Sunday, 22 July 2012


25 years ago Nick Preston and I spent almost 4 weeks birding in Sabah.  In 1987 we did not know about the very recently opened Danum Valley Field Centre, neither did we know enough about Poring Hot Springs to make us feel a visit there would be worthwhile so our trip was based around Sepilok and Kinabalu National Park with a visit to Gomantong Caves.  We had a good trip and saw some excellent birds but it was hard work and a few major ‘gaps’ remained, in particular Blue-banded Pitta and Bornean Bristlehead.  A return to Borneo remained on the back burner until 2002 when Nick returned on a trip I was unable to join.  They visited Danum and Poring but still no Blue-banded Pitta although Nick did see the Bristlehead and the then unsplit Banded Pitta.  

Meanwhile Blue-banded Pitta was climbing into my top five ‘wanted’ birds ...  In late 2010 I saw the stunning photos of it on the Dig Deep blog taken at Kubah National Park (see  A return to Borneo was back in the frame and with the splitting of the Bornean race of Banded Pitta and regular sightings of Bornean Ground Cuckoo along the Kinabatangan River we decided on a return in July 2012.  It was perhaps not the best time to go but at least work commitments allowed us more than two weeks then.  We based the trip around maximising the chance of seeing Blue-banded Pitta and a few other subsidiary targets.  A visit to Kubah was a must and internet searches suggested that Yeo Siew Teck (birdguide and Tour Manager for Cat City Holidays had been successful in showing several birders the pitta.  Yeo was contacted and quickly booked accommodation in Kubah and arranged transfers to and from the airport for us.  We also hired him for our first morning to look for the pitta so we would at least know the best areas to concentrate on in our time there.  We then booked flights, two nights on the Kinabatangan River with Robert Chong (Mr Ground-Cuckoo), a week at Danum Valley Field Centre and a car for our last week when we intended visiting Poring, Kinabalu and the Rafflesia Centre in the Crocker Range.  Before we knew it we were off …

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