Saturday, September 23, 2017

Into the Heart of Borneo (well, almost) – WBCM trip to Sarawak 2017

Wild Bird Club Malaysia went on an adventure in Sarawak from 15th to 18th September 2017. We arrived in Kuching airport on a sunny Friday morning around 9.30am and were greeted by Mr and Mrs Vincent Wong. Their four-wheel Toyota Cruiser was already laden with food and bottled water for the 4 days ahead of us. They had loaded local snacks, bottled water, Tebaloi (sago biscuits), carton of eggs, canned sardines, bread, butter, Sarawak puffed rice biscuits (red onion and sesame), peanut butter, barbeque supplies (including the charcoal) for 22 persons into their four-wheel Cruiser – an amazing feat indeed. Julianna met us at the foothills of Borneo Highland Resort (BHR), as we boarded our shuttle bus to reach the jungle cabins and clubhouse of the Resort. 

We had Sarawak Kolo mee and Sarawak laksa for lunch. Birdwatching was foremost in our mind so our instinctive reaction after lunch was to look for the fruiting tree that was in front of Mr and Mrs Alan Koh’s jungle cabin. Red-throated barbet flew into this tree and perched for a while as we were observing the Red-eyed bulbuls. Mr Tang spotted a Thick-billed pigeon sitting very quietly inside this tree just above the barbet. The pigeon was still as a rock, burying its head inside its fluffed out chest blue. The blue orbital skin around its eye was visible when the pigeon started preening its feathers. Twelve thick-billed pigeons eventually flew out of the tree late that afternoon. They were like rabbits appearing out of a magician’s hat. Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle had landed on an exposed branch in a taller tree by the mountainside. We had very good views of this raptor as it stayed perched for quite a long time that afternoon. Rufous-bellied Eagle (juvenile) soared across the skies later that day.


Dinner barbeque that night consisted of
Sarawak sweetcorn, sweet potato, fish, chicken wings and chicken sausages. It started to rain just when the charcoal was being lit so it took a while to get the fire going. Twenty two hungry birdwatchers had a sumptuous BBQ dinner that rainy night , with the wind blowing in from the mountains of Borneo. BHR is located on the mountain plateau, 1,000 meters above sea level, on the Penrissen Range amongst the world’s oldest and second largest rainforest. You
can visit their website at http://www.borneohighlands.com.my/ . Crested Jay was sighted earlier that Friday afternoon by one of our members, Thomas and heard calling twice by a few of us on a late Saturday morning as we walked towards BHR’s clubhouse. Bejampong is the name given to it by the Iban tribe. The Crested Jay is one of the seven Iban omen birds which is also known as the Rain bird. This bird lived up to its reputation and the rain poured down from the heavens that Saturday morning in Borneo Highlands Resort.  



We celebrated Malaysia Day at the Kalimantan viewpoint. The mountain range across the Malaysia-Indonesia border was covered with mist so the views of Kalimantan mountain range remain a mystery to us. The sun broke through the mist at around 11am, as we continued to bird around the grounds of BHR right up to the afternoon, breaking only for our vegetarian lunch at the Resort. Some of the birds seen at BHR were the Bornean Brown Barbet, Chestnut Crested Yuhina, Pygmy White Eye, Dusky Munia, Black-headed Bulbul, Red-billed Malkoha. We checked out of BHR by 4.45pm. Our shuttle bus driver drove us down to the foothills. The Lesser Green Leafbird , Orange-bellied flowerpecker and Blue-eared Barbet greeted us as we were about to board our bus towards Kuching.


The number of bird species seen or heard from Borneo Highlands Resort by WBCM have been logged into eBird Malaysia and can be viewed at   
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39266256
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39266343 

Seafood dinner at Topspot Kuching awaited us. It was a rooftop dining experience on a drizzly Saturday night. Butter prawns, steamed fish, Black pepper crabs, Oysters fried “in a basket” (Sarawak has the crunchier version), Sea cucumber soup, Braised egg tofu and Stir-fried fern were all dished out in quick succession and finished in record time. Kubah National Park which was 22km away from Kuching was our final destination. We reached Kubah and settled in for the night in our Chalets.
  
Kubah National Park comprised of sandstone ridge with its three mountain peaks (see:- https://www.sarawakforestry.com/htm/snp-np-kubah.html). It rained the whole Sunday morning in Kubah - the mighty Bejampong’s reputation extended to this part of Sarawak! We birdwatched from the balconies of our chalets in Kubah and were rewarded with sightings of Flowerpeckers, Sunbirds, Bulbuls, Minivets, Asian fairy bluebird, Buff-rumped woodpecker, Emerald Dove and Spot-throated Fantail. The rain did not dampen our enthusiasm and we started our trek upwards towards the frog pond, Kubah trail and Waterfall trail, as soon as the rain stopped. We birded the whole Sunday afternoon along the tarred road. Sunday dinner consisted of stir-fried local fern, chicken dish, local brinjal with fish, vegetarian fried rice and fried vermicelli.     

Vincent introduced us to the Microhyla Nepenthicola, the world’s second smallest frog species during Sunday night walk at the world-renown frog pond of Kubah National Park. We could see the Microhyla Nepenthicola tadpoles (either sleeping or swimming) inside the Pitcher plants. It was a very interesting herping session for WBCM. Never knew frogs could be just as colourful as birds with green, zebra stripes, brown, pink hues – we had to step very gently and slowly on the planks that night.   



The Rufous-collared Kingfisher, Temminck’s Sunbird, Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, Black & Yellow Broadbill, Little Spiderhunter, Gray-breasted Spiderhunter, Spectacled Spiderhunter, Rufous Piculet were amongst some of the birds which provided us much excitement the following Monday morning. Syafiq was the lucky one to see the Jambu Fruit Dove on our last day of birdwatching in Kubah. The number of bird species seen or heard at Kubah National Park by WBCM have been logged into eBird Malaysia and can be viewed at   
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39293188
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39293314



Although we didn’t venture into the heart of Borneo to birdwatch, our birdwatching locations in Borneo Highland Resort and Kubah National Park did not disappoint. The good food, amazing company especially from Sarawak’s wonder couple Mr and Mrs Vincent Wong and wonderfully helpful Julianna (with her special Sarawak mooncakes) made this a very fun outing indeed.    

Text by Yeo Yee Ling
Pictures by Tang Tuck Hong, Mohd Syafiq Sivakumaran, Andy Lee and Ang Teck Hin  

2 comments:

  1. Read on about the birds of Sarawak and our members' experience when WBCM participated at the 2016 Sarawak Bird Race at http://www.wildbirdclub.my/2016/10/sarawak-international-bird-race-2016.html

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  2. Outing with friends or family is always interesting!. the Sarwak trip sounds very interesting and informative as it tells the beauty of birds like bulbuls, pigeons and many more. Thanks for sharing ur trip to Sarawak :)

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