Big Year 2015: October summary

I ended September on 585, a new Malaysia year record, with high hopes that the next month would get me to my next goal – 600 species in a year. My travels took me to Sarawak and Sabah, with some additional birding in mainland Penang and Kuala Selangor Nature Park. The net result was 339 species recorded, of which 21 were new for the year, taking me to 606 by the end of the month!

I started off on a twitch for a Dusky Warbler reported from Kuala Selangor on Oct 4th. Failing to find that, I moved to Sungai Janggut in the hope of seeing Caspian Tern and Red Knot coming out of the high tide roost at Kapar. Although this also proved a fool’s errand, I did see a few Lesser Adjutants which provided some photogenic moments.

Lesser-Adjutant_0M7A0634

Next up was the first of two tours in two weeks to eastern Sarawak. I made a quick couple of visits to Lok Kawi beach before the tour, but failed to find the Common Ringed Plover which has turned up there for at least the previous nine winters . 585 was becoming a hard number to move from! The first tour was a success for the participants, but pretty poor for year ticks. I had expected to have netted five or six by this time, instead of which I had managed just one – a newly arrived Blue-and-White Flycatcher. Suddenly, 600 was starting to look a long way away! During the course of the week I managed to show my 5th client of the year a Bornean Banded-Pitta without actually seeing one myself – and I was fast running out of chances. A full report, with photos, of the week can be found here. Here’s one of my favourite birds and photos of the trip – Dulit Frogmouth.

Dulit-Frogmouth_0M7A1741

The following week was a repeat of the first in terms of itinerary, but fortunately, not in terms of new birds for the year. I managed two more year ticks – including, at last, Bornean Banded-Pitta (the other was Siberian Blue Robin). A full report of that trip is here.

In a little over two weeks I had managed to creep up to 588 for the year, and things were not looking good for me reaching my target this month. All this changed most wonderfully over the following four days however, when I visited Pulau Mantanani off the north coast of Sabah with Mike Turnbull and Yann Muzika. In fact, the trip was so wonderful it deserves a day-by-day blog account in its own right. For now, here’s just a summary of year ticks. On the very rough sea crossing to the island, we pulled out an unexpected bonus in the form of a Brown Booby. This was followed almost as soon as we had set foot on the island by a flock of eight Metallic Pigeons, and by the end of that first day on the island, I had added NINE year ticks to my tally – in addition to the booby and the pigeons, these were Tabon ScrubfowlLesser and Christmas Island FrigatebirdsGrey-faced BuzzardGrey Imperial-PigeonMantanani Scops-Owl and Grey-streaked Flycatcher!

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Grey Imperial-Pigeon

Grey-streaked-Flycatcher_0M7A4026

Grey-streaked Flycatcher

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Mantanani Scops-Owl

If the first day was good, the second was even better in terms of quality. I had a further six year ticks, including Willow Warbler (a first for Borneo and only the second for South-east Asia!), Japanese Leaf Warbler, Narcissus Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, Chestnut-cheeked Starling and Black-headed Bunting (about the fourth record for Malaysia). After much soul-searching I decided not to count an almost certain Silver-backed Needletail which was killed by a Peregrine before we could make 100% sure of the identification (more of this in a future blog post)!

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Willow Warbler

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Japanese Leaf-Warbler

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Narcissus Flycatcher

Taiga-Flycatcher_0M7A5638

Taiga Flycatcher

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Chestnut-cheeked Starlings

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Black-headed Bunting

The rest of the trip brought only one more addition – Pied Imperial-Pigeon – a bird I was glad to tick off, having failed to find it several times around my home state and on pelagic trips. To say that I was happy with my haul of 16 year ticks from Mantanani would be a considerable understatement!

I just had time before the month ended to squeeze in an early morning trip to Kubang Semang, in my home state of Pulau Pinang, where I added two scarce waders – Ruff and Temminck’s Stint – bringing the end of the month total to 606, and into uncharted waters.

Following Dennis Yong’s 2006 approach, I have included species from all four Categories on the Malaysian list (i.e. including birds which occur solely as a result of human intervention). My next target is to reach 600 species from Category A alone. So far I have 10 non-Category A species on my list, so I hope to reach a ‘clean’ 600 by the end of next month!

Here are the stats comparing my year to date with Dennis Yong’s 2006 Big Year.

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 11.56.22 PM copyScreen-Shot-2015-11-06-at-11.56.36-PM

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