Monday, October 26, 2009

30th August 2009

6.00 am on 30th August saw us arrived at Power Station, a lot of activities were seen happening there at the wee hour. First, we were greeted by the Bornean Whistling Thrush Myophonus borneensis, formerly Sunda Whistling Thrush Myophonus glaucinus  (split by Collar 2005), which was busy feeding on moths and insects on the ground.
Bornean Whistling Thrush

Fruits and insects brought along Golden-naped Barbet Megalaima pulcherrima, Indigo Flycatcher Eumyias indigo, Short-tailed Green Magpie Cissa thalassina, Bar-winged Flycatchershrike Hemipus picatus, Mountain Black-eye Chlorocharis emiliae, Temminck's Sunbird Aethopyga temminckii, Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus, Bornean Treepie Dendrocitta cinerascens, White-browed Shrike-babbler Pteruthius flaviscapis, Sunda Bush-warbler Cettia vulcania, Sunda Laughing-thrush Garrulax palliatus, White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorhynchus, Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica and Swiftlets (looks like Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta).
Golden-naped Barbet
Short-tailed Green Magpie
Mountain Black-eye
 Temminck's Sunbird
Sunda Laughing-thrush

Went to have brunch at the Koporasi's Canteen across the road from KP head quarter, both their food  and price were acceptable. Went to Liwagu trail immediately after brunch and was rewarded with a pair of Whitehead's Trogon Harpactes whiteheadi, the male bird would always perch on a branch that would never enable us to get an unblocked view for photograph. This is my second Whitehead's bird and what a delight to have them on the sensor of my camera. The other Whitehead's bird that I am after is the Whitehead's Spiderhunter Arachnothera juliae, which I am sure I will be rewarded if I try long and hard enough. Here are the Trogons;
Whitehead's Trogon male
Whitehead's Trogon Female.

Further along the trail we were greeted by the incessant singing of a small group of endemic Mountain Wren-babbler Napothera crassa, indeed another bonus for the trip.
Mountain Wren-babbler

The  Bornean Whistler is also endemic to Borneo.

The Bornean Forktail Enicurus borneensis (Split by Moyle et al 2005), exist in rocky streams in Montane primary forests, where it replaces the very similar lowland White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti . We waited for two hours for it to show and we were eventually rewarded  when it showed up along the Liwagu River. Light level was not ideal inside the dark under-storey along the river, I was forced to use ISO 1600 for the shots, as flashing the feeding Forktail would guarantee its immediate departure.
Bornean Forktail
Bornean Forktail

Left Liwagu river after shooting the Bornean Forktail and to our delight we found that Mount Kinabalu, which was usually covered by low lying clouds in the afternoon,  was clearly in view.
 
Mount Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu

To be continued and happy birding.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kinabalu Park 28th and 29th August 2009

Left for Kinabalu Park (KP) on early 28th Morning with usual gang, Mr Kong Ket Leong and Mr Liew Lun Fatt. Another member Mr Ku Kok On was already at Kinabalu Park as he made his ascent to the peak a day earlier.

Reach KP early evening, and the falling rain provided no opportunity for any meaningful birding activity.  Sat at the Liwagu Restaurant veranda, enjoying the cool breeze and the occassional Mountain Leaf Warbler  Phylloscopus trivirgatus and Black-capped White-eye Zosterops atricapilla that came to the nearby tree to feed.

We stayed at Zen Garden  Resort, being quite out of the highway and so was not fully booked during this busy school holiday.

