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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Wasan early September

Sometimes luck strikes. This Saturday Kolbjorn noticed a purple-backed starling from the leisurely surrounding of his garden. Only a second record for Borneo (the first was from 1892) and great addition to the Panaga list. Despite Kolbjorn notifying me immediately I missed the bird by roughly 45 seconds. Dave has already posted Kolbjorns pics on his blog so I won't repeat it here.

Another good place for rarities is the Wasan rice scheme, our destination this Sunday. On the way over there we noticed a lot of asian glossy starlings feeding close to the road - the result was mayhem, for the glossy starlings that is: we counted at least 20 dead birds on the road between Jerudong and Wasan. Something we'd both not seen before. The number of starlings in Panaga has also dramatically increased in the last week; perhaps these birds do locally migrate and the roads offer easy food after a long journey?

As usual, at Wasan there were plenty of wandering whistling ducks around. A quick estimate yielded around 150 individuals, which seems to indicate that their number is on the rise.
Wandering whistling duck (Dendrocygna arcuata).
Wandering whistling duck (Dendrocygna arcuata).
Besides the ducks, wood sandpipers were in their hundreds and could be seen everywhere. A little adverse discrimination from my side; as the wood sandpipers were so abundant I didn't take a picture of a single bird! Other common waders that were seen included golden plovers, red-necked and long-toed stints, marsh sandpipers and a single greenshank. While walking through the long grass near the edges we flushed some blue-breasted quails, but we never got any decent views.

I only got my first painted snipe a couple of weeks back, when I saw two birds in the Seria grasslands. I almost felt a little disappointed that we flushed around 10 to 15 birds when we traversed one of the paddy fields - it nearly suggests that painted snipe are easy sightings!
Female greater painted snipe (Rostratula benghalensis).
The female of this species is the one with the bright colors. Not only that, she also typically has more than one devoted male!
Greater painted snipe (Rostratula benghalensis).
The best part however was the sighting of two buff-banded rails. A first bird flew up only a few feet in front of us. Shortly later, this second bird came out in the open. The first record of this species in Borneo only dates back to 2007, when two birds were seen at the Tempasuk plain by Madoya. There have been several sightings in Sabah and Sarawak since, including a couple of chicks as documented by Wong Tsu Shi (see here). Still, this is a very nice record, and I suspect a first for Brunei.
Buff-banded rail (Gallirallus phillipensis).
Buff-banded rail (Gallirallus phillipensis).
One noteworthy wader was a single Curlew sandpiper, a scarce passage migrant to Borneo, that was seen foraging together with a group of wood sandpipers. This is the second curlew sandpiper I've seen the past two weeks. Closer to home, the below individual has been consistently feeding at the same spot in the Seria grasslands:
Curlew sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea).
Curlew sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea).
Oh, and sometimes luck strikes twice. When I dropped Kolbjorn at his house the purple-backed starling did a little fly-over.

Folkert, 11/09/2013.

Monday, 2 September 2013

A short stay at KNP HQ

With my mother-in-law in town, we decided to escape the lowland heat for a day and book ourselves for a night in one of the lodges of Kinabalu Park. Our trip to Sabah's best known mountain was not a birding trip. Still, I would have an hour here and there to explore the area around park HQ.

We arrived on August 30th just before the afternoon rain came down and while my wife, son and mother-in-law took an afternoon nap I decided to have a short walk around the area. Close to the entrance of the botanical gardens I met a Danish birder, Jacob, and while we were sharing some of our Kinabalu sightings, this Bornean whistling thrush was hopping into view behind us.
Bornean whistling-thrush (Myophonus borneensis).
Together we tried our luck at the start of the Liwagu trail. There was plenty of late afternoon activity, though the rain made for poor photographic conditions.

After diner I went out for half an hour to see if I could spot any frogs and maybe even the mountain scops owl. Judging by the noise there were definitely plenty of frogs around. I only managed to locate 3  individuals and have really no idea what this tiny species is (a microhyla?).
Frog species
Next to the house this tarantula was hiding in ambush. My best attempts to lure the spider out of its hole had completely the opposite effect and the spider retreated only deeper into its shelter.
Tarantula - note the green pads on the bottom of its legs.
Our accommodation was near perfect. This was the view of the mountain I woke up to!
Gunung Kinabalu
This whole birding thing of adding new species to your bird list can at times become quite obsessive. The last time I visited the KNP HQ with Andrew Siani, see To the mountains of Sabah, I missed a couple of common "easy" birds, which I was targeting now. Because this trip was primarily a little family get-away I kept my hopes modest and any sightings of the Kinabalu specials would be a real bonus.

One of the first birds that I noticed was a group of grey-throated babblers, a common species around the park. Still, a new species for me and I couldn't have asked for a better start!
Grey-throated babbler (Stachyris nigriceps).
The bird is ringed and so were many of the other birds I saw this morning, something Kolbjorn had also pointed out after his trip to Kinabalu a couple of months ago.

A group of Sunda laughing thrushes were loudly making their way through the forest. In their wake this Ochraceous bulbul was following: another new bird for me.
Ochraceous bulbul (Criniger ochraceus).
I decided to do the start of the Liwagu trail and then head back through the Silau-Silau trail. One of the first birds I noticed was this very obliging Bornean green magpie. Until 2011 this species was known as the Short-tailed green magpie, but it has since been split into the Bornean green magpie (Cissa jefferyi) and the Javan green magpie (Cissa thalassina). While the Javan green magpie is listed as no less than critically endangered, its Bornean cousin is fairly common around KNP HQ. Still, another lifer for me!
Bornean green magpie (Cissa thalassina).
It was fairly quiet on the remainder of the trail and by 8:30 I had made my way back to share breakfast with the family at the Liwagu restaurant.

From the window we had great views of a common Bornean endemic: two Chestnut-hooded laughing-thrushes were foraging in the bushes next to the restaurant.
Chestnut-hooded laughing-thrush (Rhinocichla treacheri).
I was quite pleased to get some neat close-ups of these smart birds. A noteworthy sighting was of a red-breasted hill partridge while taking a little walk with our son. Like last time the birds were easily heard, but proved impossible to get in front of my camera.
Chestnut-hooded laughing-thrush (Rhinocichla treacheri).
Later in the morning we made our way back to Kota Kinabalu again. I really enjoyed this little trip, though one night was really too short and I definitely need to come back for some of the trickier birds!

Folkert, 02/09/2013.