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Birds, Beasts and Bugs- Trekking in Sabah, Borneo


kittykat23uk
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Birds, Beasts and Bugs- Trekking in Sabah, Borneo

Its funny how some destinations don't appeal one year and then rise to the top of your list in another. Sabah is one such destination. I initially felt that it didn't have much to offer me. It would be hot, sweaty; there would be lots of trekking, there would be a mountain (which I established in Madagascar that I don't do!) and despite their diversity, rainforests are notoriously difficult to actually see anything in, let alone photograph. But having got a few other priority destinations out of my system, I felt like trying something new. The birds were a big draw, as were the star primates, proboscis monkeys and orangutans, but it was the remote possibility of nailing a clouded leopard that really crystallised the need in my mind to at least give it a good go. Through mammalwatching.com, I made contact with another like-minded person, Paul, who took the lead in planning.

We came up with a nice itinerary, he would arrive earlier and cover Poring Hot Springs and some other sites around Kota Kinabalu and I would arrive a few days later. We then would together cover the following over three weeks:

Sun 16 – Tue 18 March- Kinabalu National Park HQ area, staying at Kinabalu Pine Resort

Wed 19 to Thu 20- Sepilok – Rainforest Discovery Centre, Orangutan centre and sun bear rehabilitation centre, staying at Sepilok Jungle Resort.

Fri 21- 23 Kinabatangan River staying with Robert Chong at his Kinabatangan Jungle Camp (where the hardcore birders stay).

Mon 24 Depart KJC camp to Sukau. Drive to Lahad Datu, overnight at the Silam Dynasty hotel.

Tue 25 -26 Danum Valley staying at Borneo Rainforest Lodge in a standard room.

Thu 27 -30 Danum Valley staying at Danum Valley Field Centre in a standard room.

Mon 31 Return to Lahad Datu, back at Silam Dynasty for the night.

Tue 1 -3 April- Tabin Wildlife Reserve staying at Tabin Wildlife Resort.

Fri 4 - Returned to Kota Kinabalu by Air, Overnight at Cassaurina Hotel, KK.

Sat 5 - Paul had a lunchtime flight, mine wasn't until the evening, so I spent the day at Palau Manukan looking for a chicken (according to Ian) and departed for home that evening.

We booked most of the lodges & hotels directly in advance. We were not able to book DVFC as we were unable to make contact with the office. So the BRL booking was insurance in case we couldn't get in at all, (expensive insurance at that!) and as it happened we had no trouble booking DVFC at their office in Lahad Datu, though that seemed a little pointless because when we actually arrived at reception at the field centre, the staff there didn't have a record of our booking. But in any case, it was all sorted out without much fuss!

View of Mount Kinabalu:

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Mount Kinabalu by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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It seems like yesterday you were contemplating this destination. Now you've already been there!

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Yes, had originally been planning for May/ June but Paul had a window in his schedule so I ended up going sooner than planned.

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Sunday 16th March

 

My first stop was Kinabalu Park. This was established as one of the first Malaysian National Parks in 1964 and is Malaysia's first World Heritage Site designated in December 2000 for its "outstanding universal values" and the role as one of the most important biological sites in the world. It covers an area of 754 square kilometres surrounding Mount Kinabalu, which at 4,095.2 metres, is the highest mountain on the island of Borneo. For those interested in geology, Mount Kinabalu is one of the youngest non-volcanic mountains in the world. It was formed within the last 10 to 35 million years. The mountain still grows at a rate of 5 millimetres a year.

 

Kinabalu Park contains a variety of flora and fauna that ranges over 4 climate zones; from rich lowland dipterocarp forest through the Montane Oak and Rododendron then up into coniferous forest, to the alpine meadow plants and finally to the stunted bushes of summit zone. Of course, given that I don't do mountains, we didn't really attempt the summit so missed a few of these habitats.

