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12 Days Birding & Bird Photography Tours In Sabah, Borneo

Monday, January 24, 2022

Mt. Kinabalu + Black-faced Spoonbill special moment

 22-23rd January 2022



After more than 2 years from my last visit here, the morning birding produces some of the finest birds endemic to Borneo on the higher elevation such as Crimson-headed Partridge, Dark Hawk-Cuckoo and the legendary Whitehead's trio: Spiderhunter seen feeding on the rhododendron flowers, single male of the Trogon and a pair of Broadbill among the greens within 3 hours! 

One of the Rhododendrons favoured by the Temminck's Sunbird and Whitehead's Spiderhunter at Mt. Kinabalu. 27 species of rhododendrons were recorded here.


 Most birds were vocal and I got a few recording such a:

Bird list:

  1. Crimson-headed Partridge (endemic)
  2. Little Cuckoo-Dove
  3. Mt. Imperial-Pigeon
  4. Whitehead's Trogon (endemic)
  5. Golden-naped Barbet (endemic)
  6. Maroon Woodpecker
  7. Checker-throated Woodpecker
  8. Whitehead's Broadbill (endemic)
  9. Gray-chinned Minivet
  10. Sunda Cuckooshrike
  11. Bornean Whistler (endemic)
  12. Hair-crested Drongo
  13. Bornean Green-Magpie (endemic)
  14. Bornean Treepie (endemic)
  15. Penan Bulbul (endemic)
  16. Yellow-breasted Warbler
  17. Mountain Tailorbird
  18. Chestnut-crested Yuhina (endemic)
  19. Gray-throated Babbler
  20. Mt. Wren-Babbler (endemic)
  21. Sunda Laughingthrush
  22. Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush (endemic)
  23. Eyebrowed Jungle-Flycatcher (endemic)
  24. White-browed Shortwing
  25. Bornean Whistling-Thrush (endemic)
  26. Mugimaki Flycatcher (endemic)
  27. Black-sided Flowerpecker
  28. Temminck's Sunbird
  29. Whitehead's Spiderhunter (endemic)

On the next day at Tempasuk Plain, Kota Belud with Mark and Gary on his 4th attempts for the mega lifer Black-faced Spoonbill. Despite searching for it around the plain since 5.30 in the morning, we decided to stayed at the last seen spot until when Okuy, Ed and Oliver arrived around 4 in the afternoon. It mush have been pure luck when Okuy went for another round at few places and eventually he got it! What a memorable day for Gary!

My current Sabah Big Year 2022 list at 161 species (500 target birds) and with the addition of Eurasian Bittern, my Borneo list at 526 :)

Images taken with Swarovski Optik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



After 3 weekends in row for the Black-faced Spoonbill, it feels great knowing everyone in the circle got their mega lifer for January...


With a cooler box plus superb view of the plains...


Saw the Eurasian Bittern (vagrant) lifer here


High spirit for the Spoonbill with Gary and Mark!


One of the spot for the Black-faced Spoonbill


Another lovely morning at Tempasuk Plain with reflection of Mt. Kinabalu and my gear-ready Swarovski Optik BTX95!

Got stung by Bee while watching the Mt. Wren-Babbler!

Waiting for the Mt. Wren-Babbler

Modern tech allows us to view the subject seen from the lens with our smartphone nowadays

Waiting for the tree tops specialist, Whitehead's Spiderhunter

Mt. Imperial-Pigeon

Ron with a few tourists admiring the pics of Mt. Leaf Warbler

Whitehead's Broadbill, one of the must see birds in Sabah. Digiscoped with Swarovski Optik BTX95 spotting scope


Along the access road to Timpohon Gate


On the way to Kinabalu Park

Happy birding and Chinese New Year everyone!

Monday, January 17, 2022

Pied Stilt

 16th January 2022

It was a great birding day at Tempasuk Plain yesterday after another round of Black-faced Spoonbill, with John and Mark, we drove to Tips of Borneo, Kudat for the Black-naped Fruit Dove (lifer) and dips on the Ashy Minivet. Other birds seen there were the Brown Shrike, Lesser Frigatebird, Dollarbird and Asian Palm-Swift.

