Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SMK Lutong Birdwatching Club : First in Miri, Sarawak

Anura Dason of MNS Miri Branch introducing the Malaysian Nature Society to our young club members at the school's library.

Nazeri Abghani of MNS Miri Branch explaining the objectives of the birdclub to club members atteding the session. Image by Anura Dason.

Club members and teachers listening intently to the planned programs in store for them for 2011 and beyond. The Club will draw it's activities from experienced birdwatching resource from the Branch with Branch Chairperson and SMK Lutong KPA teacher in advisory roles.

It's official : Today, Friday 25th March, MNS Miri launched the Shell We Care We Share funded SMK Lutong Birdwatching Club. Through the funding, MNS Miri Branch will be responsible to manage, plan and provide birdwatching awareness training and programs for local children enrolled in the club for the next three years with support from the school's co-curricular coordinator.

In conjunction with it's Centennial celebration last year, Sarawak Shell Berhad awarded funding to 36 community-based projects to be run by it's staff through it's long standing "We Care We Share" initiatives, the Club was one of the recipients though MNS Miri Branch.

Thirty students ages 13-17 years old stand to benefit from the setting of the Birdwatching Club at their school, membership to the club is expected to grow to 100 students at the end of the funding period. The Club will be managed by MNS Miri Branch with Branch Chairperson and SMK Lutong's Kelab Pencinta Alam teacher as advisors; Miri Branch birdwatchers as resource persons.

Among the activities planned are birdwatching training sessions in May to cover garden birds in conjunction with MY Garden Birdwatch every June; as well as training session in waterbirds in November before school holidays in preparation for Asian Waterbirds Census that takes place every January. There will also be two away trips nearby for the students to gain practical experience in birdwatching.

Grey-headed Fish Eagle location is only 45 minutes drive away for the students.

Visiting migrants is an annual occurence at Lutong Beach and Kuala Baram, literally at the schools doorstep including this Chinese Egret. Increased awareness about birds, their habitats and active involvement of club members in AWC activities are among several important premises to the setting up of the birdwatching club.

To this end, MNS Miri Branch birdwatching resource has acquired a number of Field Guides to the Birds of Borneo by Susan Myers as well as quality binoculars for them to conduct their club activities. These hardware will be handed over to the Club at the end of the three year term as stipulated by the project.

With excellent birding locations dotted within short distances from the school : Chinese Egret at Lutong Beach, a variety of migrant waders and raptors at Kuala Baram; not to mention four Important Bird Areas within two hours drive (Niah Caves National Park, Lambir Hills National Park, Loagan Bunut National Park and Similajau National Park), members of SMK Lutong Birdwatching Club are poised to learn much about birds and bird conservation.

Increased awareness about birds will help us inculcate greater love for our feathered friends as well as care for the habitats that these birds depend on.

Here's looking at our feathered friends and our young birdwatchers!

Words and images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri

2nd MNS Congregating Firefly Zone Survey and Monitoring Workshop at Similajau National Park, 26-27th March 2011

Mr Sonny Wong, Senior Conservation Officer, Malaysian Nature Society Conservation Division showing the different Coleoptera (Beetles) Order; fireflies belong to the Lampyridae family.

Dr Mahadi Menakbar Dawood, Entomologist, ITBC University Sabah Malaysia compounding on Firefly SWOT analysis at the workshop.

MNS Conservation Division and MNS Miri Branch have successfully conducted the 2nd MNS CFZ Surveying and Monitoring Workshop, 26-27th March 2011 at Similajau National Park with the cooperation of Sarawak Forestry Corporation Bintulu and Miri Regional Offices. SFC have generously sponsored the use of the venue at Similajau National Park and associated facilities for the workshop.

Participants came from members of MNS Miri, MNS Kuching, MNS Sabah, Nature and Science Society of Bintulu, Sarawak Forestry Corporation Bintulu and Miri Regional Offices as well as Similajau National Park staff.