Wikipedia states that Kinabalu park is also home more than 4,500 species of flora and fauna, including 326 bird and around 100 mammal species, including a multitude of endemic species though it chooses a couple of odd animals to highlight, namely the Kinabalu Giant Red Leech and Kinabalu Giant Earthworm. Good job Wikipedia isn't Kinabalu Park's tourist information site!

 

My flights were all on time and the guy was there at the airport on time to meet me to transfer the 88km to Kinabalu Pine Resort, just a short drive from Kinabalu Park. So I arrived around lunchtime and met Paul, who came to reception as I was checking in. The few birds that I saw en route are the sort of roadside birds you see in a lot of countries, such as great and cattle egrets, tree sparrows, mynahs and a black-shouldered kite.

 

We spent out time in the afternoon around the Kinabalu Park headquarters, covering parts of the Silau Silau and Liwagu trails. I saw several new birds on my first day, including Bornean forktail, mugimaki, blue and white, indigo and hill blue flycatchers, olive backed sunbird, mountain leaf warbler, chestnut-crested yuhina, chestnut-hooded and sunda laughing-thrushes and grey throated babblers. We also managed to see a short-tailed green magpie and a fairly distant golden-naped barbet.

 

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P3161211 Mugimaki flycatcher by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3161215 Chestnut-crested Yuhina by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3161222 Mugimaki flycatcher by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3161270 Short-tailed Green Magpie by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3161298 Mountain Tailorbird by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3161343 Mountain Leaf Warbler by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3161433 Bornean Whistler by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

After getting some dinner, we tried spotlighting around the boardwalk but saw nothing much of note.

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@@kittykat23uk

Great start - I am really looking forward to this trip report (We intend to go in a year's time so all practical detail welcome)

The green magpie is impressive!

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Thanks @@TonyQ.

 

Monday 17th March

 

We were up before dawn, had a quick breakfast of cornflakes and were then off to the park. The journey into the park at this time of day can be quite an event in itself as patchy low cloud and/or fog intermittently obscured the road. We were in the park at first light, and took the road up to the power station (this road also leads up to the Timpohon Gate which is the entrance to the summit trail). As we were driving we registered a large shadowy shape flitting across the road above the trees. We quickly parked up and got out to see if we could identify the creature. Soon enough, the bird (for it was a bird and not a bat or a flying squirrel) reappeared and white wing patches identified it as some kind of nightjar. After a bit of checking through the field guide, and later discussing our sighting with one of the local guides, we settled on it being a grey nightjar. This is, according to Phillipps' a scarce winter visitor from Japan and Eastern Siberia.

 

For the morning, we took the Bukit Ular trail from the power station, which led us through forested slopes back down the Power Station road parallel to the road. This map shows the trail: http://www.borneobirdfestival.com/kinabalu-park-hq-map/

 

Birding in the rainforest posed a number of problems for me. Firstly, I am not the fittest person on the planet, given that I have a desk job, the occasional lunchtime down the gym and local birding trip did nothing to prepare me for the amount of walking we would do on this trip. So I was generally hot and sweaty and mostly a little short of breath when we stopped to actually look at something en route. This then presented a second problem in that, as soon as I put up my binoculars to my eyes, my glasses would steam up so I would then have to stop, clean them so I could see again, by which time the bird or whatever it was, would usually have moved!

 

Nevertheless we still saw a few things on our hike. These included, the same species as the previous day to which we added ashy drongo, little cuckoo-dove, Bornean whistler, white-throated fantail, eyebrowed jungle flycatcher, Sunda bush warbler and the pretty little grey-chinned minivet. A nice male crimson headed partridge added a splash of colour as he skulked away into the undergrowth, defying our attempts to photograph him. We spotted our first treeshrew- most likely mountain treeshrew as well as a Whitehead's pygmy squirrel, who I initially thought had two white stripes down his back, but on closer inspection these turned out to be some impressive ear tufts! Sadly I didn't manage to get a decent photo of this charismatic little squirrel.

