Monday, January 31, 2011

AWC Sg Miri

The route we took 0700-1100hrs along Sg Miri from PBC jetty to 100metres past Taniku ferrypoint, then back with a short excursion to Sg Maloi.

Intermediate Egret taking flight.

Members of the Miri CFZ team gathered 0700hrs at the PBC jetty to meet up with Musa who've woken up even earlier to sort out the boat with Mat Shah and drive it to meet us.

The trip was planned for our team to conduct CFZ Daytime Assessment of Sg Miri, Sg Adong and Sg Maloi, this will be reported separately on Sarawak Fireflies. While the team was busy with collecting visuals for firefly display trees along our route, birders took the opportunity to make observations along Sg Miri for birds of course.

Along the route, there were a few roosting Cattle Egret (20), feeding Intermediate Egret (5), Little Egret (5) and surprisingly a Chinese Egret (1). This could be the Little and Chinese pair we always observed at Lutong Beach.

Black-crown Night Heron was spotted on many points along the route; most were observed with a juvenile. The adults were seen with food in their beaks with juveniles nearby. Piasau Camp area had a parent and a juvenile team low on the branches close to the tideline.. Lutong town (on the opposite bank) had the highest number we've seen so far. Three adult BCNH (3) and eight juveniles (8) were seen at the river's edge together. All were observed within the same 5m radius.

Other birds sighted along tour route to Teniku Ferry and back to the ends of Sg Maloi :
Brahminy Kite (1), Dollarbird (2) , un-id Bulbul (4) , Blue-throated Bee-eater (5), Little Heron (2), White-breasted Waterhen (5), Long-tailed Parakeet (6), Little Green Pigeon (10), Stork-billed Kingfisher (1), Red-bearded Bee-eater (2), Asian Glossy Starling (50), Black-and -Read Broadbill (4, nesting; 2 nest site located), Raffle's Malkoha (1) and Maroon Woodpecker (1).

At one point during our journey, we also spotted a large hornbill (most likely Oriental Pied Hornbill (1) but id was not confirmed due to distance and the fleeting view afforded). There were also several Greater Coucal (4) seen either flying between trees, sunning itself on top of branches and one observed calling.

We carried out AWC for Sungai Miri only once before previously and decided to drop it from our site list due to the dearth of birds observed (other than roosting CE and LE). Sg Miri is a major river and still functionas a main river thoroughfare connecting locals to the heavily developed (oil palm) sections of Miri, perhaps this alone is already a good reason to put it back on the list.

One mistnet (already damaged) was observed throughout the trip.

A strange looking Little Egret, perhaps it's been exposed to too much of Sg Miri.

Cattle Egret and Intermediate Egret (in the background) roosting.

A juvenile Black-crown Night Heron, there were others in the area.

Greater Coucal.

Un-id Bulbul.

White-breasted Waterhen taking flight.

Upper Sungai Maloi, a tributary of Sg Miri. What used to be a forested area is now laid bare in preparation for a plantation, Lambir Hills is in the far distance.

Happy little faces excited seeing "tourists" in their backyard.

Write-up and images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Jan 2011.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

AWC Pujut Lakes 23rd Jan

Early risers trying to catch a glimpse of several Wandering Whistling Duck which flew out of reeds to another nearby lake. MNS Miri Branch (Musa Musbah) sighted first breeding record of Wandering Whistling Duck in these waterlogged swamps Feb 2009.

Pujut Lakes 23rd Jan 2011.
Entry and exit via Go-Kart Circuit

Observers: Musa Musbah, Anura Dason, Sara Wong, Joyce Sivalingam, Nazeri Abghani

Time : 0600-0900hrs

We drove in 2x4WD along a dirt track by the side of the lakes, stop and observe surroundings at specific sighting locations. We crossed Sg Adong Kecil.

