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Monday, 29 September 2014


Last week, Kolbjorn and myself went for an evening walk on one of the more remote sidetracks of Labi road. We arrived shortly before dusk and walked a good distance before the sun was fully set. The area that we walked through is mostly peat swamp and the track had a nice stream next to it with a deep rusty brown color from all the leaching tannins. The walk was livened up by the sounds of two rhinoceros hornbills deep into a domestic dispute, a great slaty woodpecker and some very skittish red langurs.
The real reason we were there was to search for some night birds. We had just turned from the furthest point when we heard a very distinctive call close by, one that I couldn't straight away place. A search on the iPhone quickly revealed the culprit: a Gould's frogmouth. And not just one, but two birds. I still don't know how we managed it, but we somehow completely messed up this opportunity and never got a visual. The birds fell silent very soon and were only heard very distantly afterwards. Maybe the playback we used was akin to a serenading cat, whatever it was we never saw a glimpse.

It goes without saying we felt a little defeated, but at the same time also very elated; we only just had started the walk back and with a start like this the remainder of the walk surely would be brilliant. So, in way, it wasn't a total surprise that we got a response from a barred eagle owl less than 200 meters later! First one and a little later a second one. We managed this time to record the two birds duetting, but again, no visuals! One owl even flew over our head, but picked a branch just facing away from us, and the dense undergrowth prevented us to walk in. We spend close to an hour trying to get a view, but to no avail; the birds wouldn't give themselves up.

Luckily this Harlequin tree frog, that we found a little further down the track, was more cooperative and didn't object at all to take center stage. In fact, every time it jumped it seemed to end up in an even better photographic position.
Harlequin tree frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Supposedly this is a common species, though that does't mean I see it very often. I fact, I actually can only recall to have seen it in Danum before.
Harlequin tree frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Harlequin tree frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Just before we reached the car we stumbled upon this spiny turtle. My knowledge of turtles isn't that great and I didn't realize at the time that this is actually rapidly becoming a very rare species. The IUCN lists this turtle as endangered, as unfortunately these animals still end up way too often on dining plates and in soup bowls somewhere in SE Asia.
Spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa)
The population in Brunei is still considered as relatively stable, though if I were this little fellow I wouldn't stray off into more populated areas.
Spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa
And, since this still is a blog about birds, I'll end this post with some shots of the birds I got on camera the last two weeks. A collared kingfisher; while these are very common around Panaga, they're actually not that approachable and unplanned close-up opportunities are not common. This one was sitting on the fence of a beam pump.
Collared kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)
While on my way to Bandar I briefly stopped at Wasan rice fields. There were quite a few black-winged stilts around.
Black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
And a couple of white-winged black terns.
White-winged black tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
And finally, a superb record from Brunei. Recently a second photographic record of the spectacled flowerpecker was made in Labi hills by local photographer Mr. Asmali Asli. See also:

This species was only discovered in Danum in 2009 and it is therefore truly excellent to have the second encounter in Brunei. Moreover the pictures are fantastic! I have been at Labi ridge numerous times and never had the luck to find a species with this type of allure there. In a way I am almost glad to leave Brunei so I won't be able to give in to obsessive, and more than likely unsuccessful, chases of this very elusive species.

Folkert, 29/09/2014


  1. Wow, interesting news about the Flowerpecker !
    Harlequin Tree Frog looks like a good bird substitute, though.

  2. The flowerpecker is indeed very cool. After missing a frogmouth and an eagle-owl we were happy with any wildlife willing to have their picture taken...