Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pelagic Birding 3rd December 2011

We went again on 3rd December 2011, to yet another pelagic birding trip, hoping to see more of our migrating avian friends, as a Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia, a rare Borneo vagrant, was photographed in Tawau by two of my birding sifus a few days earlier.

The number of birds seen on this trip was only a little more than our previous trip (reported here), nothing much to shout about. However, I had a consolation in photographing a Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis as my lifer.

Here are the birds seen that day.

 Greater Crested Tern, a few seen flying around the boat.
 Lesser Crested Tern, a few seen.
 The lone Aleutian Tern in winter plumage.
 A low flying female Lesser Frigatebird. There was a large group of them.
 One of the handful of Common Tern

Black-headed Gull, the only gull positively recorded in Borneo.  I took this picture of one that was very far away, after noticing the different wings colors of this bird. A handful of them was in west coast of Sabah last year, see here.

 Adult winter Black-headed Gull
Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo.

Standard References for my blog.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Field identification of Scaly-crowned and Rufous-crowned Babbler

Scaly-crowned Babbler Malacopteron cinereum is a common babbler in primary forests.

The very similar Rufous-crowned Babbler Malacopteron magnum, however, is common in all type of forests in Borneo. They occur side-by-side in the same habitat and in almost identical elevation.

Population of both species dropped after logging, with Scaly-crowned Babbler dropped drastically.

In Tawau, we often bird in logged and secondary forests, Rofous-crowned Babbler is commonly encountered, its melodious song is often heard,  Scaly-crowned Babbler, on the other hand, is seldom seen.

Field identification to distinguish the two is not difficult as Scaly-crowned Babbler has pale pinkish legs and pale lower mandible while Rufous-crowned Babbler has dark legs and without pale lower mandible. Another ID feature is the dark tipped crown feathers of Scaly-crowned Babbler, however, this might not be easy to observe in the field.

 Rufous-crowned Babbler showing, 1. dark legs, 2. dark lower mandible and, 3. lack of black-tipped crown feathers
 Scaly-crowned Babbler showing pale legs and pale lower mandible.
 Black-tipped crown feathers and pale lower mandible of Scaly-crowned Babbler.

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo.

Standard References for my blog.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Roulroul Rollulus rouloul or Crested Partridge is stated to be the commonest partridge in Borneo. However, their habit of foraging terrestrially in thick undergrowth under deep forest cover makes them very hard to spot and observe.

They usually forage in small flock, leisurely walking and scratching on dark forest floor. The female was more daring to move about, it could forage within feet of a stationery observer. The male bird, on the other hand, was much shyer and was hidden under deep cover most of the time.

To photograph them is another matter as the dim light and their constant movements require a reasonaly high shutter speed which can only be achieved with combination of expensive fast lenses and high ISO capabled pro-level camera.

This photo was taken with my D300 set to ISO3200 with my old 70-200 f2.8 lens, that was the best my set could do. The result was only just good enough for record.

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo.

Standard References for my blog.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some waders at Tinagat, Tawau end November 2011

It is the migrating season again, visits to Tinagat beach were rewarded with these waders.

I managed to record a new lifer, Grey-tailed Tattler Heteroscelis brevipes.

 A section of the hundreds of Great Knot, which is the commonest waders here.
 Grey-tailed Tattler, my lifer.
 Two Great Egrets, showing the range in size.
 Lesser Frigatebird, L to R, adult ♀, adult ♂ and immature.
 Eurasian Curlew
 Eurasian Curlew, showing its diagnostic white rump.
 Broad-billed Sandpiper
 Terek Sandpiper
 Bar-tailed Godwit with a Great Knot
 Pond Heron, suspected to be Chinese instead of Javan as they are only around during the northern winter, however, it is not possible to positively confirm in this eclipse plumage.
 Common Redshank
 A composite of diving Little Tern
 A Mangrove Skink Emoia atrocostata
 Common Greenshank
Far-eastern Curlew.
Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo.

Standard References for my blog.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Large-tailed Nightjar

I must confess, this is my first nightjar, I have not photographed a nightjar before, though I have heard this often enough in Sandakan. Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus is the commonest of the four nightjars occuring in Sabah.

Nightjars are nocturnal or crepuscular, which mean they are active from twilight, thus they are not likely to be encountered during the day when we  photograph along the forest trails, however, one might chance upon them roosting on the ground or along branches in day time.

