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Saturday, June 26, 2010

In Focus: Henry Goh, MNS Member Peninsular Malaysia

Henry Goh is a senior company executive by profession. Out of wanting to de-stress from the corporate life style he 'discovered' birding and the great outdoors to be the panaceas which created a balanced Ying & Yang. Henry was first introduced to birding when he tagged along with a close friend in one of the birding trips. He was immediately 'hooked' and since then have pursued this new hobby with great vigor and passion. The avian photos offered many hours of enjoyment and doubled up as a natural tranquiliser.

Some of Henry's photos has been featured in a new bird book entitled " Khazanah Burung Bukit Fraser"; the first bird book to be published in Bahasa Malaysia. The book was launched during the recently completed Fraser's Hill International Bird Race. 

                                                       Crested Goshawk (Juvenile)
This slide show is meant for sharing with similar minded birders and bird conservation supporters who share the same love for our avian friends worldwide. Henry is a member of MNS Selangor Branch which coined the tagline: 'Birds Come First.'

More photos and videos could be viewed in Henry's Blog in Blogspot and his Flickr page.

http://henrygoh18.blogspot.com/ or

Thursday, June 24, 2010

JULY 24th (SATURDAY) MNS AGM and 70th Anniversary Roadshow

Dear members,
Please keep your JULY 24th (SATURDAY) free and exclusive for MNS. The branch will be holding its annual general meeting on that day at 11am and to be followed by lunch. At 2pm, as part of the society's 70th anniversary celebration, a roadshow will be held featuring a talk and Q&A session with our president and a briefing on amendment to the society's constituency. These are very important events in the MNS calendar, and your participation is greatly appreciated. There will be other activities on that day. More details on the programme (for AGM and Roadshow) and venue of these events will be sent in another email.
Thank you. We look forward to see you on July 24.

Love Life, Love Nature
MNS Committee 2009/2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

BREATHTAKING: The rugged mountains of the Penrissen range form part of the Gunung Penrissen IBA.

By Ronald Orenstein
THE eagles made the day.
With the greatest respect to Deputy Minister of Tourism Datuk James Dawos Mamit, Malaysian Nature Society past president Tony Sebastian, and Mark Rosario of Borneo Highlands Resort — all of whom spoke well, interestingly, and to the point — nothing coming from the speaker’s platform could have signalled the launch of the Gunung Penrissen Important Bird Area better.
Two Blyth’s Hawk- Eagles, stunning black and white birds of prey, circled repeatedly in broad circles just above us, over speakers, assembled guests and reporters, as if to say: “Look at us! (And look we surely did!) We are why you are gathered here, and we are why this land is worth saving and protecting — so that we can fly here, and hunt here, and nest here, and so that you earthbound creatures can see us, and marvel at us.”
And marvel we did. Even the Deputy Minister looked up, and pointed, and smiled.
The Penrissen Mountains, where the Borneo Highlands Resort sits, are not the highest peaks in Borneo.
They surely do not match majestic Mount Kinabalu, far away in Sabah. They are, however, important all the same, both for birds as well as the other plants and animals that live there.
Borneo’s mountains are like islands within a larger island, isolated areas of high country where evolution can proceed on its own. Because the different parts of the range are separated, distinct forms may evolve on each.
Every one of these distinct forms is a separate part of Borneo’s biological heritage, and the mountain areas that are their only homes are the repositories of that heritage.
That is why it is important for Gunung Penrissen to have now been declared an Important Bird Area (IBA).
Each IBA is part of a global network established by BirdLife International, the world’s leading partnership of organisations devoted to the conservation of birds.
As of 2009, the network contained almost 11,000 sites in some 200 countries and territories.
BirdLife works with theWorld Conservation Union (IUCN) to maintain the official global list of the world’s threatened and endangered bird species.
According to BirdLife International’s website, “The IBA Programme of BirdLife International aims to identify, monitor and protect a global network of IBAs for the conservation of the world’s birds and other biodiversity. BirdLife Partners take responsibility for the IBA Programme nationally, with the BirdLife Secretariat taking the lead on international aspects and in some priority non-partner countries.”
The Malaysian Nature Society is one of BirdLife International’s partners. It has worked with BirdLife to select each IBA according to an agreed-upon set of scientific criteria. An IBA must contain bird species that are ‘vulnerable to global extinction or whose populations are otherwise irreplaceable’. At least one such species, the Bornean Wren-babbler (Ptilocichla leucogrammica), has been identified in the Gunung Penrissen area, though it also occurs elsewhere in Borneo.
Gunung Penrissen also qualifies as an IBA because it is home to birds restricted in overall range, and in choice of habitat (or biome).
PYGMY WHITE-EYE: This is a tiny bird found only in the mountains of Borneo and is common in the Gunung Penrissen IBA.

