Singapore Bird Family Grand Slams.

Singapore Bird Family Grand Slams.

12th May 2020

There is only so much HDD and balcony birding one can do during this CB period. With the release of the 2020 edition of the Birds of Singapore Checklist, I decided to go through my list of 359 species to date to see how many bird family “grand slams” (of 5 or more species) do I have. If you are doing this as well, do let us know what your “grand slams” are.

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A magical place inside CCNR.  How insignificant are we? Photo: Glenda Heng.

Not that many as it turned. Only 11 out of a total of 26 families with 5 or more species in it. I was missing the Little Green Pigeon for the 14 Pigeons and Doves Columbidae  family. But now with the acceptance of the Oriental Turtle Dove, a national first, it will be that much harder to complete.

I though I have the  12 Rails and Crakes Rallidae family done and dusted but found out that the Eurasian Coot, a stray last seen in 1988, is in this family. Arrrrh……

Thanks to Francis Yap:) I “lost” the 13 Bulbuls Pycnontidae family when he photographed the Black and White Bulbul at Jelutong Tower in 2012.

A big thank you and shout out to all my friends, past and present for the timely alerts and help. Many of you will recall the happy memories of when we got these species together. Special mention to all my mentors and my long time birding friends Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee and Yang Pah Liang for being with me in this journey since the early 1990s. These are the stories of the sighting of the last species of each of the eleven families.

1. Ardeidae (Bitterns, Herons and Egrets) 19 species.

It was a late afternoon phone call from Vincent Ng that an Indian Pond Heron was seen at Bidadari Cemetery. Joseph Tan had photographed it on 11 April 2015 but did not processed it until Er Bong Siong posted his a week later. It was subsequently identified by Francis Yap. Link. Our first record was from Senoko on 20 March 1999 by Lim Kim Seng and Lim Kim Chuah. It was listed in Category D ( Wild birds but possibility of released or escaped cannot be ruled out). Since then, we had 8 more records from Farmway 3 in 2012 and 2016, Bidadari 2015 and 2018, Bishan Park 2018, Jurong Lake in 2019, Windsor Park and Transview Golf Course in 2020. This should not be a difficult family to complete.

Indian Pond Heron at Bida

The first Indian Pond Heron seen in Bidadari in 2015.

2. Charadriidae ( Lapwings, Plovers) 11 species.

I was late to tick the Grey-headed Lapwing at SBWR on November 2011, found by Lim Kim Chuah. But when news that one was scoped inside Kranji Marshes on 23 October 2016, we went running in to the tower to look for it. I remembered missing it by 5 minutes as it flew over the open field outside the Marshes. Geoff Lim and I decided to drive into Harvest Lane to look for it. We flushed it just after we got out of the car. For most the Common Ringed Plover will be your nemesis in this family.

Grey-headed Lapwing at KM
The Grey-headed Lapwing roosting with the Red-wattled Lapwings inside Kranji Marshes.

3. Cuculidae ( Cuckoos and Coucal) 19 species.

Asian Emerald Cuckoo Female
Asian Emerald Cuckoo Female

The last cuckoo was supposed to be the Lorong Halus’s Jacobin Cuckoo in 2015 but a female Asian Emerald Cuckoo turned up at Siloso, Sentosa in late December 2017 changed that.  Link . Topping this was our third record and this time an adult male in its full brilliance found by Kelvin Ng and friends on 23 March 2020 next to the Ulu Pandan Canal behind MOE Ghim Moh.

The adult female Asian Emerald Cuckoo was much easier to identify than the first juvenile female photographed by KC Tsang in 2006.


 

 

4. Tytonidae/Strigidae (Owls) 10 species.

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Another successful nesting of this rare resident owl

January 2016. Another late afternoon phone call this time from See Toh that almost knocked me off my seat. A juvenile Barred Eagle Owl was spotted again at the car park at Bukit Timah NR. I missed the last appearance as I was away and was glad to have completed this difficult family which has the vagrant Short-eared Owl, Northern Boobook and the most sought after Brown Wood Owl in it. I had an old entry in my notebook of a BEO sighting on 16 Nov 1996 near the summit of BTNR during a survey, but I do not have any strong recollection of this sighting.

 

5. Alcedinidae ( Kingfishers) 8 species.

The migrant Black-capped Kingfisher is known to be super skittish, secretive and hard to find here. Most of the old records were from Pulau Ubin, hidden in between the mangroves. That was where I got mine. For many of the birders it was the most wanted kingfisher. Most should have this family grand slam by now with the Ruddy Kingfisher ever presence at Kranji.