Early morning (6.00 am) of 29th August was spent walking the Bukit Ular Trail near the Power Station, hoping to have a glimpse of the elusive Everett's Thrush Zoothera everetti.  Luck was not with us that morning as the only species we saw along the whole stretch of the trail was a family of Grey-throated Babbler  Stachyris nigriceps, most of them having rings on their feet. 
Grey-throated Babbler 

On our walk back from the other exit of the Bukit Ular Trail to our car, there were plenty of Sunda Bush-Warbler Cettia vulcania along the road.
Sunda Bush-Warbler 

The morning was unproductive and we decided to set for Masilau to try our luck and we were rewarded with a group of Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea foraging along a stream. Grey Wagtail is a winter visitor form northern Asia.
 Grey Wagtail
  
Grey Wagtail

A Bornean Flowerpecker Dicaeum monticolum, a Bornean endemic,  near the Information Building,
 
 Bornean Flowerpecker

and a Pale-faced Bulbul Pycnonotus leucops, another Bornean endemic, recent split from Flavescent Bulbul Pycnonotus flavescens.
 
Pale-faced Bulbul 

On our way back to Kinabalu Park for some refreshments at Liwagu Restaurant and managed to capture some Little Cuckoo-dove Macropygia ruficeps feeding along the way. 

 Little Cuckoo-dove

This pair of Black-caped White-eye Zosterops atricapilla preparing for the night's roost next to a nearby  tree.
Black-caped White-eye 

Night time was spent on some beautiful water lily planted by Zen Garden Resort.
 
 To be continued and happy birding. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The state of books on Birds and Field Guides for Borneo today.

In the not so distant past, as recently as middle of 2007, anyone who wished to acquire a field guide of the birds of Borneo had to content with the venerable A field guide to the birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali by Johhn MacKinnon and Karen Phillipps, first published in 1993 and was out of print and unavailable for a number of years since its last reprint in 2001.  It went for reprint again in 2006 and I immediately ordered myself a copy from the UK once it was made available in 2007.

It remained the only field guide for the Bornean region, no other Southeast Asia field guide cover the Bornean species. The Pocket Guide to the Birds of Borneo published by The Sabah Society in 1985  is useful to a limited extent and it is long overdue for updating.

Those more ornithologically inclined could always refer to Birds of Borneo by B. E. Smythies and revised by Geoffrey Davison published in 1999. It is not a field guide per se as it is a hardbound book with over 800 pages and easily weighing more than 2 kgs. It is,  together with Ornithological Monograph No. 52 by Federick H. Sheldon et al, published in 2001, more suited as a reference source than a field guide that you carry to the field.

In 2008, British Ornithologist's Union published BOU Checklist No. 23, The Birds of Borneo An Annotated Checklist. In which the author  Clive Mann made comprehensive revisions to the taxonomy and nomenclature of the Bornean species.

This book can be ordered here.

In 2009, during the Borneo Birds Festival held at Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sandakan, on 10th October 2009, 2 new field guides for Borneo were officially launched and a photographic guide to the birds of Sepilok Forest was made available for sale.

1. Phillipps' Field Guide To The Birds Of Borneo, by Quentin Phillipps and illustrated by Karen Phillipps. You guessed it right, they are brother and sister. This softcover book is 368 pages, covering 664 Borneo bird species with distribution maps, with detailed coverage of all 51 Borneo endemics. It has more than 2,000 full colour bird images together with maps and descriptions of top 130 birding sites in Borneo. (This field guide follows extensively the taxonomy and nomenclature of BOU Checklist No. 23 by  Clive Mann).

This book can be ordered here.

Edited to add: The second edition of this field guide has been published in 2011. The cover is updated as shown below.


2. A Field Guide To The Birds of Borneo by Susan Myers, with artworks by bird artists who drew plates for Craig Robson's Field Guide for Southeast Asia. This hardcover book has 274 pages describing  633 species with color plates and distribution maps. 50 Borneo endemics are described in this field guide. (The taxonomy and nomenclature of this field guide follows that of Robson's 2008 edition of  A field Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia).

This  book can be ordered here.

Either one of them is a welcomed bonus to supplement the limited literature available for birds of this region and we are indeed lucky to have two field guides published for this region in the same period. This shows that both authors have visioned the  need of an updated  field guide for Borneo, and went on to produce one, we thank them for the hard work and effort.

