Thursday, March 31, 2011

SMK Lutong Birdwatching Club : First in Miri, Sarawak

Anura Dason of MNS Miri Branch introducing the Malaysian Nature Society to our young club members at the school's library.

Club members and teachers listening intently to the planned programs in store for them for 2011 and beyond. The Club will draw it's activities from experienced birdwatching resource from the Branch with Branch Chairperson and SMK Lutong KPA teacher in advisory roles.

It's official : Today, Friday 25th March, MNS Miri launched the Shell We Care We Share funded SMK Lutong Birdwatching Club. Through the funding, MNS Miri Branch will be responsible to manage, plan and provide birdwatching awareness training and programs for local children enrolled in the club for the next three years with support from the school's co-curricular coordinator.

In conjunction with it's Centennial celebration last year, Sarawak Shell Berhad awarded funding to 36 community-based projects to be run by it's staff through it's long standing "We Care We Share" initiatives, the Club was one of the recipients though MNS Miri Branch.

Thirty students ages 13-17 years old stand to benefit from the setting of the Birdwatching Club at their school, membership to the club is expected to grow to 100 students at the end of the funding period. The Club will be managed by MNS Miri Branch with Branch Chairperson and SMK Lutong's Kelab Pencinta Alam teacher as advisors; Miri Branch birdwatchers as resource persons.

Among the activities planned are birdwatching training sessions in May to cover garden birds in conjunction with MY Garden Birdwatch every June; as well as training session in waterbirds in November before school holidays in preparation for Asian Waterbirds Census that takes place every January. There will also be two away trips nearby for the students to gain practical experience in birdwatching.

Grey-headed Fish Eagle location is only 45 minutes drive away for the students.

Visiting migrants is an annual occurence at Lutong Beach and Kuala Baram, literally at the schools doorstep including this Chinese Egret. Increased awareness about birds, their habitats and active involvement of club members in AWC activities are among several important premises to the setting up of the birdwatching club.

To this end, MNS Miri Branch birdwatching resource has acquired a number of Field Guides to the Birds of Borneo by Susan Myers as well as quality binoculars for them to conduct their club activities. These hardware will be handed over to the Club at the end of the three year term as stipulated by the project.

With excellent birding locations dotted within short distances from the school : Chinese Egret at Lutong Beach, a variety of migrant waders and raptors at Kuala Baram; not to mention four Important Bird Areas within two hours drive (Niah Caves National Park, Lambir Hills National Park, Loagan Bunut National Park and Similajau National Park), members of SMK Lutong Birdwatching Club are poised to learn much about birds and bird conservation.

Increased awareness about birds will help us inculcate greater love for our feathered friends as well as care for the habitats that these birds depend on.

Here's looking at our feathered friends and our young birdwatchers!

Words and images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Birdwatching Loagan Bunut

We took the rickety old boat to cruise around the lake for birds, the wooden boat proved comfortable for everyone.

We are at Loagan Bunut National Park almost without fail yearly for our Asian Waterbird Census. We started going there back in 1998 and continued doing so for several years. Activities picked up again when we revisited in 2009, and 2010.

This year, due to commitment to several projects on the coast, our visit to Loagan Bunut was delayed until mid March, way beyond the stipulated to be included for AWC. Our trip was riding on the CFZ Sg Teru that was to take place evening of the 19th March.

We left Miri in two 4WDs approximately 1030 hrs, reached Beluru for lunch around 1130 hrs. We continued our journey along the infamous Beluru-Lapok road and didn't get to the park proper until 1330 hrs, rattling bones and dusty.

Other than fleeting small birds the likes of Black-headed Munia, Dusky Munia, Common Ioras, the usual big birds are noticeablt absent other than the Oriental Pied Hornbill we saw perched on a dead branch on our way in. Since the original purpose of the trip was to conduct CFZ, we relegated out focus to preparing the tools and kits ready for the evening boatride. Birdwatching has to wait till the next day.

James accompanied us throughout the cruise around the lake. What a lucky young man, to be flung to "Walden Pond" to quietly live a life full of contemplation, wild thoughts and wild birds.

