Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sabahtical - Epilog

It was not probably our best birding outing but nevertheless we were still blessed with 22 lifers (and possibly two more). Maybe because it was the holiday season in Malaysia and therefore there were hordes of people at the parks we went to. It also rained several times during the week so there were occasions when we just stayed in our hotel room.

If you want to know more information (transportation, accommodations, etc)  and the logistics involved in this trip please email me at ornithographer@yahoo.com

Our bird list (Lifers are in bold):

1. Crested Serpent Eagle - Spilornis cheela - Sepilok
2. White-breasted Waterhen - Amaurornis phoenicurus - Sepilok
3. Spotted Dove - Spilopelia chinensis - Sepilok, also very common along the roads to Kota Kinabalu
4. Common Emerald Dove - Chalcophaps indica - Sepilok
5. Zebra Dove - Geopelia striata - Sepilok
6. Little Green Pigeon - Treron olax - Sepilok
7. Green Imperial Pigeon - Ducula aenea - Sepilok
8. Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot - Loriculus galgulus - Sepilok
9. Long-tailed Parakeet - Psittacula longicauda - Sepilok
10. Raffles' Malkoha - Rhinortha chlorophaea - Sepilok
11. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha - Phaenicophaeus curvirostris - Sepilok
12. Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo - Surniculus lugubris - Sepilok
13. Unidentified Nightjar - flew across us while we were walking from the next door resort to ours at 8 pm - Sepilok
14. Grey-rumped Treeswift - Hemiprocne longipennis - Sepilok
15. Glossy Swiftlet - Collocalia esculenta - Sepilok, quite common
16. Silver-rumped Spinetail - Rhaphidura leucopygialis - Sepilok
17. House Swift - Apus nipalensis - Sepilok
18. Oriental Dollarbird - Eurystomus orientalis - Sepilok
19. Stork-billed Kingfisher - Pelargopsis capensis - Sepilok
20. Blue-eared Kingfisher - Alcedo meninting - Sepilok
21. Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher - Ceyx erithaca - Sepilok
22. Red-bearded Bee-eater - Nyctyornis amictus - Sepilok
23. Blue-throated Bee-eater - Merops viridis - Sepilok
24. Bushy-crested Hornbill - Anorrhinus galeritus - Sepilok
25. Oriental Pied Hornbill - Anhthracoceros albirostris - Sepilok
26. Rhinoceros Hornbill - Buceros rhinoceros - Sepilok
27. Red-throated Barbet - Megalaima mystacophanus - Sepilok
28. Brown Barbet - Caloramphus fuliginosus - Sepilok
29. Buff-rumped Woodpecker - Meiglyptes tristis - Sepilok
30. Black-and-yellow Broadbill - Eurylaimus ochromalus - Sepilok
31. White-breasted Woodswallow - Artamus leucorhynchus - Sepilok
32. Common Iora - Aegithina tiphia - Sepilok
33. Green Iora - Aegithina viridissima - Sepilok
34. Grey-chinned Minivet - Pericrocotus solaris - Kinabalu Park
35. Scarlet Minivet - Pericrocotus speciosus - Sepilok
36. Bornean Whistler - Pachycephala hypoxantha - Kinabalu Park
37. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo - Dicrurus paradiseus - Sepilok
38. White-throated Fantail - Rhipidura albicollis - Kinabalu Park
39. Pied Fantail - Rhipidura - Rhipidura nigritorquis - Sepilok
40. Black-naped Monarch - Hypothymis azurea - Sepilok
41. Slender-billed Crow - Corvus enca - Sepilok, quite common
42. Yellow-vented Bulbul - Pycnonotus goiavier - Sepilok
43. Asian Red-eyed Bulbul - Pycnonotus brunneus - Sepilok
44. Spectacled Bulbul - Pycnonotus erythropthalmos - Sepilok
45. Hairy-backed Bulbul - Tricholestes criniger - Sepilok
46. Mountain Tailorbird - Phyllergates cuculatus - Kinabalu Park
47. Mountain leaf Warbler - Phylloscopus trivirgatus - Kinabalu Park
48. Yellow-breasted Warbler - Seicercus montis - Kinabalu Park
49. Yellow-bellied Prinia - Prinia flaviventris - Sepilok
50. Rufous-tailed Tailorbird - Orthotomus sericeus - Sepilok
51. Ashy Tailorbird - Orthotomus ruficeps - Sepilok
52. Grey-throated Babbler - Stachyris nigriceps - Kinabalu Park
53. Unidentified Babbler - seen in Sepilok. Brownish back, whitish breast with brown stripes on throat and breast.
54. Sunda Laughingthrush - Garrulax palliatus - Kinabalu Park
55. Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush - Garrulax treacheri - Kinabalu Park
56. Chestnut-crested Yuhina - Yuhina everetti - Kinabalu Park
57. Black-capped White-eye - Zosterops atricapilla - Kinabalu Park
58. Asian Glossy Starling - Aplonis panayensis - Sepilok, common
59. White-vented Myna - Acridotheres javanicus - Sepilok, common in urban areas
60. Bornean Whistling Thrush - Myophonus borneensis - Kinabalu Park
61. Oriental Magpie-Robin - Copsychus saularis - Sepilok
62. White-crowned Forktail - Enicurus leschenaulti - Kinabalu Park
63. Eyebrowed Jungle Flycatcher - Rhinomyias gularis - Kinabalu Park
64. Snowy-browed Flycatcher - Ficedula hyperythra - Kinabalu Park
65. Verditer Flycatcher - Eumyias thalassinus - Sepilok
66. Indigo Flycatcher - Eumyias indigo - Kinabalu Park
67. Greater Green Leafbird - Chloropsis sonnerati - Sepilok
68. Lesser Greeen Leafbird - Chloropsis cyanopogon - Sepilok
69. Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker - Prionochilus xanthopygius - Sepilok
70. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker - Dicaeum trigonostigma - Sepilok
71. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker - Dicaeum cruentatum - Sepilok
72. Brown-throated Sunbird - Anthreptes malacensis - Sepilok
73. Copper-throated Sunbird - Leptocoma calcostetha - Sepilok
74. Olive-backed Sunbird - Cinnyris jugularis - Sepilok
75. Crimson Sunbird - Aethopyga siparaja - Sepilok
76. Temminck's Sunbird - Aethopyga temmincki - Kinabalu Park
77. Little Spiderhunter - Arachnothera longirostra - Sepilok
78. Thick-billed Spiderhunter - Arachnothera crassirostris - Sepilok
79. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus - Sepilok, common
80. Chestnut Munia - Lonchura atricapilla - Sepilok