Common at Borneo Highlands are two species found only at mid-mountain habitats in the mountains of Borneo, the colourful Bornean Barbet (Megalaima eximia) and the Pygmy White-Eye (Oculocincta squamifrons), a tiny, active greenish bird with a distinctive scaly crown — both hard to find in other parts of the island such as Kinabalu National Park.
From the undergrowth comes the whistled song of the Blue-banded Pitta (Pitta arquata), a shy, cherry-red bird with an iridescent turquoise breast-band, also found only in Borneo.
White-throated Fantails in the Penrissen range belong to a special race, Rhipidura albicollis sarawacensis,shared only with nearby mountains in Kalimantan.
With its official launch, Gunung Penrissen joins a list of 55 IBAs for Malaysia. There are so many because Malaysia, as a country, is an important place for birds, and for wild animals and plants in general.
That number, 55, is only one index of how important it is. Another is — or should be — the recognition it receives from its own citizens, and from overseas visitors like me.
The launch ceremony, attended by government officials and conservationists, community leaders, representatives of MNS and the tourist industry, public and media, was a celebration of both of these things. I was glad to be there and I was glad that the eagles, whose land it is, were there, too.

MAJESTIC: A rhinoceros hornbill is seen perched on a fruit tree

ByCheong Ah Kwan

HER reputation preceded her. When news broke that Dr Pilai Poonswad would be giving a talk to the Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch, offers poured in to sponsor her airfare and host her stay. Even MNS Headquarters in Selangor enquired how we had the good fortune to land such a distinguished speaker.
Affectionately dubbed the Grandmother of Hornbills, Poonswad has devoted 30 years of her life to hornbill research and conservation. She leads the 20-year Thailand Hornbill Project (THP) based at the Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, which is supported by the Hornbill Research Foundation (HRF).
Hornbills are no doubt one of the most magnificent bird groups in Asian tropical forests. They originated 50 million years ago during the Eocene period. As a flagship species, their presence and status reflect the health of the forest ecosystem. Unfortunately, their population has been declining in many parts of the world, including Sarawak.
An understanding of the hornbill’s breeding habits is essential for any successful conservation effort. The display of courtship rituals signals the start of the breeding season. The adult male hornbill offers a variety of food to a prospective mate, at the same time, flying back and forth inviting her to check on a nearby tree cavity that he has picked for their future nest.
Undaunted by her lukewarm response, he continues to bring his offerings and is insistent that she takes a look at his choice of a home. His persistence finally pays off when she accepts food from him.
Occasionally, he has to entice her into his tree cavity by dropping food inside it. Upon satisfactory inspection of the tree cavity, she seals herself in using faecal material mixed with bits of mud and wood as well as regurgitated food; becoming a prisoner of her own device.
There she will be imprisoned with her egg until it hatches and the chick has fledged. Now, who can blame her for taking time to choose a comfortable nest where she will spend months holed up in!
Over the next few months, the male hornbill continues to feed his mate and their chick through a small hole that is left unsealed. The female hornbill can be rather picky in her taste and will sometimes throw out the food brought to her without much ceremony. The poor male hornbill has to watch his hunting efforts fall to the ground. Unruffled by her ingratitude, he will fly off to hunt for something that will be better received.
Hornbills are monogamous creatures and are extremely faithful to their mates. In the instance where the female hornbill dies, the male will often return alone to the nest they have shared for several years before abandoning it.
Since hornbills are large birds, they require very big trees to nest. Hornbills do not dig out a cavity in their chosen tree by themselves to build their nests. They make use of existing cavities left by woodpeckers or natural cavities that are formed through a long process of succession.
Typically, a cavity begins with fungal infestation. Over time, bees make their hives in the small cavity created. The honey produced attracts bears that further extend the cavity. The dimensions of the cavity have to be just right, as hornbills will not use a big hole since sealing it will be too laborious. A deep cavity is also unsuitable as the male bird will not be able to reach the female to feed it. 
EXPERT: Poonswad presents her talk on hornbills. — Photo by Renmin

