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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Waterbirds and Wetland Habitats Survey of the Sarawak Coast Announcement

A waderwatcher scanning the flats for interesting waterbirds.

A small segment of our extensive coastline, some are very important resting and refueling points for waterbirds as far as Siberia and other far-flung places of the northern hemisphere.

Project Summary:

The extensive coastline of Sarawak is one of the most important wintering grounds for waterbirds in Malaysia. It contains more coastal Important Bird Areas (IBAs) than any other state in Malaysia . Several of these meet the Ramsar criteria as Wetlands of International Importance (Yeap et al. 2007). The west Sarawak coast regularly records some of the highest concentrations of migratory waterbirds in the country during the annual Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) (Li et al. 2009).

Despite this, the status of waterbirds and their habitats on much of the coastline is virtually unknown. There has never been a comprehensive coastal waterbird survey of Sarawak. Most surveys, such as that carried out between January-February 2006 during the annual Asian Waterbird Census (Mizutani, et al. 2006), and earlier studies (Edwards 1985, 1986a, 1986b, Howes, 1986a) have concentrated on the western part of coastal Sarawak.   Other sites which have received some coverage include sections of the Kuala Baram coast and Brunei Bay (e.g., Howes, 1986b).There are AWC volunteer teams coordinated by MNS Kuching Branch and MNS Miri Branch members, and these, together with staff from Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) have provided consistent coverage of some sites since 2007.

The Waterbirds and Wetland Habitats Survey of the Sarawak Coast proposes to survey waterbirds and wetlands habitats along the entire Sarawak coast in a comprehensive and systematic way. The results of this survey will provide a definitive account of the state of waterbird populations and wetland habitats in the state; and a baseline for future coastal wetland conservation efforts.

The field surveys will take place between October 2010 and March 2011, and will utilize the existing teams of AWC volunteers, and collaborations with State agencies. In addition, the project will seek increased partnership with State agencies such as Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Sarawak Forest Department, Sarawak Drainage and Irrigation Department, IBEC;  input from the private sector from such companies as Sarawak Shell Berhad, Brunei Shell Petroleum (for work in Brunei waters); and NGOs such as Wetlands International.

Initial surveys to locate key waterbird concentrations will be done by boat and/or plane. Follow-up counts will be done either by boat, or via land access.

Project Objectives:

1) Conduct a survey of the entire coastline of the state of Sarawak to identify key waterbird sites and to identify and count waterbird populations during the northern winter period of October 2010 to March 2011.

2) Produce a report on the findings of the survey which can function as a basis for future policy and management strategies for wetlands and waterbirds in Sarawak.

3) Build capacity of members, participating stakeholders and volunteers in waterbird identification and monitoring and wetland habitat surveys.

4) Increase awareness of the importance of the Sarawak coastline for waterbirds and wetland habitats at local, national and international levels through CEPA, training, publications and sharing of output with stakeholders and relevant organisations.

5) Forge working relationships in matters related to waterbird biodiversity and wetland habitat conservation between MNS and other NGOs, government agencies, schools and universities, and private corporations in Sarawak and other areas of Malaysia.

6) Document the process of the survey, from initiation to completion, as a model for replication in other areas of Malaysia.

The project itself is designed to take place within a 12-month period. However, there are several ways in which it will contribute to the ongoing conservation of Sarawakís coastal wetlands and waterbirds:

1. It will help to improve AWC coverage in future years by:
a. Identifying priority sites
b. Capacity-building skills and experience among volunteers, and by enlarging    the volunteer-base
c. Involving more agencies in collaborative surveys

2. It will provide key baseline data for efforts
a. to protect important sites, such as Bako-Buntal Bay
b. to designate new IBAs and
c. to strengthen claims for Ramsar site status
d. by the government to gazette and protect important wetlands

3. It will raise awareness of the importance of wetlands for humans and wildlife in the media, schools and the public. This will have an ongoing positive influence and should lead to increased MNS membership in Sarawak.

