Saturday, December 17, 2011

First Call : Volunteers for Asian Waterbird Census in Miri Jan 2012

Enjoying the backyard at Kuala Baram Lagoon.

Blue-throated Bee-eater, commonly found in wide open spaces, most interesting to watch.

Asian Waterbird Census, AWC is an annual waterbird census carried out by volunteers every January (sometimes starts mid December and spills over to February) at various sites thoughout Asia.

Analysis of data collected during AWC help Wetlands International, the organizer, in long term planning for the conservation of waterbirds and their wetland habitats.

The census has 3 major objectives:

1) to obtain information on an annual basis of waterbird populations at wetlands in the region during non-breeding period of most species, as a basis for reviewing of sites and monitoring populations

2) to monitor on an anuual basis the status and condition of wetlands

3) to encourage greater interest in waterbirds and wetlands amongst the public and thereby promote the conservation of wetlands and waterbirds in the region.

The census is mainly undertaken by volunteers from various sources with the community. The sites covered include rivers, lakes, reservoirs, tanks, swamps, coastal areas, mangrove and mudflats, reefs or beaches.

Waterbirds counted during the census include all waterbirds and birds associated with the wetlands habitat.

The census is coordinated in each country by a volunteer national or regional organisation, in Malaysia it's the Malaysian Nature Society. The coordinator is responsible for building up the network of volunteers, sends out count forms, liase with participants, receives and collate forms after the census and compiles and disseminates national reports.

The official dates for AWC are any dates between 9-31st January, however counts from December and February are still accepted from poorly known areas.

Great Egret. Come and find out how many species of similar looking white egrets are here in Miri.

MNS Miri Branch has a small band of birdwatchers who will be participating in AWC again this year covering the following tentative sites listed below, participation in the census is sought from all branch members and the public interested to know more about waterbirds and birds in general.

As this is only our first announcement, please keep an eye out for further follow-up as more potential sites are being arranged.

MNS Miri Branch AWC sites for 2012 (no new sites added):

a) Kuala Baram Lagoon South (completed)
07th January : South Kuala Baram Lagoon
Meet in front of Toh Pottery (after the little bridge) 0715hrs
We shall walk in a northerly direction making notes of sightings along the route. Propose to end session 10am. Continue along the stretch the next day.

Kuala Baram Lagoon North (completed)
08th January : North of Kuala Baram Lagoon
Meet at Shell Office Lobby 0700 hrs. We'll carpool to site.
We shall walk in a northerly direction making notes of sightings along the route. Propose to end session 10am.

b) Curtin Lakes Area (completed)
14th January
Meet at Curtin U security gate 0700 hrs
Survey campus area. Survey nearby area by car along area's road network. Propose to end session by lunchtime.

c) Kpg Masjid Kuala Baram
21st January (completed)
Meet after ASEAN Birdge Toll 0730hrs.
We plan to engage Kpg Masjid children to raise awareness about birds around the kampong and conduct AWC at the same time. Half a day session outdoors birdwatching with children along the footpaths in the village.

22nd January (rescheduled)
Meet after ASEAN Bridge Toll 0730hrs.
Survey route starting from roundabout to Jabatan Perikanan Jetty with prolonged stops long the way ie. SY Prawn Farm.

d) Pujut Lakes (completed)
23rd January
Meet in the parking lot in front of the Miri Go-Kart Stadium 0700hrs. We'll traverse the unsurfaced roads in the area to survey the lakes and waterbodies.

e) Pulau Bawai (date changed to 11th Feb)
New date : 11th Feb
Details to be announced once arrangement is confirmed.

f) Loagan Bunut National Park (confirmed)
04-05th February (overnite at NP)
Details to be announced once arrangement is confirmed. We are looking for 4WD drivers, please email us if you can drive your 4WD to Loagan Bunut, this trip will be on cost-sharing basis (fuel, boat, accomodation, group meals).

Most of these sites are revisits from past year's census which forms an important monitoring component of AWC.

White-breasted Waterhen at Kuala Baram, a common sight along Miri's swamp edges and drains.

Some of our past AWC highlights :
Nesting Grey-headed Fish Eagle with juvenile in Kpg Masjid, 2011
Peregrine Falcon in Peliau Cliffs, 2011
Nesting Balck-winged Kite Pujut Lakes, 2011.
Waders, Lesser Adjutant and Chinese Egrets in Sundar, 2010.
Malaysian Plover, Grey Plover, Wandering Whistling Duck, Oriental Darter in Miri, 2009.
Plovers in general in Kuala Baram, 2008.
Lesser Adjutant in Lutong, 2002.
Storm's Stork in Loagan Bunut, 2001.

Members and the public who are interested to participate in this largely citizen's effort can email or for further details.

Schools interested to participate as part of a school project are encouraged to send enquiries, we can tailor made a program to include a 1-2hrs informative slideshow session on waterbirds and a 2hr session in the field watching and identifying birds near your school area.

Able to be outdoors in the sun for 2-4hrs while maintaining good sense of humour throughout. We have Fieldguides to the Birds of Borneo, 8x40 binoculars and scopes for use during this survey.

Be a part of active local conservation, come birdwatching with us this January.

Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Dec 2011
revised 22nd Jan 2012
revised 26th Jan 2012

Monday, November 28, 2011

Weekend Birding at Lambir Hills

An obliging bulbul on a macaranga, and behind him the fruits many birds go for.

Not 4 weekends ago, while visiting Lambir with the kids, we met a birder with his father attempting some bird photography at Lambir Hills National Park with a 500m. His first question was : "Do we have a bird guide?". Short answer : "No, we haven't got one here in Miri unless you engage someone beforehand from tour outfits in Kuching or KL. Those guides in KK would be closest!"

Lambir Hills National Park is a big place. Birdwatching is probably manageable on your own if you know the birds and you are adventurous enough to venture into the trails alone. You'd still need a few days to do the place justice. The Lambir 2002 Birdlist (Shanahan & Debsky) boasts a comprehensive list of 200+ birds. There hasn't been any more complete work to date since then.

