Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dusky Broadbill

Dusky Broadbill Corydon sumatranus brunnescens at 27 cm is the largest broadbill in Borneo, the other large broadbill is the montane Whitehead's Broadbill Calyptomena whiteheadi which is a bit smaller at 25 cm. It is a scarce and uncommon resident sparsely distributed from sea level to montane forests up to 1,220 meters, may be higher to 1,835 meters.

This is a bird of the tree tops and forage in family groups from their tree top perch. It is a dark bird with a pale buff throat and pinkish bill.  

I manage to see them in Tawau for the first time, true to its habits, three of them were foraging  near the canopy of a tall tree, my lifer and my #324 photographed wild birds of  Borneo. 

Incidentally, this is my second last Broadbill of Borneo, the last one to be added to complete my Broadbill collection is the super rare Hoses's Broadbill Calyptomena Hosii, wish I have a chance to photograph it one day.

My photo collection of Bornean Broadbills is here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Red Knot

Went to Tinagat  today (22 August) to check on the waders. 

When I reached there, the tide was low and the waders were out a few hundred meters away and there was not many of them. I saw some Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris, many of them still in their breeding plumage, some presumably Red-necked Stints Calidris ruficollis, a few Terek Sandpipers Xenus cinerea,  a Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, a few Charadrius Plovers, two Little Terns Sterna albifrons, a few Tringa waders, a few Great Egrets Ardea alba. Nothing spectacular and none of the big curlews and Godwits were in sight.

Great Knots in various stages of moult from breeding plumage

However, on closer scanning, I saw a single bird that looked different from the group of feeding Great Knots. It has chestnut breast and is smaller than the Great Knot, it is the middle bird in the following picture.

To my delight, it is a Red Knot Calidris canutus. My lifer and my #323 photographed wild birds of Borneo.

I am lucky as it is still in partial breeding plumage, otherwise I  would have just treated it as another Great Knot, as in non-breeding plumage and size and bill differences with the Great Knot would not be that easy to differentiate from this far. It is a little smaller than the Great Knot and has shorter bill, as evident from the picture, and of course, in breeding plumage, it chestnut-red face and underparts is distinctive, we can still see the chestnut color breast here from hundreds of meters away. In contrast, a Great Knot in breeding plumage shows blackish breast and flanks made up of bold black spots, as in the first picture.

Red Knot  is a very uncommon or rare passage migrant to Borneo. Singletons and small flocks reach Borneo from Northern Asia.They have been recorded sparingly from Sabah.

The few Great Egrets are in breeding colour as in this picture, they could be actually breeding here somewhere, as they have been proven to breed in Sabah here.
 Great Egret

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo 

Standard References for my blog

Monday, August 16, 2010

Great Slaty Woodpecker

Great Slaty Woodpecker Mulleripicus pulverulentus, at 51 cm is the world's largest woodpecker. Range from Himalayas to Southwest China, Southeast Asia, Greater Sundas and Palawan, occurs on lowlands and hill dipterocarp forests, sometimes wanders into logged forest and plantations.

It is a scarce and rather uncommon resident of Borneo. It usually seen on high rising tree trunks of the towering tropical forest trees in Sabah, with laud drumming that resonates far and wide which can be heard far away on the forest floor. I once heard one drumming on a tall tree while I was just standing beneath, however I could not see it until it flew away as it was too high above on a horizontal trunk that blocked it from my view below.

The two problems of getting a good photograph of this bird are, a), it usually stays high above, making the bright sky as unavoidable and unpleasant background, and b) it is too far and too high away from the camera, however, these two problems are partially eliminated if you have a chance to photograph them from the canopy walkway of the RDC at Sepilok, as they can come quite near and you can shoot from a much better angle from the raised platform of the canopy walkway.

The Bornean race is M. p. pulverulentus, and the Bird Forum Opus site on this species is displaying a picture taken by me earlier.

I photographed this pair (male bird on top in both images) in Merotai, Tawau, the same place where I photographed the Common Goldenback, they came down very low on a dead tree, doing some ritual, may be some sort of mating rituals, I am not sure, spreading their wings to make displays while calling out loudly.

This was the first time I encountered them so near and some of my photos had cropped wings, even though I had the full-frame shots but I could not have a nice background as the paticular tree was a lone standing tree and I had to shoot against the sky. Here they are, the largest woodpecker in the world.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Maroon-breasted Philentoma

There are two species of Philentomas in Borneo, the commonner Rufous-winged Philentoma Philentoma pyrhopterum and Maroon-breasted Philentoma Philentoma Velata caesia.

Philentomas were previously treated as Flycatchers but DNA studies show that they are related to the Woodshrikes and thus are now placed in the family Vangini with Woodshrikes.

