Travel to Borneo
Friday, June 2, 2017: I packed early in the morning. I had planned to go for a walk, but there was on and off heavy rain, so I packed right away instead.
Most of the rest of the day I continued to work on my manuscript. The asset markets chapter upgrade is finally done. I'll look at it again after I get back, and check out some other treatments to make sure I haven't missed any of the basics.
Took the SuperShuttle to the airport around 4:35pm. It was few minutes early. Even though it was rush hour, it only took about 35 minutes to get to the airport. Nothing like going the opposite way from the traffic!
Just before I left, American notified me that the flight would be delayed a bit. While waiting in line, I found out the delay was a little shorter than they first said. It took a while to get checked in as they were in the middle of a shift change. My bag was checked all the way to Kota Kinabalu, and I have my bording passes for all three flights. I'm #3 on the upgrade list for the flight to LAX. Hope I get it. After LAX I go to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, then on to Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo on Cathay Dragon.
I had plenty of time in the airport and got something to eat. Then I headed to the gate. No hurry. The wait was longer than expected. I made it to the top of the upgrade list, and they gave me a new boarding pass, only to take it back a bit later when one of the first class passengers showed up, bumped me back to economy. We finally took off an hour or so late. Since I can go directly to the next plane at LA, I don't anticipate a big problem there.
There almost was a big problem! One of the passengers was having some difficulty breathing. Several of the flight attendants hauled some equipment in case it was needed. Ultimately, they decided he was ok enough to continue to LA instead of landing at Phoenix or Vegas.
Saturday, June 3, 2017: The plane was met by an ambulance when we arrived at LA. The got him off the plane first, then the rest of us could go. There was still plenty of time. I changed some money (they didn't have any Malaysian Ringgits in Miami) and walked around a little before heading to the gate.
The premium economy on Cathay Pacific is much more comfortable than on British Airways. In fact, we were delayed a bit leaving and I fell asleep. Didn't even notice the takeoff! I got a fair amount of sleep on the long flight to Hong Kong. We crossed the international date line, so it has become June 4.
Above the Pacific
Sunday, June 4, 2017: It was a short wait at Hong Kong, and would have been a tight connection if not for the fact that the flight was delayed. Many of the people on it were traveling on a delayed flight from Beijing. We got in to KK around noon. My luggage didn't show. They say they know where it is and it will be here later today. After I finished dealing with this I went through customs and out the door. Unfortunately, there was no one there to pick me up. Perhaps it was because I was delayed. Anyway, I got a taxi (30 ringgits, about $7.50 US) to take me to the hotel.
It was a little early to check in when I arrived at the hotel (32 hours travel time). But I did find most of the group, also waiting to check in. After the room was reading, I went to sleep for a while, waking up around 7pm local time (12 hours ahead of Miami). I again found part of the group in the restaurant. A little later, I went back in my room. Pretty soon the phone rang, and the guy at the desk informed me that my bag is supposed to be delivered tomorrow morning around 10:30.
Palace Hotel, Kota Kinabalu
Pre-trip Birding in KK
Monday, June 5, 2017: I got a good night's sleep, waking up at a decent time for birding, pre-dawn. Did some early birding from the window, finding Asian Glossy Starling, Yellow-bellied Bulbul, Plume-toed Swiftlet (split from Glossy), and Brahminy Kite. Then went down for breakfast. Later ran into some of the group. They were going to the lagoon. Did I want to join them? Sure!! We got a cab, and off we went.
We hadn't gone far before I picked up another lifer: Zebra Dove. That was it until we got to the lagoon.
The lagoon is near one of the fancy mosques. We spent a couple of hours there, finding 10931 Plume-toed Swiftlet (flying all around, including through the group), Scaly-breasted Munias in the grases, Eastern Great Egret and Purple Heron flyovers (the water later), Chestnut Munias in the grasses. Little Egret by the water, some Blue-throated Bee-eaters hawking insects from a bare tree, the ubiquitous Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Then there was a bird in the grass that puzzled us at first, but Scott (son of former Rochester chemist and A&S Dean Jack Kampmier) and both thought it was a grassbird, Striated Grassbird. We saw another later near Prince Phillip Park that let us confirm it. Some Pink-necked Green-Pigeons kept flying in and out of a tree, apparently nesting there. We had a nice comparison of Intermediate Egret and Eastern Great Egret. There were a couple of Pied Trillers about, and lots of Brown-throated Sunbirds. A Black-crowned Night-Heron flew over the water, and shortly after a Striated Heron flew by also. Then we noticed a rufous night heron-like bird in a in a tree. We got closer, and it was the expected Nankeen Night-Heron. As we returned, we found a White-breasted Waterhen along the waterside, not far from another Purple Heron. Then a Slaty-breasted Rail was up on a flat gravely area. Finally, a Green Imperial-Pigeon flew into a tree. We saw a one fly by later in the day on our return there. Somewhere in here we also saw Plantain Squirrel and the introduced Oriental Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor).
