Day 319: The Most-Wanted Non-Bird Sighting

While racking up new species, Noah has a very special encounter.

November 15, 2015, Sukau, Borneo — I spent the morning with Gary and John at the Rainforest Discovery Center in Sepilok, an environmental education center run by the Sabah Forestry Department. This place is highlighted by several observation towers and a canopy walkway which give excellent access to the high reaches of the rainforest. Because of this walkway’s design, you don’t even have to climb stairs to access it—just meander up a gentle ramp into the treetops!

Black-and-red Broadbills and giant flying squirrels were at eye level along the walkway, and a Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle kept an eye on things. I’ve seen some amazing canopy walks this year in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Ghana, and South Africa, and this one ranks with the best of them. What a cool place to hang out!

A nice system of trails surrounds the center and we spent a couple more hours exploring the area at ground level. Soon enough it was hot and humid, and bird activity died around 10 a.m. Gary carries a medium-sized bathroom towel while birding here and, by the time lunchtime arrived, I could see why: Sweat just doesn’t evaporate, so every few minutes you want to towel off your whole head.

Gary, John, and I moved onward this afternoon and, during a stop in a forest reserve near Gomantong, we came across my most-wanted non-bird sighting in Borneo: A legitimately wild orangutan! It was literally hanging out in a treetop and had a baby clinging to its side. After seeing wild chimpanzees and gorillas in Africa, it was fun to see another wild ape in Asia.

In the evening we met Cede Prudente, an early conservationist and birder in northeast Borneo, who joined us for an after-dark boat cruise along the Kinabatangan River near Sukau. We found three species of owls including great looks at Buffy Fish-Owls and an Oriental Bay-Owl, and even spotted a sleeping Blue-eared Kingfisher—the same bird Chun and I went looking for yesterday morning in Kuala Lumpur. What goes around comes around!

New birds today: 18

Year list: 5243

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