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Thursday, 30 August 2012

My garden birds II

Just been away for a week back home. The trip was excellent and got to meet up with a good number of friends and family members that I hadn't seen for a while. I came back on Monday and the jet lag seems a little harder to get over this time; luckily this blog provides me with something useful to do in the early morning hours.

I came home yesterday to find over 30 hornbills in the trees next to our house - far more than the usual numbers observed. The group was a mixed group of both adults and juveniles. I tried to capture a bird in flight for a change but failed to get a really good picture. The attempt below is just missing a little sharpness and I didn't get the entire bird in my frame. The bird is a female and may still be an adolescent bird. It shows the diagnostic tail pattern, with black inner feathers (though interestingly, there is also a bit of black on some of the outer feathers).
Oriental pied hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris)
There were some other regular visitors about yesterday as well: a family group of silver-leaf monkeys  (or silver langurs). This family is often seen in our neighborhood. Compared to the long-tailed macaques these silver langurs are really well behaved and still skittish when humans approach. The picture below is a youngster - but it's not only the youngsters that sport the semi-mohawk.
Silver langur (Trachypithecus cristatus)
Just before I left for Holland I also tried my luck again at getting some more pictures of the sunbirds that are feeding on the drain-pipe from the air-conditioning; see the previous post. Within minutes a female brown-throated sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) flew in. As soon as she left the male crimson sunbird turned up and stayed for quite some time, allowing me to get plenty of close-ups.
Female brown-throated sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis)
Male crimson sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)
Male crimson sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)
Male crimson sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)
The last pictures I will share today are from another common garden customer, the pied fantail (Rhipidura javanica). This species is not uncommon around the Panaga gardens and along the coastal shrubs. The birds are usually very active, honoring their name by fanning their tails almost constantly.
Pied fantail (Rhipidura javanica) in the garden.
This species is also commonly seen along the Kuala Balai road. There, I once saw a very agitated bird and it was only when looking closer that I noticed the center of the bird's attention: a Wagler's pitviper (Tropidolaemus wagleri). This picture was taken nearly two years ago; the snake can be seen resting on the branch.
Pied fantail & Wagler's pitviper.

Folkert, 30/08/2012

Monday, 13 August 2012

My garden birds I

The gardens in Panaga form a good habitat for a substantial number of birds and our garden is no exception. Besides a good variety of garden birds some exceptional encounters have been been made from the leisurely surroundings of our balcony and garden. Today I'll share a first short selection of our garden visitors.

One of the more colorful birds in our backyard is surely the eastern crimson sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja).  This sunbird makes good use of the flowers and insects in our garden. When we by accident noticed that both male and female appreciate the drain from our air-conditioning a makeshift hide was quickly set up for a close-up picture. It took less than an hour of patience for the below capture. This was only the first try and I will definitely have another attempt soon.

Male crimson sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)
Besides the crimson sunbird, also the brown-throated and olive-backed sunbirds are regular visitors to the flowers and bushes in our garden. And I've once been lucky to see a copper-throated sunbird, a species that I only very rarely see on more adventurous journeys elsewhere.

A couple of months back a pair of olive-backed sunbirds tried to raise the next generation of sunbirds below our staircase. Unfortunately the nest was raided and the chicks never made it past their first few days. The below picture shows a female olive-backed sunbird posing in the late afternoon sun, one of my personal favorites.

Female olive-backed sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis)
One of the most visible garden birds in Panaga must be the oriental magpie-robin. These very active birds can be seen anytime of the day. They are very vocal and Panaga would not be the same without their tuneful songs and chatter. The fence around our garden is a preferred spot for the magpie-robins to share their early morning compositions.

Female oriental magpie robin (Copsychus saularis)
Our garden has also had some more unexpected visitors. Quite recently, a male jambu fruit dove (Ptilinopus jambu) was lying lifeless on our driveway after evidently having flown into the kitchen window. This is a scarce bird of the forest that I really would not expect in Panaga. My wife didn't fail to notice the almost ironic location of the bird's demise when she mockingly questioned the number of persons in Panaga that would be able to identify this bird on a mere glance. I guess the bird's encounter with our window is testament to the fact that Panaga is not it's usual habitat.

Male jambu fruit dove (Ptilinopus jambu), a quick smartphone capture.
Another unusual visitor that I share here is the pied imperial pigeon (Ducula bicolor). I noticed this bird one late afternoon high up in one of our trees. This pigeon is associated with offshore islands and not typically found in mainland Borneo. This bird was seen one late afternoon next to a couple of green imperial pigeons, which are quite common. As there are no obvious small islands close to Panaga I can only speculate to what it's normal roosting ground would be: I suspect this individual to be a local wanderer from Pelong rocks of the Bandar coast.