Maroon-breasted Philentoma  is an uncommon resident of Borneo, occurring from sea-level to 1,650 meters in the Kelabit Highland. In Sabah, it only occurs up to 1,200 meters in the Crocker Range. The male bird poses no difficulty in field identification with its maroon coloured breast. The female bird needs a little more attention as it looks  similar to the blue morph male of the Rufous-winged Philentoma, however, they can be distinguished by darker face and breast and no paler vent for Maroon-breasted.

It is classified as Near-Threatened by BirdLife International in 2001. Justification per BirdLife is as follows: This forest-dependent species is listed as Near Threatened because it is assumed to have experienced moderately rapid declines owing to the extensive loss of lowland forests from large areas of South-East Asia. It is not considered more threatened because it can use secondary habitats and occurs in lower montane forest.

This was taken in Tawau, my lifer bird (my #323 photographed wild birds of Borneo).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Black-tailed Godwit and other early arrivals

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa is a scarce winter visitor and passage migrant to Borneo, previous records were of mainly single bird. Sabah records were from Mumiang  in the east Coast and from Kota Belud in the west coast. No other record from Sabah has been mentioned in publications. If my memory  serves me right, I think there was a single bird in Sempulan, Kota Kinabalu one or two years ago, photographed by Sifu Jason and Sifu Karim. (Edit: My memory failed me, see comment from Sifu Jason.)

We went to Tinagat on 7th August 2010 to check on the waders and to my surprise I saw more than 10 Godwits feeding there at the tide-edge. I saw a Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica at the same place last season. (See here).

Photographs of the birds were taken without hesitation and on further checking with my field guides, they are confirmed to be Black-tailed Godwits.

It is quite easy to differentiate this from the similar looking Bar-tailed Godwit.  Here are some of the more obvious features;

- Black-tailed Godwit has straight bill, Bar-tailed has slightly upturned bill.

- Black-tailed Godwit has much longer legs, particularly longer tibia.

- Black-tailed Godwit has barred-flanks in breeding plumage, various traces of it can be seen in the fresh arrivals.

- In non breeding plumage (which we usually see them), Black-tailed Godwit has plain smooth breast and neck while Bar-tailed has streaky neck and breast.

Here are the pictures of the birds, my lifer. (#322 photographed wild birds of Borneo).


 Others birds are;
A pair of Little Tern Sterna albifrons
A pair of Juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster
 Common Redshank Tringa totanus
 Little-ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
 Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris
Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo 

Standard References for my blog

Friday, August 6, 2010

Some essential gears

Essential item number one, see the picture below, of course, you need the camera and the tripod, they are without doubt the most essential. The other essential is the chair, foldable and light, you can hang it on your belt. It will make your wait for the waders comfortable, it will also keep your back-side dry if you decide to take some low level shots of waders at the mud-flat.

The second half of the year brings much more rain to Tawau than the first half, and I have more free time during the second half. The rain has washed out a few of our planned bird photography outings already. So, the other essential is to let your camera wear some rain-coat. Here my camera is fitted with the Think-Tank Hydrophobia. 

With it in place, I could walk with my gear with peace of mind even in the most severe overcast sky. Since the Think-Tank cost more than the poncho that I wear, my bird photography friends have concluded that I love my camera more than myself, in other word, a total idiot or TLG in short.

If the rain gets havier, you can always let your flash unit use the umbrella, as seen here.

I got this camouflage netting via eBay auction, 5 feet tall by 9 feet long, it can be handy for hiding yourself from view. You can sit behind it to enjoy your snack while observing activities through the netting. Here is the picture showing my camera from behind the netting.

Happy birding.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Common Goldenback

Common Goldenback Dinopium javanense, 30 cmone of the larger woodpeckers of Borneo.

It is a locally common bird, in Borneo, it is generally found in coastal areas, secondary forest, cultivated gardens and coconut plantation. Occasionally found inland, e.g. at Danum. It is often recorded in cultivated lands, parks and golf courses within its range.

The diet consists of ants, insect larvae, small scorpions, cockroaches and other insects.

The male is a strikingly handsome bird, with golden yellow wings and fiery red crest and rump, banded black and white cheeks, and white underparts with black crescentic scale-like markings. The female has the red crest replaced by a black cap spotted with white.  It can only be confused with the similar looking Greater Goldenback Chrysocolaptes lucidus which can be differentiated from different facial and hind neck markings.

The Sabah race is D. j. raveni, an endemic race, with more buff below, throat more broadly spotted and female with the crown streak very narrow.

This pair was my lifer (My #321 photographed wild bird of Borneo) photographed in Merotai, Tawau, on a dead tree next to coastal mangrove forest, I have also seen one on a coconut palm in Tinagat,  which is also next to the coast, confirming its status of a coastal dweller.

Common Goldenback Male
Common Goldenback Male
Common Goldenback Female

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo 

Standard References for my blog