Wandering Whistling Duck
-12 seen flying into the 1st lake very early in the morning
-4 seen flying out from the other end of the 1st lake
-6 seen at the last lake at the gate of the plantation

Intermediate Egret
White-browed Crake (heard 1st and later seen)
Black-winged Kite
-seen handling a prey (thought to be a small bird but later confirmed as a small mammal), tearing meat of prey
-a squaking (juvvy??) seen flying over to the same tree to share the meat
-the 1st bird flew off, followed by the 2nd bird
-recorded sequence on video
-would've been great if 1st bird proceeded to feeding the 2nd bird!

Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Blue-throated Bee-Eater
Chestnut Munia
Green Pigeon
Black-collared Starling
-initially dismissed as Pied Triller, a flock of 20
-upon closer inspection, confirmed to be from one of the pied Sturnidae family on account of lack of black markings on head area other than the collar, plummer size, white-yellowish head.
-moves together in a flock in the same tree from branch to branch
-good observation made for a duration of 2-3minutes.
-a loud "Musa, bring the video-scope!" spooked the flock which flew seconds later.
-Musa has seen this bird before on the same tree but thought it was Pied Triller "behaving like a starling".

White-breasted Waterhen

We turned back after reaching the gate to the oil palm plantation. We drove back to the 1st lake and observed further several WWD, WBC and IE.

Overall a great short outing with BCS and potentiall BWK feeding a juvvy (perhaps, could also be a mate) both are subjects with potential for further exploration on other future outings in the area.

We concluded the session at 0900hrs with a late roti-canai breakfast nearby.

This is a video of two juvenile Black-winged Kite on nest, captured by Musa Musbah the next day 24th January 2011 at the same location.

Write-up and images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Jan 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Waterbirds Survey in Miri, Sunday Leg 09th Jan

A Grey-headed Fish Eagle seen tending to a downy chick in a nest in Kuala Baram during Sunday's survey. This is a second sighting of a chick in the same nest, the sighting first was in February 2010.

For Day No. 2 of our extreme birding weekend, we met at the Shell Sarawak Office lobby at sharpish 0700hrs. We've got a new crew for Sunday : Daniel, Rose, Musa, Erwin, Anura, Remli, Sara and Steve.

0730-0830 hrs Kpg Batu Satu - South of Pottery Bridge.
At Kpg Batu Satu boat landing we scanned the beach and only came up with two Common Sandpiper on separate occasions. An extensive rockwall had already been installed in the area all the way up to the tip of Kuala Baram lagoon as of mid last year as part of government's beach erosion control measure. At Sunday's tide level (it was high but receding), there were limited beachsands. Scans for potential roosting waders revealed nought. Further afield in the coasts, Daniel spotted sveral flocks of terns circling around a couple of fishermen's boat that we were out that day. Caspian Tern was id as one of the terns observed being very largish in size. Caspians have been observed on one occasion in March in 2009 and several occasions before that. Great Crested Terns were also commonly seen congregating at the beach at Kuala Baram Lagoon 2008 and 2009.

The crew scanning the near shore for waders and terns.

0830-0930 hrs North of Pottery Bridge-Kuala Baram Lagoon
A couple of Common Sandpiper, several Lesser Sandplover and Kentish Plover recorded at the start. More birds were recorded in Kuala Baram Lagoon proper. Daniel, Erwin, Rose, Musa, Sara took their places behind the rockwall and made their counts. Sanderlings, Red-necked Stint, Great Knot, Long-toed Stints, Lesser Sandplover, Greater Sandplover, Kentish Plover and Malaysian Plover were recorded. This area has so far been the best place to observe waders in Miri during the migration seasons. MNS Miri Branch has adopted this site as a long term monitoring area for waders. Malaysian Plover breeds in this area. Some of it's notable visitors had been : Far Eastern Curlew, Asian Dowitcher, Chinese Egret, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Caspian Terns, Ruff and most recently Black-winged Stilt. Sadly on the 2nd day of 2011, Musa has noticed mist nets on the beach set up to trap these waders. We are now putting more regular visits to this spot in the attempt to monitor and address the situation. Several locals have been informed of the consequences of the Sarawak Wildlife Ordinance 1998, further outreach efforts in partnership with relevant government agencies are planned in the area in the very near future.

Birding on the rocks.