We secured the following main resources for the workshop:

Sonny Wong, Senior Conservation Officer, MNS Conservation Division, MNS HQ, KL

Dr Mahadi MEnakbar Dawood, Entomologist, Institute of Tropical Biodiversity and Conservation, University Malaysia Sabah, Kota Kinabalu.

Musa Musbah and Nazeri Abghani, CFZNSS 2010 Team, MNS Miri Branch Miri

The objective of the workshop was for participants to learn the basics of fireflies, current methodologies and techniques for firefly survey and monitoring. The workshop took the opportunity to share collective experiences and enthusiasm to date on firefly work in Malaysia and abroad.

Participants conducted a CFZ field survey of Sg Similajau, the northern boundary of Similajau National Park.

At the conclusion of the workshop, participants had good exposure to firefly conservation initiatives in Malaysia and overseas, gained better understanding of key firefly survey and monitoring techniques as well as spent considerable time exploring concreate ideas and steps to furthers improve the collective work in CFZ. More advocacy for firefly conservation work are expected.

It is our fervent hope that the even will spur more activities in firefly surveys and monitoring work in Sarawak and Sabah in general.

Participants in one of the two boats engaged to survey fireflies along Sg Similajau, the northern boundary of Similajau National Park. Another 6 parrticipants survey the right side of the river. Some participants remained at the park to hunt for firefly larvae. Image by Musa Musbah.

Checking out specimens during one of the workshop modules. Aided by a microscope attached to the laptop, participants see up close the bodily structure of the tiny firefly.

Participants getting excited about the occurence of P. bearni, P. malaccae and P. tener along Sg Similajau.

The workshop organisers would like to thank our resources Sonny Wong, Dr Mahadi Menakbar Dawood, Musa Musbah, Nazeri Abghani and our workshop participants for a well spent weekend. Special thanks go to Abang Arabi Imran and Mohd Jirin Anis, Regional Manager, SFC Regional Offices Miri and Bintulu respectively for their support for the workshop. Last but not least many thanks go to Anne Malissa, PIC, Similajau National Park and her helpful staff for assistance rendered to make the workshop run as smooth as it had.

Words and Images by Nazeri Abghani/MNS Miri unless specified otherwise.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Branch March Update

A yet to be identified little froggie we stumbled upon during our trek up Gunung Murud, now part of the Pulong Tau National Park complex.

Dear Valued Members and Friends of MNS Miri,

Didi we say it was going to be a dry year this year? Well it's looking rather wet the past couple of weeks and we are almost at the end of March. Hopefully it'll stay cool and fresh like this throughout to Gawai.

Below is an update for March with a quick look into upcoming events and beyond:


12-13th Feb SWS in Lawas;
Musa, Remli, Majelah, Sara, Bor Seng, Nazeri and Anura joined our SWS Team, Daniel and Rose over in Lawas to survey Kuala Lawas by boat. They visited SFC's Kuala Lawas Station and got a better understanding of the lay of the land in those parts. Significant finds were : Black-headed Gull at Kuala Lawas.

Read up on the trip here.

17th Feb : Waterbirds Workshop, Kuching
The workshop was a success that it had to be extended for an extra day. Other the classroom sessions, participants were treated to a fieldtrips to count waterbirds on the coast of Kuching. Wader big shots from SFC, MNS and Birdlife came down for a weekend about waterbirds, wetland habitats in the State.

19th Feb : Dialogue session in Kpg Kuala Sibuti with Bintulu Port Authority and Asian Minerals Limited. Anura and Nazeri attended the dialogue session with the villagers.

21-27th Feb SWS in Mukah;
Anura, Nazeri and Musa made the trip to Mukah to join Daniel, Rose of our SWS Team as well as Liza from SFC Mukah Office. The survey started where SWS left off back in Jan and was completed all the way down to Kuala Igan.

Read it up here.

28th Feb : Lambir Hills NP Special Park's Committee met at Lambir Hills. Nazeri attended.