3. A Photographic Guide to The Birds of The Sepilok Forest,  as its name implies, a photographic guide compiled by Cede Prudente, Robert Ong and Borneo Bird Club. It is published by the Sabah Forestry Department in 2009 and included some stunning photos contributed by photographers in Malaysia. Though the book is titled Birds of Sepilok Forest, it contains photos of most of the lowland forest birds in Borneo, it is about 112 pages and comes in a very handy size, it will  be a good starting guide for  new bird watcher and first time bird tourist visiting Borneo.

This book can be ordered here.

During this short span of  two years from 2008 to 2009, we see 4 books published for the avifauna of Borneo, 1 Checklist, 1 photographic guide and 2 field guides. The dilemma now is deciding which field guide to follow in case of different opinion in taxonomy and nomenclature.

Edited to add on 5th August 2012: My small little Naturalist's Guide to the Birds of Borneo has been published.

Happy birding.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sacred Kingfisher

Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus, uncommon non-breeding visitor  from Australia, most records are during austral winter. They migrate chiefly to southern Borneo and rarely to as far north as Sabah.

Four lucky birders/photographers (Predente C., Choo T.C., D.O., and myself)  saw this bird in Sukau on 11th November 2006, well outside the austral winter months. It  perched on a tree near a villager's house, and it dove to catch a grasshoper while we were observing it.  Here are the photos for records.




Happy birding.

REFERENCES 
MacKinnon, J. and Phillipps, K. (1993) A field Guide to the birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mann, C.F. (2008) The birds of Borneo, an annotated Checklist. Peterbourough, UK: British Ornithologists' Union.

Myers S. (2009) A field Guide to the birds of Borneo. London, UK: New Holland Publishers.


Phillipps, Q & Phillipps, K. (2009) Phillipps' field guide to the birds of Borneo, Oxford, UK: John Beaufoy Publishing Ltd.


Sheldon, F.H., Moyle, R.G. and Kennard, J. (2001) Ornithology of Sabah: History, Gazetteer, Annotated Checklist, and Bibliography. Washington D.C.:The American Ornithologists' Union.


Smythies, B.E. and Davison, G.W.H. (1999) The birds of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: Natural History Publications (Borneo) Sdn. Bhd. and the Sabah Society.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Various forms of Rock/Feral Pigeon

Rock Pigeon Columba livia is originally from North Africa and Eurasia, now worldwide as an introduced species.

Pure stock are predominantly grey with noticeably darker hood and breast, blackish tail-tip and paler wing-coverts with two broad blackish bars. Neck glossed green and purple. Feral stock may be highly variable with patches of white and brown in plumage, some are entirely blackish. (Robson 2008).

For the birds on Borneo, the name Feral Pigeon may be more appropriate as Borneo population are clearly all feral and not deriving from wild Rock Dove populations. Interbreeding of various feral forms, and in the past wild forms, makes it impossible to designate a subspecies. (Mann 2008)

The pictures below show the various form occurring in Sabah. 

  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Happy birding.

REFERENCES 
Mann, C.F. (2008) The birds of Borneo, an annotated Checklist. Peterbourough, UK: British Ornithologists' Union.

Robson, C. (2008) A field guide to the birds of South-East Asia. London: New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Beach Thick-knee, Beach Stone Curlew

Beach Thick-knee or Beach Stone Curlew,  Esacus magnirostris, a scarce, localized resident with apparently seasonal dispersive movements. A rare bird of sandy bays in Sabah and the north Sabah islands. (Smythies & Davidson 1999, Mann 2008).

A rare resident or vagrant. More recent records are Kalampunian Besar on 14th Jan 1982 and Selingan Island in Apr. 1981 and 1982. (Sheldon et al 2001).

The photographs were taken on 30th May 2007 on the sand bar during low tide between the islands of Mataking Besar and Mataking Kecil.

 
Happy birding.

