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Chlidonias Goes To Asia, part five: 2016-2017

Discussion in 'Asia - General' started by Chlidonias, 14 Oct 2016.

  1. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Time for another "Chlidonias Goes To Asia" I think.

    If you haven't been paying attention, or if you're new here, or if the implications of the "part five" in the thread title have escaped you, there have been four previous installments in the series. The first one was a six-page thread. The second one was a four-page thread. The third one somehow turned into a seventy-one-page thread. The fourth one managed six pages, which was fairly remarkable given that the trip was less than a month long. How many pages will this one be? Bets are open.

    The first part of the thread will cover a short jaunt through Sabah. I am doing this bit with my friend Mr. Andy (tapirus on Zoochat) who wanted to go birding somewhere fun with me. He eventually settled on Borneo as his destination but because he has adult responsibilities, like a wife and a baby and a job, it could only be a short trip - just ten days or so. Given the short time-frame we chose easy places to which I had already been so I knew my way around, but to which he hadn't so there would be lots of new birds and mammals for him to see.

    The flights from New Zealand come in to Kuala Lumpur, so we decided to start off at the nearby hill station of Bukit Fraser where we spent a couple of days looking for siamang before continuing on to Sabah. In Sabah we will be at Sepilok (that's where we are right now) and then Mt. Kinabalu because he has always wanted to go there. This was my fourth time at Bukit Fraser, my third at Sepilok, and will be my fourth at Mt. Kinabalu. Consequently life-birds will be few and far between, but hopefully there will be some nice mammal lifers to make up for that.

    Once his time is up Mr. Andy will fly back to New Zealand and I will go in the opposite direction, to New Delhi. I've been to India before, in 2014, but only to Calcutta and Assam. This time I'm doing the more classical India, the one with nilgai and mowglis.

    For those who like to know the costs of travelling, before even leaving New Zealand I had already spent roughly NZ$2100 on the trip. If you don't want to google that it is about US$1560 or £1165 or €1390. Rounding the figures up or down somewhat, it's divided something like this: $880 on flights, $700 on travel insurance (always have it, never actually used it, but anyone who goes without it is an idiot!), $100-ish on the Indian visa, and $400 on new and booster innoculations (the major one being the very expensive three-shot innoculation for rabies, because India). My flights total is fun because I've bought eight flights, making an average of $110 per flight which is alright considering several of them are international. (NZ$110 is about US$82, £61, or €72)
     
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  2. lintworm

    lintworm Moderator Staff Member Premium Member

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    Have fun and with the first slow loris, the trip is already a success, whatever may happen afterwards ;)
     
  3. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    Can't wait to read more!

    Have fun and good searching to the both of you!!
     
  4. DDcorvus

    DDcorvus Well-Known Member

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    I have been looking forward to this :). Have a nice trip Israel!!
     
  5. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    Sounds like you are well-prepared for India.... the question is whether India is well-prepared for you!

    Anyone want to take bets on which species Chlidonias will see first to earn one of these little beauties?

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Brum

    Brum Well-Known Member

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    Woo hoo! I'm a sucker for a travel thread and a Chlidonias one is usually a good'un! :D

    And you're a little late this year, your birthday's been and gone... :p
     
  7. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    The big question is whether or not you will get up to around 600 birds for the year :p. That's an entirely arbitrary number of course, and in no way related to my current big year total. ;)

    Looking forward to the thread!
     
  8. Nikola Chavkosk

    Nikola Chavkosk Well-Known Member

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    Have a nice time Chli,

    Will, you visit local zoos?

    I was wondering where is Chlidonias, since you was not active on zoochat in the last 1-2 days :)
     
  9. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    so there was a bit of a gap in the thread due to the site migrating to a new home and being offline. The following post is just the starter before I got to Asia, from about two weeks ago, and it's basically "nothing happened".


