Thursday, September 23, 2010

Out on the beach in Kuala Baram Lagoon

The last time I dragged the big lens out to the beach was in March when I stumbled upon the downy Malaysian Plover chick. A couple of weeks back on a weekly vigil, the lens stayed in the Kinesis case all morning while at the same location ... the water was too deep to cross and the waders were too far away. We made do with the telescope and binos, better reach in prevailing conditions.

It's true what all bird photographers said, even a 600mm is a wee bit short of your desired reach, this considering some of them have already got 600mm stacked with a 1.4x extender AND on a 1.6 crop camera!

With the juvvy MP it was different, the guy was stationery and not likely to run anywhere (it deluded itself in being well hidden), I had to back up a few paces from minimum focus. Today the birds have the upper wings, they just take off when they feel threatened.

Even at 20 feet, you can tell they are cautious of your presence. You'd see them raising up a wing as a sign of alarm. You advance a foot, they'll back away a foot and a half.

A Bar-tailed Godwit foraging ... at least four Whimbrel were spotted on the same beach that day, they took off in haste.

A Gull-billed Tern amongst smaller birds. This year the Caspian Tern (a very large tern) was noticeably absent. Even the Greater Crested Tern and Lesser Crested Tern were scarce this year aside from glimpses on Pulau Bawai. Other waders in the flock were Red-necked Stint.

Greater Sandplover doing a Tai-Chi move ... stretch.

A halfway decent output was achieved with Sanderling on Lutong Beach back in February 2009 shooting with a 300+1.4x from a car window. Unfortunately the hard disk went AWOL, all's lost. These guys never seem to stop feeding and walking and feeding, at 20 feet this guy in Kuala Baram still seemed small.

Malaysian Plover, they were a pair on the beach that day. Highest recent count was five pairs on the same stretch of beach. It's fun watching them get curious and run helter skelter with head looking back all the while.

The day would've probably been a another one of those hum-drum outing had it not been for the ever obliging Little Egret ... it's size was just perfect for the big lens!

Little Egret scaring the little fishes, this is always fun to observe, it's hard work for the hunter and once in a while they are rewarded in a big way: extra large breakfast!

Little Egret pursuing a little fish.

Little Egret the victor.

Perhaps another trick to try is setting up a hide on the beach ... which involves getting up early before the birds arrive, carrying all the gear to the beach, preparing the get-up and shoot when they take up their spot on the beach. Mobility might be an issue though, an alternative ghillie suit on Kuala Baram beach is an option, it just might be a tad too riske for obvious reasons ...

Getting to Kuala Baram:
Almost the whole stretch of Kuala Baram beach has got the ubiquotous erosion control in place (huge boulders neatly piled up along the beach) from Kpg Batu Satu all the way to the Crocodile Farm junction.

Watching for waders can be done in Lutong Beach (almost always there are 2-3 Chinese Egrets there) but most productive would be this site, Kuala Baram Lagoon directly opposite the T-junction to the Crocodile Farm. Parking is just along the Kuala Baram road, most times there are no one else on the beach other that the odd fishermen, the waders and you.

The site is approximately 20 minutes from Miri town or 1o minutes from Lutong in the direction of the old Kuala Baram jetty. Most picturesque in a blue-skies morning.

Write-up and images by:
Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Sep 2010


  1. Naz, I am still looking for the Sanderling here.

  2. Hi Nazeri,

    Check the tail of your 'Black-tailed Godwit'! Keep practising!