Birders assuming the pose, there was contention on what actually flew across at that juncture ... Oriental Darter, Black Hornbill or Purple Heron.

The advantage of the old wooden boat is clearly illustrated here, I wish all the boats we took out on the waters are like this very one with a built-in recliner; and the weather the same blue-skies.

Open air final resting place for the Berawan chieftains of years long gone.

A difficult customer, a very skittish Purple Heron. Image by Sara Wong/MNS Miri

A pair of nesting White-bellied Sea Eagle, heavily cropped. Image by Sara Wong/MNS Miri.

And birdwatching we did the next day after having fully recovered from being drenched the night before while executing CFZ of Sg Teru. Still slightly elated from the 30+ display trees the nite before, we all crawled in our waiting boat as Pak Jalin maneuvered it out into the lake.

We were accompanied by James, a young SFC apprentice stationed at the Park. We made a slow cruise along the perimeter of the lake keeping a sharp eye on anything that might sport feathers.
Though it was rather quiet compared to last year saw three Oriental Darter (as opposed to eleven last year), 2 pairs of White-bellied Sea Eagle (both nesting), an Osprey and a curious looking Changeable Hawk Eagle.

We didn't see any Blue-eared Kingfisher, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher this time. The egrets were also noticeably absent. We had quite a hard time trying to make a quiet approach to photograph Purple Heron from close quarters, seemed like everytime we lifted a finger, it'll fly of it's perched.

Here's the list of the birds we saw during our stay at Loagan Bunut:
1 Black-crowned Night-heron
2 Striated Heron/Little Heron
3 Purple Heron
4 Oriental Darter
5 Osprey
6 White-bellied Sea-eagle
7 Lesser Fish-eagle
8 Changeable Hawk-eagle
9 Spotted Dove
10 Zebra Dove
11 Green Imperial-pigeon
12 Long-tailed Parakeet
13 Indian Cuckoo
14 Greater Coucal
15 Stork-billed Kingfisher
16 Oriental Pied Hornbill
17 Black Hornbill
18 Pacific Swallow
19 Brown-throated Sunbird
20 Olive-backed Sunbird
21 Dusky Munia
22 Black-headed Munia

Words and images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri unless specified.

Upcoming Birdwatching events in the Miri area

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD)

We have planned several birdwatching related outreach program throughout April, though might be fun for a few of us, would more likely not be so exciting for others. These outreach programs will take place in rural coastal communities in Kuala Nyalau, Kuala Sibuti, Bungai and Kuala Baram. If you are interested, checkout the the listings on our main blog.

We've got the following planned in Miri in conjunction with WMBD and MY Garden Birdwatch, a few of them involved some form of watching birds:

14th May: WMBD, Birdwatching at Lambir Hills with Daisy O’Neill
Birdwatching in conjunction with World Migratory Bird Day.
0700-1000 hrs Meet at Lambir Hills National Park 0700hrs. Daisy will be visiting from Penang to birdwatch with participants in Lambir.
1000-1200 hrs Talk and slideshow "Birdwatching in Sarawak" at Lambir Hills Conference Hall.

21st May : WMBD, Community Outreach (Birdwatching) at Pustaka Miri
Birdwatching in conjunction with World Migratory Bird Day.
1300-1500 hrs Coloring and Drawing Contests, “Birds of Sarawak”
1500-1700 hrs World Migratory Bird Day and MY Garden Birdwatch : "Birdwatching in Miri : Common Birds in Your Garden and other Rare Birds Beyond”

28th May : MY Garden Birdwatch at Petroleum Recreation Club
0700-0900 hrs Birdwatching around KRP compound for Common Garden Birds
0900-1100 hrs Talk and slideshow on "MY Common Garden Birds".
Brunch and refreshments will be served

Register as a counter at MY Garden Birdwatch.

18th June : MY Garden Birdwatch with students in Bekenu
We will be birdwatching with 45 students from 3 schools in Bekenu in conjunction with MY Garden Birdwatch. There'll be a talk and slideshow, "Birdwatching in Miri : Common Birds in Your Garden and Other Rare Birds Beyond” at SK Bungai.

