Wednesday, January 21, 2009

MNS Miri on Facebook

Well, the time has come for MNS Miri to network and make more new friends! If invited, please say "Yes!" ... MNS Miri is decent, gregarious and loves nature.

Dolphin Saturday at Pustaka Miri 07th Feb 2009

We have dolphins in Miri? You are kidding me, no I am not!

How do you indentify individual dolphins in a pod like this?

Come join us in an engagement session with Miri's schoolchildren on the subject of dolphins. We'll have Dr Gianna Minton talk about her favorite subject and share her latest research and findings on Sarawak dolphins.

The Sarawak Dolphin Project is a collaborative effort between Sarawak Shell, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) and the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC). UNIMAS has appointed Dr Gianna Minton as the project leader. Gianna spent 8 years in Oman studying whales and dolphins. Her PhD focused on the ecology and conservation of humpback whales in the Arabian Sea.

Project's aims are to collect baseline data on the seasonal distribution, habitat use and population of dolphins in Sarawak. The geographic focus of the project is Kuching and Miri.

Your questions "Really, there're dolphins in Miri?", "Where do they sleep?", "How many species of dolphins are there in our waters?" and others will be answered.

There'll be a coloring/drawing contest for children with attractive prizes for top three in the coloring segment (Primary 1-3) as well as free-style segment (Primary 4-6).

Timetable of Events:
1200-1300Registration for Coloring/Drawing Competition
1300-1430Coloring Contest Age Group 1 (ages 7-9 years old)
1300-1430Drawing Contest Ages Group 2 (ages 10-12 years old)
1445-1615Talk on Dolphins by Dr Gianna Minton (open to the public)
1615-1700Prize giving

Participation for both Groups is limited to a maximum of 30 participants per age group, on a first come first serve basis. Admission is free.

For the contest, MNS Miri will provide drawing blocks and templates to be coloured, these will be on A3 paper.

Participants are expected to bring their own colouring and drawing tools. MNS Miri will provide tables and newspapers for those participating in the drawing segment.

Top three from both Age Groups get 1xyear subscription to Malaysian Nature Society Family Membership, worth $120/year. They will receive quarterly glossy magazine, Malaysian Naturalist, complimentary monthly newsletter Pencinta Alam as well as regular updates on news and activities from MNS Miri Branch.

Other than the one year MNS Family Membership, "Rainbow Fish" and "Fishes, Crayfishes and Crabs" are the amongst the other prizes up for grab for the top winners.

A token consolation prizes will be awarded to all participants by Pustaka Miri. Consolation prizes awaits all participants.Judges will be from a panel of Pustaka Miri, MNS Miri and Project Dolphin. Decision of judges on the day are final.

Places are limited, so please do register early.

Please call 085-453185/085-452585/085-454711 or 016-8542212 or email for more information.

Contact us for further information and pre-registration @ 085-422525 (Andy Anyie—Talk & Slide Presentation / Awang Yunos—Coloring & Drawing Contest, at Pustaka Miri).

Monday, January 19, 2009


The AWC is an annual waterbird census carried out by volunteers every January (sometimes spills over to February) at various sites thoughout Asia. Analysis of data collected during AWC help Wetlands International, the organizer, in long term planning for the conservation of waterbirds and their wetland habitats.

Many years in the past MNS Miri has been quite diligent in conducting this yearly survey. Storm’s Stork (Loagan Bunut) and Lesser Adjutant (Lutong Beach) were a couple of our more memorable sightings that made quite a stir locally. Over the years with dwindling numbers of avid birders amongst our membership base, we had to do away with our participation altogether for several years.

We started again in 2008 with the revival of our small bird group. Several hundreds waders were sighted by our team in Kuala Baram back in January including several tagged waders and the ever elusive Malaysian Plover throughout the year.

This year again MNS Miri was involved in AWC. Birders, volunteers went out collecting data in places important to birds to record population figures. Collected data will be submitted to Asian Wetlands for collation to be used for population studies and conservation planning.

