Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Borneo - Part 7 (Day 2 at the Crocker Range, Kota Kinabalu)

Introduction
October 3, 2017 - Day 1 on Mount Kinabalu
October 4, 2017 - Day 2 on Mount Kinabalu
October 5, 2017 - Poring Hot Springs
October 6, 2017 - Day 3 on Mount Kinabalu
October 7, 2017 - Day 1 at the Crocker Range
October 8, 2017 - Day 2 at the Crocker Range, Kota Kinabalu
October 9, 2017 - Klias Peatswamp Forest Reserve
October 10, 2017 - Sepilok
October 11, 2017 - Sepilok
October 12, 2017 - Sepilok, travel up the Kinabatangan River
October 13, 2017 - Kinabatangan River
October 14, 2017 - Gomantong Caves, travel to the Danum Valley
October 15, 2017 - Day 1 at the Danum Valley
October 16, 2017 - Day 2 at the Danum Valley


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October 8, 2017

I returned to the Rafflesia Information Center (RIC) for my second morning with a reduced hit list. I was still missing Bornean Leafbird (E), while Mountain Barbet (E) and Bornean Barbet (E) were heard only. I made sure to begin early in the morning to improve my chances with the barbets.

Highway near the Rafflesia Information Center, Crocker Range, Sabah, Malaysia

The RIC was quite birdy and in no time at all I had seen my first Mountain Barbets along with a surprise Brown Barbet (E). The latter species I was expecting to catch up with later in the trip since they are more common in the lowlands.

Brown Barbet - Rafflesia Information Center, Crocker Range, Sabah, Malaysia

Some movement in the top of a roadside tree grabbed my attention. I was pretty happy to see it was a Bornean Barbet (E), and though the distance was relatively far I managed a few distant record shots. Eventually I was able to track down a few of the singing Mountain Barbets (E) and took some photos of one as it flew over the road.

Bornean Barbet - Rafflesia Information Center, Crocker Range, Sabah, Malaysia

Numerous other species were seen in the first hours of daylight and it took me almost two hours to walk a few hundred meters down the road. While none of the other species were new ones for me, it was an enjoyable few hours of becoming more familiar with several species which I had only seen once or a few times earlier in the trip. A Black-and-crimson Oriole provided a great study in the early morning light, though as usual it was just a little too distant for good quality photos.

Black-and-crimson Oriole - Rafflesia Information Center, Crocker Range, Sabah, Malaysia

Have I mentioned yet how the scenery in Borneo can be absolutely breathtaking? While the following photo has been enhanced by an HDR app on my phone, it gives a sense of what the scenery was like from a vantage point near the RIC.

Looking north from the Rafflesia Information Center, Crocker Range, Sabah, Malaysia


The following photo is of a distant ridge near Mount Kinabalu, as taken with my telephoto lens from approximately the same vantage point as the preceding image.

Looking north from the Rafflesia Information Center, Crocker Range, Sabah, Malaysia

I hung around the RIC for a while longer, patiently searching primarily for Bornean Leafbird (E), though it was not to be.  I photographed some Chestnut-crested Yuhinas (E), one of the more widespread endemics in Sabah, and also sifted through a mixed flock that contained several Yellow-bellied Warblers and my first White-bellied Erpornises. The sun was making its presence known as the time approached mid-morning, and with several hours of driving ahead of me I began heading west.

Chestnut-crested Yuhina - Rafflesia Information Center, Crocker Range, Sabah, Malaysia

Yellow-bellied Warbler - Rafflesia Information Center, Crocker Range, Sabah, Malaysia

White-bellied Erpornis - Rafflesia Information Center, Crocker Range, Sabah, Malaysia

I made one more quick trip up the Gunung Alab substation road. It was a calm and beautiful morning in the mountains with Sunda Bush Warblers and Mountain Tailorbirds singing around every bend. I even had full bars on my phone so I was able to call my parents who were at home taking in the Leafs game. It was great to catch up with them, and the Sunda Bush Warblers were singing so loud that my parents could hear them.

After a quick stop at the Gunung Alab resort for a bowl of mee goreng (fried noodles) with beef, I hit the road, heading west down the mountain towards the city of Kota Kinabalu (#4 in the image below).


