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Birding in Malaysia

by Frank E. Rheindt

30 July - 3 September 2003

After five months of birdwatching in Vietnam, China and Thailand (March–July 2003), I had one more month before returning home, which I was happy to spend in Malaysia.

The country is amazingly developed and rich. Some analysts currently fear a slow process of alienation from democracy, but in spite of this latest trend, the country has been stable and prosperous for many years now, and provides a rare example of peaceful co-existence among three major ethnicities and religions (Malay-Muslim, Chinese and Indian). Moreover, the end of Mahathir's presidency in early 2004 might actually put an end to those fears.

Communication is easy enough. While I had been very eager to refresh my average command of Bahasa Indonesia (which is almost identical to Melayu), I found that most people in West Malaysia refrained from speaking it with a foreigner (especially the Chinese and Indians, who themselves struggle with the language). In Sabah, however, the language came in handy, though even here English would have sufficed for basics.

Species harvest during this trip was astonishingly good, especially considering that my tape-recorder had broken down in China.

Species lists are given at the end of each site account. Scientific names in the lists are only given at first mention.

Bukit Fraser
July 31 – August 3

Logistics: Fraser's Hill is the most convenient highland site for visitors to West Malaysia, since it is within easy and quick reach of Kuala Lumpur (2 hours by bus), and is en route to Taman Negara. The drawback is that Yellow-breasted Warbler and Rufous-vented Niltava require higher elevations and can only be seen at more distant hill resorts such as the Cameron Highlands. There is a wealth of accommodation and restaurants in the village/resort.

It is recommended that you birdwatch around the neglected and overgrown network of trails in and around the resort (maps widely available), but you should also spend about half of your time on the access road to and from "the Gap", which is where the connection road to Fraser's Hill joins the main road. A newly constructed road that was intended to be a one-way route for descent has suffered from recent landslides. Therefore the old "dual system" has been re-instated (as of 2003) in which "up-only" hours and "down-only" hours alternate along the old road. Note that as a consequence of this arrangement, the road is completely closed at night and can only be used by vehicles every other hour at daylight. Both the old road and the eroded, dilapidated "new" road can be walked.

Birds: Bukit Fraser has its own little local birdwatchers' scene (rare enough in the tropics), and you may or may not find the friendly locals helpful in showing you around. Of three regional endemics, one (Mountain Peacock-Pheasant) is illusory and the second (Malayan Partridge, formerly Gray-breasted Partridge) eluded me and is apparently unreliable, though it is regularly recorded around the refreshingly well-kept trail from the mosque along the golf course. The third (Malayan Whistling-Thrush), in contrast, is said to have become irregular at its former stake-out at the upper road-block gate (in Bukit Fraser), but happened to show up three times, with excellent views, during my stay (one flushed at the upper road-block early-dawn, the other two seen well along the "new road" in the afternoon). On top of Bukit Fraser, low song activity was compensated by rich mixed flocks, containing Long-tailed Broadbill, Blue Nuthatch, Mountain Leaf-Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Blue-winged Minla, Silver-eared Mesia, Sultan Tit and all the laughingthrushes, babblers and flycatchers listed below. The dump provided excellent views of a perched Blyth's Hawk-eagle, Red-bearded Bee-eater and an unusually high Hill Blue-Flycatcher. The pines around "High Pines" held Javan Cuckooshrike and Fire-tufted Barbet, but Long-billed Partridge was only heard at its usual spot here (near the tennis court). Bamboo along the upper third of the old road (in use) had good activity in the form of Black Laughingthrush, White-hooded Babbler and Yellow-bellied Warbler, though the silent atmosphere toward the later morning precluded the detection of Marbled Wren Babbler at its stake-out 1-2km above the lower gate. The new road provides far views (Wreathed Hornbill) and produced perched Yellow-vented Green Pigeons.

Most remarkable about my stay at Bukit Fraser was, however, none of the above specialties, but a strange incident of elevational mass-displacement of birds on August 1. That day, which was unseasonably hot and sunny, I walked down the old road and re-ascended the deserted new road. In the process, I found more than a dozen species that were far above their elevational range as given by Robson (2000) in "Birds of South-east Asia". Most remarkable among these was a Rail Babbler on the new road embankment at forest edge, seen well at 5 meters' distance for about 5 sec. The bird appeared to have crossed the new road (at 1400m) and was on its way up to cooler elevations. Moreover, an Indian Cuckoo near High Pines (1525m) and a Malayan Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo below the upper gate (1475m) were far above their elevational ranges, as was a flock of Bushy-crested Hornbill (1450m), a Crimson-winged Woodpecker (1450m), a Scaly-breasted Bulbul (1400m) and a flock of Brown Barbet (1350m). Several other species were above their reported elevational ranges that day (albeit only slightly too high in a few cases), but conversations with the local birders indicated that some of these are actually recorded regularly at Bukit Fraser, though some are not (Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, White-bellied Erpornis, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Red-eyed and Stripe-throated Bulbul, Rufous-browed and Verditer Flycatcher, Red-billed Malkoha and Orange-breasted Trogon). I intend to provide details about these sightings elsewhere. Interestingly, the following day (cloudy and drizzly) along the same route, I did not manage to find again the great majority of these species.

Species List at Bukit Fraser:

