Broadbills and Bristleheads
23 July - 3 August 2007
Leader: Sam Woods
All photos by Sam Woods/Tropical Birding
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 recognizableRafflesia, was another undoubted highlight for everyone.
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.
|23 July||Arrival in Kota Kinabalu.|
|24 July||AM Transfer to Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum.||PM Borneo Rainforest Lodge trails and road.|
|25 July||Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley.|
|26 July||Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley.|
|27 July||AM Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley.||PM Danum Valley Field Center.|
|28 July||AM Danum Valley Field Center.||PM Flew to Kota Kinabalu and tyransferred to Mount Kinabalu.|
|29 July||Mount Kinabalu Park - HQ area.|
|30 July||Mount Kinabalu Park - HQ area.||PM Poring Hot Springs.|
|31 July||AM Tambunan Rafflesia Center.||PM Mount Kinabalu Park - HQ area.|
|1 August||Mount Kinabalu Park - HQ area.|
|2 August||Mount Kinabalu Park - HQ area and summit trail.||PM Poring Hot Springs.|
|3 August||AM Mount Kinabalu HQ area & Poring Hot Springs.||PM Transfer to Kota Kinabalu, and Kota Kinabalu Wetland Center, Likas Bay|
WHITE-CROWNED SHAMA Danum Valley
The 'fashion' of late has been to lump this with the widespread White-rumped, although others think it should stay as it is, courtesy of a markedly different call and plumage and therefore remain a beautiful Bornean endemic.
ORANG-UTAN Danum Valley
This young male was found feasting on foul-smelling
durian fruits right near the lodge.
Our first stop on the tour was the lowland dipterocarp forest around the finest lodge in the Orient - the Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL), set in the heart of the bird and mammal rich Danum Valley conservation area. Our lunchtime arrival saw us tucking into some of the finest food of the tour at the lodge itself, and before the end of lunch we were getting our first taste of some of Southeast Asia's most dramatic bird families, when a Wreathed Hornbill flew by the verandah, and the distinctive shape of a Wallace's Hawk-eagle was also seen from the same, extremely convenient area. Also immediately around the lodge were some very cute Rufous Piculets, a stunning male Malaysian Flycatcher and the beautiful songster, White-rumped (Crowned) Shama, all of which entertained us around the lodge on a number of days. A slow walk along the access road close to the lodge was cut short due to the first of several bouts of heavy rain, although that did not stop us from getting our first great encounter with the brilliant broadbill family, with a pair of the 'toy-like' Black-and-yellow Broadbill. However, all the birds were easily overshadowed by Borneo's most famous resident, the so-called 'Old Man of the Jungle', the red ape himself - Orangutanthat was found feasting greedily on ripe durian fruits. This extremely pungent, often-offensive fruit is a huge draw to 'Orangs' when in season and so it proved on this day when this young male sat there gorging himself on the bounty around him. Coming across this enigmatic ape is always a very cool wildlife experience, and one that was good to 'nail' so early on. Another first day highlight was finding a tree 'loaded' with hornbills, that contained both Rhinoceros and Black Hornbills taking advantage of the fruit harvest together. The first day closed with a real 'showstopper' when we walked into a pair of Crested Firebacks patrolling the lodge grounds as we returned to the lodge, while a troop of bright-orange Red Leaf-Monkeys stopped to rest for the night overhead: a great close to any day! The day did not finish there though and before dinner we took part in one of Danum's famed night drives, that saw us running into a 'fast' Slow Loris and a superb Brown Wood-Owl.
MALAYSIAN BLUE-FLYCATCHER Borneo Rainforest Lodge
This handsome male cyornis flycatcher kept us company one whole rainy morning around the lodge.
Our first full day at BRL, so we hit the lodge trails in earnest, going after some of the very, very sexy Asian birds that Danum has an unquestionable abundance of. This day was voted the best on the tour as we simply kept running into great birds. Before reaching the trail we first came across a Black-and-red Broadbill feeding in the lodge garden, and then a superb calling male Diard's Trogon was found immediately at the start of the trail, a much easier bird to find here on Borneo than in the lowland forests of the peninsula. Not long after reaching the trail we heard one of our key lowland targets - the endemic Bornean Wren-Babbler, that came in extremely close to a little liberal use of playback. We then took in our third cool broadbill of the tour, with a fine Banded Broadbill that perched overhead. However, bird of the morning tried to sneak off the trail ahead of us, although some strategic use of the I-pod brought a brilliant male Blue-headed Pitta back in close, bring a few gasps from the group. This should have stolen the show for that day, although the awesome sight of a male Great Argus, sporting his meter long ocellated tail was just too much for everyone, and was a hotly mentioned bird at the tour end; although was ultimately 'pipped-to-the-post' of best trip bird by the endemic Black-headed Pitta. What the pitta has in beauty this monstrous pheasant more that makes up for in striking plumage and just plain impressive size. The views were unforgettable and left everyone visibly beaming. The afternoon was a little more relaxed as we gently strolled up the road again close to this luxurious lodge. This did not stop us picking up yet another broadbill - the frankly much duller Dusky Broadbill; good close up encounters of a striking Striped Wren-babbler; although best of all was a small party of Bornean Bristleheads, one of the most prized of all the endemics courtesy of its status within its own monotypic, endemic family: the otherworldly bristleheads. A brief walk on BRL's newly improved and extended canopy walkway brought us Banded Bay Cuckoo, along with our first real looks at enigmatic Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrots. The best afternoon action was saved for when we descended the walkway and we could hear the endemic Black-headed Pitta calling close by. So as we climbed down our pace quickened and soon after we had incredible close up encounters with this gorgeous, garnet-esque pitta. Two endemic pittas, the argus and the bristlehead, we were off to a flyer!
The morning began with another unavoidable stop for the red ape, as the same Orangutan fed greedily on the juicy durians overhanging the road once more. Sarah was visibly relieved-her main motivation for coming to Borneo was this hulking red primate that she had missed on our first afternoon due to a 'minor' unforeseen emergency. A walk along a road close to the lodge was generally a lot quieter than hoped, although we were happy to get a pair of Crested Jays trying their best to hide in a roadside vine tangle; several seriously impressive Red-bearded Bee-eaters; a single Scarlet-rumped Trogon; and a very welcome endemic White-fronted Falconet perched on a dead snag just a stone's throw from our lodge, that was to be a great finish to our morning. The afternoon opened with a pair of perched up Black Magpies (of the distinctive all-black Bornean race), that was good opener before the heavens opened and the day closed early for us, not for the last time on this rain-soaked tour.
A very rare 19-hour bout of rain continued unabated into the morning from the day before, leaving us a 'little' frustrated and lodge-bound for the morning. However, if you are going to be stranded anywhere BRL is not a bad place to be, and despite this we still managed to add a fine Bornean Blue Flycatcher in the garden; a Great-billed Heron racking up fish along the river from the balcony; and both Grey-rumped and Whiskered Treeswifts both showed well from the breakfast table. The first hint of the rain stopping had us rushing out onto the road for some final morning birding, that was limited with only an hour or so available before lunch and our transfer to another area of Danum, although pulled in one of the top tour birds, with a 'heart-stopping' male Jambu Fruit-Dove perched motionless for over 15 minutes in a tree right above us. The afternoon saw us transferring to another part of the conservation area, with the journey there producing Red-billed and Raffle's Malkohas, Wrinkled, Black and Helmeted Hornbills. A 'stakeout' for Bat Hawk at dusk left us wanting with nothing but the bats themselves showing themselves, and a couple of Oriental Small-clawed Otters fishing in the river below. After dinner we headed out for our final night drive of the tour, pulling in Red Giant and Thomas's Flying-Squirrels and a Malay Civet. Although the best sighting was a ghostly Bat Hawk calling in the spotlight.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge
A nice find from the lodge balcony
TEMMINCK'S SUNBIRD Rafflesia Center
A gorgeous and regular sunbird in Sabah's
Our final morning in the lowlands saw us walking a narrow trail in search of some of those low down and dirty forest skulkers that all birders get a kick out of. One of these was soon heard, when a pair of endemic Black-throated Wren-babblers were heard calling close by. The birds were coaxed in a number of times, although they were a little conservative with the views, showing well to some and little to others. Having heard a Giant Pitta call briefly close by, we waited in the vain hope it would call again, and as we did so a breathtaking male Blue-headed Pitta hopped onto the trail and fed in full view of us all for several very, very enjoyable minutes. Another broadbill joined the fold later that morning, when a Green Broadbill was found feeding on some fruits unobtrusively in the low subcanopy. Then another male Jambu Fruit-Dove put in an appearance, this one perching low for full, complete views, when all began to fully appreciate what an exquisite dove this really is. We then transferred to our great resort in Kundasang, very close to Mount Kinabalu Park, in preparation for the start of the montane birding section of the trip the following day.