SBWR

 

6. Picidae (Woodpeckers) 8 species.

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I was lucky to be birding when the White-bellied Woodpeckers were still around. Then the former resident Great Slaty Woodpecker made a spectacular reappearance on May 2018 at BTNR. But it was the Buff-rumped Woodpecker that eluded most of us until Adrian Silas Tay found one at Pulau Ubin on May 2019. Good thing it stayed around long enough for us to tick it.

This male Buff-rumped Woodpecker stayed around the same patch at Pulau Ubin.

7. Psittaculidae ( Parrots and Parakeets) 6 species.

The rare forest wanderer, Blue-rumped Parrot numbers have remained small all these years. They can be seen flying across the Central Catchment Forest in small flocks on good days. It was only the discovery of a fruiting Star Fruit tree at Venus Loop that we were able to see them close up. This should be an easy grand slam for all.

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Nationally threatened Blue-rumped Parrot feeding on the Star Fruit at Venus Loop.

8. Monarchidae ( Monarch and Paradise Flycatchers) 5 species.

SBWR

None of us expected to see an Indian Paradise Flycatcher here as it was not their usual wintering range. But Oliver Tan photographed one at SBWR on 2 December 2017 which was later identified by Dave Bakewell. Link. Our second and third records the following year were at SBWR as well.

The identity feature of this Indian Paradise Flycatcher is the long crest.

 

 

9. Hirundinidae ( Swallows and Martins) 5 species.

Sand Martin
Sand Martin

Both martins in our Checklist were hard to find, Surprisingly I got the rarer Asian House Martin before the more common Sand Martin. Both can be easily overlook unless you pay attention to any flocks of flying swallows.

 

 

10. Phylloscopidae ( Warblers) 5 species.

Sakhalin Leaf Warhler

The Dusky Warbler would be the missing warbler for this family for most but I was around when Peter Kennerley mist netted one at Tuas in 1994. Instead my warbler to complete this family was the Sakhalin Leaf Warbler that was heard calling along Dairy Farm Loop by Lim Kim Keang on March 2014. We had the Pale-legged Warbler in our Checklist, but the sub song was clear enough for us to replace it.

Sakhalin Leaf Warbler replaced the Pale-legged Warbler in our checklist.

11. Cisticolidae ( Cisticolas, Prinia and Tailorbirds) 6 species.

This is an easy family to complete as all the 6 species are our common residents. Among them the forest edge Rufous-tailed Tailorbird was the hardest to find and photographed for some time. But their presence at Dairy Farm and Venus Loop made it much easier now.

Rufous-tailed Tailorbird at Wilton Close

This Rufous-tailed Tailorbird was photographed along the railway track at Wessex Estate.

HDD Hard Disk Digging. CB Circuit Breaker, CCNR Central Catchment Nature Reserve, MOE Ministry of Education, BEO Barred Eagle Owl, BTNR Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, SBWR Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Reference: 

Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore 2009. NSS

Craig Robson. The Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia.

 

The Killing Skies of Gomantong.

The Killing Skies of Gomantong.

If you have an afternoon to spare when you are in Sandakan, do take a 2 hours drive out to the Gomantong Caves and see for yourself the natural spectacle of mass exodus of bats leaving the caves in endless streams.

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Spirals of Wrinkled-lipped Bats streaming out of the Gomantong Caves at dusk.

Every evening since recorded history, more than a million bats, mainly Winkled-lipped Bats leave the Gomantong Caves in never ending spirals into the night skies. This awesome sight can last well into nightfall. The bats will spend the night feasting on insects all over the countryside before returning to the cave to roost before dawn.

Another drama is waiting to unfold. It will be a life and death encounter over the killing skies of Gomantong.

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Meeting the colony of bats side on, the Bat Hawk is built for the kill.

The resident Bat Hawks and the Rufous-bellied Eagles have been spending the day resting up for this moment. It is a buffet not to be missed. The larger Wallace’s Hawk Eagles and smaller Peregrine Falcons will wait nearby for their turn as there is no need to rush and fight for such an abundance of food.

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Cropped photo of about 300 bats in a single frame.

The Bat Hawks are specialised bat predators. With folded wings they will slice into the colony of bats, twist their bodies upright, push their talons up front and try to snatch at any of the bats that come close to it. Once in a while it will miss catching one or the bat somehow managed to wriggle out of its grasp. But it will be a matter of time before the Bat Hawk gets its talon on one. It will tear and eat it on the wing to save the trouble to coming back for another.