    I had a few days in Auckland before flying off to Malaysia. I did have some wildlifey plans but they mostly didn't go anywhere because I was feeling really under the weather. I got there on Friday afternoon about 4pm, went to the supermarket to get some bread and stuff for lunches, then went to sleep. I saw a pair of eastern rosellas from my room, and saw them again every day.

    The next morning I walked for an hour or so to get to the Westhaven marina. There has been a leopard seal living in Auckland harbour for the last year and a half, and she often hangs out at this marina. Of course there's no telling where she will be on any given day, and the marina itself is quite big with lots of hidden platforms where she could be sleeping. Although I checked every visible position I didn't find her.

    My plan for the rest of Saturday had been to go out on the whale boat. The speciality cetacean here is the Bryde's whale. I've been on this boat twice before - the first time I saw no cetaceans of any kind, and the second only short-beaked common dolphins. I had a free ticket for the boat so it wasn't going to cost me anything, but my stomach suggested I skip the boat. I took its advice, and went to the museum instead. The only animal added to the year lists was common mynah.

    Sunday's plan had again involved a boat ride, to the volcanic island of Rangitoto. The island is basically a cone-shaped lava field partly covered in pohutakawa forest. I've always wanted to visit Rangitoto and was going to use this trip as my opportunity. There are also quite a few native birds there now like saddlebacks. However I decided to leave it for another time, and went shopping for some bits and pieces I needed for Asia. Nothing was added to the year lists today.

    Monday was my flight day. The plane wasn't until 8.30pm and Mr. Andy was arriving from Christchurch at 10am, so we had scheduled the day for looking for waders at the old Mangere sewage works (now the sewage works are entirely land-based and the old ponds have been reverted to nature). I was feeling much better today, but not much new for the lists was seen because the tides were low. Wrybills on the mud-flats were the highlight for the day; the only new year birds otherwise were NZ dotterel, NZ dabchick, and spot-necked doves.


    Things would get better once I got to Malaysia.
     
  10. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't think the next few posts will be terribly noteworthy. I've been to these Malaysian sites several times each, so I feel like I'm just writing the same things as I have before, and the blogs were all written many days later which makes it harder (travelling with someone else diminishes the amount of individual time one has for writing). Nothing really interesting happened either, because Malaysia is such an easy place to travel around in and because we were at each site for only a couple of days each. I think they may well read like "we went here and saw this, then we saw this, then we went to this place."

    I'll put links to the Big Year posts for each section so you can see what birds were seen.
    When I get to the Indian leg the story will become more interesting because I'll be travelling solo again and everywhere I go will be brand new for me.
     
  11. baboon

    baboon Well-Known Member

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    Woooow ! Welcome back to Asia !:cool:
     
  12. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Mr. Andy and I landed in Kuala Lumpur at 4.00 in the morning. That may seem like an ungodly sort of time, but that's the norm when travelling with budget airlines - you're pretty much always leaving or arriving somewhere when you really should still be asleep. We were flying with Air Asia, of course, the best airline in the world. Auckland to Kuala Lumpur only cost me NZ$316 (that's US$233, £175, or €207). Arriving so early had its advantages, despite the resulting lack of sleep (about three hours out of thirty since I got up on Monday morning), because it meant that there was plenty of time to get to our first destination and still have most of the day available for birding.

    That first destination was Bukit Fraser, a hill station outside Kuala Lumpur set up by the British to escape the heat of the lowlands. I've been there three times already so it's hard to find new ways to write about it, but it is a fantastic animal-watching destination. It is easy to get to by public transport, there is good accommodation there (although the prices aren't too budget), the temperature is reasonably mild, and there is a combination of paved roads through forest and rough trails within the forest. The birds are plentiful, often in regular bird-waves, and there are also quite a number of mammal species to be found, including six species of primate.

    You can take a taxi all the way there from the airport, but Bukit Fraser is north of the city whereas the airport is south, so it's quite a distance and would work out much more expensive than doing it the long-winded way. The cheaper way involves bus, train, and then taxi. First you take the bus from the airport to the KL Sentral train station in the city - this takes about an hour and costs 11 Ringgits. (More expensive but a bit faster is the KLIA Ekspres train from the airport to KL Sentral, which takes 33 minutes and costs 55 Ringgits [last year it was 35 Ringgits]). Then you take a train from KL Sentral to the town of Kuala Kubu Baru, which takes about 1.5 hours and costs 8.70 Ringgits. On the previous occasions when I've been to Bukit Fraser the train stopped at Rawang and there was a change-over to another train, but now the train goes the whole way in one go. We kind of found this out too late, costing us an hour in travel time because we had to wait in Rawang for an hour until the next train, losing me a considerable amount of travel cred with Mr. Andy - although there were Asian glossy starlings at the train station which was a lifer bird for him. From KKB to Bukit Fraser it is an hour by road and the only way to do this is by taxi; this currently costs 90 to 100 Ringgits. So all up it takes about four hours to get from the airport to Bukit Fraser and it cost us under 70 Ringgits each (that's NZ$23, US$16, £13, or €15).

    Just for a comparison I asked at the taxi counter at the airport how much it would cost for a taxi all the way there, and I was told 400 Ringgits.

    We didn't have much time at Bukit Fraser, just the rest of today and the whole of the next day, then it would be back to the airport on the morning of the third day. Mr. Andy wanted to see as many "new" animals as we could find, but he particularly wanted to see siamang, dusky langur and Sunda slow loris. I've seen siamang on each of my previous three visits but finding them basically requires just walking the roads until you come across them - so luck versus time. Dusky langur I'd only seen once there. I've never seen a Sunda slow loris, even though everyone else seems to find them at Bukit Fraser without any trouble.

    We arrived at the Puncak Inn at around 10.30am, checked into a room, had some lunch, and then went straight out birding. Bukit Fraser has a number of trails through forest as well as paved roads. The roads are actually better for birding because you can see much further and the birds often move along the forest edges. There are some birds which you'd only see on the trails but with limited time I thought it best to stick to the roads - especially seeing as siamang was a priority to find.

    I was feeling much better than I was when in Auckland but Mr. Andy had started feeling sick, which didn't bode too well for his trip. Nevertheless we headed out on the road which leads to the Jeriau Waterfall. Unlike my other visits, the sun was blazing hot. We debated whether it was uncommonly hot, or if it is just that I normally go there after spending a long time in the lowlands so it just seems really cool in comparison. It turned out to be the former - it hadn't rained there in three weeks and every passing day without rain caused the temperature to rise a little bit more.

    I've seen siamang in various places at Bukit Fraser, but I thought the waterfall road would be the best bet. It started off well, with all sorts of birds popping out from the undergrowth as we walked (none new for me, but most new for Mr. Andy), and soon enough we struck it lucky with finding a young siamang relaxing in a forked tree branch. It really was a lucky find because primates in general turned out to be conspicuously absent for all of our stay, probably due to the uncharacteristic heat. On my other visits I have seen crab-eating macaques, southern pig-tailed macaques and white-thighed langurs without trouble - this visit none of these were seen (although a crab-eating macaque was seen from the taxi on the way back to KKB later). We walked all the way to the waterfall but no monkeys were seen, and the birds had mostly gone into hiding as well. Mr. Andy was feeling pretty poorly by this stage, and fortunately a passing car gave us a lift back to the Puncak Inn. We tried spotlighting for slow lorises along the access road after dark for an hour or so, and found nothing. There were barely even any insects calling.