Then another alert were sent to the group for the Pied Stilt at Tempasuk Plain! It took us back to the plain around 1820 hrs++ and after rounding up the place for a while, eventually we got the vagrant Stilt roosting at one of the plot next to the main road! My Sabah Big Year 2022 now at 125 species. 375 birds to go!

We did the Asian Wetland Census as well and the list below:

  1. Wandering Whistling Duck x 100++
  2. Black-winged Stilt x 49
  3. Pied Stilt x 4
  4. Curlew Sandpiper x 1
  5. Temminck's Stint x1
  6. Red-necked Stint x 15
  7. Marsh Sandpiper x 5
  8. Great Egret x 4
  9. Intermediate Egret x 1
  10. Little Egret x 21
  11. Black-faced Spoonbill x1


Used to be common migrant, it gets harder every year now... Brown Shrike

The Pied Stilt! My last sighting at Tuaran a few years ago

Check my birding tours in Sabah:

Happy birding!

Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Black-faced Spoonbill Trips

 7-14th January 2022



When a picture of Black-faced Spoonbill were circulated in the birding group (sighted on the 6th afternoon), me and Oliver drove to Tempasuk Plain on the 7th around 3 PM hoping to catch a view of this vagrant after the double typhoons that passes Sabah on the late December and early January. There were 3 records in the year of 1967 and 1968 at Papar and Tempasuk and after nearly 60 years, this globally endangered species with only around 3300 birds remaining now (2016 census), more efforts needed for countries along the East Asian Australasian Flyway to protects as many as possible the habitats for waterbirds along the coast.

The excitement and pressure continued with the arrival of team from Sandakan on the 8th and only single person saw the Spoonbill among the many Egrets at the paddy fields. It was seen on the 10th and 13th morning, I was there with other birder and went back home after lunch. Then it was seen on the same spot by Henry late in the afternoon around 1720 hours! Arrrrrrggggghhhhhhhhhh

On my last attempt with Oliver, Syamimi and Ed, at last, I saw the Black-faced Spoonbill feeding on the same plot where we got the Long-billed Dowitcher last November! I couldn't believe how small it was compared with the Great Egret as the two were seen feeding next with each other. It size is more like the Little Egret but a bit fat with the unmistakable spoon shape bill :D

During the trips, my Sabah Big Year 2022 list rose up to 119 at the time of writing with single Curlew Sandpiper and two Temminck's Stint together with a flock of Red-necked Stint and Kentish Plover before I saw the Black-faced Spoonbill.


On the 8th morning


One of the Sulap aka shelter for birders

Looking at the Jacana

Non-stop birding from sunrise to sunset...

Scanning for the Spoonbill

With the gang from Sandakan

Waiting for the Spoonbill on the 9th morning

Paddy fields

Got the Tufted Duck sighted by Oliver

Excellent view of Mt. Kinabalu with its reflection on the water

Hazy morning on the 13th

No luck here


In this type of habitat, spotting scopes are indispensable, Swarovski Optik STX65 and BTX95 with Kowa Prominar 773

It was resting on its knees and digiscoped with the Swarovski Optik BTX95 spotting scope

A group of lucky photographers because the Spoobill were much closer these time

Black-faced Spoonbill!

2nd day at Tempasuk Plain

We got the rare Pheasant-tailed Jacana and Common Coot here

After a week, then I felt tired hahaha and the Black-faced Spoonbill on the yellow arrow at the back. Thanks to my sponsor Swarovski Optik for the excellent BTX95 spotting scope. Without it, I don't think I could ID the Spoonbill among the many Egrets!

Check my birding tours in Sabah:

Happy birding!

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Kuala Abai Mudflat, Kota Belud

 4th January 2022

The list continues with a short trip to Kg. Damat, Kuala Abai mudflat and Tempasuk Plains at Kota Belud. At the mudflat, saw 2 globally threatened Chinese Egret and other common winter visitors such as Common Redshank and Greenshank, Lesser and Greater Sand Plover and Sanderling. For Tempasuk, hoping for Ducks but only the resident Wandering Whistling Duck were present but Red-rumped Swallow (rare migrant) and Pale Sand Martin were seen among the plenty Egrets at the paddy field.

414 species to go!

