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.

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