0930-1130 hrs Mudflats of Kuala Baram Lagoon-Pulau Bawai
As the tide was lowest, we walked over the flats in the attempt to reach Pulau Bawai and count there. Several visits to te island previously have recorded Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Malaysian Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Red-necked Stints, White-bellied Sea Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. The tide was very low and the flats were extensive and the scorching Sarawakian beachside sunshime made it even hotter. Many waders (names abaove) were scattered on the flats. A juvenile Brahminy Kite and resident Peregrine Falcon was recorded. Another un-id raptor was alson seen mobbing the Peregrine (or was it the other way around?). We had to cut short the walk to Bawai when the tide started to rise. We did not reach the island in time to assess roosting birds there but made good recording of waders in the area. Two Oriental Darter were observed circling above as we made our way back to the car.

Brisk-walking in the mudflats to race against rising tides.

Dutch Birding ... home brewed coffee the way coffee was meant to be savored. Erwin lugged hot coffee brewed using an heirloom coffee-maker inherited from generations of serious coffee drinkers. (Photo by Anura Dason)

We took our lunch break at E-mart which about 0.5 hrs drive away.

Lunch break at E-Mart.

1330-1500 hrs Kpg Masjid Jetty to Lighthouse
We chopped down extensive set-up of mist-net put up to trap roosting birds along the road towards Kpg Masjid. Though none of the locals nearby owned up to the deed they were reminded of the consequences afforded by the law. No waders were observed from the jetty to the lighthouse.

The accursed mist net along Kampong Masjid road. "No, the nets are not mine. I have not seen mist-nets for many years!", so says a suspect potentially to be implicated in a costly exercise of folly. Those caught handling mist-nets in the area will be duly charged under the Sarawak Wildlife Ordinance 1998.

Birds lost.

1500-1600 hrs Light House to Prawn Farm
No significant number of waders observed other than several Kentish Plover waiting out the tide. The beach was covered with organis detritus brought in by the rising tide. We also recorded a White-bellied Sea Eagle was seen hunting along the beach. We were expecting roosting waders at the prwan ponds, however all the ponds were all filled up. Egret roosts were recorded near the pond area.

Daniel getting a closer look at the Grey-headed Fish Eagle across the marshes.

1600-170 hrs Prawn Farm to Sg Tujuh
Only four Kentish Plover were recorded in the area.

Clean beaches near Sg Tujuh immigration and customs check point.

One last look over the pond before we call it a day!

Access to a public beach at the Prawn Farm was hindred by this locked gate by the prorietor. The only other way was a roundabout loop through a kampong nearby.

We ended the survey 1800 hrs and headed for refreshment and dinner near Curtin University.

It was probably the toughest day for participants having to walk and trudge to semak-samun trying to get to the beach. Most depressing was perhaps the discovery of extensive mist-nets set up along the road to Kpg Masjid, having destroyed the nets and informed the likely suspects of the consequences we are still apprehensive about the potential of the nets appearing again in the area.

As depressing if not more was the rapid progress of the clearing of peatswamp by Shin Yang, large tracks of swamp land from the toll booth to the prawn farm junction has been cleared of all tall trees (potential and past nesting trees of Changeable Hawk Eagle and White-bellied Sea Eagle) and systematically drained ready to be planted with accacia.

Most uplifting part of Sunday was the discovery that the Grey-headed Fish Eagle nest recorded in Feb 2010 with a nestling is now brooding again with a second chick with downy feathers.

It's kind of sad to note that all over Kuala Baram, precious wetlands are being made more "productive" without due regard for our feathered friends.

Write-up by Nazeri Abghani/MNS-BCC-Waterbirds/Jan 2011
Images by Nazeri Abghani and Sara Wong/MNS Miri/Jan 2011
All sighting records are tentative pending final list after review.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Waterbirds Survey in Miri, Saturday Leg 08th Jan

Rose and Daniel, our indefatigable fieldcrew of the MNS-BCC-WG's Waterbirds and Wetland Habitats Survey of the Sarawak Coast. They've been traversing the coast of Sarawak from Sematan to Daro since December. Next on their itenarary are Miri, Bintulu, Mukah, Limbang and Lawas.

