Chris Barnes wanted to continue birding at Sepilok, so we parted
company with Ken and Chris at the Highway Junction. The rest of us
transferred to another vehicle and set off for Mt Kinabalu with a
young guide named Ben Duncan (a keen photographer with his own web
The pre-lunch highlight of the drive through the oil palm plantations
was a White-fronted Falconet perched on a powerline. Falconets are
the smallest raptors –they are about the size of an Eastern Yellow
Robin and terrorise lizards and insects.
After lunch, we left the oil palm country and began a slow climb into
the Crocker Range. The landscape changed to forested highlands, with
intermittently farmed hillsides and valleys.
We noticed a raptor perched on a transmission tower on top of a knoll
and walked up the access track to get a better view. It scarpered
before we could get a look at it, but we did have a productive time
peering into the rainforest near the security guard’s hut. We had
nice views of a Scarlet Minivet and I managed to see a Rufous Piculet
– a tiny odd looking green and chestnut bird with no tail. We arrived
at Mt Kinabalu just before dusk.
Mt Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in Borneo (4095 metres). It is a
granodiorite massif towering over the surrounding highlands. It is a
popular mountain for climbing tourists (although non-technical, the
climb is regulated and climbers must be accompanied by a guide). The
mountaineer in me would like to spend some time exploring it.
For the naturalist, Mt Kinabalu is a biodiversity hotspot. Its
Wikipedia entry notes that Kinabalu National Park is host to as many
as 6000 species of plants, including 800 species of orchids and 600
species of ferns. From a birding perspective, 326 species of birds
have been recorded in the Park. Phillips notes that it is the best
place to go looking for Borneo’s montane endemics.
The climate around the National Park HQ is quite pleasant, with the
1500 m altitude providing temperate conditions. There are many good
walking paths through the rainforest. Sutera Sanctuary Lodges manage
the accommodation (generally not cheap). We stayed at the Peak Lodge,
which provided great views of the Mountain from its front verandah.
Apparently, some people do their birdwatching from the verandah, but
we got onto a good birdwave near the back of a dormitory (where we saw
a dozen species in no time). We also did a bit of birding near the
Timpohon Gate (start of the climb). We ran into Quentin Phillipps
(who kindly gave us fold-out guides to the birds of Mt Kinabalu). We
dipped on (the rare) Everett’s Thrush (in the 30 minutes we allocated
to the search) but Andrew had a view of a Red-breasted Partridge. We
also had good views of a Grey Wagtail (an uncommon vagrant in
Australian territory) on the drive up to the Timpohon Gate.
During the short time we were at Mt Kinabalu, I added 20 species to my
trip list, including a barbet, a minivet, a sunbird, two laughing
thrushes, a flycatcher, a jungle-flycatcher, a yuhina, a white-eye, a
babbler, a shrike-babbler, a forktail, a treepie, a magpie, a
whistler, a drongo, a fantail, a tailorbird and a cuckoo-dove.
Chris Sanderson wanted to spend more time birding at Mt Kinabalu, so
we waved goodbye to him at the Park HQ and set off down the range to
To be continued ….==============================www.birding-aus.org
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