    In the morning Mr. Andy was still not any better but a lifer white-throated fantail outside the room was a bonus for him, and after breakfast he said he was fine for walking the Telekom Loop, probably the best road for birds here. This is also the only place I had seen dusky langurs at Bukit Fraser, and they were Mr. Andy's next target species after siamang. The morning was nowhere near as birdy as Bukit Fraser should be, but Mr. Andy saw his first barbets (fire-tufted) amongst other new birds like golden babblers, black-eared shrike-babblers, silver-eared mesias and mountain fulvettas. I was happy with a common green magpie - not my first, but the first time I'd seen one at Bukit Fraser. I also saw a common flameback woodpecker which was a surprise, but apparently they migrate through at this time of year. Halfway around the loop road we stopped for a rest and a troop of dusky langurs passed through the trees right over our heads. Near the end of the loop I showed Mr. Andy the tarantula burrows in the roadside cliffs, and we tickled a few out so he could get some photos. (There's a photo from a previous visit here: mygalomorph spider (tarantula) | ZooChat)

    We had been given some information about slow lorises being seen at a particular spot on the Telekom Loop for the last three nights. Mr. Andy was feeling so sick he elected not to return there in the evening, so I went alone. I found the place as described to us, and after a short wait I found myself watching a pair of lorises clambering about amongst the branches in the canopy, and even mating at one point. As readers of my past travels may remember, I have something of a slow loris curse upon me. I am always looking for them, and I can never find them. In 2014 I finally found a Bornean slow loris (my first loris of any kind) and now finally I have seen Sunda slow loris. I don't know why I can't find lorises - they are common at Bukit Fraser and I have been here a number of times - nobody else seems to have any trouble. It just is what it is.

    Our stay at Bukit Fraser was very brief, but despite the unexpectedly-hot weather reducing the usual abundance of birds it was still a success. Mr. Andy saw his siamang and dusky langurs, as well as a couple of dozen bird lifers; and I finally saw Sunda slow loris. However by that second night Mr. Andy was feeling so sick that there was a question mark over whether his part of the trip would even continue, or if he would be just flying home the next day...
     
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  13. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    The birds and mammals seen at Bukit Fraser are listed here: 2016 Big Year
     
  14. TeaLovingDave

    TeaLovingDave Moderator Staff Member

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    People sleep at 4am? :p
     
  15. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Our flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan in Borneo was scheduled for 1.20pm. We had to be at the airport by about noon and it's about four hours between Bukit Fraser and the airport, so we didn't have to leave until 8am - which meant we could still avail ourselves of Puncak Inn's free breakfast which starts at 7.30am. Mr. Andy's sickness over the last two days had left him contemplating just giving up on the trip altogether and flying home - he'd even been on my laptop checking flights - but we got the taxi driver to stop at a doctor's clinic and once he had some antibiotics he started feeling better about things.

    It doesn't cost much to fly between KL and Sabah (NZ$62 for this particular flight with Air Asia) and it doesn't take too long either. We landed in Sandakan at 4.10pm and after clearing immigration in about three minutes we headed to Sepilok.

    To get from Sandakan airport to Sepilok you can walk out onto the road and catch a bus into Sandakan, and from there catch a second bus to Sepilok (which basically heads back along the same road you just came in on). This way is really cheap - a couple of dollars - but also really time-consuming. We probably wouldn't have reached Sepilok until 7pm. So instead we took a taxi straight there, which costs 40 Ringgits (about NZ$13) and takes about 40 minutes. I wouldn't have done that if I was by myself, but split in two it was fine.

    I've been to Sepilok twice before (in 2009 and 2014) but Mr. Andy hasn't, and his primary interest here was to try and see a tarsier. We don't really have a lot of time overall, but we alloted two nights for Sepilok (which means we literally only had one day for birding there) and hoped that would work out.