For bird photography, it's probably best if you are already aware of where the birds are going to be. This is where local knowledge, perhaps built over the years of birding the area or collective birding experience come into play. A bird photographer can quickly set-up in a designated place known to be having regular bird visits thus guaranteed results.

Over the years, many birders have been to and birdwatched at Lambir. Some of this additional information is added to the list maintained at the Park HQ Office. Occasional visits by Miri birders added some more valuable bird sightings to the list.

If you are visiting for only a day or two, some of the following locales within the Park complex might be useful for you. If you have more time, book yourselves into one of the hilltop chalets and do your photography to your heart's content from your chalet windows. If you feel lucky surely go lug your equipment along the Innoue-Pantu Loop trail, there are a few choice spots along the way for very shy birds that do come out calling once in a while.

My favorite places has always been just around the HQ complex. I'm not looking for any rarities in particular, any bird photograph is an image worth making in my mind. Some of these pictures I have made while checked in at the Hilltop Chalet. One of these days I might just try to lug the 600mm, tripod with Wimberley head as well as other associated accessories into Innoue, it's not yet time for now.

One of my favorite spot is Chalet No. 3 just up the hill behind the temporary canteen just after you've passed the old park office. In between the chalets there are a few nice rhododenrons and macarangas. A few other fruiting plants I don't recognize. These are perfect spots for birdwatching and bird photography without having to lug heavy equipment too far into the trail. During furiting seasons, these spots are a hive of activities. Dusky Munia are commonly seen flitting about the neighbourhood. At least 3-4 kinds of bulbuls and sunbirds make their stops at the macarangas picking up juicy little ripe fruits. Spectacled Spiderhunter, Purple-naped Sunbird and Hairy-backed Bulbul are regulars here.

Fruiting trees are all tell tale signs that the site could be your next productive site as far as birds are concerned.

Chalet No. 3 from across the wooden bridge. A fruiting macaranga in between Chalet 3 and 4 guarantees bulbuls, sunbirds, flowerpeckers and spiderhunters. A rhododendron is also nearby.

Another spot, the camera is pointing to a fruiting tree a favorite of bulbuls, barbets and leafbirds. Occasionally a squirrel or two would drop in.

Little orange fruit (unidentified) a favorite of several species of bulbuls, barbets and leafbirds.

If you are lucky you'll spot nesting Dusky Munia busy flitting back and forth tending or building nest for the season. Bornean Brown Barbet and Greater Leafbird are regularly seen picking up ripe fruits in this area.

Areas surrounding Hilltop Chalet is probably second only to Chalet No. 3. Here if you are early, you can point your lens towards babblers which are very active very early in the morning and late afternoon. There's also an unidentified fruting tree with little black berries and macaranga in front of the chalet. You can shoot all day from the comfort of your chalet living room.

Down the hill from the Hilltop Chalet is a small pond, quiet by the side with a little shelter on it's shore. Here Blue-eared Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher have been recorded. Black-naped Monarch stops by for a bath on hot days. Banded Kingfisher so far has been heard but has not yet been seen. You'll be probably be more lucky with the Rufous-backed Kingfisher in the same area.

This little pond is a confirmed favorite of at least three species of kingfisher as well as other birds. Occasionally a terrapin would pop it's head out of the water.

For the more stout at heart, a foray into the Innoue trail just behind the Hilltop Chalet could be just the thing to get you pumping. Other than the babblers, pittas and trogons regularly calls a short distance into the trail. Only a few birders have been privileged with photographs of both species. Further up towards Pantu shelter, sightings of Bornean Bristlehead has been made on numerous occasions. Near a small valley where a wooden bridge cross a little stream, there's a little pool of water on the right where a Banded Kingfisher regularly calls though he has yet to be sighted much more photographed by anyone.

With 200+ species of birds on it's list, those spending a few days at Lambir Hills NP would surely be rewarded with sightings of at least 1/3 of the birds there. A single half day trip maynot be enough for everyone, but it surely rakes up your chances of getting the less regularly seen quarries.

Nazeri Abghani/Nov 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Birdwatching in Bakelalan II

Cikgu Sang Sigar encouraging birdwatching as a hobby amongst his students at SK Bakelalan.

It was almost a year ago that a bunch of us dropped in on Bakelalan to do a bit of birdwatching. Though there was a bunch of us, there were perhaps 3 birdwatchers among us intent on birding in the area. We were actually there to trek GunungMurud Oct 2010, the birders however were quickly roped into giving a crash course on birds and birdwatching to SK Bakelalan through Sang Sigar, assistant principal and proprietor at the guest house we stayed at.

It's always pleasant birdwatching in Bakelalan, by the time we left after scaling Gunung Murud, Yeo Siew Teck compiled a list of 123 birds but not all restricted to the kampong area. Ashy Drongo, Black-headed Munia, Orange-breasted Flowerpecker, Striated tit Babbler were ticked just around the village paths. The rest were ticked along our trek to the summit and back. It remains that at least more than half of the birds on our list were acquired in the easy places around the settlement.

The potential for birdwatching in the surrounding area has not been adequately explored, many past birders to the area has expressed exasperations over the lack of knowledgeable bird guides in the area. It's still a very recent hobby here as far as the locals are concerned. The question then arise : who are the best persons to bird the area other than the very persons living there 24/7. The proposal was simple : teach the local youngsters about birds, in time they will be our new resource for birdwatching and bird conservation locally in the area. After all Gunung Murud, Batu Lawi and Pulong Tau are all within walking distance from Bakelalan.

Thus started the ad-hoc preliminary initiative to teach the local children about birds and the wholesome hobby of birdwatching. Introducing the birds to these young people could very well increase their awareness of our feathered friends and ultimately their appreciation and conservation. Yeo, Nazeri, Sara, Chris and Faye initiated the first basic lessons back in Oct 2010; this year Peter, Nazeri, Amer and Ali embarked on exposing a second batch of students to birds and birdwatching.

