Thursday, 13 February 2014

Sabah, Borneo - The Start

Away from the hotel in Kota Kinabalu just after 5am and hour and a half later we were near the Rafflesia Reserve in the Crocker Range. Roadside birding amidst great submontane forest brought our first endemics with both Mountain and Bornean Barbets, a pair of Rufous-hooded Laughingthrushes, several flocks of Chestnut-crested Yuhina, a showy Bornean Spiderhunter, Bornean Treepie, plus brief views of Bornean Leafbird and Bornean Bulbul. We also enjoyed several fine male Temminck’s Sunbirds, along with Ruddy and Little Cuckoo-Doves, Blyth’s Shrike-babbler, Sunda Cuckoo, Indigo and Mugimaki Flycatchers, Spectacled Spiderhunter, a flock of Black-capped White-eye, Grey-chinned Minivet, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, and we even had a close look at a Temminck’s Babbler. With the temperature rising and a lovely clear blue sky overhead it wasn’t surprising to see a few raptors soaring around, but it was surprising when the first bird of prey turned out to be the often-difficult Mountain Serpent-eagle. There was also Blyth’s Hawk-eagle and a Black Eagle here as well, plus a high-flying Wreathed Hornbill.

Eye-browed Jungle-Flycatcher - one of our first endemics on Mt Kinabalu

Leaving here we stopped for lunch in a small town en-route to our lodge at the base of Mount Kinabalu. Arriving around 2pm we had a little time to settle into our rooms before driving the short distance to Mount Kinabalu and our first taste of birding on this fabled mountain. We were aware the birding can be slow in the afternoons and the first hour certainly proved that point with low cloud smothering the forest and obscuring pretty much every bird we tried to see. A Bornean Whistler showed to some of us and apart from some white-eyes and a constantly calling Golden-naped Barbet that was our lot. So we drove lower and this turned out to be a very good move with a Bornean Whistling-thrush perched beside our minibus. Along a narrow trail we picked up a number of excellent birds with the endemic Eye-browed Jungle-Flycatcher, followed by the endemic Mountain Wren-babbler, and much better views of the striking Yellow-breasted Warbler than we’d had earlier today. 

Mountain Wren-babbler - very brown & very skulking, sort of!

A little further along there was a brief appearance by a Snowy-browed Flycatcher, but that was totally overshadowed by a pair of Bornean Green Magpies circling us repeatedly high above our heads in the canopy. It took a while but eventually everyone managed to get a clear view of them – and what total stunners they are. A Bornean Forktail also showed well a little later to round the day off and with low cloud descending to this level we decided to call it quits and head back for an early dinner. As an aside, I’m not sure how anyone gets decent photos of anything here with low cloud, dull, gloomy forest and skittish birds….. So let's see how the next few days go!

1 comment:

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