Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Rainforest Discovery Centre (2)

We purchased 'advance tickets' for the Rainforest Discovery Centre on the way out of the reserve the night before, allowing us to enter the site that bit earlier on Sunday morning. We discovered somewhat surprisingly that this was probably not really all that worth doing, as the forest was astonishingly quiet early on. There seemed to be two peaks of activity with small birds in the forest, one around mid-morning and another late afternoon, and the early morning in this particular habitat was not as hectic as one might otherwise expect it to be! First bird of note this particular morning was a roosting juvenile Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis which was sitting quietly in the forest. I quickly got distracted from this bird when two Black-capped Babblers Pellorneum capistratum came strolling out of the undergrowth to sit on the road and engage in some mutual preening, after which they began their leisurely wander back into the forest.

There would be great things to come up the Kingfisher Trail mid-morning when, on my first 'pass' on the way out, I picked up an adult male Diard's Trogon Harpactes diardii sitting quietly next to the path. It's astonishing just how such colourful birds are so well camouflaged in the forest and they themselves seem to know it, permitting incredibly close approaches as if they believe you have yet to notice them. After sitting quietly in front of me for a few minutes, the bird disappeared into the trees, leaving me to continue on my way up the trail.

On my second (return) pass, things would get even better, with a second and even more showy Diard's Trogon sitting right above the trail, so close in fact that for a while I could only fit its head into my camera frame. This individual seemed to be associated with a small bird wave, a wave which included lifer Chestnut-rumped Babblers Stachyris maculata as well as one mammal, a Lesser Mouse Deer Tragulus kanchil feeding next to the trail. It was astonishing just how fearless all the members of this particular 'animal wave' seemed to be, including the deer!

The activity would not stop there, though, as a very short distance up the trail I could hear what I thought was very likely the Black-crowned Pitta Erythropitta ussheri singing. For most of the previous day, passing photographers had been playing tapes of this bird hoping to lure it out for photographs, and usually when you heard the song along this trail it was nothing more than a tape that was playing. However, I could not recall having seen anyone else along the trail on my 'return' leg, hence went to investigate as I felt there was a big chance that this time it might actually be the bird singing. I walked towards the song, and when the sound began coming from behind me (after passing no-one), I knew that I was dealing with the bird. I mimicked its call (a long whistle which was easy to replicate), and within about five seconds had the Black-crowned Pitta out in the open sitting right out in front of me, and what's more all to myself!

The pitta disappeared deep into cover towards lunch time, and the Kingfisher Trail began to quieten down, indicating that it was time for lunch after what could only be described as an excellent morning. The return in the afternoon found the Kingfisher Trail in particular to be practically silent, so I elected to walk the Pitta Path for a short distance to see what I could find up there. I found a further two Diard's Trogons, including a female to complete the set of plumages for the day, though both of these birds were in more awkward spots than the first two individuals had been.

My woodpecker list was surprisingly low from having spent so long in a forested habitat, so I was delighted late afternoon to come across Maroon Blythipicus rubiginosus and Banded Woodpeckers Chrysophlegma miniaceum and get them on the trip list (and onto my camera). I was also able to add a further babbler species, Sooty-capped Babbler Malacopteron affine, from my afternoon stroll around some of the quieter parts of the forest, but didn't fare to well with these camera-wise as they were sticking to the canopy.

As evening drew nearer, I returned to the canopy walkway to see if anything was flapping around in the better light conditions up there, but the forest seemed to be very quiet. I headed back to the B&B chuffed with the day's proceedings, which had only added three lifers to my tally for the trip but had allowed me to get some much better images on my camera than had the previous day. Above photos taken at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sabah 17/7/16.


  1. Superb, great birds Steve....brings back good memories of this place! There is also a productive location outside the RDC following a road past the entrance that eventually opens up to a large open area that often has a number of birds and flying squirrels at dusk. Baya Weavers were nesting next to the main road between the RDC and the Orang Utan sanctuary....my info is 3 years old so no guarantee!

    1. Thanks, Dave. I'm already back in Taiwan, so too late to try any of those other spots. I thought RDC was just wonderful, especially as the whole area can be done on foot (so cheap). I'll be looking to go again at some point, so can keep hold of that additional info for next time!