26th Feb CFZ Survey in Mukah;
This is the southernmost CFZ survey which we hace conducted within the CFZ Northern Sarawak Project. We were joined by Duffy and Liza, staff from SFC Mukah.

Read it up here.

24th Feb Eco Diver Theory Sessions;
Training sessions to be held at end of Feb. Please contact reefcheck_miri@yahoo.com directly for further information. This is an ongoing activity.

05th Mar : CFZ Sg Bakong;
With SFC Miri Office assistance we descended to Beluru, a small town in upper Sg Bakong and conducted our firefly survey with Remli, Kamil, Samantha of SFC Miri and Joyce, Sara, Musa and Nazeri.

Read up the account here.

12th Mar : Birdwatching Kuala Baram;
We confirmed a successfully fledged juvenile Grey-headed Fish Eagle. The subadult was observed feeding on nest with prey item supplied by an adult. One more GHFE for Miri!

Read it up here.


18th Mar : Nitewalk at Lambir Hills National Park
Led by Kamil of Lambir Hills NP and Peter Pillai, participants can expect to see the regular and sometimes special residents of Lambir Hills Park at nite.

Meet 1800hrs at Lambir parking lot. Participation is limited to 15 people and is child friendly.

Please contact Peter Pillai directly to register.

19th Mar: CFZ of Sg Teru,
We are planning a weekend trip to Loagan Bunut to conduct CFZ Survey and Monitoring as well as to check-out the brids in and around the Loagan. Places are limited, send email if interested. We will be leavng Miri 1030hrs and returning to Miri the next day hopefully by lunchtime.

1030 hrs Travel to LBNP
1700 hrs CFZ Sg Teru
0630 hrs Boat ride around the loagan
1200 hrs Travel to Miri

Meet in Miri before departure at 1030hrs, please email Nazeri Abghani directly for details.

25th Mar : Launch of SMK Lutong Birdclub at SMK Lutong
We recently received funding from Shell WCWS program which enables us to set up a Birdwatching Club in Lutong. We will be guiding and training our birdclub members on birdwatching and census taking throughout the year. At this event we will introduce MNS and the year's activities plan.

26-27th March : CFZ Survey and Mornitoring Workshop at Similajau National Park;
A second workshop on fireflies intended for those interested to learn more about fireflies and help with the effort to populate fireflies data for Sarawak. Classroom sessions as well as a field survey of Sg Similajau. Sonny Wong, MNS Senior Conservation Officer and Dr Mahadi Menakbar Dawood, Entemologist, ITBC, UMS will be on hand to share their knowledge and work on fireflies in Malaysia and abroad.

Saturday : Classroom session start 1400 hrs; fieldtrip 1700-2100 hrs
Saturday : Classroom session starts 0800-1700hrs with a break for lunch.
Read the announcement here.

02-03rd April: CFZ of Sg Suai,
Another weekend event to survey fireflies of Sg Suai. We plan to leave Miri Saturday afternoon, return mid-day Sunday,exact timing to be announced. Please email for details.

CANCELLED : Photography Workshop in Lambir with William Ting
Come shoot macro, nitelife, and waterfalls with William Ting and learn basic-intermediate digital workflows practiced by most digital shooters today.

The workshop starts Saturday 1400 hrs and ends Sunday 1400hrs. Come get together with other photography enthusiasts and learn a thing or two about photographing nature. Cost $150 per person with 1 nite shared accommodation at Lambir Hill chalets, dinner, breakfast, lunch, and park entrance fee. Open to all ages.; non-boarding participants get a $30 discount of the registration fee. Minimum requirement : a digital camera preferably a DSLR.

Bring your latop, your gear and some massive inspiration. Best Photo of the weekend (by voting)will receive free family membership to the Malaysian Nature Society.

We have limited places, so register early. Payment in full at registration.

