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Birding Brunei - December 2010

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Old Sunday 16th January 2011, 16:00   #1
gwatola
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Birding Brunei - December 2010

Introduction

Brunei is generally disregarded as a birding destination, due to neighbouring Sabah and Sarawak having most of the Bornean endemics such as Fruithunter and the Kinabulu specialities. However, Brunei has its own charm, and as a stopover is well worth considering. Royal Brunei Airlines flies into Brunei to and from the Antipodes, and so we chose to have a four-day stopover on the way to New Zealand in December 2010. With a family in tow, there wasn’t really time to go further afield, so we explored Brunei in a leisurely fashion. We also had a 12-hour stopover on the return journey on January 1st. I saw 115 species, including 25 lifers, so was well-pleased. Brunei is also probably the friendliest and safest country I have ever been to! No malaria tablets are required, but mosquito repellent should be applied whenever in the countryside. It is an ideal family/birding destination. It also has a very large proportion of its rainforest left, unlike the rest of Borneo, so eco-tourists can probably do a great deal to ensure it remains so.

Birding Resources

The best birding information is that provided by Jeremy Moore “Birdwatching and Bird records in Brunei”, available at the Panaga Natural History Society website: https://www.bsp.com.bn/panagaclub/pn...2009.downl.pdf
Jeremy goes into great detail about birding sites and birds in Brunei, and his report should be anybody’s first reference if coming to Brunei.
Field Guides include “Phillipps Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo” and Susan Myers’s “Birds of Borneo”. The former appears to be rated slightly more highly by some reviewers. I made do with Mackinnon & Phillipps “A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali”.

Good maps: There aren’t any. Use guidebooks and “Googlemaps” to draft your own. Brunei is well sign-posted, and fairly easy to get around. From the capital Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) in the east to Kuala Belait (KB) in the west is less than 2 hours drive.

Transport: we hired a car in advance from Avis at the airport. It was a reasonable UK£168 for 4 days, and a larger and more spacious vehicle than we expected for what we paid. Fuel is very cheap indeed. The roads were generally good, but some inland roads had been flooded, and were impassable. On our one-day stopover, we used the bus, which is Brunei$1 for any journey. Catch the 23, 24 or 38 bus from the exit doors of the airport departure terminal, there is no need to walk miles as some guidebooks suggest.

Cost of living: quite reasonable, and one could eat very cheaply indeed, or alternatively splash out. For instance, on the east side of Jalan Sultan in BSB are the cheap Indian restaurants, and on the west side are the more expensive westernised restaurants. We liked the Hajah Halima Restaurant on the east side. We also enjoyed the food at the Serikandi Restaurant (KB Government Rest House), the Chinese restaurant (?Riveria) on the riverfront at KB, and the all you can eat buffet at the Empire Hotel Chinese restaurant.

Itinerary and Accommodation

6/12/2010 Arrival 11am Brunei Airport – Tutong Sewage Works – Kuala Belait – afternoon birding at Kuala Balai Road. Stayed for 2 nights in the Government Rest House in KB, a clean convenient guesthouse by the beach.
7/12: Morning birding with Folkert, a Dutch expat, at Bukit Sawat Road and later at Sungai Seria estuary. Afternoon and night-time birding at Kuala Balai Road.
8/12: Morning birding at Kuala Balai Road. Travelled to BSB after mid-day. Afternoon we went on a Kampong Ayer (Water Village) and Proboscis Monkey boat tour with Helmy, a local water villager who was very good value. Stayed at the KH Soon Rest House in BSB, cheap and friendly.
9/12: Muara Beach in the morning, then the Empire Hotel for a luxury night. The Empire has large discounts on rooms, available through the internet, and is worth at least one night’s stay. The Empire cost US$1 billion to build. You and your partner can stay there for UK£115: bargain.
10/12: Early morning birding by the entrance to the Empire. Flew out at 11am.
1/1/2011: Flew in at 8am. Birded Tasek Recreational Park, BSB until mid-day. Flew out at 8pm.

Birding Sites (with some of the more interesting species recorded)

Tutong Sewage Works: Large concrete-sided ponds on the coastal side of the main highway as you approach Tutong from the east, between 2 sets of traffic lights. Oriental Darter were seen here on the first visit, but not the second. Osprey & White-bellied Sea Eagle were also present, and Grey-headed Fish Eagles are reckoned to be regular.

