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Monday, 29 September 2014


Last week, Kolbjorn and myself went for an evening walk on one of the more remote sidetracks of Labi road. We arrived shortly before dusk and walked a good distance before the sun was fully set. The area that we walked through is mostly peat swamp and the track had a nice stream next to it with a deep rusty brown color from all the leaching tannins. The walk was livened up by the sounds of two rhinoceros hornbills deep into a domestic dispute, a great slaty woodpecker and some very skittish red langurs.
The real reason we were there was to search for some night birds. We had just turned from the furthest point when we heard a very distinctive call close by, one that I couldn't straight away place. A search on the iPhone quickly revealed the culprit: a Gould's frogmouth. And not just one, but two birds. I still don't know how we managed it, but we somehow completely messed up this opportunity and never got a visual. The birds fell silent very soon and were only heard very distantly afterwards. Maybe the playback we used was akin to a serenading cat, whatever it was we never saw a glimpse.

It goes without saying we felt a little defeated, but at the same time also very elated; we only just had started the walk back and with a start like this the remainder of the walk surely would be brilliant. So, in way, it wasn't a total surprise that we got a response from a barred eagle owl less than 200 meters later! First one and a little later a second one. We managed this time to record the two birds duetting, but again, no visuals! One owl even flew over our head, but picked a branch just facing away from us, and the dense undergrowth prevented us to walk in. We spend close to an hour trying to get a view, but to no avail; the birds wouldn't give themselves up.

Luckily this Harlequin tree frog, that we found a little further down the track, was more cooperative and didn't object at all to take center stage. In fact, every time it jumped it seemed to end up in an even better photographic position.
Harlequin tree frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Supposedly this is a common species, though that does't mean I see it very often. I fact, I actually can only recall to have seen it in Danum before.
Harlequin tree frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Harlequin tree frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Just before we reached the car we stumbled upon this spiny turtle. My knowledge of turtles isn't that great and I didn't realize at the time that this is actually rapidly becoming a very rare species. The IUCN lists this turtle as endangered, as unfortunately these animals still end up way too often on dining plates and in soup bowls somewhere in SE Asia.
Spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa)
The population in Brunei is still considered as relatively stable, though if I were this little fellow I wouldn't stray off into more populated areas.
Spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa
And, since this still is a blog about birds, I'll end this post with some shots of the birds I got on camera the last two weeks. A collared kingfisher; while these are very common around Panaga, they're actually not that approachable and unplanned close-up opportunities are not common. This one was sitting on the fence of a beam pump.
Collared kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)
While on my way to Bandar I briefly stopped at Wasan rice fields. There were quite a few black-winged stilts around.
Black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
And a couple of white-winged black terns.
White-winged black tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
And finally, a superb record from Brunei. Recently a second photographic record of the spectacled flowerpecker was made in Labi hills by local photographer Mr. Asmali Asli. See also:

This species was only discovered in Danum in 2009 and it is therefore truly excellent to have the second encounter in Brunei. Moreover the pictures are fantastic! I have been at Labi ridge numerous times and never had the luck to find a species with this type of allure there. In a way I am almost glad to leave Brunei so I won't be able to give in to obsessive, and more than likely unsuccessful, chases of this very elusive species.

Folkert, 29/09/2014

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Panaga and surroundings, 2nd week of September

Last weekend we ventured to the Baram delta. For anyone who wants to follow suit a word of advice: do not go at high tide!!! Hardly any exposed beach and we didn't see much… the trip would have been a complete waste of time if it wasn't for some distant greater crested terns (a Bornean lifer for me) and the good tidal lesson. Perhaps I'll have another attempt next week.

Closer to home migration is in full swing and small groups of red-necked stints can be found frequently on the beach.
Red-necked stint (Calidris ruficollis)
This bird was one of a small group foraging in the late afternoon.
Red-necked stint (Calidris ruficollis)
Their close relatives, the long-toed stints, can be found in the small creeks, puddles and pools of the coastal grasslands
Long-toed stint (Calidris subminuta)
Long-toed stint (Calidris subminuta)
While on my way home from lunch this week I noticed a lesser adjutant circling over the grasslands. Luckily I had a camera in the car to record the encounter. I saw it landing behind the trees lining the river edge of the Sungai Seria, but work duties prevented me from seeking out the bird.
Lesser adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus)
The last confirmed sighting from Seria dates back to 2009 - so this is quite a good record. The next day I tried to see if the bird was still around. My search along the river edge only turned up this crocodile.
This morning I spend a short hour at Badas. I did see a couple of birds, o.a. grey-chested jungle flycatcher and the customary hook-billed bulbul. From a photographic perspective it wasn't the most productive hour; I failed to get a single bird on camera. The only picture I had when I walked out the forest was of this butterfly...
This woodswallow that had perched just above my car offered some small solace. Often overlooked, like many of the more ordinary birds, they are really quite handsome.
White-breasted woodswallow (Artamus leucorhynchus)
Folkert, 13/09/2014