4. The project will provide a valuable blueprint for similar coastal surveys of other parts of Malaysia

The Sarawak Waterbirds Survey (SWS) team would like to call on volunteers for the survey of the following sectors (please refer to the survey map):

Trip 1 = 01-05th December 2010 : Sector 1 to 4
Trip 2 = 07-11th December 2010 : Sector 11, 12
Trip 3 = 15-20th December 2010 : Sector 13, 14, 15
Trip 4 = 27-31st December 2010 : Sector 16, 17 based in Pulau Bruit
Trip 5 = 07-12th January 2011 : Sector 29 to 36 based in Miri
Trip 6 = 13-17th January 2011 : Sector 22 to 28 based in Bintulu
Trip 7 = 19-25th January 2011 : Sector 5 to 10
Trip 8 = 05-13th February 2011 : Sector 37 to 40 based in Limbang/Lawas
Trip 9 = 21-27th February 2011 : Sector 18 to 21 based in Mukah

Southwestern sectors, please click on image for a larger version. The circle represents current available data on the presence and numbers of waterbirds in the area. This project will be able to update the distribution map of a significant portion of the coastline of Sarawak.

Northeastern sectors, please click on image for a larger version. The least studied portion of the coastline, this project would enable to contribute significantly to scant existing data in key sectors such as the Limbang-Lawas areas.

For those interested to participate in surveys of sector 1-21, please contact Anthony Wong of MNS Kuching Branch.

For those interested to participate in surveys of sector 22-40, please contact Nazeri Abghani of MNS Miri Branch.

In your email please state the sectors that you are interested in and the dates that you are available, we'll follow-up with the rest of the pertinent questions.

Anthony and Nazeri will answer any relevant questions you may have and put you through to Daniel Kong (Field Coordinator) and/or Rose Ngau (Field Logistics) once you've decided to be a part of the survey team for each sector.

As this is a wide-spread survey covering the entire coast of Sarawak, we'll need as many volunteers we can get.

So, we'll see you in the field!

This project is partly funded by Malaysian Nature Society Merdeka Fund, Shell Sustainable Grant 2011 and Hornbill Skyways.

1. Mizutani, A., Kato K., Tanaka K., Ichikawa, T., Mawek Z., Auby I. (2006) A Report of Wintering Waterbirds Status Along the West Coast of Sarawak ñ Results of AWC 2006. Sarawak Forestry Kuching, Sarawak
2. Sebastian, A., (2005) Waterbirds Count in Western Sarawak. Suara Enggang 3 (May-June):23-25
3. Gregory-Smith, R., (1999). Status of Waders, Terns and Ardeids in Sarawak, 1994-96. Sarawak Museum Journal LIV(75):276-287
4. Edwards, P. J. and Haxby, J. B. (1989) Evaluation of Sarawak Wetlands and Their Importance to Waterbirds. Report No. 5 ñ Pulau Bruit Revisited. Report No. 47, AWB, Kuala Lumpur.
5. Edwards, P. J. and Parish, D, and NWPO (1986a) Evaluation of Sarawak Wetlands and Their Importance to Waterbirds. Report No. 2 ñ Western Sarawak. INTERWADER. Publication No. 6, Kuala Lumpur.
6. Edwards, P. J. and Parish, D, and NWPO (1986b) Survey of the Western Coastline of Sarawak to Evaluate the Status of Wetlands and to Identify Key Sites for Migratory Waterbirds ñ Preliminary Report  INTERWADER. Report  No. 3, INTERWADER Kuala Lumpur.
7. Howes, J. and NWPO, (1986a) Evaluation of Sarawak Wetlands and Their Importance to Waterbirds. Report 3: Pulau Bruit. INTERWADER Publication No. 10, INTERWADER,Kuala Lumpur
8. Howes, J. and NWPO, (1986b) Evaluation of Sarawak Wetlands and Their Importance to Waterbirds.  Report 4: Limbang-Lawas Districts of Brunei Bay. INTERWADER Publication No.14, INTERWADER, Kuala Lumpur

MNS-BCC Waterbirds Group/Dec 2010
Maps by Anthony Wong
Photographs by Nazeri Abghani

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy New Year 2011!!! Selamat Tahun Baru!!!

Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch Committee:

is wishing all our  members a Merry Christmas and Happy 2011

Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.

Charles Dickens

Safe sanctuary

WELL-HIDDEN: The garganey is camouflaged well against the brown water. — Photos by Vincent Wong

ELEGANT VISITOR: The black winged stilt ranges from the northern to the southern hemisphere in coastal areas and interior wetlands.

Mary Margaret

THE wind swept grass-green rice fields of Kampung Chupak, which nestle at the foot of some staggering rock formations, are dotted with white statues.
In alarm, the little Egretta garzetta and intermediate egrets (Egretta intermedia) took flight, circled, then landed ...
Kampung Chupak, a major rice producing area, is about 50km from Kuching. The fields were busy as many people were manually transplanting the rice seedlings, for the second crop, into water-filled fields that are part of the complex ecosystem.
The rice fields of Chupak produce rice needed for Sarawak’s growing population and provides safe sanctuary for resident and migrant birds.
The biologically diverse wetlands are areas defined as being saturated with water that have vital ecological roles, including acting as a reservoir and flow regulator of water. In addition, they are natural filters removing impurities.
The multifaceted cycles of life and nature occur with living organisms — plants, animals, and fungi — occupying niches in the complex web of life.
Wetlands are vital stopover places for the many species of birds that migrate from northern breeding grounds to southern overwintering grounds, enabling the birds to replenish their energy stores. They can also be final destinations.
The over 20 members of the Malaysian Nature Society who spent the late afternoon, rambling along the edges of the rice fields, saw several species of birds co-existing with humans.
The egrets — white herons — touched down away from humans, but did not take off in alarm as long as we kept our distance.
The hunting technique of these easily seen birds involves walking across the field or marsh to flush out frogs and other animals.
The grey clouds that skidded overhead gradually diminished, as did the rain. With this our chances of seeing birds increased as they sensibly try to stay out of the rain.
The hoarse call of the common, but rarely seen, white browed crake (Porzana cinerea) sparked attention. The skilfully camouflaged mottled brown bird with a white brow, scuttled among the recently planted rice seedlings. Once sighted, binoculars followed its every move.
We sighted more birds — the slightly larger dusky black common moorhens (Gallinula chloropus), that normally occur in small groups in swamps or rice fields.
This bird, which ranges from Africa to Europe to Asia and the Americas, spends much time in and around water eating insects and surface vegetation
Two of the six species of bitterns found in Borneo were also sighted. The shy yellow Ixobrychus sinensis and cinnamon bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus) stalk the field in search of prey, but blend and hide in with the vegetation.

Scaly-breasted munia (Lonchura punctulta) has become more common and like other munias feed almost solely on grass seeds, including rice.
The white and brown pattern on this chestnut brown bird resembles fish scales and thus its name.
The hill myna (Gratula religiosa), despite generally being found in tall forest, was also seen.
The common garden bird, the yellow vented bulbul (Pynonotus goiavier), also made an appearance.
Several overwintering visitors had also found sanctuary in the rice fields of Chupak.
The wood sandpiper (Tringa glarola) and common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) are common migrants.
The wood sandpiper is particularly at home in paddy fields and freshwater marshes.
A group of five black winged stilts (Himantopus himantopus)
took flight and then returned several times.

This long-legged elegant visitor ranges from the northern to the southern hemisphere in coastal areas and interior wetlands. It uses its long slender beak to probe the mud for invertebrates.
The common greenshank (Tringa nebularia) was also observed feeding singly using its long bill to probe the mud.
The highlight was a brownish bird in a small group. The garganey (Anas querquedula) is a migrant duck that does overwinter in Sarawak in small groups. It breeds in the northern hemisphere from Europe to Japan.
Cameras and binoculars took aim at this inconspicuous bird camouflaged against the brown water.
The group stayed on waiting for more ducks, but none came. The egrets departed for their night-roosting tree and then the group gradually dispersed with the darkening shadows of the evening.
For more information read ‘Phillipps’ Field Guide To The Birds Of Borneo’ by Q Phillipps (2009), John Beaufoy Publishing Ltd, UK.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy New Year 2011!!! Selamat Tahun Baru!!!

Dear Members,         
On behalf of MNS Board of Trustees, Council, Branches and the Secretariat, we would like to wish all our Christian members a joyous and Merry Christmas!
We wish you good cheer and hope that in the spirit of the season that we will come together for a greener year ahead. Next year’s IUCN theme is International Year of Forests and MNS will certainly be up to the challenges ahead specifically with the growing concerns over the loss of our forest cover.
We hope that you will join us in our tireless efforts for conservation and look out for our calendar of events which will allow you to be part of our host of exciting activities throughout the year.
MNS would also like to take this opportunity to wish all our dedicated members a very Happy New Year 2011!!! Selamat Tahun Baru!!!
Don't forget to Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle...
Best Wishes,
Dr Maketab Mohamed
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Night of the spiders

DELICATE WEB: This horizontal web could be photographed thanks to a fine mist of cornstarch.

Cheong Ah Kwan

STRETCHED across the lower branches of a tree was the convoluted three- dimensional ‘circus tent’; a magnificent piece of web architecture.
Constructed by a tent- spider, the elaborate web is a deadly trap to insects.
Guide lines and safety lines have been woven into the web to protect the builder, lest it becomes a victim of its own device.
There are also signal lines built into the design to facilitate the monitoring of the massive web.
The ensnared prey in its struggle to escape causes vibrations to be transmitted through the signal lines, thereby unwittingly hastening an untimely death.
The sun had just set and we were gathered outside the Rainforest Cafe waiting for Joseph Koh, affectionately known as the Spiderman, to guide us on a spider hunting night walk along the Red and Blue Trail at the Permai Rainforest Resort.
A couple of days earlier, the expert on Southeast Asian spiders had presented the Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch with a very interesting talk on the defence strategies of spiders.
The audience was so captivated by the arachnids and their webs that most of those who attended the talk turned up for the three- hour night walk on a weekday.
Koh was pleased that we had found a tent web. Not all spiders construct webs.
For those that do, web architecture is species specific.
Hence, there are various types of webs ranging from a minimalist single strand ‘clothesline’ to the convoluted three- dimensional ‘circus tent’.
The net-casting spider (Deinopidae family) spins an unusual web that it suspends between its front legs to catch prey. It gives the impression that it is holding the net, casting it over potential prey such as ants, beetles, crickets and other 
spiders. One of the aims of the 
walk was to catch the Nephila spider or golden orb web spider in action 
The Nephila constructs impressive webs that come complete with early warning systems on the outer edges to alert the arachnid of incoming prey or guard against spider hunting predators.
Just a few metres from the cafe, we stumbled upon a beautiful horizontal web that was perfectly displayed for photography.
I was doubtful my humble instant camera could pick up the fine silk threads in the dim light when Koh produced a cunning solution to aid photography; a fine mist of cornstarch dusted over the delicate structure. 
“It helps to enhance the web,” he said with a twinkle in his eye as we clicked away with our cameras. 
Spiders that hunt at night have excellent night vision adapted for nocturnal predation. As we walked along the trail, we saw a great number of them hiding under leaves and on trees.
Koh taught us the ‘eye shine’ technique to spot spiders in the dark. 
We would not have been able to see any spiders at all if we held our torches normally.
The torch has to be held 
at eye level. The eyes of the spider reflect light well to produce ‘eye shine’.
In the dark velvet night, the spiders were exposed looking very much like glittering jewels.
Koh wanted to show us just the bigger spiders as they are more spectacular to the layman.
We managed to identify several spider species such as the carnivorous huntsman spider, lichen spider, and a Ctenus species just by staying on the trail.
Spiders not identified in the field were collected for further study. Collecting the spiders requires technique as these creatures possess exceptional agility and speed to jump away to safety.
It was well past 11pm by the time we left the resort. Although we did not see the golden orb
web spider spinning its trap, we were not disappointed as we had a few treats that evening.
There were two green snakes by the side of the trail in the trees above us, a gecko on a tree trunk, a tiny frog whose length approximated one centimetre, a centipede, stick insects and a couple of trilobite larvae.
The trilobite larvae were an entomological enigma for a century in the scientific world until the puzzle was solved by a Swede entomologist in the 1920s in the rainforests of Sarawak.

BIG STAR: A carnivorous huntsman spider was among spiders spotted on the trail.

We also had an unexpected encounter; that of a spider eating another of its kind. Needless to say, both the victor and the vanquished were no match for the Spiderman, who caught them with his dollar scoop net from Tesco.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spiders galore

 Photo's by Lim Jin Bing

Deception: A spider demonstrates beetle mimicry

By Sunita
 The first thing I had learnt about spiders was that they are not insects because they have 8 legs and only two body parts. They are a diverse lot and can be found almost everywhere in the world. They prey and are preyed upon. And just like any other organisms they need to defend themselves against their enemies or potential predators.
During Mr Joseph Koh’s talk on October 26, 2010 it was interesting to discover that the way a spider protects itself is akin to something a person would see or go through when in the army. As I love pilfering my brother’s books on the SAS (Special Air Service), my immediate thoughts were that they (the SAS) must have at one point or another emulated the spider’s techniques!
Spiders build shelters or hide themselves to visually conceal them from birds or wasps, very much like hiding in the trenches or bushes. Hiding in burrows also has advantages especially if the burrow is deep and the enemy is unable to reach through it. Silk funnels, very much like the ‘bubu’ that is used to catch fish, are also good places to retreat into when under threat.
Concealment:A spiderhides in a leaf retreat

A warning system likened to a trip-wire or radar will give a spider ample time to run away or hide. The extensive network of fine silk webbing has several fine long silk web lines attached to it. These lines extend a distance away from the main web and when an insect – regardless if food or foe – comes near the vicinity of the main web and trips over the line, whoop! – off the spider goes into hiding.
Having camouflage also helps the spider from being spotted. Camouflage ‘fatigues’ seen in the huntsman spider comes in all colours and textures. Some resemble sticks, leaves and branch nodes. Others resemble insects by waving the first pair of legs like an ant antennae, a deceptive move to help them live amongst ants. They also secrete formic acid like ants. To remain undetected, spiders may even mimic plant parts such as flowers. This certainly aids in ambushing the unsuspecting insect predator or a potential victim in a flash. Mimicry is not just limited to plants. It has been reported that some spiders look like bird droppings, even adopting the smell of one and soil lumps on the forest floor!
One species of spider commonly called the lichen spider is known to flatten itself against the surface it is on as such that it does not cast a shadow. ‘Armaments’ acquired from modified structures on a spider provide protection by making them indigestible. Other deterrence includes adopting threat postures to scare off any potential threats. Being large (although slow) also helps in deterring itself from being devoured.
So, spotting spiders may not be easy in the beginning but with patience and plenty of practice you’ll bound to find one – hiding or lurking somewhere…. waiting for you.
Big web:A spider stays hidden within a leaf in the middle of an intricate web.

Invitation to attend IBEC's Lunch Hour Talk - Sarawak River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management: Incorporation and Deployment Study

Dear members,

On behalf of the Director of Institute of Biodiversity & Environmental Conservation (IBEC) Unimas, we wish to invite you to attend our Lunch Hour Talk as follows:

Date  : 15 December 2010 (Wednesday) 
Time :  1:00 - 2:00pm 
Place : TR4, Level G, FRST/IBEC Building, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak 
Title : Sarawak River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management: Incorporation and Deployment Study 
Speaker: Mr John Bowie 
Project Title: Sarawak River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management: Incorporation and deployment study

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Lau Seng, Ph. D.
Co-Researcher: John Bowie, M.A.
Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) calls for comprehensive policy structure combining land and water resource management into a single system. By viewing water resource management through an interdisciplinary lens, IRBM aims at a sustainable water cycles from catchment to consumption for all stakeholders. Sarawak has numerous administrative bodies participating in various aspects of water resource management, with many efforts aimed at IRBM. However, gaps in comprehensive management still exist.  This study examines the administrative structure and practice in the Sarawak River catchment as a model of current river basin management practices in Sarawak, in order to better provide future policy recommendations for comprehensive Integrated River Basin Management. 

Your participation is highly appreciated. 

(*Kindly e-mail me of your attendance to the above talk) smeri@frst.unimas.my
Thank you. 

 on behalf of IBEC's Director 

Meri Bt Sabas 
Personal Assistant to the Director 
Institute of Biodiversity & Environmental Conservation 
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak 
94300 Kota Samarahan 
Tel :  082-583007 
Fax:  082-583004 

Rebuilding of Wallace Trail