09th April : "Sarawak's Sweetheart : Orang Utan Conservation Campaign" at Pustaka Miri.
A joint collaboration between MNS Miri, Pustaka Miri and Special Park's Committee of Lambir Hills National Park in their effort to increase awareness and knowledge of our natural heritage. There'll be coloring contest for the young ones at the start and talk and slideshow for everyone on Orang Utan conservation in Sarawak by Samantha Kwan, SFC Miri.
1300-1500 hrs Coloring and Drawing Contests, Theme : Sarawak's Ape's and Primates
1500-1700 hrs Talk and Slideshow titled "Sarawak's Sweethearts : Orang Utan Conservation Campaign"

23rd April : Community Outreach in Kpg Kuala Nyalau
0900hrs-1700hrs. We'll be spending a day with the children and young people (and their parents) of Kpg Kuala Nyalau. Main themes would be river ecosystem conservation, fireflies, waterbirds, wetlands and our coral reefs. Other than our usual talks and slideshow, we are hoping to make the day interesting for everyone.

30th April : Community Outreach in Kpg Bungai
0900hrs-1700hrs. We are looking for some very creative and some interesting ideas around activities for children other than talks by Musa, Nazeri and Kumar. These has to be related to theme at hand : Fireflies and River Conservations, Waterbirds and Wetlands, Reefs and Marine Ecosystems. We welcome all input.

07th May : Community Outreach in Kpg Kuala Sibuti
0900hrs-1700hrs. We are looking for some very creative and some interesting ideas around activities for children other than talks by Musa, Nazeri and Kumar. These has to be related to theme at hand : Fireflies and River Conservations, Waterbirds and Wetlands, Reefs and Marine Ecosystems. We welcome all input.

14th May: WMBD : Birdwatching at Lambir Hills with Daisy O’Neill
Birdwatching in conjunction with World Migratory Bird Day.
0700-1000 hrs to meet at Lambir Hills National Park 0700hrs. Daisy will be visiting from Penang to birdwatch with participants in Lambir.
1000-1200 hrs Talk and slideshow "Birdwatching in Sarawak" at Lambir Hills Conference Hall. Park entrance $10/adult; $5/student.

15th May : Community Outreach in Kpg Masjid, Kuala Baram
0900hrs-1700hrs. We are looking for some very creative and some interesting ideas around activities for children other than talks by Musa, Nazeri and Kumar. These has to be related to theme at hand : Fireflies and River Conservations, Waterbirds and Wetlands, Reefs and Marine Ecosystems. We welcome all input.

21st May : WMBD : Community Outreach (Birdwatching) at Pustaka Miri
1300-1500 hrs Coloring and Drawing Contests, “Birds of Sarawak”
1500-1700 hrs Talk and Slidehow : WMBD : Birdwatching in Miri : Common Birds in Your Garden and Other Rare Birds Beyond”

28th May : MY Garden Birdwatch at KRP
0700-0900 hrs Birdwatching around KRP compound for common birds
0900-1100 hrs Talk and slideshow, "MY Common Garden Birds"
Brunch and refreshments will be served

Discussions initiated for a "Birdwatching on Campus" at Curtin University 1600-1900hrs. A slideshow "Birds in Sarawak" and a late afternoon birding around campus.

18th June : MY Garden Birdwatch with students in Bekenu
We will be birdwatching with 45 students from 3 schools in Bekenu in conjunction with WMBD and MY Garden Birdwatch. There'll be a talk and slideshow, "Birdwatching in Miri : Common Garden Birds in Your Garden and Other Rare Birds Beyond".


Community Outreach April and May:
We’ll be looking for volunteers to help MNS Miri conduct community outreach programmes for the rest of the year which includes programs at Kpg Kuala Nyalau, Kpg Kuala Sibuti, Kpg Bungai and Kpg Masjid. The programs will have components of CFZ, Waterbirds and Reefcheck incorporated with contributions from our Projects team.

We are also underway to set-up a Birdwatching Club at SMK Lutong, under Shell’s We Care We Share programme after recently won an award for the WCWS project.

My Garden Birdwatch
Keep your ears peaked for My Garden Birdwatch that will be running on the 4-5th June, there will be training sessions in May in conjunction with World Migratory Bird Day 2011. More details in the pipeline.

