Birding Without Borders

Day 315: Where’s a Watercock When You Need One?

Cruising through rice paddies in Malaysia.

November 11, 2015: Kuala Selangor, Malaysia — This morning at Fraser’s Hill, Chun and I were up early to look for nightjars (no luck) and we waited as the sun came up to hear the dawn chorus. I’ve become accustomed to waking up early this year, but I’ll never get used to hearing the first bird sing at dawn. Magic every time.

Sunrise seemed unusually late this morning. We didn’t hear the first Rufous-browed Flycatcher sing until nearly 7:00 a.m., probably because it was still almost dark at that hour. Later in the day, I looked up a time zone map and realized why: The time here should logically be the same as in Thailand and the rest of southeast Asia, but this time zone’s boundaries have been jogged so that peninsular Malaysia is included with Borneo, much farther east. This means that the clocks in Kuala Lumpur are 57 minutes behind apparent solar time, about an hour later than they should be according to the sun.

That’s nothing around here, though. China, which is wide enough to span five regular time zones, officially occupies just one, which means the sun rises and sets a full three hours later than it should in the western part of that country! Meanwhile, India, immediately to the south, is on a half hour zone. If you take one step south from China into India anywhere along their border, you must set your watch back by two and a half hours.

The sun eventually did appear and we spent the day making our way to the western coast, where Chun and I cruised a region of rice paddies for several hours. Pied Harriers, White-headed Munias, and a Cinnamon Bittern were spotted in due course, though we couldn’t find a Watercock to save our souls. I looked for Watercocks in Thailand last week with similar results. Where’s a Watercock when you need one?

New birds today: 10

Year list: 5211

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