Sunday, January 29, 2012

AWC Kpg Masjid, Kuala Baram around SY Prawn Farm 28th Jan

Little Egret in it's elements. Beauty simplified.

Some people wouldn't mind paying to be able to enjoy this kind of serenity on a daily basis, I'm thankful for being able to consider it as my backyard. If only the powers that be would consider keeping this patch of salt intruded piece of wasteland as a signature wetland for Kuala Baram it'll be heaven sent. We'll just leave it as is, built a few pondok around the area with information panels on the wildlife common in the area. Recruit volunteers from the local community to give guided tours, organise outreach activities for locals and visitors alike ... it'll be perfect indeed.

"Air yang tenang jangan di sangka tiada buaya!", as the saying goes but I haven't spotted any of the reptilians so far. The locals we spoke to are more than sure that there are indeed crocodiles in these waters ... we are in Sarawak afterall, this water body is directly connected to the South China Sea not 15mins walk away. The Indonesian workers nearby have sworn to have seen the crocs with their own eyes. More the better ...

Sanderling by the beach.

A lone Little Egret ... actually there was also a Chinese Egret in front of this guy but flew away before any photo was taken. We've recorded Pacific Reef Egret and Great Egret here as well over the years.

We counted 30 Wandering Whistling Ducks that morning. This patch could be another favorite hanging out spot for the ducks which we have not considered previously since it's so close to the sea. Last Feb some kampong children collected 10 ducklings crossing the swamp hoping they could rear them as pets, unfortunately the ducklings all died one by one. As to how the ducklings got the road in the first place was another question that remained unanswered.

Participants: Nazeri, Sara, Ali and Aisya

We started about 0800 hrs and stopped approximately 1030 hrs. We've been to this place countless time but have not quite gotten tired of it. It's probably one of the nicest place in Miri to visit very early in morning to just watch the mist lift up from the ground and see birds flying overhead across a deep blueskies day.

Though lately across the road towards ASEAN Bridge there've been a lot of activity by Linau Mewah (SY subsidiary planting palm oil, tree plantation for pulp and paper); this side of the road has been relatively quiet with the occasional rod and reel fishermen from Miri and Brunei trying their luck with the fishies here.

The birds so far seemed unperturbed. However, the nesting raptors were the first to go ... when they cleared the land and took down all the remaining tall trees in the open peatswamp across the road. The victims included Changeable Hawk Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle and the latest was Grey-headed Fish Eagle which we recorded here and later here. There isn't a tall nesting tree left standing in the newly opened area.

The bee-eaters, kingfishers, snipes, rails, egrets, grassbirds and others are as happy feeding and foraging on the quieter side of the swamp. The shorebirds used the ponds as roosting sites when in season. Oriental Darter and Purple Heron are occasionally seen foraging in the shallows. Collared Kingfishers and White-breasted Woodswallows nest here. Pied Triller is another bird found in abundance.
Sunset here on a good evening can't be beat by any sunset at any other place ... you just have to run for cover as quickly as you can after the sun goes down on account of the mosquitoes, they are ferocious here ... they start right after sundown all tge way to 0630hrs the next morning, no breaks. Camping only advisable if you plan to put up a big bonfire.

For our AWC for this year we made a loop passing SY Prawn Farm to be beach through the little kampong with scattered houses and back the same route. Most birds were observed at the far end of the ponds. It would be a good idea to come back and stake out that part of the beach. We recorded 30 ducks in the vicinity.

Looking at the map of the area, the place seems seasonably wet. Another good activity is to perhaps explore further north towards Sg Tujuh, there's a small patch of forest still standing amidst the wetlands ... who knows what wildlife lurks within.

Birdlist :
6 Grey Heron
15 Intermediate Egret
20 Cattle Egret
10 Great Egret
10 Little Egret
30 Pacific Golden Plover
1 pair Malaysian Plover
5 Greater Sand Plover
5 Sanderling
1 Chinese Egret
30 Wandering Whistling Duck
2 Common Kingfisher
10 Collared Kingfisher
5 Dollarbird
10 Blue-throated Bee Eater
5 Striated Grassbird
1 Brown Shrike
10 White-breasted Waterhen
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Oriental Reed Warbler
Striated Heron
Yellow Bittern
Chestnut Munia
Dusky Munia
Olive-back Sunbird
Common Iora
Pied Triller
Pied Fantail
Spotted Dove
Zebra Dove
White-breasted Woodswallow

