Monday, June 28, 2010

Rufous-fronted Babbler

Rufous-fronted Babbler Stachyris rufifrons is a rare lowland and submontane resident of Borneo from sea-level to 1,530 meters. It is a slope specialist occurring in lowland and hill dipterocarp and lower montane forest, kerangas, bamboo, Albiza plantations, Dillenia saplings and scrub on basic soils.

Clive Mann, in his Birds of Borneo, mentioned that the Borneo race recorded as S. r. poliogaster, the race from Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia,  was presumably in error. Bornean race should be S. r. sarawacensis, and there is a specimen of sarawacensis in the Natural History Muzium, Tring, UK,  from G. Sidong taken at 370 meter.

Smythies recorded both races and the Sabah birds are allocated to S. r. sarawacensis, which is the endemic race..

This genus is  in the process of being dismantled, Craig Robson and Susan Myers have taken this species out from Stachyris and put under the genus Stachyrisopsis.
Like other babblers, their habits of foraging in dense foliage in lower to mid-storey and their typical skulking behaviours make photographing them a real frustrating affair. At 11 cm, their small size makes them even tougher to spot in the less than ideal light under the forest cover and thick undergrowth. They are usually heard but seldom spotted in clear view.

After hearing them but failed to locate them in numerous previous occasions, I was lucky to be rewarded with these  record shots of this small bird. The images were taken in Tawau.

This is my lifer, making my photographed wild birds of Borneo count to #317.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bornean Horseshoe Bat

Horseshoe bats are small to medium sized bats with an elaborate noseleaf. The anterior section is rounded and horseshoe-shaped. In the middle behind the nostrils is a raised portion called the sella. Behind this is the posterior noseleaf which raises to a long lancet-shaped point. The shape of the sella and the connecting process which joins it to the posterior leaf varies between species and is a useful diagnostic character. The ears are large with a prominent fold on the outside edge, the antitragus. The eyes are small and often partially hidden by the noseleaf. The tail is moderately long and almost completely enclosed within the interfemoral membrane.

In other words, they have a distinctive looking face, which is unmistakable.

This Bornean Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus borneensis was discovered in a drain while we were out photographing birds. It would not hung still and was moving incessantly making photographing it in the dark drain even more challenging. Here it is, a fat and cute looking Bornean Horseshoe Bat.

Bornean Horseshoe Bat
 The distinctive hoseshoe shaped noseleaf

Happy birding.

Reference :
Junaidi Payne and Charles M. Francis (2005),  A Fieldguide to the Mammals of Borneo, Kota Kinabalu : The Sabah Society.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rufous-tailed Shama

Unarguably, to the human ears, the best song bird in Borneo is the Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus, the remaining three best song birds, however, are all from  the Robins. Their beautiful songs are undoubtably their curse as well,  for they are being extensively trapped, caged and traded in their range as pet birds for their ability to sing.

The other bird which has a bright and melodious song  that I have encountered in the field is the Rufous-crowned Babbler Malacopteron magnum, it sounded in the same league as the Shamas.

Rufous-tailed Shama Trichixos pyrropygus is a scarce resident of the lowlands, from sea level to 900 meter. Its song, a series of loud mournful whistles is not as varied and melodious as compared to its two  cousins, the White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus and the North Bornean endemic White-crowned Shama Copsychus stricklandii. This could be a blessing for the Rofous-tailed as it is not as commonly seen as caged bird as compared to the other two Shamas in Borneo. In Sabah, I have regularly seen White-crowned Shama and Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis being kept as pet birds but have not come across a Rufous-tailed Shama being caged, whether they are not as common in the wild or they are not as popular, I am not sure.

Here is my lifer, a male Rufous-tailed Shama, taken in Tawau, making my photographed wild birds of Borneo count to #316.

Rufous-tailed Shama Male

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo 

Standard References for my blog

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The other "Whitehead"

While we were at the Nikon Kinabalu Photography Workshop in early May 2010, all of us were trying to locate the endemic and elusive Whitehead's Trogon Harpactes whiteheadi to photograph. It was reportedly seen along Liwagu Trail by another photographer earlier, there was also report of a nesting pair nearby. We did made an effort to trace this bird, but luck was not with us as we tracked the road running along the Liwagu Trial and was not rewarded with any sighting.

On the final day while on the same old beaten path we encountered this small beauty which was foraging on the lower trunk of a medium sized tree, we quickly took photograph of it. It is the other "Whitehead", not one of those well known Whitehead's Trinity birds, but one of the two lesser known "Whiteheads" that dwell in the mossy montane forest of Borneo.

It is the Whitehead's Pygmy Squirrel Exilisciurus whiteheadi,  at least a consolation for some of us who missed  the Whitehead's Trogon but got this instead, as it is still a "Whitehead's". Like the other "Whitehead's" this is also endemic to Borneo and known only from its mountains.

