Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dolphin Do Pictures and Contest Results

Dr Gianna Minton engaging the participants with dolphins.

WOW! That would probably be the most appropriate word for this event a couple of Saturdays ago if ever we needed a label for such a thing.

Through it's extensive network with the Miri community, PUSTAKA Miri managed to draw the crowds in droves. We had children from all ages gathering at the lobby as early as 10 am. Some schools even sent in teams of their best artists to participate in our Coloring and Drawing Competition. Several good things came out from the event: we recognised the fact that we have some very talented young artists in Miri and they were very interested to hear about dolphins and the marine environment in general. The children's beautiful depiction of dolphins and life under the sea didn't make the judging any easier for the judges though.

As for the talk, Dr Gianna Minton didn't have any problems keeping the children occupied and entralled with the subject of dolphins. Competition started around 12:30 and participants had about 2 hours to complete their coloring and drawing using their own preferred tools. Some very quickly get into the business of producing masterpieces while a few took time to get inspired. All participants took part in the talk and slideshow that followed. Admittedly Dr Gianna has a relatively hectic time trying to answer some of the brilliant questions posed by the floor. It's encouraging to see such enthusiasm filling up the auditorium.

Most were very surprised that Miri and it's surrounding marine ecosystem support pods of dolphins all the way from Kuala Baram to Similajau. Though the survey season has just started again this season, numbers of dolphin sightings made as well as newly surfaced isolated reports from fishermen and recreational fishermen suggest that the numbers are not insigficant. There may be more dolphins out there than we are aware of.

Through the work carried out by Project Dolphin and suppport from it's sponsors (Shell, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, UNIMAS), it is hoped that the concerted effort on the part of Project Dolphin will produce some strong recommendations for dolphins to continue to enjoy protection within our waters. Ultimately perhaps even have these creatures enjoy special protection under a designated reserve or sanctuary.

MNS Miri, Pustaka Miri and Project Dolphin would like to take this opportunity to announce the winners of our Coloring/Drawing Contest recently held in conjunction with our Dolphin Do at Pustaka Miri 07th February.

The winners are:

First : Yoyo Tiong Xin Yue - SJK (C)Chung San
Second : Tiong Yong Tung - SJK (C) Chung San
Third: Lawrence Kong – Sri Mawar School

Coloring Contest
First : Stella Tan Wen Jia – SJK (C) Chung Hua, Miri
Second : Chai Li Yin - SJK (C) Chung Hua, Krokop
Third : Azzura Indra Kusuma - Sri Mawar, Miri

All winners won one year Family membership to the Malaysian Nature Society worth $120/year as well as other prizes sponsored by MNS Miri, Pustaka Miri and Project Dolphin. To the winners, congratulations! A special thank you goes to Pn Salina Hj Zawawie, Regional Manager Pustaka Miri and Dr Gianna Minton, Lead Researcher Project Dolphin for agreeing to give away prizes to the children at the conclusion of the talk.

To all our partners, thank you again for a fruitful and successful collaboration. Here's for more to come!

[All photos from MNS Miri unless specified].

Registration of participants, Pustaka Miri crew doing what they do best.

Parents queuing up getting the kids ready for the competition. Photo by Musa Musbah.

The young team from St Joseph School ready for the day's action.

Young artists in action.

The biggest school representation in the drawing/freestyle segment.

Our young participants in the coloring segment. Photo by Musa Musbah.

Young artist in full concentration.

Our free-hand specialist, he has the making of a potential Pixar artist!

A segment of our audience in the well-equipped auditorium at Pustaka Miri.

MNS Miri/Feb2009

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

AWC in Loagan Bunut

Going back to Loagan Bunut is like going back to visit an old friend for MNS Miri. Over the years initiated by our first AWC in the area back in 1999/2000 we have been back numerous times.

Our most successful trip must have been that first small visit to the loagan: it yielded Grey-headed Fisheagle, Storm's Stork, Oriental Darter and several illegal loggers to boot. Following that, several more visits were organised by Saiful-Bahari, Lee Bor Seng and crew as evidenced by several entries in Pak Meran's visitor's logbook.

Our visit this year also coincided with AWC, we were hoping to see at the very least the fish eagle and darters. Undeterred by weekend's forecast of dreary weather and rain, two 4WDs and an Iswara trudged through deplorable road conditions from Beluru to Lapok. Other than slick gravel roads and muddy tracks as well as flooded sections, the team managed to check in at Meran's Mutiara Resort via a boat ride just after lunch. Just in time for a spectacular show of thick rain clouds crossing over the lake followed by a torrential downpour. We had a quiet, cool lunch sheltered under the newly renovated and much improved accomodation.

Just behind the resort, we sighted several Hill Mynas, Imperial Pigeon and Long-tailed Parakeet on top of a fruiting three nearby.

A boat cruise around the lake started prompted just after the downpour navigated by Pak Meran himself. I must say the oldman didn't age by a day since we last saw him. Living alone now after the passing of his wife, Pak Meran is as congenial and jovial as we remembered. MNS Miri donated a new copy of Craig Robson's "Bird of South-East Asia" for his use, adding to his other bird book collection he's acquired over the years.

Perhaps due to the day's heavy rain we did not spot any large squirrels around the forest, but we did clocked up several Striated Herons, a Stork-billed Kingfisher, a Blue-eared Kingfisher, several Black Hornbill as well as Oriental Pied Hornbill. The return trip afforded a a rather muted sunset.

