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Mount Kinabalu

Canopy walkway

Mount Kinabalu

Poring Hot Springs canopy walkway

This was the first of two days in the mountains, with a stay in Kinabalu Mountain Lodge overnight. We left the Sabandar Bay hotel at 8am, breaking the 3 hour journey by stops at a couple of gift shop extravaganzas along the way, and eventually reached the main target of the day, which was Poring Hot Springs. This was quite an enjoyable experience, being in the main a tourist fest of laid on entertainment set in the mountains around a natural sulphur spring. The general activities, such as canopy walkway, hot bathing, waterfall, etc, were all in one reasonably small area, and it was surprising to see how sanitised the hot springs themselves are, with the sulphured water emanating from taps and feeding into baths. The first outing was a steep walk for about 300m up the forested hillside to the canopy walkway. This was billed as a different way to see the forest, and had the potential of observing various types of indigenous fauna and flora. When we arrived as a group of 17 people, there was understandably more focus on the height and safety of the walkway, which was 50m above the ground in some places, and balancing on the well built, but seemingly precarious, footways. This was quite an experience in itself, and looking down was nerve-wracking. After completing all 3 walkways, Jason the guide called me back on to the walkway about 5-10m to point out a Black-and-yellow Broadbill feeding just above on a tree limb. He’d seen this from the first pathway hopping from branch to branch. As we descended at the back of the group, he also found a stunning Green Broadbill, which was a little distance into the trees, but showed all the characteristic markings, and was surprisingly the first green coloured broadbill that he had ever seen.

Once at the bottom, we had a short walk along to the waterfall, before scoffing a very welcome packed lunch, and then making a short bus ride to look for the remaining Orang Utan which had been rehabilitated in this area. This is very much a hit and miss affair, which didn’t apply to the Long-tailed Macaques, which were just at the end of the car park when we arrived, but no sign of the great ape. In the clearing above the car park, we did see some interesting birds, the first of which was a flock of about 12 Dusky Munias, which is endemic to the island. While waiting for the non-obliging Orang Utan, we also spotted a pair of white bellied Oriental Magpie-robins and a single White-browed Shama. Not content with this excitement, we stopped on the way back to the Mountain Lodge to spy a single blooming Rafflesia flower, which is reputedly the largest flower in the world. One lucky entrepreneur found this specimen on his plot of land, with another flowering and dying the previous week, so he set up a little viewing area, charged MR20 for a peek, and made rice while the sun shone.


 

Road

Lodge

Forest road

Accommodation units

Crimson-winged Woodpecker

Crimson-winged Woodepcker

This was our second day at the mountain lodge, and before the morning's frivolities began, our guide Jason, who is a keen birder, took two of us on a birding walk down one of the tracks in the National Park before breakfast. We made a 2 minute hop in the bus to the park entrance, and covered about 400-600m of the tarmac road in the 2 hours. This track descended through the forest, being interspersed by open areas for park buildings, and occasional accommodation. Early morning was almost bereft of people, apart from the odd attendant staff, and one other group of English birders being led by a Chinese guide, and it was only on our return up the walk that we passed some of the guides and load bearers preparing for the climb with the accumulating masses at the entrance to Mount Kinabalu National Park. The 2 hour birding experience was very rewarding, with a glut of new species, and very few times when no birds were evident. This was a big improvement on the previous day, when the aforementioned group of birders reported very little to be seen. The walk started off fairly quietly, despite adding a pair of Yellow-breasted Warblers and a Little Cuckoo-dove, which was skulking in the foliage, to the list, until we came across the first clearing where one of the park buildings was situated. A single Hair-crested Drongo started off the melee, and while watching it, a Bornean Treepie kept alighting on the tarmac surface alongside it. When we tried to approach a little more closely, we noticed a sizeable collection of Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes feeding on the fruiting trees next to the park buildings, with a pair of shy Sunda Laughingthrushes a little further in. Our only woodpecker of the day then appeared, and despite Jason calling out the more expected Checker-throated Woodpecker, closer inspection revealed a buff throat and barring on the flanks which proved the bird to be a much more unlikely Crimson-winged Woodpecker. Jason apparently had to promise some of the footage to his friends to prove this. A few tens of metres further on, and the best clearing was reached, where 10-12 small accommodation units were situated, with good views of the trees on the surrounding hillsides. Close in birds along the small avenue of bushes included a couple of Mountain Warblers, a male Temminck’s Sunbird perched at the apex of one of the shrubs, and two species of Flycatcher – 2 Little Pied and a few more Indigo. We scanned the trees on the slopes for some time, and this unearthed flyby Mountain Imperial-pigeon, a pair of Sunda Cuckoo-shrikes, 2 pairs of Grey-chinned Minivets, and a pair of Velvet-fronted Nuthatches. With time progressing, we made our way back towards the bus. As we passed the last of the park buildings before the entrance, we attempted to track down a calling barbet, which revealed itself after a few minutes of thorough searching. The Golden-naped Barbet turned out to be perched in the open on one of the conifers.

Hair-crested Drongo

Indigo Flycatcher

Hair-crested Drongo

Indigo Flycatcher


 

Black-capped White-eye

Black-capped White-eye

 

After breakfast, the group was taken on a 1˝ hour walk through the forest, and some predictably quiet forest birding ensued. However, there were one or two more Mountain Warblers and a female Grey-chinned Minivet before entering the forest proper. We then came across a pair of Bornean Whistlers, and most stunning of all, 3-4 Black-capped White-eyes seemed to be attracted by our presence, when they proceeded to feed almost at our feet. The only other bird of note, while we were walking through the orchid garden, was an extremely brief flying forktail, which couldn’t be identified specifically. 

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