 

We returned to the road and stopped for some scenic shots of Mount Kinabalu from the viewpoint. As I was photographing the mountain, Paul spotted a flock of hornbills flying high in front of the mountain. The wreathed hornbill is the only hornbill that is found at the higher levels of Mount Kinabalu and indeed, these were wreathed hornbills. I wish we could have seen this species better, but sadly it was not to be.

 

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P3161263 adj Bornean Black-banded Squirrel by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171485 View of Mount Kinabalu with Very very distant wreathed hornbills flying over. by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

We found a fruiting fig tree at the 4km marker just down the road from the power station. As anyone who has birded in the rainforest knows, fig trees are a magnet for any fruit-eating birds and mammals in the area. At Kinabalu, this meant birds and squirrels! In this tree we were delighted to find no less than four species of squirrel, these being, the small Jentink's squirrel, the slightly larger black-banded squirrel and Kinabalu squirrel and then the heavyweight of the squirrel world, a crean coloured giant squirrel. This large squirrel is a real beauty and we spent a fair bit of time just watching the comings and goings in the tree. Birds were also in evidence and included Bornean treepie along with the ubiquitous Sunda and Chestnut-hooded Laughing-thrush.

 

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P3171539 Blue and White Flycatcher by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171551 Kinabalu Squirrel by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171562 Jentink's Squirrel by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171622 Bornean Treepie by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171630 Bornean Treepie by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171642 Sunda Laughing-thrush by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171647 Chestnut-hooded Laughing-thrush by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171683 Jentink's Squirrel by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171700 Cream-coloured Giant Squirrel, Ratufa affinis by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171708 Cream-coloured Giant Squirrel, Ratufa affinis by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171722 Little Cuckoo-dove by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Firstly, I am not the fittest person on the planet, given that I have a desk job, the occasional lunchtime down the gym and local birding trip did nothing to prepare me for the amount of walking we would do on this trip. So I was generally hot and sweaty and mostly a little short of breath when we stopped to actually look at something en route. This then presented a second problem in that, as soon as I put up my binoculars to my eyes, my glasses would steam up

@@kittykat23uk glad to hear I'm not the only one in this situation - this was very much my problem too on my trip to Costa Rica - man was it hot and humid! And a lot of hiking around to see stuff. Enjoying reading about your trip so far!

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Steamed glasses or just sweat running into the eyes. I know both problems well! Love the Green Magpie!

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Excellent TR, I am making mental notes as we plan to visit in April 2015. Very cute cream coloured squirrel.

 

I hear you about the desk job and the glasses fogging up and the trekking... :)

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Thanks all, with the exception of our time on the Kinabatangan it was definitely more strenuous than even Madagascar in that all the walking was pretty much in rainforest of varying type. In Madagascar there was more variety of habitats from rainforest, to dry forest to coastal areas. Plus that trip was just around two weeks, this was three and with our aim to see mammals, we also had quite a few nocturnal walks as well. I bought a better camera and took a good flash unit along for this trip which proved very useful! :)

 

We returned to the car and drove back down the power station road, as we approached the view point some people flagged us down, pointing at the bushes in front of the railing. We parked up to investigate and were shown to where a cave racer (beauty rat snake) was curled up, sunning itself.

 

13699680273_984de5c2e9_b.jpgP3171742 Cave Racer (Beauty Rat Snake) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

13699664505_7abe0862fa_b.jpgP3171760 Cave Racer (Beauty Rat Snake) by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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delightful giant squirrel. fascinating pix of the snake, tho i'll be too terrified to go that close.....

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@@kittykat23uk

Looking at these pictures I imagine you are very pleased with your new camera

The squirrel pictures are great - and the Jentink is very cute (is it a squirrel?)

The snake pictures are really good.

You talk about using an external flash - did you use that for some of the bird pictures? Do they react to it?

 

Your report suggests we might need to get a bit fitter for our trip!

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The Jentink's is a small squirrel yes. Borneo seems to have more than it's fair share of squirrels. A friend of mine who was there a week later than me got a really nice image of the Whitehead's Pygmy Squirrel - the one with the tufty ears.

