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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A short visit to the Borneo Highland Resort, Sarawak

Last weekend I went to the Borneo Highlands resort, close to the town of Kuching. The area around Bornean highland resort, including Mnt. Penrissen received IBA status a couple of years back. The few  web references I found (e.g. see digdeep and ron orenstein) had wetted my appetite and I was looking forward to see some good species.

After a short journey from Brunei I arrived around midday at the resort, with the weather still great. One of the first bird that greeted me was this Temminck's sunbird, feeding in the flowering bushes next to the resort. It was not at all shy and I got a couple of good pictures of this splendid little fellow!
Male Temminck's sunbird (Aethopyga temmninckii).
Unfortunately the sky was completely overcast a couple of hours later and most of my time was spend in thick fog with short showers thrown in between. Ashy drongo's were everywhere, typical birds found at higher elevation and therefore not that common for me!
Ashy drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus).
Another Temminck's sunbird, a juvenile this time.
Another Temminck's sunbird (Aethopyga temmninckii), a juvenile.
The best bird of the afternoon was without a doubt this scaly-breasted bulbul, a long awaited lifer! In fact I saw at least 3 different individuals. "Canopy" appeared to be the theme of the trip, and against the grey & white clouds ID'ing birds turned out to be a real challenge without the aid of a scope.
Scaly-breasted bulbul (Pycnonotus squamatus).
This place is clearly very good for a couple of barbet species, and Bornean barbet is as common here as the blue-eared is in Brunei. As expected the birds were always too high up to get any decent pics.
Typical view of a Bornean barbet (Megalaima exidia).
Later in the afternoon the rain really came down and didn't stop until deep in the night. The next morning the clouds were still hanging low and visibility was only a few meters. After it had cleared up somewhat I walked the open area around the resort and golf course. Ashy tailorbirds are common here as well.
Ashy tailorbird (Orthotomus ruficeps).
The golf course was a good place for plaintive cuckoo's. While also common closer to home, the birds in Brunei are notoriously difficult to get on camera and far more often heard than seen. Not so here, the bird below was surprisingly approachable.
Plaintive cuckoo (Cacomantus merulinus).
Maybe it was my imagination, but the calls seemed distinctly higher pitched than its lowland cousins in Brunei.
Plaintive cuckoo (Cacomantus merulinus).
Later in the morning I walked the main trail in the forest. First bird on camera, a grey-headed canary flycatcher.
Grey-headed canary flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis).
There was plenty of activity and I was fortunate to add grey-headed babbler to my life list. While trying to get some pictures of a very active Horsfield's babbler, two green broadbills flew into view and were clearly checking me out.
Female green broadbill (Caloptomena viridis), a juvenile.
I soon lost the babbler and focused my attention on the broadbills. The birds were both juveniles and kept in contact with a soft continuous call that I hadn't heard before. And they weren't camera-shy!
Green broadbill (Caloptomena viridis).
After that encounter most of the activity was well beyond the reach of my camera. I had some good, though distant, views of two very loud crested jays. I had secretly also hoped for banded and blue-banded pitta, but unfortunately I could not entice any birds to respond.

After my afternoon siesta the sky had only turned a deeper shade of grey and soon the rain came poring down. No birding but I can now thoroughly recommend "de Velser affaire", a book detailing plots and schemes surrounding the Dutch resistance in and around my hometown of Velsen during the second world war (the book is written in Dutch though...)
Afternoon rain; the view from my room...
The weather improved slightly during the evening and a short night walk produced some frogs and a nightjar was flapping about.
Frog species
While there are only very limited online resources to help identify Bornean frogs, there is one website that is truly excellent: Even so, I have yet to ID both frogs... I'll need to do a little more digging.
Frog species
As luck would have it, the nightjar landed close by: another grey nightjar and I even managed a picture with my 85 mm lens.
Grey nightjar (Caprimulgus indica).
Not too bad! But not nearly as confiding as the grey nightjar that we regularly see closer to home. This individual is very attached to its little patch on the road, where it is reliably found on almost every night.  Last pic of this blog-entry, the grey nightjar in Brunei from 2 weeks ago.
Grey nightjar (Caprimulgus indica).
Despite the weather the total tally was just over 50 species when I left for Brunei the next morning. I dipped on the pygmy white-eye, one of my target species for the trip. I very much enjoyed this little get-away and thoroughly recommend the Bornean highlands resort. Not only is it easy to get to, the place seems to offer easy opportunities to 'score' species that are really difficult elsewhere.

Folkert, 19/02/2014.

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