  1. Speckled Piculet – Picumnis innominatus
  2. Greater Yellownape – Picus flavinucha 
  3. Lesser Yellownape – Picus chlorolophus
  4. Crimson-winged Woodpecker – Picus puniceus
  5. Fire-tufted Barbet – Psilopogon pyrolophus
  6. Brown Barbet – Calorhamphus fuliginosus
  7. Black-browed Barbet – Megalaima oorti oorti
  8. Wreathed Hornbill – Rhyticeros undulates
  9. Bushy-crested Hornbill – Anorrhinus galeritus
  10. Orange-breasted Trogon – Harpactes oreskios
  11. Red-bearded Bee-eater – Nyctyornis amictus
  12. Malaysian (Hodgson's) Hawk-Cuckoo – Hierococcyx fugax
  13. Indian Cuckoo – Cuculus micropterus
  14. Green-billed Malkoha – Phaenicophaeus tristis
  15. Red-billed Malkoha – Phaenicophaeus javanicus
  16. Glossy Swiftlet – Collocalia esculenta cyanoptila
  17. House Swift – Apus affinis
  18. Mountain Imperial Pigeon – Ducula badia
  19. Yellow-vented Green Pigeon – Treron seimundi
  20. Little Cuckoo Dove – Macropygia ruficeps
  21. Peaceful Dove – Geopelia striata: a few in Raub (near Bukit Fraser)
  22. Blyth's Hawk-eagle – Spizaetus alboniger
  23. Long-tailed Broadbill – Psarisomus dalhousiae
  24. Blue-winged Leafbird – Chloropsis cochinchinensis
  25. Orange-bellied Leafbird – Chloropsis hardwickii
  26. Bronzed Drongo – Dicrurus aeneus
  27. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo – Dicrurus remifer
  28. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo – Dicrurus paradiseus
  29. Common Green Magpie – Cissa chinensis
  30. House Crow – Corvus splendens: coastal region en route to Bukit Fraser
  31. Large-billed Crow – Corvus macrorhynchos
  32. Rail Babbler – Eupetes macrocerus
  33. Black-and-crimson Oriole – Oriolus cruentus
  34. Javan Cuckooshrike – Coracina javensis
  35. Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike – Hemipus picatus
  36. Gray-chinned Minivet – Pericrocotus solaris
  37. White-throated Fantail – Rhipidura albicollis
  38. Malayan Whistling-Thrush – Myophonus robinsoni
  39. Rufous-browed Flycatcher – Ficedula solitaris
  40. Verditer Flycatcher – Eumyias thalassina
  41. Gray-headed Canary Flycatcher – Culicicapa ceylonensis
  42. Little Pied Flycatcher – Ficedula westermanni
  43. Pygmy Blue Flycatcher – Muscicapella hodgsoni
  44. Large Niltava – Niltava grandis
  45. Hill Blue Flycatcher – Cyornis banyumas
  46. Oriental Magpie Robin – Copsychus saularis
  47. Slaty-backed Forktail – Enicurus schistaceus
  48. Asian Glossy Starling – Aplonis panayensis: Raub near Bukit Fraser
  49. Blue Nuthatch – Sitta azurea
  50. Sultan Tit – Melanochlora sultanea
  51. Pacific Swallow – Hirundo tahitica
  52. Black-crested Bulbul – Pycnonotus melanicterus
  53. Stripe-throated Bulbul – Pycnonotus finlaysoni
  54. Red-eyed Bulbul – Pycnonotus brunneus
  55. Ochraceous Bulbul – Alophoixus ochraceus
  56. Ashy Bulbul – Hemixos flavala
  57. Mountain Bulbul – Hypsipetes mcclellandii
  58. Yellow-vented Bulbul – Pycnonotus goiaver
  59. Scaly-breasted Bulbul – Pycnonotus squamatus
  60. Rufescent Prinia – Prinia rufescens
  61. Mountain Tailorbird – Orthotomus cuculatus
  62. Common Tailorbird – Orthotomus sutorius
  63. Dark-necked Tailorbird – Orthotomus atrogularis
  64. Mountain Leaf-Warbler – Phylloscopus trivirgatus
  65. Chestnut-crowned Warbler – Seicercus castaniceps
  66. Yellow-bellied Warbler – Abroscopus superciliaris
  67. Everett's White-eye – Zosterops everetti
  68. Black Laughingthrush – Garrulax lugubris
  69. Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush – Garrulax mitratus
  70. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush – Garrulax erythrocephalus
  71. Buff-breasted Babbler – Pellorneum tickelli
  72. Golden Babbler – Stachyris chrysaea
  73. Gray-throated Babbler – Stachyris nigriceps
  74. White-browed Shrike-Babbler – Pteruthius flaviscapis
  75. Black-eared Shrike-Babbler – Pteruthius melanotis
  76. Blue-winged Minla – Minla cyanouroptera
  77. Silver-eared Mesia – Leiothrix argentauris
  78. Mountain Fulvetta – Alcippe peracensis peracensis
  79. White-hooded Babbler – Gampsorhynchus rufulus
  80. Long-tailed Sibia – Heterophasia picaoides wrayi
  81. White-bellied Erpornis (=Yuhina) – Erpornis zantholeuca
  82. Yellow-vented Flowerpecker – Dicaeum chrysorrheum
  83. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker – Dicaeum trigonostigma
  84. Fire-breasted Flowerpecker – Dicaeum ignipectus
  85. Black-throated Sunbird – Aethopyga saturata
  86. Streaked Spiderhunter – Arachnothera magna
  87. Gray Wagtail – Motacilla cinerea
  88. White-rumped Munia – Lonchura striata

Heard only: Long-billed Partridge, Gold-whiskered Barbet, Collared Owlet, Pygmy Wren Babbler.

Taman Negara
August 4-11

Logistics: In view of the new road, the expensive boat ride to Kuala Tahan, which can be ornithologically dull, is no longer necessary. I found some of the cheapest accommodation and food (during 6 months in Asia) at inexpensive places just across the river from the trail system in Kuala Tahan, so there is absolutely no need to stay at the luxurious resort with the frequently-changing name. Staying in Kuala Tahan does have a drawback, though, because you are dependent on the boat people to take you across the river in the early morning. My boatman did not particularly like me for my early requests and started to ignore me in the mornings, which resulted in a few late starts. Note also that the one-week trek to the distant peak now has to be done with a guide, and the lodge at Kuala Trenggan is no longer operating. I highly recommend the hike to Kuala Trenggan, on which I saw quite a few specialties. However, if you don't have a tent, be prepared to spend the night under very basic conditions on a wooden floor at the deserted lodge. I failed to check out any trail system other than the main one for lack of time.

Birds: The short Swamp Loop behind the lodge yielded the promised Malayan Peacock-Pheasant in addition to a perched Gould's Frogmouth and two sightings of possibly the same male Banded Pitta. Crested Fireback was seen almost on a daily basis, especially a large and confiding family group along the main trail towards the canopy walkway. A Great Argus male still holds his arena along the higher parts of Jenet Muda Trail and cannot be missed if you get there early enough.

The canopy walkway opens when the morning show is over, and is usually crowded with too many loud tourists, so expectations should not be set too high. Nonetheless, a Violet Cuckoo, Whiskered and Gray-rumped Treeswifts, Silver-rumped Needletails, Black-and-yellow Broadbills (2 occ.), Greater and Lesser Green Leafbirds, Lesser Cuckooshrike (1 occ.), Fiery Minivet (2 occ.), Sultan Tit, Golden-bellied Gerygone and two Gray-bellied Bulbuls rewarded me for substantial time investment on the walkway.

The lodge clearing is worth some effort: Blue-rumped Parrot (2 occ.), Little Green Pigeon and a perched Black-thighed Falconet, were only seen here.

