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

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