Note - in some browsers the appearance of the blog is corrupted. I do not yet know the cause, but hope this issue will be resolved soon!

Friday, 24 January 2014

More migrants in Brunei

A small overview of some encounters from the last two weeks. To start of 6 red-throated pipits were found around Seria's billion barrel monument by Zack during his visit to Panaga. The pouring rain did not provide perfect light conditions but I did get a few pictures in before we moved on for some tasty keow teow in Seria town.
Red-throated pipit (Anthus cervinus).
According to Phillipps' field guide this is the commonest migrant pipit throughout Borneo. For the area around our hometown in Brunei this is not the case. This was only my second sighting and the red-throated pipit is here an uncommon migrant at best; Richard's pipit is more common (even though it is easily confused with the resident paddyfield pipit).
Red-throated pipit (Anthus cervinus).
Another scarce migrant that was seen around the Seria grasslands was this common kestrel flying next to the road. The best I could do was this photo, shot from within my parked car at an impossible angle.
Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus).
This surely must be one of the worst shots ever taken of a common kestrel! At least I could count on this water monitor to keep still in front of the camera.
Water monitor (Varanus salvator).
A night drive last Saturday along KB road produced a number of civets. This red giant flying squirrel was seen foraging high-up in a tree.
Red giant flying squirrel (Petaurista petaurista).
The main reason for the trip however was to attempt a close-up of a grey nightjar. Closer inspection by Kolbjorn of two birds he had photographed earlier in the week revealed that they were in fact grey nightjars, rather than the common large-tailed nightjars! Luckily the birds were easily found again: the individual that we had both already seen earlier (and photographed independently) was still at the same area we'd found it before.
Grey nightjar (Caprimulgus indicus).
The bird allowed a close approach (I was crawling on all fours on the wet tarmac) and I got a decent eye-level picture. The grey nightjar is listed as a scarce winter visitor that can turn up anywhere on migration. The subspecies that is seen here is Caprimulgus indicus jotaka.
Grey nightjar (Caprimulgus indicus).
We saw at least two more grey nightjars on the road. For comparison I have included a picture of a large-tailed nightjar. Besides the clear differentiation in wing pattern (note the 'droplets' on the grey nightjar), I also find that the posture is remarkably different. I checked against some other large-tailed nightjar pics and in general the large-taileds have a much more crouched position than the more upright posture of this grey nightjar.
Large-tailed nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus).
The difference between the two species is very obvious and I almost cannot believe I didn't notice this in the field the first time. In my defense I hardly paid attention to the birds earlier as I just assumed them to be large-tailed nightjars. I guess it goes to show that assumption is indeed the mother of all.... Ah well, we got it right in the end. Also, a word of apology to Zack, who was visiting 2 weeks ago: the nightjar we saw on KB road was with 99% certainty this grey nightjar rather than the large-tailed I took it for!

Folkert, 24/01/2014

Saturday, 11 January 2014


This weekend I had a visitor from the USA; Zack, who is about to go on an organized Sabah birding trip and had some time to spare before heading to Kota Kinabalu where his tour starts next week. As he was keen to get of the beaten track I invited him over for some local Brunei birding. Before Zack arrived in Panaga he already had a very fruitful morning in Wasan, including a rare sighting of a Eurasian bittern; not a bad start!

I had initially intended to take Zack into the forest close to Badas to look for some of the local peat-swamp specialists: hook-billed bulbul, cinnamon-headed green pigeon, bristlehead and possibly grey-breasted babbler. Unfortunately most of the access to the Badas peat-swamp is fully flooded so we had to settle for some roadside birding along KB road.

On Saturday we did two drives along KB road, the first one late afternoon. It was relatively quiet, but we still managed to see a nice variety of species and even successfully called in a blue-winged pitta. I had brought my camera along, just in case (I find btw that the chance of seeing rarities greatly increases when you forget the memory card in your camera or have a dead battery...).

Black-and-yellow broadbills were ubiquitous and while this is a common bird we did get some excellent close-up views of a small party at eye-level next to the car.
Black-and-yellow broadbill (Eurylaimus ochramalus)
Black-and-yellow broadbill (Eurylaimus ochramalus)
As we drove on, I noticed a small bird scuttling along the roadside grass. Half expecting a white-breasted waterhen, I put my bins on the bird and saw something very different: a band-bellied crake!
Band-bellied crake (Porzana paykullii)
The light was already fading fast and with the bird continuously moving at a fair distance I only just managed to get a few semi-decent pics with low shutter speed and high iso. The band-bellied crake is a very secretive bird and described as a rare non-breeding visitor to Borneo. A very good lifer at the start of 2014!
Band-bellied crake (Porzana paykullii)
Band-bellied crake (Porzana paykullii)
It started raining after dark and the night drive did not produce too much: the customary buffy fish-owls were seen as well as a couple of large-tailed nightjars sitting on the road. The only mammal on show was a confiding small-toothed palm civet.

Folkert, 12/01/2014

Friday, 10 January 2014

Hello 2014

The last 2 to 3 weeks of 2013 have been very wet in Brunei - lots and lots of rain. Birding-wise it has been a little dull and I've only been on a few short drives along KB road during the evening. I did try to drive up the Badas road one day to find the area flooded and definitely too wet for a short walk into the forest. The electricity wires along the road are always good for dollarbirds, woodswallows and at times more exotic birds.
A casual look at a group of 15 starlings revealed this pale starling sitting flanked by 7 glossy starlings at each side. For a moment I thought it was another record of a daurian starling. But no, just a mere chestnut-cheeked starling. A female this time. Still, not a bad sighting at all and only my second ever encounter.
Chestnut-cheeked starling (Sturnus philippensis)
The electricity cables along the road also form a favorite vantage point for the resident hawk-eagles.
Changeable hawk-eagle (Nisaetus limnaeetus)
Both pale and dark morphed birds can be seen the lower Belait area. I am still undecided which I like better.

On the final day of 2013 we had a short drive during dusk on KB road. On our way back this bearded pig was seen standing on the road. In my first two years these sizable pigs were a relatively common sight on KB road, but I have to confess that this was only my first encounter in 2013 - not a day too soon!
Bearded pig (Sus barbatus).
After the 'all clear' was called four youngsters came out and joined mommy on the road...
Bearded pig (Sus barbatus).
to walk of into the setting sun...
Bearded pig (Sus barbatus).
Until recently bearded pigs were still frequently seen in one of the Panaga residential areas next to the forest. I am not sure if my lack of encounters on KB road in 2013 is just a bout of bad luck or an illustration of a further dwindling population size. Lets hope it's just my bad luck. 

Finally a picture of a juvenile black-crowned night heron taken on January 2nd. I noticed 5 of these birds very close to our house on my way to town. Whereas the two adults were very shy the juveniles hardly minded my car pulling up right next to them. 
Black-crowned night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
This picture was taken without flash. Not too bad for my first pic of 2014. Happy new year!

Folkert, 10/01/2014