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sabahtical - Day 7 - Fortuities

Once again we started birding early. This time it was at the Bukit Tupai trail not that far from the Liwagu Restaurant. It was another disappointment. It rained again the night before and the trails were muddy. Because of this Cynthia preferred the more open and relatively dryer lawn-like area. On the other hand I was slowly roaming around around hoping to encounter birds along the way. At one point I had to cross a very short wooden bridge to get to where my wife was standing. As soon as I stepped on it I slipped! Thankfully there was a hand rail which was strong enough to hold my weight (and that of my gear) that prevented me from injuring myself and/or destroying my precious camera and big lens. Perhaps it was the moss on the wet wooden floor that caused it. Nevertheless I was so grateful for that fortuitous moment that I did not even feel any pain afterwards.

But what hurt was the completely absence of birds! The morning passed slowly and after going through the motions of lunch we returned to our room to pack. Since our flight back home doesn't leave until the wee hours of the next day we opted for a late check-out of 3pm.

At three in the afternoon we arranged for a transportation to take us to Kota Kinabalu Airport. Normally there were taxis available by the reception area but this time zero. Thirty minutes later and still nothing and we were getting worried. One of the staff at the reception area noticed our dilemma. He talked with a guy who we thought was the driver of a tourist van. Soon he came over and introduced Albert. Albert brought another fortuitous moment in our lives. As we suspected, he was picking up his clients (he works for a tour company) who would be getting down from their climb that afternoon and going back to their hotel in Kota Kinabalu. He said there was still space in his van because he would only be picking up four people. He quoted us a price that was even cheaper had we taken a taxi! Albert was even apologetic that we had to wait for his passengers. Then he suggested if we wanted to come with him to Timpohon Gate where he would be picking up the mountain climbers. We were like "are you kidding?" We so wanted to go to that place (we were told by friends that that was where the birds were) but 1) it was too far and too steep for walking and 2) the park does not allow their vehicles to take their guests there. We of course readily told Albert that yes we would love to go to Timpohon Gate.

As soon as we got there, Albert pointed to a tree next to the gate. We looked and an Indigo Flycatcher was nonchalantly perched perhaps waiting for the slight drizzle to end.


