Friday, June 15, 2007

Sabah trip, Day 10: 5th June, Kinabalu Park

The many moods of Mount Kinabalu: at night ...

At dawn ...

Mid-morning ...

Late afternoon.

I was up at dawn to do battle again with the horseflies on the BUT, which this time was even more birdless than yesterday. I tried walking both ways along it, and spent some time around the power station, adding Golden-naped Barbet, Sunda Laughingthrush and Bornean Whistler as new birds.

One of a group of Sunda Laughingthrushes.

The rats' place around the rubbish dump had been taken by numerous Bornean Ground Squirrels.

The Silau-Silau Trail was the same story as the BUT - almost completely birdless.

I decided to try lower down the mountain, and trekked up the Pandanus Trail, which was apparently built for the 15th World Mountain Running Trophy race, held in 1999. It was hard enough to walk up it, I just can't imagine running up it! It was a bit more birdy however, with good views obtained of Yellow-breasted Warblers, Black-capped White-eyes, a juv Indigo Flycatcher, an Eye-browed Jungle Flycatcher and several Mountain Leaf Warblers.

The best I could do of this tiny Yellow-breasted Warbler, reminiscent in both size and call of goldcrests in the UK.

A juvenile Indigo Flycatcher was characteristically confiding.

Black-capped is the common white-eye species on the mountain slopes.

Several Mountain Leaf Warblers were singing and holding territory. Birds here tend to be less yellow than the birds on the Peninsula. I was intrigued by the variation in lower mandible markings. This one has a prominent dark tip ...

...while this one appears to have an unmarked yellowish-orange lower mandible.

And how about this one? An almost completely dark lower mandible and a strong yellow suffusion overall. A juvenile bird perhaps, as it seems to be in pristine plumage. Note also the greyish-blue legs, compared to the others which have flesh pink legs. Obviously quite a variable species!

At lunchtime I met a couple of birders from Spain who were having a similar lack of success on the trails. They had seen neither of the partridges, none of the Whitehead's trio, nor any other of the biggies (such as the Fruithunter and Everett's Thrush). After lunch I decided to visit the Zoology Dept above the HQ to try to find someone who could give me some pointers. I spoke to a guy called David Simpongon, who's main speciality is snakes, but who seemed to know quite a bit about the birds too. He thought the lack of birdlife on the trails may be due to the lack of rain.

I spent a couple of hours photographing the swiftlets that nest all around the HQ buildings.

What's going on here then?! This is supposedly Glossy Swiftlet, 'Collocalia esculenta cyanoptila', the same race that occurs in Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, yet it is very different, with a far paler belly (gleaming white in fact!). I've photographed Glossy Swiftlets in Sarawak and on the Peninsula, and in both places, the belly is grey, noticeably paler than the glossy blue-black upperparts, but nothing like as pale as this. Check out the difference here. These birds seem chunkier and not so sharp-winged as 'normal' C.e.cyanoptila

The bluish gloss on the upperparts identifies this as a Glossy Swiftlet. Cave Swiftlet, which McKinnon notes as occurring on Mount Kinabalu, has a greenish gloss to the upperparts. Hmm ... still not fully convinced this is the same as C.e.cyanoptila that we see in other parts of the country.

In the late afternoon I tried the top of the Liwagu Trail, which follows the river Liwagu. I came across a Whitehead's Broadbill nest, which, unfortunately for me, was unattended by any birds.

In my notebook I summarised the day thus: 'Slogged trails from dawn till dusk with scant reward!' I had expected Danum Valley to be hard, but actually, it was easy compared to this.

No comments: