[Oversea] Sabah Birding Trip, June 2014

Sabah Birding Trip, June 2014

Dear All

For the third consecutive year, I travelled to Kota Kinablau, Borneo, Malayasia, birdwatching- cum -visiting my daughter. It is an eighteen-day trip.

Before going to Kota Kinabalu NP, I'm now birding in Kota Kinabalu almost every morning. Indeed, there's little point to continue to find birds which slow down their activities a lot towards noon. And there's the scorchingly hot tropical noon to discourage me if not other younger birders.

First, there's Prince Philip Park and the beach area which starts outside the park till it extends I suppose to nearly one km till it reaches Shangri La Resort and Spa bordering on one side with a bay.

S L Tai


8th June 2014 (Sunday)

Here I am, a stranger

Taking an exception, I went out of my hotel to visit the area around Shangri La Resort and Spa (a about-twenty-minute walk), as soon as I had lunch and got dressed for birdwatching.

The area seemed interesting enough to produce, among other birds two Sunda pygmy woodpeckers and my target species a single Blue-naped parrot.

I left the place, a part of the earth I had never set foot upon and vowed to come back next morning.

S L Tai


9th June 2014 (Mon)

First visit of Prince Philip Park

What a big difference in number between yesterday and today's human visitors of the beach that runs along and far beyond the park. On Sunday, it was crowded and noisy with human activities. But today, a Monday, was sparsely dotted here and there with them, making the surroundings more enjoyable. The blue sky and turquoise sea extended far beyond my eye could see relaxed me completely.

I found the Blue-naped parrot again, this time more than four and found the tree in Matthew Kwan's photo, a parent parrot feeding its can't-be-seen fledglings inside the trunk. A Long-tailed parakeet was nearby that revised my memory of the species. The place afforded me plenty of chance listening to the calls of Collared kingfishers which were everywhere.

When I returned from the S. L. Resort and Spa and enjoyed the beach and sea view again, I was given a surprise to find four Little terns plunged and fed and rested on exposed sand some way out.

Surprise was repeated when I went inside a park on my way back to hotel. A fifth Little tern was found that stayed briefly above a big water pool which formed a part of the drinking water purification plant there.
Two Little (green) herons also came to the pool as well.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 11/06/2014 12:38 ]


10th and 11th June 2014

Variety in habitats always brings you more

The morning of tenth brought me few in variety of birds. I had to find satisfaction in seeing two Blue-throated bee-eaters. The habitat on top of Signal Hill seemed to have changed for the worse. Very quiet there and I missed my favourite species of Orange-breasted flowerpecker.

I tried my luck with the flowerpecker today the eleventh of the month, but progressed no better than seeing an Ashy tailorbird.

I walked down and wrestled with fortune by visiting the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre nearby. Very quiet there and seeing no kingfishers.

Should I be happy with a single Common iora and white kinds of egrets? I was on my way to leave when a long slender bodied bird flying from my side but turning away from me when it was near. Flying with very snake like straight neck and long pale bill. That're all. Hurried back to the birdhide where there was a very wide unhidden view of the vicinity I sat down only to find a Great egret at the centre of my front view. I scanned and alas I located my dark bird and gave it a good look. It was an Oriental darter, common in Sukau where the River Kinabatangan flows through and must be very uncommon in the city of Kota Kinabalu.

S L Tai


13th June 2014

A Morning Trip to Kota Belud

A trip at the suggestion of Nelton Bingku, a veteran local Malaysian birder

About two hours of slow car-drive from Kota Kinabalu (KK) brought us to an extensive paddyfield on both sides of the main road not far from the town of Kota Belud. We stopped here and there whenever there appeared to be interesting birds.

Most birds were found on wet bare earth or where a tractor was plowing up the wet soil for seed planting. It's a surprise to both of us that there're many Japanese night herons on the field, a lifer for me and high count for Nelton. Further surpise was felt when we saw more than a hundred of Oriental pratincoles around at this time of the year. Sixteen Lesser wandering ducks were found flying around the field. A single Striated grassbird was seen well by me, again an addition to my lifers' list.

It was on a piece of green field of young rice plants that I saw my first male Watercock in breeding plumage. My first Black-shouldered kite of Borneo was found on a long wooden pole.

The place was definitely worth visiting again during winter of the Northern hemisphere.

S L Tai


Do you mean Malayan Night Heron Mr Tai?

Anyway, sounds like a good trip.


Geoff and all

Clearly I misheard Nelton's words when he meant the birds as Malayan night herons. I was also somehow misled by drawings in Meyer's book.

The night herons on the site had light rufous lower neckside that pinpoint them as Malayans and helped confirmed by OBI's bird photos.

Thank you for your enquiry.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 19/06/2014 17:08 ]


14th June 2014

A Warm Welcome to Kinabalu National Park, H.Q.

No soon had I arrived at my lodge and seated myself at the balcony at the back of my room than I saw a eagle soaring up into sight in shallow-V wing shape. I hurried to my room to snatch up my binoculars and back to the balcony. To my amazement it was a serpent eagle with the usual adult under wing and tail patterns but with darkish/blackish throat and dark brown underbody. The altitude at which the bird was seen helped confirm that it was a Mountain serpent eagle (Spilornis kinabaluensis), a new Bornean endemic to me. Nelton's later comment was that it was indeed a good bird.

A later afternoon walk on the Power Station Road got me a birdwave of large forest birds which brought me among others a Black and crimson oriole, a new one on my Borneo bird list.