Then it was back to the hotel. My bag had still not arrived (wasn't expected quite yet). We stopped in our rooms, collected more of the group, and headed out to Prince Phillip Park. Our first new bird was White-breasted Woodswallow. Like the Brahminy Kites, I'd seen them in Australia before. The Collared Kingfisher was new, but the Spotted Doves were not. Our number one target of the day was the nearly extinct Blue-naped Parrot (they have been extirpated from their native lands in the Philippines). We walked south, checking the Casuarinas. I thought I heard some parrot calls, but did not see them. Then a trailing member of our group spotted a Blue-naped Parrot in a tree I'd already passed. By the end of our time there, we saw perhaps 4-6 individuals. I then finally caught up on the Malaysian Pied-Fantail. A Striated Heron flew into a nearby ditch. A grassy area on the other side of the road had munias, including the endemic Dusky Munia. There was also a Striated Grassbird on a fence. A White-breasted Waterhen walked by at close range. Then we walked back to the cab and headed to our next location. But we had barely gotten started when Scott noticed some birds on the roadside. A quick u-turn and we got a good look at some Crested Mynas.
The next stop was a mall on the beach. We checked out a bookstore known for their nature books. Then we had lunch. The original plan was to bird the beach, but instead we went back to the lagoon so that some of us could get some photos (no, I didn't have my camera with me). Besides a number of the birds we saw in the morning, we added two handsome Brahminy Kites, a couple of Oriental Darters, Ashy Tailorbird, Yellow Bittern (just Scott and I, I think), and an Oriental Reed-Warbler (ditto). Then we started trying to flag down a cab. But unlike the morning, there were no cabs! Eventually one showed up. We were in luck as it was big enough for all 6 of us. Then we headed back to the hotel. I asked at the desk about my bag. There it was, right behind the desk. I was a happy camper! Inspection of the tags on it suggested it had flown to Kuala Lumpur before coming to KK (on both Malaysia Airlines and Cathay Dragon).
We had thought that dinner was at 5. I started to go down then and found one of our group coming up. Dinner was at 7 instead. In fact, I got a call from Glen a little later to tell me so. So we will finally meet up with our guide at 7.
Palace Hotel, Kota Kinabalu
KK and Mt. Kinabalu
Tuesday, June 6, 2017: We had a relaxed start today, meeting at 6:30am for breakfast. After breakfast, we birded a little at the hotel. New birds for the hotel included Common Iora, Brown-throated Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird, and Pink-necked Green-Pigeon. The Iora was my first new bird family of the trip (Aegithinidae: Ioras). After loading the vans, we headed off to a canal that has Night-Herons.
At the Night-Heron spot, we found 20+ of both Black-crowned and Nankeen Night-Herons. There were a number of Edible-nest Swiftlets flying about. They play recordings to attract them to a vacant building there, and harvest the nests once the swifts have used them. A Collared Kingfisher was in a bare tree. A couple of Pacific Swallows were perched near us, and we saw about 4 dark-morph Pacific Reef-Herons. One of the Reef-Herons was quite dark, black even. A Little Egret flew over at some point. Then we notice two Sunda Pygmy-Woodpecker up in a bare tree, one of them tapping. There were also some Green Imperial-Pigeons flying about and a sizeable Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) in the canal.
Then we returned to Prince Philip Park, although we were in a different part of it than before. I saw White-breasted Woodswallow when we got out of the van. We quickly located some Blue-naped Parrots. Four Little Terns were out over the water, and another pair of Sunda Pygmy-Woodpecker was active in the trees. We saw Pied Triller again. This time were caught up with the Java Sparrow. There was also an Olive-backed Sunbird there, which I had seen in Australia. Eastern Great Egret and Zebra Dove were presentPrinias. We got good looks at Chestnut Munias. A couple of Yellow-bellied Prinias were less cooperative. Finally, we saw a couple of Crested Mynas before we left.
Our last stop before heading toward the mountains was a small sandy beach on Likas Bay. Our target bird was there: Malaysian Plover. At first we only saw one in non-breeding plumage, but a little more looking turned up a second one in breeding plumage. These birds are apparently fairly particular about the kind of beaches they like, and this small beach gets them because it is the right kind.
After that, we left the Kota Kinabalu area and headed inland. Pretty soon, we were headed upward as well. We past the national park, drove by the market town with a giant Bok Choy in the roundabout, dropped off our bags at the lodge and returned to Mt. Kinabalu national park. The area inside the park is well-protected. The are outside has pretty much been cleared for agriculture.