    Most tourists visit Sepilok solely for the orangutan sanctuary, and so they stay in Sandakan and make a day-trip, but there is lots of accommodation around the Sepilok area. No need to book ahead because I doubt anywhere is ever full. We were at the Sepilok B&B which is where I stayed on both my previous visits. It is about twenty minutes walk away from the orangutan sanctuary but only 400 metres from the Rainforest Discovery Centre, so much better sited for us. The orangutan sanctuary (where people go to see “wild orangutans” on their holiday to Borneo) is open just twice a day when the free-ranging ex-pet orangutans are fed, and it costs 40 Ringgits entry. In contrast the Rainforest Discovery Centre (henceforth abbreviated to RDC) costs 15 Ringgits and while officially open between 8am and 5pm can in practice be visited at literally any time – there are no gates and you simply pay on the way out if you entered before opening time. There are lots of trails at the RDC, ranging from paved roads through gravel paths to rough leaf-covered tracks, and in addition there is a fabulous Canopy Walkway ten metres off the ground with viewing towers up to 36 metres tall.

    Finding wildlife at the RDC is jolly hard work. It is ridiculously hot, so within an hour of the sun coming up the birds have mostly disappeared already. To see more than a handful of birds you need to be out early. The night is just as hot, and has the added complication that you can only see what is in your torch beam. We went out spotlighting after dinner without any luck at all. There was plenty of noise all around from insects and probably really cool mammals, but nothing showed itself to us unfortunately. The second night went only slightly better, with a pair of red giant flying squirrels just on dusk (still light enough to see their colour as they glided between the trees), a tree full of giant flying foxes feeding on figs, and a whip-scorpion which was the best find because I'd never seen one before. No tarsiers or slow lorises for Mr. Andy.

    Early on our first morning there was a large troop of southern pig-tailed macaques playing in the trees on the far side of the entrance lake, with several of them on the swing-bridge. This was one of the monkey species we missed at Bukit Fraser, and a lifer for Mr. Andy. In fact all the mammals we saw that morning were lifers for him, namely Prevost's, plantain, ear-spot, and giant squirrels. On our second morning we saw a Low's squirrel which was also a lifer for him. The giant squirrels we saw on the first morning were a pair with a drey which I think must have contained some babies. The female had swollen teats and after she had entered and left the nest, the male disappeared in there and never reappeared. The RDC is a squirrel paradise - on one of my earlier visits I saw seven species in one day.

    The birding went okay with 31 species seen over two mornings. Birding is not the easiest here and I wasn't expecting to see any lifers. However on our second morning a flock of five hornbills passed over as we were on the canopy walkway. I thought they were Malayan black hornbills but we caught up with them a while later and they turned out to be bushy-crested hornbills, a pair with three juveniles.

    Sepilok wasn't a great success, given that the main reason it was included was for trying to find nocturnal primates, but I got a really good life bird and Mr. Andy got seven new mammals and about thirty new birds so he was happy enough.
     
  16. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    the birds and mammals seen at Sepilok are listed here: 2016 Big Year
     
  17. DDcorvus

    DDcorvus Well-Known Member

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    Is there any chance to see Orangutans at the RDC or you will really have to go to the sanctuary? And some nice ticks.
     
  18. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    you can see orangutans from the canopy walk at the RDC (the forest is continuous) but not reliably. I have done so in the past, but not this time. There are, apparently, also gibbons in the area although I've never seen them there, and also maroon leaf monkeys as well as the usual pig-tailed and crab-eating macaques. Near Sandakan is a proboscis monkey sanctuary too, where apart for the proboscis one can also see silvered langurs.
     
  19. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    From Sepilok to Mt. Kinabalu is about four hours by bus. You just head up the road from Sepilok to the junction with the main highway and flag down any bus heading past. The bus we caught was playing The Hobbit, and when that finished there was a Chinese movie called Monkey King 2 which had the most hilariously-indecipherable subtitles I have ever seen; really the only reason I knew what was going on was because I was a big fan of the Japanese Monkey tv series from the 70s.

    There are a couple of places to stay just outside the gates of the national park. Tahubang Lodge is directly opposite and the Mountain Resthouse is five minutes walk along the road. There is accommodation inside the gates as well, but this is owned by the Sutera company and costs more than any sensible backpacker would care to pay. We stayed at the Mountain Resthouse. This isn't a fancy place; in fact it is whatever the complete opposite of fancy is, with the buildings threatening to slide down the hill onto the road if you stand up from your chair too quickly, but I like it.