Wow! And I thought MNS Miri Branch August 2008 Extreme Birding with Karim Madoya was tough, how wrong I was!

The weekend started off harmless enough with a quick get-together after dinner Friday evening at Baraya Laut. Then a run-down of plans for the coming two days with Daniel and Rose, our two hardy fieldcrews as well as several of our volunteers, Anura, Michael, Musa, Remli and Nazeri.

On Saturday:
0700hrs Bungai Beach-Peliau Beach/Promontory
Steve and Chris joined us first thing in the morning. We covered this side of Sibuti River to Peliau Beach and promontory by 4WDs : significant finds were resident Peregrine Falcon, Chinese Egret. Effort to locate a nest for the falcon did not yield anything conclusive. Confirmed presence of at least two Chinese Egrets in the area. Other finds were Kentish Plover and Lesser Sandplover.

Remli and Chris intently checking out the 4 Kentish Plover that was recorded at the estuary of Sg Sibuti. Sibuti Wildlife Sanctuary is located just a few hundred meters from this coastal village.

0930 hrs Tusan Cliffs and Tusan Beach
At Tusan we scramble down to the beach to a small ("used to be") estuary which is now filled up with sand. We didn't see any waders here but Daniel was informed of the sighting of a Lesser Fish Eagle on a perch here two years back by Nazeri. He was also informed of regular sightings of White-bellied Sea Eagle in the area.

1030 hrs Beraya Baru Beach to Sg Siwa
We traversed the beach on 4WDs. Spotted another Chinese Egret, Little Egret, Pacific Reef Egret (white morph), a mixed group of Sanderling, Lesser Sandplover and Kentish Plovers. Chris left the team after Bakam Beach with the team now comprising of Daniel and Rose in the Ford; Musa and Remli in the black Hi-Lux; Anura and Michael in the grey Hi-Lux and Nazeri in the Pajero.

The two survey vehicles approaching Sg Siwa on the horizon, low tides at this time of year afforded us a quick scan of the beach for presence of waterbirds such as waders and egrets.

Two white knights at the start of Bakam Beach.

1100 hrs Sg Siwa to Sg Bakam
No significant finds here other than a Pacific Reef Egret (white morph), Little Egret and Common Sandpiper.

1145 hrs Early lunchbreak
By this time the heat of the day got to us so we gathered for a little respite at small coffee shop at the tamu. Lunch consists of either mee jawa, mee goreng or kueh-tiaw goreng.

1345 hrs North of Hawaii Beach to Tukau
The rock-wall prevented us from driving over on the beach but we managed to report sightings of a couple of Sandplover and Lesser Sandplover. Steve almost got his 4WD into a drain when he made a too gentle a turn on the side road.

1500 hrs Luak Bay
On this stretch we recorded quite a number of waterbirds : Kentish Plover, Lesser Sandplover, Chinese Egret, Little Egret, Great Egret, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling, Brahminy Kite (juvenile), Pacific Reef Egret (grey morph). We spent quite a bit of time here taking pictures of the birds.

Remli, Musa and Steve focussing their attention the Chinese Egret, Pacific Reef Egret and several plovers on the beach.

1600 hrs Tanjong Lobang to Marina Bay
Our best find here was of almost 200 roosting Pacific Golden Plover along with several Common Sandpiper, Kentish Plover and Sanderling. It's right on the rocks that formed the canal leading to the boat quay. Last reported sightings here was in July by Dave of 75 PGPs roosting on the beach nearby.

1700 hrs Marina Bay to Sg Baung
Here we drove around the new reclaimed area and came out with good sigthings of Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Ringed Plover, and Marsh Sandpiper. We didn't see significant waterbird presence as we drove along the old Sg Miri, the whole area has gone through further reclaimation (not much of the river left) with earth movers busy dumping sand where the river was. Only a couple of Little Egrets seen across the other bank.