Members will soon receive their proxy forms by mail. Please remember to vote “FOR” or “AGAINST” the adoption of the new MNS Rules and Regulations and mail in the envelope supplied.

MNS is an NGO solely driven by support and contribution from it’s members. Those who have submitted their dues a large thank you.

While we warmly welcome new members to the family, we'd like to take this opportunity to remind current members to renew their membership. Why not do it for the next 3 years? Your contribution helps us work together better towards achieving MNS vision.

Below are members whose membership has expired:
Lee Bor Seng
Kamal Abdullah
Ting King King
Azeeza Bujang
Wouter Rensink
Anne Malissa King
Alison Brown

Members who have just recently renewed their membership, "We thank you for your support!":
Nurashikin Mohd Ikhwan
Henry Law Ing Hua
Rohaya Binti Amat Dollah
Puteri Shariza Megat Khalid

Members whose membership will expire end of March, we urge you to renew your membership. Your continued membership ensures our sustained effort within our immediate sphere of influence:
Sim Wan Chee
Dominique Dodge Wan
Gianna and Keith Minton
Sara Wong Ching Tai
Mas Nur Afiqah Rabani
Catherine Chia
Nordiyana Abdul Hamid
Nooriza Mohd Noor

Do read up on more of our activities’ through our blog and Facebook. Maybe join us one of these days in our activities.

Please email us for comments, input, feedback : mnsmiri at yahoo dot com.

Kind Regards,
Anura Dason,
MNS Miri Branch

Links :
MNS Main: http://www.mns.my/
MNS Miri Branch: http://www.mns.my/state.php?sid=5
MNS Miri Blog: http://mnsmiri.blogspot.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mnsmiri

Useful Acronyms:
MNS – Malaysian Nature Society
MNS BCC-WG – MNS Bird Conservation Council –Waterbird Group
AWC – Asian Waterbirds Census
SWS -Sarawak Waterbird Survey (short for Waterbirds and Wetland Habitats Survey for the Sarawak Coast Project)
CFZ – Congregating Fireflies Zone

Our 3 months look-ahead:




Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Miri to Mukah Flyover with MASWINGS : Our fast changing coastal landscape

One new thing for me since braving myself to take up flying on commercial Twin-Otter De-Havilland flights offered by MASWINGS from Miri International airport is the lay of the land from a bird's eye view. It's the next best thing after Google Earth in my opinion.

Cruising along established roads or waterways, one is always limited by what's in front on the horizon if not by the stuff at the verge of the roads. Climb higher one might get slightly more expansive view, the ultimate however has to be the view from a small air-craft. The world simply opens up as far as the yes can see and portholes allow.

The first impression of city-slickers approaching Miri airport for the first time 10-15 years ago has to be along the lines, "Dang, so many trees! What am I doing here? So much green!". It's hard-pressed for anyone to say that these days with all the activities taking place in the plantation sector.

The Miri-Bario flight 2 years ago was an eye opener, it completely crushed the idea that Sarawak is ALL jungles. Similar flights though sometimes through different flight paths several times later confirmed that there's indeed dwindling dark green patches out there (oil palm doesn't count!). There's always some new patch being cut, burnt, opened up or simply drained.

Our walk along the beach Dec 2008 showed pristine sandy beaches along the coast from Bakam to Tg Similajau, lined with verdant casuarinas, other stunted coastal schrub vegetation including impenetrable 12-15 foot high pandanus in many stretches.

From the air, the view is more telling. Save from several areas already protected under the purview of World Heritage Sites, National Parks, Forest Reserves, and Sanctuaries; the remaining is pretty much fair game with the right papers. Once the documentation that entitles a person or more usually companies are obtained, the parcels alienated, land-clearing work quickly follows.

The following are some images obtained from the air via a MASWINGs flight Miri-Mukah-Miri showing some telling developments along our coast. It was probably much different from 10 years ago, visibly even more marked difference in the next 5 years.

