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Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sabah, end of March

Last weekend we went for a small family get away; a couple of days in Kota Kinabalu and 1 night on Mantanani island. The weather was close to perfect and the hotel swimming pool a big hit with my son. I did get up one morning for a little walk around the Tanjung Aru area. The pacific reef egrets were showing well in the soft light of the early morning.
Pacific reef egret (Egretta sacra)
Pacific reef egret (Egretta sacra)
A group of night herons flew overhead in the direction of Gaya Island, which I expect is where they roost. I guess this could also be a group of migrant birds.
Black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
On Sunday we left Kota Kinabalu for a 1 night stay at Pulau Mantanani. Mantanani is a group of 3 small islands of Sabah's West coast and can be reached from Kota Kinabalu in roughly 3 hours by bus and boat. We stayed at the Mari Mari backpackers lodge. A blue rock thrush had its foraging grounds in front of our hut.
Blue rock thrush (Monticola solitarius)
The islands are mostly known for good diving and snorkeling. It is not just the aquatic life that is on offer in Mantanani; there is also has some good avian fauna. 

Every evening, literally hundreds of frigate birds come to roast on the two smaller islands, and both lesser and Christmas island frigate bird can be seen well. With the setting sun and the water lapping at our toes we got a little lost in the moment - so no pics...

In the evening I went out to search for the scops owl that shares its name with island. This small owl species is only known from Mantanani and some islands in the Philippines. I had been told that the owls are commonly heard, but are very challenging to see. And indeed, the first owl was already heard from the grounds of the Mari Mari lodge, but didn't show. Luck was with me however this evening and on the small trail I had chosen I saw no less than 4 different individuals and the one below posed very well!
Mantanani scops owl (Otus mantananensis)
Mantanani scops owl (Otus mantananensis)
Besides the frigatebirds and the scops owl, the islands are also good for a couple of other island specialists and the next morning I had an hour or so to explore the island a little more. I decided to walk north towards the limestone hills on the main island. The forest and coconut groves that I passed were  very good for the Philippine megapode and saw a couple birds, mostly flying off. I also flushed a pair of Nicobar pigeons, which was an unexpected bonus. High up in the trees, grey imperial pigeons could be heard but proved very difficult to see well. 
Grey imperial pigeon (Ducula pickeringii)
The remainder of the morning was spend leisurely relaxing next to the beach. Early afternoon the boat left again for the mainland, and our journey home.

Folkert, 06/04/2014


  1. That's a very good picture of the scop owls! As you said, easy to hear but not easy to spot. My midnight search was fruitless seeing only sleepless kingfishers. But I miss the relaxing times on Mantanani, the walk for the sunrise and the sunset. Have fun!

  2. Thanks Zaim. I think I got a little lucky that evening! Funny you mention the sleep(less) kingfishers, which was also the first bird I encountered during my evening walk.

  3. Omdat ik je niet kon bereiken via de skype, bedacht ik, dat ik je blog een poos niet meer gezien had. Folkert, wat een bijzondere vogels en een mooie foto's! Hier wemelt het ook weer van de vogels. De grauwe vliegenvanger zit weer op zijn nest. De turkse tortels, die nestelden boven het raam van de achterkamer, zijn alweer uitgevlogen. je moeder