1800 hrs Kpg Pulau Melayu to Lutong Beach
We only recorded a Common Sandpiper on Kpg Pulau Melayu beach. At Lutong Beach we recorded our regular Chinese Egret and Little Egret. We decided to end the day at Lutong Beach by watching the spectacular sunset.

The team reconvened for dinner in Lutong town. It was a 7-7 run around the beach for all participants chasing after waterbirds. We weren't able to cover some small sections of Hawaii Beach due to access issues, portions of Luak Bay due to the rock-wall and Tg Lobang at the cliffs.
Some of these portions will be covered separately by MNS Miri Branch team on a later date.

It was a tiring and (luckily) hot Saturday but well worth the group effort.

In slightly less than 12 hours we covered Kpg Kuala Sibuti to Lutong Beach; it's a long stretch with multiple access points but significant for the fact that these areas have not been covered by any organised surveys before. Thus far only Lutong Beach has been getting a lot of attention by the Miri Branch birders due to the regular (yearly so far) presence of Chinese Egret.

It was also worth to note the presence of Pacific Reef Egret (white morph) along the Luak Bay stretch. So far only the grey morph has been recorded in Lutong and Kuala Baram. Presence of Chinese Egret at other (less visited) beaches in Miri is also significant new insights.

Onwards to Sunday extreme birding with the SWS Team!

Some of the birds we saw on Saturday:

Cattle Egret at Marina Bay reclaimed area. This used to be the old Sg Miri Estuary.

Intermediate Egret at the same area following an earth mover obviously chasing after the insects ruffled up by the machine.

A flock of mixed group waders consisting of Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Lesser Sandplover.

Pacific Reef Egret (grey morph), we saw two of them near Luak Bay including the white morph further north.

Sanderlings busy foraging, almost always approaching these guys from a car is much more productive if you intend to photograph them.

The following photos are for illustrations only, they were made on numerous occasions during the last few months of the mudflats of Sg Miri estuary February 2008, before the area was fully filled up and reclaimed for present day Miri Marina.

Little Ringed Plover

Pacific Golden Plover

Common Sandpiper

Kentish Plover

Write-up and images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS-BCC-Waterbirds/Jan 2011
All sighting records are tentative pending final list after review.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Disturbing news from Kuala Baram Lagoon

Grey Plover.

Happy New Year! More birds! More birds!

It wasn't an ideal start for some of us! We were alerted by reports of poaching of waders at two of our favorite wader locations: Kuala Baram Lagoon (feeding and roosting area) and Kampong Masjid (roosting area at the marshes).

Report 1, 02nd Jan Kuala Baram Lagoon:

"My wife and I took to stroll along the Kuala Baram road leading to the Crocodile Farm. For what ever reason she want to go in to where Miri birders usuallu go to watch waders.

When we reach the spot we saw two couples sitting on a rock. As I was scanning the area with my bino, I noticed some 300 waders circling around making a squeaking sound. Then I noticed unidentified two persons collecting the waders caught in a net that they had put down on the sand bar.

The net was around 100m long and approximately 2m wide as they were putting it up again after collecting. I noticed they had a plastic gunny sack seemed to be filled with the newly caught victims, the waders.

When they put up the net again, 3 groups of waders estimated in the hundreds were flying away south. The time the birds missed the trap set up for them. There were 3 men doing this on the sandbar that day. They were all waiting at the northern end of the beach. They were most likely waiting for the waders to return to the small sand bar and shoo them to the south were the net was set up."

Report 2, 01st Jan Kampong Masjid:

"While driving to Kpg Masjid in Kuala Baram towards the Sarawak Riverboard jetty I noticed a green mist (6x12 feet, 4 feet above grown) net set up along the road. The location of the the nets are about 5min past the Sg Tujuh roundabout after the toll going towards Kpg Masjid.

Perpetrators were unknown, looked certain that the way the nets were set up that it was meant for low flying birds or waterbirds heading to what little was left of the peatswamp."

Not a good start to the year especially for our waders.

We took measures on our hands by visiting the likely suspects the next day in Kuala Baram Lagoon and informing them briefly about our activities on the mudflats as well as the implications of the Sarawak Wildlife Ordinance 1998.