The lack of suitable trees and nest shortages are the two major threats to hornbill survival. Little can be done with regards to the lack of suitable trees as many have already succumbed to illegal logging and encroaching plantations.
In her hornbill conservation work, Poonswad inspects nest cavities and modifies them so that they become fit for habitation by the birds. Soil is dumped into sunken cavities to raise the floor to increase habitability. She observed that some entrances to the nest cavities do not have an adequate perch for the male hornbill to grasp onto, making feeding his family difficult. For such ‘slippery’ entrances, she attaches a bar to provide better foothold. Narrow entrances are carved open. She has also designed artificial nests that have to be installed 30 metres high. A hornbill nest lasts about 10 years. Repairs carried out to the nest will give it a new lease of life of at least another five years.
Ultimately, the long-termapproach to sustainable hornbill population needs a change in people’s attitudes and the transfer of knowledge to the younger generation.
In southern Thailand, Poonswad has successfully converted poachers in her work area to be her research assistants! Instead of taking away the young chick for immediate quick gains, they now help to record the chick’s development because someone took pains to explain to them the importance of having these amazing birds in their midst.
Measures such as the ‘Adopt A Hornbill Nest’ programme are set up to help stop the loss of forest areas, poaching and illegal logging. In Thailand, even school children can recognise and proudly name the hornbills found in their country.
In the Land of the Hornbills, pictures of hornbills are widely exploited commercially. Tragically, only a few people know that many of the exotic birds featured are not found in Sarawak.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

strategic view point from the jungle, overlooking the Siniawan town. /Photos By Renmin
By Timothy Kiyiu

On the 18th of April, Sunday, the Malaysian Nature Society organised a hike to Bukit (Hill) Serumbu, Mount Siniawan to visit the ruins of James Brooke's summer home. Many times I have driven with my parents on the old road to Bau, passing the Siniawan Bazaar on our right and admiring the mountain range on our left. I did  realize that the name of the mountain is Bukit Serumbu and that it is a historical site. How many of us know that James Brooke had his summerhouse on it?The hike was led by two Bidayuh guides. The name of the youngest guide is Stephen. The older guide whose name I unfortunately cannot remember is a very fit man in his 70's. Including the guides there were 18 people hiking. The email sent by MNS  said: difficult trek, only for "fit hikers" so my mum and I wondered how tough it would be! The trek started at Kampong (Village) Peninjau, a picturesque Bidayuh village.

our destination (red circle), 1100 feet high up Bukit Serambu. we start trekking at 9am. this mountain is a single mass of porphyry rock (igneous rock).

It was a steep hike through the thick forest. Unfortunately, we did not see special birds though the members of the birding group might have spotted them ... I was more interested in spotting a couple of beautiful spiders.  There were massive Tapang trees. One measured thirty to forty hands around. After 2 hours of climbing we reach the ruins of the bungalow.
this is all that is left, a remain of the house pole... the bungalow was burnt down accidentaly by the locals during a field clearing for planting. 2 other similar poles are now kept in Sarawak Museum.

All that was left of James Brooke's summer home was a pole measuring a massive 3 feet! The house was burnt down in 2004 when carelessly lit fires from further down the mountain reached the spot leaving only two pillars. One of the two pillars was taken for display in a museum.
Not far away from the ruins is a cave made of a gigantic rock lying over boulders and being halfway planted into the ground. It was welcoming cool after the hike. Near the cave was a stream going downhill.  This is where James Brooke used to  bath. We spent about an hour at this historical site and I wondered how James Brooke spent his days up there?
It took us only 1 1/2 hour to go down in pouring rain along a very slippery path.
The trip was really exciting and fun.   I hope this site can be restored and made more known. It is a lesson for me as well as I learned to appreciate our "hidden" Malaysian heritage sites.

-Timothy Kiyui, is a Form 3 student at St. Thomas School, Kuching.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bins (birders' talk for binoculars) Choose the right pair of bins - there are bins built for different purposes. Get the right pair that lets you enjoy the birds in all their glory.


MNS Kuching Branch Birding Group

Overnight Birding Trip To Kubah National Park

DATE                                 : 19-20 June 2010;
CHECK IN TIME               : 2:00 PM (SATURDAY)
CHECK OUT TIME           : 11:00 AM (SUNDAY)


Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch Birding Group will be holding an overnight bird watching trip to Kubah National Park on 19-20 June 2010. This trip is an opportunity to enjoy the amazing biodiversity of the Park and to watch its diverse variety of birds.

Kubah National Park is one of Sarawak's most accessible national parks. The Park is well known for its extremely rich palm flora with around 95 species of palm being recorded within the park and its surrounding.  However, it has even greater variety of bird life that is starting to get notice by birders not only locally but also internationally.   More than 130 species of birds (more than that of palm species) had so far been recorded in the Park.  

Some of the sought after birds found in the park include Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum thoracicus, Wallace’s Hawk-eagle Spizaetus nanus, Bornean Blue-flycatcher Cyornis superbus, Rufous-chested Flycatcher Ficedula dumetoria and Great Argus Argusianus argus Rufous-backed Kingfisher Ceyx rufidorsa.   The prize species must go to the Blue-banded Pitta Pitta arquata where many International birders say it is the easiest place in the world to see this most elusive endemic bird.

