Friday 22 September 2023

Sabah - September 2023 : Part 2

Day 3 - Mt Trusmadi

Hoiling and I thought it was a good idea to check the moth traps again early in the morning. At 4:30am, we were outside looking for moths. This time we hit jackpot! As a male Malaysian Moon Moth dropped in! Which is probably our most wanted species here. Other than the Moon Moth, there were plenty of interesting moths and insects around to keep us well entertained.

Malaysian Moon Moth - Actias meanas

Cyana sp.

Arthroschista tricoloralis

Amplypterus panopus

Eucyclodes gavissima

Comostola pyrrhogona

Antheraea helferi

Thyas javanica

Eupterote sp.

Antheraea rosieri

Ischyja subreducta

Eudocima kinabaluensis

Agape chloropyga

Nygmia epirotica

Episparis exprimens

Samia tetrica

Neopheosia fasciata

Ambulyx canescens

Chorotypus sp.

Paraepepeotes gigas

Trichogomphus simson

Xylocopa myops

Xylocopa sp.

There were barely any time for insects, before we had to head back into the bird hide. We arrived at the break of dawn, everything was quiet, except the call of White-crowned Shamas. The usual suspects were present, and the waiting began yet again…

White-crowned Shama

A Bornean Banded Pitta kept calling nearby, it took a while before it finally decided to show at around 7am. It never went onto the feeding station to feed, only hopping through in front of the hide. This being a male was a real show stopper, and certainly one of my main target of this trip.

Bornean Banded Pitta - male

The rest of the morning was gruelling, as there were no new birds at all, and the Bulwer's Pheasants were nowhere to be found! The male Dayak Blue Flycatcher kept us remotely interested as it posed in front of the hide. 

Dayak Blue Flycatcher - male

We finally gave up at lunch time and headed back to the main raod. A fruiting tree nearby attracted several species, including some beautiful Scaly-breasted Bulbuls. An Asian Brown Flycatcher was seen, as well as an Ashy Drongo. 

Scaly-breasted Bulbul

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Ashy Drongo

One of the better bird here were a few Bornean Bulbuls, another island endemic that is new to me. A female Black-and-Crimson Oriole came through for a good look. On the way back to the camp I spotted a Changeable Hawk Eagle behind the trees.

Bornean Bulbul

Black-and-Crimson Oriole

Changeable Hawk Eagle

After lunch we enjoyed a bit of garden birding here, with a few Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush posing nicely. Both the male and female Temminck's Sunbirds showed well at the flowers, while another Bornean endemic came through in form of a pair of Yellow-rumped Flowerpeckers.

Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush

Temminck's Sunbird - male

Temminck's Sunbird - female

Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker - female

Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker - male

Mist soon came in and later turned into rain, but we still added a lovely looking female Bornean Leafbird feeding at eye-level, this is one of the very few species where the female looks more interesting than the males, with bright bluish green plumage around its head. An Orange-bellied Flowerpecker was also spotted, feeding on Lantana fruits, which is interesting for me, as I've never seen any flowerpeckers feeding on that in Hong Kong!

Bornean Leafbird - female

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker

For the afternoon session, we decided to try the other bird hide, mainly targeting Crested Partridge there. As with the previous bird hide, things were generally quiet, the only bird that actively came to the feeding station were a few Short-tailed Babblers. I saw a large bird flying in from afar and landed not too far from our hide, turns out it was a Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo! A brilliant addition to our trip list.

Short-tailed Babbler

Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo

Crested Partridges are known to be very shy and difficult to see well in the wild, and even at this dedicated bird hide, they can still make it difficult for you to see them well. We noticed several males that continued to come close to the bird hide, but always staying within the vegetation and in the background. It was scared off even by the sound of Captain's and Ki's DSLR shutters!(more reason to go mirrorless) In the end, one male decided to come out to feed very briefly, before disappearing again back into the undergrowth, giving us full view of this magnificent looking species.

Crested Partridge - male

It was raining throughout much of the evening, so Hoiling and I decided to sleep in early and check the moth traps again in the morning.

Day 4 - Mt Trusmadi > Mt Kinabalu

This was our last morning at Jungle Girl Camp, meaning it was our last chance for the Bulwer's Pheasant. The guys decided to meet at 6am, but Hoiling and I were up way before that, down at the moth traps looking for moths and insects. Again, there were plenty of great moths despite the strong wind that morning, with two beautiful Brahmaea hearseyi being the highlight!

Brahmaea hearseyi

Zamarada denticulata

Biston insularis

Utetheisa abraxoides

Sacada sp.

Nemophora sp.

Chorodna complicataria

Ourapteryx sp.

Agathia cristifera

Omiza lycoraria

Bracca maculosa

Shachia vernalis

Radhica elisabethae

Xyleutes strix

Antheraea helferi

Aethalida borneana

Asota kinabaluensis

Glanycus coendersi

Ambulyx sericeipennis

Daphnusa ocellaris

Marumba sperchius

Eupanacra psaltria

Cechetra lineosa

Apsarasa radians

Southeast Asian Dead Leaf Mantis was an excellent model for photos, as were various other beetles and stick insects. As I was photographing some mantises, I heard some yelping noises coming from below the slope, the noise soon got closer and two Masked Palm Civets revealed themselves! The subspecies in Borneo looks drastically different from those found in Hong Kong.

