Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Borneo Day 7 - Deramakot

We actually got to sleep in today until 5:45AM.  What lazy travelers we had become.

The plan today was to have breakfast and then drive to a trailhead Mike referred to as the "Tarsier Trail".  I liked the sound of that but knew they were purely nocturnal so we weren't going to see one.  But, we would get an idea of the trail conditions to figure out if we wanted to come back after dark.

Before we had even walked down to breakfast we saw what was likely the rarest animal of the whole trip:

Caecilian

Upon first glance, we thought it was a snake.  But, Mike was there and excitedly said it was a Caecilian which is a purely underground amphibian. It's very rare to see.  So rare in fact that Mike ran down to wake up the herpetologist to come see it.

Caecilian (Underground Amphibian)

We later connected with the Herpetologist who mentioned that he hadn't yet positively identified the exact species.  But, since it's likely the first and last Caecilian we will ever see we are OK with that.

Next up was a bird that I really wanted to photograph.  I had seen it in the bird book we bought before the trip and was amazed by it.  The Black and Yellow Broadbill.  Unfortunately, it was sitting on a power line so it's not a natural shot.  Its colors are fantastic:

Black and Yellow Broadbill


Bornean Falconets:
Bornean Falconets

After breakfast we loaded into the truck and headed down to the trail head.

The hike itself was primary uphill on the way into the forest.  So, it was slow going for me and my ankle even with the help of a walking stick.  Of course, we saw no Tarsier and not much else either.  It's tough to find animals in the thick rainforest.  We struck out trying to call out a Pitta multiple times but we did see a few interesting things.

Some sort of Orb Weaving Spider:
Orb Spider

An Orangutan Nest:
Orangutan Nest

Apparently, Orangutans will build a new nest of leaves and branches every day.  This one is bigger than it looks in the photo and probably relatively new since the leaves were still green.  It would be nice to find the builder.

Red-naped Trogon:
Red-naped Trogon

Assassin Bug (don't get bit by one of these):
Assassin Bug

But, the highlight (or lowlight) of the hike were the leeches.  We all got multiple leeches on us and if it was a competition I would have won with 16 of them.  But, we were very vigilant checking our shoes and leech socks quite often so all were flicked off before they could crawl up and under a shirt.  The light colored leech socks we bought online before the trip paid off big time again.  In hindsight, maybe I should have kept some for therapy on my ankle.  After hiking this trail in daylight hours and lagging way behind I realized it wouldn't be a good idea to hike it at night.

After the hike we had another filling lunch and hung around the grounds a bit until our afternoon drive.  Behind the restaurant feeding was this Sunda Giant Squirrel:
Sunda Giant Squirrel

There were also lots of birds darting about in the bushes.  Most didn't hold still long enough for a decent photo. But, this Greater Green Leafbird was a little too slow and I managed to get one.  It's hard to see birds in the green foliage as you can imagine:
Greater Green Leafbird

Our afternoon drive started at 3:30.  Besides the 4 of us, Mike, John, Lang and our chef Giddy were all going as well.  Only Lang was inside the cab.  The rest of us were sitting in the open back hoping to see some great wildlife.  The plan was to drive 32 KM to the river (the opposite direction from the entrance), have dinner, and then do a night drive back.  This plan sounded great. Unfortunately, mother nature had different ideas.  More on that in a bit.

As the drive started, the birds were out in force like this Dark Throated Oriole:
Dark-throated Oriole

And this Bronzed Drongo:
Bronzed Drongo


Short-tailed Babbler:
Short-tailed Babbler


We stopped at one point because there was movement in a small tree next to the road.  The tree was really thick so it was hard to see but Giddy knew right away it was an Orangutan.  she and Mike debated a bit as to who saw it first but I think Giddy was quicker.  Unfortunately, I only got to see a bit of arm as it climbed down and moved away.  The others saw even less.  I was still counting it though.

We also had a stork fly-by, a Bearded Pig, and a Long-tailed Macaque but all were too fast for photos.

It was a little past this point that we all noticed the skies getting grey...really grey.  The truck stopped and we all looked at Mike.  "I hope everyone is prepared for torrential rain" were his famous last words before the truck started up again.  We all scrambled to get whatever rain protection we could if it happened.  Well, it happened.