The layout of the SY Prawn Farms, we used to get access from the Indonesian workers, these days it's a bird more tricky now that a local supervisor is there almost daily. We still manage to birdwatch around the perimeter of his property. Our next stake-out activity will be to drive onto the beach via Kpg Masjid and camp on the beach opposite the last pond (green cast) observe the waterbirds. So far we've recorded Peregrine Falcon, White-bellied Sea Eagle (nesting), Osprey, Grey-headed Fish Eagle (nesting), Changeable Hawk Eagle (nesting) and Oriental Darter in this area. Another to do activity here is to trace the old Kpg Masjid-Sg Tujuh walking paths used by villagers prior to the arrival of modern roads.

Images and Text by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Feb 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

AWC Kpg Masjid, Kuala Baram with the children of Kpg Masjid

The three routes taken to cover AWC for Kpg Masjid, Kuala Baram for 2012.

Last Saturday MNS Miri Branch birders and friends drove up to Kpgg Masjid, Kuala Baram to conduct Asian Waterbird Census in Kampung Masjid along the Sg Baram not far from the Baram estuary. Oriental Darter, Peregrine Falcon, Changeable Hawk-Eagle (breeding), White-bellied Sea Eagle (breeding), Grey-headed Fish Eagle (breeding), Wandering Whistling Duck (breeding) have all been recorded in the area by MNS Miri in the recent past.

Partly the objective of this AWC in the area is also to exposed the children of the village to the wholesome actvity of birdwatching and introduce them to the common birds in their backyard.

The village is situated between Sg Baram near the estuary and South China Sea, and criss-crossed by little canals, it's a perfect place for children to birdwatch with abundant opportunity to look for common wetlands associated birds, shorebirds as well as raptors in the area. With most of the area already converted to oil palm plantation and tree plantations by Shin Yang (Linau Mewah Sdn Bhd), there is no better time to get the kids to come out and enjoy birdwatching.

MNS Miri Branch (Musa, Sara, Nazeri, Erwin briefing the children on the day's activities. Birders were assisted by Yusree (Kpg Masjid JKK), Nicholas (Curtin U), Paula, Ibram, Sufian and Rowina. Twenty children participated in the activity.

Children of the village getting to know the common birds in their area. Most are very excited to see the birds up close and personal using binoculars and scopes brought along for the day's event.

A pair of Oriental Honey Buzzard which made an appearance minutes after our program concluded. This pair was spotted by young Azmi who also managed to correctly id the raptor using the MNS Raptor card handed out earlier in the day. Image by Nazeri Abghani
White-breasted Woodswallow are common in the area. Image by Nazeri Abghani

Scaly-breasted Munia, supposedly very common in the Kuala Baram area this is the first photo ever recorded by MNS Miri Branch. Image by Musa Musbah.

Striated Grassbird, a common sight along the roads to the village. Image by Nazeri Abghani

Lesser Coucal are often sighted in the grassy parts of the village. Image by Nazeri Abghani

The boys enjoying ketupat pulut and chicken curry specially ordered for them. Thank you Sara for sponsoring the drinks, Nicholas for snacks and tit-bits. Image by Sara Wong.

Our birdlist from the teams:-

Group 1 : Lead by Musa, Nicholas and Sufian
Scaly-breasted Munia
Chestnut Munia
Little Egret
Asian Glossy Starling
Yellow-vented Bulbul
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
White-breasted Woodswallow
Pink-necked Green-pigeon
Cinnamon Bittern
Collared Kingfisher
Spotted Dove
Oriental Magpie-robin
Pied Triller
Rock Pigeon

Group 2 : Lead by Nazeri, Sara, Ibram
Yellow vented Bulbul (3)
Dusky Munia (6)
Barn Swallow (more than 50)
White-breasted Waterhen (1)
Common Sandpiper (2)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (2)
Spotted Dove (1)
Yellow bellied Prinia (1)
Pink-necked Green Pigeon (2)
Cattle Egret (1)
Yellow Wagtail (1)
White-breasted Wood-swallow (5)
Blue Throated Bee-eater (2)
Pied Fantail (2)
Lesser Coucal (1)
Striped Tit-babbler (1)
Olive-backed Sunbird (1)
Common Iora (2)
Black-shouldered Kite (1)
Little Egret (1)
Oriental Magpie-Robin (1)
Asian Glossy Starling (3)
Chestnut Munia (4)
Collared Kingfisher (1)