The waders are fully protected under this ordinance, stiff penalties await those caught trapping the birds, using of mist nets as well as selling of the mistnets without permits. The villagers can ill afford to go foul of the law. For those found guilty under the Wildlife Protection Ordinance, the maximum penalty that awaits them are three years’ jail with a fine of RM50,000, or both.

We have also alerted the correct authorities who quickly jumped into action the very next day. They came back empty handed, most likely the perpetrators had already gone by the time the enforcement people were on the ground.

We will be keeping a close vigilance over the area since this is the first time that we have noticed this incident in Kuala Baram.

MNS Miri Branch members have been watching waders in this area since 1998 and have not seen cases of trapping of waders by anyone. We have never come across mist nets in this area before this as well.

We alerted the correct authorities who we are happy to note quickly jumped into action the next day. They came back empty handed, most likely the perpetrators had already gone by the time the enforcement people were on the ground.

We have offered to further collaborate with the authorities concerned to address this issue either through enforcement (regular monitoring and reporting) and in situ community outreach to inform the public about the value of these birds as well as the rules and regulations pertaining to the protection of shorebirds.

Early morning vista from the edge of the lagoon, several kampong houses are located just after the breakers.

Birder's eye view of the mudflats at low tide.

Great Knot.

Pacific Golden Plover.

Eurasian Curlew.

Great Egret.

Little Egret.

Collared Kingfisher.

Little-ringed Plover.

The Security and Asset Protection Unit of Sarawak Forestry Corporation runs a Helpline (Tel : (+6) 082 302 606 or (+6) 019-889 7222) so that members of public can provide information on any offences committed under the Wildlife Ordinance 1998.

Or call any of the following 24hr hotline:
Kuching : 019-889 7222
Miri: 019-829 0996
Bintulu: 019-815 9962
Sibu: 019-829 0993

Article and images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Jan 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Waterbirds and Wetland Habitats Survey for the Sarawak Coast in Miri this week

Buff-banded Rail by Christopher Lee (c) 2010.

The image above was captured by Chris Lee at Kpg Chupak, Kuching. It was first observed by Karim Madoya in Kota Belud, Sabah a couple of years back. We believed this species has made it's progress from southern Phillippines all the way into southern Borneo, unfortunately there's a gap here in northern Sarawak after birders in Kuching spotted it amongst the paddyfields there. It has to be here only waiting to be ticked, Kpg Masjid swamps perhaps?

Dear Valued MNS Members.

Happy New Year 2011!

MNS Miri is organizing the waterbird and wetland habitats survey and all members are welcome to participate:

Event: Waterbirds and Wetland Habitats Survey for the Sarawak CoastDate: 8th January 2011 and 9th January 2011

Contact Person: Nazeri Abghani 016-8542212


A. Saturday, Bungai Beach-Kpg Batu Satu Leg 08th Jan

Meet at Baraya Resort either evening of 07th Jan to overnite there (room for 5 volunteers on sleeping bags in the living room) OR
Meet at Baraya Laut Resort 0700hrs on 08th Jan

We will be covering :
Bungai-Peliau-Tusan-Bakam Beach-Tg Lobang-Miri Marina-Kpg Pulau Melayu-Lutong-Kpg Batu Satu (up to Pottery Bridge)

Expect to end 1900 hrs.

B. Sunday, Kuala Baram-Sg Tujuh Leg 09th Jan

Meet at Shell Office Lobby 0700hrs

We will be covering : Kpg Batu Satu-Kuala Baram Lagoon-Pulau Bawai-Kpg Masjid-Sg Tujuh-Kpg Masjid Marshes, Pujut 7 Lakes, Curtin Lakes

Expect to end 1900 hrs

Members and volunteers can hop on-and-off based on their availability for the day.

Please feel free to distribute to other members or non-members who might be interested to participate in this first ever Sarawak wide waterbirds and wetland habitats survey.

If you have any questions please direct them to our key contact person

Kind Regards,
Puteri Shariza Megat Khalid
On Behalf of MNS Miri Branch