Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sarawak Waterbird Survey in Mukah 25th Feb till 01st March

Counting waterbirds on our shores.

The MNS BCC-Waterbird Group and volunteers will be surveying Sector 18 to Sector 21 of the Sarawak Coast as part of the work for Waterbirds and Wetlands Habitats Survey of the Sarawak Coast 25th Feb-01st March (revised from original 21-27th February 2011).

The team will be led by Daniel Kong (Field Coordinator) and Rose Ngau (Logistics); and for these sectors will be based in Mukah.

Participation is invited from birdwatchers and members of the public to be involved in this first ever coordinated waterbirds and wetlands survey of our of coast.

Those interested to be involved to please contact Anthony Wong directly at or 013-8333163.

Please specify the date of your availability (you can choose to be involved for all or only selected sectors).

Mukah will be base for Sector 18-21 from 25th Feb until 01st March.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Birding in Rasau

The road that leads to Kuala Balai, Brunei.

It started of from a bird's eye view of a pristine forest on both sides of the river separated by what seemed like a quiet hardly used surfaced road from our flight to Lawas the weekend before. Immediately upon our return, it became a convenient excuse to drag everybody over for a look and see. Steve deserved a rainforest birding experience as a belated birthday pressie from his birding buddies.

The area is located is a quiet segment of Mumong, turning right just before the junction to Mumong after the Rasau toll. A quiet surfaced road snaked through between swamplands with a small housing area and industry on the left and a few kampong houses and small farms on the right.

Almost immediately upon entering the quieter stretch of the road, we spotted Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela circling high up above us. Within a few minutes a pair of Blue-eared Barbet Megalaima australis was spotted. We had a good look at both male and female sitting on a branch just by the roadside. The male was calling profusely up to the point when we decided to get out of the car for a closer look.

A hornbill flew past from our right, we caught only a glimpse and suspected that it was a Wrinkled Hornbill Aceros corrugatus judging from the faint red on the forehead, light colored pouched throat and relatively smaller silhouette. We waited for more to fly fast, alas that was our one and only for the day.

Up the road we encountered several men sitting on the verge in the shade of their parked cars. Suspiciously eye-ing each other, while we are more concentrated on the bird calls from the forest, they are intently looking up towards the same direction. They had to be birding too.

We were right, they were birding. We met two old hand bird-trappers, apparently famous in the Mumong area for their trapping skills. Fifty meters from where we were having a conversation, another household name in the 'birding" fraternity sat doing his thing.

It's interesting how the conversation picked up once the subject of birds was brought up though via two completely different methods ... one more traditionally done in these parts ie. via capturing, observing caged birds up close and the other more through a more "westernised" passive non-intrusive observations of birds via optics.

We spoke at length about their vanishing "craft" and their motivation for indulging in such activities. Most caught the bug in their mid teens, infected by their parents. Two of the men were in fact cousins, and they have been at it since they we 16 years old at the tutelage of one of their elders.

They were gracious enough to share their knowledge about birds with us and gave us an opportunity to take pictures of their quarry and decoys, we in return shared Susan's book ... they seemed interested, paging through the illustrations and calling out the local names for the birds they clearly have an affinity too.

Our birding session sort of ended right about the same time we concluded the conversations. What we lost in terms of bird ticks that day, we gained tiny shreds of insights into bird trappers, their drive and activities in return. It'll definitely be a subject to be further explored. One of the elder of the three men claimed to have captured and sold 4000 Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula longicauda in his 40 years; and a pair of Red-breasted Parakeet Psittacula alexandri over the last 20 years!

Surely this doesn't end here, all three men have given us their addresses for us to visit.

A beautifully colored Blue-rumped Parrot Psittinus cyanurus nervously eye-ing spectators from it confined space.

The trapper contemplating the illustrations of parrots in Susan Myer's Fieldguide to the Birds of Borneo.

Blue-crown Hanging Parrot Loriculus galgulus sitting in a steel cage waiting for deployment as decoys to trap more of it's kind.

A resplendant mature male just recently captured and placed in this temporary holding net.

Several of the twelve brightly colored parrot trained as decoys used to call other wild parrots to their sticky trap, these birds are cared for and trained for up to 2 years before they are taken out to the field again.

Images and words by Nazeri Abghani
Map by Musa Musbah.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Birding Lawas with SWS

We were in Lawas to check-out the birds of Trusan-Sundar Bay together with our SWS (Sarawak Waterbird Survey for Waterbirds and Wetland Habitats Survey for the Sarawak Coast) team Daniel and Rose as well as MNS Miri stalwarts Anura, Sara, Bor Seng, Musa, Majelah and Remli.

Accomodation in Lawas was fully booked due to the Lawas Festival, which none of us took note of in the planning. We ended up camping on the porch of Kuala Lawas Field Station operated by Sarawak Forestry Corporation, sleeping on the hard cement (thanks to our sleeping bags, the ground was a degree less hard), constant humming of mozzies and aircond compressor unit as well as sharing bathroom facilities with probably close to 15 other SFC people also in town that weekend. Lucky we had even that, otherwise we'd probably all end up cramped at the back of Anura's 4WD.

The birding was great though. Together with Daniel and Rose, we scoured the Sundar-Trusan Bay from our boatman Ismail Ahmad's house at Pulau Sari in two boats.

The birds at the coast of Lawas have received scant attention over the years. SFC has been conducting sea grass, turtle, dolphins and dugong studies in the area over many years. Fisheries Department also has a firm presence. Not much bird work has been done there save from NWPO (National Wildlife and Park Office of the old days) commissioned work back in the mid 80s and MNS IBA work in the early part of this decade.

