Trip report: Borneo Broadbills and Bristleheads (Jul-Aug 2007)

Guided by Sam Woods.

Our Borneo tour this year was a little challenging, due to some unseasonal heavy rains that were an unfortunate daily feature. However, undoubtedly the birds performed extremely well this year, with many key species calling and showing well for us in spite of these seemingly difficult circumstances. Over 30 Bornean endemics were recorded including most of the most highly-desired of these range-restricted species. I would very happily take these supposedly tough birding conditions if they produced this many birds every time. Unequivocal highlights included the classic ‘Whitehead’s Suite’: a rare sighting of Whitehead’s Spiderhunter in Mount Kinabalu Park; that was quickly followed by a sensational pair of Whitehead’s Trogons only minutes later; and prolonged views of a dazzling, jade-green Whitehead’s Broadbill feeding in a fruiting tree high up on this distinctive mountain. Other notable birds included a very showy pair of Fruit-hunters feeding low on some ripe fruits at the Tambunan Rafflesia Center; a small party of the odd Bornean Bristlehead at Danum (for the third tour in a row); and unforgettable looks for everyone of an exquisite male Blue-headed Pitta and a pair of the equally impressive Bornean endemic Black-headed Pitta in the dipterocarp forests of Danum Valley – surely the finest tract of lowland rainforest in the whole of Southeast Asia. Other highlights included a bagful of hornbills, all three endemic wren-babblers and all three endemic Bornean barbets. Although a bird tour, no trip to Borneo can ignore the abundance of other fascinating fauna, not least the mammals, that Danum especially is a noted hot spot for. Once again the ‘Old Man of the Forest’ did not disappoint, and our first afternoon saw us stroll right onto a young male Orang-utan gorging himself on his favored durian fruits – for me one of the ultimate wildlife experiences on the planet is to be able to watch these fascinating red apes at close quarters, and we certainly did that several times this year. Also getting to see the world’s largest flower – the instantly recognizable Rafflesia, was another undoubted highlight for everyone.

After a meet-up in Sabah’s capital Kota Kinabalu (KK), the tour began by visiting the bird-rich lowland forests of the Danum Valley Conservation Area, continued with a prolonged visit to the higher altitudes of Mount Kinabalu Park for some classic high mountain Bornean birding, and also took in the sites of Poring Hot Springs and the Tambunan Rafflesia Center in order to cover some of the intermediate altitudes as well.

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