Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bird-watching for a good cause - 15 and 16 June 2013

This is a Eurasian Tree Sparrow, a bird so common in Malaysia that we sometimes take little or no notice of it. They can be found hopping around looking for food on the road , in the field, and even in our garden.

Bird-watching may not be your cup of tea but how about helping to count birds to help scientists understand the health of our environment?

On June 15 and 16, MY Garden Birdwatch (MYGB) will be holding its annual survey of garden birds in Malaysia. Now in its fourth year, MYGB was initiated by the bird-watching chapter of the Malaysian Nature Society.

All you need do is to sit comfortably in your garden or a field or park for 30 minutes (exactly) and count birds. This is the very thing volunteers from all over Malaysia will be doing in an effort to help preserve the environment.

The wildlife of interest for MYGB are garden birds – especially (but not limited to) 28 birds (as in the image above) from the 740 bird species found in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, and the environments being observed are the very places we all live in.

Many of the birds highlighted in the MYGB birdlist are frequently spotted in an urban setting, much like a garden in a typical Malaysian residential area.

Data submitted from the public goes through a verification process by a group of experts before it is accepted to ensure the quality of the data.

According to the project organizers, half an hour might not seem like much, but every single MYGB observation is important because it contributes towards a better understanding of the surrounding environment and how bird populations react to environmental factors.

Birds have long been used as an indicator of the health of the environment as used by Birdlife International’s Important Bird Areas, where birds are used to identify key sites for conservation.

If you are interested in being a citizen scientist on June 15 and 16, visit and run through the “How To” section to understand the mechanics of the count. Participation in just two steps:

Step 1 - On either 15th or 16th June 2013, spend 30 minutes (no more, no less!) at a green patch (e.g. park, garden or playground) near you and jot down the birds that you see.

Setp 2 - Submit your data on this website within 2 weeks of the count date.

That’s it. Check this website for the survey results in August/September.

By the way, submissions which are considered valid (e.g. meets the time and date requirement, acceptable list of birds) will be in the running for special prizes! Check out the website for the prizes.

A few useful tips here as suggested:

* Keep a low profile when you are counting for the survey. Standing in the middle of the garden in a bright red shirt might shoo the birds away.

* If you are counting in your own garden or backyard, station yourself at the window or porch so that your presence does not scare the birds away.

* If you are counting at a neighbourhood green patch, resist the temptation to walk to the other end of the park. Simply record the birds that can be seen from where you are.

Questions like Do you count the birds that fly overhead? or Do you count the birds that keep chirping away but can never be seen? are all answered in, a site from where you can also download a convenient count sheet and listen to the calls of birds.

Do remember that the 30-minute count time should be adhered to strictly as the consistency of the observation period is important when comparing the data throughout Malaysia.

Observations that exceed or are less than 30 minutes will be disqualified from the count. This is to ensure the integrity of the data obtained.

If you decide to take part, you are encouraged to spend a few minutes paying attention to your neighbourhood birds prior to the survey to make identification easier. A good time to observe birds is between 7am and 11am, and 4pm and 6pm, when the birds are most active.

If it happens if birds decide not to grace your garden with their presence on the day of the survey, your result survey can be submitted as “no sightings of birds”. It is just as valid, if that is indeed what you observed.

The MY Garden Birdwatch survey is suitable for and open to people of all ages, and can be done with or without a pair of binoculars. Birdwatching can be a fun activity with family and friends.

** Download your own handy pocket guide to some Malaysian birds at

Have fun bird-watching!

- The Star..Watching from the garden
- MY Garden Birdwatch


  1. Good morning HS.

    Burd side here mostly gagak:'(

    Dont think I will be eligible for that

    1. SM, the gagak or house crow is also in the list besides, it'd be an interesting project for the little one.