 New species list:

  1. Black-backed Swamphen
  2. Buff-banded Rail
  3. Watercock
  4. Little ringed Plover
  5. Long-toed Stint
  6. Common Snipe
  7. Whiskered Tern
  8. Oriental Darter
  9. Yellow Bittern
  10. Intermediate Egret
  11. Black-winged Kite
  12. Eastern Marsh Harrier
  13. Oriental Reed Warbler
  14. Pale Sand Martin
  15. Red-rumped Swallow
  16. Plaintive Cuckoo
  17. Lesser Sand-Plover
  18. Greater Sand-Plover
  19. Kentish Plover
  20. Great Knot
  21. Red-necked Stint
  22. Sanderling
  23. Common Greenshank
  24. Common Redshank
  25. Chinese Egret
  26. Osprey
  27. Changeable Hawk-Eagle
  28. White-bellied Sea-Eagle
  29. Greater Coucal
  30. Chinese Pond-Heron
  31. Dollarbird
  32. Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike
  33. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker


Watch a short video of the Egrets and Swallows at Tempasuk


Mt. Kinabalu from Damat


Kuala Abai mudflat with possibility of Nordmann's Greenshank

Tempasuk Plain and got the Watercock here....

Check my birding tours in Sabah:

Happy birding!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Sabah Big Year 2020

 1st January 2022

It has been one of my goal to do Big Year for my Bornean list and with the current Covid19 situation, I will be concentrate in Sabah at the time being until the borders reopen to Brunei, Sarawak and Kalimantan. Target of 500 species for this year and as of today, I got around 28 birds such as Banded Woodpecker, Common Iora and Pied Triller around the house and nearby old paddy fields.

Bird list:

  1. Wandering Whistling Duck
  2. Rock Pigeon
  3. Spotted Dove
  4. Zebra Dove
  5. Lesser Coucal
  6. Large-tailed Nightjar
  7. Plume-toed Swiftlet
  8. White-nest Swiftlet
  9. White-breasted Waterhen
  10. Purple Heron
  11. Cattle Egret
  12. Brahminy Kite
  13. Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker
  14. Banded Woodpecker
  15. Pied Triller
  16. White-breasted Woodswallow
  17. Common Iora
  18. Yellow-bellied Prinia
  19. Striated Grassbird
  20. Pacific Swallow
  21. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  22. Asian Glossy Starling
  23. Oriental Magpie Robin
  24. Brown-throated Sunbird
  25. Olive-backed Sunbird
  26. Scaly-breasted Munia
  27. Chestnut Munia
  28. Eurasian Tree Sparrow


 Mt. Kinabalu at the background before the rain...

Check my birding tours in Sabah:

Happy birding!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Sorinsim Substation, Kota Marudu

3-6th December 2021 
Spent a few nights here with the gang plus some demo units of cameras and lenses were provided by Sony Kota Kinabalu for testing on the field. The weather was good throughout, but the forest around the office and along the designated bird trail were a bit quiet than what I normally see and hear in other birding hotspots. 
We did explored further along the trail leading to Makam Sigunting, a local warrior during the British occupation in the late 1800s, but the low density of Babbler and Bulbul at the elevation around 130m asl were a bit surprising though. Heard the Sunda Scops Owl on the camping ground but (next to the crystal colour water) no other Owl were observed especially the common Buffy Fish Owl during the trip.

Overall the substation is a good weekend gateway for family seeking relaxing environment with a good combo of the river and rainforest to walk around plus excellent public amenities provided by Sabah Parks. 