We had lunch near the entrance area. Then we started birding, eventually walking up one of the roads for a mile or so. Almost immediately we found an Ashy Tailorbird, quickly followed by a Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush. A flock of Chestnut-crested Yuhinas descended on a tree near us. They then raided a small ficus we were standing next too. Pretty cool! Then we found a pair of Temminck's Sunbirds, Black-sided Flowerpecker, and Black-capped White-eye in the same area, barely outside our lunch spot. A few steps further, we encountered Yellow-breasted Warbler, White-throated Fantail, Jentink Squirrel and Bornean Black-banded Squirrel, and a White-bellied Erpornis. Some people saw a Bornean Whistler there. I caught up with it a bit later. Four Wreathed Hornbills were flying in the distance. They were too far for any fieldmarks, and I'll wait until later to count them. Birding after we got away from all the buildings was much tougher, and I missed several of the birds seen today. I did see three Mountain Leaf-Warblers, finally getting a good look at one. We had Mountain Imperial-Pigeon in the scope, and a small flock of Gray-throated Babblers. The latter was a new bird family for me (Timaliidae: Babblers, Scimitar-Babblers). By then we were on our way back to the entrance. It was getting more overcast, and just as we were focusing on another flock, some fog blew through to frustrate us. Finally, we called the vans and headed back to the lodge for dinner.
Mt. Kinabalu Heritage Lodge
Wednesday, June 7, 2017: We had breakfast at 5:30, then headed into the park. We drove up to the end of the road, where the hiking trail to the top begins. That put us at about 6070' elevation. The top of the mountain is at 13,435'. On the way we found Bornean Whistling-Thrush along the road. A couple of people in the first van also saw Bornean Forktail.
The trail to the top was under active repair, with trail crews preparing to head to work. The trail was severely damaged by the deadly earthquake of June 5, 2015. Normally, we would walk a bit of the trail in search of higher elevation specialties. Instead, we only walked up to the viewing platform at the start of the trail. We soon saw three Wreathed Hornbills fly by. Unlike yesterday, these were close enough to see quite well. An Indigo Flycatcher was hawking insects at the platform. We also found a Golden-naped Barbet in one of the nearby trees (one or two more were calling). This was a new family for me (Megalaimidae: Asian Barbets). Some cute Black-capped White-eyes put in an appearance, but they were not the white-eyes we were looking for. A Blyth's Hawk-Eagle was working a nearby ridge, and Bornean Swiftlets occasionally flew by.
We birded back along the short trail to the road, finding Mountain Blackeye, Sunda Bush-Warbler, and White-throated Fantail. This was followed by the first of the day's many Bornean Treepies and a Blyth's Shrike-babbler, a new bird family for me (Pteruthiidae: Shrike-babblers). We worked back and forth between the road and short trail, added the red Gray-chinned Minivet and Chestnut-crested Yuhinas (of course!). Further down the road, I saw Mountain Leaf-Warbler and Bornean Whistler. A collection of laughingthrushes and treepies yielded both Chestnut-hooded and Sunda Laughingthrush. Glen got me on a Snowy-browed Flycatcher, which I had missed yesterday.
Further down, we saw some Plume-toed Swiftlets. These are very similar to the Bornean Swiftlet, which is a higher elevation bird. A big Sunda Cuckooshrike sat at the top of a tree. Soon, we got great looks at a Yellow-breasted Warbler. Our first Bornean Green-Magpie was hanging out near a group of Bornean Treepies. In quick succession, I saw Checker-throated Woodpecker and caught up on Hair-crested Drongo. We soon added Maroon Woodpecker to our list. Finally, we reached the park headquarters and lunch a bit after 1pm.
We were delayed starting after lunch due to heavy rain and didn't start birding again until 4 or so. We had barely started the short walk to the gate area when we encountered a White-browed Shortwing. It only gave us brief looks as it darted around. A Gray-throated Babbler was also in the same area. A pair of Ochraceous Bulbuls turned out to be my last new bird of the day. The list was at 6:30, followed by dinner.
Mt. Kinabalu Heritage Lodge
Thursday, June 8, 2017: Breakfast was again at 5:30. We drove up to the first lookout and started walking down. We quickly found our first Indigo Flycatcher of the day at the lookout. Plume-toed Swiftlets were flying around there. Walking down the road, we encountered a laughingthrush flock. At first we saw only Sunda Laughingthrushes. An Eyebrowed Jungle-Flycatcher caused a brief distraction by landing on the guardrail. The guides heard Bare-headed Laughingthrush in the flock, and we soon located one. Snowy-browed Flycatcher was also present in the same area, as was Mountain Leaf-Warbler. Further down the road we found a perched Mountain Imperial-Pigeon. A Mountain Treeshrew ran across the road. After that, birding became rather slow. Most of us didn't see any of a noisy flock of Mountain Wren-Babblers. Further down, we noticed a Bornean Mountain Ground Squirrel, with its flat tail. We walked the Silau-Silau trail, but it was very quiet. Then we had lunch at the park headquarters.
