Monday, December 28, 2009

Tabin Wildlife Reserve 28th November 2009 (Part 2).

The next morning was greeted by the laud singing of this Rufous-crowned Babbler Malacopteron magnum As typical of all babblers, its picture proved to be a nightmare to take as the light was  dark and it moved incessantly amongst the thick undergrowths near the restaurant. Rufous-crowned Babbler looks very  similar to Scaly-crowned Babbler Malacopteron cinereum, however, the darkish legs confirm this as Rufous-crowned Babbler.
Rufous-crowned Babbler

This White-crowned Shama Copsychus stricklandii was perched in the open while looking for breakfast. White-crowned Shama is endemic to Northern Borneo, where it is replace by  White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus south of Sabah, and the range of these two species overlaps from Lawas to Sg. Padas in the West, and from somewhere between Sg. Sekatak and Talisayan in the East Kalimantan (Holmes and Burton 1987) to Danum Valley (Kiew 1977), Darvel Bay and the Semporna islands on the east. D. Wells (in Kiew 1977) noted a few specimens from Danum Valley have crown feathers tipped in black, suggesting hybridization among the two.
White-crowned Shama

A family of Smooth Otter Lutra perspicillata was  swimming upstream along the Lipid River in search for fish.
Smooth Otter
This Nymph Butterfly was basking in the morning sun.

This Wallace's Hawk Eagle Spizaetus nanus must have caught a rat from the oil palm plantation, it was well hidden among the leaves on this tall tree. There could be a nest with chicks somewhere near here as it flew away with its prey tightly in its grasp.
Wallace's Hawk Eagle

A family of Bornean Gibbon Hylobates muelleri was feeding on young shoots at the canopy quite a distance away. Bornean Gibbons are endemic to Borneo, dwell in the lowlands and hills, up to 1,500 m on Mt. Kinabalu, usually found in small groups of one adult male, one adult female and up to three young. Bornean Gibbons are often heard as their unmistakable laud calls can be heard miles away in the forest, however, as they dwell on tall trees they can be difficult to spot and even harder to photograph.
Bornean Gibbon

I took the above two pictures with my DSLR and my 600mm lens and the following picture with my compact camera. The primate is almost impossible to discern in the following picture, so length does make a lot of difference.
Can you see the Gibbon?

We continued along the road and this Indian Black Eagle Ictinaetus malayensis flew overhead.
Indian Black Eagle

This group comprising photography Sifus were in front of us.

We carried on and saw a bird hopping along the road, from a  distance we thought it was a Yellow or Grey Wagtail, but decided against it later as it did not have the characteristic white outer tail  feathers of a  Wagtail. So we stopped the car to investigate, and very much  to our delight we found it to be a different bird and another lifer for me (#295), the Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus. When migrating this bird can be found both in the lowlands and montane forest in Borneo, we saw  a number  of them foraging along the road in Tabin on that day.
Eyebrowed Thrush

This Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassina was perched in the shade far far away.
Verditer Flycatcher

Its yellow belly and streaky throat and upper breast indicate that this is a Long-billed Spiderhunter Arachnothera robusta, another lifer for me (#296). A Streaky-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera affinis would show greyish belly and the similar looking Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera modesta does not occur in Sabah.
Long-billed Spiderhunter

This lone Williamsoni race Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica was hunting from this perch far away. This much rarer Williamsoni race Flycatcher differs from the commoner Asian Brown Flycatcher by having broad streaky breast. The Williamsonni race  is considered by some taxonomists to be a seperate species, called Brown-streked Flycatcher Muscicapa Williamsoni.
Asian Brown Flycatcher

Along the road and we were alerted by the whistling sound from a stream nearby and we were jumping with joy to spot the White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti, another lifer (#297). While it has been long recognized that there are two races of White-crowned Forktail in Borneo, the montane race (used to be E. l. borneensis) and the lowland race (E. l. frontalis). Now White-crowned Forktail is reserved for the lowland species while the montane species  is now called Bornean Forktail Enicurus borneensis.(split by Moyel et al. 2005).

I have taken pictures of Bornean Forktails in Kinabalu Park, which look much larger and have longer tail then the White-crowned Forktail we saw here.
White-crowned Forktail 

After lunch, we made a trip to Lipid Mud Volcano via Tomanggong Road. There were a few White-bellied Munia Lonchura leucogastra among the flock of Chestnut Munia Lonchura atricapilla feeding in the tall grass along the road.  White-bellied Munia are much rarer than Chestnut Munia, they are also very very skittish, will fly off at the slightest movement and sound. This shot was taken by hand holding my DSLR with the 600mm lens (without VR), glad that it looks acceptable.
White-bellied Munia

The 700 meters trail from the Tomanggong Road to Lipid mud volcano was muddy and wet. However, Wellington boots provided by Tabin Wildlife Resort saved the day. The mud volcano is huge and more than 10 feet tall, as nothing grow on it so the area provides open and unobstructed view of all birds flying over the area.
Lipid Mud Volcano
Lipid Mud Volcano, see its size with the human on it.

These Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea were perched on a tree at the edge of the mud volcano.
Green Imperial Pigeon

This pair of Wreath Hornbill Aceros corrugatus flew by in a distance.
Wreath Hornbill

End of Part 2, to be continued. Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo #295 to #297

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tabin Wildlife Reserve 27th November 2009

Our photography sifu from Tawau, Mr. Winston Tai organised a group of photographers to visit Tabin Wildlife Reserve for a 3D2N trip, from 27th to 29th November 2009.

Our group from Tawau consisted of Winston Tai, Kan NJ, Datuk CK Hon, Kong Ket Leong, Liew Lun Fatt, and myself. Andy Choak and YC Lee comprised the other group from Sandakan. Both groups departed at 6.00 am and met at Lahad Datu for breakfast.

Unlike our visit last year, the Tabin Road has been resurfaced with gravels and is in  good shape for 4WD vehicles, this is the road we took instead of the Permai Plantation road.

Not long after passing the main gate to Tabin Wildlife Reserve, we encountered a flock of feeding Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops phillippinus, hawking along the access road between the oil palm plantation on one side and secondary forests on the other. I have seen them in Sandakan, Kinabatangan and Penampang but not in Tawau, so Kong, Liew and myself stopped to take pictures of them while the other cars continued on to the Tabin's Reception office.
 Blue-throated Bee-eater

While the Bee-eaters were hawking for flying insects on the wings, I spotted this Grey-cheeked Bulbul Criniger bres in  the shrubs near the forest. Grey-cheeked Bulbul looks very similar to the montane Ochraceous Bulbul Alophoixus ochraceus. Apart from habitat difference, Grey-cheeked Bulbul  has less prominant crest, yellower underparts and buffy undertail converts.
Grey-cheeked Bulbul

After we had enough of the Blue-throated Bee-eater, we moved on to find this lone juvenile Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus caught a grasshopper in the shrubs beside the road.
Tiger Shrike Juvenile

During the guests registration, Resort manager Mr. Fernando informed us that there were a number of fruiting fig trees in the Resort and along the Lipid River, which was delightful news to us as the fruits would bring a variety of birds to the Resort.

While waiting for lunch, we were entertained by the feeding of Scaly-breasted Bulbul Pycnonotus squamatus (my lifer), Red-eyed Bulbul  Pycnonotus brunneus and a 1st winter male Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana on top of the tree adjacent to the restaurant. Scaly-breasted Bulbul has been photographed regularly by  photographers in Poring, Ranau, during the flowering and fruiting season, and we were more than happy to see it here in Tabin.
Scaly-breasted Bulbul 
Blue-and-white Flycatcher - 1st winter male

This flying lizard (looks like a Black-bearded Flying Lizard Draco melanopogon) also flew in.
Black-bearded Flying Lizard

Left after lunch to try our luck along the road leading to the Core Area (Core area represents almost 9,000 hectares of pristine rainforest), however, we did not travel far enough to reach the Core Area, we traveled only about 7 km along the road to look for birds. To reach the Core Area, one had to travel much further. We first encountered a Spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus erythropthalmos.
Spectacled Bulbul

Than, more than 100 meters away, a very skittish flock of Slender-billed Crow Corvus enca, took off right after I took this shot.
Slender-billed Crow

A Plantive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus was singing her familiar song .... weee wit weee, weee wit weee, weee wit weee........, near the entrance gate of the Resort.
Plantive Cuckoo

An Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris flew overhead. It was too big for my camera.
Oriental Pied Hornbill

A Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis was foraging in the thick undergrowth. Although this bird has a relatively short tail, I think it is a Greater Coucal rather than the much rarer, smaller and similar looking Short-toed Coucal Centropus rectunguis,  as sighting and records of  Short-toed Coucal in Sabah have been considered provisional, owing to the difficulty in distinguishing the species from the larger look alike Greater Coucal (Sheldon et al. in press). (Edited on 21 May 2017: This should be a Short-toed Coucal, as I have taken more pictures of Short-toed and Creater Coucals for comparison after the original posting. See
Greater Coucal

Along the Lipid River, the fruiting fig trees brought a number of  small birds, but I only managed to catch decent shot of the Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis.

Encountered this Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinera along the road near a stream. Grey Wagtails winter in both lowlands and montane forests of Borneo, but thy are more commonly found in montane areas of Borneo in the Northern winter.
Grey Wagtail

The road going to the Core Area is in a very well kept condition and with a 4WD, our birding trips going up and down the road are like a piece of cake.

A Red-eyed Bulbul Pycnonotus brunneus perch on a dead branch. Red-eyed Bulbuls are hard to distinguish from the Cream-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus simplex  in Borneo as the latter also has red eye, but an easy way to tell them apart is Red-eyed Bulbuls have more rufous underparts.
Red-eyed Bulbul

On our way back to the resort we saw some Smooth Otters Lutra (Lutrogale) perspicillata drying themselves on the bank of Lipid River.
Smooth Otter

End of Part 1, to be continued. Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo #294

Monday, December 7, 2009

Birding in KK with Sifu Karim 21st November 2009 (Part 2)

Updated on 1 May 2018 with text in green background.

21st November 2009, Saturday. I fetched Sifu Karim at 6.30 am from his house in Tanjung Aru, went for breakfast before going to Penampang again to look for snipes.

There was no snipe in sight at Penampang padi fields, saw the usual birds that were there last afternoon. Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus, Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia, Munias and various Egrets.
 Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilt

The Black-winged Stilts here are foraging in fresh-water padi-fields, just as described in the Checklist (Mann,  2008). In Tawau, where there is no padi fields, we have seen a flock of them at the coastal tidal mudflats in Tinagat September this year.

This is my camera in the ready position with Sifu Karim in the background walking the road looking for snipe, any snipe.
 My Camera
Left for Sugud, Penampang after about an hour, saw a number of Blue-throated Bee-eaters  Merops Viridis perched on the high-wire along the way but did not stop to take photograph.

Sugud is a forest reserve in Penampang hills, the trees along the road, being secondary growth, are not that tall, together with the open view from the access road and the low traffic makes this place an excellent location for bird photography.

Greeted in Sugud by this Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus monyanus (Now Sunda Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus bornensis), it stopped only for a moment to enable me to capture this record shot, my 1st lifer for the day. The Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler is the only Scimitar Babbler that occurs in Borneo, ranging from sea level to 1,700 m on Mount Kinabalu.
Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler

Its preening movements caught my attention, the Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii (Now Psilopogon rafflesii), well hidden amongst the green foliage and a challenge to spot, it is my 2nd lifer for the day. Red-crowned Barbet is an uncommon to common resident throughout lowlands of Borneo, but not usually found with Red-throated Barbet M. mystacophanos (Now Psilopogon mystacophanos), it occurs from sea level up to 1,300 m. (Mann, 2008).
Red-crowned Barbet

The other birds photographed is Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica. With its pale underparts and distinct eye-ring, this looks like the migrant dauurica race, the resident umbrosa race is darker all over and very scarce.
Asian Brown Flycatcher

I diagnosed this as a Streaked Bulbul Ixos malaccensis (another lifer), even its streaky breast is not visible from the picture (Could not get any other picture as it stopped with the back facing me for a short instance before it flew off) because of the white vent that can be discerned from the back (The white vent is diagnostic of this species),  its grey tipped bill with pinkish lower base, and pinkish legs and feet .