This is perhaps the best opportunity in the year to get involved in citizen science and enjoy nature. Many (we want more in the years to come) were involved in carrying counts in various places in Miri.

Over January several weekends were dedicated to this activy where members picked a day on which counts were organised. We spent a couple of hours outdoors and checkout some very interesting and some very elusive birds.

The following are the locations we covered. We gathered, we went out, and we counted. It was all fun all around. Amidst the "landas" wetness and angry clouds, sometimes blue skies did peeked out on several occasions.

Location Date
KB Lagoon (South) 03.01.09
KB Lagoon (North) 04.01.09
Kpg Masjid (Prawn Farms) 10.01.09
Kpg Masjid (Kpg Masjid Proper) 11.01.09
Miri Marina (near Park Everly) 17.01.09
Kuala Baram (Vegetable Farm) 18.01.09
Loagan Bunut 24-25-26.01.09
KBaram Island 14.02-15.02

You don't need to have a Phd in Ornithology to participate, every count you do, you learn something new about waterbirds and birds in general. If you are lucky, you get to clock up a few "lifers" yourself as far as birding is concerned.

"Lifers" - that special bird you are only likely to see once in your lifetime.

Our list so far:
Reclaimed Old Miri River site (in front of HSBC) Dec 13th 2008:-
Pacific Golden Plovers (20), Common Greenshank(2), Marsh Sandpiper(1), Little Ringed Plover(1), Red-necked Stint(5), Long-toed Stint(1), Common Sandpiper(5), Wood Sandpiper(5), Little Egret(1), Great Egret(2), White-breasted Waterhen(2).

Kuala Baram Lagoon (South) Jan 03rd:-
Participants: Maye Yap, Nazeri Abghani, Sara Wong, Dominique Wan, Mary Foley, Mike Foley, Kyla Foley, Alyssa Foley
Birds: Kentish Plover (10), Lesser Sandplover(50), Sanderling(30), Red-necked Stints (20), Common Greenshank (1), Little Egret (2), Pacific Reef Egret ((White Morph)2)

Kuala Baram Lagoon (North) Jan 04th :-
Participants: Nazeri Abghani, Sara Wong, Mary Foley, Mike Foley, Kyla Foley, Alyssa Foley, Clarissa Loke, Md Ali, Siti Aisya
Birds: Kentish Plover (20), Lesser Sandplover(50), Sanderlings (50), Red-necked Stints (20), Common Greenshank (2), Little Egret (2), Pacific Reef Egret (1), Great Egret (1), Asian Koel (female-1), Dollarbird (1)

Kpg Masjid, Kuala Baram (Prawn Farms) Jan 10th :-
Participants: Steve Dexter, Nazeri, Amer, Sara
Birds:Straited Grassbird (1), Dollarbird (2), Black-headed Munia (in flocks), Common Greenshank (4), Little Egret (30), Intermediate Egret (20), Grey-tailed Tattler (2), Kentish Plover (2), Malaysian Plover (1 pair breeding), Common Sandpiper (4), Greater Sand Plover (1), Little Heron (1), Collared Kingfisher (5), Pied Triller (1), Cinnamon Bittern (2), Crake sp. (1), Black-crowned Night Heron (1), Black-shouldered Kite (2), Little Green Pigeon (50), White-breasted Waterhen (1), Yellow-bellied Prinia (1), Pied Fantail (1), Common Iora (5)

Kpg Masjid Proper, Kuala Baram Jan 11th :-
Participants:Steve, Nazeri, Amer, Sara, Anne, Mike, Mary, Kyla, Alyssa
Birds:Wood Sandpiper (1), Common Greenshank (2), Yellow-vented Bulbul (5), Common Sandpiper (4), Straited Grassbird (5), Dusky Munia (20), Sanderling (8), Kentish Plover (4), Great Egret (1), Red-necked stint (4), Greater Sand Plover (4), Lesser Sand Plover (7), Malaysian Plover (1, breeding, male), Yellow Wagtail (2), Little Egret (4), Chestnut Munia (60), Oriental Darter (6 - reported by Steve, along K. Baram road, flying overhead, at around 11am).