My plan for the afternoon was to drive south towards Beaufort (near #5 in the image above) so that I could explore the Klias Peatswamp Forest Reserve the following morning. To break up the drive I stopped in at Tanjung Aru beach, a public park located in Kota Kinabalu along the ocean, for a few hours in the early afternoon. A variety of bird species can be found in the park including Blue-naped Parrot, a species native to the Philippines, the Talaud Islands near Sulawesi and some islands off the northeast Borneo coast. An introduced population has been at Tanjung Aru beach for a number of years and seems to be relatively stable. The species is classified as "Near Threatened" according to the IUCN red list as it has undergone declines due to trapping for the cagebird industry and habitat loss. Less than 10,000 Blue-naped Parrot are estimated to remain in the wild.

Zebra Dove - Tanjung Aru beach, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

The temperature had climbed to the low 30s and a strong wind was coming in off of the ocean, quieting bird activity. The above Zebra Dove was one of many that were ubiquitous throughout the park along with slightly fewer Spotted Doves and occasional Pink-necked Pigeons.

On this hot and sunny afternoon many people were using the park. Families were barbequing along the beach, groups of teenagers kicked around soccer balls in the grassy areas and couples strolled beneath the massive casuarina trees. I looked a little out of place with my field clothes, binoculars and camera, though I stayed to the scrubby edges of the park to avoid too many weird looks.

Dollarbird - Tanjung Aru beach, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Even in the urban setting birds were easy to come by. Since it was my first time on the coast many species were new to me, including Asian Glossy Starling, Asian Koel, Sunda Woodpecker, Common Iora, Ashy Tailorbird and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker. A few Dollarbirds, as shown above, were acrobatically flying over the park, their actions reminiscent of nighthawks. A raptor suddenly appeared at close range over some nearby trees; luckily I was ready with my camera and was able to take a few decent shots of the young Rufous-bellied Eagle. The Asian Glossy Starlings let their displeasure known as several individuals harassed the eagle, prompting it to continue flying past.

Rufous-bellied Eagle - Tanjung Aru beach, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

My first Asian Water Monitors were on the grassy lawn near the back edge of the park where a canal separates the lawn from some scrub. The first individual was so large that my heart stopped for a quick second upon spotting it. The water monitors were quite common; I think I saw seven or eight of them. Most were relatively wary of me and it was difficult to obtain a clean photo.

Asian Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) - Tanjung Aru beach, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Without having much success with the parrots I cut over to the beach. As expected the foot traffic prevented any shorebirds from appearing, but these crabs were especially numerous in the sand just above the waterline.

crab sp. - Tanjung Aru beach, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

I checked all of the areas where the parrots are reportedly seen without any success. I  began walking back to my car, eagerly anticipating the bottles of water I had stashed, as well as the air-conditioning. My last new bird at Tanjung Aru was a White-bellied Sea-Eagle that soared overhead, following the coastline north without so much as a single flap in the strong winds.

The drive to Beaufort was fairly uneventful. I left the urban environs of Kota Kinabalu and passed through a mosaic of land uses that included palm oil plantations, small towns, agricultural fields and scrubby woodlands. I was eager to find accommodations in Beaufort so I did not stop along the way. I did make a mental note to check, on my return drive, some productive looking rice paddies that contained flocks of egrets and shorebirds. Right around dusk I checked into the modern River Hotel in Beaufort without any issues. Once again I marveled at how inexpensive it is for a Canadian to travel in Sabah. The hotel was quite nice and would be equivalent to a 120$ per night hotel in Canada, yet the total cost was around 30$. I am usually hesitant to stay in nice hotels when I travel on my own since a camping spot, hostel room, or cheap motel usually serves my purposes but at 30$ a night I was happy to sleep in relative luxury! That evening I was fast asleep by 9 PM with my alarm set for 4:15 AM the following morning. My plan was to be at the Klias Peatswamp Forest Reserve well before dawn.

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Introduction
October 3, 2017 - Day 1 on Mount Kinabalu
October 4, 2017 - Day 2 on Mount Kinabalu
October 5, 2017 - Poring Hot Springs
October 6, 2017 - Day 3 on Mount Kinabalu
October 7, 2017 - Day 1 at the Crocker Range
October 8, 2017 - Day 2 at the Crocker Range, Kota Kinabalu
October 9, 2017 - Klias Peatswamp Forest Reserve
October 10, 2017 - Sepilok
October 11, 2017 - Sepilok
October 12, 2017 - Sepilok, travel up the Kinabatangan River
October 13, 2017 - Kinabatangan River
October 14, 2017 - Gomantong Caves, travel to the Danum Valley
October 15, 2017 - Day 1 at the Danum Valley
October 16, 2017 - Day 2 at the Danum Valley

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