Inasmuch as his passengers were still on the way to their meeting place, Albert told us to explore the area and not to worry because he'll call us when everyone's accounted for. There were more birds for sure but none were new to us. The usual Gray-chinned Minivets and Yellow-breasted Warblers were all waiting for the rain to pass. 



I had to answer the call of nature and as I was walking towards the loo I saw a black bird behind a parked car. I took several shots of the Bornean Whistling Thrush but since the call of nature was getting louder I passed the camera on to Cynthia to take over photographing the thrush.


As I came out, Cynthia was telling me to hurry as the mountain climbers were now aboard the van. Two hours later we were at the Kinabalu Airport. We settled in for another long, sleepless night.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sabahtical - Day 6 - Wanderings

Thankfully the skies cleared up. We slept soundly that we woke up a little later than our usual 6 am routine. We hurriedly went again to the area behind the restaurant building hoping against hope that yesterday's dearth of birds was just due to the inclement weather.

Sadly, birds were still few. Thankfully I was able to at last get a photograph (albeit a really bad one) of the elusive Sunda Laughingthrush. Something I failed to do two years ago.


We had a quick breakfast at the Balsam Buffet Restaurant (used to be Balsam Cafe) where the Chestnut-crested Yuhinas and the White-throated Fantail were as usual foraging below.

Cynthia and I have already agreed to tackle the Silau-silau trail today. Inasmuch as it rained the day before we were certain that the trail would be muddy and slippery so we opted just to bring the small lens with us. We decided to enter the trail from the end part which means we had to walk about a kilometer of uphill road - paved at least. Along the way we encountered a "wave" of birds. It would have been thrilling except that these birds were constantly moving and preferred the thicker part of the forest. To make things worse a few species were represented by immature individuals making identification quite tricky. Again it was only after we have gotten home and with the help of our Facebook friends that we learned what kind they were. A young Snowy-browed Flycatcher.


And an immature Eyebrowed Jungle Flycatcher.


Part of the wave were Mountain Leaf Warblers, Bornean Whistlers, Yellow-breasted Warblers and Grey-throated Babblers.

A few meters after we have descended into the Silau-silau trail we saw them. The last lifer of our trip and the most skittish of all. So skittish that they would fly as soon as they saw us approaching. This happened several times as we traversed the path by the creek. It was such a frustrating experience that after a while we simply gave up on the pair of White-crowned Forktails.

Towards the end of the trail, an adult Snowy-browed Flycatcher was kind enough to pose for us. This one was probably already used to humans since it had been leg-banded several times.


After lunch we encountered our first and only Temminck's Sunbird and it was a female.


That afternoon before going to dinner and after another short drizzle, we wandered around our hotel grounds and saw another Black-capped White-eye and a Mountain Tailorbird.


It was not exactly a very fruitful birding day for us considering all the effort we spent in the wanderings that we did.  


Sabahtical - Day 5 - Transitions

Except for a slightly bumpy plane ride from Sandakan our return to Kota Kinabalu went smoothly. The very nice young man who drove us to Kinabalu Park told that it had been raining the past few days.

"It will stop because we're here now" we assured him.

As we neared our destination, the sun peeped through the clouds. "Sunlight!" our driver seemed to be surprised.

The staff at the Kinabalu Park Reception area was efficient as usual and we were soon checking in at our room at the Hill Lodge. I unpacked my gear and we headed to the Liwagu restaurant for lunch. 



We chose the veranda area so we could photograph the birds that frequent the nearby trees. Except there were no birds at all! We blamed it on the soft drizzle that started as soon as we ordered our food.

One hour later and still no birds! I wandered over to the bigger veranda and saw one Black-capped White-eye. Just one.



After lunch Cynthia and I went to the grounds behind the restaurant building. Two years ago, this place was teeming with Temminck's Sunbirds, Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrushes, Indigo Flycatchers and even Black-sided Flowerpeckers. But today not a single bird appeared.

It was raining steadily when we returned to our room. Along the way an intrepid Chestnut-crested Yuhinas braved the downpour.



We spent the rest of the afternoon resting and hoping that the weather would be better tomorrow.

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.


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.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sabahtical - Day 2 - Discoveries


This day we get to explore the Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC), a prime birding place in Sabah, Borneo. We were as excited as children about to go to Disneyland for the first time.

At six in the morning as we waited for the van to take us there we discovered graciousness.

