Monday, March 1, 2010

AWC Pulau Bawai 27-28th February by Nazeri Abghani

View of Kpg Masjid from Pulau Bawai, the almost fullmoon slowly creeping up from the eastern horizon.

We completed our last site for AWC 2010 with Pulau Bawai, located 15minutes boatride from the old Kuala Baram ferrypoint.

Eight participants came for the overnite trip to what is no more than a semi-permanent sandbar. It was at the present location last year (see Musa's track), but completely different place back in 2001/4 when Google Map of the area was created.

We boarded Pak Daud's boat at approximately 1630hrs from the jetty and got off at the beach 20metres from our campsite, exactly at the same location we camped last year. With the tide expected to peak at 2300hrs, we were more or less confident that we'd be far from the reach of the tidewater come midnite.

First order of business was of course to set up camp and start a fire. Rembli and Kamil from SFC quickly did the deed together with Musa. One large canopy for shade and two tents were set up in record time. By 1730hrs all was ready, our food supplies all laid out under the canopy and we've got a large bonfire going: our base camp in operation. We were pretty much set up for the nite.

We went checking out the perimeter after a quick coffee, tea and biscuits prepared by Majelah and Rosie. Ben had already headed out earlier for a quick scouting around the main island. We did not see anything significantly different from that of last year. There were more young casuarinas covering the major part of the island. Young mangrove grove from last year was still there with some new additional trees added. New shoots covered most of the muddy flats.

Rembli and Kamil manning the scope targetting this year's waders at Pulau Bawai. There are less wader numbers this year which we accounted to lower tides which exposes more mudflats resulting in scattered waders. Some parts of the beach were completely covered by flotsam and jetsum from Batang Baram, mainly dead trees and runaway logs.

As it was halfway towards higest tide, we weren't able to cross over to the long sandbar and contented ourselves birdwatching on the main island. Among the birds we saw were: Yellow-bellied Prinia, Yellow vented Bulbul, Collared Kingfisher, Striated Heron, Lesser Sandplover, Greater Sandplover and Kentish Plover.

The sun was setting by the time we reached the mangrove area and we decided to head back to camp. Due to the extent of the exposed flats, we saw less birds that we did last year, the birds were all scattered about.

The setting sun offset by young mangroves rapidly taking their place in the mud, young mangrove shoots can be seen dominating every inch of available space in this patch.

Our intention to cover more ground after dinner was thwarted by the rising tide. We contented ourselves by making short forays from the camp after dinner and scanning the horizons for nite birds. Last year we did not hear any nitejars at all, this year however, they were calling all nite lon with there "chonk! chonk! chonk!" from both ends of the island. We noticed two nitejars 20 meters south of our camp with the help of Musa's night-vision scope while several other were calling from the north.

Sometime in the nite while we were enjoying the clear skies and the glowing beam from the almost full moon, several night jars flew very close to our camp and landed nearby. Efforts to locate them in the nite for a definitive id were futile. Even later almost close to midnite while everyone was gathered around the campfire, a pair of nitejars flew by the camp. They made two full rounds of our campsite to everyone's amazement!

Moonlit nite, all the way till the next morning, fullmoon nonetheless.

The campfire that was well supplied with wood from around the campsite, it burnt the entire nite until mornig, kept us warm the mozzies well away.

We went to bed that nite under the shine of the nite's glorious moonbeam, accompanied by incessant "chonk!chonk! chonk!" calls of the nitejars, lullabied by a roaring fire fed by unlimited supply of log debris and the occasional buzz from the pesky mosquitoes. Luckily this year, no presence of sandflies was detected.

We started of the next day by roaming around the extensive mudflats made by the lowest tide at 0.70 metres at 0700hrs. The waders were widely scattered : Sanderlings, (almost breeding colors) Lesser Sandplover, Greater Sandplover, Kentish Plover, (almost breeding colors) Red-necked Stints, Striated Heron, Great Egret, and Malaysian Plover. Visibly missing birds from last year were the Gull-billed Tern, Greater Sandplover, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Peregrine Falcon.

Birding on the mudflats the next day with two scopes and five binos.

The extensive mudflats revealed by the low tide, one can actually walk all the way to Kuala Baram from Bawai when the tide is lowest.

Other animals or signs of animals noted were that of an un-id long tailed rat, un-id frog near the camp as well as footprints of two cats.

We treated ourselves to a hearty brunch at about 1000hrs after having completed the island loop. Our boatman, Pak Daud, arrived to pick us up shortly after that. As it was getting quite hot, everyone was rather to get a move on, away from the blazing sun.

Pulau Bawai, without any of the usual basic amenities is superb for a quite no-fuss get way birdwatching weekend. On low tide days, a hired boat may not even be at all necessary. What it lacks in facilities and creature comforts, it makes up in bigs measure with serenity and beautiful views of the mudflats.

Our birdlists:
Yellow-bellied Prinia (2)
Yellow vented Bulbul (numerous)
Collared Kingfisher (10)
Striated Heron (2)
Lesser Sandplover (20)
Greater Sandplover (20)
Kentish Plover (20)
Red-necked Stint (10)
Long-tailed Nitejar (1)
Un-id Nitejar (4)
Malaysia Plover (5)
Sanderling (5)
Great Egret (1)
Barn Swallow (numerous)
Pacific Golden Plover (5)

un-id rat
un-id frog
cat-like mammal (two different sets of varying size footprints seen, likely cats)

Nazeri Abghani, February 2010

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