Asian Dead Leaf Mantis - Deroplatys lobata

Hoplocerambyx spinicornis

Cyclommatus lunifer

Chorotypus sp.

Creobroter sp.

Odontolabis brookeana

Batocera parryi

Phyllium chenqiae

Masked Palm Civet

At 6am, we all headed back down to the Bulwer's Pheasant bird hide. Honestly, it was probably one of the most boring sessions at a bird hide I've ever had, there were pratically no birds except for the White-crowned Shamas and the Dayak Blue Flycatcher, of which we've exhausted all the different poses of these two species! The Bornean Banded Pitta and Great Argus called every so often, but that was about all that were present most of the time. We waited until 10am with no pheasants to show for. Half an hour before we gave up, a small flock of birds came through, and within them were a few Grey-headed Babbler, the only new bird for me that morning!

Dayak Blue Flycatcher - male

Grey-headed Babbler

We headed back up the road, where Liew heard the call of a Helmeted Hornbill, but we were unable to locate it behind all the trees, four Wreathed Hornbills did flew past for a good look. A few Scaly-breasted Bulbuls were feeding quite low down, giving wonderful views, while a female Greater Green Leafbird also presented itself.

Wreathed Hornbill - male & female

Scaly-breasted Bulbul

Greater Green Leafbird - female

And that was it, after 4 sessions of waiting inside the bird hides, we still dipped on the Bulwer's Pheasant. For whatever reason they did not come through we do not know, as someone else photographed them just the day before we arrived! While these feeding stations provides better chances in finding these extremely difficult birds, this hurtful dip is a reminder that they are still wild animals, and if they don't want to be seen, there is nothing you can do! We packed our stuff and headed back down the mountain on the bumpy road. At the gate of the forest, Captain spotted a Red-bearded Bee-eater.

Red-bearded Bee-eater

After that, it was a drive towards Mt Kinabalu. As we did not need 4x4 from this point onwards, we swapped cars at Tambunan and had lunch there. After that, it was the winding road towards Ranau and Kundasang up to Kinabalu Park HQ. Liew decided it was best we go into the park directly and check into the hotel afterwards, this will give us a few more hours of birding before the day ends.

It used to be quite straight forward for birders who wanted to visit Mt Kinabalu, you just turn up there with your own car and you can go anywhere within the park all the way up to Timpohon Gate. Now, things are more strict, normal cars are not allowed up the road, and you can only go as far as the Liwagu Restaurant. If you wish to drive up there, a permit is required at the office. You are also not allowed to just go into the park early morning pre-dawn, you now have to wait till the park opens to be able to get in, if you wish to go in before office hours, you also have to get permission from the office...all in all, a lot more restrictions. The entrance fee of the park is now more expensive than before, costing 50RM per person, over three times the original price!

The new gate above Liwagu Restaurant

After Liew got our permits, we headed up towards Timpohon Gate. Things were generally quiet up there, with barely any birds around. A film crew was up there having setup a lot of equipment, taking footages of Nepenthes rajah, also known as the Giant Montane Pitcher Plant, is the largest species of carnivorous plant on earth, it is endemic to the montane forests of Sabah. My guess is that they were trying to capture animals falling into these great pitchers.

Nepenthes rajah

Up above, a Temminck's Sunbird was about the only bird present, so we decided to head back down the road to look for other birds. I was not disappointed, as Liew soon found us a pair of Everett's Thrush, my top target here at Mt Kinabalu this trip! They were foraging on the leaf litter by the roadside, and allowed fairly close approach. This highly sought after endemic is not the easiest to find if you don't know where to look, I've missed it on all three previous visits here.

Temminck's Sunbird - male

Everett's Thrush - top target at Mt Kinabalu!

It was already getting quite dark, up the road a little we added a nice looking male Whitehead's Broadbill, which gave fleeting views for everyone, a pair was quite vocal and active. Nearby a Bornean Whistler also showed up, together with smaller birds like Mountain Leaf Warblers and Yellow-breasted Warblers, but nothing much else was added.

Whitehead's Broadbill - male

Bornean Whistler

We stayed at Zen Garden Resort down at Kundasang, it is quite a nice little resort with comfortable rooms. Everyone got an early rest to prepare for another day on Mt Kinabalu in the morning.


  1. I think it's Yellow Rumped Flowerpecker not Yellow Vented.

    1. Thanks Kaeden, you are absolutely right, it was a typo, sometimes my hands type quicker than my brain!

  2. Gorgeous pics as always! Shame about the Bulwer's but the insect lights at Trus Madi are something to behold. Out of curiosity what setup do you use for your insect photos? Very envious of those moon moths...

    1. Thanks! Indeed, those insects were incredible. I just brought a 24-105mm with me, together with a canon speedlite and a homemade diffuser.