Friday, August 31, 2012

Save Piasau OPH

Oriental Pied Hornbill, a male from Piasau Camp attending to a secluded nestling female.

Please come and join our new "Save Piasau OPH" Facebook Group in support of a pair of nesting Oriental Pied Hornbill and their new nestlings at Piasau Camp.

Over many generations, a family of Oriental Pied Hornbill has been making Piasau Camp their home. If you have lived in the area or have spent time driving through the neighbourhood you would have noticed this beautiful hornbills gracefully gliding around the neighbourhood. They would be hanging around the tall casuarinas along the road or foraging nearby hunting for food. At one time they were particularly fond of hanging out at Piasau 100 by the beach.

Our branch Chairman, Musa Musbah and his team have been dilligently recording and observing the Piasau OPH family for several years now. With impending evacuation of Piasau Camp and upcoming redevelopment of the area, our crew have been putting extra efforts in documenting the goings on of  a pair of nesting OPH at an undisclosed location.

Our objective for Save Piasau OPH campaign is first and foremost to highlight the issue of the destruction of habitat and potential displacement of the OPH family from the Piasau area. With that we also hope to raise the awareness level of our community about hornbills in our midst. Believe it or you are more likely to see this emblematic bird of Sarawak elsewhere than in the land of hornbills itself.

From factsheet:

This species has an extremely large range,  with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation. Anthracoceros albirostris is a widespread resident in northern South Asia, southern China, Indochina and western Indonesia. Though the global population size has not been quantified, the species is reported to be the commonest Asian hornbill (del Hoyo et al. 2001).

It was recently noted that this species has been almost completely extirpated from southern China (J. Fellowes in litt. 2010).

In the Thai-Malay Peninsula, the species may be threatened by off-take for the trade in fledglings and outright forest clearance (Wells 1999). There is some evidence that the species has traditionally been captured for the local pet trade, as historically one to two were reportedly kept in every village in at least some areas of Myanmar (Tickell 1864 in Kemp 1995).

The casques of Oriental Pied Hornbills are common souvenirs in the markets of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam; however, the extent of this trade has not been measured (Kinnaird and O’Brien 2007).

This species is considered the most adaptable of the hornbills to landscape modification and thus the least threatened owing to its very wide range, small size and broad habitat preferences (S. Mahood in litt. 2012, D. Bakewell in litt. 2012).

The provision of artificial nest space in Singapore has secured the return of the species as a nesting breeder, with 50-60 individuals in 2010 (G. Davison in litt. 2012). Similar small successes have been recorded in Panaga, Brunei (H. Dols, pers comm).

BirdLife International (2012) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from from contributors : Bakewell, D., Davison, G., Duckworth, W., Goes, F., Kemp, A., Mahood, S., Thompson, P.

It has been said that once all the big forests of Sarawak has all been cleared away, OPH will likely remain the only hornbill you'll ever see in Sarawak due to it's adaptability and fairly successful attempts at living amidst humans. We are hoping that this day would never come.

Help us save this nesting family by supporting us at Save Piasau OPH Facebook Group, and along the way learn more about hornbills, the proud emblem for Sarawak.

To find out how you can help this campaign, please email us : MNS Miri Branch "Save Piasau OPH".

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sanderling in Jaeren and Kuala Baram

The inaugural trip to Jaeren last Sunday yielded Dunlin which has always been on my list even before I came to Norway. I vaguely recalled seeing it on one of the print adverts for one of the local banks in Malaysia. "Wow! Dunlin, we have them here!"

I'm not aware of any records of Dunlin on that side of the flyway but they are sure plenty here along the East Atlantic Flyway ... plenty enough to be categorised as "common". Since we don't have Dunlin in Miri, let's get back to Sanderling.

Sanderling (Calidris alba) have been recorded in Kuala Baram, Lutong Beach as well as other parts of Miri coasts ever since MNS Miri conducted our wader surveys (the annual Asian Waterbird Census and the recently concluded Sarawak Waterbirds Census). Though the numbers are not many, at least between 10-20 individuals have been sighted every season. It feeds with distinctive dashing running around action ahead of breaking waves, and likely the cleanest looking wader on the beach.

In Miri they are sometimes seen foraging alongside the more common sandplovers on the sandbanks well away from the breakers. It's about the size of a Dunlin but locally it's more probably easily confused with stints. Lack of a hind toe (you'd have to be a very keen observer to notice this) as well as it's whiter than white plummage normally gives it away.

We have not been very successful in making images of these Sanderlings in Miri due to their active feeding nature. I myself only managed some decent shots from outings at Lutong Beach one year while shooting from a car on the beach during those early bubok season, very early morning while they were still mabuk on krill.

Survey crew from the Sarawak Waterbirds Survey last year scouring the beaches near Bakam looking for waterbirds.

A group of mix flock waders were spotted on Bakam Beach, among them 5-10 Sanderling foraging together with sandplovers.