After lunch, things picked up. We quickly found a Bornean Forktail near headquarters, which was immediately followed by a pair of Whitehead's Trogons. Some Chestnut-crested Yuhinas came through. Then we started walking along the road. We didn't get far before someone noticed a Sunda Cuckoo perched up over one of the buildings. There was a nice mixed flock in the same area. It included Gray-throated Babbler, Bornean Whistler, Yellow-breasted Warbler, and Temminck's Sunbird. Continuing on, we found Little Pied Flycatcher and Blyth's Shrike-babbler. An Oriental Magpie-Robin was below the viewing platform near the park entrance, together with a Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush and both treeshrew and ground squirrel. A little further along the road, Dennis and I saw a flyover Little Cuckoo-Dove. A Mountain Tailorbird put on a real show, coming down low, singing and singing. We walked another trail, the Liwaga River Trail. A couple of forktails kept us entertained along the early part of the trail. Later, we found Bornean Green-Magpie and Bornean Treepie. The trail connected to the Silau-Silau trail, and we exited in the same place we had earlier. The vans came and took us back to the lodge. I later notice I had been biten by a leech somewhere today. The blood on my sock made it quite noticeable.
Mt. Kinabalu Heritage Lodge
Friday, June 9, 2017: As usual, we began with breakfast at 5:30, and left the lodge shortly after 6. We headed back into Mt. Kinabalu National Park to try to find some of its characteristic birds that we hadn't seen yet, such as Whitehead's Broadbill. My first bird of the day was Eurasian Tree Sparrow on the way to the park. We drove up past the first viewpoint, and started walking down. The first birds were heard-only: Bornean Green-Magpie and Yellow-breasted Warbler. Then we spotted a Bornean Whistling-Thrush alongside the road. A Bornean Forktail popped out a bit below it, and then flew up past the group and darted into the forest.
A long search for a calling Bornean Stubtail proved fruitless for me. I got a very brief glimpse of the bird, but nowhere near a proper look.
Continuing downward, we heard a Little Cuckoo-Dove calling, soon followed by a Collared Owlet. We tried to locate the owlet, but without success. It sounded as though we might do better on the Mempening Trail, which we had planned to take anyway, so we headed into the forest. We walked a bit on the trail, closing in on the owlet. Eventually, it sounded like we were right under, but we couldn't see the owlet yet. While looking for the owlet, a Tufted Pygmy Squirrel ran up a tree. Then we noticed a mixed flock, mostly Chestnut-crested Yuhinas, mobbing way up in the canopy. We knew where the owlet was! Pretty soon, we had it in sight and all got scope views of the Collared Owlet. The Bornean race has a different call, and doubtless should be split as Bornean Collared-Owlet (Glaucidium borneense).
Continuing on, we found an Eyebrowed Jungle-Flycatcher. I also caught up on the Mountain Wren-Babbler that some had seen yesterday. We all got very good looks at a small group of them. This was a new family (Pellorneidae: Ground Babblers). We continued to hear Crimson-headed Partridge, but were unable to spot any of the them. Mostly, it was fairly quiet in the forest. At one point, we noticed a Sumatran Pit Viper beside the trail. Most of us had walked by it without noticing it. We also added Ochraceous Bulbul and Bornean Treepie to the day list. I caught of glimpse of Temminck's Babbler, but like the stubtail, it was not good enough to put it on the list. Finally, we came out the lower Silau-Silau trailhead and walked the short distance to the restaurant in the headquarters area.
After lunch, we left the main part of the park for the last time. We drove toward Poring Hot Springs, but stopped first to see a Rafflesia in bloom. Both Dusky Munia and Yellow-bellied Prinia were out in a field across the road.
From there, it was a short distance to Poring Hot Springs, which is part of the park. There was a lot of bird activity there. It didn't take long to find Crimson and Brown-throated Sunbirds, and Eurasian Tree Sparrow. As I was trying unsuccessfully to get a look at a Asian Red-eyed Bulbul others were seeing, a blue flycatcher popped out. It landed on a wire and turned out to be a Malaysian Blue-Flycatcher, a bit unexpected at this location. The only bulbuls I saw in that tree were Spectacled Bulbuls. Then a male Orange-bellied Flowerpecker appeared in a small neighboring tree.
We walked farther into the area, encountering some barbets. The one I got a good look at was a Blue-eared Barbet. A little further along we found a couple of Scaly-crowned Babblers overhead. We came back out into the open area an found a Black-headed Bulbul and Golden-faced Barbet (split from Golden-whiskered). A couple of Spectacled Spiderhunters chased around high in the trees. We'd been hearing, and trying to follow and call out, a Banded Broadbill. It flew into a relatively open tree and we all got great looks at this flashy bird (why don't our suboscines look like that?). It was another new family for me (Eurylaimidae: Typical Broadbills). A couple of Green Ioras were way up high in a neighboring tree. Returning to the area with a low canopy, we noticed some captive Sambar on the grass up the hill. A very small squirrel moving through nearby branches, a Bornean Pygmy Squirrel. As we started to walk back down, a Gray-rumped Treeswift flew overhead. That was family #200 for me (Hemiprocnidae: Treeswifts). My last new bird of the day was a Pacific Swallow shortly after we left Poring Hot Springs.
