Monday, December 3, 2012

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail Anas acuta, a rare winter visitor to Sabah, Brunei and Sarawak side of Borneo. Quentin Phillipps lists this as the second commonest migrant duck after Garganey Anas querquedula (11 of which was sighted in Tawau last year, see link here).

One female was photographed on 13th November in Tawau, foraging with a group of resident Wandering Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica, however, it was not to be found the next day, it might have moved on further south.

It is my lifer bird; it is getting harder and harder to score a lifer now a days.

 Northern Pintail among the Wandering Whistling Ducks.
The brownish speculum indicates that this is a female instead of an eclipse male. Male in eclipse plumage resembles female but retain it distinctive metalic green speculum.
Happy birding.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Inland Mangrove Blue Flycatcher

First, inland Mangrove Blue Flycatcher is not a new bird species for Borneo!

Mangrove Blue Flycathcer Cyornis rufigastra, a take-for-granted flycatcher that inhabit coastal mangroves, coastal peat swamps, coastal forests and on offshore islands.

Quentin Phillips in his Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo states that it is sometimes found inland, overlapping Malaysian Blue Flycatcher Cynornis turcosus, this is proven true when this pair was photographed in Tawau Hills Park, foraging in and out of the forest edge to the adjacent oil palm plantations for consecutive two week-ends.

If you look at Google Maps, you can see that Tawau Hills Park is absolutely non-coastal.

So, take a closer look when you encounter a blue flycatcher inland, it might be a Mangrove Flycatcher instead of the expected Malaysian Blue or Hill Blue.
Happy birding.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Black-necked Stilt?

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus is a common migrant from the north to northwest coast of Borneo, especially abundant in fresh and brackish water wetlands. Hundreds of them can be seen in groups in paddy fields in Tampasuk Plain and Penampang, Sabah during the northern winter months.

Black-necked Stilt (White-headed Stilt) Himantopus leucocephalus, a similar looking bird but for its black nuchal mane, is a scarce migrant from the south. Seen on rare occasions among groups of Black-winged Stilt.

However, as some Black-winged Stilts can exhibit plumage patterns showing black nuchal mane similar to Black-necked Stilt, as highlighted by Sifu Dave Bakewell in his article published in BirdingASIA 17, page 14-17, great care must be taken to lay claim on sighting of Black-necked Stilt.

Identification by call can also be made if both species are together and their calls can be heard, Black-winged Stilt has a comparatively higher pitch yelping call.

In Susan Myers' fieldguide, she lists both species as between 35-40 cm, which essentially says they are of similar size.

Phillipps' fieldguide says Black-necked Stilt is larger at 37cm compare to Black-winged at 32cm.

Mark Brazil says Black-necked Stilt is marginally larger than Black-winged Stilt.

Craig Robson says Black-necked Stilt is 35cm while Black-winged Stilt is 37.5cm.

Sifu Dave Bakewell states Black-necked is marginally smaller in BirdingASIA's article.

As the fieldguides have differing sizes, I'll accept that they sizes vary both ways.

These two birds were photographed on 26th August 2012 in Tinagat, Tawau. One is a Black-winged in breeding plumage while the other has all the features of a Black-necked.

From the first photo, where two of them are almost side by side, we can see that the Black-necked (bird on the left) is overall smaller than the Blacked-winged, taking into consideration that the Black-necked is nearer to the camera, the differince in size is even more pronounced.

We cannot use bill shape for identification as the bill can be varied from straight and upcurve slightly as evidenced by comparing photos of different Black-winged Stilts.

We can also see that the Black-necked Stilt is displaying a well developed black nuchal mane, has perfect white on its crown and ear-coverts, without any visible trace of grey or black. Any existance of traces of grey or black on the crown and ear-coverts would have suggested that this is a Black-winged Stilt showing plumage of a Black-necked Stilt, as reported by Sifu Dave Bakewell in his BirdingASIA article.