The Park is located about 20 kilometers from Kuching. Exit Kuching by Jalan Matang Baru and continue until you reach the Red Bridge. Turn left after that bridge and follow the road to Lundu. Turn left immediately after Matang Family Park and enter the National Park. There is ample parking facility within the park and we encourage car pooling.

There is no canteen facility at Kubah National Park.
Participants are advised to bring their own food and drinks for the trip.

We have provisionally booked two Forest Lodge houses type 5 accommodating
up to 20 people. Families of bird watchers are welcome! All accommodation facilities are provided with cooking utensils and cutlery.
Forest Lodge Type 5 – RM150  per house / Non-air-conditioned - Fan only
Room 1 -5 single beds, Room 2 - 3 single beds and Room 3  -2 single beds 

2:00 PM - onward: Check-in at Park Office. Move into accommodation.
7:30-9:00 PM: Night walk looking for frogs, owls, nightjars and frogmouths.
7:00 AM - 10:00 AM: Early morning bird watching led by Mr Yeo Siew Teck.
Sunday before 11:00 AM: Checkout.

Please bring along your hat, sun block, raincoat, environmental friendly insect repellent, swimming suit or sarong if you plan to have a swim at the waterfall. Have torchlight ready for the night walk. Please remember to wear dull-coloured clothes. Only thin blankets are provided in the rooms, so participants should bring bed sheets or sleeping bags and towels.

MNS Members & students : RM30 (Entrance fee & accommodation)
Non-members                             : RM40 (Entrance fee & accommodation)

Registration: Susan Teal Tel:  082-250021 / 012-855 1799 Email: sueteal2006@gmail.com or Anthony Wong 013-8333163 email:antwong@sareaga.com

(You will need to provide IC numbers or passport numbers and to indicate how many for the accommodation)

Registration will be on 1st come 1st served basis and members have priority over non members if the rooms is insufficient.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Happy World Environment Day 2010, 5th June.

Dear Members,
Happy World Environment Day 2010, 5th June.
We join the world in marking this annual occasion with resolve and as a reminder that the quest for environmental protection and awareness is an everyday issue.
MNS members can stand proud of the different activities and events that MNS has lined up for World Environment Day 2010 that will help further our mission and objective to promote the study, appreciation, conservation and protection of Malaysia’s natural heritage. With a supportive membership and responsible corporate supporters such as The Body Shop (West Malaysia), IKEA and HSBC, we can make a difference.
Here’s the list of events and activities that you, your friends and family members can join in to celebrate our diversity.
1. 3rd to  6th June 2010 - Eco Week Event with the Selangor State Exco held in 1 Utama. MNS Selangor Branch Bird Group and Kuala Selangor Nature Park staff will be manning a booth to promote conservation and awareness. Come drop by and meet us.
2. 4th June 2010 Mangrove Tree Planting with IKEA at Kuala Selangor Nature Park
By invitation only but members are more than welcome to visit the park and enjoy its birds, mangrove forests and the amazing fireflies. This tree-planting initiative is part of the on-going IKEA Love The Earth campaign, a joint collaboration to reduce the usage of plastic bags and to take affirmative action in planting and maintaining mangrove trees as one activity to help curb the effects of climate change. Members and friends are encouraged to visit www.mns.my and click on the IKEA icon or visitwww.IKEA.com.my to find out more about the on-going sustainable efforts and support their bold move to do away with plastic bags.   
Since June 2009, IKEA has discontinued free distribution of plastic bags to raise awareness of its pollution to the environment and to encourage the act of recycling. In conjunction of World Environment Day on 5th June 2010, IKEA encourages the use of reusable bags whenever you shop, so they are giving you a free reusable BRATTBY bag* with your purchase.
* One bag per receipt. Valid with any purchase, except IKEA F&B areas.
35th June 2010 - MNS (Selangor Branch) Open Day at Taman Lembah Kiara, Kuala Lumpur. All are invited to attend and take part in activities for adults and children alike. Activities such as guided walks, crafts, exhibition booths and more. For details, please visit http://www.mns.my/artstate.php?aid=590
4. Until 5th June - Save Temengor Campaign Pledge. MNS is trying to get the Temengor Forest Reserve gazetted as part of the Royal Belum State Park or an equivalent protective status from logging, poaching and land use change. Please sign the pledge books in any The Body Shop stores in Peninsular Malaysia or sign online at www.thepetitionsite.com/1/savetemengor2010    
Lastly, we would also like to encourage you to sign up your friends and family members with MNS as it celebrates nature in its 70th year as a conservation group. Our collective voice can make a difference in our mission to conserve and protect our precious biodiversity.   
Warm regards,

Tan Sri Dr Salleh Mohd Nor
Malaysian Nature Society