Group 3 : Lead by Erwin, Paula, Rowina
Yellow vented Bulbul (2)
Yellow-bellied Bulbul (1)
Scaly-breasted Munia (2)
Barn Swallow (15)
White breasted Waterhen (1)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (2)
Zebra Dove (1)
Pink necked Green Pigeon (2)
Great Egret (4)
White-breasted Wood-swallow (4)
Greater Coucal (1)
Oriental Magpie-Robin (1)
Asian Glossy Starling (2)
Chestnut Munia (2)
Collared Kingfisher (6)
Pied Triller (2)
Edible-nest Swiftlet (20+)
Oriental White Eye (3)
Striated Grassbird (1)

On way back along road by Erwin:
Slaty-breasted Rail (1)
Dollarbird (2)
Blue-throated Bee-Eater (3)

After the program by Nazeri, Azmi:
Oriental Honey Buzzard (2)

At the close of the program, Yusree (JKK Kpg Masjid) expressed his gratitude to MNS Miri Branch for bringing birdwatching to the village kids. He's happy of the positive response from the kids and hope for greater appreciation of birds and the surroundings by his young charge. He also informed us of the plans to involve the PTA in the activities and make birdwatching a regular activities in the village for the children. That's definitely good news for MNS Miri.

Current landuse map around Kpg Masjid, Kuala Baram. Land conversions within the past 3 years have been astounding, not much of the original swampland is left to be replaced by oil palm plantations, pulp and paper plantations as well as new townships.

Write-up by Nazeri Abghani
Image contributors as per credit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lutong Beach at this time of year

Boulders placed along the beach for erosion control on Lutong Beach.

Lutong Beach is only 15minutes south of Kuala Baram Lagoon, you see the most frenzied activities here only during the bubok/geragau/krill season just as any other beach along the coast of Northern Sarawak during the dryer months March-July. At other times, there'd be an odd couple or two enjoying the sunset.

The beach is a frequent haunt for Chinese Egret, first seen here in 1995, subsequently every year after that when we started making regular observations in the area. It could have possibly been a regular at Lutong Beach even in much earlier times though not properly recorded. Other areas in the vicinity where regular observations of Chinese Egret have been made are : Kuala Baram Lagoon, Kuala Seria, Brunei Bay (highest number). It has also been recoded in recent years from the Waterbirds and Wetlands Habitat Survey of the Sarawak Coast (2010/11) at Bungai Beach and Luak Bay. Further afield Bako-Buntal Bay probably has the highest recorded number of Chinese Egret recorded in the state.

Chinese Egret, regular visitor to our shores.

The highest number of Kentish Plover recorded at Lutong Beach was 24 at the peak of the bubok season. Being so tiny and sporting the same shade as the beachsand the birds were roosting alongside resting fishermen without anyone else noticing. At other times it is not uncommon to see a group of 6-10 individuals foraging at he beach away from the surf.

Kentish Plover, highest number recorded was 24 on Lutong Beach at the height of the bubok season.

Greater Sandplover, scattered on the beach numbering around 10 individuals.

Other shorebirds that have been recorded at Lutong Beach : Sanderling, Lesser Sandplover, Greater Sandplover, Terek Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tatler. Though these have not been observed in great numbers, they are interesting to observed none-the-less.

Other birds in the area : Striated Grassbird, Blue-breasted Quail, Common Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Common Tern, Dollarbird, Great Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Peregrine Falcon

The earliest records from Lutong Beach came from "The Checklist of Birds Seen in the Miri-Lutong Area" by P. D. Alexander Marack, Trade Relations Department, Sarawak Shell Berhad for the period Aug 1974-Dec 1976. This document could well be the earliest bird checklist for the Miri-Lutong area. Interesting historical records of birds recorded at Lutong Beach included Frigatebird sp., Oriental Dotterel, Common Noddy.

Write-up and images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Jan 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

AWC Curtin University 14th Jan 2012

The expansive lakeside which could be the main centerpiece to which all birdlife slowly revolves around on Curtin. The island looks perfect to be a sanctuary to several species of waterbirds. In fact, we've reasons to believe that the Wandering Whistling Ducks have taken refuge on this island.

We kicked off our Asian Waterbird Census Curtin University this year later than usual at approximately 0715hrs. Our survey this time has the following participants : Sara Wong, Nicholas, Musa Musbah, Amer Matridi, Erwin Adams, Jacqueline Bradley, Liefer, Nazeri Abghani, Ali and Aisya.

