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Fowl Watching in Borneo—A Organic Treasure Chest


Huge, lovely and brimming with life, Borneo is a “organic treasure chest,” says Court docket Whelan, Chief Sustainability Officer with Pure Habitat Adventures.

“Rising up, watching nature documentaries, entering into biology, Borneo was so excessive on my record as a result of it set the bar for what actual tropical wilderness may seem like,” provides Whelan, who’s additionally led Nat Hab expeditions on the island—Asia’s largest—since 2017. “And I can let you know: Each expedition leaves me increasingly more glad with what I uncover.”

It’s no surprise: Amongst its leafy coasts, labyrinthine mangroves and plush rain forests—amongst Earth’s oldest—Borneo shelters myriad species, together with greater than 5,000 flowering crops, 3,000 bushes and 200 terrestrial mammals, comparable to pygmy elephants, clouded leopards and endangered orangutans.

Three birds sitting on a branch of rain forest canopy in Borneo

© Brad Josephs

And whereas these orangutans are usually what first draw vacationers to the island, as soon as individuals go to, “they open up that massive treasure chest of all the opposite wonderful issues about Borneo,” explains fellow Nat Hab Expedition Chief Brad Josephs. This contains uncommon wildlife finds starting from nature’s largest bloom (the monster corpse flower) to “flying” lemurs and frogs, together with an immense trove of avian species—700-plus (together with greater than 50 endemics) by some counts—that makes Borneo one of many world’s prime spots for birding.

So, which birds are you able to hope to see on Nat Hab’s Wilds of Borneo: Orangutans & Past journey? How will you distinguish a feminine rhinoceros hornbill from a male? What’s the key to attaining an exquisite “bokeh” impact whereas photographing a black-and-red broadbill? And what are Nat Hab and our journey companion World Wildlife Fund doing to assist guarantee Borneo’s forests stay pleasant for our feathered buddies? Seize your greatest binocs and discipline pocket book and let’s get birding. It’s time so as to add to your life-list!

Birds within the Bush: A Few of Our Favourite Finds in Borneo

Should-see primary: Borneo’s nationwide fowl, the rhinoceros hornbill, is “completely extraordinary,” says Whelan. A frequent motif in Bornean artwork and dance, the rhino hornbill sports activities an extended yellow invoice under an orange-red, pompadour-esque casque that contrasts with its shiny black-and-white plumage. Males’ irises are pink, and females’, white.

Borneo hornbill bird

Bushy-crested hornbill © Brad Josephs

Search for these iconic birds whereas boating the Kinabatangan River and its community of floodplains, one of many many birding meccas in Sabah, the Malaysian state of northern Borneo (different components of the island belong to Brunei and Indonesia). Whereas fowl watching right here, you’ll additionally discover the rhino’s extra conservatively clad cousins, bushy-crested hornbills (draped in dark-brown plumage save for naked bluish pores and skin round their eyes), together with Borneo’s six different hornbill species. Endemic ground-cuckoos and Bornean bristleheads, vacationing ruddy kingfishers and even endangered storm’s storks are additionally recognized to frequent the floodplains.

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Bonus: The Kinabatangan floodplains are perfect for photographing birds in flight, says Whelan. Maintain your head up and digicam poised for hovering Brahminy kites (Borneo’s model of bald eagles), which look particularly elegant from under (except you’re a fish).

Two Brahminy Kites flying and fishing and playing over Borneo floodplains

Brahminy kites

Night time cruises alongside the Kinabatangan permit vacationers to sidle up alongside sleeping birds like stork-billed kingfishers, shawled beneath brilliant blue remiges (wing feathers). “They actually don’t thoughts us arising, shedding a lower-intensity mild on them, only for a couple of minutes, to get just a few photos and revel in their magnificence,” says Josephs.

Storkbilled kingfisher bright colorful plumage nocturnal perching in Borneo

Stork-billed kingfisher © Brad Josephs

“The nighttime sounds of the river are incredible,” Josephs provides, as is the possibility to glimpse one in every of his favourite nocturnal species, buffy fish owls, recognized for his or her “beautiful golden eyes.”

Buffy fish owl Borneo golden yellow eyes

Buffy fish owl

Farther south in Sabah state lies the Danum Valley and the Danum Valley Conservation Space, “a pristine … blanketing rainforest stuffed with biodiversity,” says Josephs, the place greater than 325 fowl species have been recorded. Highlights embrace flashy blue-headed pittas, extra modestly coloured big pittas, Bornean wren-babblers and, on an particularly good day, critically endangered helmeted hornbills.     

