From the Salak estuary we took a break from dolphin-watching (see previous post), heading over the waves for a tiny pile of rocks in the South China Sea. According to the blog Dolphins of Sarawak, Pulau Tukong Ara "was gazetted as a wildlife sanctuary in 1985 but later incorporated into the Talang-Satang National Park when this was created in 1999. The reason why the rock is protected is because it is inhabited by a breeding colony of Bridled Terns and Black-naped Terns."
Although its range is not as global as that of the Bridled Tern, the Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana) still occurs over a vast area of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, from the Seychelles to southern Japan and northeastern Australia. To my mind it is one of the prettiest and most graceful of all terns. It is pretty much strictly a bird of coasts, reefs and small islands.
Here are a few shots of a greeting ceremony between members of a pair, after one of them alights. A lot of bill-lifting, bowing etc.!
Before heading back to the estuary, we dropped in for a look at one of the two Satang Islands (I'm afraid I'm not sure which). We did not land (most visitors come to swim off the sandy beach).
The Satngs are covered with forest, and I could hear the sounds of birds as we sailed past. Once I glimpsed the white shape of a Pied Imperial Pigeon (Ducula bicolor) flying over the ridge - Pied Imperial Pigeons, birds that nest on small offshore islets and fly, if need be, to other islands or the mainland in search of fruit, are specialties of places like this.
So is a very similar but much rarer bird, the Silvery Wood Pigeon (Columba argentina), that once flew with the Pied Imperial Pigeon but is now, for some unknown reason, all but extinct. They lived on islands near here years ago, and our friend Kerry-Jayne Wilson (who ought to know) swears she saw one on nearby Talang Talang about a decade ago; could there still be a few, somewhere, off the coast of Sarawak?