In any rural setting, any available resource is quickly associated as food resource. The time is now if not 70 years ago to make the people of places of conservation value like Bakelalan, Bario and others more connected with the conservation work that are taking place elsewhere in bigger less bird diverse area. It might not be too late for the rural children to appreciate birds on a higher aesthetic level rather than quickly to associate it to a bowl of soup at the dinner table. Once these youngsters value birds more than just as a food resource, it will become clear to them that conservation is the only right path to follow.

Black-headed Munia, found in abundant numbers near grassy areas of Bakelalan.

Perched in the paddyfield.

Looks to be a perfect spot for early morning and last afternoon birdwatching, high up in the hills.

White-breasted Waterhen looking wary by the edge of the paddyfield.

With sufficient investment in time and effort from the school, its teachers and birdwatching fraternity, we hope that one day there'll be more birders in Bakelalan both in the form of a local as well as in the form of the paying tourist variety.

Bird list of Ba’Kelalan from 18th till 21st October 2010 (not limited to Bakelalan village) by Yeo Siew Teck

1 Cinnamon Bittern Flying over / In flight
2 Little Egret Feeding
3 Black Eagle Flying over / In flight
4 White-breasted Waterhen Heard and seen
5 Common Sandpiper Heard and seen
6 Spotted Dove Perched
7 Lesser Coucal Heard call only
8 Glossy Swiftlet Flying over / In flight
9 Gold-whiskered Barbet Feeding
10 Mountain Barbet Feeding Endemic
11Bornean Barbet Heard call only Endemic
12 Rufous Woodpecker Heard call only
13 Crimson-winged Woodpecker Pecking
14 Banded Broadbill Heard call only
15 Black-and-yellow Broadbill Heard call only
16 Golden-bellied Gerygone Heard and seen
17 White-breasted Woodswallow Perched
18 Ashy Drongo Perched
19 Pied Fantail Heard and seen
20 Pacific Swallow Flying over / In flight
21 Yellow-bellied Prinia Heard call only
22 Yellow-vented Bulbul Heard and seen
23 Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Heard and seen
24 Ashy Tailorbird Heard and seen
25 Black-throated Wren-babbler Heard and seen Endemic
26 Asian Fairy-bluebird Heard call only
27 Oriental Magpie-robin Heard and seen
28 Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Feeding
29 Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Heard and seen
30 Plain Flowerpecker Perched
31 Brown-throated Sunbird Heard and seen
32 Crimson Sunbird Feeding
33 Little Spiderhunter Heard and seen
34 Eurasian Tree Sparrow Feeding
35 Dusky Munia Heard and seen
36 Black-headed Munia Flying over / In flight
37 Grey Wagtail Heard and seen
38 Red-breasted Partridge Heard call only
39 Cattle Egret Feeding
40 Crested Serpent-eagle Flying over / In flight
41 Little Cuckoo-dove Perched
42 Thick-billed Green-pigeon Feeding
43 Banded Bay Cuckoo Heard call only
44 Greater Coucal Heard and seen
45 Bornean Frogmouth Heard and seen Endemic
46 Whiskered Treeswift Hawking for insects
47 Rufous-collared Kingfisher Heard call only
48 Stork-billed Kingfisher Heard and seen
49 Rhinoceros Hornbill Heard call only
50 Helmeted Hornbill Heard call only
51 Maroon Woodpecker Heard call only
52 Banded Broadbill Heard call only
53 Black-and-yellow Broadbill Heard and seen
54 Golden-bellied Gerygone Heard and seen
57 Scarlet Minivet Heard and seen
58 Bornean Whistler Foraging Endemic
59 Spangled Drongo Heard and seen
60 Spotted Fantail Heard call only
61 Black-headed Bulbul Heard and seen
62 Black-crested Bulbul Heard and seen
63 Red-eyed Bulbul Perched
64 Ochraceous Bulbul Heard and seen
65 Ashy Bulbul Heard and seen
66 Arctic Warbler Foraging
67 Yellow-bellied Warbler Heard and seen
68 Black-capped Babbler Heard call only
69 Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler Heard call only
70 Grey-throated Babbler Heard and seen
71 Striped Tit-babbler Heard call only
72 Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush Heard and seen Endemic
73 White-browed Shrike-babbler Heard call only
74 Brown Fulvetta Heard and seen
75 Chestnut-crested Yuhina Feeding Endemic
76 White-bellied Yuhina Heard and seen
77 Pygmy White-eye Feeding Endemic
78 Rufous-winged Philentoma Heard call only
79 White-tailed Flycatcher Perched
80 Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher Heard call only
81 Greater Green Leafbird Feeding
82 Bornean Leafbird/Kinabalu Leafbird Feeding Endemic
83 Olive-backed Sunbird Heard and seen
84 Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Heard and seen
85 Crested Serpent-eagle Flying over / In flight
86 Blue-crowned Hanging-parrot Flying over / In flight
87 Drongo Cuckoo Heard call only
88 White-crowned Hornbill Heard call only
89 Whitehead's Broadbill Perched Endemic
90 Bornean Treepie Heard and seen Endemic
91 Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hawking for insects
92 Black-and-crimson Oriole Foraging
93 Black-naped Monarch Heard call only
94 Crested Jay Heard call only
95 Scaly-breasted Bulbul Heard and seen
96 Temminck's Babbler Heard call only
97 Rufous-fronted Babbler Heard call only
98 Black-capped White-eye Feeding
99 Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Foraging
100 Dark-sided Flycatcher Hawking for insects
101 Verditer Flycatcher Perched
102 Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Perched
103 Wreathed Hornbill Flying over / In flight
104 White-throated Fantail Heard and seen
105 Short-tailed Green Magpie Heard and seen
106 Sunda Bush-warbler Foraging
107 Mountain Blackeye Feeding Endemic
108 Flavescent Bulbul Perched Endemic
109 Yellow-breasted Warbler Foraging
110 Mountain Wren-babbler Heard call only Endemic
111 Eyebrowed Jungle-flycatcher Heard and seen Endemic
112 Barred Eagle-owl Heard call only
113 Brown-capped woodpecker Drumming/Pecking
114 Grey-chinned Minivet Heard and seen
115 Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hawking for insects
116 Blyth's Hawk-eagle Flying over / In flight
117 Pink-necked Green-pigeon Feeding
118 Indian Cuckoo Heard call only
119 Red-billed Malkoha Foraging
120 Chestnut-breasted Malkoha Feeding
121 Scarlet-rumped Trogon Heard call only
122 Orange-breasted Trogon Heard & Seen
123 Grey-cheeked Bulbul Heard call only

Last year we donated 2 Susan Myer's Birds of Borneo Fieldguide to Cikgu Sang and the community. This year we left another copy to the teachers who will be the torchbearers for this rural birdwatching effort.