The helmeted hornbill is a peculiar looking and very rare bird that is killed for its incredibly valuable 'red ivory' in Southeast Asia. The bird, which is now critically endangered due to poaching

Helmeted hornbill

A keep on the secluded Borneo Rainforest Lodge and strolls throughout surrounding cover walkways present fowl’s-eye views of the densely vegetated valley. Seemingly sightings embrace black-and-red broadbills (maroon underparts match properly with a black breast-band), nice slaty woodpeckers (the world’s largest woodpecker species), endemic white-crowned shamas and migrating fairy pittas with aquamarine sequined wings.

Western Hooded Pitta or Chestnut-crowned Pitta,

Fairy pitta

Visits to locations comparable to Bako Nationwide Park, Selingan Turtle Island, Semenggoh Orangutan Middle and Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary provide further alternatives to spy extra birds of Borneo—and the island’s different wildlife stars. Simply keep in mind: Maintain your life-list at hand—it’s prone to refill quick. Further factors in the event you spot a spectacled flowerpecker, recognized as a brand new species in 2019, or a black-browed babbler, not too long ago rediscovered in Borneo’s rain forests 172 years after it was first seen.

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For the Birds: Borneo’s Avian Conservation in Motion

Sadly, the birds of Borneo face a staggering variety of threats, touchdown scores of the island’s avian species on the IUCN Pink Listing, together with many with weak, endangered and critically endangered standing.

Chief amongst these threats, in line with WWF, are the unlawful wildlife commerce; extractive industries comparable to valuable hardwoods, rubber and coal; and searching (regardless of its standing as weak, even Borneo’s iconic rhinoceros hornbill is usually hunted for its meat and tail feathers). Speedy deforestation—74% of Borneo was coated in forest in 1985, in comparison with solely 33% in 2020—and ever-expanding palm oil plantations are additionally decimating vital avian habitats. That is particularly regarding, given the pure position Borneo’s birds play in dispersing seeds for fruit bushes whereas rising its forests.

To reverse the tide, WWF works with native communities and governments in Borneo, urgent for accountable forestry, sustainable agriculture and elevated transparency to make sure a secure future for all of the island’s species. One in every of WWF’s largest successes, the Coronary heart of Borneo venture, helped protect stretches of Bornean rain forest bigger than the state of Kansas.

Rhinoceros Hornbill shot at Taiping Perak Malaysia

For the Birders: Fowl-Pleasant Organizations, Citizen Science & a Helpful New Map

How will you assist? For starters, by eschewing illegally harvested hardwoods and merchandise made with palm oil. Contributing to organizations comparable to WWF and the  World Land Belief, whose efforts embrace working with native companions in Borneo to restore hornbill habitats, additionally helps, as does touring solely with conscientious, eco-first journey suppliers. Nat Hab, as an illustration, designs its itineraries at the side of WWF and offsets all carbon emissions from every journey, proceeds of which assist fund WWF’s efforts.

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If you go: Contemplate contributing to citizen science applications throughout your journey. Through the use of apps comparable to iNaturalist, developed by the California Academy of Sciences and the Nationwide Geographic Society, vacationers may also help scientists determine  the birds of Borneo and map their distribution. Thus far, iNaturalist customers have logged practically 500 species throughout the island.

And earlier than you allow: Make sure you try Nat Hab’s packing options, together with binocular specs for optimum wildlife viewing and concepts for water resistant daypacks (your digicam tools will thanks). This colourful new birding map created by Tourism Malaysia Sabah and the Sandakan Borneo Fowl Membership will even offer you an in on further birds to hunt out whereas in Sabah, together with the Kinabatangan floodplains and Danum Valley.

For the Birding Photographers: Professional Recommendations on Getting the Excellent Shot

Now, about that bokeh, or pleasing background blur that actually makes birding pics pop. Attaining that look includes a two-step course of, says Whelan, additionally an completed wildlife photographer, who particulars the tactic in his article, The Greatest Settings for Fowl Pictures.”

Begin with a wide-open lens aperture (e.g., f/2.8 or f/3.5) after which “maximize the space between the fowl and the background and decrease the space between your digicam and the fowl,” Whelan advises. “Thus, a part of the technique in getting nice fowl pictures is to seek out an open department with a transparent background behind it.”

Amongst Whelan’s different professional suggestions: Apply whereas at residence and, when you’re out birding in Borneo, dial your digicam settings in forward of the shot. Then be ready to easily wait till the best alternative arrives. It might take time, however “when the true deal is in entrance of you, you’ll be able to get that incredible shot.”

Woman taking photos of birds on the beach in Borneo

© Court docket Whelan



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