The hike to Kuala Trenggan gets you away from the crowds around the lodge and leads you into some stunningly diverse forest. Some of the treats along here were a pair of Crestless Fireback (apparently a rare-enough sighting), at least two male and four female Crested Partridges, a Rufous-collared Kingfisher, two parties of Black-throated Babbler (which was also seen near the canopy walkway), two Rail Babblers (one also along Jenet Muda), two Gray-chested Jungle-Flycatchers, one singing Gray-breasted Babbler, Striped Wren Babbler (3 occ.) and an amazing six sightings of Large Wren Babblers.

To give an impression of the abundance of some of the rarer species, the amount of sightings (during 7 full field days) of the following birds is given in brackets: Rufous Piculet (2), White-bellied Woodpecker (1), Banded Woodpecker (2), Olive-backed Woodpecker (2), Great Slaty Woodpecker (1), Maroon Woodpecker (2), Rufous Woodpecker (1), Orange-backed Woodpecker (3), Diard's Trogon (2), Banded Kingfisher (2), Gray-headed Babbler (4), Red-billed Malkoha (2), Emerald Dove (3), Maroon-breasted Philentoma (3), Rufous-chested Flycatcher (2), Malaysian Blue Flycatcher (1 along river), Rufous-tailed Shama (1), Chestnut-naped Forktail (3), Straw-headed Bulbul (2 along river), Finsch's Bulbul (3, especially stream crossings at dusk), Rufous-tailed Tailorbird (2), Ferruginous Babbler (3) and Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler (3). Most of the remaining species in the following list were seen almost daily.

Species List at Taman Negara:

  1. Crested Partridge – Rollulus rouloul
  2. Crested Fireback – Lophura ignita
  3. Crestless Fireback – Lophura erythrophthalma
  4. Malayan Peacock-Pheasant – Polyplectron malacense
  5. Great Argus – Argusianus argus
  6. Rufous Piculet – Sasia abnormis
  7. White-bellied Woodpecker – Dryocopus javensis
  8. Banded Woodpecker – Picus mineaceus
  9. Checker-throated Woodpecker – Picus mentalis
  10. Olive-backed Woodpecker – Dinopium rafflesii
  11. Great Slaty Woodpecker – Mulleripicus pulverulentus
  12. Maroon Woodpecker – Blythipicus rubiginosus
  13. Rufous Woodpecker – Celeus brachyurus
  14. Orange-backed Woodpecker – Reinwardtipicus validus
  15. Buff-rumped Woodpecker – Meiglyptes tristis
  16. Buff-necked Woodpecker – Meiglyptes tukki
  17. Red-throated Barbet – Megalaima mystacophanos
  18. Brown Barbet – Calorhamphus fuliginosus
  19. Rhinoceros Hornbill – Buceros rhinoceros
  20. Southern Pied Hornbill – Anthracoceros (albirostris) convexus
  21. Diard's Trogon – Harpactes diardii
  22. Scarlet-rumped Trogon – Harpactes duvaucelii
  23. Blue-throated Bee-eater – Merops viridis
  24. Blue-banded Kingfisher – Alcedo euryzona
  25. Banded Kingfisher – Lacedo pulchella
  26. Stork-billed Kingfisher – Halcyon capensis
  27. Rufous-collared Kingfisher – Actenoides concretus
  28. White-throated Kingfisher – Halcyon smyrnensis
  29. Violet Cuckoo – Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus
  30. Greater Coucal – Centropus sinensis
  31. Raffles's Malkoha – Phaenicophaeus chlorophaeus
  32. Red-billed Malkoha
  33. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha – Phaenicophaeus curvirostris
  34. Dollarbird – Eurystomus orientalis
  35. Blue-rumped Parrot – Psittinus cyanurus
  36. Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot – Loriculus galgulus
  37. Silver-rumped Needletail – Rhaphidura leucopygialis
  38. Gray-rumped Treeswift – Hemiprocne longipennis
  39. Whiskered Treeswift – Hemiprocne comata
  40. Gould's Frogmouth – Batrachostomus stellatus
  41. Little Green Pigeon – Treron olax
  42. Thick-billed Green Pigeon – Treron curvirostra
  43. Emerald Dove – Chalcophaps indica
  44. Common Sandpiper – Actitis hypoleucos
  45. Black-thighed Falconet – Microhierax fringillarius
  46. Banded Pitta – Pitta guajana
  47. Black-and-yellow Broadbill – Eurylaimus ochromalus
  48. Green Broadbill – Calyptomena viridis
  49. Black-and-red Broadbill – Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos
  50. Asian Fairy Bluebird – Irena puella
  51. Greater Green Leafbird – Chlorpsis sonnerati
  52. Lesser Green Leafbird – Chloropsis cyanopogon
  53. Blue-winged Leafbird
  54. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
  55. Crested Jay – Platylophus galericulatus
  56. Rail Babbler
  57. Dark-throated Oriole – Oriolus xanthonotus
  58. Green Iora – Aegithina viridissima
  59. Great Iora – Aegithina lafresnayei
  60. Lesser Cuckooshrike – Coramina fimbriata
  61. Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike – Hemipus picatus
  62. Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike – Hemipus hirundinaceus
  63. Large Woodshrike – Tephrodornis gularis
  64. Fiery Minivet – Pericrocotus igneus
  65. Spotted Fantail – Rhipidura perlata
  66. Black-naped Monarch – Hypothymis azurea
  67. Asian Paradise Flycatcher – Terpsiphone paradisi
  68. Rufous-winged Philentoma – Philentoma pyrhopterum
  69. Maroon-breasted Philentoma – Philentoma velatum
  70. Gray-chested Jungle Flycatcher – Rhynomyias umbratilis
  71. Gray-headed Canary Flycatcher
  72. Rufous-chested Flycatcher – Ficedula dumetoria
  73. Malaysian Blue Flycatcher – Cyornis turcosus
  74. Oriental Magpie Robin
  75. White-rumped Shama – Copsychus malabaricus
  76. Rufous-tailed Shama – Trichixos pyrropyga
  77. Chestnut-naped Forktail – Enicurus ruficapillus
  78. White-crowned Forktail – Enicurus leschenaulti
  79. Common Myna – Acridotheres tristis
  80. Hill Myna – Gracula religiosa
  81. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch – Sitta frontalis
  82. Sultan Tit
  83. Pacific Swallow
  84. Golden-bellied Gerygone – Gerygone sulphurea
  85. Black-headed Bulbul – Pycnonotus atriceps
  86. Stripe-throated Bulbul
  87. Cream-vented Bulbul – Pycnonotus simplex
  88. Red-eyed Bulbul
  89. Spectacled Bulbul – Pycnonotus erythrophthalmus
  90. Olive-winged Bulbul – Pycnonotus plumosus
  91. Gray-bellied Bulbul – Pycnonotus cyaniventris
  92. Straw-headed Bulbul – Pycnonotus zeylanicus
  93. Hairy-backed Bulbul – Tricholestes criniger
  94. Ashy Bulbul
  95. Buff-vented Bulbul – Iole olivacea
  96. Streaked Bulbul – Ixos malaccensis
  97. Finsch's Bulbul – Alophoixus finschii
  98. Gray-cheeked Bulbul – Alophoixus bres
  99. Yellow-bellied Bulbul – Alophoixus phaeocephalus
  100. Common Tailorbird
  101. Dark-necked Tailorbird
  102. Rufous-tailed Tailorbird – Orthotomus sericeus
  103. Ashy Tailorbird – Orthotomus ruficeps
  104. Ferruginous Babbler – Trichastoma bicolor
  105. Abbott's Babbler – Malacocincla abbotti
  106. Short-tailed Babbler – Malacocincla malaccensis
  107. Black-capped Babbler – Pellorneum capistratum
  108. Moustached Babbler – Malacopteron magnirostre
  109. Sooty-capped Babbler – Malacopteron affine
  110. Scaly-crowned Babbler – Malacopteron cinereum cinereum
  111. Rufous-crowned Babbler – Malacopteron magnum
  112. Gray-breasted Babbler – Malacopteron albogulare
  113. Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler – Pomatorhinus montanus
  114. Striped Wren Babbler – Kenopia striata
  115. Large Wren Babbler – Napothera macrodactyla
  116. Striped Tit Babbler – Macronous gularis
  117. Chestnut-winged Babbler – Stachyris erythroptera
  118. Chestnut-rumped Babbler – Stachyris maculata
  119. Gray-headed Babbler – Stachyris poliocephala
  120. Black-throated Babbler – Stachyris nigricollis
  121. White-bellied Erpornis
  122. Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker – Prionochilus maculates
  123. Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker – Prionochilus percussus
  124. Little Spiderhunter – Arachnothera longirostra
  125. Thick-billed Spiderhunter – Arachnothera crassirostris
  126. Gray-breasted Spiderhunter – Arachnothera modesta
  127. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird – Anthreptes singalensis
  128. Purple-naped Sunbird – Hypogramma hypogrammicum
  129. Temminck's Sunbird – Aethopyga temminckii