Actually it started yesterday. While we were having a late breakfast at the Banana CafĂ© (the house restaurant of the Sepilok Jungle Resort where we were staying) a group of American birders joined us. With them was their tour guide Susan Myers, the famous author of the book “Birds of Borneo”. She approached us and we got into a cordial conversation with her. As they were about to resume their birding activities (which will be at the RDC) she graciously offered to take us along. However, since we still have not checked-in yet and my camera gear were still tucked inside our luggage, we had to decline her offer.

This morning, Susan and her group were going back to RDC. Once again, she offered to take us along. However we had already arranged for van to take us there so we had to turn her down again. We also felt that it would be unfair to the members of her tour group who very likely paid thousands of dollars if we joined them and not pay a single cent (which I’m certain that Susan would not ask from us).

We discovered as we were traversing the Canopy Walkway at the RDC that the birds were not as plentiful as we had expected. Perhaps it was the time of day or the intense humidity even at half-past six in the morning. We did get our first lifer of the day though. An immature Red-bearded Bee-eater. (Another discovery we had in this trip was that many of the birds we saw were still in their juvenile stage.)


We discovered the hard way that today was a Malaysian holiday. We were sort of taken aback when several school busses unloaded hordes of noisy school children who immediately went up the Canopy Walkway! Of course, where there were boisterous kids, there were very, very few birds to be seen.

While lounging at the restaurant (a total misnomer because they don’t serve any food, only soft drinks, bottled water and ice cream – at horrendous prices even) we met Wonder Boys. Brothers Armao and Joao Pedroque, ages 9 and 7 respectively, were avid birders. They (along with their Mom and Dad and younger sister) were natives of Catalan, Spain and had been travelling all over Southeast Asia just looking for birds.

After “lunch” Cynthia and I explored the trails. While catching our breath at a place appropriately named Birders Rest, we heard some squawks and several huge birds flew in. I thought they were just the “usual” Oriental Pied Hornbills but when I looked through my lens they definitely looked different. They were Bushy-crested Hornbills! (Whoever named these birds must have a very vivid imagination.)


At two in the afternoon, things began to quiet down a little as most of the visitors have already left. We returned to the Walkway only to be greeted by Armao who came running towards us and in an excited tone told us that he just saw the Bornean Bristlehead about 20 minutes ago.  The adrenaline rush took over my fatigue as I sprinted up about 4 stories high into the aptly named Bristlehead Tower. Elizabeth, Armao’s mother was already there and announced that the rare endemic was already gone.

We waited with the hopes that the Bristlehead would return. Occasionally, we would wander around just to shake off the oncoming ennui. It was during one these wanderings that I saw another lifer. Another immature bird whose identification escaped me. It was only when we were back home and after processing the photo that I was able to find out what kind of bird it was – thanks to Steve Pryor and our friend, Irene. It was a Blue-eared Barbet. Another lifer for us.


We gave up on the Bristlehead and as we were exiting the Canopy Walkway, we got another lifer, the Hairy-backed Bulbul (again an interesting name given by someone whose imagination had gone wild).


As we waited for the van to take us back to our hotel, we discovered that the flowering plants lining the street were host to some beautiful birds. Among them were the dark-colored Copper-throated Sunbirds.


That night my wife and I discovered that we no longer had the energy to do some night birding. As if to confirm our decision, it rained.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sabahtical - Day 1 - Sleepless

Our plane landed at the Kota Kinabalu airport a little after one in the morning. Cynthia was able to doze for a few moments while aboard the airplane but somehow I could not get any shut-eye while in any mode of transportation, especially airborne ones.

But there's more. Our connecting flight to Sandakan does not leave until 7 am which means we had to spend the next five hours at the small airport terminal. Again, my wife was able to get some sleep while sprawled across several chairs. I, of course, had to keep watch over our luggage.

The flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan was mercifully short. Despite that Cynthia still managed to get some forty winks. I was wide-eyed and fully awake as I looked at the peak of Mt. Kinabalu as we flew over it.

Another hour later and we were checking in at the Sepilok Jungle Resort. Except that it was still early (it was a little before nine in the morning) and our room wasn't ready yet! So we decided to use that time to explore the surroundings of the resort. "There are plenty of birds around" the staff assured us.

It was not a very auspicious first encounter because the first birds we saw were female Brown-throated Sunbirds.



However, that was soon followed by our first lifer of the trip, and I might add, quite appropriate considering the sleepless state we were in: the Red-eyed Bulbul.



Behind the swimming pool area, bright Crimson Sunbirds greeted us.



Little Spiderhunters were plenty!



