Friday, May 21, 2010

Backyard OPH

As a resident in the Miri area the past 4 years, I have been most fortunate to regularly observe a nesting pair of Oriental Pied Hornbill (also known as the Malaysian Pied Hornbill).

Although our family travels far and wide in Borneo to view as much wildlife as we can, we feel incredibly lucky that some of the most impressive wildlife can be found in our own back garden. Each year we watched with great renewed interest as the pair repeat their nesting cycle, and their family graces us with regulat visits for a period of a few months.

Every 10 months or so, the female seals herself into her nesting hole in the base of a casuarina tree, and remains there for 2-3 months. The male provisions her with fruits, nuts, frogs, snails and other tasty morsels. When he is not off foraging for food for his family, he perches on a nearby branch and fiercely protects his brood. He has been observed dive-bombing nosy dogs, and squawking loudly when anyone approaches the nest too closely.

During the nesting period, a keen observer with binoculars can see glimpses of black and white feathers, or even a white and blue rimmed eye through the narrow entrance to the nest. Just who is watching who? At a certain point, red-rimmed eyes can be seen as well, a sign that the chicks have hatched and are somehow crammed into that narrow cavity with the mother hornbill.

One day, the female and fledglings emerge - almost always 2 offspring, with the exception of late 2008 when there were three! The fledglings are almost the same size as their parents when they emerge. How they all fit inside that tree cavity, and how they manage to fly after so many week of inactivity is a true wonder.

For the next several months, Mother, Father and offspring can be seen foraging around the area, raising a racket wherever they go. Something in my garden must be fruiting between the months of March and July, for this is when we see them most often, enjoying almost daily visits - a welcome distraction from work, but not so welcome when their squawking wakes us at 5am!

Extraordinarily tame, they congregate on cars, play equipment, and other man-made structures, allowing fairly close approaches for photographing and videoing. Some residents have even been startled by the unexpected figure of a hornbill peering in their living room window!

Over the weeks that they return to be photographed, the chick's development can be observed. Their bills, which start out creamy and translucent, grow and thicken, and differentiate into the male and female casques. The rims of their eyes become less red, and more white. After a few months of family foraging, the offspring of the year seem to disperse, and the female starts her nesting cycle again.

For a time, the area of observation is relatively quiet, as she broods her nest and the temporarily solitary male does his fatherly duty of foraging and protecting.

For many residents, these birds represent the best that their time in Borneo has to offer. I truly hope that we can all work together to ensure their continued survival in this small island of biodiversity in an ever-growing city!

14 November 2007 : Male provisioning female and chicks (left). Food provided included frogs and insects, as well as seeds and fruit Chick peaking out of nest (right). Experts claimed these were the only case of hornbills nesting at ground level that they had ever encountered.

28 January 2008: The female and chicks have emerged from the nest. Chick 1 (left) and Chick 2 (right) travelled with their parents and frequented gardens around camp, often perching on man-made structures like drain pipes and play equipment!

11 March 2008: Adult female and developing female chick (left). Male chick on the ground (right).

16 April 2008: Female chick (left) and male chick (right) and whole family of 4 (below). Still travelling as a noisy foursome. Seem to be comfortable with fairly close approaches for photographs.

By Dr Gianna Minton/MNS Miri/May 2010

Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthacoceros Albirostris has been noted as the most adaptable of all hornbill species. Their habituation around humans and human settlement has been well documented over the years.

Oriental Pied Horn Bills Update No. 02

It was almost a week that the birds didn’t show up and Fuad was quite apprehensive. However, he was so relieved when he saw the birds while he and his golfing buddies was at hole no. 3 on Thursday 20/05. At around 9 am the next day, Friday 21/05, they showed up. By then Fuad had stopped putting papaya on his balcony but the smart guys decided to help themselves on the fresh fruit right from the tree.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bornean Bristlehead in Balingian

The emblematic Bornean Bristlehead, this time by Junis Sp of Nature and Science Society, Bintulu. Photo by Junis Sp.

Junis Sp stumbled on this rare bird in Balingian, nearby a logged forest. This is the first time this pecies have been recorded in Balingian. Based on previous records, two sightings were made in Kelawit-Tatau and Samarakan, both Acacia plantations. This time however it's in a forest area to be logged.

The area has been pegged for logging, where licenses have been issued and camps already built. The location is just past Selangau, to get to where the BBH is, one would have to drive for one hour through an oil palm plantation followed by a logging road, after that another hour of trekking through the forest.
BBH was recorded in Similajau NP a long time ago, recent records for Northern Sarawak have only been from Lambir Hills National Park, Kelawit-Tatau and Samarkan acacia plantations and this latest sighting in Balingian.

In Sabah, this bird has been a crowd puller for tourists, birdwatchers and photographers alike. One is most likely to see BBH in Danum Valley Conservation Area and recently the Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Center. At RDC, a tower within a network of canopy walk has been named "Bristlehead Tower" due to regular sightings of Bornean Bristlehead in the area. The Bristlehead Tower has been on many a birdwatchers itenarary of late.

Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/May 2010