Miri Marina (Behind Park Everly Hotel) Jan 17th outing :-
Participants:Steve, Nazeri, Dominique, Mawang Bakak
Birds:Common Sandpiper (5), Intermediate Egret (1), Pacific Reef Egret (1xWhite morph, 3xBlack Morph), Striated Heron (2), Pacific Golden Plover (1), Von Schrenck's Bittern (1), Little Egret (1), Collared Kingfisher (5), Black-crown Night Heron/Javan Pond Heron (1)
We later moved to old Miri River site in front of HSBC (placed already reclaimed, will likely not be around next AWC):Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Little Egret, Great Egret, White-breasted Waterhen, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper

Kuala Baram Peatswamp (Vegetable Farms) Jan 18th outing :-
Participants:Steve, Nazeri
Birds: Common Sandpiper (5), Intermediate Egret (1), Little Egret (4), Purple Heron (1), Pacific Golden Plover(60), Wood Sandpiper (4), Cinnamon Bittern (1), Dusky Munia (20), Chestnut Munia (100), Lesser Coucal (5), Snipe sp. (5), Magpie Robin (4), Yellow-bellied Prinia (4), Blue-breasted Quail (5), White-browed Crake (1), Yellow-vented bulbul (20)

Highlights in pictures:
1. Kuala Baram at the end of the day
2. Chinese Egret
3. Malaysian Plover (female)
4. Malaysia Plover (male)
5. Contemplating crossing one of the tributary of Batang Baram at the estuary, beware of crocodiles
6. Phew! We made it ... no crocodiles here today! A huge crocodile has been sighted here back in May is a resident of the rivermouth.
7. The troop after a succesful crossing of a muddy bay by the lighthouse peering at a Sanderling
8. A beautiful blooming Gloriasa Superba - Climbing Lily - Bunga Kembang Songsang (as identified by member Shamila K.) at Kuala Miri Baru.
9. Pacific Reef Egret (grey morph) in action.
10. Great Egret
11. Common Greenshank
12. Little Egret, Common Sandpiper in the background
13. Greater Sandplover
14. Mawang demonstrating how to attract the attention of White-breasted Waterhen
15. "Beautification" of the small river draining into the sea. It'll end up with blocks of big rocks!
16. A Malaysian Plover sitting on a pile of organic debris, wondering "Dang, where is my coralline sands?"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The December Long Walk

Well, YES, we did it! Our fulltime team of eight reached Tg Similajau! Congratulations to Maye, Sara, Radhika, Norzie, Rabani, Roslee, and Ali. None worst for wear except for a few blisters and sandfly bites.

JJ made it up to Kpg Sibuti, while Pat and Indi trudged along with us from Kuala Nyalau to Tg Similajau.

We legged it from Tg Bungai - Kpg Sibuti, Kpg Sibuti - Middle Suai, Middle Suai - Kpg Suai, Kuala Nyalau - Tg Similajau ... all 80 kms of it. And we spent a few days at Similajau National Park making new friends, checking out the baby crocodiles and ancient mangrove, and whiled the first few hours of the New Year on the beach around a roaring bonfire yelping "Yesterday!" and chugging champagne whenever the song's chorus escaped us.

The walk itself was rigorous to say the least especially for first timers. We expected to average 4 km/hour but probably only managed a measly 3-3.5km/hr ... we failed to factor in walking experience, proper equipment and pack loads. Some routes curves around bays and promontories which increased estimated total distance. Walking sans baggage is definitely more springy than with 10kgs strapped to your back, hip, and neck!Some have not walked so far for so long, some have not walked flat terrain for so far for so long.