 

We saw a few snakes, mainly constrictors like this one, thankfully since we did some night walks!

 

As to the flash, the birds were usually okay with it, it also didn't seem to disturb roosting bats. Treeshrews did seem to be a bit wary about it but quickly returned to feed after the shot was taken. Funny thing, there seems to be no consistency with use of flash policy when on guided activities. One moment a guide will advise not to use flash, another time, the same guide would say its okay. To be honest, I think using flash was less intrusive of the animal's space than the guides' practice of, having spotted an animal on the roadside, driving at speed directly towards it, which frustratingly invariably scared the animal away!

 

After viewing the snake we returned to the lodge for lunch and a bit of r&r. Kinabalu Pine resort is set amongst a grove of pine trees, hence the name. To my delight it also has a rabbit house in which live three domestic bunnies. The rabbits are fed twice daily on a complete pellet feed, and it seems they are also given a little of the local grass. The housing itself seemed of a reasonable size but lacked any bedding from what I could see. It was therefore rather pungent! One of the rabbits was exhibiting some strange behaviour, ripping up pieces of tarpaulin that was used to shade the enclosure and carrying it back into the central shelter. Possibly it was nesting..

 

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P3178258 View from Kinabalu Pine resort by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3178252 Sunbathing bunny by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3178244 This rabbit kept ripping up plastic sheeting and taking it into the hutch.. maybe it's nesting... by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3178232 One of three bunnies who live in the rabbit house. by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3178226 Rabbit House at Kinabalu Pine Resort by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3178225 View from Kinabalu Pine Resort by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3178267 View from Kinabalu Pine resort by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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We started our afternoon walk around Raja Lodge in the park grounds. This is a good spot to find Bornean Whistling Thrush. Aside from this bird, we only saw more of the same birds as the previous couple of outings and nothing much was kind enough to post for a photograph aside from an indigo flycatcher. We had dinner in the park at the restaurant, I had some kind of yellow noodley thing, which was very rich and could have fed two people.

 

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P3171800 Bornean Whistling Thrush by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171810 Indigo Flycatcher by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171820 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171821 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

We then headed up the power station road, as we had discovered a bin that looked promising. A flying squirrel glided between the trees above the road, too dark to identify though. Where there's refuse, there's usually things that eat it and in this case the animals coming to the bin were rats. Not your typical Rattus Norvegicus, these were smart-looking orange and white jobbies with long tails. Kinabalu seems to have more than it's fair share of rats so we spent a while trying to work out if these were long-tailed mountain rats or long tailed giant rats. I believe we settled on the latter I.D. on account of the size and patchy colouration on the tail, though Paul thought one particular rat looked like it might have been a bit smaller, so we weren't 100% sure on that one. After sitting at the bin for a while I heard a thump against the back of the tree trunk behind me. So I got up to investigate and found a massive longhorn beetle had landed there!

 

We hiked the same trail as the morning spotlighting in the hope of seeing something good.

 

We.... saw...... nothing.....

 

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P3171826 Long-tailed Giant Rat Leopoldamys sabanus by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3171848 Huge longhorn beetle by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Tuesday 18th March

 

We'd heard that treeshrews were frequently seen at the shelters along the summit trail (yes, summit trail!!), so we made this a priority for the morning. Timpohon Gate is 5.5 km from the entrance to Kinabalu National park. Hikers wishing to summit the mountain mainly enter via this gate. There is a second route, which takes longer, but is apparently more varied, that begins at Mesilau Nature Resort which is 1 hour drive from Kinabalu Park HQ. Most people do the summit over two days, staying at one of the huts or at the Layang Rata Guest house at around 3200 metres. Here is a link to a map that shows the summit trails:http://www.amazing-borneo.com/mount-kinabalu/trail-map.html

 

We drove and parked as close to the gate as we could, you cant actually park at the gate, as that is for drop off only. Unfortunately for us we arrived too early and there was no-one at the Timpohon gate to let us through. So we walked back down to the fruiting fig tree for a little while, seeing mostly the same birds as before. Then we returned back up hill to the gate. After paying a small fee for our entry, we began our descent to Carson’s Fall, named after the first Park Warden of Kinabalu Park. From here onwards, it is supposed to be about a 4 – 5 hours climb to reach the overnight accommodation. The climb is up an unrelenting steep staircase of mossy roots and rock.