Gunung or Mount Kinabalu is an extremely important area for fauna and flora, that has low overall diversity relative to the lowlands, but has a high number of specialist, endemic species. This is especially the case with plants on the mountain, with over 4000 species known incuding some highly desired ones like the pitcher plants and rafflesias. Of the 30 or so species of pitchers (nepenthes sp.) in Borneo half are found on this mountain alone. Several species of the genus that produces the largest flowers in the world, the instantly recognizable rafflesias, are also found within the park and over 20 endemic bird species are found within the park boundary. Our first morning was thankfully clear, giving us some really good clear looks at the distinctive outline of this 4,101 meter-high granite masif, that is the highest mountain in Southeast Asia and the highest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea.
Our first day on Mount Kinabalu is always exciting as it brings a truckload of new birds, many of these being very cool, specialist montane species. On arrival at the power station Bornean Whistling-thrush fed under the station lights while Indigo Flycatchers, Bornean Treepies and Chestnut-crested Yuhinas perched on the barbed fences above. A near fruiting tree contained a Golden-naped Barbet quietly feeding in the early morning sun; some close by flowers attracted a busy party of Mountain Black-eyes, a classic Bornean high-altitude species; the bushes around twitched with a moving mass of laughingthrushes that contained the common Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush and also the sundaic endemic Sunda Laughingthrush; and a singing Sunda Bush-warbler hopped out onto an open branch to check us out literally within inches of us. After a brief breakfast stop that brought us the scarlet-breasted endemic Black-sided Flowerpecker, we investigated a trail high on the mountain. Initially all seemed generally quiet, before slight movements in the undergrowth brought us onto our firstSnowy-browed Flycatcher and then a Bornean Stubtail, a cracking little endemic warbler that is basically all body and no tail. Partridges unfortunately would frustrate us throughout, always seeming to be way off whenever calling, although our disappointment at this was very soon forgotten when a vision in green appeared in a fruiting tree above us, and we watched spellbound as a vivid green Whitehead's Broadbill fed on fruits right above us for a great, great finale to what had been a really action-packed, classic morning's birding on Kinabalu. The afternoon was predictably quieter although brought us our first of five different Eye-browed Jungle-flycatchers, a pair of cracking White-crowned Forktails, and an unusually confiding White-browed Shortwing.
All three endemic barbets were seen well on the tour this year
Poring Hot Springs
This day was predictably less dramatic than our first on the mountain, with the morning hike along the trail proving fairly quiet except for the near-endemic Temminck's Babbler, Checker-throated and Maroon Woodpeckers, Black-and-Crimson Orioles and a very cute male Pygmy Blue-Flycatcher. We changed tact in the afternoon and headed downslope to the lower altitudes of Poring Hot Springs. Once again rain stopped play again, although we managed to cram in a few birds before the skies darkened that included a superb male Banded Kingfisher that posed in the scope for over 5 minutes, and a pair of gorgeous Green Broadbills.
A relatively short drive took us to the slightly lower elevations around the Rafflesia Center near to Tambunan (around 1400m). The small drop in altitude and the abundance of fruiting trees in the area is a boon for frugivores and the main motivation for inclusion of this important birding site in the tour. We had barely disembarked from the bus when a small barbet alighted on an open dead snag in the car park, which the Swarovski soon revealed to be one of our key target birds - the diminutive, and often tricky endemic Bornean Barbet. Definitely a little quicker in showing up than we could have even hoped. We then set about looking for its more common congener, a larger barbet that was soon found in abundance right around the center as a load of fruiting trees resulted in multiple sightings of the chunky endemic Mountain Barbet. This completed a fine hatrick of Bornean endemic barbets for the tour. However, slap bang in the middle of this 'barbet-fest' Joanna stumbled on the morning's star find - a pair of fantastic Fruit-hunters feasting on the fruit harvest just yards from where we had stopped the bus. Trees loaded with fruit also brought in Kinabalu Leaf-bird (a fairly widely adopted split from Blue-winged), and a number of puffy-throated Cinerous Bulbuls (another as yet unofficial split from the markedly different Ashy Bulbul). Aside from the two endemic barbets though, probably the most popular find of the morning was a striking adult Blyth's Hawk-Eagle perched up in the scope for all. Other highlights included a dazzling male Temminck's Sunbird or two, and a small party of Bornean Bulbuls (another 'split', this one from the very different mainland form, Black-crested Bulbul).
MOUNTAIN BARBET Tambunan Rafflesia Center
All three Bornean endemic barbets were recorded on the tour this year
...so nearly the Bird of the Trip
With some notable holes in our list we opted for another day on Kinabalu's trails chasing some of the omissions to the list. The day dawned very windy and dark with heavy, extended bursts of rain. Sabah is touted as the 'land below the wind' as it lies below the typhoon belt that includes the Philippines to the north. Although we were doubting the appropriateness of this name when we were being billowed by the winds as we emerged from our resort on this morning! Things looked frankly grim for birding and the likelihood of adding to our list seemed very bleak indeed. However, as is so often the case in Borneo's high mountains, the weather is nothing short of changeable and unpredictable, and the morning closed with bright sunshine and even hints of blue skies. Shortly after first light, with black skies overhead, we decided nevertheless to push on for some of our targets while rain pelted down from above. This proved a very sound move and right on cue an Everett's Thrush was found feeding brazenly in the middle of the rain-drenched trail. Not a bad way to start what looked like a very spartan day's birding. Things just continued from there, as this proved to be our best day on the mountain. Although a Red-breasted Partridge only showed for the guide, both the Bare-headed Laughingthrushes and Whitehead's Spiderhunter we ran into later were much more helpful, the spiderhunter revealing his bright yellow vent and boldly streaked plumage to almost all. With two of the three Whitehead's 'in the bag' our focus became narrowed on the final Whitehead's of the bunch, and incredibly within a short time of the Spiderhunter we were feasting on a sensational pair of Whitehead's Trogons on the very same trail (that prompted a frantic search for celebratory wine later on that day!). A superb sight, as for me this is the top trogon in the world, the male of which sports largely vivid scarlet plumage and a striking, silvery-gray bib. The final notable birds of the day was a Mountain Serpent-Eagle that was picked out by Mike from a near viewpoint.
probably Nepenthes tentaculata
There are around 30 species on Borneo,
half of which are found on Mount Kinabalu
Rafflesia Rafflesia keithii
Kampung Kokob, near Poring
The largest of the rafflesia species found in Sabah
For our final, full day of the tour we mixed it up a little. The morning was spent targeting some very high-altitude species on Mount Kinabalu's summit trail, while the afternoon involved a little more relaxed birding at the much lower elevations around Poring Hot Springs once again. Sandwiched in the middle of this was an obligatory visit to look at Borneo's most famous flower - the unforgettable Rafflesia, the world's largest, that inconveniently flowers for only five days at a time, and is therefore at a premium when available. The day dawned again rainy with the added hassle of strong winds thrown in. However we had learnt by this point on the tour, perseverance pays off and often by midmorning the weather had changed markedly. With this in mind we ventured out in seemingly bleak conditions (once again!), shortly after daybreak. As with the day before conditions rapidly improved and shortly after dawn we managed to coax in a very confiding Mountain Wren-babbler, the last of the endemic Wren-babbler trio that we needed, and one that had fast been becoming a jinx bird for us having been strangely silent up until then, when one could not be silenced and in the end literally came within inches of us. We also got our best looks at the endemic Eye-browed Jungle-flycatcher perched up by a tranquil mountain stream. A great start to what had appeared to be a hopeless morning's birding. With renewed vigor and the clouds lifting we headed up the summit trail, picking up another pair of very confiding Indigo Flycatchers on the way up. As ever all seemed fairly quiet as we reached these higher altitudes that inevitably causes a drop in species diversity. However, we still ran into some more Mountain Black-eyes, a very cool Bornean montane endemic that we had seen on our first morning on the mountain also. Our main target here was the extremely localized endemic Friendly Bush-Warbler, that only occurs above a certain altitude on the mountain. Not long after we reached the lowest areas for them, one answered strongly to our tape and came in really close, very friendly indeed! We then climbed a little further to bag a bulbul, although only one Flavescent Bulbul could be found (that was enough for everyone!), feeding on some low fruits. A flock in between this brought surprisingly only our first Velvet-fronted Nuthatch of the trip, creeping up a limb and sporting the bright pink legs and powdery blue 'uppers' that make this such a great little bird. Another highlight on the mountain trail was coming across a number of the carnivorous Nepenthes plants, better known as 'pitcher plants'. The afternoon also began with a botanic diversion, when a large sign along the highway had us changing direction rapidly to take in a blooming Rafflesia that had just begun its short, 5-day flowering cycle only that day, meaning the flower (the largest of the rafflesia species in Sabah - keithii) was in prime condition. As we had been inquiring about this daily with little success until then, it was a relief to hear of a new bloom at the final opportunity. As their flowering is completely unpredictable and short-lived it is always highly valued and must be taken advantage of immediately, which of course we did. The final few hours of the day were spent investigating the start of a trail around the hot springs at Poring. The day finished fantastically when first a male Rufous-collared Kingfisher responded superbly to our tape, and then a female responded even better by remaining rooted to the branch for several very cool minutes. It certainly is not often you get two of these wonderful forest kingfishers in just a few hours birding.
