Sunday, July 4, 2010

Birds in Miri's very own patch of wetlands.

The reeds are growing quite well, so well that the open space previously are all overgrown with them making viewing not as easy because all the are making use of the great cover. One tiny snag is that it makes it hard for birders to see our quarry. You can definitely hear them though.

Wandering Whistling Duck doing a fly-by, the only site we know where the species is breeding in northern Sarawak.

The ducks flies in groups from the south west lake, settles in the Curtin Lake and later seen heading towards the Curtin Lakeside with the Curtin University gates, there's still hope yet for these ducks albeit not within the confines of their original habitat.

A duck spooked out of it's cover. Other birds commonly sighted in this area : White-browed Crake, Cinnamon Bittern, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Intermediate Egret, Common Moorhen. Only regular full time monitoring will tell whether this habitat also harbours Common Coot (high on the wishlist) and jacanas (a very long shot). Raptors such as Osprey, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle have all been sighted here before, similarly for Grey Heron and Purple Heron.

A large footprint of a waterbird in comparison with a 10 cent coins, within the same habitat we have previously sited a female watercock. This same day a Black-backed Swamphen sigthing was made as it flew over the tall reeds after being spooked by a motorcylist. One other sighting of the same bird was made way back in 1996 near Beluru. With large segments of peatswamp forest and wetlands habitat converted to agriculture (main oil palm in the northern region), sightings of this beautiful bird has been most infrequent. We don't know how long this particular patch of wetlands will stay intact as it is now.

A beautiful healthy looking cattails, a type of reeds common at the edges of the lake. There have documentation on how lowly cattail is emerging as the weapon of choice against water contamination, and perhaps even global warming. In addition to its use in large phytoremediation projects to absorb contamination from groundwater and wetlands, the cattail could also work in on a small, inexpensive scale, helping to reduce arsenic contamination in impoverished areas. One side effect is the cattails themselves overwhelming the wetlands if not properly managed. It is also capable of converting wetlands into drylands by: 1)sucking out water; and 2) building up soil until the land is too far above the water table to remain a wetland.

One lone Oriental Darter seen drying itself on top of a dead tree trunk in the Southwest Lake nearby.

Apparently there were others nearby, the highest number we've seen so far in the same area was 11 darters back in April 2010. Though most of the lakes are man-made via sandmining activities, it has created habitats ideally suited to wetland birds in some parts. And with the onslaught of development in Kuala Baram, this could well be the best that there is for the wildlife, for the time being.

What would be great for this sort of "temporary" sites is perhaps to have 24/7 monitoring via a close-circuit tv at a few selected ideal locations coupled with regular monitoring. Sightings via pure luck doesn't actually rate too high up on the reliability scale; video playback could very well be.

By Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Jul 2010

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