Friday, 27 July 2012

BORNEO July 2012: Kubah NP, Sarawak

23-27 July.  After what seemed like two days of travelling Nick Preston and I exited Kuching airport at 10pm on 23 July, an hour late.  Rossi, a representative of Cat City Tours was waiting to drive us to Kubah National Park where we checked into a basic room in the hostel an hour later.  Rossi was staying the night too, to drive us around the park for the morning.  It was nice to be able to lie down.
Kota Kinabalu airport during our seven hour wait for a flight to Kuching, having earlier flown from UK via Bandar Seri Bagwan.  Not my best bit of routing but it was cheap and seemed like a good idea at the time!

Our guide Yeo Siew Teck arrived early the following morning and Rossi drove us all into the park to an altitude of 1500ft.  Here Yeo played a recording of Blue-banded Pitta which elicited an immediate but rather distant reply.  Yeo persisted but it came no closer and after 20 minutes it was felt better to try elsewhere, it not being practical to leave the road and head in after it.  Two areas visited, along the Waterfall Trail, produced no response but the next, 350m along the Main Trail did, and somewhat closer than the earlier one.  Yeo got us all to tuck ourselves in behind the buttress of a nearby tree out of sight of where the bird appeared to be.  Yeo was now whistling an imitation of the birds call which made it easier to 'reply' to it than using a recording would.  The bird was clearly interested but didn't seem to be coming any closer although Yeo cautioned against trying to look for it telling us that patience was more likely to be successful.  It was a hard line to follow but we did, for 45 minutes, until the bird flew in over our heads and landed just out of view about 10 feet up.  Yeo had warned us that if this happened we shouldn't move suddenly as that would scare it off.  We held our nerve and it soon continued calling.  Yeo then instructed us to move slightly and there it was!  Our most wanted bird of the trip in almost full view little more than 30 feet away.  It was absolutely brilliant.  After about 15 minutes it dropped onto the ground where we saw it briefly before it hopped behind a thick tangle of vegetation and out of sight.  The perfect start to our trip!

Blue-banded Pitta - record shot taken by the very highly recommended Yeo Siew Teck ( ).  I was too busy watching it to even consider photography.

Another record shot by Yeo.  It was a very bright bird, the blue feathering behind the eye and on the 'necklace' particularly so.  Brilliant.
We returned to the hostel where we said goodbye to Yeo.  He was an excellent guide and we felt our decision to have a morning birding with him was the best decision we'd made in a long time.  Rossi, for whom the pitta was also a lifer, drove us to the nearest shop to stock up with food - the hostel was self-catering.  He dropped us back at the hostel and we were on our own.  We headed straight back down the Main Trail but despite the pitta still calling we never managed to get that close (it was very hard to tell where its call was coming from).  Still, a brilliant day.

We spent the next three days on the trails and walking up the road (to 2500ft) but only once did we hear Blue-banded Pitta again, very distantly from the start of the Waterfall Trail.  Our time with Yeo was getting better all the time!

We saw some other nice birds at Kubah, the best being Reddish Scops Owl (seen from the road opposite the Frog Pond with Brown Hawk Owl heard there too), Jambu Fruit Dove (twice), Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Red-billed Malkoha, Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Rufous Piculet, Green and Black & Yellow Broadbills, Maroon-breasted Philentoma, Scarlet-breasted, Yellow-breasted & Yellow-rumped Flowerpeckers (unfortunately I missed the first), Fairy Bluebird, Chestnut-naped Forktail, White-crowned and Rufous-tailed Shamas and Rufous-chested Flycatcher.  We particularly enjoyed the Frog Pond after dark, although early evening rain put us off from visiting it until our last evening and then I forgot to take my camera.

Photography was always going to be difficult and on a trip almost entirely in forest I didn't take my normal telescope and tripod so digiscoping was out.

forest trail at Kubah - very well maintained with 50m markers and 'you are here' maps and junctions throughout

view north from Selang tower

Kubah Waterfall

flowers by the road at Kubah
Rajah Brookes Birdwing at Kubah.  Easily the size of a small bird, it is bright green on the upperwing
tortoise at Kubah

much better camouflaged amongst the leaves
looking back at Kubah from Kuching Airport
MASWings ATR 72, our 'ride' back to Kota Kinabalu

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