Heard only: Gold-whiskered Barbet, Yellow-crowned Barbet, Blue-eared Barbet and a possible Giant Pitta.

Mt. Kinabalu
August 12-17

At 4100m, Mt Kinabalu rises from the South China Sea like a giant monolith and dwarfs the mountains surrounding it. The area is characterized by pronounced endemism. Though none of the endemics are narrowly confined to this site alone, it will be hard to see all of them elsewhere in such concentrated composition, which makes Kinabalu the premiere site for people in search of Borneo's birds.

Logistics: The mountain attracts hordes of alpinists that want to make the ascent to the summit, so the pricey accommodation around the headquarters is frequently overbooked. The elevation makes insects bearable at daylight, but the cheaper low-value dormitories lack windows and invite some nasty horse-flies into your bed at night. Birding was therefore done with a swollen face on most days. Restaurants partly serve at inconvenient hours and are well overpriced. Early-morning access to the summit trail is problematical due to a gate.

Birds: Kinabalu is great for those who want to enjoy themselves among a high concentration of endemic and rare birds, but it can be stressful for those who feel the need to see all the specialties. I accomplished my goal of seeing virtually all the specialty birds by extending my stay again and again, but even within these four full days and two half-days, my impression was that a great deal of good luck is required.

The gaudy Fruithunter has become very unreliable in the recent past, so I felt all the more privileged to see it within the first half-hour after arrival along the main car loop at the headquarters (HQ). On another day, five of them showed well at ca. KM 2.

The Whitehead's trio started off well on the second day with two Whitehead's Trogons along the longish Liwagu River Trail, but then stalled. Only with great effort and luck did I succeed in finding a Whitehead's Spiderhunter on the second but last day along Liwagu, and (thanks to a gut feeling) – at the same lush spot – a Whitehead's Broadbill on the last morning.

Another headache was created by the Crimson-headed Partridge, a bird that is usually seen far more often at Kinabalu than the rare Red-breasted Partridge. However, it took me five coveys of Red-breasted Partridge (some of them seen exceedingly well with performing males) until I finally spotted my first Crimson-headed in the early morning of the last day about 1 km above the gate to the summit trail (following a tip-off by two German mountaineers who had seen them there the previous morning).

The trickiest bird, however, is the Kinabalu Friendly Warbler, which usually only occurs above the first two kilometres along the summit trail. Sunda Bush Warblers are common along the summit trail, but the friendly bugger is sparse and inactive after mid-morning. Other people have managed to ascend to suitable elevations early enough, but I failed at my first try and instead opted to stay at the mountain camp below the summit. Trying again the following morning during my descent, I was lucky enough to find a singing individual that could be seen without a tape (which I didn't have). On another note, the higher elevations at and below the mountain camp (for which you usually need prior reservation) need to be visited to find Island Thrush and Flavescent Bulbul, which should be seen given enough time investment.

Everett's Thrush has mainly been seen along Bukit Ular Trail in the past few years, so I was happy when my strategy of repeated dawn and dusk visits was fruitful on the third dawn and I sighted two individuals. On most other visits, I saw Orange-headed Thrush instead. The thrushes like to come out on the trail at first or last light (or slightly before/after then), but absolutely quiet walking and a high alertness (especially at the trail's turns and curves) are a prerequisite. You will probably not see this bird in a group, unless you opt for a vigil at a pre-selected spot, which I find much less effective.

From the veranda of my dormitory, I was much perplexed to see a female brown Lophura pheasant emerge from the undergrowth for a few seconds during heavy rain. I immediately assumed it must be a Crested Fireback, so I didn't put much effort into finding it again. Only later did I read about another internet report of a presumed sighting of a female Bulwer's Pheasant at the Kinabalu HQ. The literature describes the Crested Fireback as a lowland bird, but Bulwer's Pheasant apparently reaches up much higher in elevation. In retrospect, I am convinced that the bird was the female Bulwer's Pheasant that has been previously reported from Kinabalu.

My favorite endemic at Kinabalu was the diminutive Bornean Stubtail. Its song is very high-pitched and cannot be heard far by humans, and its calls reach a frequency that my ears start having problems with at close range. Nevertheless I saw it almost every time I walked along Bukit Ular Trail and also elsewhere, such as from my dormitory veranda during heavy rain (all in all 7 sightings).

