Sunday, March 31, 2013

The birds of Tawau Hills Park

Okay, its time to get back to Borneon birds.

I will talk about Tawau Hills Park today, the following passage is taken from my Naturalist's Guide to The Birds of Borneo.

"Tawau Hills Park is an unlogged water catchment for the surrounding areas. Gunung Magdalena within the park reaches over 1,000m above sea level. Most of Borneo's lowland birds have been recorded here, but the thick forest cover and dense undergrowth do not make observation easy."

This summarises why my bird photography buddies and myself, being resident of Tawau, do not make the Park as our first choice for bird photography. Many birds are evidently there, easily heard but hard to see and even harder to photograph.

Being an unlogged forest, trees are tall with canopies only visible over patches of forest openings, which are created by fallen trees that pulled the surrounding branches, liana and the attached epiphytic growths to the forest floor, creating a temporary opening that would last until the new growth takes over. The thick forest cover and lush undergrowth block most of the light and make the dim forest floor extraordinary challenging to bird photography.

 Typical forest floor scene in Tawau Hills Park.
Typical forest floor scene in Tawau Hills Park.

However, knowing well that bird photography is more luck than skill, we did visit there occassionally over the years. In photography, when you are at the right place at the right time, you will be rewarded,  and here I share some of the bird images that I took at Tawau Hills Park, with some birds which are considered quite rare in other areas.

 Scaly-crowned Babbler Malacopteron cinereum, quite regularly seen here. The very similar looking Rufous-crowned Babbler Malacopteron magnum is also frequently heard and seen.
 A pair of Wreath Hornbill Rhyticeros undulatus, stopping over on top of a  far away tree.
 White-crowned Hornbill Aceros comatus one of the scarcer Bornean hornbill.
 Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus maculatus, one of the Bornean forest flowerpeckers.
 Stock-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis cyanopteryx, a regular at the lotus pond behind the chalets.
 Grey-headed Babbler Stachyris poliocephala, one of the rarer babblers in Sabah, much shyer and harder to photograph.
 Horsfield's Babbler Trichastoma sepiarium, a locally common understorey skulking babbler, similar looking the Short-tailed Babbler Trichastoma malaccense.
 Juv. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, an abundant migrant from the north, numerous birds perch on the power lines outside the Park, including pale looking juveniles like this.
 Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting, this one has its entire bill black.
Rufous-backed Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca motleyi, a Sabah specialty.
 Javan Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax.
 Scarlet-rumped Trogon Harpactes duvaucelii,  a smaller and friendlier trogon.
 Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica, this one shows the bluish upperparts nicely.
 Silver-rumped Spinetail Rhaphidura leucopygialis, I do not know of anywhere else that this species fly so low to enable you to photograph its upperparts.

 Female Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi, this species is considered fairly common deep inside the Park.
 Bushy Crested Hornbill Anorrhinus galeritus are quite regularly heard and seen in the Park, also seen feeding on oil palm fruits in the surrounding plantations. 
Brown Wood Owl Strix leptogramica is the resident owl of the Park Headquarters.
Blue-banded Kingfisher Alcedo euryzona  a not so common Bornean kingfisher is resident of the lotus pond behind the chalets.
Black-headed Pitta Pitta ussheri,a Sabah endemic.
Happy birding.


Choy Wai Mun said...

Wong, this is a great collection. Well done. This park is certainly a hot spot.

Wong Tsu Shi said...

Yes, Mun, it should be, thanks.

Folkert said...

Very nice set Wong, and I am very impressed with the babblers!

Denis Degullacion said...

Great stuff, enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

Zaim Hazim said...

Just had a weekend visit there a few weeks ago. Rain and leeches hampered effort for good birding but did manage to get personal lifers such as the yellow-breasted flowerpeckers, blue-banded KF, and black-capped babbler. The chalet area with the pond offered many sightings, especially the kingfishers. Would come to visit again sometime. Good article.

Wong Tsu Shi said...

Thanks Denis and Zaim, there are indeed many opportunities here.