Monday, February 22, 2010

Nordmann's Greenshank

Ang Pow for the year of the Tiger comes in green! My last year Ang Pow bird was the endemic Borneo Bristlehead (Pityriasis gymnocephala), which is an unmistakable red bird.

Nordmann's Greenshank (Tringa guttifer), a rare vagrant to Borneo, with very few records. In The Birds of Borneo - An annotated Checklist by Clive F Mann, he  listed 10 records only from Borneo dating from as early as 1913 to the latest in 2006. The only records from Sabah are a few sightings from Papar in the 1960s.

Nordmann's Greenshank is a threatened species (ICUN status: Endengered) with a very small world population estimated at only 500-1,000 individuals and decreasing. This scarce species breeds in coastal eastern Russia and winters as far south as South-East Asia and Australia (BirdLife International 2009).

Although often perceived to be difficult to distinguish from the Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) in winter plumage, however, once acquainted, it is not hard to spot their distinctive features to isolate them out from Common Greenshank. 

The distinctive features are its bicolored, thick looking bill; shorter yellower legs; hunched appearance produced by a heavy-breast;  pale-ash-grey upperparts feathers which are narrowly fringed white, and the tertials which are not notched balck-and-white.

Two individuals were spotted and photographed at Tinagat, Tawau on 7th February 2010. I was extremely lucky as the tide was just receding when we reached the sea side, the still quite high water level brought them nearer to the shore, if our timing was out and the water level was too low, they would be miles out in the mud, or alternatively  if the water level was too high, they would have no place to land and hence would not be recorded.

This is my  number 304 photographed wild birds of Borneo.

Here are the pictures of the birds, less than 1,000 worldwide, and latest record and first ever photograph from Sabah.
The hunched appearance of the birds is apparent.
Enlargement of the above picture, showing the lack of 
notched tertials of Nordmann's Greenshank.

The tertials of Common Greenshank.

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo #304

Standard References for my blog

Monday, February 15, 2010

Slaty-breasted Rail

Most rails are secretive birds of the marshes, difficult to observe as they quickly run for cover in the reed-beds or wet thickets when disturbed. 

There are two races of Slaty-breasted Rails Gallirallus striatus in Borneo, the northern race  G. s. striatus dark both above and below, perhaps especially dark in juvenile plumage, from the Philippines and Sulawesi to Sabah;  and the southern race G. s. gularis  a much paler bird with whitish throat from Yunan and Indochina to Sumatra, Java and BaliThe boundary separating the two forms in Borneo is unknown.

This could also be a possible winter visitor, one (possible migrant) entered a house at night in Bandar Seri Bagawan, Brunei , 16th January 1987 (Clive F Mann).

This bird is recorded in all provinces of Borneo, but its skulking nature undoubtedly results in under recording. True to its nature, this is the first time I have seen it and it is my number 303 wild bird of Borneo.
Slaty-breasted Rails Gallirallus striatus striatus of Northern Borneo.

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo #303

Standard References for my blog

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gong Xi Fa Cai 2010

Wishing all my friends who celebrate Lunar New Year a happy and prosperous Year of the Tiger.

May you get all the birds that you want.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Semi leucistic Pacific Swallow

I photographed this bird which  behaved and acted exactly like a swallow/swift flying above the lake in Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sepilok, Sandakan. Suspecting it was a Needletail, I tried hard to take flight pictures of it in the dimming evening light. I was reward with a few viewable images.

After I viewed the images in my computer than I noticed how different it looked. I thought it was something new until I requested for ID help from Mr. Dave Bakewell, who kindly identified it as a  partially leucistic Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica.

Here is a brief explanation of leucism and albinism.

Leucism (or Leukism) Leucism is a very unusual condition whereby the pigmentation cells in an animal or bird fail to develop properly. This can result in unusual white patches appearing on the animal, or, more rarely, completely white creatures.

Albinism is a different condition. The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is that in albinism the eyes are usually pink or red, and albinism affects the entire animal, not just patches.

This occassionaly causes very excited biologists to think they have discovered a new species, when in fact leucism is the cause of the unusual markings they have seen.

Here are the pictures of the bird.
partially leucistic Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica

Happy birding.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Black-headed Pitta

Black-headed Pitta Pitta ussheri, another endemic resident of  Sabah, in the west, south to the extreme north of Sarawak north of the line between Lawas and Meropok rivers, and in the west, south to the border with Kalimantan Timur, at the catchment of Sungei Sesayap and Sungei Mentarang, parapatric to Garnet Pitta Pitta granatina.

Parapatric means their ranges do not significantly overlap but are immediately adjacent to each other; they only occur together in the narrow contact zone, if at all.

Initially, this species was lumped with Graceful Pittta Pitta venusta in Garnet Pitta  Lambert and Woodcock (1996) split them as separate species.

Black-headed Pitta sounds very much like the Rail Babbler Eupetes macrocercus, with a more prolonged whistle than the Garnet Pitta. Incidentally the Blue-banded Pitta Pitta arquata also has very similar calls.

It is very similar to Garnet Pitta except that it has an all black head while the later has the hindcrown to mantle bright red. 

It is a very elusive bird, although having brilliant colors, it is a secretaive bird of the forest floor, and the casual bird watchers are very lucky if they chance upon one. I was extremely lucky to have taken its pictures  at RDC Sepilok, Sandakan, which is my number 302 wild bird of Borneo.


Happy birding.