Bird list: 72 birds from the substation the rest at Tip of Borneo, Kudat and Tempasuk Plain, Kota Belud
  1. Great Argus
  2. Bornean Necklaced Partridge
  3. Wandering Whistling Duck
  4. Chinese Pond Heron
  5. Grey Heron
  6. Purple Heron
  7. Little Egret
  8. Great Egret
  9. Cattle Egret
  10. Lesser Frigatebird
  11. Rufous-bellied Eagle
  12. Changeable Hawk-Eagle
  13. Brahminy Kite
  14. Crested Serpent Eagle
  15. Black-winged Kite
  16. Common Moorhen
  17. White-breasted Waterhen
  18. Black-winged Stilt
  19. Marsh Sandpiper
  20. Common Sandpiper
  21. Wood Sandpiper
  22. Long-toed Stint
  23. Curlew Sandpiper
  24. Whiskered Tern
  25. Spotted Dove
  26. Red-collared Dove
  27. Little Green Pigeon
  28. Feral Pigeon
  29. Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot
  30. Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo
  31. Greater Coucal
  32. Lesser Coucal
  33. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha
  34. Raffles's Malkoha
  35. Sunda Scops Owl
  36. Asian Palm Swift
  37. Grey-rumped Treeswift
  38. Plume-toed Swiftlet
  39. Edible-nest Swiftlet
  40. Brown Needletail
  41. Silver-rumped Spinetail
  42. Scarlet-rumped Trogon
  43. Diard's Trogon
  44. Rufous-backed Kingfisher
  45. White-crowned Hornbill
  46. Gold-whiskered Barbet
  47. Red-throated Barbet
  48. Buff-rumped Woodpecker
  49. Buff-necked Woodpecker
  50. Banded Broadbill
  51. Black & Yellow Broadbill
  52. Hooded Pitta
  53. Green Iora
  54. Lesser Green Leafbird
  55. Ashy Minivet
  56. Large Wood Shrike
  57. Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike
  58. Pied Triller
  59. Long-tailed Shrike
  60. Dark-throated Oriole
  61. Asian Fairy-Bluebird
  62. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
  63. Slender-billed Crow
  64. Crested Jay
  65. Pacific Swallow
  66. Barn Swallow
  67. White-breasted Woodswallow
  68. Rufous-tailed Tailorbird
  69. Ashy Tailorbird
  70. Olive-winged Bulbul
  71. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  72. Red-eyed Bulbul
  73. Spectacled Bulbul
  74. Charlotte's Bulbul
  75. Grey-cheeked Bulbul
  76. Striated Grassbird
  77. White-chested Babbler
  78. Chestnut-winged Babbler
  79. Bold-striped Tit-Babbler
  80. Bornean Ibon
  81. Asian Glossy Starling
  82. Eyebrowed Thrush
  83. Siberian Blue Robin
  84. Oriental Magpie Robin
  85. White-crowned Shama
  86. Asian Brown Flycatcher
  87. Mugimaki Flycatcher
  88. Asian Paradise-Flycatcher
  89. Pied Fantail
  90. Black-naped Monarch
  91. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
  92. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
  93. Thick-billed Flowerpecker
  94. Brown-throated Sunbird
  95. Little Spiderhunter
  96. Bornean Spiderhunter
  97. Scaly-breasted Munia
  98. Dusky Munia
  99. Black-headed Munia
  100. Grey Wagtail 
  101. Paddyfield's Pipit
  102. Eurasian Tree Sparrow 

Recording of Asian Fairy-Bluebird

Recording of Gold-faced Barbet

Images taken with Swarovski Optik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

A pair of Little Green Pigeon, common nomadic resident

Rufous-backed Kingfisher, one of the smallest out of 12 species found in Borneo

 Scarlet-rumped Trogon sometimes confused with the Cinnamon-rumped Trogon (on both females)

Marak Park Road via Kota Marudu and it takes around 2 hours 40 minutes (152 km) drive from Kota Kinabalu with great scenery of the countryside

Signboard to the station via Marak Parak village

Swarovski Optik, the best sport optic in the world are used widely by bird guides in Sabah

Short demo session by Sony Kota Kinabalu on their new models of cameras and lenses

 John on the warning notice of No Fishing or fines between RM 5000 to RM 50000!

Gazebos facing the river 

 Huntsman spider

So far so good with those birds

Paved bird trail for easier access to the visitors

Starting points to places of interests at the substation

Shooting the Rufous-backed Kingfisher

Starting point to climb Mt. Nambuyukong

Hostel and chalets are available for rent

24 hours electricity is a luxury for campers!

Gary shooting time lapses of Mt. Nambuyukong

Climbing Mt. Nambuyukong at 1603m can be done in 1 day with advance booking for rangers at Sabah Parks office

Yours truly

 Half way to Makan Sigunting

Local warrior tomb 

Bioluminescence Firefly glow in the dark inside my tent

This is how the soft bodied beetles looks like

Together with Jack from Sabah Parks

Buying cheap gingers and lemons on the road side at Kg. Monggis

Ashy Minivet, lifer at Tip of Borneo, Kudat

Fresh grill fish at Kota Belud

Setting up tent at Kisakot Campsite, Kota Belud

The famous Panataran River with Mt. Kinabalu at the background...

Happy birding!