Pied imperial pigeon (Ducula bicolor)
Pied imperial pigeon (Ducula bicolor)
I'll finish this post with a Panaga specialty: the oriental pied hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris). Panaga is unique in the fact that this residential area is home to a group of roughly 80 hornbills. Late in the afternoon the birds usually be found close to our house, when they pick the large casuarina's for their nightly roost.

Male oriental pied hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris)
Folkert, 13/08/2012

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sunday morning, Badas

A new colleague, Kolbjorn, arrived recently in Brunei. Kolbjorn is a seasoned birdwatcher and so I invited him along on one of my weekend morning trips. The morning started of very promising; as soon as I was up I heard a brown boobook calling from somewhere near our garden. I picked up Kolbjorn at 06:10 and 20 minutes later we arrived at Badas. Badas is really nothing more than a pumping station that supplies water from the Belait river to treatment facilities in Seria and Sungai Liang. The area consists primarily of peat swamp forest.

KB road on a Sunday morning is typically the spot to be for many bird-cagers. In contrast Badas was nice and quiet this morning with not another human being in sight. Long-tailed parakeets were numerous as were the always present dollarbirds. No cinnamon-headed green pigeons this time, but we did see the usual little green pigeons and a lone female thick-billed. In total we recorded over 30 species. Nothing out of the ordinary, but a fair introduction to lowland birdwatching in Brunei.

A female blue-crowned hanging parrot allowed some good views. I even managed to get a little closer for a better picture. With a big tripod across your shoulder there is really no such thing as creeping closer, it is more a matter of crossing your fingers and hoping that the bird doesn't object to your presence. I did notice some grain-like particles hanging below the beak and eye. Stuck plant material or can these be parasites? Wondering if anyone has seen this before.

Female blue-crowned hanging parrot (Loriculus galgulus).
Female blue-crowned hanging parrot (Loriculus galgulus).
Note the little particles hanging from beak and face.
I was also reminded this morning that I really should work on my swiftlet and needletail identification skills... Driving back on the Badas road a dark morph changeable hawk eagle was using the power cable as a vantage point. The contrasting dark outer wingtips were very noticeable as the bird flew away.

Changeable hawk-eagle (Niseatus limnaeetus).
Changeable hawk-eagle (Niseatus limnaeetus).

There was another little surprise on the way back. Kolbjorn had already seen a green sandpiper earlier in the week and I had a glimpse of what looked like a common sandpiper a couple of days before. And now, while I was showing some of the grasslands around Seria from the car, Kolbjorn spotted two little waders in the ditch next to the road. When doubling back two wood sandpipers were confirmed. The migrants seem to be arriving early this year!

Folkert, 06/08/2012

Friday, 3 August 2012

The regulars of KB road

A good birdwatching area close to our house is the Kuala Balai road. This road runs for roughly 16 km to the ghost town of Kuala Balai. The village/kampong used to be the center of the KB district and was an important trading place. The place is now completely deserted, most people having left to the coastal towns to pursue more lucrative jobs sourced by the oil and gas industry. Attempts to breath new life into the village as an eco-tourism attraction have thus far not been successful.

Map of the West Brunei, KB district.
The google map above shows the Kuala Balai road and surrounding areas. The road to kampong Kuala Balai offers some great birding and it is the spot that I frequent most on early morning and late afternoon birding trips. A good starting point for birdwatching along Kuala Balai can be found in an excellent document that Jeremy Moore put together: birdwatching and bird records in brunei.

I will first share some of my favorite regulars of Kuala Balai. The first one is the stork-billed kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis). This magnificent kingfisher is seen, and heard (!), on most visits. It is the biggest kingfisher in Brunei and the one most commonly found along the second part of the Kuala Balai road. There is no mistaking this bird and the ditches next to the road (and the road itself) seem to be a favorite hunting-ground.

Stork-billed kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis)
The second species, the black-and-yellow broadbill, is a lot smaller then the previous bird. The call of this broadbill species is arguably the most distinct of all Borneo's resident birds and they can be heard on most occasions. Despite their bright plumage they can be surprisingly hard to spot! The bird pictured is the same one pictured in the blog heading. It was very obliging one Sunday morning and allowed me to take some very nice pictures.

Male black-and-yellow broadbill (Eurylamus ochromalus)
Another bird with great presence is the greater racquet-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus). This species is also hard to miss. They're loud and bold birds; at Kuala Balai I've seen a drongo bullying a pair of Raffles malkoha's and I once saw a drongo chasing off a brahminy kite. Note that the distinctive racquets are not always present.

Greater racquet-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus)
The fourth and final species I'll share today is also a very common resident: the little spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra). Most of the time they can only been seen whizzing by, calling as they do so. If you do see a flowering ginger- or wild banana tree, it's worth while to wait a while as you'll stand a good chance of seeing the little spiderhunter drop by for a little snack.

Little spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra)
All pictures were taken at the Kuala Balai road. In a future posting I will share some more on the species diversity of Kuala Balai road.

Folkert, 03/08/2012