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The Bat Hawk locking on to a bat with its talons by twisting its body backwards.

The Rufous-bellied Eagle is less agile. It will have to fly into the cloud of bats several times before getting hold of one. The smaller Peregrine Falcons are known for their speed and they use it to good effect. They will thermal higher up above the colony of bats and then dive down for the kill. Their success rate is almost 100%.

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The adult Rufous-bellied Eagle had to make several dives before catching one.

On the day of observation, the Wallace’s Hawk Eagle was the less interested and did not join in the killing frenzy. It perched nearby watching the spectacle even as the bats were flying directly overhead. Maybe it had its fill or was just waiting for its favourite species to appear.

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The Wallace’s Hawk Eagle perch just below the colony of bats waiting for the right time to hunt.

I was ecstatic to be able to witness and capture this life and death drama, mother nature’s wonder, over the killing skies of Gomantong.

Reference: John MacKinnon and Karen Phillipps. A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo.

Balang Revisited

The Birds of Sungei Balang.

The rice fields of Sungei Balang, a short drive north of Batu Pahat, had to be the richest waterbird site in Johor. It is also the foraging site for the main flock of the Lesser Adjutants and the wintering grounds for migrant raptors and shorebirds.

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The monsoon rains have arrived. Time for a new crop of rice. Rich foraging grounds for the White-breasted Waterhen and the Wood Sandpiper.

 

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We counted over 60 Lesser Adjutants that day. There were over 200 Asian Openbills thermalling over Balang this morning.

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The daily buffet provided by the plowing of the rice fields attracted a one day Woolly-necked Stork, a second for Malaysia, to Balang.  We missed it by a few days. 

Sand Martin

A few Sand Martins ( above) together with Barn and Red-rumped Swallows hawked for insects flushed up by the plowing.

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Not giving each other an inch of space as they fly towards the plowed field for their feast.

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Marsh Sandpipers are well adapted to feed at freshwater rice fields besides mud flats.

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But the Little Ringed Plover in breeding plumage prefers to forage at freshwater habitats.

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A Greater Spotted Eagle was wintering there the week before. But only this juvenile Black Kite and a male Eastern Marsh Harrier were around.  A Booted Eagle was photographed wintering there this week.

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Tick-tock, tick-tock, the tail of the skink swinging from end to end as it was being eaten alive by the Black-winged Kite, the most common resident raptor here.

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Common Moorhen with juvenile given the zoom in treatment for effect.

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This wintering Black Drongo has a rather stubby short bill, so how is it going to catch insects with it?

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With hundreds of dragonflies around this Blue-tailed Bee-eater saved time hunting by snapping up two at one go. 

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No stones around for this Stejneger’s Stonechat so a mud mount will do.

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This is the closest we got to a Citrine Wagtail. The white supercilium did not curved down enough to form a half circle behind the ear. Eastern Yellow Wagtail.

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Sometimes lup sup birds like these Scaly-breasted Munias are worth shooting. There were flocks of White and Black-headed Munias around as well.

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The star bird of the trip is this rare Small Pratincole pointed to us by Chris Gibbins. The site fidelity of this pratincole is truly amazing.

I wished to thank Kim Keang and Veronica for arranging this trip and doing all the driving.

 

A Hattrick of Phalaropes.

The Red-necked Phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus, is a long distance migratory wader that breeds in the Arctic Tundra and spend their winters on the tropical waters off Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo. The females are more brightly colored than the males and takes no part in raising its young, a reversal to the norm.

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Part of the main flock of 11 Red-necked Phalaropes that spend their winter at sea.

It is an accident visitor to Singapore with a winter bird seen at the Tuas flooded grasslands from 16-25 November 1994. This was my only national first record.

We have to wait for another seventeen years before another was seen foraging in the Straits of Singapore on 17 April 2011 during a NSS Pelagic Survey. Coincidentally I was on board on this trip.

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The lobed toes of the right feet that helps them to paddle themselves on water can be seen in this photo.

 

On 8 October 2016, Frankie Cheong photographed a moulting juvenile to winter plumage at a freshwater puddle at the reclaimed land at Pulau Tekong, our second land record.

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In flight the upper white wing bar stands out.

Last Saturday 28 September 2019, we came across a floating flock of 14 juvenile Red-necked Phalaropes again at the Straits of Singapore, north of Batam.  My hattrick! This is the first multiple sighting of this vagrant.

