Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sabah Trip. Day 3: 29th May, Danum Valley Field Centre

A brilliant day in the field today, with many highlights - a male Blue-headed Pitta being the main one; also, seeing all 4 lowland trogons, 4 hornbill species and 3 orang utans.

A map of the Grid. This morning we walked from the 'You are here' sign, up to W5N0, then left to W5S5, then back along a riverside trail (not shown on this map) to the bridge.

At dawn, we walked around the research area known as 'the Grid'. It was quiet for long periods, and we only saw 4 species in the forest, but one of these was the pitta. We saw it briefly some way up the trail. When it hopped out of view, we walked quietly up to where we'd last seen it, whereupon it hopped up onto a tree root close to us, before flying into the forest. A real jewel of a bird! No time to take a photo, but to see what one looks like, check here.

Our first trogon of the day was this male Scarlet-rumped, responding to our whistled imitation of its call.

We surprised this male Emerald Dove on the trail.

A mid-morning breakfast at the restaurant was enlivened by great views of a Black Eagle, as well as a variety of birds coming to feed in the fruiting tree below the verandah...

... such as Red-eyed Bulbuls ...

... and this fine male White-crowned Shama

This immature blue flycatcher caused us a few identification problems, until eventually we had good views of the parent bird, and were able to identify it as a Malaysian Blue Flycatcher.

Breakfast over, we set out on the Tembeling Waterfall trail, reknowned location of the near mythical Giant Pitta. First off was another trogon, the first of many Diard's Trogons.

The 'song' of these birds was an almost constant feature of our trail walks. They seemed to be so numerous that we jokingly referred to them as 'trash birds'! Note the broken tail feathers of this individual.

Later along this trail we also added Red-naped Trogon, and then, after imitating a strange, pitta-like call, succeeded in calling in a male Cinnamon-rumped Trogon, much to our surprise.

Trogons a-go-go! A poor shot of a pretty rare bird, Cinnamon-rumped Trogon.

Several hours were spent 'in conversation' with a calling Giant Pitta. Its soft hollow whistle was frustratingly difficult to pinpoint, and, though the bird was extremely close at times, we never got a glimpse. We even heard the wingbeats. The bird's ability to throw its voice, so that it seemed to come from different directions with successive calls, had us wondering whether it was in fact high up in the canopy, perhaps even directly over our heads. No amount of neck-craning prevailed however, and eventually we had to admit defeat.

These large Nymph butterflies fly so slowly through the forest they appear to be floating through the air.

While listening to a calling Black-and-Crimson Pitta, we noticed this whip snake in the bush in front of us. The snout appears too long for Oriental Whip Snake. I've since been told it is a Long-nosed Whip Snake.

Back in the late 80s I travelled round Malaysia and Thailand with Phil Hurrell. I went on to work with AWB, while he went off, rediscovered Schneider's Pitta, and started building canopy walkways and tree towers in various places, and working for the David Attenborough series "The Life of Birds". It was great to bump into a reminder of those good old days, though I didn't dare to climb the tower - nothing personal Phil if you ever read this! Where are you now???

Even though there was no rain all day, the river rose dramatically in the late afternoon, demonstrating how potentially dangerous it can be to swim in these large forest rivers.

Another night walk around the nature trail yielded a fleeting glimpse of a mouse deer, more spiders, and this stick insect.


Anonymous said...

the whip snake with long nose is Ahaetulla nasuta

digdeep said...

Thanks for the id, whoever you are!