Thursday, July 29, 2010

21st July 2010: Around Kuantan, Pahang

I was in Kuantan to help deliver a workshop on biodiversity issues for oil palm plantation managers (more details here), and I arrived a day early to scout for likely sites for a field trip.

Sadly, most areas of swamp forest remaining in the Kuantan area are badly degraded. The most interesting area ornithologically was a fragment I named Sungai Pancing Selatan, which could be reached down about 5km of logging track. Here I saw and heard a few birds of note - Blue-winged Pitta, Red-throated Sunbird, etc, and a longer visit would have turned up more birds. However, most of the area had been or was in the process of being cleared.

To log swamp forest, first you have to drain it. Drainage canals could be seen in several places slicing through the forest.

This was the fragment I tried birding in, not more than an island of forest.

All around, clearance was progressing and with it, how many tons of carbon are being released into the atmosphere?

According to a local man I spoke to, the forest is being cleared for oil palm. Most likely this is a smallholder rather than a large company. There is so little swamp forest left in Peninsular Malaysia, it's tragic to see what little there is being whittled away.

Lowering the water table to make the land more suitable for agriculture will likely also increase the fire risk greatly.

Elsewhere I came across this bald-headed Common Myna. You can tell when you've become known as the local 'bird-person' in your community, because sooner or later someone will come up to you and say "I saw this funny bird with a yellow head the other day, and it looked like a vulture!" Common Mynas with few feathers or no feathering on their head are a common enough phenomenon, though no one knows for sure what causes it, whether it's part of their normal moult strategy or disease of some kind.

Without the covering of feathers, it's quite easy to see the ear opening, behind and below the eye. Handsome fellow eh?!

1 comment:

Ronnie said...

Hi Dave,

You shld travel a little further than Kuantan and see for yourself the deforestration of land towards KT. There are vast palm oil plantations. But then again some people say in a mature plantation, one can see loads more mammals and birds esp civets, owls, & parrots? As for the common mynah, it has become quite a common occuring phenomena but hope its not some kind of unknown disease.