Smaller Black-necked Stilt on the left

Black-necked Stilt 
 Pure white crown and ear-coverts

I therefore believe this is a Black-necked Stilt.

These two were seen foraging together, always close to each other, away from a small flock of Black-winged Stilts on the other side of the foraging ground. When they flew off when we were too near, they landed in another spot, also close to each other, away from the larger flock as well.

The Black-winged is in breeding plumage, and if the other bird is indeed a Black-necked than they might be in courtship, as these two species are believed to hybridise over their overlapping range.
Here is a short video of the pair.

Happy birding.
Additional reference : BirdingASIA Number 17, June 2012.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rare and notable bird sightings in Sabah - 3rd Quarter 2012

The list shows the notable bird sightings in Sabah in the third quarter of 2012, feel free to email me if I miss out anything.

A Word file with clickable link to the relevant images is at Borneo Bird Images Document list.

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo.

Standard References for my blog.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mountain Serpent Eagle

Mountain Serpent Eagle Spilornis kinabaluensis is one of the more difficult to see Bornean montane endemic birds. I have been to Kinabalu Park and Rafflesia Reserves quite a number of times and have not seen one until recently.

On 20th August 2012, while on a bird photography trip to Crocker Range Park and Rafflesia Reserve, I was lucky to record this lifer.

Mountain Serpent Eagle is very similar to its lowland counterpart, the Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela. They are distinguished by appearence and habitat. Mountain Serpent Eagle is montane (750-2900 m), has black chin and throat with darker underparts. Crested Serpent Eagle is generally a lowland bird (0-1200 m),  it does not have black chin and throat and has paler underparts. (Pallidus race of Crested Serpent Eagle occuring in most of Borneo, including Sabah, is a darker form. It could be difficult to distinguish them if observed in their overlapping altitude range.)

I first spotted a raptor gliding in the sky almost vertical up, it was too upright for me to turn my camera to take a shot, I had to wait for it to pass right over me before I managed to make a few clicks before it flew passed the mountain ridge. I was on the road side near Rafflesia Information Centre, Tambunan, at 1350m above sea level. The raptor was gliding straight ahead at least 200 meters above me, it was a tiny image in my Nikon D7000 camera attached with 600 mm f4 lens.

I am very sensitive to any raptor that I see at this altitude, when I first saw it with its extensive white wing band I had a feeling that this must be it.

On first glance of my images on the back LCD, I knew it would be difficult to prove as the identification features (dark throat and underparts) would not be easy to view from such a small image taken from such angle against a brighter sky.

However, I was in luck as some of the images showed the morning sun shining sideway on the head and neck of the flying raptor, the black neck is evident on the part that is exposed to the sun as shown in the enlargement below. Furthermore, I am quite confident that Crested Serpent Eagle should not occur at this altitide.

Our bird sifu CK has an excellent image of the Mountain Serpent Eagle here.

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo.

Standard References for my blog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Finally, my Little Grebe

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis, historically a rare vagrant of Borneo, five records as per Clive Mann's Checklist of Borneo (2008).

However, per Birds i*witness Malaysia, there have been a few more records since 2000, 2 in Guamantong in 2000, Sandakan Bay in 2007, 1 in Kinabatangan in 2010, and 4 in Lahad Datu in 2011.

My friend Jason photographed one in Sukau in 2008.

I finally had a chance to see and photograph this lifer in Tawau on 5th August 2012, in a pond near the Tinagat sea side. It was foraging near the grassy bank of the pond, we managed to take a few record shots before it disappeared into the thick grass.

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo.

Standard References for my blog.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Brown-capped Woodpecker and Grey-capped Woodpecker

Brown-capped Woodpecker Dendrocopus moluccensis and Grey-capped Woodpecker Dendrocopus canicapillus are both small woodpeckers, about 14-15cm and having similar color scheme. When they are high above in tree canopy, identification may be difficult due to small size and constant movements.

