Saturday, April 1, 2017

Borneo Day 14 - BRL

We had decided to do our own thing in the morning while Azmil took Bill and Peggy birding.  BRL allows you to walk the road and the Nature Trail by yourself.  All other trails are off limits without a guide.  That was a bit disappointing to hear since we are experienced rainforest trekkers but it seems all the lodges are overly careful about this since a tourist got killed by an Elephant at Tabin a few years back.

Going on our own did allow us to sleep in a bit so we didn't get out of the chalet until about 6:45AM for a pre-breakfast walk.  We walked up the road to the Canopy Tower and back which was much more fun than driving up that road.  It was really productive for birds plus we heard Gibbons which were a major target for us since we had struck out on them so far.

Black-capped Babbler:
Black-capped Babbler

Tiger Shrike:
Tiger Shrike

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker:
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker

Grey-cheeked Bulbul:
Grey-cheeked Bulbul

Malaysian Blue Flycatcher:
Malaysian Blue Flycatcher

Here is Karen modeling the latest in Bornean jungle gear. Notice the rubber boots which are needed to slosh through all the mud, the stylish leech socks that tie over the knees so they stay up most the time, the long sleeves to reduce exposed flesh for anything that might bite, and of course the gloves that protect the hands which mosquitoes tend to love.  I think the outfit is nice enough to wear to work and looks cozy warm.

Borneo Attire

After breakfast, we walked the road again and had an equally productive walk.

Prevost Squirrel:
Prevost Squirrel

Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker:
Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker

Rufous-tailed Tailorbird:
Rufous-tailed Tailorbird

On the Nature Trail we scored our final Broadbill of the trip. The Banded Broadbill:
Banded Broadbill

The Nature Trail is completely boardwalked and goes through some nice forest. It also has an offshoot that takes you to a beautiful part of the river where you can sit and relax in chairs to enjoy the sights and sounds.  We did that a few times.

Here's a look at the Nature Trail:
Nature Trail

The Canopy Tower turned out to be disappointing because over half of it was closed.  Lightning had struck one of the support trees recently so the lodge had to close the walkway to do repairs.  Based on the progress we saw, it appears they were nearly done.  The walkway is also pretty narrow.  So, since it was an "out and back" walkway you always encountered people coming towards you which made it seem crowded and all these "passings" were awkward on the narrow bridges.

Canopy Walkway Entrance

2nd Half Was Closed for Repairs

The Walkway

Canopy Walkway Exit

Here is a view of part of the closed section.  It gives you a great look at how high you are.  I am not a fan of heights but I did fine.  The picture makes it look worse than it is...a little bit.

Canopy Walkway (Closed Area)

We did get a great look at a Raffle's Malkoha on the walkway:
Raffles's Malkoha

As well as this Rough-scaled Skink which we saw everywhere it seemed.
Rough-scaled Skink

The forest that you walk through along the road is absolutely breathtaking.  We couldn't get enough of it which is why we walked this road often (Not that we were allowed to walk anywhere else by ourselves).  The land around BRL in Danum has never been logged so it's true primary forest and some of the trees are huge.  Borneo does have the tallest trees of any rainforest in Earth and they were very impressive.

The tiny person on the road gives you some idea of scale:

Huge Trees

The photo opportunities didn't stop for lunch.  Like a good photo geek, I had my camera on the table where we ate so I was able to get photos of the birds that stopped by in the nearby branches.

Grey-bellied Bulbul:
Grey-bellied Bulbul

White-crowned Shama:
White-crowned Shama

Spectacled Bulbul:
Spectacled Bulbul

Blue-throated Bee-eaters:
Blue-throated Bee-eater

Blue-throated Bee-eaters

I learned on this trip that the Blue-throated Bee-eaters nest on the ground.  In fact, there were at least a dozen nesting on the lawn between the deluxe chalets and the river.  They were quite skittish so I didn't really get the shots I wanted but this gives you an idea of what the nest looked like:

Nesting Blue-throated Bee-eater

The afternoon plan was a 3:30 hike with Azmil into the forest.

