Note - in some browsers the appearance of the blog is corrupted. I do not yet know the cause, but hope this issue will be resolved soon!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

To the mountains of Sabah!

For our christmas holiday my wife, son and I decided to spend a couple of days in Kota Kinabalu. This time we decided to undertake the journey by car. In case you were ever contemplating to do the same, a small word of warning: the total distance of around 400 km took us about 11 hours - the biggest bottleneck being a 3 hour wait for the ferry crossing across the Pandaruan river.

I had pre-arranged a day trip to KNP HQ with Andrew Siani for the 21st of December. Andrew is a birding guide from KK and I can thoroughly recommend him. Check out his blogspot for some excellent pictures:

Andrew picked me up at 5 AM and roughly 90 minutes later we arrived at KNP HQ. The weather was lousy: grey, wet and cold. We drove up to the powerstation and I almost immediately bagged two lifers from the car: a Bornean forktail and an Eyebrowed jungle-flycatcher. A good start! The follow-through was less impressive: as soon as we got out of the car I thoroughly messed up a perfect photo opportunity of an indigo flycatcher. While I was faffing about with the flash, the bird perched nicely 3 feet in front of me and I somehow managed to end up with only severely overexposed and underexposed pictures! The below, hardly cropped pic, is my best recovery attempt.
Indigo flycatcher (Eumyias indigo).
A walk along the Bukit Ular trail, starting from the power station at the Tempohon gate, seemed a little slow-going at first. A distant Bornean treepie was heard and seen and we were a little lucky to stumble upon a Bornean stubtail (which I clearly would have missed if Andrew hadn't picked it out).

Highlight of the morning was an encounter with one of the Whitehead's trio: a male Whitehead's broadbill. The bird stayed long enough to get a few shots without flash.
Whitehead's broadbill (Calyptomena whiteheadi).
This second picture was taken with flash. I am still not sure which picture I prefer. It looks more natural without flash though that really doesn't pay tribute to the almost iridescent green!
Whitehead's broadbill (Calyptomena whiteheadi).
This was one of my most memorable birding moments in Borneo; what a bird, absolutely magnificent! There was more. At the end of the trail we heard both Kinabalu's partridge species call and I got some brief close-up views of a pair of red-breasted partridges.

We stayed close to the road for a while, trying to call in a fruithunter (unsuccessfully...). Several warbler species wandered by as did this grey-chinned minivet.
Grey-chinned minivet (Pericocrotus solaris)
A pair of pale-faced bulbuls on the other side of the road were very obliging. The only time I had seen this species before was a single bird flying over the top of Bukit Pagon. This time a much better view!
Pale-faced bulbul (Pycnonotus leucops)
Before we called it a day we went to some flowering bushes close to the entrance of the botanical gardens. No Whiteheads spiderhunter, but this male Bornean flowerpecker didn't disappoint.
Bornean flowerpecker (Dicaeum monticolum).
Bornean flowerpecker (Dicaeum monticolum).
Just when we decided to head back to the car two black-capped white-eyes provided some great close-up views. While this is a common bird around KNP HQ, seeing it from this close was very much unexpected. I observed this with some other birds here as well; quite a few of them weren't particularly shy around humans at this altitude. 
Black-capped white-eye (Zosterops atricapilla).
Despite the weather this was a very memorable morning and a good reminder that I should try to venture into the higher areas of Borneo more often! Thanks for a great morning, Andrew!

Folkert, 27/12/2012


  1. Congratulations on your Whitehead's Broadbill, another difficult bird.

  2. Thanks! Incredibly the WHB first perched only 3 meters in front of us! But then flew to a branch higher up. Great bird.

  3. I am Hannah, in Ip6 (kolbjorn's daughter)
    These are my most favorite birds in Borneo:
    Black-capped White-eye
    Indigo Flycatcher

    The photo's that you have taken are very clear and shows all the details.

  4. Hi Hannah, thanks for looking at my blog and your nice comments! I am not sure what my favorite birds are in Borneo, there are so many to chose from! I do really like the green broadbills, and I would love to see a frogmouth here but haven't had the luck so far.

    Mount Kinabalu is a great spot for the bc. white-eye and the i. flycatcher!

  5. Hi this is Hannah friend,
    she showed me your blog and i am now very interested.
    My favorite birds are

    Grey-chinned minivet
    Bornean flowerpecker
    Female crimson-winged woodpecker
    Male Emerald dove
    Indigo flycatcher

    thanks! I really love your blog!