Mt. Kinabalu Heritage Lodge
Saturday, June 10, 2017: After breakfast at our usual time, we left the lodge and started driving back to Kota Kinabalu airport to catch our flight to Lahad Datu and the Danum Valley. We arrived in plenty of time for our 9:45 flight. On the way, we saw typical roadside species including Spotted and Zebra Doves, Asian Glossy-Starlings, and White-breasted Woodswallow. At the airport, we found some Eurasian Tree Sparrows inside the terminal. We also spotted Pacific Swallow, Eastern Great Egret, and Little Tern.
We ate lunch in Lahad Datu, then headed out the road toward the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, located in the Danum Valley Conservation Area. At the gate on the road, we found a mixed flock in a fruiting tree. The birds were moving about in a fast and furious manner. As usual with such a flock, I didn't see them all, but I did see a good number of them. They included Charlotte's Bulbul (split from Buff-vented), Yellow-eared Spiderhunter, quite a few Everett's White-eyes, some Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers, a Purple-naped Sunbird, Pacific Swallows, a Plain Sunbird, two Greater Green-Leafbirds, Asian Red-eyed Bulbul (which I had missed yesterday), Lesser Green-Leafbird, and Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker. The leafbirds were a new family for me (Chloropseidae: Leafbirds).
At a bathroom stop, we added Malaysian Pied-Fantail and Thick-billed Spiderhunter. Further along, some Crab-eating (Long-tailed) Macaques crossed the road. We got particularly good views of one that stayed in a nearby tree for a while. A bit further along, a Crested Fireback flushed from the road. The last new bird before reaching the lodge was a Rhinoceros Hornbill that was spotted by the first van and seen by all.
At the lodge we soon added a perched Whiskered Treeswift and a Bornean Spiderhunter (split from Streaky-breasted). We walked down to the Danum River to view the Orangutans, but first, two Wrinkled Hornbills flew over. Then we had a chance to watch a mother and young Bornean Orangutan in a tree across the river. Plume-toed Swiftlets were flying, as were Silver-rumped Spinetails and some other swiftlets that were either Edible-nest or Mossy.
We then walked a trail before dinner, finding Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker, a Bearded Pig, some Maroon Leaf Monkeys, a Lesser Cuckooshrike, a pair of Fluffy-backed Tit-Babblers and a Lesser Green-Leafbird. We spent some time looking for a noisy Black-crowned Pitta that Glen had a brief look at, but could not find it. A nightwalk after dinner did not produce the hoped for frogmouth, but we did hear Buffy Fish-Owl. The leech socks kept the leeches away from my feet, but did not entirely suppress them. I got two more leeches, one on my neck and the other on my wrist.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley
Sunday, June 11, 2017: My first birds of the day were some Slender-billed Crows I heard early in the morning. We had our usual 5:30 breakfast, then gathered to start birding. We began just after 6am with Blue-throated Bee-eater right by the main building, quickly followed by Yellow-vented Bulbul, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, and Silver-rumped Spinetail. We added Spectacled Bulbul, Plume-toed Swiftlet, and Pacific Swallow before we started walking the road.
My first lifer of the day was Yellow-bellied Bulbul. After that, we got a really good look at a Bornean Pygmy Squirrel, which I'd first seen a few days ago. The road was pretty birdy, and we soon added Rufous-winged Philentoma, Streaked Bulbul, Scaly-crowned Babbler (the leg color is a good way to separate from Rufous-crowned), Scaly-breasted Bulbul, and a nice Black-and-yellow Broadbill. Some Muller's Bornean Gibbons were calling the distance. We quickly followed this with Asian Red-eyed Bulbul, and Bold-striped Tit-Babbler before a Dark-throated Oriole distracted us. Then a bigger bird flew into a nearby tree: Chestnut-breasted Malkoha. It was quickly followed by Raffles's Malkoha.
Glen had been hearing Asian Fairy-bluebird, and a pair finally showed up. I got a look at one in the scope. This was a new family for me (Irenidae: Fairy Bluebirds) There was no break in the action as we added Lesser Cuckooshrike and Common Hill-Myna (yes, this is my life Hill Myna). A flock of about 5 Slender-billed Crows flew by. Then we concentrated on the bushes. There we found Chestnut-winged Babbler and Rufous-crowned Babbler. A pair of Verditer Flycatchers flew in. We added Puff-backed Bulbul and a very nice close-up Lesser Green-Leafbird. Finally, we got a Little Spiderhunter. All this happened before 9am. It was quite a morning. The only thing missing was the Bornean Bristlehead.
