Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sabahtical - Day 4 - Blessings

Thanks to the staff of the Sepilok Jungle Resort who arranged for a taxi to pick us up, Cynthia and I were able to attend the 8 am service at the Sandakan Baptist Church. After the services, Ellis, one of the congregants, took us to where we could get a bus to take us back to Sepilok. After asking the locals, most of whom do not speak English, we were directed to an almost empty bus. We boarded and were told by one of the passengers that it wouldn't leave unless it was full. While waiting we noticed what we perceived to be the ticketing agent of the bus we were in. Cynthia immediately disembarked and asked her if the bus we were in was going to Sepilok. She said no and pointed to a  group of mini buses. We asked each and every one of those buses if they are Sepilok bound and every one said no. Since we were not getting any progress on our inquiries we both agreed to take a taxi instead. There were several taxis parked and apparently waiting for passengers. We approached the nearest one and asked how much will the fare be to Sepilok. "40 Ringgits" the driver replied. Since that was the same amount we paid to the one that brought us here, we agreed. The driver was a nice man and we got to the hotel in good time.

After a leisurely lunch, my wife and I birded the surroundings of the hotel. The birders we met yesterday told us that they saw a Black-and-red Broadbill at the trees behind the swimming pool. However when we got there, the would-be lifers did not show up. Instead, we got another blessing in the form of another lifer, or as I would like to call it, a "wifer". Whenever my wife sees a new bird (new for both of us) and gets a photograph of it and I didn't, then for me it is a "wifer". This time it was a Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot.

Then there was this strange-looking black bird speckled with white. I knew it is an immature (again!) but I couldn't figure out the species. Looking at the picture that night I noticed the curved bill which made me think that it was some kind of a drongo. It was only after we have gotten back home and I posted the photo to the Borneo Bird Club group in Facebook that I got the answer: Immature Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo.

Our stake out for the non-appearing broadbill brought out the best in Cynthia's photography. While I stared at the trees, she was photographing any bird that she saw. One of them was a beautiful male Brown-throated Sunbird.

Plus another "wifer" - Little Green Pigeon. Unfortunately the birds were so far and so backlit that she only got "documentary" shots.

With the broadbill being a no-show we both decided to walk to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center (ORC) which was not that far from the hotel. No, we didn't intend to go in - apes have no appeal to us - we just wanted to bird the premises (which we were told harbors some nice birds). On the way out of the hotel grounds, we were greeted by a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha.

We also got better looks at the Green Iora.

The area near the ORC was unproductive. Only a persistent Pied Fantail showed up. As we were going back, Cynthia walked ahead of me following some bird song that she kept hearing. At this point I was quite exhausted from lugging my heavy gear. As I plopped my tripod down to get a breather a tiny black-and-red bird alit on the electrical wires. Knowing that it will be a lifer I took some shots of it despite the distance. This was what my wife had been hearing - a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker!

When the small colorful bird flew I followed my wife and had to stop again before reaching her so I can get another rest. It was then that three young men surrounded me and eyed my camera as if it was a naked lady. I felt uncomfortable as they were whispering to one another. I lifted my camera and walked towards the gate of a hotel across the road where there was a guard house and yelled at Cynthia to follow me. It was a blessing that the young men stayed put perhaps realizing that there was a guard nearby.

That incident sort of drained whatever enthusiasm we had. It was getting late in the afternoon anyway and we still had to pack for our trip back to Kota Kinabalu early tomorrow so we hurried back to our room.

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