Our final day was essentially a departure day, although we still made time for some final birding on Mount Kinabalu that brought our fifth, and final, sighting of Eye-browed Jungle-flycatcher. Little else was in evidence on the mountain in poor weather so we headed to the lower, more hospitable climate of Poring once more. Poring brought us Gray-headed Babbler, incredibly our third Rufous-collared Kingfisher sighting, and a further viewing of Black-and-red Broadbill that had been a lodge regular in our time at Danum. While later that day, the remainder of the group took a short stroll around a tranquil mangrove boardwalk in the city that still brought some new additions, being our only venture into this distinctive habitat, most notably the coastal specialist, Pink-necked Pigeon, huge flocks of which were seen in the area along with some final, very obliging Dusky Munias for the trip. Everyone agreed this chilled out final birding session, while not adding tons of new birds, was nevertheless a very pleasant way to close the tour.
Taxonomy and nomenclature follow: Clements, James F. 2000. Birds of the World: A Checklist. Fifth Edition. Vista, CA: Ibis Publishing Co. Includes recent updates.
Species that were only heard are marked with an H; and those seen only by the guide are marked GO.
35 ENDEMICS were recorded on the tour, a total that includes all the possible splits frequently mentioned in other trip reports.
Darter (Anhinga melanogaster)
A few around the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley.
EGRETS and BITTERNS (CICONIIFORMES: Ardeidae)
Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana)
One strolled out along the shore of the River Danum in front of the veranda at Borneo Rainforest Lodge, while we were sheltering there from a rainstorm.
Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
Many were seen coming into roost at the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Center, Likas Bay.
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Scattered sightings on various journeys and also seen in the Likas area of Kota Kinabalu.
Intermediate Egret (Egretta intermedia)
One was seen at the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Center, Likas Bay.
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Scattered sightings on the tour.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
A few sightings on the tour.
Striated Heron (Butorides striata)
One at Likas in KK.
HAWKS, EAGLES and KITES (FALCONIFORMES: Accipitridae)
Jerdon's Baza (Aviceda jerdoni)
3 sightings at Danum of this gorgeous ginger-crested 'cuckoo-hawk'.
Bat Hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus)
This was the highlight of our final night drive out of Danum, when frantic searches in the large honey trees were required to find a calling hawk. Eventually this enigmatic hawk was found and spotlighted calling from an open branch. A ghostly figure in the night. Fantastic.
Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)
Small numbers in the Likas area.
White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus luecogaster)
A tussling, playful pair of these majestic sea-eagles were seen flying over the Borneo Rainforest Lodge office in Lahad Datu.
Mountain (Kinabalu) Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis kinabaluensis) ENDEMIC
This large Serpent-Eagle was picked up by Mike as it flew in and perched momentarily, from a view point high on Gunung Kinabalu.
Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela)
Seen a number of times, both perched and in flight, in Danum Valley.
Blyth's Hawk-Eagle (Spilornis alboniger)
Despite seeing Fruit-hunters, Bornean and Mountain Barbets, and Kinabalu Leafbirds in our morning at the Tambunan Rafflesia Center, one of these striking eagles perched up close in the scope was probably the bird that got the most excited reaction that morning.
Wallace's Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus nanus)
3 sightings at Danum, two of which were very conveniently from the lodge veranda itself.
White-fronted Falconet (Microhierax latifrons) ENDEMIC
This 'dead snag specialist' was seen, (appropriately perched up on a dead tree), several times close to the lodge at Danum. Two different birds were involved, first a white-fronted male, and later a buff-fronted female bird.
PHEASANTS and PARTRIDGES (GALLIFORMES: Phasianidae)
Red-breasted Partridge (Arborophila hyperythra) ENDEMIC GO
One frustratingly sneaked by for the guides eyes only, high on Mount Kinabalu. On another morning a pair was coaxed in real close, but we just could not pick them up in the decidedly gloomy conditions on the mountain that morning.
Chestnut-necklaced Partridge (Arborophila charltonii) H
Heard distantly a number of times at Danum.
Crimson-headed Partridge (Haematortyx sanguiniceps) ENDEMIC H
Completely unresponsive in our time on Gunung Kinabalu, although they were heard calling regularly in the early mornings while we were there.
Crested Fireback (Lophura ignita)
Understandably these gorgeous pheasants were one of the species being talked about fondly at the end of the trip, when best tour birds were being discussed; a pair were regularly seen patrolling the grounds at Borneo Rainforest Lodge at both dawn and dusk. A very welcome daily feature of that well-run resort in the heart of some of Sabah's very best rainforest.
Great Argus (Argusianus argus)
Unsurprisingly, a species that was very quickly mentioned as a key target for some people at the very start of the trip, and so we went straight after it on our first morning at Danum. What with the distractions of Banded Kingfisher, Banded and Black-and-red Broadbills, Diard's Trogon, Blue-headed Pitta and Bornean Wren-babbler along the way we very nearly arrived too late at one of its known display sites. However, just by a large cleared section on the trail that comprised the argus's dancing ground, there it was - a fully-plumed male standing there in the open with his striking naked blue head and truly spectacular near meter-long, intricately ocellated tail. Everyone was suitably impressed, to put it lightly! The loud far-carrying 'wow' calls of the territorial males are a very evocative and familiar call during mornings and even during night time in the southeast Asian lowland rainforests as they were here at Danum.
RAILS, GALLINULES and COOTS (GRUIFORMES: Rallidae)
White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)
Recorded en-route to Tambunan Rafflesia Center and also around Likas.
Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio)
Several seen in the Likas area.
PIGEONS and DOVES (COLUMBIFORMES: Columbidae)
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)
Common seen around KK.
Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)
Commonly seen, around KK especially.
Ruddy Cuckoo-Dove (Macropygia emiliana)
Several sightings of this cuckoo-dove were had in the Mount Kinabalu area.
Little Cuckoo-Dove (Macropygia ruficeps)
Seen daily in small numbers up on Mount Kinabalu.
Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica)
This attractive dove was seen every day at Danum, including a confiding bird that posed on an open trail in front of us, that made a change from the more usual view of a flash of green jetting passed at speed through the rainforest!
Zebra (Peaceful) Dove (Geopelia striata)
Seen on roadsides especially in the Kota Kinabalu/Likas Bay area.
Pink-necked Pigeon (Treron vernans)
This handsome green pigeon was commonly seen in the mangroves at Likas, where large numbers were watched going to roost there.
Thick-billed Pigeon (Treron curvirostra)
Two small parties were found at Danum.
Jambu Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus jambu)
This extremely smart fruit-dove was chanced upon several times at Danum this year - firstly in a short one-hour walk in between rain showers near Borneo Rainforest Lodge, where a male remained perched-up in the Swarovski for over 10 minutes; and then another much lower male was seen along a trail near the Danum Valley Field Center. A very good showing for this supremely cool red, white and jade-green dove.
Green Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula aenea)
First recorded a number of times in Danum and much better views were had later in the mangroves at Likas.
Mountain Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula badia)
The first views were typical of this montane species - flying high over the Kinabalu forest in the mist, although later much better perched looks were obtained at Poring Hot Springs, and also at the Tambunan Rafflesia Center.
PARROTS (PSITTACIFORMES: Psittacidae)
Blue-rumped Parrot (Psittinus cyanurus)
Great looks at this scarce parrot at Danum, with first a female from their canopy walkway, and then an orange-billed male along the road near Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot (Loriculus galgulus)
This dinky little parrot is always a fascination for first-time visitors to Asia (I mean a parrot that sleeps upside down - give me a break!), and this group of keen birders were no exception. Well, we never saw it sleeping upside down although we did have several good looks of it perched up in the treetops from Danum's canopy walkway.