The resort is presently managed by Pak Meran alone with help from relatives now and again. Mutiara Resort has a total of 6 double room and 2 triple room, it comes equipped with detached shower rooms and toilets. The linoleum covered livingroom is very spacious and ready with plastic tables, and chairs. The whole house is decorated with native Berawan handicrafts sourced locally. The kitchen is equipped with gas-cookers and practical utensils sufficient for a small DIY kenduri. For heathens hooked on tv, Astro is available.

The view from and of Pak Meran's place is simply unequalled. Sitting on top of a knoll, the house overlooks almost the entire expanse of the freshwater lake. The view up from the bottom of the 50 wooden steps leading up to the house from the jetty is in itself truly unique.

If one seeks tranquility, quiet calm and serenity, we recommend a couple of days at Pak Meran's Mutiara Resort. Bring a few favorite books, switch off the tv and soak up the Loagan ambience, there's plenty of it to go around. The surrounding sceneries is practically out of an artist's favorite inspiration catalogue.

Back to birds:
Purple Heron (1), Malkoha sp. (1), Long-tailed Parakeet (6), Hill Myna (4), Imperial Pigeon (6),Black Hornbill (20), Oriental Pied Hornbill (4), Grey-headed Fish Eagle (2), Greater Coucal (1),Lesser Coucal (1), Stork-billed Kingfisher (1), Blue-eared Kingfisher (1), Little Heron (4), Osprey (2), Pacific Swallow (numerous), Barn Swallow (numerous), Common Sandpiper (3), Cream-vented Bulbul (4), Magpie-Robin (2, nesting pair), White-bellied Sea Eagle (2), Ashy Tailorbird (1), Red-bearded Bee-eater (heard only)
No Oriental Darters seen.

Sara Wong, Musa Musbah, Nik Nazrin, Faye Osman, Nazeri, Clare, Ali, Aisya, Khairyl, Pak Meran.

The AWC track we covered in Loagan Bunut. Map by Musa Musbah.

View up towards Mutiara Resort.

Water laden clouds passing over the lake.

Members kitting up for a cruise around the lake.

Pak Meran at the back of the boat taking charge.

Stunning view across the lake at mid morning.

A local boat crossing.

Pacific Swallow, most numerous in numbers followed by Barn Swallow.

Please contact
if you require contact details for Pak Meran's Mutiara Resort.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Checking out wader roosting sites in Kuala Baram

In Miri, Kuala Baram area is perhaps the only place that holds the largest number of waders during the autumn and spring migration season.

Species range from the more common Lesser and Greater Sand Plover, Kentish Plover to the less common ones such as the Red Knot, Common Greenshank, Sanderling and the like. Over the past year we've also confirmed Malaysian Plover as being regular fixtures at the sandy beaches in the area.

Although their numbers are not comparable to what wader watchers have seen in Kapar Ash Pond near Kuala Selangor or even Buntal Bay in Kuching, Kuala Baram is important none the less as stopping points for the migrating waders on their way south during autumn migraton season, and during their spring return north.

In Miri, Kuala Baram is perhaps the only large expanse of mudflats in existence since the development of the Miri River estuary.

MNS Miri is planning a 2D/1N camping trip to Kuala Baram Island (14/15.02) and Kuala Baram Lagoon Sandspit (dates to be determined) to checkout potential of these two places being used as roosting waders during high tides.

Any data collected about these waders during these trips are important data for Miri. Due to lack of information on their presence, any data collected during these trips would be beneficial in understanding movements of waders during migration season in our area. Provide better undertanding of impacts of coastal development as such.

Keen to learn more? Email and participate in these activities. Learn more about waders at the same time. At the very worst, witness spectacular sunsets from locations not many has even been to before.

What better way to spend Valentine's Day?

Grey-tailed Tattler by Nazeri Abghani in Kuala Baram at lunchtime.

Checking out wild ducks in Miri

We are not talking about the waxy ducks hanging at your favorite Chinese restaurant here. Wild ducks!We have just confirmed sightings of wild ducks in Miri!

We confirmed 3 species in fact : Cotton-Pygmy Goose, Tufted Duck and Lesser or Wandering Whistling Duck. Information from sympathetic locals and avid anglers in and around Miri prompted us to check out several potential locations. Invaluable leads! We were rewarded amply for braving landas rains and rising water (Musa knows all about this)! Moorhen, White-browed Crake and Common Coot have also made the list on top of the wild ducks!

We intend to be keeping a extra few eyes on the locations already identified as important hanging out sites for these waterbirds. We will be needing a few enthusiastic folks to be a part of a team for a regular look-out for wild ducks (and waterbirds in general). Published records for these birds have been rather poor or sketchy at best especially for our area. Hopefully with regular checks and surveillance we'll together improve that.

We have identified a few locations, we need (read more able bodied) wild ducks, waterbird spies. Sensitive, studious, outdoor types with attention to detail, affinity to natural environment and penchant for learning are encouraged to enquire within. Binos, sketchbook, fieldguides will be provided on loan for teams of three.

Over the years, waterbird numbers have decreased ... with increased development activities, these birds face great threat to their habitats. Wetlands are viewed as unproductive by many especially in a developing localities like ours. Our conversations with local villagers affirmed the fact that numbers of these wild ducks have declined which is rather disheartening in itself, not many people are even aware of their existence in Miri.

Development of these wetland areas into golf-courses, residential areas and the like pose great danger to the very survival of these waterbirds.

Please stop thinking about those waxy ducks you all ... we are talking wild ducks here.

Have you seen one?Please email to find out more.

Wandering Whistling Duck by Musa Musbah in pouring rain and flooding condition!