A multi-million ringgit abode of a local tycoon at Tg Lobang comes complete with a sizable feng-shui water feature. Could be the grandest structure in northern Sarawak, second only to the other mansions along the same ridge belonging to fellow timber/construction/plantation tycoons.

Lambir Hills National Park now sits in the middle of a sea of oil palm plantations.

Beraya, one can almost make out the 3 wooden chalets and longhouse of Beraya Laut Resort on the bottom left corner.

Kuala Sg Sibuti and Kuala Sg Niah, the darker patches are whats left of the coastal forest, the rest are oil palm plantation.

Mukah, looks like there's not much else left in the area other than oil palm, forest plantations, heavy industries and a town poised to jeep up with the rest.

The Mukah Coal Fired Power Station, commissioned in 2008, operated by SESCO and owned by Sarawak Energy. The plant was built by China National Machinery & Equipment Import & Export Corporation was commissioned in 2009 with 2 x 135MW output mostly to supply power to the new Press Metal Sarawak Aluminium Smelter next door. Coal is mined nearby and transported by lorry from mines of Sarawak Coal Resourses in Mukah-Balingian area. The Mukah Coalfield is bounded by Batang Mukah on the west and Batang Balingian on the east and is situated on the low lying coastal plain of Mukah Division. The coal field is located approximately 20km to the southeast of Mukah town with a geographical position of 112 o 20 ‘E and 2o 45 ‘N.

Mukah Press Metal Aluminium Smelting Plant is the first ever aluminium-smelting plant in Malaysia. With technology provided from Aluminium Corporation of China Limited (CHALCO), an aluminium company in China. As the fourth largest aluminium player in the world, Press Metal has successfully secured 600 megawatt of electricity supply for aluminium smelting capacity in mid 2009. With additional electricity supply, total capacity expected to reach 300,000 metric tonnes per annum by 2010 / 2011. With subsequent developments, an aluminium extrusion capacity of 100,000 metric tonnes per annum is expected. Press Metal has paid a premium of RM7,750,000 for the alienation of the Mukah land measuring approximately 366 hectares or 905 acres for it's Mukah operation. The smelting plant is 80% owned by it's subsidiary, Press Metal Sarawak Sdn Bhd (“PMS”), the other 20% owned by Sumitomo Corp.

Northern segment Samalaju, no EIA in sight and yet all trees already taken down and burnt to cinder. Sited along this stretch among others will be the planned Asian Minerals Limited Mangan Smelter wholly owned by AML; and Salco Aluminium Smelter, a joint venture between Rio Tinto Group and Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd. AML currently owns three mining and exploration concessions in African countries and two manganese alloy smelting plants in China. It expects to transport between 40,000 metric tonnes (MT) and 50,000 MT of manganese ore per ship from South Africa, Brazil and Australia which will be discharged at the Samalaju Port. They target to import 500,000 MT per annum of raw materials and export 150,000 MT of final products to overseas markets as well as the local Malaysian markets. Samalaju Industrial Park had also attracted Japan’s Tokuyama Corp which has begun earthworks to build a plant to produce polycrystalline silicon for solar cells, the 6,000-tonne capacity plant is expected to be operational in 2013, a RM$2bil investment.

Southern segment Samalaju, site of the new Samalaju Port, DEIA due to start in 2011. Bintulu Port Holding Authority said it was appointed to build, own and operate the new state port, the fourth in Sarawak. The other three state ports are in Kuching, Sibu and Miri. The state has earmarked some 450ha for the port project. The new port will serve the energy-intensive industries in the Samalaju Industrial Park within the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy.

Tanjong Payong with a little patch of secondary forest left standing but not for long. Road network and drainage of peatswamps are taking place at a feverish pace.

Kuala Sg Suai, pattches of recently prepared areas ready for planting. Suai is the most recent area to be redeveloped as oil palm plantations.

Kuala Sg Niah, most parts of Niah other than a small patch on the coast have all been planted with palm oil.

Words and images by Nazeri Abghani
Details from various public sources.