Thursday, March 26, 2009

Similajau NP Weekend

School holidaze! Where to go? The kids and I packed up and made a weekend trip Similajau NP for a short R & R at the beach, who knows we might spot dolphins and perhaps get a close encounter with Similajau's friendly hornbills.

We were originally planning for a weekend at Kuala Nyalau for the Digital Photography Workshop but on account of the dismal reponse (we received 3 confirmation and 2 cancellation for the course) , we had to cancel the event. We will do another attempt at a Photography Workshop in Nyalau sometime in June/July depending of interest.

Well, at Similajau beach we got plenty of surf and the sand ... sunny blue-skies, clear water ideal for just jumping about in the surf. The young ones loved it!

The birds ... we sighted the usual old friends : magpie robin, house sparrow, asian glossy starlings, cream vented bulbul, plaintive cuckoo, white-breasted woodswallow, green imperial pigeon, black hornbill, dusky munia, brahminy kite, and common sandpipers. We also saw a nitejar at the parking lot ... no pictures were taken though on account of the camera infra-red not able to locate the bird in pitch darkness!

Sunsets ... we got our fair share of fabulous sunsets over the two evenings. Perfect sunset!

Cicadas ... the kids were tickled pink when they found out that you can actually use the cicada as a musical instrument. But they still hated the donk! donk! donk! sound they made when they hit the walls at nite. There were especially many that weekend.

Dolphins ... we didn't see any. Maybe Gianna and company will have better luck with them next week when they are at the park for their dolphin survey! The weather looks fabulously suited for some dolphin sightings ...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Trek and Birding along a Logging Trail Near Lambir Hills

We had 14 people including 4 children trudging thru a worn double track that traverse up a ridge just outside Lambir, Sunday 08th March for this event.

We gradually reached the top at 80m with great view of Lambir Summit. There were numerous animal tracks along the pathway as well as several species of birds.

A pair of Buff-vented Woodpecker, Green Pigeons, two pairs of Chestnut Malkoha and an unidentified eagle made a special appearance. Yellow and Black Broadbill and Red-bearded Bee-eater were only heard. We missed the falconets and Brown Barbets this time around.

Though our start was rather early circa 0700 hrs, it took us just over 1.5 hrs to reach the peak. We took another hour to get back to our cars.

Thanks to all members and friends who participated in this event. Perhaps next round we can explore fully the trail from start to end ... a whole day trekking, any takers?

Batek with Malek at Lambir Hills National Park

Batek with Malek was held at Lambir Hills National Park, 07th March 2009. It went rather well ... we went batek with 14 adults and 13 children! The adults had as much fun creating their very own works of art as the younger participants did.

We started early on Saturday morning at our usual meeting point, Lambir Hills National Park canteen for registration and general briefing. The first half of the morning had participants doing light trekking along the main trail to spot typical patterns in nature. Participants were briefed on myriads of possibilities that can be transferred to batek print. Malek was also on hand to poin to typical partterns and inspiration used by batek artists.

An 1.5 hrs later participants trekked back to the canteen for some hands-on batek action.

At the workshop, Malek had the set-up perfected to a T. The hot plate heating the wax, the iron and the batek templates. Participants were given options to start from scratch and draw their own patterns and scenes or use one of the templates that had already been created by Malek.

Malekwas as busy as a bee trying to get the rest of the process perfect to a tack. There were hot-wax involved, the artisit himself took charge of that. After the initial tracing, the painting begun.

The children came up with some very neat work. A sampling of the work produced and their artists presented below.

Thanks to all parents and chilren who participated in the "Batek with Malek" workshop, a KidsXplore Nature Workshop series aimed at instilling insightful learning and getting close to nature for children and parents.

A special thanks to our batek artist, Malek Adenan for taking time from his busy schedule to be with us. For parents and children wishing to get private lessons, Malek is available for individulaised lessons.

Please contact Malek at : 0138399695

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Regional AWC Waterbird Workshop 2009

MNS Miri notched up another birding related workshop! After a successful run of our DIY Kota Kinabalu Wader Workshop in October 2008, we organised a larger get-together of birders, wader watchers, and AWC volunteers for a waterbird workshop in Miri, 27th Feb-01st Mar 2009, the Regional AWC Waterbirds Workshop 2009. The workshop was successfully co-organised with Wetlands International with David Bakewell, MNS BCC facilitating.

The workshop gave special emphasis to waterbirds identification and AWC techniques. Waders, shorebirds and birds of the wetlands took center stage. A total of thirty-five participants took part in this 3D-2N residential workshop which took place at Imperial Hotel and Suites, Miri. Participation came from volunteers and practitioners from the following organisations: Wetlands Malaysia (2), Wetlands Indonesia (6), MNS Sabah Branch (3), MNS Miri Branch (5), Panaga Natural History Society (2), Grand Perfect (2) and Sarawak Forestry Corporation (15). The workshop alsmost became an international do with representations from the UK, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Holland ... even Dave had some difficulty switching birdnames from English, Latin and Indonesia. We didn't even try Dutch!

The workshop comprised of three classroom segments and three fieldwork segments. Field locations visited were Kuala Baram Mudflats, Senadin-Pujut 7 Lakes, Seria Loop in Brunei and Bawai Island at Kuala Batam rivermouth. Thru the classroom sessions participants learnt basics of equipment handling, sketching and making fieldnotes, using fieldguides as well as key identification features of waterbirds, their habitat and counting techniques.