 

As we entered, we began to see small birds flitting through the bushes either side of the track, these included mountain blackeye and yellow-breasted warbler. Most birders who come to the summit trail are looking for one bird, namely the “friendly bush-warbler” (Bradypterus accentor), so-called because of its habit of hopping about at the feet of the early climbers. It is a somewhat nondescript reddish-brown bird, 15cm (6') in size, with a spotted breast that is found only on Sabah's three highest mountains - Kinabalu, Tambuyukon to the north, and Trus-Madi to the south-east. Sadly it is now rather uncommon and not nearly so friendly. In 1970 it was reported as "Not seen so often as in the past. The great number of climbers now walking the mountain trail have probably driven the birds to quieter areas".

 

In other words, it's an LBJ (little brown job) and I wasn't all that bothered about finding it. Instead, we were looking for an LBJ of a different kind. But it would have maybe helped if we'd known how to recognise it when we saw it! As we were ascending to the first shelter, we first saw some good birds which typically were skulking and un-photographable, these included the smart crimson-headed partridges and a small group of boldly patterned red-breasted hill partridges.

 

A golden-naped barbet sang from the top of a bare tree, but was too far and backlit to get anything really decent on it. Then we saw a little mammal scratching around the lower part of a tree trunk. We weren't sure if this was a squirrel or a treeshrew, I took a couple of pics and was leaning towards treeshrew, whilst Paul thought it was more likely to be a ground squirrel. Thankfully, we were able to confirm that it was a mountain treeshrew when we arrived at the first shelter and were able to see both the Bornean mountain ground squirrel and the mountain treeshrew together as they were both accustomed to cadging food from passing hikers. The treeshrew was noticeably smaller and the tail on the squirrel was much bushier, but to the untrained eye the treeshrew could easily have been overlooked. After taking a break, Paul got itchy feet and carried on, while I opted to stay and enjoy the activity at this first shelter.

 

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P3181882 Mountain treeshrew, Tupaia montana by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3181909 Bornean mountain ground squirrel, Dremomys everetti by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3181919 Mountain treeshrew, Tupaia montana by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3181926 Bornean mountain ground squirrel, Dremomys everetti by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3181929 Mountain treeshrew, Tupaia montana by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3181947 Bornean mountain ground squirrel, Dremomys everetti by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3181954 Mountain treeshrew, Tupaia montana by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Here's a video of the chestnut-hooded laughing thrush squirrel and treeshrew.

 

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Adorable shrews. You are to be commended for braving the summit trail to find them.

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very cute tree shrew pix!

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Thanks both.

 

We saw a few other treeshrews later in the trip as well. After a while I decided to slowly head back down the mountain, birding as I went along. I saw the barbet again, as well as the beautiful snowy-browed flycatcher which is one of the many blue flycatchers that Borneo has, this one sports a smart white eyebrow, hence the name. Try as I might the bird would not stay still enough to be photographed. A bird wave kept me occupied for a while, this comprised mainly grey-throated babblers, chestnut-crested yuhinas, yellow-breasted warblers and mountain tailorbirds. I managed to photograph a Bornean Whistler.

 

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P3181979 Bornean Whistler by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

Then I stopped to take a photo of Carson Falls. Whilst I was setting up, Paul arrived and overtook me as I was still trying to get a decent shot of the falls.

 

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P3188277 Carson Falls, Mount Kinabalu by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

We met up again a Timpohon gate where this confiding Bornean black banded squirrel was seen.