A pair of Tawny-breasted Parrotfinches came much to my surprise. The birds were in a zone of bamboo about 1-2km above the gate to the summit trail in an area that was also good for White-browed Shortwing.

Black-sided Flowerpecker and Temminck's Sunbird preferred the flowering bushes around the HQ loop.

Mixed flocks toward the upper access road around the gate to the summit trail changed slightly in composition, containing Mountain Blackeye and Golden-naped Barbet.

The stream along Silau-Silau Trail is home to Sunda Whistling-Thrush and White-crowned Forktail.

Mountain Wren-Babbler and Eyebrowed Jungle Flycatcher were seen about once a day along forest trails at HQ elevation.

Some of the easier (near-)endemics and specialties that were seen at Kinabalu (often in mixed flocks) include Black-capped White-eye, Chestnut-crested Yuhina, White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Snowy-browed, Little Pied and Indigo Flycatcher, two sightings of Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, Little Cuckoo Dove (common), Checker-throated (3 occ.) and Maroon (2 occ.) Woodpecker, Sunda Cuckooshrike, Black, Chestnut-capped and Sunda Laughingthrush, Bornean Whistler, Mountain Leaf Warbler, Yellow-breasted Warbler, Gray-throated Babbler, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Short-tailed Magpie and Bornean Treepie.

Species List at Kinabalu:

  1. Red-breasted Partridge – Arborophila hyperythra
  2. Crimson-headed Partridge – Haematortyx sanguiniceps
  3. Bulwer's Pheasant – Lophura bulweri
  4. Mountain Imperial Pigeon
  5. Little Cuckoo Dove
  6. Glossy Swiftlet
  7. Whitehead's Trogon – Harpactes whiteheadi
  8. Golden-naped Barbet – Megalaima pulcherrima
  9. Whitehead's Broadbill – Calyptomena whiteheadi
  10. Checker-throated Woodpecker
  11. Maroon Woodpecker
  12. Black-breasted Fruithunter – Chlamydochaera jefferyi
  13. Sunda Cuckooshrike – Coracina larvata
  14. Black-and-crimson Oriole
  15. Short-tailed Magpie – Cissa thalassina
  16. Bornean Treepie – Dendrocitta cinerascens
  17. Ashy Drongo – Dicrurus leucophaeus
  18. Spangled Drongo – Dicrurus hottentottus
  19. Bornean Whistler – Pachycephala hypoxantha
  20. White-throated Fantail
  21. Gray-chinned Minivet
  22. Ochraceous Bulbul
  23. Flavescent Bulbul – Pycnonotus flavescens
  24. White-crowned Forktail
  25. White-browed Shortwing – Brachypteryx montana
  26. Sunda Whistling Thrush – Myophonus glaucinus
  27. Island Thrush – Turdus poliocephalus
  28. Orange-headed Thrush – Zoothera citrina
  29. Everett's Thrush – Zoothera everetti
  30. Eyebrowed Jungle Flycatcher – Rhinomyias gularis
  31. Indigo Flycatcher – Eumyias indigo
  32. Snowy-browed Flycatcher – Ficedula hyperythra
  33. Little Pied Flycatcher
  34. Pygmy Blue Flycatcher
  35. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
  36. Mountain Tailorbird
  37. Friendly Warbler – Bradypterus accentor
  38. Sunda Bush Warbler – Cettia vulcania oreophila
  39. Bornean Stubtail – Urosphena whiteheadi
  40. Mountain Leaf Warbler
  41. Yellow-breasted Warbler – Seicercus montis
  42. Black Laughingthrush
  43. Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush
  44. Sunda Laughingthrush – Garrulax palliates
  45. Mountain Wren Babbler – Napothera crassa
  46. Gray-throated Babbler
  47. White-browed Shrike-Babbler
  48. Chestnut-crested Yuhina – Yuhina everetti
  49. Black-capped White-eye – Zosterops atricapilla
  50. Mountain Blackeye – Chlorocharis emiliae
  51. Whitehead's Spiderhunter – Arachnothera juliae
  52. Black-sided Flowerpecker – Dicaeum monticola
  53. Temminck's Sunbird – Aethopyga temminckii
  54. Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch – Erythrura hyperythra

Heard Only: Mountain Barbet.

Poring Hot Springs
August 17-20

Logistics: Poring is an under-appreciated site that most birders only give a day on their way to Danum. Birding is tough, with leeches and insects abounding, and bird activity usually low, but I found two full days and two half-days fully justified, with a few species that are definitely more likely here than at Danum. Accommodation is good-value, and towards the end of the day I was happy to lay down the binoculars and relax in the tubs around the hot springs. An impressive total of six spiderhunter species was seen here.

Birds: Dusky Munias are common around the entrance buildings at dusk and dawn, and the hot springs can be good in the early morning before the tourists pour in (Thick-billed Spiderhunter, Banded Broadbill). There are two birding highlights at this site: One is the tough up-hill hike to the Langanan Waterfalls along the only real trail, and the second is the canopy walkway. The first portion of the long trail leads to a smaller waterfall, but the large clearing and arboretum before it are well worth some scrutiny (White-capped Shama, Horsfield's Babbler, Red-bearded Bee-eater). From the small waterfall, the trail leads through some lush growth (Black Magpie, Crested Jay, Dusky Broadbill, Rufous-tailed Shama) to a cave, where the surrounding forest is usually dead, but (on one occasion) yielded a flock of Brown Fulvetta, Gray-headed and White-necked Babblers and even Fluffy-backed Tit-Babblers. The trail then passes two clearings (one held the endemic Bornean Spiderhunter, the other Puff-backed and Scaly-breasted Bulbul) before entering some giant bamboo growth (Yellow-bellied Warbler), where I had the necessary portion of good luck to see White-tailed Flycatcher, Eyebrowed Wren Babbler and an obliging juvenile Blue-banded Pitta (doubtless the main treat you can get at Poring). Avoid the left fork, which teems with leeches, and follow the right all the way to the waterfall (Sunda Whistling-Thrush, White-crowned Forktail), where mixed flocks are plentiful (Bornean Treepie, Chestnut-crested Yuhina, Long-tailed Broadbill).

The canopy walkway is definitely better than the one in Taman Negara, since it opens at 7 a.m., when most tourists are still in bed. Dead around noon, an early morning here held rewards in the form of Yellow-eared, Long-billed and Spectacled Spiderhunter, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Greater and Lesser Green Leafbird, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot and Plain Sunbird.

