Birding Without Borders

Day 323: The Shared Language of Birds

Noah joins a gang to find birds on his target list.

November 19, 2015: Mount Kinabalu, Borneo I am meeting as many birders as birds in Borneo! Gary, John, Andrew, Denis, Kenneth and I were joined this morning by Ron and Winston Pudin, Jason Azahari, and Andy Lee - all local birders from Sabah. When ten birders group together, I think the proper term is a “gang.” Today’s gang met early (I set my alarm for 4:15) at a place called the Rafflesia Information Center, where we hoped to find a few birds still outstanding on my target list.

The mood was casual and upbeat all day. Conversation tended to drift into the local language, Dusun, and my thoughts drifted accordingly. I’ve heard more dialects than I can count in the past 10 months, but language barriers haven’t been much of an issue this year. Even when my companions speak little English (as has been the case in a couple of places, though everyone in Sabah seems to be fluent), the shared language of birds is enough to understand one another.

We succeeded in finding almost all of my wished-for birds this morning, including a couple of barbets and the odd little Fruit-eater, which sat on a branch, opened its beak, and made a call note so high-pitched I could barely hear it. When the morning rush slowed down, our gang sat on a roadside guardrail where the mountains sprawled below us and looked for raptors until lunchtime. The hoped-for Mountain Serpent-Eagle didn’t materialize, but we did spot a Rufous-bellied Eagle, a young Black Eagle, and an Oriental Honey-Buzzard.

After dinner this evening with a couple of representatives from Sabah’s tourism department, practically the entire Borneo Bird Club took me out in Kota Kinabalu. Ron works at a nightclub in town where our group hung out for a while - just long enough for someone to tell the live Indonesian band that it was my birthday, so I got pulled up on stage for a song. Gee thanks, guys!

New birds today: 8

Year list: 5302

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