We also saw what we assumed to be an Oriental Magpie Robin, except that this one does not have the usual white belly. A Bornean subspecies, perhaps?



At around 11 am we were informed that our room was ready. We hurriedly brought our baggage in and plopped on the warm welcoming bed. We were in the land of Nod in an instant.

We woke up at two in the afternoon and proceeded to the restaurant for a really late lunch. The owner, Mr. John Lim, noticing that we were birders (the cameras and the binoculars were a dead give-away, I'm sure), pointed at the lagoon next to the restaurant.

"Kingfisher" he said tersely.

We looked and voila! A Stork-billed Kingfisher was patiently waiting for an unwary fish. Forget lunch for now.  Cynthia and I took shot after shot of the insouciant bird. When Jason, Mr. Lim's son, threw some tidbits to lure out the fish, the kingfisher knew it will soon be getting its own lunch. In an instant it dove to the waters and grabbed a humongous fish and then flew to the tiny island in the middle of the pond. Jason and I ran to the edge of the restaurant to get better views. My wife, in the meantime, took a hint and ordered lunch for ourselves.



After a really good meal, we once again explored the resort's vicinity. Not finding anything new, Cynthia suggested we go to the street in front. A surprise was a Mom and a juvenile White-breasted Waterhen walking nonchalantly ahead of us. While I was taking their picture, we heard a loud cry and a whoosh. We saw something huge drop on the palm tree before us. We looked and couldn't believe our eyes. Oriental Pied Hornbills! An adult and a young one even! What a great sighting for Cynthia's birthday!



That capped our first day in Sepilok. We hoped that it would augur well for the rest of our stay in Sabah.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Juvenile Detection

"Peter wants to see the pitta," I told my wife. "The Red-bellied one," I further explained.

"Where and when?" she asked.

"Ecopark. Saturday."

"OK!"

Peter was downcast when we met him Saturday at the mini-forest at the Ecopark. "No birds!" he lamented.

We stationed ourselves at the place where local birder, Anthony Balbin, said was the playground of the pittas. Minutes dragged by so slowly like a plodding snail. Cynthia not wanting to be the breakfast of mosquitoes wandered around. Her perambulations were rewarded by the appearance of a Mangrove Blue Flycatcher. 



Then there was a bird she couldn't figure out. When she returned to our stake-out place she showed me a really bad photo of the unknown bird. Striped head, dull brown. I dismissed it as just one of those Yellow-vented Bulbuls. 

Humidity intensified to an unbelievable degree. Not wanting to drown in my own sweat. I asked Peter to forget about waiting for the pitta for now and check-out the surrounding areas. As we rounded the trail we received a relentless scolding from a Grey-backed Tailorbird - berating us perhaps for not being patient enough.



Silence once again. Even the resident Ashy Thrushes seem to have taken a vacation that muggy Saturday morning. I told Peter that I'll do some trail-trekking. He opted to stay put. My wife, once again, was doing her own exploration.

Not finding anything of the avian variety, I went back to where Peter was. As soon as he saw me, he place his finger over his lips then pointed towards a bunch of leaves. I looked and voila! a nest! 


"Ashy Thrush," he whispered. I looked again and saw the nest. I looked at Peter with raised eyebrows. "Just wait," he advised me and then showed me the image he took while I was out meandering. Indeed there was an Ashy Thrush on the nest. Soon a flutter and one adult came and sat on another future addition to the Geokichla cinerea population of Ecopark. Joining us was Reuel Aguila who also documented another Ashy Thrush nest about two months ago.

Note: To protect the welfare of the nesting Ashy Thrush, no photos of the nest will be shown.

Having had my fill of nest photos, I looked for my wife. I met her near the purportedly pitta place. She was peering into the undergrowth and beckoning me with her hand. Apparently she detected something exciting. I looked at where she was looking and I gasped audibly. A juvenile Red-bellied Pitta was feeding nonchalantly about 3 meters away. My brain assessed the situation and immediately came to the conclusion that I need a more portable gear. I practically wrested Cynthia's camera with the 300mm lens from her. Reuel also came and joined me as I crouched like a tiger at the semi hidden dragon of a bird. Meanwhile, my wife went to inform Peter of her discovery. For about 20 minutes or so all of us feasted on freshly delivered pitta.



That, of course, was the highlight of our birding day. Maybe not the adult Pitta that Peter was hoping for but detecting a juvenile and getting some pictures of it was definitely worth the sweating and the waiting.