The field session which took place on the second and third day allowed further fine-tuning of some of the techniques and methodologies learnt in the classroom but executed in the field. Participants were taken thru correct best practices (ie. sketch and make field notes!!!), counting as well as filling in the details of the AWC form. And yes, we learnt that even with the latest bird-i-witness facility of entering all your sigthings onto an online database, one must still SUBMIT the hardcopy AWC forms!

After all the hardwork in the class-room and the fieldsites, participants were feted to two scrumptious Chinese dinner at Imperial Hotel Restaurant on the first evening and Yee Ha Hai Seafood on the second nite. Well, one can't very well go birding in Miri without sampling the great seafood goodies that local eateries have to offer. Two thumbs up all around from the participants.

All in all, the workshop achieved it's objectives of exposing AWC tecniques and waterbirds as well as emphasising the importance of waterbird census to participating representatives of the various bodies involved.

A special thanks to Dave Bakewell (MNS BCC) for facilitating the sessions and being a great mentor; Gabriel Chong (WI) for making it all happen; Oswald Bracken (SFC), Abang Arabi Abang Imran (SFC-Miri) and Mohd Jirin (SFC-Bintulu) for their tireless support and encouragement to kick-start AWC efforts in Sarawak. Thank you Molly of Borneo Mainland Tours for our transport arrangement, Darren Lo and Audrey of Imperial Hotels and Suites for our excellent accomodation.

To all participants, thank you for making this a successful workshop ... who knows we may just make this kind of workshop a regular feature for the wader and waterbirds watching fraternity here this side of Borneo, with your support!

Workshop opening remarks from Gabriel Chong.

Dave Bakewell doing his thing.

Participants of the workshop.

Classroom birding in session.

Birding in the classroom will never be the same as in Camperduin in winter!

MNS Miri birder Musa, with Ekin and Dayang of Mulu NP and Niah NP respectively ... which birdie could it be.

One happy birder!

Practice time at Kuala Baram mudflats, the weather was fabulous!

Mmm ... let's see ... bill length vs. head length ... Kentish?

Was it a plane ... was it a bird, it was Wandering Whistling Duck with ducklings!

Tucking in the great seafood during the grouo dinner at Yee-Ha-Hai!

The trip to Bawai Island.

Making notes on Bawai waders.

More images are available from MNS Miri Facebook AWC album 1; album 2 and album 3.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pulau Bawai : Room for 14 on Valentine's Day

We thought we could sell the idea of a romantic weekend camping and watching waders on an uninhabited island at the mouth of Kuala Baram estuary on Valentine's Day to our members and friends.

Long and behold, we were oversubscribed! Fourteen people signed up to spend 14th February on a sandbar of an island for Valentine's Day. Our party was made up of 1 family of 4, 1 married man, 5 single young ladies, 5 single young men. We had to turn down another 6 individuals due to limited seats on our boat! Not bad for a weekend of wader watching eh?

We hired a big boat large enough fro 16 people and their gear from Kpg Masjid with the help of friends nearby. Within 20 minutes of loading we were cruising down the mighty Batang Baram to our intended weekend getaway. Within the hour, our gear was unloaded, camp set up, wood fire roaring and marinated chicken roasting!

The island is uninhabited save for a fisherman or two stopping by to mend their nets or fish. Vegetation on the islands is mainly causarina and mangrove. The island being at the estuary enjoys saltwater on the South China Sea on the West and freshwater from Batang Baram on the East. There were plenty of accumulated debris in the form of logs, tree roots and tree trunks - plenty of fuel for the campfire. In general, the island is fairly clean and presentable.

As suspected, being uninhabited and not regularly visited the island hosts a variety of waders. The usual Sanderlings, Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Kentish Plover, Long Toed Stints and Red-necked Stints were recorded. Also present were Peregrine Falcon, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Tern Sp., Little Egrets and Intermediate Egrets. More Ubiquitous were the Yellow vented Bulbuls, and Collared Kingfishers. Of special note were several pairs of the amicable Malaysian Plover and the slightly more sedate Grey Plover.

Members also saw first hand tracks made by a 10 footer crocodile on the sand by the beach not fifty feet away from our base camp.

Thank you to the following members and friends for a Valentine's Weekend well spent:
Musa, Anura, Afiq, Aju, Malino, Ernyza, Amalia, MingYi, Sara, Ali, Aisya, Nazeri, Clare.

Thanks especially to Musa who had prepared 4 special Valentine's chicken basted in special Egyptian concoction for the occasion.

Next : Kuala Baram Sandbar Camping in April, any takers?


Our basecamp.

Egyptian chicken ala Moosa, Valentine's victims.

Bawai sunset, serene and oozing with tranquility.

Malaysian Plover on your doorstep, this one was quite friendly.

A walk on the South China Sea side of the island.

There are plenty of wader prints!

The mighty tree that got chopped down from upriver.

Would've been a great nite for stargazing too if it weren't for the clouds!

Waiting for the ride back to Kpg Masjid.

Where's the wader?

Common Greenshank ... we saw 17 roosting at the bank of Batang Baram near Kpg Masjid.