Oriental Cuckoo (Cuculus saturatus)
One was seen near the park headquarters at Mount Kinabalu.
Banded Bay Cuckoo (Cacomantis sonneratii)
This often hard-to-see cuckoo was seen twice this year, including great looks at a calling bird by the canopy walkway at Danum.
Plaintive Cuckoo (Cacomantis merulinus)
One was seen along the road near Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Asian Drongo-Cuckoo (Surniculus lugubris)
Just a single sighting of a bird glimpsed near to Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Black-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus diardi)
Two sightings around Borneo Rainforest Lodge, in Danum Valley.
Raffles's Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus chlorophaeus)
Two small groups seen in Danum Valley.
Red-billed Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus javanicus)
2 singles were seen at Danum, including a confiding bird between the field center and the lodge.
Chestnut-breasted Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus curvirostris)
We recorded this species along the Borneo Rainforest Lodge access road on three separate occasions.
Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis)
Heard a number of times, with two sightings of roadside birds in the Danum area; and another seen perched on the road between Kundasang and the Tambunan Rafflesia Center.
Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis)
One was seen briefly on the way from Lahad Datu to Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
OWLS (STRIGIFORMES: Strigidae)
Buffy Fish-Owl (Ketupa ketupu)
This normally very reliable bird was completely absent from its usual haunts around Borneo Rainforest Lodge, so we had to wait until literally our final morning at Danum Valley to nail this huge impressive fish-owl, when I found one sitting on a post right outside our rooms at the field center. Having just woken up and walked straight onto it sitting there, I frantically woke everyone up which worked well with everyone getting the bird hanging around on the same post or perched up by the badminton court below!
Brown Wood-Owl (Strix leptogrammica)
A popular find on our first night drive out of Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Malaysian (-Eared) Nightjar (Eurostopodus temminckii) GO
One that was seen gliding over the car at dusk in the Poring area could not be relocated.
SWIFTS (APODIFORMES: Apodidae)
Glossy Swiftlet (Collocalia esculenta)
Commonly seen in lowland areas.
Cave Swiftlet (Collocalia linchi)
Very common up on Mount Kinabalu.
Silver-rumped Needletail (Rhaphidura leucopygialis)
Fairly commonly seen at Danum, when a number were usually seen hawking insects in full view of the lodge verandah.
House Swift (Apus nipalensis)
Just recorded around Kota Kinabalu.
A fair number of other Aerodramus swiftlet species were seen at Danum
and Poring, that could not be assigned to species away from their diagnostic
TREESWIFTS (APODIFORMES: Hemiprocnidae)
Gray-rumped Treeswift (Hemiprocne longipennis)
Some really superb looks at this large treeswift from Borneo Rainforest Lodge while we sheltered there from the rain.
Whiskered Treeswift (Hemiprocne comata)
This beautiful treeswift is understandably always popular, and was virtually the first 'proper' rainforest bird of the tour on our drive into Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Was mentioned at the tour end when discussing trip highlights, but was soon drowned out by pittas, broadbills, pheasants and trogons!
TROGONS (TROGONIFORMES: Trogonidae)
Red-naped Trogon (Harpactes kasumba)
A calling male was seen in the same area as the similar Diard's Trogon, along one of the Danum Valley Field Center trails, providing a neat, almost side-by-side comparison.
Whitehead's Trogon (Harpactes whiteheadi) ENDEMIC
Very nearly voted as bird of the trip, but just pipped to the post by Black-headed Pitta. Although it has the distinction as being the only bird of the trip that had Joanna and Mike frantically searching the local stores for a celebratory bottle of wine, which was duly dispensed with, with a little help from everyone else! Not many birds drive you to drink but the fabulous pair of trogons we found on Mount Kinabalu showed really well just shortly after we had run into Whitehead's Spiderhunter on the same incredible trail, (and then only hours after we had watched an Everett's Thrush hopping around in the middle of a rain-drenched trail higher up on the mountain), a really memorable morning's birding.
Diard's Trogon (Harpactes diardii)
Two sightings in Danum Valley, one around Borneo Rainforest Lodge and another near the field center.
Scarlet-rumped Trogon (Harpactes duvaucelii)
This breathtaking trogon was first seen along the Borneo Rainforest Lodge access road, where a pristine male thrilled us, on an afternoon that also brought us Black-headed Pitta and Bornean Bristlehead. A female was also recorded later along the same road.
KINGFISHERS (CORACIIFORMES: Alcedinidae)
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
A few flew by us while on the mangrove boardwalk at Likas.
Black-backed Kingfisher (Ceyx erithacus)
One of these diminutive kingfishers was found sitting quietly in the forest very close to Borneo Rainforest Lodge. A few others were more typically heard calling as they screamed past us at high speed, also in Danum.
Banded Kingfisher (Lacedo pulchella)
A stunning calling male was in the 'scope for over 5 minutes at Poring, that more than made up for the one that had only been glimpsed earlier on the tour at Danum.
Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis) H
One was heard along the Sungei Danum while we were deep in the forest around Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Collared Kingfisher (Todirhamphus chloris)
We had a few scattered sightings on the journey between Kundasang and Tambunan; although much better looks of this noisy kingfisher were had at the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Center.
Rufous-collared Kingfisher (Actenoides concretus)
You could say that we had some luck with this bird this year at Poring. Our first attempt to lure one in, ended in a blue-backed male flying in and perching up right in front of us on an open branch. Unfortunately within minutes this gorgeous kingfisher took off and never showed well again, much to the chagrin of the one person who had been blind-sighted. Luckily on the way back down the same trail, only around 30 minutes later another bird was heard calling and this time a fine spot-backed female bird came in and perched on an open branch, this time in full view of everybody. The next day, during some final Poring birding we came across another non-calling male bird in the same area as the female we'd seen only the evening before. Three sightings of this cool kingfisher was definitely a good return.
BEE-EATERS (CORACIIFORMES: Meropidae)
Red-bearded Bee-eater (Nyctyornis amictus)
We had three sightings of this fabulous bee-eater along the road into the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Blue-throated Bee-eater (Merops viridis)
Also seen several times along the road at Danum.
HORNBILLS (CORACIIFORMES: Bucerotidae)
Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris)
A pair showed well on the road to the Danum Valley Field Center.
Black Hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus)
Several sightings along the road close to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, including a pair that were sharing the same fruiting tree with a Rhinoceros Hornbill.
Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros)
This spectacular hornbill was seen on three of our four days around Danum, our first sighting perhaps being the best. On this occasion a lone bird was found in the same tree as a pair of Black Hornbills, just a short distance from where we had just seen our first Orang-utan feasting in a durian tree. A good session of introductory birding to some of Danum's many avian attractions.
Helmeted Hornbill (Buceros vigil) GO
Unfortunately this rather ugly hornbill passed quickly by at Danum before anyone could get onto it. As usual they were heard giving their 'maniacal laugh' a number of times in the Danum area.
Bushy-crested Hornbill (Anorrhinus galeritus)
A couple of parties were seen along the road in Danum Valley, both around the field center and Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Wrinkled Hornbill (Aceros corrugatus)
Just the one sighting of this scarce hornbill that overflew us close to the Danum Valley Field Center.
Wreathed Hornbill (Aceros undulatus)
Four sightings this year, three in Danum and another briefly at Poring. The first view at Danum involved a perched bird during lunch from the verandah of the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
BARBETS (PICIFORMES: Capitonidae)
Gold-whiskered Barbet (Megalaima chrysopogon)
A couple were seen along the road in Danum Valley where they were commonly heard.
Red-throated Barbet (Megalaima mystacophanos)
This barbet frustrated us for a while at Danum, being a constant background noise in the canopy there, before we ran into a couple there late on. One was seen particularly well on the field center grid when a bird was found perched on a low trunk hammering the bark, more in the fashion of a woodpecker than a barbet.
Mountain Barbet (Megalaima monticola) ENDEMIC
A very successful trip to the Tambunan Rafflesia Center was made for this barbet amongst others. A number of trees were fruiting there at the time that subsequently brought in a number of these endemic barbets. One was seen really well feeding in a low fruiting tree right by the center itself, the very same tree having held a pair of Fruit-hunters only minutes earlier.
Golden-naped Barbet (Megalaima pulcherrima) ENDEMIC
Generally the easiest of the endemic barbets to see, and it turned out that way for us this year also as a bird was found perched low down right by the power station on our first morning around Mount Kinabalu. Another couple were seen in the same fruiting tree being visited by Whitehead's Broadbill, also on the mountain.
