Sarawak, a haven for birdwatching

Steven Yeo

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By Wilfred Pilo

BIRDS chirping away in our backyard or the forest may just be another sound of nature to the ordinary people but for bird enthusiasts, it could that magical, beautiful sound that they are looking for, in search of a rare bird species that might have eluded them.

For most bird watching enthusiast, hearing a sound or coming in contact with a rare bird species would be a special treat that would make their day in the world of bird watching.

In that respect, it is not difficult to understand the enthusiasm for bird watching in Malaysia, when 796 species of birds out of 10,000 in the world are hibernating here.

It is recorded that a total of 65 are endemic to Malaysia and from that, 60 are endemic in Borneo.

“Don’t be alarmed if you spot a stranger with a pair of binoculars slinging over their shoulders looking towards the direction of different horizons such as trees, in the garden or park, or along the shoreline by a beach.

“The chances are that there could be birdwatchers who are ready to zero-in their state of the art binoculars to study their feather subjects,” Kuching Birdwatching Club chairperson Steven Yeo told DayakDaily here, today (Sept 17).

From Top to Bottom – a picture of female and male Sunbird namely Copper Throated Sunbird, Olive-backed Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird and Temminck’s Sunbirds. – All photos courtesy of Yeo

Yeo, who has been bird watching since 2015, said his enthusiasm expanded and developed further after he attended a Basic Bird Watching Course conducted by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Kuching branch.

“Birds are beautiful and colourful. Bird watching can also get one in tune with nature. Sarawak is indeed blessed with the beauty of nature. We are very lucky to be born here,” he said in reference to the rare bird species that can be found in Sarawak.

He explained that birds habitats are either lowland forest, highlands and beach area.

“The basic engagement in bird watching is to stand still. It is easy to see birds if we keep still and quiet at their habitat. Then, we watch for movements; example movements in the trees,” he further explained when the bird is within their sight.

Yeo expressed content that the people here are slowly picking up bird watching as a hobby.

From Top left to bottom right – a picture of female and male Plain Sunbird, Brown-throated Sunbird, Red-throated Sunbird and Van Hasselt’s Sunbird.

“It is nice to hear a bird sing and observe its movement. When we see a bird by the roadside, that is also bird watching,” he enthused, while adding that people do not realise that they had participated on bird watching on almost a daily basis.

For Yeo, his favourite spot all year round to see birds can be either in the park or in the forest or by the sea, especially between September and December during its migratory birds.

While revealing that his favourite bird is Sunbird, he believed that birds should be allowed to live freely and not be put in cages or captivity.

From Top left to bottom right: Hornbill species found in Sarawak included Rhinoceros Hornbill, Helmeted Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill and Black Hornbill.
From Top left to bottom right: Hornbill species found in Sarawak are White-Crowned Hornbill, Bushy Crested Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill and Wrinkled Hornbill.

Touching on the bird species endemic in Borneo, Yeo cited eight species of Hornbills are found in Sarawak, namely: the Rhinoceros Hornbill, Helmeted Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Black Hornbill, White-Crowned Hornbill, Bushy-Crested Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill and Wrinkled Hornbill.

He believed there could be more rare and endemic birds in Sarawak but studies and research are needed to confirm its native habitat.

Yeo said many Sarawakians are still unaware of the birds species, especially the rare species. Citing the need for more awareness, he hoped to hold more talks in school to get students interested in observing birds.

He said bird watching can help the people get closer with nature and inculcate the love to protect the environment.

“We hope to bring more people into bird watching. Explaining and showing them how fun it could be, show them how colourful our birds are.

“All you need are a pair of binoculars, scopes and those who like photography, a camera,” he said.

Currently, Kuching Birdwatching Club has 32 members. — DayakDaily