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.

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