Blue-eared Barbet (Megalaima australis)
A regular sound around Danum, where we had a few sightings.
Bornean Barbet (Megalaima eximia) ENDEMIC
Generally the toughest of the endemic barbets to see. This was not however the case for us this year, as shortly after our arrival at Tambunan Rafflesia Center a lone Bornean Barbet flew in and perched on a highly visible dead snag giving us al great looks through the 'scope. Virtually the first bird we saw on arrival, so it eased the pressure somewhat as this bird can be a a real struggle to find. A few others were heard calling there.
Brown Barbet (Calorhamphus fuliginosus)
Just the one sighting of this distinctive red-throated race, close to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
WOODPECKERS (PICIFORMES: Picidae)
Rufous Piculet (Sasia abnormis)
We had a couple of sightings of this tiny woodpecker in the Borneo Rainforest Lodge garden.
Rufous Woodpecker (Celeus brachyurus) H
An unresponsive bird was heard calling late in the afternoon at Danum.
White-bellied Woodpecker (Dryocopus javensis)
3 showed well on a dead snag near the field center at Danum.
Banded Woodpecker (Picus mineaceus) H
Heard calling just before an extremely heavy downpour at Poring Hot Springs that ended any hopes we had of seeing that particular bird.
Crimson-winged Woodpecker (Picus puniceus)
Just the one viewing at Danum.
Checker-throated Woodpecker (Picus mentalis)
Seen at least three times on Mount Kinabalu when singles or pairs were found following some of the busy bird waves there.
Maroon Woodpecker (Blythipicus rubiginosus)
Heard a number of times up on Mount Kinabalu and also around Poring Hot Springs. One was seen in a bird wave on Kinabalu, with Checker-throated Woodpeckers, Black-and-crimson Oriole and others.
Orange-backed Woodpecker (Reinwardtipicus validus)
A pair were seen very close to our cabins at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Buff-rumped Woodpecker (Meiglyptes tristis)
A pair showed well at Poring Hot Springs.
Buff-necked Woodpecker (Meiglyptes tukki)
One was seen clinging to a thin vine in the understorey, on the Danum Valley Field Center grid.
Gray-and-buff Woodpecker (Hemicircus concretus)
One flew in and perched in the same tree as us, up on the Borneo Rainforest Lodge canopy walkway.
Great Slaty Woodpecker (Mulleripicus pulverulentus)
A group of three eventually showed well to everyone during an exciting days birding in Danum Valley that brought us Blue-headed Pitta, Black-headed Pitta, Great Argus, Bornean Wren-babbler, Banded Broadbill, Dusky Broadbill, Diard's Trogon, Scarlet-rumped Trogon and others! Asia's largest woodpecker.
BROADBILLS (PASSERIFORMES: Eurylaimidae)
Dusky Broadbill (Corydon sumatranus)
A small group were watched for a short time along the access road close to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, before the distinctive cries of Bornean Bristlehead soon had us turning our attentions elsewhere.
Black-and-red Broadbill (Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos)
A pair of these stunning broadbills were seen right around the lodge at Danum, with others being seen close to the Danum Valley Field Center and also at Poring Hot Springs.
Banded Broadbill (Eurylaimus javanicus)
Seen twice near to Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Black-and-yellow Broadbill (Eurylaimus ochromalus)
Four sightings of this tiny, 'toy-like' bird at Danum Valley, where it was a very common sound in the forest.
Green Broadbill (Calyptomena viridis)
Great looks of one first along a trail near the Danum Valley Field Center, although better more prolonged views were obtained of a pair at Poring, much to the relief of someone who had missed the earlier showing of this vivid, emerald-green bird.
Whitehead's Broadbill (Calyptomena whiteheadi) ENDEMIC
Another bird that was stated early on as a 'must-see' target bird by some of the group, and thankfully the bird duly obliged on our first morning at Mount Kinabalu. This stunning bird was seen visiting a fruiting tree a number of times along one of the higher trails on the mountain. A really beautiful bird that somehow did not get a worthy mention in discussions of the trip highlights at the tour end, despite being very clearly appreciated at the time.
PITTAS (PASSERIFORMES: Pittidae)
Giant Pitta (Pitta caerulea) H
This elusive pitta was heard just the once on the grid at the Danum Valley Field Center, but completely failed to respond.
Blue-headed Pitta (Pitta baudii) ENDEMIC
This gorgeous endemic was seen twice at Danum. First a male hopped past me as I walked up one of the Borneo Rainforest Lodge trails, quickly disappearing before anyone had a chance at getting it. Thankfully on using a little playback this beautiful male hopped in real close to check out the tape and lingered on a fallen log briefly for 'showstopping' views. As the bird was on the move much of the time not everyone managed to get onto the bird however, and during our final Danum birding around the field center we all got cracking prolonged views of another electric blue-capped male feeding completely in the open right on the trail itself. I thought what with such incredible views this would have been the bird of the trip, although, much to my chagrin, the pair of Black-headed Pittas were more popular.
Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordida) H
A distant calling bird was heard at Danum.
Black-headed (-crowned/Black-and-crimson) Pitta (Pitta ussheri) ENDEMIC
A pair of these beautiful endemic pittas was seen very, very well close to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Voted as the Bird of the Trip. This was the final highlight of an incredible days birding at Danum that saw us pull in Bornean Wren-babbler, Blue-headed Pitta, Bornean Bristlehead, Great Argus, Crested Fireback, Banded, Black-and-red, Black-and-yellow and Dusky Broadbills, and Diard's and Scarlet-rumped Trogons, to name a few.
SWALLOWS (PASSERIFORMES: Hirundinidae)
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
One flew over the mangroves at Likas.
Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica)
Commonly recorded in lowland areas throughout.
and PIPITS (PASSERIFORMES: Motacillidae)
Oriental (Paddyfield) Pipit (Anthus rufulus)
A few were were seen while we were hanging around the airport at Lahad Datu waiting for our delayed plane to come in.
CUCKOO-SHRIKES (PASSERIFORMES: Campephagidae)
Sunda (Black-faced) Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina larvata)
One was seen in a good bird wave on Mount Kinabalu.
Pied Triller (Lalage nigra)
One was seen in the center of Lahad Datu, and others were seen later in the mangroves at Likas.
Fiery Minivet (Pericrocotus igneus)
A small party of these colorful passerines was found on the grid at the Danum Valley Field Center.
Gray-chinned Minivet (Pericrocotus solaris)
Seen in small numbers each day on Mount Kinabalu, including a few birds which alighted on the fence of the power station early one morning, where they shared the fence with Ashy Drongos, Bornean Treepies and Indigo Flycatchers.
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike (Hemipus hirundinaceus) GO
A few leader-only birds at Danum were our only records.
BULBULS (PASSERIFORMES: Pycnonotidae)
Black-and-white Bulbul (Pycnonotus melanoleucos)
This very scarce frugivorous bulbul is usually pretty hard to come by, although not this year that indicated there must have been an abundance of fruiting trees in the Danum area. We saw one first overfly us on the way into Borneo Rainforest Lodge with further sightings of males along the access road there on three other occasions. Four sightings of different birds at Danum definitely represented a very good showing for this species, and included prolonged views of a male perched up in the 'scope thanks to our local guide Wang Kong.
Black-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus atriceps)
Recorded in small numbers each day in Danum Valley.
Black-crested (Bornean) Bulbul (Pycnonotus melanicterus) ENDEMIC FORM/SPECIES
A group of four birds of this distinctive 'form', (that has a pale throat), was seen close to the Tambunan Rafflesia Center. This Bornean endemic race, montis, is popularly split off as 'Bornean Bulbul'.
Flavescent Bulbul (Pycnonotus flavescens)
Just one of these high altitude bulbuls was seen at our highest point on the summit trail up on Mount Kinabalu.
Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)
Commonly seen in the lowlands.
Olive-winged Bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus)
A few were seen in the mangroves of Likas.
Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus)
The most commonly recorded bulbul in the lowlands.
Spectacled Bulbul (Pycnonotus erythropthalmos)
Three sightings in Danum Valley, including a bird that was sharing a fruiting tree with a Plantain Squirrel.
Ochraceous Bulbul (Alophoixus ochraceus)
Seen nearly every day in small numbers on Mount Kinabalu.
Gray-cheeked Bulbul (Alophoixus bres)
A couple of sightings were had in Danum Valley, and another was seen at Poring.
Yellow-bellied Bulbul (Alophoixus phaeocephalus)
A pair was seen on one of the Borneo Rainforest Lodge trails, and another was picked up at Poring.