Kuala Balai Road (called Jalan Mumong on Googlemaps): This is a really good birding site, loads to see, from dawn to mid-morning, and again mid-afternoon to dusk. Its 15 minutes east of Kuala Belait, on the south side of the Seria bypass just west of the Mumong roundabout. Drive the occasionally pot-holed road through the industrial estate and kampongs for about 6 km, before passing the last of the kampongs on the right on a long straight. Mature jungle should be obvious further ahead. Stop and walk along the road. There will be lots of activity, just a matter of sorting it out, especially the bulbuls! The road continues to the little village of Kuala Balai on the river, about 15 km further on. A mixture of driving, walking and listening will pay dividends. The only problem with this site is that is so extensive. Jeremy Moore goes into more detail about this site in his report. I visited four times and saw numerous species, including Crested Serpent-Eagle, Black-thighed Falconet, Cinnamon-headed Pigeon, Little Green Pigeon, Raffle’s Malkoha, Wrinkled & Oriental Pied Hornbills, Rufous Piculet, Orange-backed Woodpecker, White-bellied Woodpecker, Slender-billed Crow, Black & White Bulbul, and Dusky Munia. We drove down the road one night and saw Savannah Nightjars and Buffy Fish Owls. One of the kids got a bit nervous, so we couldn’t drive on and see the Binturongs (Bear Cats) which are also common here.

Bukit Sawat Road: This is the stake-out for Bornean Bristlehead. Unfortunately there is only a one in three chance of seeing them on any occasion, and my visit wasn’t one of them. Folkert, a keen expat birder, kindly showed me this site. The Labi Road (Jalan Labi) goes inland at Sungai Liang. Turnoff left onto a small tarmac road by the Labi 30km marker, 1 km before the Long Mayan turnoff. Drive for 5km until the road peters out. Walk up the hill from here. We saw Bushy-crested Hornbill, Chestnut-winged Babbler, Whiskered Tree Swift, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, and Brown Fulvetta.

Sungai Seria estuary: Drive up the Jalan Lurong 3 Barat road towards the coast off the Seria Bypass, left onto Jalan Tengah, and then the second right to the Billion Barrel Monument car park. Explore the estuary from here. We saw Eye-browed Thrush, Pied Triller, and a Chinese Egret. Monitor Lizards are also visible on the mudflats.

Sungai Brunei (Proboscis Monkeys): This involves hailing a boatman from the waterfront in BSB and negotiating a price to see the sights: Sultan’s Palace, Kampong Ayer (the water village) and the Proboscis Monkeys. We paid Brunei$50 for a very nice trip with Helmy and had great views of the monkeys in the mangroves. Brunei has the largest and easiest to see population of this endemic monkey in Borneo.

Empire Hotel: There is a large pond by the entrance before you get to the gatehouse. By the pond there is a disused road with a bar across it and a “no access” sign. I ignored the sign and went for a walk here in the morning. What appeared to be a Middendorf’s Warbler was in a small patch of scrub along here. A Crimson-winged Woodpecker by the pond was another good bird.

Tasek Recreational Park: If you only have a few hours in Brunei this is a good option for some rainforest birding. This is a very large area of jungle with picnic area and facilities, a waterfall and reservoir, lookout tower and some good walks. It is a kilometre north of the centre of BSB. It’s a bit of a trek in the heat, so the best option is to catch a 23 bus from the bus station in BSB. I saw Green Iora, Ashy Tailorbird, Olive-winged Bulbul and Crimson Sunbird on a mid-morning walk.