 

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P3181996 Adj by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3181998 Adj by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

In the above picture you can see the identifying features of this squirrel. Both Bornean black banded and Kinabalu squirrel have a black stripe. but the black banded has a grey belly and a grizzled tail. The Kinabalu has a more reddish belly and a black tail.

 

We spent some time in the afternoon around the restaurant and the lower trails but we didn't see anything new.

 

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P3182011 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

In the evening we returned to the bin to watch the long-tailed giant rats.

 

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P3182025 Long-tailed Giant Rat Leopoldamys sabanus by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3182041 Long-tailed Giant Rat Leopoldamys sabanus by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

Then we tried back along the boardwalks on the lower trails. They were pretty treacherous actually and we both had to catch ourselves from skidding a few times. The lights along the boardwalk attracted some interesting moths.

 

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P3182053 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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Wednesday 19th March

This was our final morning in the park. In addition to the friendly bush warbler, there are three other birds that are really sought-after in the Kinabalu/Poring/Crocker range area. These are the “Whitehead's Trio” comprising Whitehead's broadbill, trogon and spiderhunter. We had so far failed to locate any of the trio and, having got a bit of intelligence from some other birders and local guides we decided to have a final go at finding the trogon and broadbill.

 

We had been told that the trogon could be seen at the Silau Silau trail head, so we tried that first. Paul had downloaded calls and songs of all the key species of birds to his MP3 player so we tried to lure out the trogon that was calling. Unfortunately for us, he stubbornly refused to show! Though we did see a bird wave of mainly sunda and chestnut-hooded laughing-thrush and more chestnut-crested yuhinas.

We eventually gave up on the trogon and headed to the viewpoint where we then heard Whitehead's broadbill calling. Paul tried the tape on that bird too and we were sure there were at least two birds calling, one down the road from the viewpoint and one further up. I eventually tracked one of them to a tree, and got fleeting views as it flew off. It didn't seem to go far but I wasn't able to relocate it.

 

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P3182062 Low cloud at viewpoint by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3182064 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3182073 by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

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P3182081 Ashy Drongo by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

We also checked out the fruiting tree. Again there were a number of squirrels and birds there, including grey-chinned minivet, grey-throated babblers and an ashy drongo which perched high up overlooking the viewpoint. A Kinabalu serpent eagle glided overhead. We headed back down, stopping at the two shelters for one final chance of the trogon, but it was not to be. Our time in the park had come to an end and it was time to move on to our next destination, Sepilok.

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Interlude 1 - Some practical tips for Borneo

 

Field guides

 

Paul brought with him a library of field guides but the ones we referred to most often were:

 

Phillipps' Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Quentin Phillipps and A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo by J. Payne

 

Another book for birds that looks quite good is A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Susan Myers

 

I must confess that the Phillipps guide is one of the least inspiring bird guides I have ever owned, it really needs a revision of the plates which are in general pretty poor. The same goes for quite a few of the plates in the mammal book.

 

Photography

 

For this trip I upgraded to an Olympus E-5 which is weather-sealed and I almost always used this with my 50-200 lens and a 1.4 converter (the exception being on night drives/walks where I sometimes removed the converter (when I remembered to!). I also brought my FL-50R flash unit- this was pretty much on my camera all the time.

 

I brought a monopod and ball head, thinking that would be useful when trekking, but I quickly found that it was too unwieldy to be useful.

 

Surpirsingly, I found the clips on my Olympus camera strap perished very quickly. In the end I resorted to using my belt holster for carrying the camera when out trekking. Despite this being a simple plastic design (looks like this one: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tripod-Mount-Belt-Clip-Camera/dp/B0098GO4PE/ref=sr_1_35?ie=UTF8&qid=1397819125&sr=8-35&keywords=belt+holster+camera) it was actually extremely effective.

 

Other useful equipment

 

A good spotlighting torch is recommended. I had a LED Lenser headtorch which I found to be woefully inadequate. Paul brought along two torches a Led Lenser X21 (due to its brightness it is almost classified it as a weapon) which he mainly used when on the night drives and he also used a LED Lenser P14 when out walking at night. The P14 was also useful for during the day to shine into hollow logs and culverts looking for bats.