They were busy feeding among the floating sea grasses, paddling around in small circles with their lobed feet. This unique habit helps to stir up the marine invertebrates up to the center for easy pickings.

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Our first multiple sightings as all the past three were single birds.

With this record and hopefully more in the years to come, we may be able to reclassified their status from vagrant to a rare winter visitor.

Reference: Wild Bird Society of Japan. A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia.                    Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

In Search of Taiwan Endemics. Yilan to Lalashan.

Our decision to fly to Taiwan and look for the endemic birds in late June was inspired by Ping Ling’s recent birding weekend to Daxueshan. She even introduced us to Liao Mei-Feng, one of the top bird guides in Taiwan. I swear she knew the calls of just about every resident species in Taiwan. She picked us up at the Taoyuan Airport in her Honda CRV and we spent the next nine days driving up and down the central lowlands and mountains in search of the 28 endemic birds that lived here.

1-DSC04750 A number of small resorts and homestays at Baling town provide accommodation for tourists to Lalashan. They are fully booked during the cherry blossoms season in February, a good time to photograph birds with a backdrop of the pink flowers.

By the time she dropped us off at the airport we had seen 27 endemic species and I managed to photograph 24 of them, more than what I had hope for. We would have got the easy Chestnut-bellied Tit at Basianshan on the last day if not for the rain. But on the whole it was a super trip. For sure it will not be possible without her local knowledge, experience and skill. A big thank you to Mei-Feng for her tenacity and be at the right place at the time. It was almost like she had pre-arranged with the pheasants and partridges to come out to meet us.

Yellow Tit

Tits are very curious birds. They can be easily attracted by the calls of the Collared Owlet. An uncommon endemic, they can be found in mixed montane forests. One of the earlier endemics that we ticked off.

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Photo opportunity are around every corner and turn along the twisting mountain roads. Photo: Liao Mei-Feng.

After the side trip to Yilan for the Fairy Pitta, we made our way to Lalashan Nature Reserve, the home of the ancient sacred trees. I have birded here on my own before but it is so different with someone who knows the place well.

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The lush green valley inside the Lalashan Reserve, with a giant Redwood Cypress tree in the distance.

This is where we got the rare endemic Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush, Ianthocincla ruficeps, thanks to the alertness of my wife. Mei-Feng was over the moon as she did not expect to find this laughingthrush here. Just as well as we did not get to see them again during the trip.

Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush

We stayed in a small family guest house that overlooks the Baling Valley.  A bubbly lady ran the place and is known for her vinegar fruit drinks. We don’t have a choice of what to have for dinner. Her husband insisted that we must have their popular deep herb infused fried chicken. Who are we to refuse? It was very flavourful but I would prefer it to be a little less well done.

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Flocks of Yuhinas and Tits visit the trees in front of the balcony of our guesthouse in the morning. We enjoyed staying in this cosy and friendly place.

Taiwan Yuhinia

Taiwan Yuhina, a common endemic, comes in flocks and sometimes as part of a bird wave.

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A very attractive Black-throated Tit is another common resident of the mixed mid level forests. 

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Wild lilies and orchids add colour to the dense and dark forest.

Wild Orchid

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One of the 22 giant Redwood Cypress that the reserve is famous for. Most are over 2,000 years old existed before Christ. Photo: Liao Mei-Feng.

 

Rusty Laughingthrush.

The Rusty Laughingthrush move in family groups foraging among the undergrowth. A common endemic, that have lost fear for humans, often coming close to path in the reserve.

Rusty Laughingthrush Juv

A newly fledged Rusty Laughingthrush waiting for the parents to bring back food.

White-tailed Robin

White-tailed Robins are common in the mossy forests. The subspecies in Taiwan is the montium. Residents of Indian Subcontinent and China and uncommon resident in highlands of Thailand and Malaysia. 

Lalashan in Fuxing District is a mere two hours drive from the airport. Many of the resorts at Baling Town can arrange pickup from the airport.

Reference: Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia

Mu-Chi Hsiao. A Field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan.

 

 

Nesting Fairy Pittas in Taiwan

When I contacted Liao Mei-feng to arrange our birding trip to Taiwan to see the endemic birds in the Central Mountains, I was curious as to why she included a night stay at Yilan in the north. Apparently a pair of Fairy Pittas, Pitta nympha, have returned to a small park near Sanxing to nest. This was their third year back to the site. It seems that the recent two nestings had failed and the pair was determined to try for another brood. This was good news for us.

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The foraging area is just next to the path. Their nest is somewhere up in the slopes in the dark thick forest on the right.