Whitehead's Pygmy Squirrel

Happy birding.

Reference :
Junaidi Payne and Charles M. Francis (2005),  A Fieldguide to the Mammals of Borneo, Kota Kinabalu : The Sabah Society.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Black-hooded Oriole

Black-hooded Oriole Oriolus xanthornus occurs in India to Sri Lanka to South-west China, Indochina, Thailand discontinuously to north-east Sumatra and north-east Borneo.

It is a rare resident of Borneo and only confined to the coastal areas from Sandakan (Sukau, Kinabatangan, Gomantong), Lahad Datu, Davel Bay to Tawau  (Merotai,  Kalabakan) and Maratuas in Kalimantan.

It was last recorded in Gomantong, Sukau  in 2003 and in Merotai, Tawau in 2001.

In late March 2010, many thanks to invite by Mr Ku Kok On who was informed by a friend of his that there was a pair of yellow bird nesting in his vegetable farm in Merotai, which eventually turned out to be this rare Black-hooded Oriole.

When I was there on the 28th March the parent birds were busy carrying food to feed the two fledglings which we expected to flew off real soon.

We went back to the location again in May to try our luck and we were glad to learn from the farm hands that the birds eventually flew off with the parents and disappeared into the nearby mangrove forest.

This is my lifer from Tawau and my number 315 photographed wild birds of Borneo.

Happy birding.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Long-tailed Shrike in Sabah

Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach is a rare bird of Sabah, and for that matter, the two common migrating shrikes in Peninsular Malaysia, Tiger Shrike and Brown Shrike,  are rare occurances in Sabah.

One particular race of Long-tailed Shrike  L. s. bentet is locally common in parts of Southern Kalimantan. Two other races L. s. nasutus and L. s. schach have also been recorded as uncommon winter migrants to North East Borneo.

L. s. bentet is a bird that has black fore-crown and sides of head, and grey nape and hind-neck, this race is also found in most part of Malay Penincular, Java, Sumatra and the Lesser Sundas.

The following images photographed in Tawau since 2008 are the first positive photographic records of this race in Sabah, earlier records of this race in Labuan in 1957 and Membakut in 1962 were of inconclusive sight records.

L. s. Bentet June 7th 2008

L. s. Bentet September 6th 2009

 L. s. Bentet May 15th 2010

The race of L. s. nasutus has forehead and hindneck black, upper mantle and black grey, just like wearing a black helmet covering to the back of the neck. It looks similar to the bird in the following images but have the black of the back of the head further down.

There is another race in Kalimantan, Borneo which differ from the typical L. s. bentet in having more extensive black on the forehead, and as individuals having unusually large amount of blacks are known from many populations of Long-tailed Shrike throughout their range, the Kalimantan birds agree with birds from East Java, where the proportion of unusually black birds is high, and they are subsumed under the name L. s. bentet. (If seperated, this could be united with birds from East Java as L. s. tosariensis). The variable amount fo black in forehead in the Bornean birds could be a result of polychromatism. Thus some descriptions of L. s. bentet in fieldguides say it has variable amount of black in the forehead.

 I think  the following bird photographed in Tawau  is from that particular race instead of L. s. nasutus which should have more black further down the hind neck.

L. s. Bentet May 22nd 2010
L. s. Bentet May 22nd 2010
L. s. Bentet May 22nd 2010

Happy birding.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Green Broadbill

Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis, commonest of all green broadbills, occur in lowland primary forest throughout Borneo, from sea level to 1,300 meters. The other two green broadbills occuring in Borneo are the rare Whitehead's Broadbill Calyptomena whiteheadi and the super rare Hose's Broadbill Calyptomena hosei.

This is a fat, curious looking bird with short-tailed, large-head, grass green with black markings, and with the feathers of the forehead partly covering the bill. The female lacks the black in the neck and wings.

Being all green,  this is not an easy bird to see in the foliage of the canopy but may at times seen passing from thicket to thicket and concealing itself among the green leaves.

Its typical call is commonly heard in the lowland forests and can be readily recognised once known: a short bubbled note, emphasized at the start and with an upward inflection, having the timbre of a stone bouncing on a frozen lake.

This is my lifer from Tawau and my number 314 photographed wild birds of Borneo.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Plain Flowerpecker

Plain Flowerpecker Dicaeum concolor borneanum, is an uncommon local resident from sea level to 1,200 meters, more common at higher altitudes.

This is the smallest bird in Borneo, measuring only 8 cm. Its very small size, thin bill and plain color are diagnostic. Easily confused with Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile and Brown-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum everetti, which are also similarly plain but has thicker bill.

It is a bird of secondary forest, scrub jungle, and village clearing. It feeds on both insects and berries.

This bird is my lifer and my number 313 photographed wild birds of Borneo.


 Happy birding.