Big Year 2015: August Summary

August began where July left off, midway through a successful tour of Sabah. Thereafter, during a visit to Kuala Lumpur to celebrate my daughter’s graduation, I managed to pick up three feral species (Dennis counted these in his 2006 Big Year, but I hope to set a new ‘clean’ record of Category A birds this year). I made a couple of arduous drives north to the beautiful wilds of Pedu Lake, and ended up looking out at my beloved Teluk Air Tawar – Kuala Muda mudflats on the very last day of the month. These travels resulted in a total of 29 new species for the year – not bad considering this is month 8, and an accumulated total of 573 for the year, which is one more than I managed in the whole of 2014!

New Sp per month Aug

Apart from the two months when I was in the UK, I’ve managed to at least keep pace with Dennis’s monthly totals for most months.

Aggregate total Aug

Almost there! Just 9 more species needed to equal Dennis’s record!


A few shots of some of the amazing places I visited in August – the incredible Kinabatangan River, Sabah…

IMG_5327 IMG_5322


The spectacular, smelly and slimy Gomantong Caves, Sabah – essential visiting for three swiftlet species.


Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley, Sabah.


As mentioned in the July summary, I full write-up of the tour and some of the best photos are in the tour report here, so I will add little here, except some of the photos which never made it into the report.


We were able to watch Red-throated Sunbirds feeding in the same tree as Brown-throated at Sepilok rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC).


The canopy walkway at RDC enables great looks (and photos!) of canopy-dwelling species like this Green Iora.


This Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler at RDC seemed genuinely curious about us!


Borneo’s latest endemic has pinched the name of Brown Barbet (in Clements). The Peninsular form has been renamed Sooty Barbet.


This infant Orang Utan totally stole the show as it fed on fruits alongside its mother at Gomantong Caves.


As usual, the Kinabatangan River provided lots of raptors – this one a Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle drying off after an overnight shower!


Jerdon’s Bazas were even more numerous. We saw three roosting in one tree.


A day-flying Bat Hawk was a treat!


Both Fish-Eagles gave good views – this is a pair of Grey-headed.


Lesser Fish-Eagle


Sabah endemic White-fronted Falconet


A family party of falconets.


There are still good numbers of Wrinkled Hornbills along the River


Tony going in for a spot of iPhone photography. Can you spot his target?


Chestnut-necklaced Partridge of the ‘graysoni’ race, or Sabah Partridge if you follow HBW/BirdLife. It is certainly a distinctive taxon. This bird gave us stunning views for over an hour.


Oriental Pied Hornbills getting lovey-dovey!


I was pleased to get this shot of a Cream-vented Bulbul. Most CVBs in Borneo have red eyes (on the Peninsula the iris is white), which makes them more of a challenge to tell from Red-eyed. The underparts are much paler than that species, the eye tends to be blood-red rather than orange-red, and structurally, CVB is slighter than REB.


Some of the star night birds of the Kinabatangan… Brown Wood-Owl


A very accommodating Oriental Bay-Owl!


Large Frogmouth showing its surprisingly yellow mouth.


Not a great shot, but I was amazed at how much white there is in the wing of the muelleri race of Hooded Pitta.


In the steamy forest of Danum we found this tiny Rufous-chested Flycatcher belting out its high-pitched song.


Not rare, but always good to see! Banded Broadbill.


The pittas of Danum Valley. Bornean Banded and Giant eluded us, but we saw the others well. This Blue-headed seemed to dig and dig and dig, till he was almost out of sight!


Black-headed Pitta – great views in appalling light! Just before the rain started.


Blue-banded Pitta – this one reminded us what pittas are all about – dazzling but difficult to see!


A rather large male Orang Utan at Danum – we saw 18 individuals throughout the fortnight!


A much appreciated male Helmeted Hornbill on the last morning of the tour.


A Buffy Fish-Owl behind my room!


The last bird of the tour was this stonking male Sunda Frogmouth.

Making the most of a weekend in KL, I decided that a quick morning in the Lake Gardens should easily ‘clean up’ the foursome of Painted Stork, Hadada Ibis, Golden-fronted Leafbird and Great Myna. Several sweaty hours later I had only seen a pair of ibis, and had to face the fact that maybe urban birding is no pushover! By lunchtime on the second day I was walking around downtown Petaling Jaya scouring the monsoon drains and coconut palms in the midday heat for any sign of mynas. Having taken several hours to get there (dragging my long-suffering family along for the drive), it was at this point that I realised that I would be more successful looking for signs of madness! But, eventually, at the third attempt, we got the myna, and managed a glimpse of Painted Storks while stuck in the evening traffic of Shah Alam. Three out of four targets would have to do. I won’t bore you with more stories of failed attempts at seeing more urban escaped convicts – namely Black-collared Starling and Red-whiskered Bulbuls – suffice to say that I still haven’t seen any!

Pedu was a decidedly more attractive proposition, and I made two trips there in the month, with the primary targets of Plain-pouched Hornbill and Giant Pitta. I didn’t get a sniff of either, but some compensation was had in the form of Orange-breasted Pigeon and Black Magpie (Clements doesn’t split the Bornean from the Peninsular forms, which is a relief, because I’ve missed it so far in Borneo this year!).

Black Magpie_IMG_7542_edited-1

At last! Black Magpie in the bag!

And so to my final two year ticks of the month – a Gull-billed Tern and a Sanderling at Teluk Air Tawar this morning.

Sanderling 310815_IMG_3478I was particularly happy to see the latter, as it will save me a trip to Mersing or Tanjung Aru later in the year! I think it is only the third Sanderling I’ve seen in Penang.

So, having surpassed my 2014 total, it’s all gravy from now on. Next in my sights is Dennis’s record of 582, and after that, hopefully, 600. My ultimate goal would be to see 600 Category A species by Dec 31st (my current total for Cat A is 563).

Here’s a list of what I still haven’t seen but could conceivably see. If you have any detailed, recent information on any of them, please let me know!Aug 2015 yearticks


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