Friday, August 30, 2013

Sarawak: Sama Jaya Encounters

Chestnut-winged Babbler (Stachyris erythroptera)
The Sama Jaya Nature Reserve in Kuching has been featured here before (and undoubtedly will be again; it is definitely a nice place for a walk.  These photos were taken on February 15, 2012).  It's not a bad place for a bit of birding; this is a calling Chestnut-winged Babbler (Stachyris erythroptera).  You can see the bare blue skin at the side of its neck that only becomes visible as it vocalises.

Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
There is a local troop of Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) that are usually easy to find.  Unlike some macaques elsewhere, they do not seem to approach visitors, but seem rather nervous about it - have they been harassed in the past?

Common Tree Skink (Apterygodon vittatum)
Mabuya sp
Skinks are common along the pathways.  They can be difficult to identify to species in the field.  The upper photo shows one of the more obvious ones, a Common or Striped Tree Skink (Apterygodon vittatum).  It is endemic to Borneo, and the only member of its genus.  The other animal is a member of the genus Mabuya, but I can go no further in giving it a precise name.

Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsea)
Here is an underwing view of the Borneo race of Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsea).

Grey Pansy (Junonia atlites)
The Grey Pansy (Junonia atlites) is a very common butterfly in open country, particularly near water.

Cruiser (Vindula dejone)
By contrast, the Cruiser (Vindula dejone) is a common inhabitant of forests.  Sama Jaya, with its small forest patch and open areas, has a cross-section of common species from both habitats (though the forest area is far too small for sustainable populations of most forest specialties).

Dyakia regalis
I am woefully ignorant about Borneo's extensive land snail fauna, so for identification I am dependent on the kindness of others.  Thanks to Gary Rosenberg, I can tell you that this pulmonate. or lunged, snail is Dyakia regalis. Notice that, unlike most snail shells, this one spirals to the left rather than to the right, a condition referred to as sinistrorse.  The first scientific specimens were found, before 1850, near the house of James Brooke, first of the White Rajahs, and you can't get more Sarawakian than that.

Neurothemis terminata
I believe that this particularly dingy dragonfly is a female Neurothemis terminata, but I am not positive; most of the females I have seen are lighter and brighter than this one.

Zyxomma obtusum
On a number of trips I have seen a ghostly "mystery dragonfly" coursing up and down the small stream behind the reserve, but a it never did not have a chance to place it.  This photo may not be the best, but it allowed me to name it at last: a male Zyxomma obtusum, a normally-crepuscular dragonfly whose white body stands out brightly in the failing light.  Females are brown, with green eyes.  Its black wingtips recall another blue-eyed dragonfly, Cratilla metallica, a forest beauty with very different behaviour (at first I thought that this was Cratilla, but it acted so unlike that frequently-perching species that I was quite relieved to find out it was something else.

Sarawak: Celebrating Sandflats

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 every year. The Kuching Branch of the Malaysian Nature Society recognised the 2012 event by organising a special event, 10 days later on February 12,  at Kampung Bako, with the support of local villagers.  

Bako is a gateway both to the national park that shares its name and to Bako-Buntal Bay,  an important staging post and wintering ground for water birds and a designated Important Bird Area (IBA).  

The trip served a double purpose: to educate the villagers, and especially their children, to the importance of the area, and to visit the sandflats in the bay.   I was, of course, delighted to be invited to come along.

On the way, we could see that some reclamation was going on in the mangroves: note that the trees in the foreground are arranged in neat, and obviously planted, rows.

Our team included the village headman (Tuan Haji Wahid bin Sani), several honorary kampung wardens, and crack birders like Daniel Kong (second from left, with binoculars).

 To get very far in an exploration of the sandflats, even at low tide, you definitely need a boat  (or, in our case, a couple of boats).  For other photos of the event see the MNS Kuching blog entry here.

Daniel photographs me.  I return the compliment.

Yeo Siew Teck checks the sandflats for birds.

The village headman takes a phone call as he explores the bay.

We spent about a half hour on the flats, birding, observing and taking photographs.

The wardens seemed to enjoy the experience immensely!

Most of the birds we saw were, unfortunately, at a fair distance, but we had several scopes with us to make up for that.

Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)
These Terek Sandpipers (Xenus cinereus), a common wintering species on the bay,  did venture a bit closer.

Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes)
Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes)
Certainly the bird of greatest importance for the bay's status as a conservation area is the Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes).Though classed as Vulnerable, not Endangered, by Birdlife International, this is a declining species with a total estimated population of only 2,600-3,400 mature individuals (even if, as Birdlife suggests in its fact sheet on the species, this is an underestimate, the population is still very low).

Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes)
More than 400 Chinese Egrets have been recorded wintering at Bako-Buntal Bay – perhaps at 10 of the entire global population.

