lenshood (paired to the eyepiece) and 49-52mm step-up ring (paired to the 50mm) will see better results ... perfect polar alignment is expected.

The subject, Chinese Egret frequents our shores regularly. Largest numbers were recorded in Bako-Buntal in recent years. In lesser numbers are locations such as Kuala Balingian and Brunei Bay. Lutong Beach is fortunate to have at least a single visitor every year. On several occasions sightings of single Chinese Egret have been made in Bungai, Luak Bay, and Kuala Baram.

It is regularly seen with it's more common comrade the Little Egret, sometimes seen hunting together on the beach, at other times chasing one another trying to protect a particularly choice patch.

These two are indeed a pleasure to watch. Skittish at first, they soon grow accustomed to photogs and digiscopers and will normally tolerate our presence to sometimes what maybe termed "close proximity". If the hunting is particularly good, they would be completely oblivious to human presence altogether.

Awareness to their presence and conservation value is sadly limited in these parts. Most commonly lumped together as the "white egrets" with many not realising that there are actually: Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Pacific Reef Egret (white phase), Intermediate Egret and Great Egret. It's good that they receive scant attention from unwanted elements, however this also means very little is done for their continued protection, habitat preservation and conservation.

Efforts to get the local children interested in Lutong Beach Chinese Egret has not made much progress. A local school adopted for a birdwatching program via sponsorship of a corporate body is making little progress in getting children out and about learning about these beautiful creatures. Getting progressive educators to inculcate outdoor learning additional than that required by our Natioal Curriculum is a losing uphill battle.

For now here in Lutong and perhaps all of Northern Division, only a handful of birders are aware of the visits by Chinese Egret to our shores. With suitable habitats disappearing, beaches reclaimed and developed, most would not notice if one day they fail to return.

I for one would not want to miss this February date, afterall Christy and I have been seeing each other since 1996.

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