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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


  1. Hi Folkert, nice set of images, will upload some to BBI once my Internet is working at home.

    I agree on your observation of Red-throated Pitpit, I have not seen one yet here, we have plenty of Paddyfield though.

    On your observation on Richard's Pitpit, I think there has not been any modern records of that species substantiated with photos from Borneo, the old records before the split might have inadvertently mixed the species.

    Will be watching this blog to see your update on the Richard's.

  2. Hi Wong. Thanks for that comment - I was not aware that there haven't been any confirmed modern records of Richard's pipit!

    As there is a clear increase in the number of Paddyfield/Richard's during the winter months I had always believed that a fair number of these must be Richard's as both Meyer's and Phillipps' field guides describe Paddyfield pipit as the resident species.

    I guess that I have to start scrutinizing visuals and calls of these pipits far more closely now! Hope to share a Richard's pipit soon :-)

  3. Excellent!

    May I know what was your camera settings for the Grey Nightjar?

  4. The nightjar was shot with flash, 1/200 at f/4.0, ISO 800, 420 mm (300 x 1.4) with support from torch at an angle. I am a bit wary with using a lot of flash on nightbirds. Unlike another grey nightjar we saw this individual was very approachable.