We left the road for the muddy and leechy Hornbill Trail (not that there weren't leeches on the road too). Well, Rhinoceros Hornbill was given on that trail, and we heard them calling for some time thereafter. Close-in birds included Chestnut-rumped Babbler and Sooty-capped Babbler. We spent a lot of time on a Blue-headed Pitta. At first I just saw it dash across a gap in the forest, but eventually I saw it hop up on a log, hop over to a different spot, and then head off. Others got other views of it.
We heard something large moving about. It turned out to be a couple of Orangutans. Birding along the trail was much slower than the road. We later ran across a female Banded Kingfisher perched on a small branch. I got a glimpse of what was apparently a female Oriental Paradise-Flycatcher, but not enough to count it. Later on, we heard a Diard's Trogon, which we eventually found. We tried the tape of the smiliar Scarlet-rumped Trogon at the same spot, and pretty soon one was visible. Further along the trail we noticed some elephant dung, but did not see any elephants.
Eventually we completed the loop and returned to the road. By then it was about noon so we started working our way back to the lodge. We spent some time looking for a Black-crowned Pitta that we heard, but without real success. We also spotted a Cat Snake (Boiga sp.). Finally, we got scope views of a Dusky Broadbill. It was around 1 when we got back to the lodge.
We went out birding again at 3, starting at one of the platforms by the Danum River. A Lesser Fish-Eagle had been found perched across the river, so we walked up and took a look. We noticed a Water Monitor on a very large rock up the river, and some Dusky Munias on our side (more or less in line with the monitor).
Then we walked a little boardwalk near the lodge. We heard a Bornean Banded-Pitta, and spent a lot of time searching for it, including hopping off the boardwalk and trying to get closer in the woods. We could tell by the calls about where it was, but we couldn't see it and it wouldn't come out.
We had just given up on the pitta when we got word that a bristlehead had been sighted! We hurried back around the boardwalk and maybe a third of a mile up the road. We saw the people who had seen it (and reported via radio). They said it was a little further up the road. We started looking, and found a couple of Black Hornbills. A good bird, but not the bristlehead we wanted. Then a Bornean Bristlehead was spotted, then two, three, four. We think there were about 8 flying about up in the trees. We got one in the scope. It kept moving about, so it took a while before everyone saw it in the scope. Then a (Bornean) Black Magpie flew in, followed by Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. We walked back to the other group to see the Orangutans they had. Before leaving the area we saw a couple of Green Imperial-Pigeons that flew in, and another closer look at the bristlehead. Needless to say, the bristlehead was a new family, indeed, it is the only bird in its family (Pityriaseidae: Bristlehead).
One the way back we found a Gray-capped Pygmy-Woodpecker and a Red-bearded Bee-eater busily killing a bug. Then a Helmeted Hornbill flew in. It sat for a while before doing a characteristic calls, which gradually accelerate and become louder. Eventually, it opens its mouth as it all builds up to a crescendo. Shortly before we got back to the lodge, we found a scorpion on the road.
We had dinner, and went out for a night drive around 8:30pm. There wasn't much activity at first, and we only got a couple of Malay Civets by the time we turned around. Then things changed. We found a Thomas's Flying Squirrel and Common Giant Flying Squirrel in quick succession. Further down the road there was a Barred Eagle-Owl on a bare limb. This was a lifer for our guide, Glen. We were also looking for frogmouths, when our guides heard something unexpected, a Sunda Frogmouth. They put in a lot of effort to find it, but we never did see it. We added a Sambar Deer on the way back. When we got back to the lodge, our local guide, Dennis, spotted a Leopard Cat, which we all got to see.
At that point it had been an amazing, but long and tiring day, and I headed to bed.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley
Monday, June 12, 2017: As usual, breakfast was at 5:30 and we met at 6am to go birding. I noticed a Prevost's Squirrel on the walkway as I headed toward breakfast. A Whiskered Treeswift was perched up near the lodge. It's been seen there several time during our visit. We then noticed a White-crowned Shama among the cabins. The local guide pointed out a roosting Myotis bat in a curled up leaf.
We then tried the Nature Trail Boardwalk again. We heard Muller's Bornean Gibbons and Helmeted Hornbills. We also heard Bornean Banded-Pitta, but again most of us did not see it. We also heard a Chestnut-necklaced Partridge, but couldn't find it eiether. We did see a Malay Weasel and Maroon Leaf Monkeys while we were looking. We also found a Scaly-crowned Babbler.
Back on the main road, some Slender-billed Crows flew over, loudly calling. We also found an Orangutan. Near the lodge we added Malaysian Blue-Flycatcher and Little Spiderhunter.