Maybe we'll see some of you guys at the events above!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

More birds from Kuala Baram

Took the opportunity to celebrate the last "Work Hard Play Hard" Friday afternoon to go commune with feathered denizens of Kuala Baram peatswamps. I packed up grilled-fish and vege lunch and found a spot under a shady leafy tree, soaked in the cool sea-breeze and absorbed fully the sights and sounds the quiet spot has to offer.

Reminds me of Archie: beer can in hand, mouth full of chips sitting on a recliner gawking at the tv. Collared Kingfisher, very common in the area.

Blue-throated Bee Eater Merops viridis were plentiful in the open areas along the seldom used length of the road. Somehow they were very nervous.

The juvenile and adult Grey-headed Fish Eagle. A second fledgeling recorded for the area, the 1st was in 2010 but we didn't see it grow to this stage. Perhaps this is the second brood, 1st successful attempt.

Words (some more to be added later) and images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our juvenile Grey-headed Fish Eagle doing well

View of Kuala Baram Lagoon in the early morning, there were some waders around on the flats ie. Greenshank, Lesser Sandplover, Grey Plover, Common Sandpiper, Oriental Pratincole, Stints sp. as well as Little Egret, Great Egret, Collared Kingfisher. A smallish kingfisher sp. spotted earlier during the week was not seen.

A juvenile Grey-headed Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus seen feeding on fish at the nest. It was still sporting downy feathers when it was first spotted in January 2011.

Our first sighting of a Grey-headed Fish Eagle in these parts was made way back in 1999 during MNS Miri Branch's Asian Wetlands Census trip to Loagan Bunut National Park, the same trip we recorded Storm's Stork. Similar trip LBNP in 2009 yielded one sighting, though none was recorded in 2010.

Throughout 2010, we made several sightings in the Kuala Baram area. A sighting of a nest in January, a juvenile in a nest in February and several sightings of adult birds throughout the year. We did not follow through the development of the downy fledgling we first saw in January 2010, so wasn't sure whether it had fledged and left the nest. During Sarawak's Waterbirds Survey January of this year, with much excitement we noticed another downy juvenile.

Today we went over the location to check out on the family unit. Both adult and young were at nest, but were perched a couple of branches below the nest. Initially the view was blocked, it then became apparent that the adult was enticing the young to feed. First the attempt was conducted on the big branch, later the prey (fish) was brought into the nest, the sub-adult followed. The adult flew off the nest leaving the young to tear at the prey on the nest successfully feeding itself.

The young bird already exhibits the grey head of the adults, the rest appear more streaky, white band on the tails not evident from viewing point. The curved pointed beak is already pronounced at present age.

Other birds in the area:

Collared Kingfisher, with nearby open water, there's many of this species in the area.

Intermediate Egret, this guy was initially feeding at the verge of the road before it got spooked and flew off passing by the car window.

Brown Shrike, this is the first time this bird was sighted in the area.

Blue-throated Bee Eater Merops viridis, this species is plenty in open grassland area.

Lesser Coucal, one almost flew into the back window of the car as it was flying across the road.

Striated Grassbird, common in the area and sometimes seen foraging on the grass verge along the the road oblivious to passing cars.

Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, trees along the road provide ample hunting ground for this active little bird.

Other birds seen:
White-breasted Woodswallow
Olive-backed Sunbird
Black-winged Kite
Pied Thriller
Asian Glossy Starling
Cattle Egret
Kentish Plover
Lesser Sandplover
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Zebra Dove
Spotted Dove
Cuckoo sp.

Words and images by Nazeri Abghani, March 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Where is Bukit Tiban National Park?

Bukit Tiban National Park with it's three map reference point : Bukit Tiban, Bukit Iban and Bukit Sekudong.

Bukit Tiban National Park as marked by Sarawak Forestry Department. (Source : Sarawak Forestry Department)

Two potential access points : via Kpg Kuala Nyalau Ulu on the Miri-Bintulu Coastal Highway or the Pan Borneo Highway.

Bukit Tiban NP in relation to Similajau NP on the coast.

The Bukit Tiban National Park encloses the headwaters of two major rivers in the Miri Division, namely Sungai Nyalau and Sungai Timong (a tributary of Sungai Suai), and Sungai Sigrok, a tributary of Sungai Similajau in the Bintulu Division.

