Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Plantive Cuckoo - Hepatic Morph Female

Plantive Cuckoo, Cacomantis merulinus, once called the Malayan Brain-fever Bird. Brain-fever Bird is the name for the Common Hawk Cuckoo Cuculus varius, a bird that does not occur in Borneo, so named because the English men thought its song sounded like "Brain-Fever, Brain-Fever", and the name had since been applied to several cuckoos.

One of its songs is the three notes "tay-ta-wi," repeated three times and rising in pitch, however, please bear in mind that the  similar looking Rusty-breasted Cuckoo Cacomantis sepulcralis also sings a similar song. As it is not restricted to forest, it is found in cultivated areas, plantations and gardens as well, you may also see it perching on the fence or wire, it is the most commonly heard cuckoo in Bornean lowlands. I can even hear one calling in the nearby jungle from my house.

This is one of the parasitic cuckoos and its hosts are Common iora, Streaky-breasted Spiderhunter, Yellow-bellied Prinia and Tailorbirds.

The male bird is quite easy to identify in that its head and upper breast is grey in contrast with the bigger Rusty-breasted Cuckoo whose throat and breast is not grey. The female is similar to the male, other than  the hepatic morph female which is a totally different looking bird, with upper parts barred rufous and brown and underparts whitish barred dark brown, looking very similar to Banded-bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii. The other cuckoos in Borneo which has hepatic morph female are much larger birds and thus not easy to be mistaken as Plaintive Cuckoo.

The hepatic female of the Plaintive Cuckoo can be distinguished from the similar sized and similar looking Banded-bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii in that the latter has prominent darkish eye-stripe and whitish supercilium.

This Hepatic morph female was photographed in Tawau, it was foraging in the short bushes until another  non-morph bird came to chase it away.

Hepatic morph Female
Hepatic morph Female

Plaintive Cuckoo
Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo 

Standard References for my blog

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Red-billed Malkoha

Red-billed Malkoha Phaenicophaeus javanicus is one of the two rarest malkohas in Borneo, the other being Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus sumatranus.  

Quentin Phillipps in his Birds of Borneo listed Red-billed Malkoha as the rarest. However, as far as Sabah is concern, I have seen Red-billed Malkoha in Sukau, Kinabatangan and Tawau, some friends photographed it before in RDC, Sepilok, but I still have to see and photograph  a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha in Borneo to complete all the Bornean Malkohas. So, if my experience is an indication, the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha should be the rarer of the two.

Malkohas are distinctive looking birds and their field identification should pose no problem even for the beginner birders,  the similar looking Black-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus diardi and Chestnut-bellied Malkoha can be easily distinguished based on the colour of their eye-shield if one is unable to see the color of the belly.

Red-billed Malkoha is the only Bornean Malkoha species that has red bill, and it is also the only species that does not have obvious eye-shield, which is a prominant facial feature of the other Bornean Malkohas.

This was photographed recently in Tawau, two birds were seen foraging in the tall canopy.

Happy birding.

Monday, July 19, 2010

First waders of 2010 have arrived.

Went to Tinagat beach, Tawau, today to establish whether the migrant waders are here already, and true to records, which said that the first of the waders would arrive in Borneo towards the end of July, I saw a big congregation of waders on a sand bar far far away.

From observation, they comprise  mostly of Great Knot  Calidris tenuirostris, with a few sand plovers and a Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva, and may be a Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus and a Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis. Here are the photograph of the sand bar, the afternoon heat-wave had wreaked havoc to the quality of the photos.

Great Knot should look like this without the heat wave. (picture taken in 2008).
Great Knots (2008)

The following images are taken today, 18th July 2010.
The stitched image of the sand bar.

A magnification.

A further enlargement showing most of them are Great Knot.

Happy birding.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Asian Fairy- bluebird

Asian Fairy-bluebird Irena puella is a striking bird, when seen from its side the male is unmistakable in field identification. It is widespread in Borneo. This is a fruit eating bird that usually forages in pairs in the canopy of large trees, so when seen from  below one usually sees an entirely black and thick-set bird, considerably larger than the bulbuls.
The male has only two colors in its plumage, deep velvety black and shiny bright pale blue. The blue extends from the top of the head to the shoulders and  through the back and down  to the under-tail converts
Adult male
The female is almost entirely dull blue, however the blue is entirely different blue from the male, the blue is dull and without gloss, in a different tone, more cobalt and dusky than lively bright.
Adult female
This is an immature bird, the black patches in the breast indicate that it is a male, as female does not have any black in its plumage.
Immature male
Its sex is further confirmed from its side profile, where the still developing shiny bright blue can be seen on its upper-parts.

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo 

Standard References for my blog

Monday, July 12, 2010

Moustached Babbler

Babblers are a vast assemblage of species and are still imperfectly understood, I think it was the traditional catch-all genus for species that cannot be conveniently allocated elsewhere. As I mentioned in my earlier post, this genus is in the process of being dismantled and we expect to see a number of splits coming.