The skies opened up and dumped rain on us for the next hour and a half as we sat in the back of this open truck driving towards the river.  It was during this time that I quickly realized I was not in fact prepared for torrential rain.  My old trusty Marmot rain jacket was no longer waterproof as it turned out.  But, I did my best to tuck my long lens and camera under it hoping that the quick dry towel on top would protect it.  My camera backpack was tucked under the seat in front of me and relatively dry since I stuck my feet under it to elevate it over the river that flowed in the back of the truck.  Most times on vacation no matter how unpleasant a moment might be I always think "It's better than working".   I must admit I was hard pressed to feel that during this part of the drive.  It was pretty miserable.

We finally arrived at the river.  There was a forestry house there where we would be having dinner I guess. But, it was full of workers.  So, after unloading from the truck we took shelter under the roof and took stock.  Karen and the others were pretty dry considering.  Peggy's poncho really saved her and we made a mental note to buy some ourselves.  Plus, Bill was smart enough to bring a hefty bag for his backpack.  Another mental note was made about that.

My camera and lens were relatively dry thanks to my quick dry towel soaking up all the water that got through my jacket.  I literally was able to wring out water from it and hang it up on a railing to dry.  The rain had died down a bit now so we made our way over to a gazebo that over looked the river.  After taking a few steps I realized I was carrying a bit of extra weight.  I took off each shoe one at a time and turned them up side down.  I swear a pint of water came out of both.  Well, maybe half a pint.

So, here we are soaking wet just standing around looking at the river.  There were no towels at the house or anything else to dry ourselves with so we just stood there chatting (and complaining a bit too) until dinner was ready.  Eventually it was ready and we went inside the house to eat.  Most of the workers had left to the surrounding buildings.  Unbelievably, our chef prepared another great meal. It was some sort of beef stew with potatoes and beans. How she did it under these conditions, I will never know.  But, the nice meal and dinner conversation certainly put everyone in a decent mood.  It also helped that the main room was filled with geckos providing entertainment as they chased the many bugs around.

The rain had started back up during dinner and none of us were particularly eager to head back.  We waited until 9PM but the rain continued so at that point we decided to just cover up and go for it.  I think we all figured we would just make a beeline for "home".  But, Mike immediately stood up and claimed the goal was 3 new mammal species tonight and the truck set off at a turtle's pace for him to spotlight.  All of us had our heads down to shield us from the rain and weren't looking at anything.  I was about to confer with the others and recommend that we just drive home quickly when Mike spotted a Leopard cat.  We didn't mind getting wet to see it and it did create that little bit of adrenaline that we needed to continue with the spotlighting.  The rain even let up a bit the rest of the way and we ended up having a great drive back thanks to Mike's perseverance.

We saw a total of 4 leopard cats with great looks at two of them including this one:
Leopard Cat

Because I had my camera and lens secured under my jacket, it was too difficult to pull it out in the seconds needed to photograph most of what we saw.  We did see a lot too.

We saw 2 Common Palm Civets, a Lesser Running Mouse in a bush, another Marbled Cat in a tree (and we didn't stop this time due to the rain), a Malay Civet, over 4 Sambar deer, and more Bearded Pigs.  But, the highlights were seeing a Malay Porcupine and best of all an Otter Civet.  The Otter Civet just wandered back and forth in the road.  It was too far for a decent picture and as soon as we decided to climb out to try to get that "NatGeo" photo, it scurried into the bushes.  I think Mike was more excited about this spot than we were since he had only had two sightings before in 3 years and this was the best one.

Mike also spotted a Pen-tailed Shrew which unfortunately took off before the rest of us could find it in the spotlight.  That would have been a cool sighting.  We also saw a Brown Wood Owl and roosting Hornbills.

Finally, we came across another Dog-toothed Cat Snake.  This one was very small and John rescued it from the road and held it for us to see before releasing it off to the side to be sure it didn't get run over.

So, despite getting drenched on the drive out and some of the way out, it proved to be a very productive outing.  The Lesser Running Mouse, Malay Porcupine, Common Palm Civet, and Otter Civet were all new for our drives with Mike.  So, he exceeded his goal of 3 new mammals which was amazing considering the conditions.

We got back really late (for us) and I think we finally hit the pillow around 1AM.  We were NOT looking forward to the alarm going off tomorrow.














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