(Edited on 6th March 2010: After photographing a Streaked Bulbul in Tawau, and comparing with this bird, I have to amend the ID, as Streaked Bulbul is a different looking bird with a more slender bill. This should be an Immature of the Cream-vented Bulbul. Too bad there is no other shots to positively confirm the ID).
Cream-vented Bulbul

Other birds spotted were Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis, Blue-and-White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana, Diard's Trogon Harpactes diardii, Crested Serpant Eagle Spilornis Cheela, Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra, Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus, Black-and-Yellow Broadbill Eurylaimus ochromalus, Banded Broadbill  Eurylaimus javanicus, Lesser Green Leafbird  Chloropsis cyanopogon and Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker Prionochilus xanthopygius.

Went to Lok Kawi later to look for the Chinese Egret, but it was not at Lok Kawi either, instead found the following two lifers, Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula and the Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii.

Common Ringed Plover is a rare vagrant bird in Borneo, it breeds in N Palearctic, NE of North America, Greenland; mostly winters along coasts of Africa, Madagascar, W, S Europe, Middle East, S Pakistan, rarely India, Sri Lanka, S.E. China, Japan. So it is quite out of its normal range to come here. However, according to Sifu Karim, this particular bird has been at the same spot for quite a while, could have obtained  Permanent Resident status to stay here already.
Common Ringed Plover

Malaysian Plover is a SE Asian specialty, resident in the Sundas (except Java), Philippines, Sulawesi, Sula Island. It  is one of the two resident waders in Borneo, the other being Beach Stone Curlew Esacus magnirostris which is very rare. Malaysian Plovers are usually seen in pairs, but we only managed to locate this female bird that afternoon.
Malaysian Plover Female

At Lok Kawi (NW Coast of Borneo),  I sighted quite a number of Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres, this bird  is quite rare in Tawau (NE Coast of Borneo),. However, according to Sifu Karim, the Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata , Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis and Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris which are commoner in Tawau are rarely seen here. The other waders that are seen that day and are common on both Tawau and Lok Kawi are the Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii (Now Anarhynchus leschenaultii), Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus (Now Siberian Plover Anarhynchus mongolus), Terex Sandpiper Xenus cinereus, Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus (Now Anarhynchus alexandrinus), Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva and Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola.
Ruddy Turnstone
Kentish Plover

The quest for Chinese Egret continued to Kuala Putatan and Tanjung Aru, but it was not to be seen there as well. However, we met salon Sifu Henry Chin and some photographers shooting this friendly flock of Great Egret Ardea alba (Now Eastern Great Egret Ardea modesta) and Little Egret Egretta garzetta at the estuary of a monsoon drain leading out to sea near Sutera Harbour Resort. The estuary was where abundant catfish congregates to feed. The egrets here were busy feeding and quarreling among themselves which provided excellent opportunities to capturing action shots.
Flock of egrets
Flock of egrets

A lone dark-morph Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra also came to check out the excitement.
Pacific Reef Egret

The quest for Chinese Egret than continued to Likas Bay, but by than the tide was too high and the shoreline was fully submerged, so the Chinese Egret proved to be no show for this trip.

Stopped by at Likas Lagoon before going to airport for my flight back to Tawau. The lagoon was almost covered by lush growth of water hyacinth,  there was only a small opening of water at the far end of the lagoon. This family of Wandering Whistling-duck  Dendrocygna arcuata, with 5 ducklings was having a nice time there.
Wandering Whistling-duck

A few Purple Herons Ardea Purpurea were also seen hunting among the thick water hyacinth. Great Egrets, Little Egrets, Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus and Darters Anhinga melanogaster were seen perched on a raintree on the other side of the lagoon.
Purple Heron

This is my final lifer, the Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio indicus. This species is common at the Kalimantan lakes, Previously a rare migrant  to NW Borneo but recently an increasingly common resident in Western Sabah in padi fields and feshwater swamps. This very dark Sunda race of Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo and Sulawesi P. p. indicus has been recently split as Black-backed Swamphen (Sangster 1998) but this was not accepted by Taylor, 1998.
Purple Swamphen

My sincere thanks to Sifu Karim for spending time with me for this wonderful outing, 5 lifers were scored from 3.00 pm of 20th November to dusk, and 6 lifers were scored til 3.00 pm of 21st November 2009.

After dropping Sifu Karim home and on my way to the airport, I encountered this pair of Green Imperial-pigeon Ducula aenea on a low tree, they were so low that I have to back away to get the whole bird in the frame, this is the first time that I managed to photograph them so low.
Green Imperial-pigeon
Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo #288 to #293.

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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 and 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.