This bird was photographed in Sandakan Sports Complex. It was heard not long after the lights were switched on, a pair was seen foraging for insects later and occasionally perched on the fence pole.It has long and pointed wings with hawklike flight, catching insects on the wings.

Large-tailed Nightjar is patchily distributed in Borneo, being commoner in Sabah, Brunei, Sarawak and in adjacent areas in Kalimantan.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Paratised Caterpillar

This is something other than birds.

We came across this strange looking but colorful caterpillar, it has many tiny white cocoons on its body. Apparently the cocoons are of braconid wasps, which will eventually emerge and kill the poor caterpillar.

Happy birding.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pelagic birding on 17th September 2011

This is our second pelagic trip to Davel Bay in Kunak, our last trip in August saw only a few birds.

The number of birds for this trip was better but no new birds were seen, the sightings were the usual common migrants.

We did not see a lot of terns as seen by Dave Bakewell in Tanjong Dawai Kedah. Our boat is identical to the one there and I have yet to see any Terns perched on the yellow floaters. May be we do not have that number of Terns here, or may be our timing was off, we will wait and see from our future trips.

Species seen during the trip comprised Aleutian Tern Sterna aleutica, Common Tern Sterna hirundo, Greater-crested Tern Sterna bergii, White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus and Lesser Frigate Birds Fregata ariel ariel. Except for the lone Greater-crested Tern, the other birds were all numbered less than ten.

A few Aleutian Terns were flying around, some in breeding and some in non-breeding plumage, at times they were trailing our boat.

The non-breeding birds look similar to non-breeding Common Tern and please let me know if I got the ID wrong.

There were a few Common Terns.

This Common Tern looks odd in its yellow legs.

The lone Greater Crested Tern seen that day.

There were also a few White-winged Terns.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Birding with Sifu Karim Madoya on 29th October 2011

Went to KK for a seminar on 28th October, took the opportunity to do some birding in Penampang paddy fields with sifu Karim on 29th October before coming back to Tawau. I was lucky to record three lifers on that day.

Penampang paddy fields has been very very "hot" in October with sighting of some very very rare vagrants of Borneo. They are Oriental Plover Charadrius veredusSharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata, Ruff Philomachus pugnax, Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus,   Little Curlew Numenius minutus, and Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata. Most of them are passage migrants and only stopping by for refuel, they will continue their journey southward after refueling.The window to take pictures of them is, therefore,  only a few days at the most, sometimes even shorter.

Thanks to Karim who took the trouble to fetch me from my hotel at 6.00 am and spent the whole day with me. 

The morning started quite slowly with plenty of Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola around the area while we were scanning for Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata which was photographed the day before,  but we could not locate it.

While scanning, I took photo of this small group of endemic Dusky Munia Lonchura fuscan. They are everywhere around the paddy fields here but not as common in Tawau due to shortage of similar habitats there.
Dusky Munia

Greater Painted Snipe Rostrayula benghalensis is also a common bird here but I have yet to see one in Tawau, the scarcity is also due to lack of suitable habitats. Even though they are common, to get a clear photograph of this species is easier said than done as it is a very shy bird and seldom come to the open.My best effort was this pair partly hidden behind some long grass, this was my first lifer for the day.
Greater Painted Snipe Female
Greater Painted Snipe Male

We later tried to photograph the ever popular Red Avadavat Amandava amandava, where a small feral population has established here and I think they should be doing fine as evidence by a juvenile with an adult male, furthermore, I also found them here in April this year.

An immature Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus came to perch on the wire which was shared with the Red Avadavat.
Plaintive Cuckoo

While we were leaving, we spotted this rare 1st winter Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus foraging in a shallow drain, it was feeding there for a good 3 to 5 minutes, affording us some good photographic opportunities to get a sharp image. This was of my second lifer.
Red-necked Phalarope
We continued to Sugud Penampang to try our luck, hoping to photograph the elusive Banded Kingfisher Lacedo pulchella, but the place was very quiet and I only saw some young Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trogonostigma and a Yellow-eared Spiderhunter Arachnothera chrysogenys feeding on a fruiting tree.
 Yellow-eared Spiderhunter
Immature Orange-bellied Flowerpecker

We went back to the paddy fields in the afternoon and saw this group of Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus on an overhead cable. This species originates from caged birds and is evidently well established in this area, however, I have not seen one of this in Tawau yet.
Crested Myna

We were rewarded not so long after with this rare Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, my third lifer. Sharp-tailed Sandpiper is a scarce winter passage migrant here, two birds were seen that day.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo.

Standard References for my blog.