 

Whilst my camera and lens are weatherproof, my camcorder wasn't and I also had my flash to think of. So I invested in an Exped Cloudburst Daysack 25 ltr . The one I got was olive green. I found this to be incredibly useful.

 

 

Leech socks are also recommended! Something else to note, none of the accommodation we stayed at had mosquito nets, just insect screens on the windows.

 

Drinks

 

Availability of alcohol- With the exception of the city/town hotels and BRL in Danum Valley, I found that most of the lodges only stocked beer. Since I don't like beer, this was an issue and I had many dry days on this trip. Tabin Wildlife Resort does stock a few wines, I went for the cheapest at 40 ringgits which was a sweet sparking rose- it was okay. BRL has a full bar, so was able to get rum and coke there and Robert Chong was gracious enough to share some whisky with me at KJC. Finally I managed to find both Strongbow and Somersby ciders at the bars and hotels in Kota Kinabalu.

 

Drinking water is usually available free of charge at most of the places we stayed, so once you have a bottle, there is no problem finding somewhere to top it up.

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Thank you @@SafariChick.

 

We returned to Kota Kinabalu airport and spent a while trying to track down the agent who should have been there to pick up the hire car. After a few calls to the agent, we eventually located him and were then finally able to check in. On our way we spotted brahminy kite, great and cattle egret. Our Air Asia flight was at 13.20 and we arrived in Sandakan at 14.10. We took a taxi to Sepilok Jungle Resort. We only booked two nights here, but we both left wishing we'd had more time. When we arrived we found that we were both located at opposite ends of the resort and there were in fact two separate receptions servicing each side. I had booked a deluxe room, Paul had a standard. The lodgings are connected to the restaurant by way of an extensive boardwalk. A large pond separates the two sides of the resort. There is a swimming pool, but neither of us used it as we had little time to spare whilst here.

 

There are three main attractions in Sepilok, the orangutan rehabilitation centre, the sun bear rescue centre and the rainforest discovery centre (RDC). The first two attractions are only about a 5 minute walk from the resort. RDC is about a 20 minute to ½ hour walk from the resort. We decided to spend the late afternoon at RDC. A white-breasted water hen skulked in the long grass by the side of the road as we walked.

 

The RDC was established as a small environmental education (EE) centre in 1996 and has since grown into one of Sabah's most popular EE centres. It is located within the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve and is managed by the Sabah Forestry Department. Although the main purpose of the RDC remains as an environmental education centre for students and teachers, it has opened its doors to the public since August 2007. It is now opened daily from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm.

The centre has a good network of trails and also boasts a 347 m long sturdy metal canopy walkway connecting 2 towers (named Bristlehead and Trogon respectively) and a single-column Sunbird Shelter. It is the first of its kind in the country. The walkway is 2 m wide and about 25 m above the ground at its highest point. There is also a separate “Hornbill Tower”.

 

We spent the majority of our time on the canopy walkway. I wouldn't say it was exactly heaving with birds, but we did pick up pink-necked green pigeons, black-headed, cream-vented and yellow-vented bulbuls, brown-throated, olive-backed and eastern crimson sunbirds. We also saw tree sparrows, Asian glossy starling, chestnut munia, lesser green leafbird, pied fantail and oriental magpie robin. We found a fruiting tree which attracted Prevost's Squirrel, a smart black squirrel with a contrasting tan belly.

 

13721998973_96d2739c3c_c.jpg

P3192112 Black-headed bulbul by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

13722357063_6e29641f1e_c.jpg

P3192130 Prevost's Squirrel by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

13722329785_586def8ae6_c.jpg

P3192134 Prevost's Squirrel by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

13722728004_8b9fe1af00_c.jpg

P3192195 Prevost's Squirrel by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

 

13722729584_3252a1088f_c.jpg

P3192207 adj Eastern Crimson Sunbird by kittykat23uk, on Flickr

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