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12 Days Birding & Bird Photography Tours In Sabah, Borneo

Monday, January 31, 2022

Black-browed Reed Warbler

 27th January 2022

Another vagrant spotted by Boris at Tempasuk Plain on the 26th January and upon arrival on the site, waited for an hour until the bird emerged from the tall Elephant Grass that grows along the waterway for the paddy fields. We suspected it came from Vietnam as the case with Black-faced Spoonbill after the double typhoons that hit Taiwan, HK, Vietnam and the Philippines late Dec and early January.

Great view with pictures taken on the reed next to the waterways and it was also singing but quite secretive. Sound at Xeno-Canto It was considered the first photographic records in Sabah and considered uncommon migrants in the Philippines too.

My #SabahBigYear2022 current list stand at 186 species. 314 birds to go! Other key migrant species seen on that day:

  • Eurasian Bittern
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Black-faced Spoonbill
  • Black Drongo

Images taken with Swarovski Optik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What a luck seeing another vagrant (Black-browed Reed Warbler) in January after the Black-faced Spoonbill!

Yellow-bellied Prinia

Together with Syamimi, Jupri, Ron, Win and Oliver

The small patch in front where the Warbler were seen flirting around and in the open

Sunrise at Tempasuk Plain, Kota Belud...

With the Swarovski Optik BTX95 spotting scope for the uncommon migrant Northern Shoveler



At last, Black-faced Spoonbill resting on the paddy field!

Yellow Bittern

Swarovski SLC and EL, the preferred optic brand in Sabah!

Happy birding and Chinese New Year!

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!