Participants were equipped with 8x40 binoculars and three scopes: Kowa,Swarovski and Leica. Susan Myer's Fieldguide to the Birds of Borneo and Quentin Phillip's Birds of Borneo were both used as field reference.

Located in the greater Kuala Baram area, many of original birds of the Kuala Baram peatswamps are now returning and calling Curtin their "new" home. With tree-lined avenues and ample waterbodies in and around campus, our feathered friends have made a new home here. It is not uncommon to see flocks of Chestnut Munia and Pink-necked Pigeon on campus. Oriental White-Eye has been a common sight over several years since we started birdwatching on campus.

This piece of modified peatswamp could be the only sanctuary left in Kuala Baram where many of the more adaptable species can call home. Most other parts of the area are rapidly being turned into residential and commercial areas, further afield in surrounding areas into permanent cash crop farming, oil palm and fast growing tree (for pulp) plantations.

Zebra Dove, likely the most abundant on campus, found perched on trees along the avenues as well as foraging on sunlit wide open fields on campus.

The Wandering Whistling Ducks, formerly to be found around the many lakes in the area have now largely settled at lakeside where they feel safer and perhaps even more protected on campus. We counted 30 adults, the juveniles were heard however not seen, most likely hiding in the waterlilies surrounding the island.

MNS Miri Branch birders scanning the lakeside for more elusive and shy waterbirds for the count. Younger birders were quick to be at ease relaxing after a walk around campus, enjoying the shade and cool breeze from the lake.

Musa recording Wandering Whistling Ducks on his Kowa+Nikon digiscoping rig.

The team for our Curtin University AWC in a groun photo at Heron 1, from the left : Amer Matridi, Nicholas, Erwin, Liefer, Jacqueline, Musa and Sara. Not pictured: Nazeri, Ali and Aisya.

Our birdlist for the day (actual numbers are being finalised) :
Wandering Whistling Duck (30)
Purple Heron (2)
Intermediate Egret (1)
Cattle Egret (15)
White-breasted Waterhen (5)
Little Ringed Plover (2)
Common Snipe (1)
Common Sandpiper (5)
Wood Sandpiper (1)
Long-toed Stint (1)
Zebra Dove (most numerous +20)
Greater Coucal (1)
Lesser Coucal (1)
Collared Kingfisher (1)
Pied Thriller (10)
Pied Fantail (2)
White-breasted Woodswallow (5)
Olive-backed Sunbird (3)
Chestnut Munia (30)
Tree Sparrow (10)
Paddyfield Pipit (5)
Grey Wagtail (5)
Asian Glossy Starling (10)
Oriental Magpie-Robin (5)
Yellow-vented Bulbul (5)
Oriental White-Eye (10)
Yellow-bellied Prinia (2)
Spotted Dove (5)
Straited Grassbird (2)

We completed our walkabout around campus at approximately 1100hrs.

We'd like to thank Sara Wong for hosting the team, Erwin for fabulous hot home-brewed coffee and Nicholas for the chocolates.

For more birds on Curtin campus, please check-out Birds on Campus an article resulting from a monthlong surveillance on campus carried out by MNS Miri Branch (Nazeri Abghani, Musa Musbah, Nazur Riza Nurkaman, Sara Wong) in 2010. The surveillance activity was made possible by Sara Wong.

Photographs and report by:
Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Jan 2012

Sunday, January 8, 2012

AWC Kuala Baram Lagoon North 08th Jan 2012

On Sunday, MNS Miri Branch volunteers consisting of Joyce Sivalingam, Sara Wong, Nazeri Abghani, John Yeo, Elizabeth Yeo, Ali Nazeri and Aisya Nazeri conducted a survey on the northern end of Kuala Baram Lagoon.

When we reached the intended site, it was raining heavily. Lucky for us as we parked the car, the rain clouds shifted further south to be hurriedly replaced by glorious sunshine and a band of rainbow.

"They say, there is a pot of gold at the of the rainbow, Dad!", quipped Ali. It didn't sound as ominous at the time.

An early start at the northern end of Kuala Baram lagoon, Ali contemplating the route to our pot of gold.

John and Elizabeth with Yukon on the flats scanning the horizons for waders.