It is hoped that by Jan 2012, we will have at least one AWC survey conducted in Bakelalan and by later by June a "MY Garden Birdwatch" event executed by the students and teachers with help from the birdwatching fraternity. Next trip : "How to enter Bakelalan bird sightings to BIW!"

Write-up and photo by
Nazeri Abghani, MNS Miri, Oct 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Niah NP Weekend

It's been a while since we overnighted at Niah NP, the weekend after the trip to the West country seemed ideal to recuperate from jetlag and just hang-out listening to the sounds of the rainforest. We booked a fan-cooled chalet at Niah Park and stayed for the long weekend.

It was a quiet weekend of just lounging about with windows open and ears perked up to listening to the incessant calls of barbet, broadbills, hornbills and numerous sunbirds that flit through the idyllic minimalist garden setting. With comfy chairs set up on the verandah facing flowering hibiscus, we savored the views of a pair of Brown-throated Sunbird that came to visit flowers on an hourly basis. Fleeting about the same path, beautifully painted butterflies came and went.

Male Brown-throated Sunbird.

Female, Brown-throated Sunbird.

Male, Purple Sunbird/Van Hasselt's Sunbird.

A beautifully marked male Golden Birdwing Troides Amphrysus.

Our chalet situated not far from the river afforded us unparalled views of the comings and goings of visitors to the park. The weekend being a three day weekend proved to be busy for the boatman and park staff. Visitors came and went at all hours from 7am till late in the afternoon. Outside of those hours we had the park to ourselves, it's akin to living in a simple manor surrounded by a large well tended garden.

We took our meals at Batu Niah rest-stop, 30minutes away by car. Reason being the canteen was rather sluggish with limited fare on offer. At the rest stop, food on offer ranged from chicken wings, roti canai, mee kolok and all sorts of other delectable local meals simply prepared.

Milky Way in the garden.

The drive out gave us a chance to scan the skies for some magical dark sky wonders. Being away from the brightly lit Miri City ie. less light pollution gave us clearer views of the surrounding nite skies. On one of those nights, perhaps only the 3rd such occasion in our umpteen years in Sarawak, we were blessed with a spectacular view of the Milky Way ... right from the front porch of our humble chalet.

The stay Niah NP gave us the quiet weekend we longed for, delectable little pleasures meant to be taken in small doses.

Information for visitors:-

Niah Caves NP offers a range of accomodation choices :
a) Fan-cooled dormitory rooms-4 rooms per house, 4 single beds per room with attached bathroom and shower and a huge common living area. Best value for money at $40/room.
2) Fan-cooled chalets-2 rooms per house, 4 single beds per room with attached bathroom and shower. Comes with a refrigerator, living and kitchen area. A steal at $159/house.

Also on offer are the air-conditioned VIP chalets and air-conditioned chalets. For enquiries, please call Niah Caves NP at 085-737450/737454 or fax 085-737918.

More information on the park can be found here.

Images and text by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Choo Tse Chien, Birding Maestro and Buddy

Today, 24th Aug 2011, we lost a birding maestro and good friend, a major player in the Malaysian bird photography scene.

Tse Chien helped us celebrate our first World Migratory Bird Day in Miri, our very first in Sarawak. He has been a constant inspiration to our own birding work here in Miri, supportive and forever ready to coach, goad, instigate and inspire birdwatching and bird photography activities locally. He was with MNS Miri on several occasions traversing rural villages talking to and inspiring little birders with his amazing bird images.

Always remembered as the kind and jovial person by whomever he meets, he helped us set up our very first Bird Photography Exhibition with his enthusiasm and beautiful bird imagery at Borneo Tropical Rainforest Resort on occasion of MNS National AGM 2009 in Miri, also a first such exhibition in Miri if not the Northern Division.

His mark was not only left in Miri. He actively contributed to the first Langkawi Bird Festival together with Irshad Mubarak, MNS Langkawi and others. He was also a regular contributor to the Sabah's Borneo Bird Festival ever since it's inception. He has inspired us and his many other photographer friends to the beauty of birds; turning photographers to birders from Perlis to Sabah. His images are almost always up close, personal and with his signature heavenly bokeh as background.

Choo Tse Chien, buddy, may you rest in peace surrounded by all that is beautiful and heavenly in creation.

We will miss you.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kuala Baram Morning

The little spot which looks ideal for a hide to watch waders this season. The question is whether there'll be water enough this year to create a good roosting spot in front of the casuarina within the lagoon. The flats been looking rather dry all year, the sand is building up.

Kuala Baram Beach looking north, it's somewhat sandy here as opposed to the muddier conditions in the lagoons to the right.

After Erwin and Marten's visit to KB last Saturday which I had to give miss on account of the MNS Miri Branch AGM, I decided to pop by this morning while the tide is still manageable. Though I didn't go as far as the guys did (they went loop around Pulau Bawai); I only slow walked to the tip of the lagoon. They tides weren't too high but the flats connecting the lagoon and Pulau Bawai was underwater.

It was quiet at the usual spot by the hut, only Collared Kingfisher and a Common Sandpiper bobbing his way on the dried up mudflat. I headed straight to the clump of casuarina trees that are nicely taking hold of the beach. In front of it is a nice wet spot frequently used last year by waders as a day roost site when the tides are high. It might be useful to put a temporary hide at the location this year.