Hairy-backed Bulbul (Tricholestes criniger)
Regularly recorded at Danum, where several birds were regularly seen visiting a fruiting tree in the lodge garden.
Buff-vented Bulbul (Iole olivacea)
Several were seen at Danum.
Ashy (Cinerous) Bulbul (Hemixos flavala) ENDEMIC FORM/SPECIES
Another unofficially split bulbul, that many split off as 'Cinerous Bulbul'. This Bornean race, connectens, has a distinctive puffy white throat. We saw a number of them near the entrance of the Tambunan Rafflesia Center, where there were a few fruiting trees in prime condition at the time.
LEAFBIRDS (PASSERIFORMES: Chloropseidae)
Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati)
A couple of males of this chunky leafbird were found close to Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Lesser Green Leafbird (Chloropsis cyanopogon)
Seen daily at Danum.
Blue-winged (Bornean/Kinabalu) Leafbird (Chloropsis cochinchinensis) ENDEMIC FORM/SPECIES
This flavocincta endemic mountain 'race' of Blue-winged is widely split off as Bornean or Kinabalu Leafbird. Interestingly, the female possesses a black throat in this form. A small group were found right near the entrance of the Tambunan Rafflesia Center, with a few other groups seen flying over there also.
IORAS (PASSERIFORMES: Aegithinidae)
Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia)
Several vocal birds were found in the mangroves at Likas.
THRUSHES (PASSERIFORMES: Turdidae)
Bornean Whistling-Thrush (Myophonus borneensis) ENDEMIC
4 sightings on Mount Kinabalu, with the best of these being a bird on our final morning there that froze on the road a few meters in front of our stopped vehicle. Another was seen at its traditional hangout - around the cars in the power station car park.
Everett's Thrush (Zoothera everetti) ENDEMIC
We decided to target this bird one morning on the mountain and try and chance upon one on the trail a short time after dawn. Unfortunately, that morning dawned dark and gloomy with seemingly appalling conditions. However we decided to give it a shot anyhow and halfway along the path were greeted by a bird feeding right in the middle of the trail, that hopped on and off the trail a couple of times allowing everyone to get great views of this highly sort-after Zoothera.
Fruit-hunter (Chlamydochaera jefferyi) ENDEMIC
Another highly-desired, handsome endemic. We were all treated to amazing views of a pair of these frugivorous birds feeding in a low fruiting tree by the entrance to the Tambunan Rafflesia Center.
White-browed Shortwing (Brachypteryx montana)
A regular sound on Mount Kinabalu, we were fortunate to get two good looks at this skulking species while up there.
and ALLIES (PASSERIFORMES: Cisticolidae)
Yellow-bellied Prinia (Prinia flaviventris)
A couple of sightings in the lowlands, first at Danum and later at Likas.
OLD WORLD WARBLERS (PASSERIFORMES: Sylviidae)
Bornean Stubtail (Urosphena whiteheadi) ENDEMIC
This tiny, near tailess warbler was seen twice on Mount Kinabalu, where really close views were obtained of a bird feeding quietly in the leaf litter beside the trail.
Sunda Bush-Warbler (Cettia vulcania)
While getting a flurry of new species around the Mount Kinabalu power station during our first mornings birding there, one of these unobtrusive warblers popped out on an open branch literally within inches of us all. Many others were also heard up there.
(Kinabalu) Friendly Bush-Warbler (Bradypterus accentor) ENDEMIC
A two kilometer hike up the summit trail was necessary to get this one, which most people opted for. Having taken our time to get there, this stepped trail was not too strenuous, and shortly after reaching the lowest possible elevations for this high mountain species, a bird responded strongly to the tape and came in and perched up very close to us.
Mountain Tailorbird (Orthotomus cuculatus)
Several were seen along the park headquarters trails on Mount Kinabalu, where they were commonly heard.
Dark-necked Tailorbird (Orthotomus atrogularis)
Seen close to Poring Hot Springs.
Rufous-tailed Tailorbird (Orthotomus sericeus)
Several were seen in the Danum area.
Ashy Tailorbird (Orthotomus ruficeps)
First seen bizarrely from Danum's canopy walkway, and later seen again at both the Tambunan Rafflesia Center and in the mangroves of Likas.
Mountain (Leaf) Warbler (Phylloscopus trivirgatus)
A regular member of bird waves up on Mount Kinabalu, where we saw them in small numbers every day.
Yellow-breasted Warbler (Seicercus montanis)
Another regular flock member, this attractive, striking orange-headed warbler was seen on most days up on Mount Kinabalu.
Yellow-bellied Warbler (Abroscopus superciliaris)
A pair were observed fighting in a tree close to Poring Hot Springs.
OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS (PASSERIFORMES: Muscicapidae)
Eyebrowed Jungle-Flycatcher (Rhinomyias gularis) ENDEMIC
We had a very good run with this endemic along the trails around the park HQ at Mount Kinabalu, where we saw them on five separate occasions (all involving different birds).
Snowy-browed Flycatcher (Ficedula hyperythra)
Surprisingly just a couple seen on Mount Kinabalu, first a female and then a boldly-marked juvenile bird along the summit trail.
Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni)
Strangely only seen on our first day on Mount Kinabalu, where two males and a female were seen.
Verditer Flycatcher (Eumyias thalassina)
A pair were found perched at Poring.
Indigo Flycatcher (Eumyias indigo)
This attractive sundaic flycatcher was first found perched on the power station fence at Mount Kinabalu, with other small numbers being recorded on most days up there also. A very approachable pair just above Timpohon Gate were particularly memorable.
Malaysian Blue-Flycatcher (Cyornis turcosus)
A lodge regular while we were staying at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum. A pair were regularly seen feeding in the lodge garden, and the male regularly picked insects off the window late in the afternoon/early in the morning.
Bornean Blue-Flycatcher (Cyornis superbus) ENDEMIC
A handsome blue-and-orange male visited the Borneo Rainforest Lodge garden one morning, while we sheltered on the balcony from the deluge of rain outside.
Pygmy Blue-Flycatcher (Muscicapella hodgsoni)
A male of this tiny flicker was found along one of the park HQ trails at Mount Kinabalu.
Gray-headed Canary-flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis)
First recorded several times around Danum, and later a single bird was seen up on Mount Kinabalu.
Oriental Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis)
Fairly commonly recorded in the lowlands. On the eastern side the distinctive black-bellied pluto race was seen.
White-rumped (Crowned) Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) ENDEMIC FORM/SPECIES
This species has recently been lumped by some taxonomists within the widespread White-rumped Shama, that was followed by Clements. However, many people still believe the markedly different song and consistent plumage differences indicate that it should remain the beautiful Bornean endemic it once was. We recorded them daily in Danum, including a very friendly bird that regularly visited the lodge garden. Also seen well at Poring.
White-crowned Forktail (Enicurus leschenaulti)
This striking terrestrial flycatcher from the infamous Oriental forktail genus (that is understandably so highly desired by first time visitors), was seen briefly on a few occasions in Danum, before finally some great looks were had of a pair along a small tributary off the Sungei Liwagu on Mount Kinabalu.
FANTAILS (PASSERIFORMES: Rhipiduridae)
White-throated Fantail (Rhipidura albicollis)
Recorded daily on Mount Kinabalu.
Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica)
A few were seen at Danum and in the mangroves at Likas.
Spotted Fantail (Rhipidura perlata)
One was picked up by Joanna on one of the Borneo Rainforest Lodge trails at Danum.
MONARCH FLYCATCHERS (PASSERIFORMES: Monarchidae)
Black-naped Monarch (Hypothymis azurea)
Several were seen close to Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Asian Paradise-Flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi)
Several spectacular white phase males were seen at Danum.
WHISTLERS (PASSERIFORMES: Pachycephalidae)
Bornean Whistler (Pachycephala hypoxantha)
A few of this montane endemic were found sitting quietly in passing flocks on most days up on Mount Kinabalu.
BABBLERS (PASSERIFORMES: Timaliidae)
Sunda (Gray-and-brown) Laughingthrush (Garrulax palliatus)
This noisy laugher was found nearly every day up on Mount Kinabalu, once hanging about the small rubbish tip near the top of the road, which was an attractive setting to see them in!
Black (Bare-headed) Laughingthrush (Garrulax lugubris) ENDEMIC FORM/SPECIES
The bald-headed calvus race on Borneo has been split by many authors for a long period as Bareheaded Laughingthrush', although was never adopted on the Clements list. Several individuals of this ugly 'laugher' were found in a mixed laughingthrush flock along the Silau-silau trail, Mount Kinabalu.
Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush (Garrulax mitratus)
One of the commonest birds up on Kinabalu, where many were seen every day up there.