Species List at Poring:

  1. Blyth's Hawk-eagle
  2. Red-bearded Bee-eater
  3. Red-billed Malkoha
  4. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha
  5. Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot
  6. Scarlet-rumped Trogon
  7. Brown Barbet
  8. Blue-eared Barbet
  9. Gold-whiskered Barbet – Megalaima chrysopogon
  10. Glossy Swiftlet
  11. Rufous Piculet
  12. Maroon Woodpecker
  13. Buff-necked Woodpecker
  14. Buff-rumped Wodpecker
  15. Blue-banded Pitta – Pitta arquata
  16. Green Broadbill
  17. Long-tailed Broadbill
  18. Black-and-yellow Broadbill
  19. Banded Broadbill
  20. Dusky Broadbill
  21. Greater Green Leafbird
  22. Lesser Green Leafbird
  23. Blue-winged Leafbird
  24. Asian Fairy Bluebird
  25. Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike
  26. Lesser Cuckooshrike
  27. Crested Jay
  28. Black Magpie – Platysmurus leucopterus aterrimus
  29. Bornean Treepie
  30. Ashy Drongo
  31. Scarlet Minivet – Pericrocotus flammeus
  32. Green Iora
  33. Spotted Fantail
  34. Black-naped Monarch
  35. Maroon-breasted Philentoma
  36. Oriental Magpie Robin – Copsychus saularis pluto
  37. White-browed/-capped Shama – Copsychus stricklandi
  38. Rufous-tailed Shama (white-browed ssp) – Trichixos pyrropyga
  39. White-crowned Forktail
  40. Sunda Whistling-Thrush
  41. White-tailed Flycatcher – Cyornis concretus
  42. Pale Blue Flycatcher – Cyornis unicolor
  43. Gray-headed Canary Flycatcher
  44. Ashy Bulbul
  45. Streaked Bulbul
  46. Hairy-backed Bulbul
  47. Spectacled Bulbul
  48. Red-eyed Bulbul
  49. Scaly-breasted Bulbul
  50. Puff-backed Bulbul – Pycnonotus eutilotus
  51. Yellow-bellied Bulbul
  52. Gray-cheeked Bulbul
  53. Rufous-tailed Tailorbird
  54. Ashy Tailorbird
  55. Yellow-bellied Warbler
  56. Eyebrowed Wren Babbler – Napothera epilepidota
  57. Horsfield's Babbler – Malacocincla sepiarium
  58. Rufous-crowned Babbler
  59. Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler – Macronous ptilosus
  60. White-necked Babbler – Stachyris leucotis
  61. Gray-headed Babbler
  62. Chestnut-winged Babbler
  63. Brown Fulvetta
  64. Chestnut-crested Yuhina
  65. White-bellied Erpornis (=Yuhina)
  66. Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker – Prionochilus xanthopygius
  67. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
  68. Yellow-vented Flowerpecker
  69. Little Spiderhunter
  70. Thick-billed Spiderhunter
  71. Bornean Spiderhunter – Arachnothera everetti
  72. Spectacled Spiderhunter – Arachnothera flavigaster
  73. Yellow-eared Spiderhunter – Arachnothera chrysogenys
  74. Long-billed Spiderhunter – Arachnothera robusta
  75. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird
  76. Plain Sunbird – Anthreptes simplex
  77. Purple-naped Sunbird
  78. Crimson Sunbird – Aethopyga siparaja
  79. Tree Sparrow – Passer montanus
  80. Dusky Munia – Lonchura fuscans

Heard Only: Yellow-crowned Barbet, Mountain Barbet.

Gomantong Cave & Sukau Area
August 21

Logistics: Conveniently located en route from Kota Kinabalu to Danum, the Gomantong Caves and Sukau make for a good stop-over. The Caves – neatly tucked into some secondary forest – are the breeding ground of three Collocalia swiftlet species that are hard to identify away from their nests, and Sukau's Kinabatangan River is renowned for Storm's Stork. The Caves are an easy destination for a half-day trip. Usually transport can be rented at the intersection of the Sukau Road with the main road. In the Sukau Area, however, you need to stay in one of several lodges. Since I came without prior reservation or information, and additionally failed to cash enough money at the ATM in Sandakan, I ended up spending one afternoon around one of the river lodges and having to leave. To see Storm's Stork, I would have needed to go on their morning boat trips. All in all, this is one of very few areas visited where a little bit of prior booking would have helped immensely. Note that the Kinabatangan River Area may also start to become a birder hotspot for seeing the near-impossible Bornean Ground-Cuckoo in the future. Two days before leaving the country, I received news of the sighting of a family party of this rare enigma by a birding group led by a local guide who has opened up his own lodge.

Birds: The entrance road to Gomantong had a perched Wallace's Hawk-eagle. In the cave, locals were doing their biannual harvest of swiftlet nests. The prized edible-nests were nearly depleted, so I was happy about one confirmed sighting of an Edible-nest Swiftlet at one of the five remaining nests. The less delicious mossy-nests and black-nests, in contrast, were still there in good numbers, and so were their constructers, the Mossy-nest and Black-nest Swiftlets. A Bushy-crested Hornbill was seen near the cave entrance.

During a late afternoon along the bank of Kinabatangan River, overflying and lingering birds included Rhinoceros and Southern Pied Hornbills, White-bellied Woodpecker, Black-and-red Broadbill and Black-headed Munia.

Species List at Gomantong and Sukau:

  1. Little Heron – Butorides striatus
  2. Brahminy Kite – Heliastur indus
  3. Wallace's Hawk-Eagle – Spizaetus nanus
  4. White-bellied Fish-eagle - Haliaeetus leucogaster: Sandakan
  5. White-breasted Waterhen – Amaurornis phoenicurus
  6. Emerald Dove
  7. Black-neck Swiftlet – Collocalia maxima
  8. Mossy-nest Swiftlet – Collocalia salangana
  9. Edible-nest Swiftlet – Collocalia fuciphaga
  10. Gray-rumped Treeswift
  11. Bushy-crested Hornbill
  12. Rhinoceros Hornbill
  13. Oriental (Southern) Pied Hornbill
  14. White-bellied Woodpecker
  15. Black-and-red Broadbill
  16. Pacific Swallow
  17. Asian Glossy Starling
  18. Black-headed Bulbul
  19. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  20. Oriental Magpie Robin
  21. Yellow-bellied Prinia – Prinia flaviventris
  22. Rufous-tailed Tailorbird
  23. Ashy Tailorbird
  24. Black-capped Babbler
  25. Chestnut-winged Babbler
  26. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird
  27. Purple-naped Sunbird
  28. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
  29. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  30. Black-headed Munia - Lonchura malacca

Heard only: Blue-eared Barbet.