If one has a chance to look closely, they are quite different. Their major field identification features are as follows:

a. Brown-capped Woodpecker prefers coastal and cleared forests and in housing estates gardens, Grey-capped prefers primary and secondary forests.

b. Brown-capped Woodpecker's black in its upperparts is more grey-brownish and less contrasty then Grey-capped. Generally the Grey-capped will look blacker than Browned-capped.

c. Brown-capped Woodpecker's underparts lacks rufous wash, while Grey-capped's rufous wash on breast and belly is evident in the field.

Here are images of both species, when you compare them side by side, these features can be easily spotted.
Browned-capped Woodpecker

Grey-capped Woodpecker

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo.

Standard References for my blog.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Another Photographic Record of Breeding Great Egret in Tawau, Sabah, Borneo.

Further to my post of photographic record of Great Egret Ardea alba breeding in Sabah here, the photographs of which should have been published by Suara Enggang now (I am not sure as I have no access to the publication). We located another heronry in Tawau, this is a new site as the old site (the one I took the earlier photos) was cleared for developmnent some time ago. The same occupants as before are found here, they are breeding Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax, Great Egret and occasionally Rufous Night Heron Nycticorax caledonicus.

We photographed this breeding pair making their nest during our visit in early May 2012, there were quite a number of Great Egret pairs building nest there at that time, this nest was the nearest to us for purpose of taking photograph.

The following two images were taken one week later, clearly showing the top side of white eggs and an adult incubating them with the other standing nearby.

Due to work and other commitments, we did not go back to check them in June and July. On 4th August 2012, we went back to see whether the nesting was successful, we were delighted to see one nest containing three chicks, they were quite large and should fledge soon. We could not be sure whether this was the earlier nest due to growth in surrounding branches.

There was another nest further away containing one chick, however this chick looked much smaller/younger than the other three.

There were other nests seen that day, with likelyhood of more chicks coming.

Happy birding.

Standard References for my blog.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Naturalist's Guide to the Birds of Borneo

My little red book has been published by John Beaufoy Publishing Ltd of UK, it should be widely available in early August 2012, price is 9.99 Sterling Pound.

It contains 280 species, all illustrated by photographs taken by me in Sabah, Borneo. Common English name together with scientific, Malay and Indonesian names are included.

The book has 176 pages, 3 maps, more than 350 photographs and an up-to-date checklist showing the status of each species in each State of Borneo.  Its size of 12.8 cm X 18 cm X 1 cm and weight of 285 gms make it convenient to carry in the field. The cover photos are made up entirely of Bornean endemic birds.

The inside pages typically look like this.

It also includes chapters containing brief description on geography, vegetation and climate as well as birding locations in Borneo.

It represents a giant step in my effort to photodocument the birds of Borneo, many thanks to my publisher who invested in such a venture, as we all know book publishing is a different ball game altogether in this age.

Feel free to write to me if you have any suggestion or encounter any error.

Happy birding.

Edited on 9th October 2013 to add third parties review found in WWW as follows:

In Amazon UK

By IBIS, open the page and search my name.

Comment by Borneo Books.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo.

Standard References for my blog.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Manukan and Penampang

Had some personal matters to take care in Kota Kinabalu in middle of June, went a day early, asked help from Eugene Chia to show me around Manukan Island, hoping to get photos of the two famous resident birds.

We landed on the island after 11.00 am and immediately started to look for them. The Philippine Megapode/Tabon Scrubfowl Megapodius cumingii, a bird of islands and coasts, which had been very cooperative to photographers from Kota Kinabalu proved illusive. A pair was seen moving across the undergrowth, but did not stop to give me a chance to take photograph.

The other resident bird is the Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra, its song could be heard at short intervals on the island, but this male only came to stop on top of me for a short while, just sufficient for me to take this photogrpah of the belly.

Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra

The rest of the day was uneventful and we left at 3.00 pm to continue our birding at Penampang paddy fields.

