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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Borneo: Sarawak Endemics

Black Oriole, Hose's Broadbill and Dulit Frogmouth

2023 Narrative

Day 1, May 29: We met in the evening for a short introductory meeting, including meeting Yeo from Kuching, before our delicious dinner at the Dynasty Chinese Restaurant. The pan-fried lamb chop in coffee sauce was sensational!

Day 2, May 30: A very early start at 0400 did ensure that we arrived at Klias Forest Reserve in time for some excellent birding. After a two-hour drive, we first enjoyed a car park breakfast (I think the dogs and cats ate more of it than we did, mind you) amid the morning chorus of barbets and babblers before we hit the boardwalks in search of some very special Bornean birds that are specialists of this mangrove and swamp forest. Our main target, the scarce Hook-billed Bulbul, was soon tracked down and this excellent sighting was followed by Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Red-billed Malkoha, Crimson-winged Woodpecker and, best of all, the Red-crowned Barbet.

We then headed southwards to the other Bornean Malaysian state of Sarawak (leaving Sabah). First, we stopped for a really delicious lunch at the very Malaysian Hao Wei Restaurant in the town of Lawas. Everything was very tasty! We then transferred from our minibus to three 4WD vehicles for the long and bumpy drive into the Sarawak hinterlands. We arrived at 2000, settled into our homestay and enjoyed another delicious meal prepared by our hosts.

Day 3, May 31: This morning after breakfast we made our way up the bumpy Bario Road, near the border with Indonesia, for the first of our birding sessions in this wonderful forest. While we had many highlights this morning, one in particular caused enormous excitement – a seemingly plain bird alighted near us and was soon determined to be the near-mythical Malaysian Honeyguide. A new bird for your leader (after many years of searching for it)!

Many other great birds included the Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Dark Hawk-Cuckoo, Bornean and Mountain Barbets, very cute Black-thighed Falconets, Dusky Broadbill, Pygmy White-eyes, Bornean Leafbird and even more.

In the evening, we visited an area we dubbed The Three Bridges in hopes of finding the elusive Dulit Frogmouth. This exceptionally cryptic nocturnal denizen is restricted to the mountains of this area and Ba’Kelalan is arguably the best place in the world to see it. Although we didn’t all see it tonight, we had compensation in the form of Malaysian Ear-Nightjar and an unexpected Buffy Fish-Owl perched right in the middle of the airport runway!

Day 4, June 1: Another pre breakfast attempt for the Dulit Frogmouth was successful this time, much to our delight. That thermal scope worked wonders! A noisy but elusive group of Crested Shrikejays was an added bonus. After breakfast we headed back up the Bario Road where we had a fantastic birding session.

So many highlights – how about that stunning Green Broadbill? Or the Brown Fulvetta that attacked me? Then there was the Bornean Frogmouth, White-crowned Hornbills, an Orange-backed Woodpecker, a collection of five Black-thighed Falconets, and more.

Day 5, June 2: This morning we birded around the charming town of Ba’Kelalan in order to track down some different species such as Cinnamon Bitterns, Lesser Coucal, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Prinia and more. After some more birding in the Bario Road area, we then headed back down the road to the Long Tuyo area, our jumping off point for our trek into Paya Maga tomorrow. It was a pleasant break to enjoy our comfortable hotel room, with hot water (!), for the evening.

Day 6, June 3: We met our porters to arrange our luggage before our drivers dropped us at the trailhead for our slow walk to the Paya Maga campsite. Of course, we birded as we went and had some exciting sightings – Banded Kingfisher, Yellow-crowned Barbet, Buff-rumped Woodpecker, and Dayak Blue Flycatcher. We arrived at the campsite about midday and soon located one of our most hoped for targets, the Black Oriole, an endemic that is confined to a small montane range in Sarawak, with records from only six localities. Exciting times! Later in the afternoon, we went off trail and found some other great birds, namely Eyebrowed Wren-Babbler and Olive-backed Woodpecker to mention only two.

Day 7, June 4: Our full day birding in the Paya Maga forests was unforgettable. So many great sightings. Highlights included Rhinoceros, Wreathed and Bushy-crested Hornbills feeding in distant fruiting trees right out the front of our campsite. Later we found Black-bellied Malkoha, Crested Goshawk, Checker-throated Woodpecker, Scarlet Minivet, Maroon-breasted Philentoma, and lots of babblers and bulbuls. But most notably we had a fabulous Malaysian Rail-babbler, more Black Orioles, and a pair of Black-throated Wren-Babblers. 

Day 8: June 5: We birded our way slowly back to Long Tuyo after breakfast this morning. Despite some time constraints, we managed to track down yet more excellent birds – Diard’s and Orange-breasted Trogons, Rufous-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Blyth’s Paradise-flycatcher, amongst others. After a relaxing break at Long Tuyo - thanks to our friendly hosts -  we headed back to Lawas for an especially delicious lunch before we took our leave of Sarawak, crossed the border back into Sabah, and made our way back to Kota Kinabalu where we finished off our tour with another yummy dinner at the Dynasty Chinese Restaurant.

Many thanks to you all for a most enjoyable and productive tour of this exciting area. Special thanks to Yeo, our hosts at Ba’Kelalan, our excellent drivers and our muscley porters. Terima kasih banyak!

Created: 08 August 2023