SFC is stepping up work in the area to lobby for a Kuala Lawas Marine Protected Area, their past work on dugong, dolphins, sea grass were clearly showing some very promising results pointing to the importance of Kuala Lawas as a marine sanctuary and feeding ground for the vreatures mentioned. Hopefully with additional data provided by SWS, SFC could further add value to the protection of the entire coastal area to also include birdlife.

On a previous trip here Jan 2010 during AWC, we counted 20+ Chinese Egrets, Godwits, Far Eastern Curlew, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel and 2 Lesser Adjutant in the same vicinity. AWC work by UBD and PNHS over the adjacent Brunei Bay yielded similar high number of migrants over the years.

Though we didn't see as many Chinese Egret this time around, the highlight of this trip had to be the three Black-headed Gull we recorded on a sandbar located 5 meters away from a marked border of the sovereign state of Brunei. Other birds seen were White-bellied Sea Eagle, Long-tailed Parakeet, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Brahminy Kite, Ruddy Turnstone, Malaysian Plover, Great Egret, Godwits, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Plovers, Eurasian Curlew, Whiskered Tern, Great Crested Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Gull-billed Terns. An undisturbed sandbar towards the middle of the bay formed a perfect roosting haven for the waders.

A proboscis monkey was also seen lurking around near the bay. The Lesser Adjutant was noticeably absent.

We couldn't complete our survey of Bengkulit in the north due to rough seas at the Lawas estuary. The team decided to call it a day approximately 1400hrs and that concluded our survey of Lawas sector.

With the survey completed earlier than expected, we took the opportunity to check-out Lawas that evening.

We left for Miri via MASWINGS on it's last scheduled flight the very next day.

Write-up and images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Waterbirds Workshop in Kuching 17th February

Chinese Egret.

As part of the Waterbirds and Wetland Habitats Survey for the Sarawak Coast also known in short as the Sarawak Waterbird Survey (SWS), this training workshop will equip participants with skills needed to identify and count waterbirds commonly occurring in Sarawak.

The first session will cover diagnostic field characteristics of waders, terns and egrets; the second will deal with practical aspects of how to produce accurate counts of waterbird concentrations from field observations.

The workshop is suitable for anyone wishing to volunteer to take part in field survey work as part of the SWS or involved in the study of waterbirds. No previous experience is necessary.

A renowned waterbird expert in the region, Dave Bakewell will give us in-depth knowledge and skill of how we can identify the waterbirds in the field. The workshop will consist of both classroom and field sessions:-

Classroom session

Date :17th Feb 2011 (Thur)
Time : 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Venue: Samajaya Nature Reserve

Jalan Setia Raja
Tabuan Jaya
93000 Kuching

Field session
Date : 20th Feb 2011 (Sunday)
Time : 4pm to 6pm
Venue: to be announced during the classroom session

Fees: FREE

Don’t miss this golden opportunity to learn from one of the best waterbird experts in the region.

A comprehensive waterbirds survey along the coastline Kuching and Samarahan areas will be carried out after the workshop from 18 to 23 Feb. Those who are interested to learn more about waterbirds and have more in-depth field exposure are welcome to volunteer in the surveys.

For more detail and registration, please contact Rose Au 016-8909468, email: or Anthony Wong at 013-8333163, email:

Session 1: Identification (1 hr 15 mins)

Grey Plover and Pacific Golden Plover
Greater Sand Plover and Lesser Sand Plover
Kentish Plover and Malaysian Plover
Kentish Plover and Little Ringed Plover

Eastern Curlew, Eurasian Curlew and Whimbrel
Bar-tailed Godwit and Black-tailed Godwit
Great Knot and Red Knot
Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank
Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Common Redshank
Sanderling and Red-necked Stint

Greater Crested Tern and Chinese Crested Tern
Gull-billed Tern and Caspian Tern
Common Tern and Little Tern

Great Egret and Intermediate Egret
Chinese Egret and Little Egret
Cattle Egret and Pacific Reef Egret


Identification of unusual waterbirds

Session 2: Counting (45 mins)

Planning the count
When to count
What to bring

Counting methods
Data recording in the field
Transferring data to Count Coordinator

About the presenter

Dave Bakewell is originally from the UK. Since first visiting Asia in 1985, Dave has spent almost twenty years studying waterbirds in the region. He has taken part in waterbird surveys of Bangladesh, China, the Philippines and Malaysia.

He is co-author of The Shorebird Studies Manual, published in 1989, and co-editor of the recently published Status of waterbirds in Asia: Results of the Asian Waterbird Census: 1987 – 2007.

After Daved moved to Penang in 1989, he continued to pursue his passion for waterbirds by regular observations at many key sites in the country. As Chairman of the Malaysian Nature Society – Bird Conservation Council Waterbirds Group, he has been involved from the first stages of developing the Sarawak Waterbird Survey, and is excited to play a part in this important project, which will hopefully lead to better understanding and protection of waterbirds in the State.

A highly sought-after speaker and trainer on the topic of waterbirds, Dave has conducted many training workshops on waterbird identification and monitoring methods in the region, including Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and China, from beginner to advanced level.

His waterbird blog ( is one of the best, if not the best waterbird blogs in the region, documenting detailed accounts of the species found here with specialized tips on waterbird identification.

Waterbirds on our shores.

Update from our OPH correspondent

Received the following update from Gianna in the email recently:

To all of you who expressed interest in the initial nesting phase of our Oriental Pied Hornbill at the end of last year, I thought you might be interested to know that "Mama" has emerged and she and Dad have been flying around foraging for the past 5 days or so. The chicks are still in the nest, and one of them can be seen in the attached photos (check out those eyelashes!). The residents of the house where they are nesting say they have observed 3 chicks inside. We are curious to know when they will emerge.

Looks like another successful breeding year for these two!

All the best,
02nd Feb 2011