The drive from the airport on the expressway took us about two hours. We reached the site in the late afternoon and the birders there told us that the pittas came out twice this morning. They were there photographing the nesting of a pair of Taiwan Barbets. We waited till dusk without success and went to check in a local hotel at Yilan City.

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The moss covered fence gave this shot some greenery.

We made the right decision to go back to the park early next morning to try again. Normally the place will be packed with photographers but this being a Monday there was only one other birder there. He had good news for us. One of the pittas came out to the path earlier.

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Liao Mei-feng’s photo showing the pair of Fairy Pittas out foraging among the dead leaves.

We sat down and waited away from the site which cordoned off by the park staff. We did not have to wait too long. The first pitta flew in from the gully on the left and perched on the moss covered railings by the path. It was followed by its mate. Both then hopped down to the ground and started to forage for food. The Fairy Pittas look very similar to the Blue-winged Pitta. The Fairy Pitta is smaller. It has a whitish breast and belly and smaller blue wing patch. In flight the white wing patch is also much smaller. 

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Looks like a Blue-winged Pitta if not for a whitish breast and belly.

We were elated. The last time I had a glimpse of this pitta flying out of its nest was in Dongzhai in June 2016 after waiting for hours. This is the first time I get to photograph them up close. It seems that they got use to the park visitors there and were not skittish in the presence of photographers as long as we do not make any sudden movements and get too near to them.

Fairy Pitta

In the days that follow, we learned from friends that they were brooding a third batch. We hope that this will be successful just like the ones at another site further south where photos of a pair with four chicks were attracting hordes of photographers. They also breed in SE China, Korea, South Japan and winters in Borneo.

A big thank you to Mei-feng for taking us there to see and photograph my last remaining pitta in the super group of Indian, Blue-winged and Mangrove Pittas.

Reference: Mu-Chi Hsiao and Cheng-Lin Li.  A field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan. Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. 

 

 

Wild Sandakan-Sharks, Rays and Conch.

I always visit fish markets in places I travel to if I can find the time. You get an education on the variety of marine life and the life of the people there.  The Sandakan Central Market is right in the middle of the town a few minutes walk from the Four Points Hotel. It also is next to the sea with a wharf for fishing boats to berth. Fishing boats unload their catches here directly to the stalls a few meters away. You cannot get fresher seafood than this.

Besides the usual groupers, snappers, lobsters and all sizes of prawn, I found a variety of lesser seen seafood like rays, sharks and shellfishes here. This is the best way to find out the kind of marine life off the coast of this part of Borneo. 13-20190302_083750

The fish section of the Central Market faces the sea with a wharf for the fishing boats.

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Fishing boats unload their catches directly to the wharf next to the market.

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Enterprising owners setting up makeshift stalls by the wharf to auction their crabs and prawns to wholesalers.

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Tying up and sorting swimmer or flower crabs.

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A mix of baby sharks with no chance of growing up. The top ones maybe Grey Reef Sharks.

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Conches big and small. Must be delicacy here. Anyone knows the name of these conches?

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Spotted Eagle Ray.

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Cutting up another spotted ray for the restaurants.

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The sad looking underside face of a ray.

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Bonitos, a ray-finned predatory fish in the same family as the Mackerel and Tuna. Not a prized fish here.

Many thanks to Stephen Beng for identifying these sea creatures.

 

Wild Sandakan. Night Beauties.

A night walk in the rain forests of Borneo is an unforgettable experience. Many of the mammals, insects and reptiles are nocturnal and are hard to find during the day.  We joined a night walk at The Rainforest Discovery Centre at Sepilok. These walks lasting two hours, start at 6 pm covering the Canopy Walkway and the forest trails. The guides have an amazing ability to spot these night creatures and are very knowledgeable about the wildlife there. In fact without their sharp eyes we will not be able to see the rare and well hidden Western Tarsiers. We came across a roosting Wallace’s Hawk Eagle as well but was too far for any photos.

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Tarsiers are primates, found only in SEA. This Western Tarsier is one of the three species that lives in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra. We found two foraging close to the ground.

Rufous Backed KF

The jewel of the forest, a roosting Rufous-backed Kingfisher. This was a former resident of Singapore.

Giant Red Flying Squirrel

The Giant Flying Squirrel peeping out of their man-made homes. They move out close to dusk to join their fellow squirrels in the night hunt.

Peter's Bent-toed Gecko

Peter’s Bent-toed Gecko with its white bands on its body and tail. Inhabits mature forest and hunt along tree for insects. 