Danum Valley
22-30 August

Logistics: Danum definitely has some of the best birding on earth, and birders would do well to stay at least a week to do it justice. There are two ways to stay here: Book a bungalow at the expensive Bornean Rainforest Lodge (BRL), or go to the Danum Valley Field Center (DVFC). The latter used to cater for scientists and naturalists only, but has meanwhile opened its doors to budget travellers likewise. DVFC is not exactly cheap either, but it is worth it. Note however that after my departure in late August 2003 rumors circulated that DVFC was again going to stop welcoming tourists. Get the necessary info before heading out there. Day trips to BRL (where a few species are easier) are possible from DVFC. If you don't pre-book your stay at DVFC (such as myself), try knocking at their office door in Lahad Datu.

Birds: DVFC has a fine selection of endemics and rarities, but I found birding very tough here, more so than at Taman Negara, and possibly in account of the progressing season. In addition, my species total did not compare as well with that of other reports as my totals from Taman Negara, Poring or Bukit Fraser, such that I assume a few weeks sooner might have been more ideal. Best birding is along the "grid" and the remainder of the trail system. I will refrain from giving the exact coordinates of my best sightings, as most species seem to surface just about anywhere at random. A notable exception is the Giant Pitta, which I missed and which has consistently been seen at one or two spots in the past, so birders should always check the latest entries in the logbook. Bulwer's Pheasant is seen once every 1-3 months at unpredictable spots and is accordingly unlikely.

BRL, where Bornean Ground-Cuckoo has been sighted recently, boasts an equally impressive (though much smaller) trail system. The lodge clearing seems to be the only regular spot on earth to see Pygmy White-eye, but a telescope is imperative if you want to be able to identify them. I wasted a whole afternoon (without a scope) around the lodge clearing almost breaking my neck and hoping that those little black spots (most of them doubtless flowerpeckers and sunbirds) on the treetops would move a little lower, but alas they stayed in the tree crowns.

For more info on the exact locations of some of the more remarkable species, refer to the below list. To give an idea of just how hard birding can be at Danum, the number of sightings is give for some of the better species in the following list (x occ. = x occasions or X sightings):

  1. Darter – Anhinga melanogaster (bridge at DVFC)
  2. Bat Hawk – Machaeramphus alcinus (occupied nest on giant tree next to tower along driveway)
  3. Crested Goshawk – Accipiter trivirgatus
  4. Blyth's Hawk-eagle (2 occ)
  5. Wallace's Hawk-eagle (2 occ)
  6. Crested Serpent-eagle – Spilornis cheela
  7. White-fronted Falconet – Microhierax latifrons (1 from canopy platform, 1 at BRL clearing, 1 en route to BRL)
  8. Crested Fireback (2 occ.)
  9. Great Argus (2 occ.)
  10. Crested Partridge (2 occ.)
  11. Long-billed Partridge – Rhizothera longirostris (1 female seen well in grid; this species is apparently very rare at Danum, maybe even the first record)
  12. Chestnut-necklaced Partridge – Arborophila charltonii (a pair)
  13. Common Sandpiper
  14. Thick-billed Green Pigeon
  15. Green Imperial Pigeon – Ducula aenea
  16. Emerald Dove
  17. Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot
  18. Dollarbird
  19. Brown Barbet
  20. Red-throated Barbet
  21. Gold-whiskered Barbet
  22. Blue-eared Barbet
  23. Asian Black Hornbill – Anthracoceros malayanus (mainly around tower along the short loop at DVFC)
  24. Wrinkled Hornbill – Aceros corrugatus
  25. Wreathed Hornbill
  26. Bushy-crested Hornbill
  27. Rhinoceros Hornbill
  28. Red-naped Trogon – Harpactes kasumba (3 occ.)
  29. Diard's Trogon (3 occ.)
  30. Scarlet-rumped Trogon (4 occ.)
  31. Rufous-collared Kingfisher (1 occ.)
  32. Black-backed Kingfisher – Ceyx erithacus (2 occ.)
  33. Brown Wood-owl – Strix leptogrammica (1 near campsite)
  34. Buffy Fish-owl – Ketupa ketupu (a pair at volleyball court every night)
  35. Blue-throated Bee-eater
  36. Red-bearded Bee-eater
  37. Banded Bay Cuckoo – Cacomantis sonneratii
  38. Violet Cuckoo (1 female)
  39. Raffles's Malkoha
  40. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha
  41. Silver-rumped Needletail
  42. Gray-rumped Treeswift
  43. Whiskered Treeswift
  44. Rufous Piculet
  45. Checker-throated Woodpecker
  46. Banded Woodpecker
  47. White-bellied Woodpecker
  48. Olive-backed Woodpecker
  49. Orange-backed Woodpecker
  50. Rufous Woodpecker
  51. Maroon Woodpecker
  52. Buff-necked Woodpecker
  53. Buff-rumped Woodpecker
  54. Gray-and-buff Woodpecker – Hemicircus concretus
  55. Green Broadbill
  56. Black-and-yellow Broadbill
  57. Black-and-red Broadbill
  58. Banded Broadbill
  59. Banded Pitta (1 occ.)
  60. Garnet (Black-and-crimson) Pitta – Pitta granatina ussheri (2 occ.)
  61. Blue-headed Pitta – Pitta baudii (7 occ.)
  62. Lesser Green Leafbird
  63. Asian Fairy Bluebird
  64. Green Iora
  65. Large Woodshrike
  66. Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike
  67. Lesser Cuckooshrike
  68. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
  69. Crested Jay
  70. Black Magpie
  71. Slender-billed Crow – Corvus enca
  72. Bornean Bristlehead – Pityriasis gymnocephala (two at DVFC canopy platform, a flock near DVFC office, two along BRL canopy walkway)
  73. Dark-throated Oriole
  74. Scarlet Minivet
  75. Black-naped Monarch
  76. Pied Fantail – Rhipidura javanica
  77. Spotted Fantail
  78. Maroon-breasted Philentoma
  79. Rufous-winged Philentoma
  80. Asian Paradise-Flycatcher
  81. Pacific Swallow
  82. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
  83. Hill Myna
  84. Rufous-tailed Shama
  85. White-browed/(-capped) Shama
  86. Oriental Magpie Robin
  87. White-crowned Forktail
  88. Chestnut-naped Forktail
  89. Gray-chested Jungle-Flycatcher (6 occ.)
  90. Verditer Flycatcher
  91. Malaysian Blue Flycatcher (3 occ., near DVFC bridge)
  92. Bornean Blue Flycatcher – Cyornis superbus (3 occ.)
  93. Rufous-chested Flycatcher (1 occ.)
  94. Gray-headed Canary Flycatcher
  95. Black-headed Bulbul
  96. Scaly-breasted Bulbul (1 occ.)
  97. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  98. Gray-cheeked Bulbul
  99. Yellow-bellied Bulbul
  100. Finsch's Bulbul
  101. Ochraceous Bulbul (seen well; surprisingly low elevation!)
  102. Puff-backed Bulbul
  103. Olive-winged Bulbul
  104. Red-eyed Bulbul
  105. Cream-vented Bulbul
  106. Spectacled Bulbul
  107. Hairy-backed Bulbul
  108. Streaked Bulbul
  109. Buff-vented Bulbul
  110. Rufous-tailed Tailorbird
  111. Ashy Tailorbird
  112. Dark-necked Tailorbird
  113. Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler
  114. Bornean Wren Babbler – Ptilocichla leucogrammica (1 occ.)
  115. Black-throated Wren Babbler – Napothera atrigularis (1 occ.)
  116. Striped Wren Babbler (2 occ.)
  117. Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler (7 occ.)
  118. Striped Tit-Babbler
  119. Black-capped Babbler
  120. Short-tailed Babbler
  121. White-chested Babbler – Trichastoma rostratum (at river and at stream near DVFC)
  122. Ferruginous Babbler
  123. Horsfield's Babbler
  124. Rufous-crowned Babbler
  125. Scaly-crowned Babbler
  126. Moustached Babbler
  127. Sooty-capped Babbler
  128. Gray-headed Babbler
  129. White-necked Babbler (3 occ.)
  130. Chestnut-rumped Babbler
  131. Chestnut-winged Babbler
  132. Rufous-fronted Babbler – Stachyris rufifrons
  133. Brown Fulvetta
  134. White-bellied Erpornis (=Yuhina)
  135. Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker
  136. Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker
  137. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
  138. Red-throated Sunbird – Anthreptes rhodolaema
  139. Plain Sunbird
  140. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird
  141. Purple-naped Sunbird
  142. Little Spiderhunter
  143. Spectacled Spiderhunter
  144. Yellow-eared Spiderhunter
  145. Streaky-breasted Spiderhunter – Arachnothera affinis
  146. Dusky Munia