At the beach approaching the tip of the lagoon, there's about 150-200 birds roosting by the water's edge. Further out across the channel there were a few more.

Erwin reported sightings of Oriental Darter last week. It was't the first sighting, I was trying to ensure that indeed the birds are regulars here ... perhaps an opportunity to photograph them up close. We first saw a pair here at the beginning of the year, we thought it was quite strange since the lagoon isn't very deep and it's next to the sea. Indeed upon scanning the the water's edge, there was a single OD on the sand, wings fully spread out. It's probably has just gotten out of the water by the time I got there.

The next few minutes were spent scanning the horizons for other birds. Other than the waders than a number of terns, they weren't anything else. A raptor or two would have been a nice treat!

Birds sighted today:
Oriental Darter, Greenshank, Little Tern, Greater Sandplover, Kentish Plover, Malaysian Plover, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Godwit sp., Collared Kingfisher, Olive-winged Sunbird, Pacific Reef Egret, Striated Grassbird.

Birds sighted by Erwin and Marten last week (including sightings on Pulau Bawai):
Litte Egret, Little Ringed Plover, Malaysian Plover, Greater Sandplover, Far Eastern Curlew, Common Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling, Gull-billed Tern, Little Tern and Black-naped Tern.

It's still early in the wader migration season, there could be more birds which hasn't arrive on our shores yet. The great thing about looking for them early is the opportunity to get those early birds who are still decked in their summer feathers.

Greater Sandplover.

A group of terns.

Ruddy Turnstone in his upbeat summer feathers.


Olive-backed Sunbird, male.

Nazeri Abghani/Miri

Sunday, July 31, 2011

MNS Miri Branch New Committee for 2011-2012

MNS Miri concluded their Branch AGM held at Baraya Laut Resort, Kpg Baraya, Miri, Sarawak 30th July 2011 with the election of fresh faces for branch Committee. The AGM went smoothly with twenty-two stalwart members attending the event.

The new committee,
Chairperson : Peter Pillai
Vice-Chairperson : Musa Musbah
Secretary : Joyce Sivalingam
Treasurer : Amer Matridi Mansor
Committee : Miriam Chacko, Marlene Lim (Co-opted)
Immediate-past Chairperson : Anura Dason

Those in attendance were later treated to an early dinner consisting of kelupis and satay ordered specially for the occasion. Dinner was then followed by a short firefly cruise along Sg Raan for members and their family.

Special mention goes to Committee members from 2010-2011 who made this event all possible.

Here's to another productive year for MNS Miri!

MNS Miri

Monday, July 11, 2011

Garden birdwatching at Miri Marriott Resort and Spa

A male Oriental Magpie Robin, he's already exercising his little lungs by 6:30AM.

Oriental Magpie Robin in the parking lot.

It's the weekend, we decided to allot some time for a relax and leisurely birdwatching while being pampered by the facilities offered by a premier resort in Miri, the Marriott Resort and Spa located not 15mins from the city center just a hillock away from our home.

While the children while away their time splashing the pool, there's plenty of time to checkout the common garden birds in the compound. Though most of the area seemed dominated by casuarinas and plams, there are pockets of flowering trees especially around the parking lot. The garden chalets are surrounded by palms, some fruiting and mature causarinas. The garden is compact with neatly placed plants.

The most common birds here has to be the Oriental Magpie Robin, the early risers if not the earliest. There were several pairs around our rooms on the upper floors. The advantage of the upper floors is that you'd be watching the birds at eye-level. From our room we could hear nesting munias and even saw a pair of endemic Dusky Munia busy transporting dried grass from the garden to build a nest somewhere between the fronds of plam trees several rooms away from ours. We also saw a nesting Yellow-vented Bulbul from our verandah.

Common Iora.

Olive-backed Sunbird, male.

Yellow-vented Bulbul, several nesting in the resort compound.

Black-headed Munia, flitting about in the grass amongst the casuarinas. These also nest in the resort compound.

Pied Fantail startled by the camera flash.

Zebra Dove, the ones in the compound seemed familar with people and were not at all skittish, foraging in a group along walking paths.

A pesky squirrel that stopped by our verandah on the way to his second breakfast.

Other garden birds we saw while at the resort:
White-breasted Woodswallow (nesting), Collared Kingfisher, Little Green Pigeon, Pink-necked Pigeon, Asian Glossy Starling, Dusky Munia, and Sunda/Pygmy Woodpecker.

Miri Marriott Resort and Spa is located 15mins from Miri town. Shuttle service to town is available at regular intervals provided free by the resort. Excursions to nearby national parks, Lambir Hills NP and Niah Caves NP, for more serious birdwatching can be easily arranged. You feel more adventurous, grab a taxi to the town's central bus station and hop on a bus to take you to Lambir Hills which is only 30minutes from Miri. There's the Mandara Spa, the perfect place to unwind sore muscles at the end of a hard day's birdwatching.

Nazeri Abghani/Miri.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Birdwatching in your backyard with MNS

How to get to SK Bungai, 30mins from Miri town heading south towards Bekenu along the coastal highway. Keep a watch out for a chrome sign "Bungai Beach" on your right as you approach the junction after Azam Trading.

The birding loop around Kpg Bungai, Kpg Gatas and Kpg Peliau in the vicinity of SK Bungai. MNS Miri birders will be joined by 45 students from three rural schools in the area for this Saturday's "Birding in Your Backyard with MNS".

MNS Miri birders will be descending to Bungai this Saturday, 18th June for a morning session of "Birdwatching in Your Backyard with MNS". Birders from the branch will take 45 children from 3 rural schools to check out the birds in their backyard.

A first friendly birdrace in these parts, our program is as follows :
0700hrs Registration
0715 hrs Short Briefing and break into groups
0730 hrs Start birdwatching along assigned routes above.
1000 hrs Meet back at starting point for refreshments.
1100 hrs A few words from Headmaster/Headmistress.
1200 hrs Award of certificates and award of "Surprise Prize" by MNS Chairperson.
1300 hrs Close.

