Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Birdwatching near Bkt Song, Lambir Hills NP

Van Hasselt's Sunbird. Photosource : Lip Kee Yap, Singapore.

The section of Lambir Hills National Park we went birdwatching 3rd October was perhaps the least visited part of the NP other then by villagers living in Pantu Buri, farmers opening new land or those travelling to the newly opened oil palm plantations further north of the NP. Though the roads are typical 4WD Sarawakian dirt road, it's just barely manageable even for a 4WD. We definitely do not recommend going in there with a family sedan.

Steve, Musa, Liz and Nazeri made up the team of four that could wake early enough to make it to the 0530 hrs meeting call at Mosjaya. All the other sane birders were undoubtedly in bed dreaming of their most favorite birds. We on the other hand fantasized about Wreathed Hornbill, Wrinkled Hornbill and other rarities in these parts all the way to Bukit Song.

The early morning departure was actually perfect, by the time Steve maneuvered the DMAX and Nazeri opened up the gates we were only a few minutes shy of 0630hrs. For Sarawak, this is as bright as 0700 hrs in KL with even less people but fresher jungle air.

Birds were fortunately already busy catching the proverbial early worms, while some were contented with just singing their hearts out for the whole forest to hear. The forest edge we were at was perfect for the sort of birdwatching we intended to do for the morning. Sandwiched between two patches of prime rainforests, on a dirt track well hidden away from traffic, we were perfectly positioned to watch the birdies. Big trees stood tall towards higher elevation away from our chosen spot.

A shama full of song was the first to announce it's presence, followed by the Black-headed Bulbul. A few short seconds later these were followed by the Plaintive Cuckoo, Black and Yellow Broadbill, Barbet sp. and Hornbill sp. Faintly audible but completely out of sight the whole time was the soft tap-tap-tap of of Woodpecker sp. Hopes were quite high that we would record the presence of either a Wreathed or a Wrinkled Hornbill on this auspicious morning. Any day where you can go out twitch this early hour at such a prime spot should be declared an auspicious day.

A large hornbill finally did fly past, landed right at the top of a tall tree in front of us. Bino poised, Steve and et al prayed for Wreathed Hornbill, clammy hands on the focussing ring, heart beating fast, the Leica Televid APO 77 swung to position just as quickly ... to confirm the bird : Asian Black Hornbill! A few long seconds of close scrunity later, it was still an ABH. It with was full agreement and without a doubt NOT a Wreathed Hornbill that day. We waited ...

There were plenty of other birds to watch and tick notwithstanding. We noticed two flowering species of trees all around our perch, small little birdies were flitting in and out, some went for the fruit and some went for the nectar. Yellow-eared Spiderhunter; Hairy-backed Bulbul, Lesser Leafbird, Cream-vented Bulbul, and Yellow-vented Bulbul were all there taking turns foraging around the forest feeding stations. Once in while a bird would stop to preen. A group of Hill Myna made a fly past several times right above our heads low enough to pick out their yellow markings.

Many flowerpeckers and sunbirds were sighted fleeting amongs the forest edges too. Purple-naped Sunbird did not make an appearance today as it did 15th August at the same patch. However we saw Plain Sunbird, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, and the brilliant Van Hasselt's Sunbird.

Throughout the morning many more birds made their own private appearances alongside those already mentioned above:
Thick-billed Pigeon
Dusky Munia
Red-bearded Bee-eater
Lesser Coucal
Red-eyed Bulbul
Red-throated Barbet
Black and Yellow Broadbill (heard)
Argus Pheasant (heard)
Dark-necked Tailorbird
Crested Serpent Eagle
Crested Goshawk
Silver-rumped Swift
Chestnut-rumped Babbler
Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot
Blue-throated Bee-eater
White-breasted Woodswallow
Tricolored Munia

With the conversions and opening up of forested lands and secondary forests near Lambir, the actual protected area has become more accessible of late. All around Lambir, oil palm plantations are cropping up, while others are at the forest clearing stage. New farms are being opened up and planted. This new access points gave more people greater opportunities to walk right up to the park boundary, enter it if they wanted to. What we hope is that those who do take the trouble to go to these places, actually went there with benign intentions, to enjoy nature like us, birdwatching. Encroachment with a less harmless purpose is a given in such cases.

We are in the midst of keeping track of birds we see in Lambir in the hope of contributing to the Lambir NP Birdlist. Partly to monitor and keep track of what's in and around the national park currently as well as note those that are getting less regular. As for the hornbills, though seven species have been recorded at Lambir and on the NP's birdlist, only the Asian Black Hornbill has been regularly sighted of late.

Lambir Hills National Park is one of Birdlife's International Important Bird Area (IBA) within the northern division alongside with Niah Caves National Park, Loagan Bunut National Park, Mulu National Park and Similajau National Park.

We hope the park to successfully continue to harbour most of the flagship bird species that made it an IBA even with all the external pressures it's experiencing today, an oasis for birds and other wildlife amidst the flurry of conversions around it.

Add ImageLambir Hills National Park, IBA (dark green) and surrounding areas from Google 2005. By Musa Musbah.

Write up by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri/Oct2009

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