I have been trying to get photos of the Buff-banded Rail Callirallus philippensis, for a number of years now. This bird was first photographed in 2007 in Tempasuk plain in Kota Belud, it has since been recorded in Penampang and spread as far south as Kg. Chupak, Kuching, Sarawak.

I had been to Penampang paddy fields (which is more than 300 kilometers away from Tawau) at least seven times since 2008 without success to get a photo of this bird. This time I was lucky, Eugene spotted one feeding quite far away, and we quickly set up our gears to get some record shots. We spotted two chicks on the bund behind the adult, we were not sure whether they were their chicks until they joined the adult in foraging.

The bird is confirmed to be resident in Borneo after they have been photographed all year round here, however, I think this is the first time that the chicks are photographed, thus elevating its status to resident breeder.

The adult is seen feeding the chick.
Two chicks on the bund while the adult is foraging.

This is the adult, which I have been trying to get for a while.

Thanks to Eugene and Tomoko for the fruitful trip which I managed to photogrpah two lifers.

Happy birding.

Standard References for my blog.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rare and notable bird sightings in Sabah - 2nd Quarter 2012

The list shows the notable bird sightings in Sabah in the second quarter of 2012, feel free to email me if I miss out anything.

A Word file with clickable link to the relevant images is at Borneo Bird Images Document list.

Happy birding.

Photodocument of Wild Birds of Borneo.

Standard References for my blog.

I am ....

Long-billed Spiderhunter Arachnothera robusta. Thanks Dave for taking the trouble to guess, and he has taken note of all the available upperparts features and correctly pointed to a bird from Nectarinidae family.

Happy birding.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Who am I?

Got this yesterday and thought it might be fun for a quiz.

Happy birding.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Journey to the west. Part 2.

We continued to Rafflesia Centre at 11.00 am after late braskfast. Rafflesia Centre was drizzling when we reached there in the afternoon. Not much bird activity was observed.

Endemic Bornean Barbet Megalaima exima
Endemic Bornean Leafbird Chloropsis kinabaluensis 
Little Cuckoo Dove Macropygia ruficeps
Endemic Black-capped White-eye Zosterops atricapilla
Activity was so low that they have to find something to keep them busy.
We left for Crocker Range Park the next morning, a place that we did not visit before, trying our luck, and managed to photograph the following birds after spending the day there, leaving well after 6 p.m. in the evening, enjoying fellowship with fellow bird photography sifus Ng Chee Peng, Alvin Chang and Vun Soo Kiong.

Gray-headed Canary Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis, a not so common bird elsewhere but was feeding in flocks there.
Common endemic Yellow-Rumped Flowerpecker juvenile Prinochilus xanthopygius
Female Bornean Blue Flycatcher Cyornis superbus, my lifer bird. It perched in the shadow part of the understory, i had no choice but to use high ISO to get a record shot. The similar looking Hill Blue Flycatcher is ruled out because of the rufous belly, the former would have pale lower breast and belly.
A Rofous Piculet Sasia abnormis with a mishappened upper mandible, at first I wondered how it manage to feed.  but it looks active and healthy so it must be able to feed quite well.
Female Rubycheek Chalcoparia singalensis
Endemic Bornean Banded Pitta Pitta schwaneri,  split in 2010 by F. E. Rheindt and J. Eaton. My other lifer bird, this male decided to come out at 5.35 pm, in semi darkness under thick jungle shade, I had to use ISO 6400 just to get the record shot.

The final morning of our trip was spent in Rafflesia Centre, it was dominated by thick mist and heavy downpour. The rain finally stopped and allowing us an opportunity to photograph for 2 hours before starting our journey back to Tawau at noon.
Thick mist and bad light
Walking in the rain.
Endemic Chestnut Crested yuhina Yuhina everetti. One of the commonest montane birds of Borneo, feeding noisily in flocks from tree to tree.
Unmistakable endemic Bornean Treepie Dendrocitta cinerascens.
Endemic Whitehead's Broadbill Calyptomena whiteheadi, but this one was too far away.
Happy birding.