Birds seen

Oriental Darter - Tutong
Great Egret - Tutong; Seria
Eastern Cattle Egret - ubiquitous
Intermediate Egret - Seria
Little Egret - Tutong; Seria
Pacific Reef Heron - Seria
Chinese Egret - Seria
Striated Heron - Seria
Chinese Pond Heron - Seria
Black-crowned Night Heron - Seria
Yellow Bittern - Seria
Osprey - Tutong
Black-shouldered Kite - Seria
Brahminy Kite - Seria
White-bellied Fish Eagle - Tutong
Crested Goshawk - Kuala Balai
Crested Serpent Eagle - Jalan Labi; Kuala Balai
Black-thighed Falconet - Kuala Balai
White-breasted Waterhen- Seria
Pacific Golden Plover - Seria
Greater Sand Plover - Seria
Spotted Redshank - Seria
Marsh Sandpiper - Seria
Greenshank - Seria
Wood Sandpiper - Seria
Common Sandpiper - Seria
Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon - Kuala Balai
Little Green Pigeon - Kuala Balai
Pink-necked Green Pigeon - Airport
Green Imperial Pigeon - Kuala Balai
Spotted Dove - ubiquitous
Zebra Dove - ubiquitous
Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot - Bukit Sawat
Raffle’s Malkoha - Kuala Balai
Greater Coucal - Kuala Balai
Lesser Coucal - Kuala Balai
Buffy Fish Owl - Kuala Balai
Reddish Scops Owl - Kuala Balai
Savannah Nightjar - Kuala Balai
Black-nest Swiftlet - Kuala Balai
Glossy Swiftlet - ubiquitous
Silver-rumped Swift - Kuala Balai
Little Swift - BSB
Asian Palm Swift - Kuala Balai
Grey-rumped Tree Swift - Kuala Balai
Whiskered Tree Swift - Bukit Sawat
Common Kingfisher - Seria
Collared Kingfisher - Seria
Blue-throated Bee-eater - ubiquitous
Dollarbird - Kuala Balai
Bushy-crested Hornbill - Bukit Sawat
Wrinkled Hornbill - Kuala Balai
Oriental Pied Hornbill - ubiquitous
Blue-eared Barbet - Airport
Rufous Piculet - Kuala Balai
Buff-rumped Woodpecker - Bukit Sawat
White-bellied Woodpecker - Kuala Balai
Crimson-winged Woodpecker - Empire
Banded Woodpecker - Kuala Balai
Orange-backed Woodpecker - Kuala Balai
Barn Swallow - Kuala Balai
Pacific Swallow - Kuala Balai
Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike - Kuala Balai
Pied Triller - ubiquitous
Green Iora - Tasek
Common Iora - Kuala Balai
Greater Green Leafbird - Kuala Balai
Lesser Green Leafbird - Kuala Balai
Black and White Bulbul - Kuala Balai
Black-headed Bulbul - Kuala Balai
Buff-vented Bulbul - Kuala Balai
Cream-vented Bulbul - Bukit Sawat
Hairy-backed Bulbul - Kuala Balai
Olive-winged Bulbul - Tasek
Puff-backed Bulbul - Kuala Balai
Red-eyed Bulbul - Kuala Balai
Spectacled Bulbul - Kuala Balai
Yellow-vented Bulbul - ubiquitous
Slender-billed Crow - Kuala Balai
Chestnut-winged Babbler - Bukit Sawat
Rufous-crowned Babbler - Kuala Balai
Brown Fulvetta - Bukit Sawat
Magpie Robin - ubiquitous
White-rumped Shama - Bukit Sawat
Eye-browed Thrush - Seria; Kuala Balai
Middendorf’s Warbler - Empire
Ashy Tailorbird - Empire
Yellow-bellied Prinia - Kuala Balai
Pied Fantail - Tasek
White-breasted Woodswallow - ubiquitous
Yellow Wagtail - Seria
Paddyfield Pipit - Muara
Asian Glossy Starling - ubiquitous
Hill Myna - Kuala Balai
Plain-throated Sunbird - Kuala Balai
Crimson Sunbird - ubiquitous
Olive-backed Sunbird - ubiquitous
Red-throated Sunbird - Kuala Balai
Van Hasselt's Sunbird - Jalan Labi
Little Spiderhunter - Kuala Balai
Spectacled Spiderhunter- Kuala Balai
Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker - Kuala Balai
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker - BSB
Dusky Munia - Kuala Balai
White-bellied Munia - Kuala Balai
Black-headed Munia - Kuala Balai
Tree Sparrow - ubiquitous
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Old Monday 17th January 2011, 08:54   #2
Dr Manjeet Singh
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Wow a nice trip...was suprised with the amount of birds you saw..congrats..loved the detailed report..would like to go there one day for the Bristle Head.Regards...i wish you could have uploaded some pics of Bruine birds.Thanks.
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Old Monday 17th January 2011, 09:19   #3
chris butterworth
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Great report on - as you say - an "unknown" part of Borneo. I can't think of any more sites in Brunei, off the top of my head, but "Mammals of Borneo" field guide gives a good selection of sites in Brunei.

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Old Monday 17th January 2011, 10:55   #4
gwatola
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Hi Manjeet

Thanks very much, it was a good place. I tried uploading some photos but it didn't work. There are a few photos on my flickr account, search for "gwatola" under people, look on page 4.
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Old Monday 17th January 2011, 11:00   #5
gwatola
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Hi Chris

The Mammals book sounds interesting. I think Mark Hessel's book "Winging the Bornean Skies" also gives some Brunei site details.
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Old Tuesday 18th January 2011, 10:51   #6
chris butterworth
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gwatola View Post
Hi Chris

The Mammals book sounds interesting. I think Mark Hessel's book "Winging the Bornean Skies" also gives some Brunei site details.
'A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo', ( 1985 ), Payne, J. Francis, C.M. and Phillipps, K. ; Sabah Society and WWF Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu.

The ISBN for the 1994 reprint with corrections is ISBN: 967-99947-1-6

A superb mammal book and well worth getting hold of. I've bought 2 of my copies from shops in KK itself and another in Miri airport.

Chris
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