White-chested Babbler (Trichastoma rostratum)
This riparian babbler was encountered several times around the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Ferruginous Babbler (Trichastoma bicolor)
This subtly attractive babbler was seen twice in Danum, where they were more frequently heard.
Horsfield's Babbler (Malacocincla sepiarium)
One came in and checked us out at Danum.
Short-tailed Babbler (Malacocincla malaccensis)
Strangely just one sighting at Danum, of a lost juvenile bird right by Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Temminck's Babbler (Pellorneum pyrrogenys)
One was seen really well hopping around in pile of dead branches, along one of the park HQ trails on Mount Kinabalu.
Black-capped Babbler (Pellorneum capistratum)
One came in first while we were waiting for a male Blue-headed Pitta to respond to our tape, that made us a little jumpy and what with the pitta being expected was a little under appreciated. Later another bird was seen sneaking off the trail ahead of us at Danum.
Sooty-capped Babbler (Malacopteron affine)
Several sightings around Danum.
Scaly-crowned Babbler (Malacopteron cinereum)
Two sightings at Danum, both close to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Rufous-crowned Babbler (Malacopteron magnum)
Several sightings along the trails near Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler (Pomatorhinus montanus)
This much under-estimated species was seen just above us on the canopy walkway at Danum. Very highly rated by the group and was a mention at the trip end, if only we had not seen those blasted pittas, pheasants, trogons or broadbills may have been the top trip bird!
Bornean Wren-Babbler (Ptilocichla leucogrammica) ENDEMIC
This bird was frustrating this year, and although one came in really close to us in response to my tape it remained on the run the whole time and was not therefore seen well by many people. Unfortunately it or any others calling at Danum could not be tempted in again.
Striped Wren-Babbler (Kenopia striata)
Unlike the Bornean this significantly more attractive wren-babbler played the game well and flew in and perched up real close allowing everyone very good looks.
Black-throated Wren-Babbler (Napothera atrigularis) ENDEMIC
This large noisy endemic babbler came in really close along one of the field center trails at Danum, allowing most people to get good views.
Mountain Wren-Babbler (Napothera crassa) ENDEMIC
This traditionally fairly easy endemic gave us the run around on Kinabalu this year, amazingly not being heard at all for the first few days. Of course when it did call close to the Liwagu restaurant we then went straight after it and the bird then behaved in exemplary fashion by approaching to within inches of us, making us all wonder why it could not have done this a few days before.
Gray-throated Babbler (Stachyris nigriceps)
This really attractive Stachyris was seen at Poring during our final session of birding there on the final day.
Gray-headed Babbler (Stachyris poliocephala)
Commonly encountered up on Kinabalu.
Black-throated Babbler (Stachyris nigricollis)
One was seen on the grid at the Danum Valley Field Center.
Chestnut-rumped Babbler (Stachyris maculata)
This striking babbler was seen several times during one day close to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Chestnut-winged Babbler (Stachyris erythroptera)
We saw this species several times around Danum.
Striped (Bornean) Tit-Babbler (Macronous gularis)
Seen in several different places at Danum, and also heard around Poring. This form has been split off as an endemic, Bornean Tit-Babbler, by some authors.
White-browed Shrike-Babbler (Pteruthius flaviscapis)
A pristine male was seen near the Tambunan Rafflesia Center.
Brown Fulvetta (Alcippe brunneicauda)
Several were seen near the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Chestnut-crested Yuhina (Yuhina everetti) ENDEMIC
This endemic is very common up on Mount Kinabalu where small chattering groups were seen on every visit to the mountain.
White-bellied Yuhina (Yuhina zantholeuca)
A few small groups were encountered in Danum.
NUTHATCHES (PASSERIFORMES: Sittidae)
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis)
This beautiful nuthatch was a welcome distraction during a rest stop along the summit trail on Mount Kinabalu.
SUNBIRDS (PASSERIFORMES: Nectariniidae)
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird (Chalcoparia singalensis)
A few were seen along the road close to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum.
Plain Sunbird (Anthreptes simplex)
Seen in the lodge garden at Danum on several occasions.
Plain-throated (Brown-throated) Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis)
Seen first in the town of Lahad Datu itself, once at Danum and also in the mangroves at Likas.
Purple-naped Sunbird (Hypogramma hypogrammicum)
2 sightings at Danum, including a bird that showed really well in the lodge garden.
Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis)
Several were seen around the town of Lahad Datu.
Temminck's Sunbird (Aethopyga temminckii)
The best sunbird of the tour by a long way, what with the male being bright vermilion red above and all! We recorded them from the restaurant on Mount Kinabalu and a showy male bird posed for photos close to the Tambunan Rafflesia Center.
Spectacled Spiderhunter (Arachnothera flavigaster)
2 were seen visiting a flowering tree along the access road into the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Long-billed Spiderhunter (Arachnothera robusta)
One was seen visiting a tiny ephemeral pool in a knot on the side of a tree at Danum, where it remained for five minutes in full view.
Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra)
The most commonly encountered Spiderhunter at Danum, where it was recorded daily.
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter (Arachnothera chrysogenys)
One was seen along one of the Borneo Rainforest Lodge trails.
Gray-breasted (Bornean) Spiderhunter (Arachnothera modesta) ENDEMIC FORM/SPECIES
We recorded this well-streaked spiderhunter at Danum, Tambunan Rafflesia Center and also at Poring.
NB. Some authors have split this into two species - Gray-breasted and Bornean Spiderhunter. When split there seems to be much confusion over the exact ranges of the two species, some people suggesting that in fact only Bornean occurs in Sabah at all, although this issue has yet to be fully ascertained.
Whitehead's Spiderhunter (Arachnothera juliae) ENDEMIC
This strikingly patterned endemic spiderhunter has become much rarer in recent years at the historically good site of Mount Kinabalu, and so we decided to try and get it at the more regular spot of Tambunan Rafflesia Center. However, despite much effort there we drew a blank and then picked it up along one of the HQ trails on Kinabalu. A really spectacular spiderhunter with bold white streaks and vivid yellow vent, a real showstopper. This was seen during our best mornings birding on the mountain, only minutes before we ran into a pair of Whitehead's Trogons along the same amazing trail, and only a few hours after an obliging Everett's Thrush that fed out in the middle of another trail for us.
FLOWERPECKERS (PASSERIFORMES: Dicaeidae)
Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus maculatus)
A couple of sightings - one in the lodge garden at Danum and another along the road near there.
Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker (Prionochilus xanthopygius) ENDEMIC
A male was regularly seen close to our cabins at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, and others were seen along the road there, and several also put in an appearance at Poring.
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma)
This very attractive widespread flowerpecker was seen around the hot baths at Poring and later in the mangroves at Likas.
Black-sided Flowerpecker (Dicaeum monticolum) ENDEMIC
Two sightings around the park HQ area in Mount Kinabalu park, and another two were encountered near the Tambunan Rafflesia Center.
WHITE-EYES (PASSERIFORMES: Zosteropidae)
Black-capped White-eye (Zosterops atricapillus)
This attractive white-eye is common on Kinabalu and many were seen up there on each day.
Mountain Black-eye (Chlorocharis emiliae) ENDEMIC
This very distinctive endemic 'white-eye' was fortuitously picked up on our first day on Mount Kinabalu, a little lower than would normally be expected but we were definitely not complaining. Also seen again along the summit trail, a more normal spot for this high mountain species.
ORIOLES (PASSERIFORMES: Oriolidae)
Dark-throated Oriole (Oriolus xanthonotus)
A couple of singles were seen around the Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Black-and-crimson Oriole (Oriolus cruentus)
3 sightings in bird waves up on Mount Kinabalu.
FAIRY-BLUEBIRDS (PASSERIFORMES: Irenidae)
Asian Fairy-bluebird (Irena puella)
An extremely attractive Asian species that was encountered a number of times along the road at Danum.
HELMETSHRIKES and ALLIES (PASSERIFORMES: Prionopidae)
Large Woodshrike (Tephrodornis gularis)
Two singles found along the access road at Danum.
Rufous-winged Philentoma (Philentoma pyrhopterum)
A female was seen along a trail near Borneo Rainforest Lodge and another male bird showed for the leader only on a trail near the field center.
DRONGOS (PASSERIFORMES: Dicruridae)
Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus)
Regularly recorded up on Mount Kinabalu, especially around the power station where they conveniently regularly perch up on the station fence.
Bronzed Drongo (Dicrurus aeneus)
A few were seen in the lowland forests at Danum.
Hair-crested (Spangled) Drongo (Dicrurus hottentottus)
Seen on most days in Kinabalu Park.
