Wonderful Memories Of Birding In Borneo July 2017

Borneo Sepilok and Mount Kinabalu Cooler And Higher

Sepilok Nature Resort cabin Borneo 1

Sepilok Nature Resort a little bit of luxuary - just one night.

We said goodbye to Deramakot and moved onto to Sepilok, just the two of us now. We stayed just one night at Sepilock, where we visited the famous Rainforest Discovery Centre with its amazing canopy walkway. Despite arriving at first light the forest around the walkway was almost devoid of birds, very strange. There were lots of photos of birds that were “common” here but we saw very little indeed. The approach road to the centre was much better! Here a fruiting tree was attracting birds including a new species of hornbill for us – Bushy-crested Hornbills. We also enjoyed super views of Copper-throated Sunbirds. Our base here was the lovely Sepilock Nature Resort with a lovely cabin in the forest and super food, nice to have a little luxury after our basic places.

Rainforest Discovery Centre walkway Borneo 1

The canopy walkway at the Rainforest Discovery Centre.

Bushy crested Hornbill Borneo 1

Bushy-crested Hornbills were feeding in a fruiting tree.

Copper throated Sunbird Borneo 1

A handsome male Copper-throated Sunbird seen near our hotel at Sepilok.

We also visited the Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre which was a bit of a circus and not really our sort of place but as it was just next to the hotel we tried it. The staff were a miserable bunch seemed only interested in taking as much money as possible. Arriving early we wandered down through the forest to the feeding platform and spotted one orangutan sitting high up in a tree, looking fed up – as they always do! A crowd soon began to build up around us so we were glad we came early and had a really good view. Pig-tailed and long-tailed macaques arrived and hug around the wooden feeding platform built around a huge tree. A member of staff then climbed up and put down bananas which the macaques tried to grab, evil looking creatures. Then a large female orangutan climbed up, and we could see she had a baby clinging to her side. The orange ape was not happy about sharing with her smaller cousins and charged the macaques, they leapt back and the orang grabbed a mouthful of bananas. With a couple of long arm swings she was high up in the tree above the platform and eating the fruit. As so often in Borneo we struggled to secure good photos sadly, the combination of extreme dark shade and bright sunlight with very high humidity made for poor images. We headed back to the hotel with mixed emotions great to see these marvellous apes being returned to the wild but what would the future hold for them? With so little forest remaining in Borneo how long can these superb animals survive?

Sepilok orangutan feeding Borneo 1

A female orangutan shows the macaques who is boss at feeding time.

Sepilok orangutan feeding Borneo 2

Mum and baby enjoying their breakfast high above us.

Later that day we took a short flight from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu where the next part of our Borneo adventure would be begin. We stayed the night here ready for a very early start the following morning. Dennis, our local guide, with his driver, picked us up at 5.30am and we headed for the Crocker Range. These forested hills were pretty high so it was much cooler and less humid, very welcome indeed. We birded from the roadside picking up some great birds including Bornean Leafbird, Bornean Bulbul, Mountain Imperial Pigeon and lots of Little Cuckoo-doves.

Mount Kinabalu Borneo view Borneo 1

We then headed a lot higher to Mount Kinabalu; the highest peak in Borneo at over 4,000m and a World Heritage Site, the climate here was perfect, warm during day and cool at night with low humidity! We stayed here for four nights and enjoyed some brilliant birds. The birding on the lower slopes of this spectacular mountain is pretty tough, low numbers of birds many of which are difficult to see. But we kept at it and were rewarded with some of the areas very special species. The accommodation was fairly basic but fine and the food was good. Dennis has been birding here since the 1970’s so knows the area very well indeed and he is great company. Most of our time was spent birding the road that climbs up from the main visitor centre to the top gate, some 8km away, where you need to be a climber to go beyond. We also birded some of the trails through the forest but these usually produced fewer birds than the roadside where it was easier to actually see the birds. The area around the park HQ where we ate our meals was often the best place to see numbers of birds with gangs of Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrushes and Chestnut-crested Yuhina, this place was also great to see Bornean Whistling Thrush and Bornean Treepie.

Bornean Whistling Thrush Borneo 2017 1

Bornean Whistling Thrush near our cabin at first light.

Golden naped Barbet Borneo 2017 1

A Golden-naped Barbet feeding in a fruit tree at the top gate.

At the top gate there is a viewing platform where we enjoyed eye-level looks of some very special birds indeed. A Golden-naped Barbet was feeding in a fruiting tree here and we even managed a few half-decent photos of this colourful bird. Indigo Flycatcher, Temminck’s Sunbird and Mountain Tailorbird were all enjoyed here. But all these great birds were beaten by a stunning male Fruithunter! This is a nomadic species that many birders miss on the mountain. This wonderful thrush like bird flew in and landed at eye-level in the sunshine a totally brilliant birding moment! How many times had we looked at The Birds of Borneo field guide and dreamed of seeing this bird?

Fruithunter male Borneo 2017 1

A MEGA bird! This male Fruithunter really wowed us in the morning sun.

Lower down the mountain we hiked a trail that followed a tumbling stream in search of another very special bird. It was very slow birding here with no birds in view most of the time. We did manage a good, if brief, view of a Mountain Wren-babbler another Borneo endemic. By a bridge over the stream we hit a feeding flock and had great looks at Bornean Green Magpie and Sunda Laughingthrush, both endemic birds. Continuing downstream we saw a flash of black and white amongst the boulders ahead, could be our bird? We crept silently forward and there it was, Bornean Forktail! Rather like a giant Pied Wagtail this was another most wanted bird; we love Forktails and of course were keen to add the endemic one to our list. A super bird but again so tricky to photograph, it was now very late afternoon and the light was going and we were in thick forest so the images do not do justice to this special bird.

Bornean Forktail Borneo 1

Another endemic the Bornean Forktail tracked down late afternoon.

There were three species in particular that we were very keen to see at Mount Kinabalu all had the name “Whitehead’s” these were Trogon, Broadbill and Spiderhunter. We were pretty lucky with Whitehead’s Trogon, Ruth spotted a male on our first walk up hill from the accommodation, not a brilliant view but we saw the amazing red plumage well. The Broadbill took a lot more work, we heard it calling and had very brief views but had to wait several days before we came across a group of these large bright green Whitehead’s Broadbills and what bizarre birds they turned out to be when seen well! The Spiderhunter was also tough to pin down, again we heard it calling and saw it whizz over us at tree top height. But we kept looking and on our final morning we staked out a place where we had, had a brief flight view. We scanned and scanned and then suddenly we heard the call and in flew the bird! It is a cracking bird with a Curlew style bill, heavily streaked underparts and a shocking bright yellow vent, a real wow! The Whitehead’s Spiderhunter really showed off in the morning sun, though as ever photos were tricky in the sun/deep shade. A super bird to finish on.

Whiteheads Trogon Borneo 2017 1

The stunning male Whitehead's Trogon even in the darkest forest still bright!

Whiteheads Broadbill Borneo 2017 1

The amazing, bizarre and superb Whitehead's Broadbill also endemic to Borneo.

Whiteheads Broadbill Borneo 2017 2

Whiteheads Broadbill Spiderhunter 2017 1

The elusive Whitehead's Spiderhunter finally found on our last morning!

We said good-bye to Dennis and thanked him for all his help and began the long journey back to Llandudno, North Wales.

For details of all our small group Birdwatching Trips please email us here….


We look forward to enjoying great birds, and a lot of fun, with you soon!

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