Birdgroups (assigned responsible adult-bird person in bold; and potential key birds + topics to chat about with the students):

Group 1 – Nazeri, Clare, Ibrahim (SFC)
SK Bungai-BungaiBeach-SK Bungai
Special bird : Little Egret; Migrants

Group 2 – Erwin, Anura, Suni (SFC)
SK Bungai-Peliau-SK Bungai
Special bird : Black-thighed Falconet; Raptors

Group 3 – Bor Seng, Roslan (SFC), Kallang (SFC)
SK Bungai –Peliau-Gatas-SK Bungai
Special bird : Dusky Munia; Endemics

Group 4 – Dominique, Joyce, Adaha
SK Bungai-Gatas-Peliau-SK Bungai
Special bird : Orange-breasted Flowerpecker; Endemics

There will be two teachers tagging along each group to help manage the kids (45 kids from 3 schools). Please bring water along your scope, binos (and extra binos) as well as your fieldguides. Allocated 2.5 hrs birdwatching time includes walking the route assigned above.

Those interested to participate as facilitators to please contact nabghani at yahoo dot com

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cats in the Cradle, Cats on the Loose

Little Moses, an orphaned stray cat which made it's way into our household mid 2010. He turned out to be the perfect and the only predator in our garden since. Everynight he'll fuss to stay outdoors, returning back into the house only early the next day.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow, probably the most common bird in a typical Malaysian garden with nests around the house and in our gutters. Little Mose's first prey was a juvenile Eurasian Tree Sparrow it had grabbed from a low lying nest in the front yard.

By Taffy Lee Williams

"Maybe you knew that habitat loss is the leading cause of extinctions of native wildlife. But did you know that the second greatest threat to native species survival is the common "exotic" outdoor cat?

Cats are by far Americans' favorite pet: 30% of our households have at least one cat. In all there are roughly 66 million pet cats. However, studies have shown that only 35% of these are kept indoors; this means that 40 million domestic cats are free to roam outside at will. Besides that, up to 60 million additional strays and their feral offspring have descended upon America's native wildlife pushing many beleaguered endangered species into extinction.


That cats kill wildlife is so well accepted and even ignored that most people find it hard to believe that they could cause such serious harm. Yet each year in the US, free roaming and domestic cats kill literally hundreds of millions of birds and well over a billion small mammals. Reptiles and amphibians provide additional prey for cats as well.

Cats were bred to size and "domesticated" by the Egyptians around 7000 years ago from the African wildcat. Although "tamed" to human interaction their instinct for hunting has never waned. Now the super-abundance of cats in the wild has created a catastrophic problem around the world, in fact, anywhere humans keep them as pets. Because of their huge popularity and because people refuse to keep their cats indoors, the problem has taken on a serious global dimension.


Several studies over the past 50 years have brought important information to light on the true extent of the problem. A University of Wisconsin team, using a radio-collared tracking system, determined that in one year in Wisconsin alone, 20 to 150 million songbirds are killed by rural cats. The study found up to 114 cats per square mile, or 6 cats per square acre, in some areas, which far outnumbers by many times the combined populations of native predators of comparable size, including fox, coyote, ferret, opossum and raccoon.

Another Arizona suburban neighborhood study found that each cat studied committed over 80 kills per year; of these 62% were small mammals, 26% birds, and 11% reptiles. This coincides closely with extensive cat kill studies in Europe, North America, Australia, Africa and at least 22 islands: In general, 60% to 70% of all prey items are small mammals, 20-30% are birds, and approximately 10% reptiles and insects.


One single Australian cat was documented with over 1000 kills in an 18-month period. During the same time period, one well-fed US cat near an experimental station was found responsible for 1600 kills. In the United Kingdom, 964 cats brought in 14,000 prey items (an average of 40 victims each) over a 5-month period. In New Zealand, the extinction of over 40 species of birds as well as the extermination of 8 island bird species, including the South Island thrush and the Auckland merganser, was caused by domestic cat predation.

Amazingly, in a well-documented case, an entire species, the Stevens Island wren, was exterminated by a single cat. In the southern sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean, an estimated 450,000 seabirds were destroyed by cat predation annually before an eradication program was implemented.

Cat owners claim that feeding their cats well inhibits their hunting instinct. However, in the studies mentioned, well-fed cats actually achieved higher kill numbers, being healthier and stronger than their more feral comrades. In addition, bell-wearers attained greater kill rates than non-bell wearers. The bell forces the cat to become more stealthy, and better hunters. Even de-clawed cats are still often very successful hunters.

A look at some of the many species taken at random by cats we find the English sparrow and various finches, nuthatches, swifts, swallows, woodpeckers, jays, doves and even bats. Numerous ground nesting songbirds, including bobolinks, dickcissels, meadowlarks, and game birds such as quail and pheasant, have seriously dwindled or disappeared in much of their range where cats have been introduced. Shore birds that nest (and sleep) on the sand, such as terns, sandpipers and killdeer, offer easy pickings to roaming cats. Small mammal prey items include rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, voles and shrews. While cats easily kill fledglings, sitting hens and other vulnerable offspring they reduce the survival rate for entire populations, which may eventually condemn a local species to extinction. If the young are constantly preyed upon and reproductive failure is routine, the population will disappear within a short time. Tragically, already scarce reptiles and amphibians, such as frogs, turtles, salamanders, lizards and snakes have succumbed to cat predation. One SUNY-WCC professor remarked, "Reptiles are virtually extinct south of Route 287 in Westchester County."

One of the biggest problems facing efforts to control the numbers of free-roaming cats is that they are capable of up to 3 litters per year, with 6 kittens per litter. Calculations by the Humane Society of the United States ( determined that a single female with her offspring could produce up to 420,000 cats in seven years. The exploding population of cats survives because people feed them, whether they feast on wildlife or not. Very often hunting skills are not essential to their longevity. In addition, owners immunize their outdoor cats from disease, helping ensure their survival. Cats will often form "colonies" that effectively destroy wildlife. In Australia, within a 10-kilometer area, it is not uncommon to find 30 cats perched in one tree. These Australian cats are responsible for the extinction of dozens of species!