So, there was time to try to take a nap since both of us were exhausted at this point in the trip.  As I mentioned before, we aren't nappers so we forced ourselves.  But, as bad luck would have it, our rooms were really close to the deluxe chalets that were being remodeled.  So, this meant more traffic on the road, workers that smoked constantly, and loud noises during the day.  The latter item impacted our ability to nap but we might have slipped 15 minutes in between the banging.

Unfortunately, the skies opened up at 3PM and just let loose for about an hour.  Around 4PM it cleared enough for us to venture out and find Azmil and a few birds along the way.

Bornean Spiderhunter:
Bornean Spiderhunter

Buff-rumped Woodpecker:
Buff-rumped Woodpecker

We got about 15 minutes into our hike when Azmil heard over the radio that Bornean Bristleheads were at the Canopy Tower.  That's THE bird to find in Borneo so we scrapped the hike and headed quickly for the staff quarters.  There, Azmil left us to go find a truck which he said would be faster than walking.  We waited for about 10 minutes and thought we should have walked it but then Azmil showed up with a truck and we were off to the Canopy Tower.

At the tower it did not take long to find the famous and unique looking Bornean Bristlehead:
The Famous Bornean Bristlehead

There was a juvenile there as well which had all the same coloring but was missing the large black spot on the side of the head. I would have taken more pictures but the rain came quickly.  Boy were we glad that Azmil had brought the truck.  The rain pounded on the roof of the truck as we drove by two separate groups of really wet people walking back on the road.  Truck is good.

With the rest of the afternoon a washout, there was nothing left to do but head to the restaurant and enjoy a cocktail.  We sat sipping our Margarita and Long Island Ice Tea (the latter was much better than the former) and watched the rain come down and the mist flow in and out of the forest.  It was quite nice.

After another very satisfying dinner, Peggy and Bill decided to rest while we met Azmil for an 8PM night walk.  The rain had let up by now and we were hoping that it would hold off because our goal tonight was to see a Tarsier.  Our expectations were low since Azmil said one hadn't been sighted since late last year.  But, you never know until you try.  Tarsier can be seen on the sides of thin tree trunks at about eye level.  I had heard they didn't have eye-shine but Azmil said they have some. It's just very faint.

The walk started up the familiar main road which was very different in the dark.  The first stop was the frog pond where where we saw quite a few frogs including this one.

Harlequin Frog:
Harlequin Frog

Further down the road we saw a Bearded Pig and multiple Sambar deer walking.  Every once in a while Azmil would dart down a trail into the forest to see if there were any Tarsier around.  He also took us off the road a bit to a tiny pond that formed due to the rain where he found the wonderful Wallace's Flying Frog for us.  This guy isn't seen that often apparently so it was a treat to see.
Wallace's Flying Frog

Later, just as we were turning around to come back, Azmil shone his light up to some branches that we had just walked under and said "Slow Loris!".  We looked up and there it was in plain sight.  A Phillipine Slow Loris.

Philippine Slow Loris

Philippine Slow Loris

What a treat. This almost makes up for not seeing a Tarsier so far...almost.

Unfortunately, flash photography is not allowed at BRL for some reason so all my night pictures are with only Azmil's spotlight.  The shots of the Slow Loris did turn out fine but not being able to use flash when I wanted, even during the day, was disappointing.

On the way back down the road I spotted this huge scorpion:

At this point, Azmil asked if we wanted to take a trail into the Jungle to look for Tarsier.  He didn't have to ask us twice so off we went.  So, here we were sloshing through mud, deep in the Borneo rain forest, looking for a primate the size of your fist that may or may not have eye-shine.  It was hot and dark, we were sweaty, and it took a lot of coordination to shine our lights on tree trunks while simultaneously watching every step we took so we didn't fall on our butts.  It was tough going but we loved every minute of it.  It's unique experiences like this that feed our travel bug.

As challenging as this hike was for us, Azmil and his trusty rubber shoes just glided over the trail like an elf.  He was Legolas of Danum and we were looking for the Bornean equivalent of Gollum.

Unfortunately, we didn't find a Tarsier on this hike and we tied 1 to 1 on leeches. So, there was no winner there either.  But, we did see this cool Anglehead Lizard that was, amazingly, sleeping in this position:
Borneo Anglehead Lizard

We also got a glimpse of a Greater Mouse deer which was the only one we saw the whole trip. But, it moved way too fast to get a picture.

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