On sunny days, direct heat from the sun, reflected heat from the sands and water tire without us realising it. On rainy days, wetness from intermittent drizzle dampen more than just mere clothes and packs on our backs. The 3 liter of water minimum requirement per person and assorted food and snacks added another 10 kilos at least, not including camera gear for some of us who thrives on total punishment. The journey was decidedly more brisk with day packs.

Tg Bungai-Kpg Kuala Sibuti was relatively easy with a light load of one bottled water and snacks. So was the Kuala Nyalau-Tg Similajau leg, all 24 kms of it.For the longer trek, having to carry tents, fuel and assorted accessories from Kpg Sibuti to Kpg Suai was definitely a test of endurance for the entire group. Correct packs and footwear for long distance walking we found to be crucial, most didn't have this. Lack of proper attention to these points resulted in numerous severe blisters for many, we ran out of elastoplast by Similajau NP.

On footwear, light rubber beach slippers meant for beach walking were found to be best, only $12.50 a pair at a Ngiu Kee near you, ditch the others. So does a bagpack with lumbar & hip support for optimal weight distribution. Your pack may feel light at the start, after 4 hours of walking with it, you wished you could be transported to Marriot poolside to sip pina-colada instead.

From Tg Bungai to Kpg Kuala Suai, it was all white sandy beaches, long stretches of coast lined by tall casuarinas and pandanus. The vista was as far as your eyes can see, and not a single other soul in sight. Occasionally there were rivers to cross, most were relatively shallow at low tide while others chest deep by the end of the day. Some are so darkly colored by tannin that by just dipping your foot inside, your imagination runs wild, filled with stories of ferocious crocodiles and black lagoon monsters.

Abandoned farms were few and far between, and this being the landas season not a single boat was out at sea. We caught up with a semangka farmer from Kelulit Tengah and his family at the last hut who offered ripe limes and water for our journey. We saw many animal tracks along the Middle Suai to Kpg Kuala Suai route, conversations with local folks suggested presence of monkeys, deers, wildpigs, civets and medium size cats.

From Kuala Nyalau to Tg Similajau, our eyes feasted on completely different landscapes. Here we found mostly rocky shores with various geological features unearthed, and diligently shaped by continous wave action over the years. The layered earth made prominent after all sands were whisked away to an unsuspecting bay nearby. Golden coarse grain sands with high silica content alternated with rough, jagged rocky promontories.

All along the coastlines, numerous small rivers colored with tannin fed into the South China Sea. During the landas season, some dormant rivers burst open at the pounding of incessant waves at high tide. At low tide, the coast was as far as the eyes can see ... quiet, serene and untainted with human presence other than us. The rock pools were vibrant with life, all manner of snails, crabs, hermit crabs, blenys could be seen busy with their lives.

We covered the planned route successfully. We walked on a stretch of coast not many has walked before. There were plenty of things to see all along the route, numerous signs of wildlife presence, colorful and helpful local people and best of all unbounded coastal scenery.

One stretch Kpg Suai- Kuala Nyalau still remains. We are already planning to tackle that come April during better weather ... Tg Payung beckons us.

This short journey of ours has been dubbed a "Zen of Pain" by some of us. Fittingly so perhaps for two reasons. The blisters, sandfly bites, throbbing sunburnt and parched throats were all part of the exercise. The other more significant reason must be the heartache realising that all these natural beauty existing quietly unharassed, will one day be gone due to apathy and lack of foresight.

Pictures of coastal vistas:

Pictures of folks:

Malaysian Nature Society Miri Branch Blog

We used to have a newsletter, a yahoo egroup, a website ... now we have a blogspot. Though our newsletter, yahoo egroup has gone the way of the dodo, we'll continue updating events and latest news on the National MNS Website.

We have the National MNS e-forum for member engagement where detailed discussions can be had about any issues with branches and MNS as a whole by registered members.

This blogspot will host news, events and other more informal items not suited to the National website.

Articles in this blogspot will be updated by members of the MNS Miri Exco and maintained by Chairperson of the branch.

Here's to MNS Miri Blog!