To go back before the road walk, a Silau-Silau trail-section walk helped me find a male Snowy-browed flycatcher. The bird was ringed and kept flying and perching near and sang in the direction I walked. A nice experience to see a new bird.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 19/06/2014 17:11 ]


15th June, 2014

Wishful thinking meeting with disappointment

The morning started with an overcast sky after yesterday's late afternoon steady light rain which developed into a thunder and heavy one lasting well into the night.

Nelton was punctual to arrive a few minutes before six with his car. Our intention was to drive up and down the Power Station Road and bird, with occasional covering of the first hundred metre or so of trails whenever there was an entrance or exit. It was according to him the best way to watch birds with a car.

Nelton showed well with his local expertise, keeping on telling what species of birds were heard. At the top end of the road was Timpohon Gate with birds turning up not so well. New addition to me were a Mountain wren-babbler and a Pale-faced bulbul, both Bornean endemics. Short visits to trails did not fare better. Nelton kept on saying the situation was quite unusual. The best morning count could have reached the range of fifties in species. While we lunched at Liwagu Restaurant, my count of total bird seen in species was a poor nineteen. My fellow birder laid blame on yesterday night's prolonged downpour of rain, which generally results in sluggish bird activities next morning. However, we couldn't help expressing delight when we recollected in seeing a small family of Little pied flycatchers and an Indigo flycatcher among trees and flowering plants at a corner of the building that housed both the restaurant,a souvenir shop and some other facilities.

Nelton departed in the afternoon. I returned to the short Bukit Tupai Trail where we failed to see the Bornean forktails encountered there well while we tried our luck with Whitehead's trogons. There were two of them, so sensitive of my presence that they kept good distance from me, lending just a few moments when I could secure a good view.

An Ashy drongo was seen at its usual place and also a Dark-sided flowerpecker, a Bornean endemic, resulting in the day's count being twenty-two.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 20/06/2014 21:10 ]


16th June, 2014

Anothr moring at the national park

Such an avifauna rich place is never short of surprises for a foreign birdwatcher. Being alone without a car, I limited my walk along the lower section of Power Station Road. It was forever a delight to see a Short-tailed green magpie. Then among a mixed flock of large birds there was a deep brown bird all over but with a red bill. Near-wonder was felt when I found it having a creamy bald patch on top of its head. I searched Meyer's book for an answer. Surely I had seen an endemic Bald-headed laughing thrush.

After my morning's count had reached sixteen, I left and went back to my lodge to get ready to move on to Poring Hot Spring.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 22/06/2014 09:27 ]


17 & 18th June, 2014

A Poor Visit of Poring Hot Spring

Poring Hot Spring during my visit of one-and-a-half days was full of visitors hungry for its sulphurous spring water bath. I, the lone birdwatcher, did not feel well about the first afternoon when it started to rain heavily around four till midnight.

I started at about six in the morning, along a three-and-a-half kilometre uphill trail that reached Langanan Waterfall, a scenic spot for energetic visitors.

The trail zig-zagged up passing through chiefly primary forest. The trees, some enormously big in my eye were all tall but the day being overcast after yesterday afternoon heavy rain, become effective shield of sunlight that made the surroundings gloomy. Birds were heard most of the way, but mostly refused to fly around or perch within good view distance. A barely identifiable Grey-headed babbler and a Thick-billed spiderhunter are birds that helped keep my spirit up. A Brown-backed flowerpecker, a small sight at a distance of more than fifteen metres looked challenging for identification. Perching and pecking at a comparatively thick bough for about a minute, looked dull brown-backed with featureless dull underbody. Judging from its thicker than average bill and dull body alone, I would have mistaken it to be a kind of small finch. But the habitat, its calls and a quick search of my memory suggested strongly it being a flowerpecker. Thumbing over Meyer's helped find its proper name.

When I reached the three-point-five Km mark, I stopped to search for the fabulous tree producing berries that feed Hose broadbills in the mornings. Surely there were clusters of red fruit on the tree, but no broadbills after waiting for about half an hour and another fifteen minutes when I trailed downhill.

Whenever there was clear sight of the sky and open view I stopped to search for birds, but I managed just to have a brief sight of two Wreathed hornbills sweeping up air audibly and uttering something like hon, hon, hon...calls.

It was in late afternoon that I found a Grey-chested jungle flycatcher at the side of the Bamboo Garden, flying out from some tall trees on my far right side, seeming to come offering me consolation. A kind bird indeed.

A next-morning short-duration morning sally around the bottom area of the park produced a Chestnut-backed scimitar-babbler and with it ended my visit.

S L Tai


21st June, 2014

A day trip to Manukan Island

Manukan Island, best known to birdwatchers as the place to find the Tabon scrubfowl around Kota Kinabalu. Barely a ten-minute speedboat ride from Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal brought me there and soon I found myself birding on the 1.5 Km-long Jogging Track.

At about nine the track was fairly inactive with birds. Occasionally I met visitors in groups of two or more just like Shing Mun Reservoir in Hong Kong, certainly not good situation to see a secretive megapode.

I returned from the Sunset Point at the end of the track empty-handed. I took a rest on the beach before I made my second attempt. I was determined, in a manner I was to find a Hong Kong first, small-stepped and careful not to stamp on dry sticks to make a sound. Soon a male Mangrove blue flycatcher made an appearance and  was seen well, followed by an adult guiding its juvenile in search of food. It was all when I took the return half of the track again. No call of the scrubfowl at all. I stopped at a place where I had a wide view of a slope and sat down on the track, my last effort. There were birds singing and calling. A bird singing melodiously with a bubbling tone soon flew in sight, quickly identified as an endemic White-crowned shama.

S L Tai