A Recce of Parit Jawa and Sungai Balang

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Rating: 4.6/5 (5 votes cast)

As part of our quest to find more bird photography locations in Malaysia we decided to travel south to the coastal fishing town of Parit Jawa and the small village of Sungai Balang near Muar.  I had read on the internet that near Sungai Balang there is a large paddy field that is home to a large number of species of Raptors, Herons and other lowland birds that are supposedly easy to photograph from the car…just the sort of bird photography we like as it does not involve carrying heavy lenses and tripods.

Well, the truth about Sungai Balang is that if you blink you will miss it, and sure enough we drove right through not even knowing we were in a town. The whole town is only about 200m long and far too short to show up on a GPS. So, it was only when we hit the next town that we realised that we had gone too far.

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The bustling centre of Sungai Balang!

Anyway, we easily found a dirt track that led off into a large cleared area which we presume is the paddy field mentioned in the bird location site on the internet as it extends at least a few kilometres down towards the coast. The problem was that this road  was too rough for a normal car so we could not drive down more than a few hundred meters before we had to park and start legging it. The second problem is that this area is used as an illegal dump site and it is littered with garbage and rotting vegetables and besides being home to packs of stray dogs stinks like hell. So walking it isn’t really a pleasant option. 

However I can tell you that it is full of birds. Raptors, Herons, Coucals, Bee Eaters, Bulbuls as well as small species like Munia, all chirping away…Plenty of them!  Unfortunately, as usual, only a few showed any interest in posing.  The others played hard to get and gapped it long before we got anywhere near enough to even think about a shot, never mind getting one. So as usual, we saw a lot but can’t prove it.

Of the very few shots taken, the one below of a Purple Heron striding away through the lalang is the best I got.

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Never mind. It’s such a good spot with so much promise I will be back again in a few weeks, but next time with a 4×4 that can handle the road….then we will be in business!

After the stinking paddy road of Sungai Balang we decided to hit the mudflats of Parit Jawa, again according to various internet bird sites, supposedly a good location to see various shorebirds and waders. Parit Jawa is bigger than Sungai Balang; it even features on the map. I would describe it as a scruffy yet peaceful fishing village comprising a mix of old pre-war shop houses and simple seafood restaurants.

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The jetty at Parit Jawa

As the tide retreats from the drainage channel that opens out into the Straights of Malacca and forms the fishing jetty, mudflats supporting hoards of mudskippers and crabs and the seabirds that feed on them appear as the water recedes. Basically the whole town is surrounded by mangroves and at low tide the mudflats come right up to the edge of the car park facing the sea meaning its relatively easy to view the bird and marine life that thrives here.

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 Mangrove mudflats as viewed from the car park.

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At the edge of the car park a solid concrete bird watching tower has been constructed and it is possible to see a surprising number of different species of Herons and waders from there. Many are easily photographed from the shoreline parking spot perched on the mooring poles that are set into the mud.  Currently a new concrete jetty extending further out to sea is under construction. Once completed it will be even easier to photograph the birds in the mud on the opposite side of the jetty. So its an interesting place to visit.

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 A Great Egret photgraphed from the jetty

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A Little Egret at the edge of the mangroves accross from the jetty 

Having said all this, the stars of Parit Jawa and the main attraction to this lovely town are the colony of Lesser Adjutant’s that reside in the mangroves just accross the river from the Jetty. Parit Jawa has to be one of the best spots to find and photograph these rare and endangered birds.  Whats really fantastic is they are right in front of your eyes, relatively easily accessible and very easy to photograph.  I have Gigs of fantastic photo’s of these magnificant birds which will form the next blog, but here’s one as a teaser. 

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Lets face it, one look and its easy to see why they are endangered. Who would want to nest with such an ugly buzzard!

The trip back to Kuala Lumpur from Parit Jawa is also interesting. The road winds though kilometres of Malay Kampongs many with fantastic old strikingly coloured houses. No two are the same making it a real pleasure to drive the road and finish off what will always be good photography outing.  

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My advice to anyone who wants a break from the rat race of Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, head for Parit Jawa. It’s a guaranteed interesting trip. Good for birds, good for fresh seafood and a wonderful opportunity to see rural Malaysia as it really is.

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A Recce of Parit Jawa and Sungai Balang, 4.6 out of 5 based on 5 ratings

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