We then headed out on a trail that would take us to the Canopy Walkway. Straw-headed Bulbul called across the river, but would not come into view. Bornean Blue-Flycatcher and Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker were active in the midstory forest. We also found some Crab-eating Macaques before hearing a Red-naped Trogon. It came in when we played the tape. A pair of Spotted Fantails were also present. Most of did not see the Blue-banded Pitta, but did see the Sunda Blue-Flycatcher. We also got a look at a Banded Broadbill.
At the Canopy Walkway, we found Wrinkled Hornbill, Crested Serpent-Eagle, and a Black-naped Monarch on a nest. Rather than doing the whole walkway and taking a longer walk back, we returned to the junction of our trail and the lower walkway entrance. The road was right there and took us back to the lodge.
On the way back we saw Wreathed Hornbill and a couple of cuckoos, Plaintive Cuckoo and Violet Cuckoo. I only saw the Plaintive Cuckoo in flight (no field marks) and am not counting it. The Violet Cuckoo was perched for a little bit, then flew off. We went into the entrance of the Hornbill Trail in search of a heard wren-babbler. Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker was there, but no wren-babbler. Near the lodge we found a couple of Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoos.
It had been raining since lunchtime, sometimes heavily. When we met up again at 3pm it was still raining. The Whiskered Treeswift was in its favorite location and Plume-toed Swiftlets were flying about and the Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo was in sight, 3 hours after we first saw it.
We headed out the road. It continued to rain and was not very birdy. We found a Spectacled Bulbul perched up high, and eventually realized that a Wallace's Hawk-Eagle was sitting nearby. In the same area we saw groups of several species flying around, including Bornean Bristlehead, Dusky Munia, and Dusky Broadbill. We walked to the far canopy walkway entrance, but didn't see much else. Then we returned to the lodge. We checked the service road for Crested Fireback. It wasn't there, but was hiding from the rain under one of the cabins. At that point we called it a day.
However, that was not the end of the day. Just before going to dinner I looked out the window and saw a Bearded Pig grazing right outside my cabin.
I passed on the night birding tonight in order to catch up on sleep.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley
From Danum Valley to Kinabatangan River
Tuesday, June 13, 2017: My first birds of the day were some heard-only Slender-billed Crows while I was still in my cabin. I then walked over to our 5:30 breakfast. Following that, we did some birding around the lodge and Danum River. A couple of Pacific Swallows were flying around and the Whiskered Treeswift was in its usual spot by the lodge. Muller's Bornean Gibbons where calling from across the river. We walked over to the riverside and found a Plaintive Cuckoo. Unlike yesterday, I got a great look. A Stork-billed Kingfisher perched briefly, flew to the island, and later dove into the water after a fish. An Oriental Darter flew along the backside of the island and perched in view on the other side of the river. A Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker worked the area below us, as did a couple of Bold-striped Tit-Babblers. A Lesser Fish-Eagle flew up the river toward the same perch as two days ago. Plume-toed Swiftlets and Silver-rumped Spinetails worked the air over the river.
Then we started our morning walk, this time using the Jacuzzi Trail (!) on the other side of the river. But just before we left the lodge grounds, we added Little Spiderhunter to our day list. On the trail, we quickly encounterd Southern Pigtailed Macaques, and three Crested Fireback. A little later, we found some Brown Fulvettas. We also heard a Great Argus as we walked the trail. There were still more primates to see, including Maroon Leaf Monkeys. We added Ferruginous Babbler and a Blue-headed Pitta that many saw (but not me) before returning to the lodge. During the walk we spent some time in a creekbed looking for forktails. The creek had a nice little 15 foot waterfall.
As we returned to the lodge, we found a vocal Malaysian Blue-Flycatcher. We went to our rooms, finished packing and returned to the lodge. But before leaving, we got views of Mueller's Bornean Gibbons across the river. A few of us also saw a Blyth's Hawk-Eagle. Soon everyone had gathered and we hopped in the vehicles and took off.
We encountered several species on the road back to Lahad Datu. The first was a Bushy-crested Hornbill. Then we found a small flock including Yellow-eared Spiderhunters Brown-throated Sunbirds, and Spectacled Spiderhunters. Later, we found a Changeable Hawk-Eagle, followed later by a Crested Serpent-Eagle. At the bathroom stop, we spotted two Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagles soaring overhead.
We had lunch at Lahad Datu and moved our stuff to a bus. A Nankeen Night-Heron briefly visited a tree next to the bus. Then we were off to our next lodge. Much of the road ran through oil palm plantations, and didn't have a lot of birds. I dozed some of time, but did noice Spotted Doves and the introduced Javan Mynas.