It is therefore a vital catchment area for surrounding plantations, industries and residential areas within the three river systems. Its unique features provide for the development of water-based recreation, wildlife watching and jungle trekking. The peak of Bukit Tiban (764 m) serves as a good viewing point, overlooking the whole area including the surrounding plantations.

The park serves as a demonstration area on the successful regeneration of an ex-logging area. The area has been selectively logged prior to 1985. After logging, the Sarawak Forest Department carried silvicultural treatment on selected plots. These treatment practices to enhance regeneration led to satisfactory recovery of natural forest. Demonstration of recovery can be observed and monitored within these research plots. As a result of the forest recovery, the wildlife population has also been significantly enhanced. The park, being an island of natural forest surrounded by oil palm plantations, continues to serve as a refuge for the wildlife which feed within the plantation area by night. The park is vital for the survival of many of these wildlife species.

The Pan-Borneo Highway at Km 50 Bintulu-Miri forms the southernmost boundary of the Park, making it easily accessible. Its strategic location and unique scenic beauty is an ideal day-trip getaway from hectic city life as well as an excellent stop-over for Pan-Borneo Highway travellers

(Source :

Access to the area could potentially be possible via 4WD via Kpg Nyalau Ulu (via Coastal Miri-Bintulu Road) or the Pan Borneo Highway. Presently there are no facilities in the Park to cater for visitors, perhaps not even suitable access roads other than 4WD suited plantation roads.

What could be interesting at Bukit Tiban? Birds, all the surrounding area have been converted to oil palm plantation. Bukit Tiban NP could be the last remaining oasis for birds in the area.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sarawak Waterbirds Survey Mukah 26th Feb

Our track along the beach during the coverage of the Mukah sectors.

Participants : Musa, Nazeri, Liza, Daniel, Rose, (Anura, Duffy)
Location : Matading-Mukah-Oya
Date : 26th Feb 2011

A lone Little Egret seen at one of the little estuary north of Mukah.

Mukah sector 18-21 would the last sectors to be surveyed by the SWS Team for the Waterbirds and Wetland Habitats Survey for the Sarawak Coast, having completed all the other sectors earlier. What's left are Mukah and a few other hotpots that needed revisiting.

Musa and Nazeri flew to Mukah on Friday 25th Feb and joined Daniel, Rose and Liza (SFC Mukah) to survey the sectors already identified on the 26th Feb. We travelled in two cars, one a 4WD driven by Daniel for those hard to reach places and the other Liza's Viva for more conventional roads. Our rented car meant for this operation didn't turn up as planned. It's good to note that rental options in Mukah is less than limited.

Our involvement started from Matading all the way to Kuala Oya. Rose and Daniel has started a day earlier covering areas south of Oya. When we parted towards the end of the day Saturday (for our CFZ Sg Mukah), the two committed members of SWS surveyed another stretch of beach near the Mukah waterfront (Sg Jelang).

There weren't many waders sighted in general along the beaches at Mukah other than sporadic presence of Great Egret (a number of them at Kuala Mukah), Little Egret, and Kentish Plovers. No wader roost sites were discovered.

Rose and Daniel scanning the horizon at one of our stops.

Our stop at the estuary of Sg Mukah.

Rest stop close to the estuary of Sg Oya.

The Coal Powerplant ashponds near Matading seems to have ideal conditions for roosting waders but access to the public was limited. Enquiries by Rose with the local security guard stationed at the gate revealed the possible presence of several waders but the team was not allowed entry without prior written permission from the authorities.

Closer to town, just across Sg Mukah, our CFZ team recorded an egret roosting site. Observations close to the site just before sundown saw close to 500 mixed flock egrets roosting for the nite. They consist of Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Intermediate Egret and Great Egret. By nitefall the area was full with egrets perhaps exceeding our original estimates.

We left the SWS team to complete their remaining sectors south of Oya.

We'd like to thank Liza of SFC Mukah Office for taking part in the survey and letting us use her Viva to cover the sectors.

Enjoying the commotion made by egrets near a roosting site across from Mukah market along Sg Mukah.

Write-up and pictures by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri