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.

1 comment:

  1. We had good view of 2 juvvy Wallace's Hawk Eagle by the road, followed them for a little while as they flew from tree to tree. Later we spotted a Crested Serpent Eagle perched high on a tree, looking at us curiously.