REFERENCES

Mann, C.F. (2008) The birds of Borneo, an annotated Checklist. Peterbourough, UK: British Ornithologists' Union.

Sheldon, F.H., Moyle, R.G. and Kennard, J. (2001) Ornithology of Sabah: History, Gazetteer, Annotated Checklist, and Bibliography. Washington D.C.:The American Ornithologists' Union.

Smythies, B.E. and Davison, G.W.H. (1999) The birds of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: Natural History Publications (Borneo) Sdn. Bhd. and the Sabah Society. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus is another rare bird of Borneo. I photographed this bird in winter plumage in Tawau on 8th November 2007 with Mr Kong Ket Leong. We flashed it out from the wetland and when in flight we immediately noticed its white underwing, and it looked  different from other water birds that we have seen. It than stayed hidden among the water plants.
Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Its status in Borneo per available fieldguides are as follows;

- Widespread but discontinuous in Southeast Asia, from India to Philippines. There was no recent records from Kalimantan and the only recent record from anywhere in Borneo is one winter-plumaged bird seen at Kota Belud, Sabah, in Feb 1986. (Smythies and Davison 1999)

-A rare vagrant. The only record is a winter-plumaged bird seen near Kota Belud in Feb 1986. (Sheldon et al 2001)

- Present status unknown, and has been seen only once since 19th century; probably no longer occurs in Borneo. (Mann 2008)

- Probably resident in the Barito drainage of Southeast Borneo, but there are no breeding records. (Mackinnon and Phillipps 1993)

Robson put a question mark on this species when describing  its range and status in Borneo (Robson 2008).

REFERENCES
MacKinnon, J. and Phillipps, K. (1993) A field Guide to the birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mann, C.F. (2008) The birds of Borneo, an annotated Checklist. Peterbourough, UK: British Ornithologists' Union.

Sheldon, F.H., Moyle, R.G. and Kennard, J. (2001) Ornithology of Sabah: History, Gazetteer, Annotated Checklist, and Bibliography. Washington D.C.:The American Ornithologists' Union.

Robson, C. (2008) A field guide to the birds of South-East Asia. London: New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd.

Smythies, B.E. and Davison, G.W.H. (1999) The birds of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: Natural History Publications (Borneo) Sdn. Bhd. and the Sabah Society.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Semporna and Tawau 11th & 12th September

I have been leaving all my landscape and people photography behind  after I got poisoned by photographing avianfauna of Borneo.

This trip to visit the outlying islands off Semporna with Datuk CK Hon to do some landscape and people photography at the invitation of my photo kakis in Tawau proved to be challenging, refreshing and at the same time 'avian' rewarding as well.

The boat we chartered developed engine problems in the middle of the sea. Emergency calls were made to request for backup boat to continue our journey. During the wait, Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel, Greater Crested  Tern Thalasseus bergii and Aleutian Tern Sterna aleutica came to investigate.

Lesser Frigatebird
 
Greater Crested Tern

We eventually needed to be towed by a friendly fishing boat.
We were offered to buy this fish from the rescuing fisherman, which we did and it eventually ended up on our dinner plate.
Our journey continued with our replacement boat and we were greeted by this group of Common Tern Sterna hirundo.
Common Tern
Common Tern
Here are some of the pictures taken.

The next day, we had Datuk CK Hon, an expert landscape and travel photographer visiting our usual birding ground in Tawau. Here is one for the album.
Group Photo by Winston Tai
Datuk was well equipped when he brought along two top-of-the-range Canon pro-bodies; something called 1D mk III,  and a 100-400mm lens.
 Photo by Winston Tai

These are some of the birds photographed that day.
Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica
 Chestnut-brested Malkoha Phaenicophaeus curvirostris
Black Hornbill Anthracoceros malayanus
 
 Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus

Happy birding.

REFERENCES
Datuk CK Hon's Blog
Winston Tai : winston-tai@hotmail.com