Tokay Gecko

Tokay Geckos, a large gecko are arboreal and solitary. Frequent homes and building near forest where they hunt for insects. Can be rather loud and noisy. 

Golden-eared Rough-sided Frog

Golden-eared Rough-sided Frog is a terrestrial frog preferring to hunt at night near swampy forest floor.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis can be brown in color as well.

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We found lots of Stick insects during the night walks including a mating pair.

Ref: Nick Baker & Kelvin Lim. Wild Animals of Singapore. 2008.

Wild Sandakan. Kinabatangan.

This is my second visit to the Kinabatangan Wetlands after a long absence. We had the river and tributaries almost to ourselves then, but today the number of nature seekers flocking to experience a slice of the wild life there has exploded. It is now harder to escape to the wild.

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Evening grow over the riverside forest of the Kinabatangan.

We did not get to see any of the endemic Pygmy Elephants or Orangutans this trip. Luckily the rest of the inhabitants are still around to give the tourists a sense of “Kinabatangan” experience.

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Morning river cruises are cool and misty. Life around the river was just stirring.

We joined the 3D2N package offered by the Borneo Natural Sukau Bilit Resort and went along with their morning and evening river cruises, day and night walks with the rest of the guests. As I was not expecting much and certainly not thinking of getting close to the Storm Stork or Oriental Darters, I was able to enjoy whatever nature that we came across.

Borneon Natural Sukau Bilit Resort

The resort dining area faces the river with comfortable chalets at the back connected by boardwalks. It is a two hours drive from Sepilok to Sukau where a number of resorts can be found.

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Nice and clean looking baby crocodile estimated to be 6 years old.

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Mama crocodile spend most of the day sunbathing at the muddy banks digesting its meal.

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Alpha males has to fight off younger male to keep its harem.

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A bachelor group of younger males foraging and playing together. 

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The “Pinocchio” nose and big stomach set these Proboscis monkey apart from the rest of the primates.

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All the photography along the river are done on board the boat. 

Plume-toed Swifltet

Plume-toed Swiflets hawking insects over the forests in the evening.

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A flock of 20 Bushy-crested Hornbills can be really noisy when they all started to communicate with each other. This was taken behind the resort.

Oriental Darter

Oriental Darters is one of the more common waterbirds along the river bands. I remembered getting really close to them drying their feathers during my last trip, but not anymore.

Wrinkled Hornbill

This Wrinkled Hornbill flew across very early one morning and this is the best I can do to bring out the colors.

White-crowned Shama

The White-crowned Shama was our alarm clock every morning at the resort. The call is just as melodious as the White-rumped Shama. It is endemic to Borneo and quite common.

Wild Sandakan. Sepilok

Just a mere 26 Km west of Sandakan is the Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve, where the popular Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre and the Rainforest Discovery Centre are located. Several nature resorts fringing the reserve cater to the needs of eco tourists to the area. One of these is the Sepilok Forest Edge Resort, where I spent 2 nights recently.

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The open air dining platform looks into the greenery and trees which are left to grow wild.

The owner Datuk Peter Pang himself is a keen bird photographer, whose excellent photos can be viewed at the resort. He made sure that the trees and greenery have been left intact to retain a lush habitat for the wildlife there. A small lake in the middle of the resort attracts a few waterbirds to the place. Jungle trails at the back of the resort allows trekking into the mature secondary forest where many of the rare birds can be seen.

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The feeding platform at the resort catering to the starlings and bulbuls and leafbirds.

I did most of my birding here after I found a roosting Rufous-backed Kingfisher at a gully just outside my chalet. And I was not disappointed. I recorded 40 species there and would have crowned my visit with the much wanted Bornean Bristlehead if I have checked out an hour late.

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This Black-backed Kingfisher may be nesting at the resort.

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This Buah Cherry tree is planted next to the open restaurant and visited by many frugivorous birds including this Greater Green Leafbird.

Buff-necked Woodpecker

A pair of Buff-necked Woodpeckers took their time looking for grubs in the tree trunks oblivious to my presence. This is the male.

Buff-vented Bulbul

Buff-vented Bulbuls is one of the more common bulbuls beside the Yellow-vented at the resort.

Orange-belled Flowerpecker

Wild Bananas and other fruit trees like the Starfruit are planted for birds like this Orange-bellied Flowerpecker.

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The resort is home to a pair of Black and Red Broadbills which is nesting near one of the ponds at the resort.

Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker

The endemic Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker feeding on the wild Hairy Clidemia berries.

Sandakan Checklist