    I was rather surprised that there seemed to be a lot of people around the place, far more than usual around the entrance to the national park and definitely more than usual at the Mountain Resthouse. While we were sitting in the restaurant outside the park having lunch before heading in for the afternoon, I realised that there were huge banners along the entrance road. It turned out we had inadvertently arrived on the day before the sort-of-annual Climbathon, an event where crazy-fit people literally run up the mountain and back down. This isn't just a regular 23km run, this is like running up and then down a ten kilometre flight of stairs. The winner for 2016 had a time of 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 33 seconds. We contemplated entering but we only had two days, and the run would have taken us about three weeks. We were actually going to go up to Layang-Layang, the highest point on the mountain to which you can go without paying huge fees for permits and guides, but we were barely fit enough for the regular forest trails so decided to leave it. I've gone up to Layang-Layang twice before (it's basically 4km of steps straight upwards) in unsuccessful searches for the completely-inappropriately-named friendly bush warbler which is only found higher than the Timpohon Gate, as well as to (successfully) see some species which are mostly found higher up like the mountain ground squirrel and mountain black-eye. On my previous visits to the mountain, however, I have come off months of travel - going there at the start of a trip some of the steep sections were a little tough!

    Few people visiting Mt. Kinabalu use the forest trails. They are mostly there just to climb the summit trail and then they leave. I think we would have seen about five people total in the forest over our two days there. Like Bukit Fraser the birds here mostly come in waves (multiple-species flocks foraging together) but unlike Bukit Fraser the waves here are really scattered - you can go for an hour or three without seeing a single bird and then suddenly there are loads of them all at once, and then nothing again. They are always separated into large and small birds as well; large-bird waves have things like green magpies, laughing thrushes and woodpeckers, while small-bird waves have things like flycatchers, whistlers and babblers. The problem with the bird waves is trying to identify what is in them - they move so fast, with birds popping in and out between the leaves, that telling what all the species are is difficult. Fortunately, because I have been there several times already, as soon as a bird appeared I could identify it instantly. If Mr. Andy had been by himself he would have had to try to remember what each bird he saw looked like, then attempt to look them up individually in his field guide. I've been there, on my first visits to places like Mt. Kinabalu and Bukit Fraser, and you need at least a couple of days to get familiar with all the regular bird-wave species so you can filter them out and concentrate on the ones you haven't seen yet.

    I've always found the Liwagu Trail to be the best for birds. I usually see Whitehead's trogons along here, although this visit we saw only one and that was next to the road down near the HQ. The Liwagu Trail starts at the HQ (at the park's entrance gate by the highway) and follows the Liwagu River valley up to the top where the Timpohon Gate is. The Timpohon Gate is the start of the summit trail - there's a paved road between the HQ and the Timpohon Gate which is also good for walking while birding, although as I found out it is quite a bit steeper than I remembered! We did the Liwagu Trail on our first afternoon. There was a good small-bird wave just after we started, with Bornean whistler, olivaceous bulbul, indigo flycatcher and yellow-breasted warbler, as well as a Brooke's squirrel. Then there was a long stretch with nothing, until the sudden appearance of a large-bird wave with a pair of short-tailed green magpies (a different species to the common green magpie of Bukit Fraser), a maroon woodpecker, a pair of crimson-winged woodpeckers, and a hair-crested drongo.

    We got to the top of the trail just on dusk (about 6pm here) and went up onto the deck above the Timpohon Gate to look at the sunset. There's a big dumpster just by the side of the road near the gate where I saw a long-tailed giant rat on my last visit. We shone our torches inside and sure enough there was a long-tailed giant rat inside. He was quite shy but we got some good looks at him. Then we spotlighted our way down the paved road to the HQ, seeing a small-toothed palm civet along the way. To illustrate the vagaries of animal-watching, last time I was at Mt. Kinabalu I saw loads of these civets along the road and one this time, but I read a trip report where loads of common palm civets were seen and only one small-toothed palm civet. You just never know what you're going to get with spotlighting, and that's why it is fun (or frustrating, on those attempts where you see absolutely nothing).