Heard Only: Yellow-crowned Barbet.

Manukan and Sapi Islands
31 August

Just off Kota Kinabalu, these islands are visited by hundreds of tourists every day, though most visitors stay on the beach. The demand for boat trips is large, and you need to share a boat with other tourists, which may make it complicated to arrange a visit to both islands. It is hard to say whether spending more time on one island or visiting both is the better strategy: Some specialties are said to be missing on one of the islands (such as Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher on Manukan), but on the other hand, when visiting both islands you might end up having only one full hour to find the birds.

I visited these islands on an afternoon with extremely limited time at hands, and therefore missed many of the target species that are usually seen by birders (such as Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and Blue-naped Parrot). Half an hour along the jogging trail on Manukan (going left as you disembark) yielded a Mangrove Whistler, and two hours in the forests of Sapi Island produced White-capped Shama, Purple-throated and Brown-throated Sunbird as well as Tabon Scrubfowl and White-chested Babbler (the latter two on the beach).

Species List at Manukan and Sapi Islands:

  1. Tabon Scrubfowl – Megapodius cumingii
  2. Emerald Dove
  3. Red-eyed Bulbul
  4. Oriental Magpie Robin
  5. White-browed/(-capped) Shama
  6. White-chested Babbler
  7. Mangrove Whistler – Pachycephala grisola secedens
  8. Purple-throated Sunbird – Nectarinia sperata
  9. Olive-backed Sunbird – Nectarinia jugularis
  10. Brown-/Plain-throated Sunbird – Anthreptes malacensis
  11. Crimson Sunbird

Rafflesia Center
September 1-2

Logistics: Two hours up in the mountains from Kota Kinabalu (KK), the world's largest flower (Rafflesia) can still be found in remnant forest. The Rafflesia Center and its little trail system have been there for a long time, but birders discovered it just recently. It is now a must on the birding itinerary for seeing two endemic barbets that don't quite go as high as Kinabalu, but are well above most of the remaining birdwatching sites in Sabah. Rafflesia Center is best done as a day trip from KK, though I stayed a late afternoon and the following morning, and thus needed to spend the night in a basic shelter for Filipino construction workers at a roadside restaurant near the pass.

Birds: Both Bornean and Mountain Barbet are best detected by voice, but they can be hard to glimpse and require some time. I found the late afternoon to be particularly good for them, but so is mid-morning. Most time was spent along the trail system downhill from the center, where species composition was a strange mix of birds I had seen at Kinabalu and those at Poring. The highlights included four Temminck's Babblers and a Rufous-tailed Jungle Flycatcher (both of which had eluded me elsewhere). Other goodies came in the form of Black-and-crimson Oriole, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Orange-breasted Trogon, Crimson-winged and Orange-backed Woodpecker, Long-tailed Broadbill, three laughingthrushes, Bornean Whistler, Bornean Treepie and Chestnut-crested Yuhina.

Species List at the Rafflesia Center:

  1. Bornean Barbet – Megalaima eximia
  2. Mountain Barbet – Megalaima monticola
  3. Orange-breasted Trogon
  4. Glossy Swiftlet
  5. Crimson-winged Woodpecker
  6. Orange-backed Woodpecker
  7. Long-billed Broadbill
  8. Blue-winged Leafbird
  9. Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike
  10. Ashy Drongo
  11. Spangled Drongo
  12. Black-and-crimson Oriole
  13. Bornean Treepie
  14. Gray-chinned Minivet
  15. White-throated Fantail
  16. Bornean Whistler
  17. Rufous-tailed Jungle-Flycatcher – Rhinomyias ruficauda
  18. Hill Blue Flycatcher
  19. Ochraceous Bulbul
  20. Ashy Bulbul
  21. Yellow-breasted Warbler
  22. Yellow-bellied Warbler
  23. Black Laughingthrush
  24. Sunda Laughingthrush
  25. Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush
  26. Gray-throated Babbler
  27. Temminck's Babbler – Pellorneum pyrrogenys
  28. Chestnut-crested Yuhina
  29. White-bellied Erpornis (=Yuhina)
  30. Temmick's Sunbird

Heard Only: Gold-whiskered Barbet, Golden-naped Barbet, White-browed Shortwing.

Copyright © 1992-2012 John Wall