Besides damage done through killing, cats destroy wildlife indirectly as well. Native predators like the hawk, fox and ferret are facing starvation today as the small prolific feline hunters deplete their natural prey. Rabbit, squirrel and voles are among feral cats' favorite catch, but these are also important food sources for native predators. What's more, cats often puncture their victims without killing them, and will even "play" with their prey. Once injured by the cat, the victim is an unsafe meal for other predators. Minor cuts or bites are usually lethal to prey since cat saliva is loaded with bacteria and parasites that can be transmissible to other predators. There is no question as to the success of feral and outdoor cats at the expense of native wildlife.


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, cats are the animals most often infected by rabies. In addition, feline distemper and leukemia are rampant in outdoor cat populations. Feral cats are being blamed for the spread of the feline leukemia virus found in a California mountain lion and distemper in a Florida panther. Native mountain lion and lynx have been found with feline infectious peritonitis, and a Florida panther and bobcat with feline immunodeficiency virus; the likely source being feral cat contamination which may occur from sharing a kill or even direct physical contact.

With an average of 98 cats per non-farm square mile in just one state, the number one pet in America has enjoyed unbelievable success. But loss of native wildlife habitat to housing developments or commercial sites pressures species into concentrated and fragmented nesting sites, making their survival even more precarious.

Picture this scenario: forested or wild areas are cleared, rivers and streams are diverted, new homes are built surrounded by lush green lawns sprung up after a judicious application of fertilizer and pesticides, obliterating and then replacing the native landscape. New homeowners arrive, bringing their pet cats, which they allow to roam outside. Whatever has survived the environmental upheaval during these massive construction projects the housecats easily finish off. Besides here at home, it is a scene played out all over the world where the combination of development and housecat is wiping out wildlife populations at a terrifying pace. As scientists have determined, cats make the developed areas essentially uninhabitable to most wildlife.


The prevailing attitude in society is that cats will kill, it is their nature, and they belong outdoors. When cats bring home prey items as "gifts," their owners often think it's funny or even "cute." But in the face of overwhelming wildlife destruction, it is clear that this has to change.

Some believe it is not fair that cat-lovers are allowed to let them roam outside freely while birdwatchers and others who hope to enjoy native wildlife grieve the destruction they are forced to witness, often in their own backyards. Perhaps it is even less fair to force them to petition lawmakers for cat leash laws or other restrictive legislation. It may even be argued that a violation of rights is occurring.

Because as many localities have discovered, cat owners cannot be trusted to keep their pets inside or remove strays that they feed from the outdoor environment, legal action is necessary.


Many counties, cities and even nations have already enacted cat-leash laws. For example, Marin and Columbia Counties in Florida, Cleveland, Ohio, Gaithersburg and Rockville, Maryland as well as parts of North Carolina, California, New Jersey and Louisiana all have cat leash laws. Violations of the cat leash law result in anything from a small fine to the loss of ownership rights. Cat leash legislation is pending in many states, including Virginia, West Virginia, Connecticut and New York.

The problem is so serious that one community, Akron, Ohio, passed an emergency "trap and kill" ordinance, and collected and euthanized over 1000 cats. This extreme measure need not have occurred had residents kept their cats inside and helped prevent the outdoor and feral cat population explosion.

The easiest remedy to this problem is to keep cats indoors. The benefits to owners are simple. Indoor cats live on average five times longer than outdoor cats. Inside, cats are protected from wild dogs or coyotes, cars, deadly epidemic feline disease, or poisonous toxins in the environment. Nuisance activities that infuriate neighbors and create hostility, such as attacking birds at birdfeeders, urinating on doors, digging up gardens and fighting with other cats, would be eliminated as well. Having cats spayed or neutered is a must for all owners. Enacting restrictive legislation and keeping cats indoors will ultimately protect the cat and our wildlife as well."

This article was first published in The Viking News, November, 2004

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

World Migratory Bird Day 2011

No place to land: Loss of natural habitats threatens migratory birds globally observed in over 50 countries on 14-15 May, World Migratory Bird Day 2011 looks at “Land use changes from a bird’s-eye view”

Bonn/Nairobi 12 May 2011 – On their epic journeys, often spanning thousands of kilometres, migratory birds cross many borders, linking different countries as well as ecosystems. The annual migration of an estimated 50 billion birds representing around 19 per cent of the world's 10,000 bird species is one of nature's great natural wonders. Yet each year, more and more of the natural habitats migratory birds need to complete their journeys either diminish or disappear completely.

The theme for World Migratory Bird Day 2011, celebrated around the world on 14-15 May, is ' Land use changes from a bird’s-eye view ' and it highlights the negative effects human activities are having on migratory birds, their habitats and the planet’s natural environment. The loss, fragmentation and degradation of natural bird habitats is occurring globally and is mainly caused by the pressures resulting from a growing human population, rapid urbanization and unsustainable human use of natural areas.

“Although migratory birds face many serious threats, the way humans use the land around them has by far the greatest negative effect. Unsustainable human land use, whether through deforestation, intensive agriculture, biofuel production, land reclamation, urbanization and mining directly removes or damages the habitats of migratory birds, affecting their populations on a global scale”, said Bert Lenten, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and initiator of the World Migratory Bird Day campaign.
World Migratory Bird Day is being organized by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) - two intergovernmental wildlife treaties administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). BirdLife International, Wetlands International and the Secretariat of the Partnership for the East Asian – Australasian Flyway (EAAFP) are also main partners of the global campaign.

“As the two intergovernmental treaties dedicated to the conservation of migratory animals, including migratory birds at global and flyway scale, the Convention on Migratory Species and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement have launched World Migratory Bird Day to make people aware of the threats migratory birds face along their migration routes”, said Bert Lenten.