    The next morning we did the same thing as the previous day - up the Liwagu Trail and down the paved road. The Liwagu Trail is supposed to be a two-hour trail but when you're birding (and really unfit) it takes a lot longer. I think we were on there for about five hours. Not that there was a lot to show for that: it was one of those days where the birds are just somewhere else. There was one good small-bird wave with black-capped white-eye, Temminck's sunbird and pigmy blue flycatcher, as well as the same species from yesterday's small-bird wave; and there were a few other single bird species on the trail, like eye-browed jungle-flycatchers, mountain wren-babblers, snowy-browed flycatcher, chestnut-crowned erpornis and Bornean treepie, along with several more Brooke's squirrels.

    We stopped for quite a while on the Timpohon Gate deck to photograph the Bornean black-banded squirrels which live there. People feed them so they are very tame, and I'd brought some biscuits up for them. There were also four or five mountain tree shrews on the ground down below the deck which were much more difficult to photograph where they were (as in, pretty much impossible). Near the end of the day, down by the HQ, we saw a smallish squirrel hunched up on a branch of a fig tree. I saw a band on its side and dismissed it rather too hurredly as a black-banded squirrel. A few minutes later I paused as second-thoughts entered my head. It was too small for a black-banded and I hadn't seen them down by the HQ before. Maybe it was a red-bellied sculptor squirrel, which was a species I had managed to miss on all my previous visits. We went back and the squirrel was scurrying around in the tree, along with another one, and sure enough they were sculptor squirrels. My second lifer mammal for the trip so far (the first being the Sunda slow loris at Bukit Fraser). I saw more sculptor squirrels the next morning as well, so not sure how I have missed them until now - one of those animal-watching vagaries I mentioned I guess.

    We had been going to stay at Mt. Kinabalu for three nights but Mr. Andy wanted to go to the city of Kota Kinabalu earlier to go snorkelling at Pulau Manukan, so we left a day early. This still gave us the morning for more birding on the mountain though. I went out alone at dawn. The big fig tree right at the park entrance was filled with birds (only ashy drongos were new for the trip list) and there were a couple of sculptor squirrels up there too. Then I went along the start of the Liwagu Trail (getting a black and crimson oriole in a large-bird wave) before branching off onto the Silau Silau Trail. This latter trail follows the Silau Silau stream, along which live Bornean montane forktails. I also spotted an Everett's thrush foraging along the opposite bank, which I watched for some time. Everett's thrush is an endemic mountain species which every visiting birder wants to see. Not all of them manage to do so because they apparently are very tricky to find, but I have seen them every time (another one of those birding vagaries). After leaving the Silau Silau Trail near the Botanic Gardens I walked back along the road. Just near the entrance gate I heard some rustling down the slope below the boardwalk, and was surprised to see a red-breasted hill partridge fossicking around down there. The undergrowth nearby was moving so I figure there was a little covey of them.

    I joined Mr. Andy for breakfast at the restaurant opposite the entrance and afterwards we headed back in to see if we could re-find the new birds I'd seen. Surprisingly we did, with the exception of the oriole. He even managed to get a glimpse of one of the partridges and the Everett's thrush. Just before we left I spotted a Bornean montane flowerpecker feeding on berries by the HQ buildings. Somehow this was the first one I've seen, despite the field guide saying they are common around there. I think it is just because I never spend much time around the HQ itself.

    After lunch we caught a shared-taxi from the side of the road to Kota Kinabalu for 20 Ringgits each.
     
  20. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    birds and mammals seen at Mt. Kinabalu are here: 2016 Big Year