Monday, 27 October 2014

Sabah, Borneo, August 2014 Part 3

And so our six-week trip to Malaysia and Borneo continues. 

After birding in the east of the Malaysian state of Sabah, we caught a flight to the west coast, to the capital, Kota Kinabalu.  Here we stayed outside the centre of town, which was perfect for driving east in the morning.  We checked in just about in time to go to another Chinese restaurant, which seemed to be turning into our favourite restaurants. 

In the morning our awesome guide, Andrew Siani, drove us to the Rafflasia Centre in the Crocker Mountains National Park.  The Centre is well known for the massive Rafflasia flower but it was not in season when we were visiting.  Most of the birding was actually from the road and we had a great time in the day and a half that we were there, seeing loads of the Bornean endemics.  Considering that there are only 50 endemics on the whole island, we saw 15 endemic species in this tiny endemic hotspot.  The endemic birds that we saw were Mountain and Bornean Barbet, Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crested Yuhina, Pygmy White-eye, Fruithunter, Black-sided Flowerpecker, Bornean Spiderhunter, Mountain Serpent Eagle, Bornean Whistler, Bornean Treepie, Bornean Forktail, Bornean Leafbird and the difficult Whitehead’s Broadbill and Spiderhunter.  Here we also saw Black-and-crimson Oriole.  We had a large supply of luck as well as a talented guide and working hard to get us these birds.




Black-and-crimson Oriole, Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


After lunch on our second day, we travelled a couple of hours to a place called Poring Hot Springs, which is at the base of Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea.  We were staying at a lovely lodge just out of town called Kinabalu Poring Vacation Lodge.  There were lots of tourists here, to swim in the sulphurous hot water springs.  




Rufous-collared Kingfisher, Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


White-crowned Shama, Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


At Poring, the main target was the endemic and extremely rare Hose’s Broadbill but we had not heard of anyone seeing one this year.  We were meeting our guide, Andrew, at 7.30 am the next morning to walk a steep footpath to the 3.1 km mark, where these birds are occasionally seen.   However, later in the evening, we received a message from Rob Hutchinson from Bird Tour Asia saying that you should start at 5.00 am and hike to get to the bird site by 7.30 am.  After receiving this news, the three of us agreed that we had no chance the next day, but would treat it as a practice run, starting out much earlier the day after.  However, in the morning Andrew told us that the spot at 3.1 km is only where you get the bird for two weeks of the year, when the trees here are fruiting.  At other times, the birds could be anywhere else but especially where there are fruiting trees.  We still didn't feel reassured and especially when it was 11.00 am by the time we even got to the 2 km mark.  Thinking that it was too late to see anything, we decided to turn back.  Just then, Andrew whispered excitedly “Hose’s Broadbill”!  What?  Where?  We could not believe it.  We looked up and a beautiful bright green and blue bird was sitting just above us.  We all got fantastic views, too mesmerised to get a camera out.  It seemed our luck was still continuing.

We had left ourselves 3 nights to try for the Broadbill, so had plenty of time to try and catch up with other birds.    We managed to see the endemic Dusky Munia, White-crowned Shama, Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker and Bornean Whistling Thrush.  We also saw the rare Rufous-collared Kingfisher as well as Scarlet-rumped Trogon.  On our last morning, we tried again for the rare White-tailed Flycatcher around a waterfall at the bottom on the trail.  We had tried each day but with no success. Dad climbed some rocks and managed to see it briefly but Mum and I missed it, which was not fun.  I was disappointed but Mum was very unhappy, especially with Dad, as obviously it was his fault he climbed the rocks and gripped us off!




Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at waterfall, Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig


Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Next was the drive up to Mount Kinabalu itself for a six night stay. This was another area that also had lots of endemics, so we had to concentrate on the different footpaths as well as the road to the start of the mountain trail.  We were staying just outside the National Park, where there was also a basic restaurant that ran out of more and more ingredients and drinks over the next few days. You would think they were somewhere massively remote rather than a couple of hours from the capital.   



Pale-faced Bulbul, Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Bornean Swiftlet, Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig





Bornean Swiftlet, Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


The new endemics that we targeted and saw here were Whitehead’s Trogon, Bornean Green Magpie, Bornean Stubtail, Bare-headed Laughingthrush, Mountain Blackeye, Eyebrowed Jungle Flycatcher, Golden-naped Barbet, Mountain Wren Babbler and the difficult Everett’s Thrush and Friendly Bush Warbler.



Golden-naped Barbet, Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig




Mountain Blackeye, Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Mountain Wren-babbler, Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig




Bornean Whistling Thrush, Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


For the Friendly Bush Warbler, we had to walk 2 km along the actual mountain summit trail.  We were only going a short way up but were in our boots and sensible clothes whilst lots of people going to the summit were completely inappropriately dressed in plastic shoes and shorts.  Andrew had told us that lots of people do not take the trek seriously as there is a trail all the way to the top but he said that a 22 year old German girl had died at the top only this year.  He said that altitude can be a problem as the top of the trail is at 4,095 m as with people regularly having to be stretchered down.




Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig


We managed to get just before the 2 km point when we saw a Friendly Bush Warbler really well, just off the trail.  After watching for few minutes, just as we were ready to head down, it started raining.  Not just a drizzle but a massive torrential downpour.  I ran back down the mountain but had to wait for ages in the rain for Mum, who struggled on the slippery stone path which had turned into a river.  Those people walking in plastic shoes and shorts seemed all the more crazy.



Friendly Bush Warbler, Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Firefly species at Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig birding at Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig


Back at our lodge, J Residence, there was a really steep driveway down from the road.  Andrew had a 4x4 and so we were OK getting back up the drive. Other cars were not so able, with lots of cars getting half way up and then rolling back down to the bottom at speed before having to try again.  Our room was at the bottom of the driveway and so it was quite scary watching cars hurtling back down the drive, completely out control (mainly with women drivers)!




View from our lodge, Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Until this point, we had been really lucky with the weather as it had been dry the whole time.  Mount Kinabalu was completely different.  Most days we only birded in the morning with heavy rain all afternoon, stopping us from getting out at all.  Despite this, we did so well cleaning up that we were able to leave a day early, heading back to the Capital Kota Kinabalu via Crocker Mountains National Park trying again for Sunda Cuckoo, without any luck.  Mum wanted to go back to Poring Hot Springs to try again for the White-tailed Flycatcher that she and I missed, but Dad put his foot down and said no.

That afternoon we did a little tour of Kota Kinabalu, trying to pick up odds and ends.  We caught up with the near threatened Blue-naped Parrot and Long-tailed Parakeet at Tanjung Aru Beach, Malaysian Plover and Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers at Lok Kowi Beach and Buff-banded Rail and Nankeen Night Heron at dusk at Penampang Paddyfields.



Green Imperial Pigeon, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Oriental Magpie-robin, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Buff-banded Rail, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

In the morning, we spent our last half day with Andrew before he had to shoot off to meet his next party of birders.  He had arranged a boat charter to take us across to Manukan Island where we saw our target species, the Philippine Megapode as well as Mangrove Whistler and Mangrove Blue Flycatcher. It was a lovely island and a shame we did not have time for snorkelling.  





Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Manukan Island, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig


After saying goodbye to Andrew, we had a welcome rest in our hotel before finding the most amazing vegetarian Chinese restaurant we have ever been to with dishes like vegetarian fish curry and vegetarian duck.




Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and bird guide, Andrew Siani
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig


Next diving, white-water rafting, Mantanani IslandBrunei and Taman Negara, Malaysian Peninsular.






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