Besides scanning the distance for birds, I kept my eye out for things close at hand. This cast-up, bleached cowrie shell (Cypraea sp.) bears the lower valves of a number of jingle shells (Anomiidae) that glued themselves to it in life.

Banded Hermit Crab with Girdled Horn Snail (Cerithidea cingulata)
This shell of this Girdled Horn Snail (Cerithidea cingulata), a common mudflat inhabitant, has been taken over by a banded hermit crab (species uncertain).

Serpent Mudskipper (Parapocryptes serperaster)
Where there is mud (at least in Southeast Asia) there are sure, at least where the water is brackish or salt, to be mudskippers.  This little fellow leaping out of the water is probably a Serpent Mudskipper (Parapocryptes serperaster).

These may be too (they seem particularly long-bodied), though they are so covered with mud that I cannot make out their identifying features.

After our tour of the flats we headed back to the kampung for the next part of the programme - perhaps the most important: our meeting with the community, and with their children.

Yeap Chin Aik, head of conservation for MNS, gave a presentation on the importance of Bako-Buntal Bay to the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, the major migratory route for the winter.

The presentation was followed by awards to the local children, who had been busy at a colouring contest while we were out on the bay.

As we were getting ready to head for home, I found more mudskippers along the shores of the inlet.

Blue-spotted Mudskipper (Boleophthalmus boddarti)
Male Blue-spotted Mudskippers (Boleophthalmus boddarti) raised their ornate dorsal fins in challenge to their rivals.

Blue-spotted Mudskipper (Boleophthalmus boddarti)
Blue-spotted Mudskipper (Boleophthalmus boddarti)
Blue-spotted Mudskipper (Boleophthalmus boddarti)
Blue-spotted Mudskipper (Boleophthalmus boddarti)
For such seemingly-drab and often mud-covered little fishes, Blue-spotted Mudskippers are surprisingly well-ornamented.

Gold-spotted Mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos)
So is their cousin, the Gold-spotted Mudskipper (Periophthalmus chrysospilos).  Birds may well have been the reason for our morning on the bay, but mudskippers made for a charming end to it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

West Malaysia: Panti Forest Butterflies

Common Tree Nymph (Idea stolli)
To finish my series of posts on the Malaysian Nature Society trip to Panti Forest in February 2012, here is a gallery of butterflies.  First is a "flying handkerchief", the Common Tree Nymph (Idea stolli): slow, graceful and easy to photograph in mid-air.

Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina)
Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina)
Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina)
Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina)
Next, a series of another easy-to-identify butterfly, the Malay Lacewing (Cethosia hypsea hypsina) (though there are a few similar Cethosia species that you need to differentiate).

Archduke (Lexias pardalis dirtea) f
Archduke (Lexias pardalis dirtea) f
Now things get a little more difficult.  This is probably a female Archduke (Lexias pardalis dirtea), on the basis of the orange tips to its antennae.  However, its wingspots are bluish-white rather than tan: the mark of a female Great Archduke (Lexias cyanipardus), a species that has been recorded along the Bunker Trail.  Great Archdukes, however, have all-dark antennae.  So what is this?  The closest match I can find is the Blue-spotted Archduke (L. albopunctata), which combines blue spots with orange antennal knobs, but that is a Thai-Indochinese species that is not supposed to occur in Peninsular Malaysia.  Can anyone help?

Mycalesis sp
I presume that this is a species of Mycalesis (Bush Browns) but, again, I am not sure which one.

Nigger (Orsotrianea medus)
This is Orsotrianea medus, usually called the Nigger.  I have now come across one alternate name - Smooth-eyed Bush Brown.  Should I use this in future?

Knight (Lebadea martha malayana) f
Knight (Lebadea martha malayana) f
Knight (Lebadea martha malayana) f
Knight (Lebadea martha malayana) f
This is a female Knight (Lebadea martha malayana) (if that isn't a contradiction in terms).  It is one of a series of nymphalid butterflies that look rather like one another; I did not quite realise what this one was until I started checking my photographs against my reference books.

Malay Viscount (Tanaecia pelea pelea)
Malay Viscount (Tanaecia pelea pelea)
The Knight looks rather like a souped-up version of this butterfly, the Malay Viscount (Tanaecia pelea pelea)...

Malay Baron (Euthalia monina) f
…or of this one, a female Malay Baron (Euthalia monina).  I'll have to keep my eyes open a bit more next time!

Neptis sp
I have a great deal of trouble distinguishing the many species of Neptis and Athyma in Malaysia.  This is one of them.  After poring over a number of books and websites, I will say that I think that this is a Grey (or Burmese) Sailor (Neptis leucoporos).

Striped Albatross (Appias lyncida)
Finally, a Striped Albatross (Appias lyncida), the only butterfly in this post not to be a member of the family Nymphalidae (it is, instead, a member of the Pieridae, or whites).