This end of the lagoon held some special sightings for MNS Miri over the years : Great Knot, Peregrine Falcon, Oriental Darter, Osprey, Malaysian Plover (adults and downy chicks), Chinese Egret, Marsh Sandpiper, Asian Dowitcher, Far Eastern Curlew, Black-winged Stilts.

The lagoon holds brackish water which provided a source of side income for the locals living on it's shores. During shrimping season, the patch of beach will be scattered with folks skimming the shallows for shrimps used for making local shrimp paste. The locals here also indulge in harvesting lokan, a type of shellfish, in the lagoon.

The day was sunny with fabulous soft light with scattered clouds above our heads. There were some activities on the beach, mostly fishermen and beachcombers. We started birding from the embankment and proceeded north towards the sandspit, the following birds were observed:

Little Egret (3)
Chinese Egret (1)
Common Greenshank (2)
Striated Grassbird (1)
Collared Kingfisher (2)
Yellow-bellied Prinia (2)
Common Kingfisher (1) heard only

Being the weekend, there was higher activities on the lagoon than usual. There were fishermen setting nets, shrimp catchers on the beach and local children running around having a great time.

We proceeded to cross the lagoon as the water was shallow. On the sandspit the following sightings were made:

Greater Sandplover (10)
Kentish Plover (10)
Sanderling (1)
Common Sandpiper (1)
Collared Kingfisher (1)
Yellow-bellied Prinia (1)
Malaysian Plover (6)

A new rig seemed only a stone throws away from the shores with rich pickings for both locals and birds alike.

Now the pot of gold. While taking a breather by a shady casuarina at the end of the sandspit enjoying the day's blue skies and Kuala Baram cool sea-breeze ... six frigatebirds appeared up above out of thin air. On two occasions that morning John's question about frigatebird was answered with, " The last recorded sigthing in Miri was in 1974." And now it's up above not one but six individuals gracefully coasting the thermals and slowly moving north.

Lesser Frigatebird (6) of various ages as id by Wong Tsu Shi later in the day.

Our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, six Lesser Frigatebird at various age gliding past us.

It was indeed a sterling day, definitely golden, a new bird species for MNS Miri Branch for Kuala Baram.

By Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri Branch/Jan 2012

AWC Kuala Baram Lagoon South 07th Jan 2012

The roadside view of our starting point right across the road from Toh Pottery. This stretch is marked by remnants of coastal swamps dominated bu casuarinas and a few surviving mangrove trees.

MNS Miri Branch volunteers completed Kuala Baram Lagoon stretch from Toh Factory to edge of sandspit over two weekend mornings.

On Saturday morning, volunteers (Peter Pillai, Joyce Sivalingam, Amer Matridi, John Yeo, Elizabeth Yeo, Musa Musbah, Sara Wong, Nazeri Abghani, Kwan, Ali and Aisya) covered the stretch from Toh Pottery to the start of the lagoon. The weather was fairly cloudy but got rather sunny when we ended the survey at about 1100 hrs. The tide was low but rising very slowly. Sea conditions were rough considering that we are now within the landas period.

There were scattered sightings of waders along the beach :
Greater Sandplover (10),
Common Sandpiper (1),
Malaysian Plover (2),
Kentish Plover (16), and
Sanderling (5)

Other birds sighted were:
a juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle (1),
Pacific Golden Plover (1),
Little Egret (5), Great Egret (1),
Collared Kingfisher (8),
White-breasted Woodswallow (2),
Yellow-bellied Prinia (5),
Straited Grassbird (1),
Yellow Bittern (2),
Cinnamon Bittern (1),
Pink necked Green Pigeon (5),
Pied-Triller (4),
Olive-backed Sunbird (1) and
Purple Heron (1)

We broke off at approximately 1100hrs, by then the sun was beating hard on everyone.

The briefing before the start of our walk along the beach. MNS Miri Branch has been actively carrying AWC in this area since 1998, with a gap 2003-2006.

Checking out the waders at the rivermouth.

The sole surviving mangrove on the beach. This southern part of Kuala Baram has several boat making factory, a timber store, heavy machinery store as well as a tyre store/factory.

Volunteers getting a good look at the Collared Kingfisher which thrives in this environment. Occasionally Common Kingfisher is reported along this stretch. The causarinas that lined the beach are frequented by many insect eating birds throughout the day. Occasionally raptors such as the Osprey, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Brahminy Kite make their appearance here.

Lugging gear up the embankment at the end of the stretch.

By Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri Branch/Jan 2012