Eventually we reached Gomontong Caves. A Bat Hawk flew by shortly after our arrived. Later, we got better views. We found a Scarlet-rumped Trogon along the short boardwalk to the caves. A Rufous-tailed Tailorbird was feeding a youngster near the cave entrance, where a Crested Serpent-Eagle was perched. Inside, we viewed swiftlets on the nest. This is by far the easiest way to tell the Mossy-nest and Edible-nest swifts apart. In quick succession we saw Mossy-nest Swiftlet, Black-nest Swiftlet, and Edible-nest Swiftlet on their nests. The harvesting of the nests is controlled here, and does not take place until the swiftlets are done with them. Back at the parking lot a couple of Oriental Pied-Hornbills made themselves obvious. Then we headed to the Kinabatangan River.
At the Kinabatangan River, we transfered to boats (one for us, one for the luggage) and traveled the short distance to the Bilit Rainforest Lodge. After dinner, we took a night cruise along the river under the souther sky. Besides the Southern Cross, highlights included a Bronzeback Snake (Dendrelaphis sp.) in the reeds, Crab-eating (Long-tailed) Macaques, a pair of Buffy Fish-Owls, Oriental Pied-Hornbills, a Proboscis Monkey, and a lovely Blue-eared Kingfisher. Then we headed back to the lodge for the night.
Bilit Rainforest Lodge, Kinabatangan River
Wednesday, June 14, 2017: After our usual 5:30 breakfast, we gathered around 6:15 for a morning boat ride downstream on the Kinabatangan River. It wasn't long before we saw Eastern Great Egrets and Purple Herons in the reedbeds and flying over the river. Soon a Stork-billed Kingfisher appeared, looking for fish. Some Common Hill-Mynas were perched in a tree. Green Imperial-Pigeons flew over, and some Pink-necked Green-Pigeons perched in a tree. A sitting Crested Serpent-Eagle was our first raptor of the day. Then some Slender-billed Crows flew over. Soon after, we spotted an Orangutan.
We encountered good numbers of Oriental Pied-Hornbill (and other hornbills) throughout the morning. I'm not sure if we saw more than one White-bellied Sea-Eagle as it kept moving to a different perch when we approached. Then we spotted the first of several troops of Proboscis Monkey. A Collared Kingfisher was sitting on a stick. Then some Southern Pigtailed Macaques came into view.
At some point we headed up a tributary, where we found Spectacled Bulbul, Brown Barbet, Olive-winged Bulbul, and Ruby-cheeked Sunbird. We kept seeing swiftlets most the morning. Plume-toed and Black-nest Swiftlets were identifiable, but telling Mossy-nest from Edible-nest in flight is very difficult. Likely, we saw all four species. We also had a good showing of hornbills today, with Rhinoceros Hornbill being the second to appear. Before the morning was done, we would see several species of hornbill both perched and flying about.
Pacific Swallows were also noticeable over the river. We saw another crested raptor, Crested Goshawk. This bird is taxonomically interesting. It has traditional been thought of as an accipiter, but DNA has brought that into doubt. Uncertainty remains, but it seems to be an older branch than either the Accipiters or Buteonine hawks.
A Black-and-red Broadbill was a treat. Then we saw a Bat Hawk flying over the river, with pointed wings suggesting a falcon, but not quite getting there. We also encountered our first troop of Crab-eating (Long-tailed) Macaques. Some Wrinkled Hornbill gave us great looks, as did some nearby Black Hornbills.
We found a Black-and-red Broadbill nest, with one of the adult boardbills sticking its head out. A Storm's Stork soon came into view, then continued on. Some of the bare trees had Blue-throated Bee-eaters in them. As the morning wore on, we added Malaysian Pied-Fantail. A couple of Lesser Coucals flew into a grassy area next to the Kinabatangan River. Fortunately, they stayed visible and we were able to get good looks. Dollarbirds were perched high in some of the bare trees. Finally, we found a Jerdon's Baza. We also saw a troop of Silvery Lutungs (Langurs) before we returned to the lodge for lunch.
I was tired after two successive night expeditions, and skipped the pre-lunch hunt for Hooded Pitta. No Hooded Pitta for me. During lunch, I noticed a couple of Rufous-tailed Tailorbirds and an Olive-backed Sunbird in the adjacent trees.
We went back out for an afternoon upstream boat ride around 3pm, after the sun got lower in the sky. A number of the same birds and mammals were present. New species included Oriental Darter, Gray-headed Fish-Eagle, and Lesser Fish-Eagle. Some Long-tailed Parakeets flew over, but I didn't think the view was good enough to count them. Two handsome Brahminy Kites were perched over the river near our turnaround point. We added Bushy-crested Hornbill in this area. Our last new bird of the day was a Lesser Adjutant that flew into a nearby tree. We returned to the lodge around 6:30.
We also saw a Draco lizard (Draco sp.) sometime today.
Bilit Rainforest Lodge, Kinabatangan River