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12 Days Birding & Bird Photography Tours In Sabah, Borneo

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!

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