Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sabahtical - Day 3 - Surprises

While we were talking with the Pedroques yesterday, Armao, the boy wonder, informed us that he saw a lot of birds in the area around their hotel. Intrigued by what he said, we made arrangements to visit them today. Inasmuch as the Forest Edge B&B was only a short distance from our hotel we decided to go there by walking. Which turned out to be a good idea. Along the way birds were singing by the roadside. One of them gave us a surprise when it suddenly popped into view. Apparently it wanted to show these two human beings that not only does it sing well, it also looks good too.

At first we were wondering if this was the Bornean version of the audacious cisticolas of the Philippines. It was only after we have gone home and utilized the social media that we were able to know the identity of this cute but loud bird. It was an immature Yellow-bellied Prinia, indeed a distant cousin of the cisticola.

We were met by Armao and his brother Joao at the lawn of their hotel. They showed us around ticking off the names of the birds that they have seen at a particular place with their quaint accent, pronouncing yellow-rumped flowerpecker as "yellow rum-ped flowerpecker" and pied fantail as "pee-yed fantail". Thanks to these young boys, we saw the surprisingly common Thick-billed Spiderhunter.

During a pause, I showed Armao the pictures of the birds I have taken at Kinabalu Park and at Fraser's Hill. He identified each and every one of them with incredible ease. When I asked him how many birds he had already seen, he replied, "about a thousand."

"And how long have you been birding?"

"Three years."

A thousand birds in three years by a 9-year old boy!!! And here I am, who had been birding for some nine years, have only about 800 birds in my lifelist! No, I wasn't envious, I was in awe! Surprised and awed.

The wonder boys bade us goodbye as they were about to have breakfast and will be leaving soon afterwards for the Kinabatangan River. "Just go around the place because there are many birds", they assured us.

We saw a sign that said "jungle trail". My wife and I trodded (it was a slight uphill climb) until we came to a point where we were literally at the edge of the forest. I was catching my breath when Cynthia yelled, "look!"

There perched before us was an adult male Red-bearded Bee-eater in all its colorful glory! We've seen the plain green immature one yesterday at the RDC and this was a pleasant surprise.

As were about to hike back down the trail, my wife heard a screech. "Parrots!" she exclaimed. She followed the source of that sound and after some effort, "there!" she pointed at the green leaves. Cynthia was already taking shots at the "parrot" and I was still seeing nothing but leaves. Exasperated, she grabbed my camera which was mounted on a tripod and pointed it to the where the "parrot" was supposed to be. I peeped through the lens and a sheepish grin formed on my face. It was a Long-tailed Parakeet -yet another immature bird - and another lifer for us.

That afternoon we went back to RDC. Thankfully there were only a few people there unlike yesterdays throng. We tried the Bristlehead tower again hoping against hope that its namesake bird would show up. It didn't. In its place we were rewarded by another lifer - the Brown Barbet - and yes, it was another immature bird. 

Continuing on the canopy walkway, we finally saw the Black-and-yellow Broadbill. It was at the time and place that our friend Rommel Cruz told us to expect it.

The canopy also yielded a very friendly Black-naped Monarch.

A Lesser Green Leafbird was curiously bathing in a knot of a tree trunk.

Then another surprise! A pair of Raffles' Malkohas were right next to the walkway. The male got so close that my big lens cannot focus on it. I had to move way back and even then got only half the body.

Cynthia was able to get a better shot of the cute and cuddly-looking female.

That evening as we were returning to our own hotel, we noticed a group of birders looking at something close to the entrance gate. I hurried over and asked them what it was that they're seeing. "Just a common bird" they said and pointed at the Yellow-vented Bulbul. "Ah yes" I agreed. Just then a large black bird alit on a distant tree. I quickly looked through my lens and almost fainted when I realized that it was a Rhinoceros Hornbill! The three birders next to me where oohing and aahing as they watched this magnificent bird.

Another surprise to end our third day.

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