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Monday, 2 September 2013

A short stay at KNP HQ

With my mother-in-law in town, we decided to escape the lowland heat for a day and book ourselves for a night in one of the lodges of Kinabalu Park. Our trip to Sabah's best known mountain was not a birding trip. Still, I would have an hour here and there to explore the area around park HQ.

We arrived on August 30th just before the afternoon rain came down and while my wife, son and mother-in-law took an afternoon nap I decided to have a short walk around the area. Close to the entrance of the botanical gardens I met a Danish birder, Jacob, and while we were sharing some of our Kinabalu sightings, this Bornean whistling thrush was hopping into view behind us.
Bornean whistling-thrush (Myophonus borneensis).
Together we tried our luck at the start of the Liwagu trail. There was plenty of late afternoon activity, though the rain made for poor photographic conditions.

After diner I went out for half an hour to see if I could spot any frogs and maybe even the mountain scops owl. Judging by the noise there were definitely plenty of frogs around. I only managed to locate 3  individuals and have really no idea what this tiny species is (a microhyla?).
Frog species
Next to the house this tarantula was hiding in ambush. My best attempts to lure the spider out of its hole had completely the opposite effect and the spider retreated only deeper into its shelter.
Tarantula - note the green pads on the bottom of its legs.
Our accommodation was near perfect. This was the view of the mountain I woke up to!
Gunung Kinabalu
This whole birding thing of adding new species to your bird list can at times become quite obsessive. The last time I visited the KNP HQ with Andrew Siani, see To the mountains of Sabah, I missed a couple of common "easy" birds, which I was targeting now. Because this trip was primarily a little family get-away I kept my hopes modest and any sightings of the Kinabalu specials would be a real bonus.

One of the first birds that I noticed was a group of grey-throated babblers, a common species around the park. Still, a new species for me and I couldn't have asked for a better start!
Grey-throated babbler (Stachyris nigriceps).
The bird is ringed and so were many of the other birds I saw this morning, something Kolbjorn had also pointed out after his trip to Kinabalu a couple of months ago.

A group of Sunda laughing thrushes were loudly making their way through the forest. In their wake this Ochraceous bulbul was following: another new bird for me.
Ochraceous bulbul (Criniger ochraceus).
I decided to do the start of the Liwagu trail and then head back through the Silau-Silau trail. One of the first birds I noticed was this very obliging Bornean green magpie. Until 2011 this species was known as the Short-tailed green magpie, but it has since been split into the Bornean green magpie (Cissa jefferyi) and the Javan green magpie (Cissa thalassina). While the Javan green magpie is listed as no less than critically endangered, its Bornean cousin is fairly common around KNP HQ. Still, another lifer for me!
Bornean green magpie (Cissa thalassina).
It was fairly quiet on the remainder of the trail and by 8:30 I had made my way back to share breakfast with the family at the Liwagu restaurant.

From the window we had great views of a common Bornean endemic: two Chestnut-hooded laughing-thrushes were foraging in the bushes next to the restaurant.
Chestnut-hooded laughing-thrush (Rhinocichla treacheri).
I was quite pleased to get some neat close-ups of these smart birds. A noteworthy sighting was of a red-breasted hill partridge while taking a little walk with our son. Like last time the birds were easily heard, but proved impossible to get in front of my camera.
Chestnut-hooded laughing-thrush (Rhinocichla treacheri).
Later in the morning we made our way back to Kota Kinabalu again. I really enjoyed this little trip, though one night was really too short and I definitely need to come back for some of the trickier birds!

Folkert, 02/09/2013.


  1. Not bad for a casual trip, my friend.

  2. Indeed not too shabby. I do like to go back for some of the Kinabalu specials!

  3. Wow, Folkert, beautiful photos! I was looking for the Magpie but never found it. I caught some glimpses of the Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush, but how you managed to get such a clear close-ups... Impressive!

  4. Thanks Sander. A little luck and my 300 mm was all that was needed this time!