Here is my new bird, Moustached Babbler Malacopteron magnirostre, a common resident of primary forest throughout Borneo. Babblers of this genus are usually found in family parties in the undergrowth or lower storey of  forest. They are shy little birds, never flying further than necessary and prefer to slip about in the thick undergrowth near the ground. Being active foliage gleaners and skulkers, taking their photographs is a real hair pulling affair.

This is my lifer from Tawau, making my photographed wild birds of Borneo count to #319.

Monday, July 5, 2010

RDC, Sepilok, Sandakan, End of May 2010

It was a long weekend for Sabah at the end of May as we celebrated the Harvest Festival.  We drove to  Sandakan for my wife to visit her sisters and for me to visit Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC), hoping to photograph the Banded Kingfisher Lacedo pulchella and to try my luck on the Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda which was photographed there a couple of days earlier, however, like every thing else in life,  you wiold be assured of disappointment if you eagerly await it, none of these was sighted and the score card was zero. The following were the birds and other creatures photographed during the long weekend at RDC.

One thing that I did not do during the period was I did not once go up to any of the landmark observation towers nor did I walk on its canopy walkway, for the simple reason that they were too crowded with members of the public who also took advantages of the long weekend and came to enjoy the nature.

Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis, a common and unmistakable bird, I saw a young bird being fed by adults. In Sabah, we have both a resident population and migrating visitors during the northern winter months, this should be resident bird as it is now well over the migrating season.

Dusky Munia Lonchura fuscans, a common lowland endemic of Borneo, shyer and very much harder to approach than the commoner and widespread Chestnut Munia Lonchura atricapilla.
Dusky Munia

White-chested Babbler Trichastoma rostratum, a common resident of Borneo, frequently foraging near banks of forest streams, can easily be spotted along the flowing stream in RDC. Here it is preening after a shower in the cool water. Taken with ISO2000 on D300, without flash so as not to spook the bird.
White-chested Babbler
White-chested Babbler

A juvenile of Rufous Piculet Sasia abnormis, common resident, it was brought along by an adult bird. Since I have not got any images of the juvenile, I concentrated on taking his picture instead of the adult, it stayed for a few seconds before moving on. This could be a male bird as it has got yellow patch on its forehead.
Rufous Piculet

Cream-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus simplex, another common bird of the disturbed forest. This individual has pale eyes. In Borneo, this bird sports both red and white eyes.
Cream-vented Bulbul

Black-headed Pitta Pitta ussheri, a bird that occurs in Sabah, to the border with Kalimantan Timur and Sarawak, north of the line between Lawas and Meropok rivers. Split from Garnet Pitta Pitta granatina following Lambert (1996), Erritzoe and Erritzoe (1998), Erritzoe (2003) and Mann (2008) owing to morphological and vocal differences and their apparent parapatry.

Pittas are real difficult to get good photograph of, they are shy, secretive, refuse to come out in the clear and always occur in dark forest understorey. Eventhough this bird was perched against the morning light and  was partially blocked, I was thankful that it came quite near for me to take its photo.
Black-headed Pitta

A male Purple-naped Sunbird Hypogramma hypogrammicum, a common bird throughout the lowlands and hills. This sunbird is quite similar to the Spiderhunter in habits.
Purple-naped Sunbird - male

The setting moon whose retirement is hastened by the rising sun on the opposite horison.

This Short-tailed Babbler Trichastoma malaccense came nearer than my lens's closest focusing distance that I could not lock focus on its eye. You can see that the focal plane is on the wing and legs. 
Short-tailed Babbler
However, it eventually came out in the clear for a record shot. This is my lifer, my #318 photographed wild bird of Borneo. It was also later observed to forage at the banks of the stream, behaving exactly like the White-chested Babbler.

Short-tailed Babbler

Ornate Shrub Lizard Aphaniotis ornata, a lizard endemic to Borneo, stationery on a piece of leave, I almost touched it while maneuvering myself to take photographs.
Ornate Shrub Lizard

This is the female of the  Bornean Angle-headed Lizard Gonocephalus bornensis, another endemic lizard of Borneo, however, field guide says its color is green. I suspected that it turned brown here for easier camouflage against the tree trunk.
Bornean Angle-headed Lizard - female

White-bellied Rat Snake Ptyas fusca, common snake of the lowland, a large snake that grows to 3 meters in length, was spotted while it stayed still after noticing our approach. It was too long for me to frame it in my picture, so I have to shoot its head and sections of its body for later identification.
White-bellied Rat Snake
White-bellied Rat Snake
White-bellied Rat Snake

Fianly,  this male Asian Black Hornbill Anthracoceros malayanus flew in to perch on a nearby tree, basking in the late afternoon sun.
Asian Black Hornbill