CMS and AEWA bring together governments and other stakeholders to coordinate and further develop global flyways policy, to ensure that all flyways in the world benefit from some kind of coordination mechanism that promotes cooperation at ground level among the countries involved. This includes working towards establishing a viable network of sites which can be used by migratory birds to breed, rest and refuel during their migration.
Dr. Marco Lambertini, BirdLife International’s Chief Executive said: ‘Land-use change poses an immediate and increasing threat to the world’s migratory birds. Habitats vital to these species on their incredible journeys are being destroyed or degraded at an alarming rate and the bird’s-eye view is becoming bleaker. The BirdLife Partnership, with over 110 conservation organizations along the world’s flyways, is working across borders to help stem this tide and achieve the effective joined-up conservation needed to make a difference for these inspiring birds.’

Initiated in 2006, World Migratory Bird Day is an annual campaign backed by the United Nations and is devoted to celebrating migratory birds and promoting their conservation worldwide.

Events for WMBD 2011 in over 50 countries will include bird festivals, education programmes, presentations, film screenings and birdwatching trips, run by hundreds of volunteers, dedicated groups and organizations around the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Come celebrate World Migratory Bird Day with MNS Miri Branch this May

Birdwatching in Loagan Bunut. Image by Nazeri Abghani.

Birdwatching on an unnamed sandbar in Kuala Lawas. Image by Nazeri Abghani.

Members of MNS Miri Branch surveying the coasts for waterbirds in January. Image by Sara Wong.

World Migratory Bird Day 2011 is coming up soon! So far for 2011, WMBD has 42 event registrations from 25 countries and are expecting many more in the coming weeks. However, this year we wish to break the record of 150 registered events set by the 2009 campaign! MNS Miri Branch has dedicated all May weekends to bird related events in conjunction with this celebration.

This year’s theme for World Migratory Bird Day is “Land use changes from a bird’s-eye view”. We want to raise awareness on the dramatic effects human land use has on migratory birds and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Many aspects of human land use are extremely damaging to the birds’ habitats.

For example, urbanization and intensive agriculture can fragment and replace complex networks of habitats needed by the birds. Deforestation and mineral extraction can damage entire regions used along the birds’ annual migration paths. In addition, land reclamation and biofuel production remove or degrade crucial wetlands and other habitats for many migratory bird species.

Please join MNS Miri Branch and others around the world and take part in World Migratory Bird Day on the weekend of 14 -15 May 2011 and the weekends throughout May.

Events in Miri in conjunction with WBMD 2011:

07th May : Community Outreach in Kpg Kuala Sibuti
0900hrs-1700hrs. Presentations and games of Congregating Fireflies in Sarawak; Waterbirds and Wetland Habitats in Sarawak and Our Underwater Treasures at Bungai Lodge, Kampung Bungai, Bekenu.

14th May: WMBD : Birdwatching at Lambir Hills
Birdwatching in conjunction with World Migratory Bird Day.
0700-0900 hrs to meet at Lambir Hills National Park 0700hrs to birdwatch in Lambir.
0900-1200 hrs Talk and slideshow "Birdwatching in Sarawak" at Lambir Hills Conference.

15th May : Community Outreach in Kpg Masjid, Kuala Baram
0900hrs-1700hrs. Presentations and games of Congregating Fireflies in Sarawak; Waterbirds and Wetland Habitats in Sarawak and Our Underwater Treasures at Village Community Hall, Kampung Masjid, Kuala Baram.

21st May : WMBD : Community Outreach (Birdwatching) at Pustaka Miri
1300-1500 hrs Poster-making Contests, “Birds of Sarawak”
1500-1700 hrs Talk and Slidehow : WMBD : Birdwatching in Miri : Common Birds in Your Garden and Other Rare Birds Beyond”

25th May : WMBD and MY Garden Birdwatch with SMK Lutong Birdwatching Club
1500-1545 hrs “Birds in Sarawak : Common Birds in Sarawak and Rare Birds Beyond”
1545-1630 hrs MY Garden Birdwatch on Schoolgrounds

28th May : MY Garden Birdwatch at KRP
0700-0900 hrs Birdwatching around KRP compound for common birds
0900-1100 hrs Talk and slideshow, "MY Common Garden Birds"
Brunch and refreshments will be served

Discussions initiated for a "Birdwatching on Campus" at Curtin University 1600-1900hrs. A slideshow "Birds in Sarawak" and a late afternoon birding around campus.

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD)

World Migratory Bird Day is a global initiative devoted to celebrating migratory birds and for promoting their conservation worldwide. It is organized by the Secretariats of the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) – two international wildlife treaties administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – and a growing number of partners. This year’s campaign is being financially supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), which we acknowledge with gratitude.

People and dedicated organisations around the world will be using the event to draw attention to migratory birds that are threatened by extinction. Activities to mark WMBD include bird festivals and bird watching trips, public discussions, exhibitions, presentations, bird rallies and other educational and public events.

MNS Miri Branch has been celebrating WMBD since 2008 in our effort to increase awareness about birds and their habitat conservation within our immediate community.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The initial euphoria of a potential Buff-banded Rail turned out to be four Slaty-breasted Rail instead but well compensated with a very close uninterrupted view of a pair of nitejars. The is also another possibility of a major find made a few weeks ago in the morning : a pair of Blue-breasted Quails may not be quails after all, the male was too dark (almost BLACK!) to be a quail. Looks like more visits are due.

White-breasted Waterhen.

Slaty-breasted Rail.

A pair of nightjar, unsure of identity just yet.


Breeding plummage Cattle Egret.

Shin Yang by Linau Mewah Sdn Bhd is now very active in the area, more peatswamps are being churn-up for accacia plantation on the other side of the road.

Working hard in the swamp.

Waist deep in organic matter that of a peatswamp, "no, we are not converting out peatlands to plantations!"

The peat area nearby is undergoing rapid transformation by Linau Mewah Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Shin Yang, a major player in Kuala Baram peatswamp conversion. This patch will be another fast growing accacia plantation by the looks of it.

Words and images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri