I spent the whole of May and the first week of June in the UK after my father’s funeral. Despite the idyllic weather and enjoyable temperatures, I was eager to get back and crack on with the Big Year by early June. I had missed a long-staying Malaysian Night-Heron in Penang, as well as the bulk of spring seabird passage, which probably cost me 4-5 species. Of more immediate concern just prior to my return were reports of an unprecedented invasion of Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoos from the Austral region to the Peninsula. This is a bird which had only been recorded three times in West Malaysia before this year, and now they seemed to be popping up everywhere. But the question was – would they stay??
And the answer was…
No worries mate! I decided to make good use of jet-lag to get an early morning start my first day back (10 June), and after an anxious hour, managed to catch up with these two birds at Pulau Burung. A third was subsequently found there, as well as about 15 others up and down the Peninsula. A useful article postulating reasons for this invasion was posted on the Singapore Bird Group webpage. It was good to get my year total, stuck on 471 for almost 2 months, ticking over again!
My next priority was to get out to sea as soon as possible in the hope of catching any straggling shearwaters, jaegers or wandering terns. A long, hot day at sea ensued, on 13 June, with very little to show for the effort. The sole exception was a couple of Roseate Terns. By all accounts this has been a poor year for spring seabirds, so it was some consolation that I probably hadn’t missed that much. Since we still had a few daylight hours left, Hor Kee, Mun and I dropped in at stretch of mangroves along the Sungai Merbok, where we ‘jammed in’ on at least three Mangrove Pittas and a Copper-throated Sunbird. I missed the pitta altogether last year, and there have been no easy birds in the north of the peninsula this year, so this was a real bonus!
I had a couple of weeks before setting off to lead a Birdtour Asia group into the mountains of eastern Sarawak, so spent a few days at Sungai Sedim picking up a few omissions such as Diard’s Trogon, Ferruginous Babbler and Rufous Piculet. The Penang ‘Gang of Four’ (Choo Eng, Mun and Hor Kee and I) also pulled off a very effective dawn raid on 20 June to Panchor State Park, picking up a handy trio of Oriental Bay Owl, Gould’s Frogmouth and Sunda Scops-Owl before breakfast!
At last it was time to head over to Borneo again; the trip was all that I could have hoped for and more. Highlights were many, but it was especially cool to tick off Dulit Frogmouth as my 500th bird of the year, and to pick up two lifers – the poorly-known endemic race of Rufous-tailed Jungle-Flycatcher (surely a good split from the Philippine form) and Sunda Frogmouth. A full write-up of the trip is here. I ended the month on 517 species for the year, and back on track in comparison with Dennis’s ground-breaking Big Year of 2006.
I have two visits to Sabah lined up in July, where there are a potential 50 or so year ticks waiting. My latest total is 521, so I’ll be very happy to get past 550 this month!
I’ll end with a few pics from the fantastic Sarawak tour.