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus)
4 were seen along the access road to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge on one morning, including a much-appreciated, fully-racketed bird.
White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus)
Scattered sightings throughout in both the mountains and lowlands.
Bornean Bristlehead (Pityriasis gymnocephala) ENDEMIC
Always a big target bird, being a monotypic endemic bird family, in addition to the fact it just looks good. I was very relieved to pick this one, up as recent information on arrival had indicated that it had not been seen in its usual place for well over three months previously. So of course where did we see it but in the very same usual place! Unfortunately the birds did not hang about, although everyone got scope views of at least one bird in their treetop hideout.
CROWS, JAYS and MAGPIES (PASSERIFORMES: Corvidae)
Crested Jay (Platylophus galericulatus)
A corvid with a highly distinctive very un-jay like call. On hearing them along the Danum access road we managed to get several views as they moved about in their often favored vine tangles.
Black Magpie (Platysmurus leucopterus)
A pair were picked up (thanks to Brendan) on a small trail close to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, just before a deluge of rain had us rapidly retreating for the cover of the lodge. This aterrimus race does not have any white in the wing, unlike the birds on the peninsula.
Short-tailed (Green) Magpie (Cissa thalassina)
A really strikingly beautiful magpie, this species was seen a number of times up on the mountain in Kinabalu Park. A much appreciated bird by all, everyone being suitably impressed by this extremely attractive emerald green corvid, with rich rufous wings and bright orange bill.
Bornean Treepie (Dendrocitta cinerascens) ENDEMIC
One of the easier montane endemics, we first saw them hanging about the Mount Kinabalu power station shortly after dawn, a regular spot for this characteristic bird. A few others were later seen on the mountain.
Slender-billed Crow (Corvus enca)
Seen regularly around Danum.
STARLINGS (PASSERIFORMES: Sturnidae)
Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis)
Commonly seen around Likas and Kota Kinabalu, and also around the town of Lahad Datu in the east.
Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus)
A few of these introduced birds were seen as we passed through Kota Kinabalu.
WAXBILLS and ALLIES (PASSERIFORMES: Estrildidae)
Dusky Munia (Lonchura fuscans) ENDEMIC
Commonly encountered in the lowlands throughout.
Chestnut Munia (Lonchura atricapilla)
Seen a number of times around Lahad Datu and on the way into Danum whilst in the east.
OLD WORLD SPARROWS (PASSERIFORMES: Passeridae)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
Commonly encountered in many places.
Taxonomy and nomenclature follow: Payne, Junaidi & Francis Charles, M. (1998) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo. The Sabah Society, Sabah, Borneo.
AND LESSER GYMNURE (Erinaceidae)
Lesser Gymnure (Hylomys suillus)
This strange shrew-like creature was seen running around Timpohon Gate up on Kinabalu Mountain.
Common Treeshrew (Tupaia glis)
One was seen at Danum.
Mountain Treeshrew (Tupaia montana) ENDEMIC
A few were seen on Mount Kinabalu.
Smooth-tailed Treeshrew (Dendrogale melanura) ENDEMIC
This montane species was seen once on Mount Kinabalu and later near Tambunan Rafflesia Center.
FRUIT BATS (Pteropodidae)
Large Flying-fox (Pteropus vampyrus)
The distinctive shapes of these enormous bats were a regular feature of the night sky during our daily night drives at Danum.
Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang)
One was found by our keen-eyed spotter Lydia on our first Danum night drive.
Maroon Langur/Red Leaf-Monkey (Presbytis rubicunda) ENDEMIC
Neither maroon or red, but bright orange with a blue face, a seriously impressive endemic primate. We found a small troop going to roost right by the Borneo Rainforest Lodge on our first night, and several others were seen later around Danum.
Long-tailed or Crab-eating Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
A few were recorded at Danum and later at Poring.
Pig-tailed Macaque (Macaca nemestrina)
This powerful macaque was seen twice in Danum Valley.
Bornean (Mueller's) Gibbon (Hylobates muelleri) ENDEMIC
Three sightings of this extremely agile primate around the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, including right in front of the lodge itself - just the way we like it!
GREAT APES (Pongidae)
(Bornean) Orang-Utan (Pongo pygmaeus) ENDEMIC
Understandably often THE reason for coming to Borneo for many, and Sarah was one such person who voted the Otang-utan as her best BIRD of the trip! We first ran into a young male feasting on ripe durians along the access road close to the lodge at Danum, and then saw the same one a few days later hanging around in the same tree. Another individual was found leaning one tree onto the next, to cross between a gap, along the nature trail at Borneo Rainforest Lodge; and finally an orphaned animal put on quite a show at Poring as it tumbled down the hill for the promise of food below. This has since been split from the Sumatran 'form', and is now a Bornean endemic.
Prevost's Squirrel (Callosciurus prevostii)
Regular sightings were made around Danum.
Kinabalu Squirrel (Callosciurus baluensis) ENDEMIC
This gorgeous black-and-orange endemic was seen once up on the mountain that it bears the name of.
Bornean Black-banded Squirrel (Callosciurus orestes) ENDEMIC
One was seen close to the power station on Gunung Kinabalu.
Plantain Squirrel (Callosciurus notatus)
One was seen attending a fruiting tree that also contained Spectacled Bulbul, close to the Danum Valley Field Center.
Jentink's Squirrel (Sundasciurus jentinki) ENDEMIC
Recorded on four days on Mount Kinabalu, including some particularly confiding ones around one of the shelters on the summit trail.
Bornean Mountain Ground Squirrel (Dremomys everetti) ENDEMIC
Seen a number of times on Mount Kinabalu, including a few tame animals around one of the shelters along the summit trail.
Whitehead's Pigmy Squirrel (Exiliscriurus whiteheadi) ENDEMIC
Just one of these cute, tuft-eared squirrels seen up on Mount Kinabalu.
Plain Pigmy Squirrel (Exiliscriurus exilis) ENDEMIC
This extremely tiny squirrel was regularly recorded in the lowlands.
Red Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista petaurista)
Just the one seen on our final night drive at Danum.
Thomas's Flying Squirrel (Aeromys thomasi) ENDEMIC
A few seen on several of the night drives at Danum.
MARTENS, BADGERS, WEASELS AND OTTERS (Mustelidae)
Yellow-throated Marten (Martes flavigula)
One crossed the Bukit Ular trail on Mount Kinabalu.
Malay Weasel (Mustela nudipes)
Fantastic views of this bright ginger weasel were had from our vehicle on our return journey from Tambunan to Kundasang, when one crossed the road and then hung around on the side of the road as we watched through the windows of the van.
Oriental Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea)
Several were seen fishing in the Sungei Danum while we stood on the bridge above them in Danum Valley.
AND MONGOOSES (Viverridae)
Malay Civet or Tangalung (Viverra tangalunga)
This spotty civet was picked up on our final Danum night drive.
Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus)
Just the one seen during a Borneo Rainforest Lodge night drive.
Banded Linsang (Prionodon linsang)
Deceased. Sadly just a pristine carcass found on the power station road at Mount Kinabalu. Much to my chagrin as I have still yet to see a live one of this beautifully-marked civet.
Bearded Pig (Sus barbatus)
Both Danum Valley Field Center and Borneo Rainforest Lodge had a regular individual coming into the lodge, and others were recorded a few times on some of the night drives out of Danum.
Lesser Mouse-Deer (Tragulus javanicus)
Just the one seen on our final night drive out of Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Greater Mouse-Deer (Tragulus napu)
One slowly crossed the access road near Borneo Rainforest Lodge.
Sambar Deer (Cervus unicolor)
Regularly recorded on the Danum night drives.
This genus of large parasitic flowers produce some of the most spectacular blooms in the plant kingdom. Around 7 species are found in Sabah, with this one keithii being the largest of these species. This was a special request by all in the group who really wanted to catch up with this truly impressive flower. Unfortunately they can never be guaranteed even in the Poring area where there are many areas where they are known from. When in bloom they only flower for about five days and even within this short, unpredictable period they are only in good condition for around three of these, therefore the first news of a blooming rafflesia is taken pretty seriously in this area and news spreads fast when one is available (as of course there is money to be made!). Constant checks with the park staff at Kinabalu drew a blank time and again, and even a false alarm at one stage that turned out to be misinformation, leading us to think it was just not meant to be this year. However, on what was to be our final planned visit to Poring a large banner advertising a blooming rafflesia was noticed along the highway heading for Poring, and so we quickly followed the subsequent signs right to a fine flowering example at Kampung Kokob. This was turned out to be Ned's best bird of the trip!