Kuala Baram Sanderling tend to at times move further inland into the sandbanks well away from the breakers, here they are sometimes seen with stints.

The Sanderling sighted on Lutong Beach.

Sanderling from the East Atlantic Flyway photographed at Revtangen, Jaeren, Norway at the start of the autmn migration.

Feeding amongst these waders are also keen predators. In Jaeren Peregrine Falcon swoops down like a fighter jet onto unsuspecting waders. Similar to the situation in Miri. Peregrine Falcon have been spotted on Pulau Bawai, Kuala Baram Lagoon, Lutong Beach as well as Peliau Cliffs on several occasions in the past. Their common target : the unsuspecting waders! At Lutong Beach, I once witnessed a Peregrine Falcon actually mobbing a Chinese Egret!

The agile predator from Revtangen, mobbing Dunlins, Sanderlings, Turnstones and Ringed Plovers.

This is a good season to be at the beach to watch waders. Post breeding season in the far north, these amazing feathered wonders are now making their way south. Those on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway will end up in Australia to winter; those on the East Atlantic Flyway will be spending their winter in West and South Africa.

Images and words by N Abghani/NO-2012.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ruddy Turnstone, in Jaeren, NO and Kuala Baram, MY

I first saw my Ruddy Turnstone on a little sandbar off Pulau Tiga during a roadtrip with MNS Miri Branch. It looked like a wader gangsta moving very quickly on the sandbar, turning over little corals and picking on insects it found. To me then it was more of a scruffy looking strange wader I've never seen before. I'm glad it made my new wader list.

Back in Kuala Baram, Miri, we've never seen many turnstones probably due to the fact that there weren't many rocks or corals at Kuala Baram, mostly sandy and muddy which is more popular with plovers, stints and the like. Every season the most we've seen were probably 5-10 individuals scattered along the sandspit north of Kuala Baram. Though small in numbers they are regulars here on their path further south.

Yesterday while watching waders at Revtangen, NO way up north, reacquainted with turnstones. Though there were plenty of stones at the beach, they were just too big and heavy for these gangstas. They were busy flipping over seaweed and hunting for juicy morsels underneath it.

Ruddy Turnstones in Revtangen, Jaeren, you try flipping that stone amigo!

The Ruddy Turnstone at Kuala Baram, easy life not having to turn over stones for it's meal.

The waders from Revtangen do not spend their winters in Australia so they do not travel along the East Asia-Australasian Flyway. The waders from Northern Europe instead migrates south via the East Atlantic Flyway to endup in West and South Africa. The ones we see in Kuala Baram travels through the East Asia coast via China, and Hong Kong to winter in Australia.

The world's 9 major flyways from Shorebird (c) 2010 EAAF partnership. Source :

Waders are amazing for their amazing feats of seasonal long distance travel. I have always found their feat not short of miraculous. I hope to be able to share some of the images of these birds from Revtangen with birding buddies in Miri and elsewhere. Though some birds are the same, others perhaps never made it Kuala Baram in their lifetime, it'd definitely be a celebrated rarity when it does!

Dunlin, the most common wader in Europe which I've never seen in Kuala Baram.

Words and images by N. Abghani/NO-2012 unless stated otherwise.
More images of Jaeren birds can be seen at

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lutong River Mouth Wader Watch

Time and Date: 7:00am - 8:00am 25th August 2012 Place : Lutong River Mouth Weather : fine Participants: Steve, Musa, Joyce. Dr Yeo with daughter, Peter Pillai with daughter and Edwin Adam with son and daughter Everone came in time. As I went down to the beach I did not see the wader in their normal gathering area. The water is a bit higer than of a few days ago. The snmall stream is about 3/4 of it height. As we reach the coner wnere the stream bend, we saw a few waders at the same place. It started to increase it number, and the max count we have was 53 individual.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wader Watch 24 august 2012

This morning I again went to Kuala Lutong just to record the development. Went there between 9:10 and 9:30 am. The number of wader was 25 in-front of the river. But there are few scattering at a distance. The chinese egret have not arrived yet. There are two fishing activities in the area recorded. On the way back to the car I found a dead turtle carcase.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wader watch 23 Aug 2012

Today I just want to take the wader around Kuala Lutong. Went in to the beach from Anderson Bridge. This small bicycle bridge was built by ex Shell Managing Director Brain Anderson just after 1981 flood. The section of the road destroyed by the flood. The road was filled and a small bicycle bridge was built. From this bridge I can see the waders at the water edge. I go close to them and start taking photgtaph of them. Soon as I came around 30 meter they flew away. They flew to the north side. I scan the beach to see if these is any other wader around. I came to see a single Kentish plover and winbrel far at the north side. I try to go closer to take their photograph. It didn't allow me to come close than 100 meter. Then I go back to the south where the whole group went. I could only come close than 50 meter. The wimbrel just not allowing to come close than 100 meters. Images and words, Musa Musbah/MNS Miri/August 2012