Thursday, April 26, 2018

Sepilok - Day 3

We had some light rain overnight but nothing like the thunder and lightning the previous morning.  In fact, the sky was clear when I looked outside.  So, we had high hopes when we met at 6AM to head once again to the RDC.

Waiting for us promptly at 6AM was Gomi.  My first impression was that this guy couldn't be more than 15 years old.   My second impression wasn't much better when we learned that we would have to shuttle to the RDC since a tiny taxi was the only vehicle he could get.  Weird...but OK.

We joked to ourselves that maybe Gomi wasn't old enough to drive yet which is why he hired a taxi.

Once at the RDC, all this was forgotten as we headed up a canopy walk and Karen spotted a flying squirrel that was climbing up a tree.  It was hard to see but I, not Gomi, noticed a better vantage point and we all headed there.  Seeing a Flying Squirrel in the day time would be a real treat.

Once we got to the new vantage point, we could see the squirrel high in a tree and it appeared to be eating. It was a Giant Red Flying Squirrel. But, with the sun behind it, it wasn't great for photos.  This Wallace's Hawk Eagle nearby also seemed interested...

Wallace's Hawk Eagle

We watched the squirrel move around in the tree eating and we all hoped that it might decide to glide.  As minutes passed our arms got tired from holding up cameras, binocs, etc so we weren't paying as close attention as we should have been when the squirrel took off and literally glided right over our heads.  It was extraordinary to watch but with my camera down at that exact moment I had to raise it quickly and just shoot from the hip.  The result is far from a perfect picture but I do find it interesting since you can see the membrane and its rear appendages pretty well:

Red Giant Flying Squirrel...flying past

Once the squirrel landed on its target tree, the Wallace's Hawk Eagle came swooping in.  It was sort of a half hearted attack if you ask me but it was still fun to see and I managed to get a photo as the squirrel snapped at the eagle:

Eagle vs. Squirrel

The eagle gave up quickly which left the squirrel in perfect light for a few photos:
Squirrel Wins!

Climbing to Safety

Soon, the squirrel climbed up that tree and out of sight.

It was really a fantastic experience to see.  We had seen flying squirrel before but seeing one fly over our heads in the daytime and then climb up a tree in morning light was really special.

I chatted a bit with Gomi and learned that he had been guiding for 7 years (So, he must have started when he was 8 I said to myself) and Gary (our guide the past two days) was one of his "best friends".  Hmmm...that's weird since Gary said he didn't know him...

Next we (not Gomi) saw some birds in a far tree.  I identified them as Dollar Bird's since we just saw one earlier in the trip and I know what they look like.  Gomi said no...they were Red-breasted Parakeets.  Say what?...they are blueish green.  Hmmm....not a good sign considering those birds aren't even supposed to be in Sabah.

The only other excitement during this morning activity was a bit later when Tim (not Gomi) yelled out "Snake"!  There had been a snake apparently a few feet away that quickly crawled into the nearby bushes.  We all got close to take a look. We saw its body which was grey with a white stripe down the back.  Gomi identified it as a Gray Cobra and told us to be careful as he backed away a bit behind all of us.  Hmmm...I am no cobra expert but I had never heard of a Gray Cobra before.  We kept looking, of course, hoping the snake would come out but it stayed in the leaf litter slithering calmly along and was mostly obscured.  At one point, I was able to get a picture of its head:
White-bellied Rat Snake

It had a really big eye and sure didn't look like a Cobra head to me.  But, at this point we could only assume that Gomi was right so we were excited to see a Cobra on "our" terms basically.

Gomi did have a cell phone and apparently reached out to friends about the snake and a little bit later told us it was actually a King Cobra.  Wow, that would be cool.  But, I still had my doubts on that ID.

Next, we mentioned that we wanted to try to find the Racer snake we saw with Gary yesterday to see if it was still there.  We didn't know exactly where it was but we knew we passed Gary's office in the RDC right after seeing the snake.  Since Gomi and Gary were "Best Friends" we figured this was a good clue.  Gomi indicated he knew where to go and we followed him down the path which lead directly.......

out of the RDC and no where near where we wanted to go.  Oh well...

We "shuttled" back to the lodge in the same tiny taxi for lunch and rest.  But, Karen and I always say that we can "rest when we get home".  So, we decided to take the short jungle walk on the grounds of the lodge.  This was a really good decision with one minor "gotcha".

Plaintive Cuckoo:
Plaintive Cuckoo

Yellow-vented Bulbul:
Yellow-vented Bulbul

Next, Karen spotted something small moving in the bushes just above eye level.  We assumed it was a squirrel because they were everywhere at Forest Edge but this little critter was different.  We actually didn't know what it was at first until Karen realized it was a treeshrew.  We later identified it as a Lesser Treeshrew:
Lesser Treeshrew

It's pretty cute!

A new mammal is always a great way to start a hike.  Soon after that we found a gorgeous Kingfisher and we watched it hunt:

Chestnut-collared Kingfisher:
Chestnut-collared Kingfisher

Millipede Hunter

That was another great sighting on this short hike.  But, just as we were leaving, I noticed something small fly above the photo blind the owner has installed for Pitta Photography.  It took me a second to get a clear look.  It wasn't a was an owl!

Reddish Scops Owl

We later identified this Owl with the help of Peter, the owner of Forest Edge, as the Reddish Scops Owl.  We love owls and this was our first Scops owl of any kind which was really exciting.

We were probably on the trail for less than an hour so that was time well spent in our book.

However, the mood turned a bit somber as we took off our shoes before entering our room.  There on Karen's ankle was a big juicy leech.  We were proud to say that on our previous trip to Borneo no one in our group of four got bit by a leech.  But, here we were only on day 3 and Karen is already a victim on this trip.

She was likely incredibly grossed out by this but she remained calm and asked me to remove it.  It took a bit of effort to scrape it off with my fingernail but I did.  Then we searched our boots and Karen found two more leeches.  I, of course, had none because I am awesome!  But, one band-aid later and Karen was good as new.  We had not thought there would be leeches on this trail so we didn't wear our cool looking leech socks.  Lesson learned....

At lunch we traded our favorite Gomi stories from the morning and did some online research only to confirm that we didn't see a Cobra since the scales were all wrong on it's head.  Oh, well.

In the afternoon, the plan was to explore the RDC again.  Once again, Gomi was waiting promptly but with the tiny taxi again. So, after we shuttled to the RDC we began our walk.

He immediately told us the snake we saw in the morning was actually a Sumatran Cobra not a King Cobra.  OK....

Soon we encountered a couple RDC employees looking at something.  Turns out it was a Colugo splayed out on a tree resting in broad daylight.  Another nocturnal mammal in the daytime...that was really lucky (and would be a continuing theme of this trip).

Bornean Culogo

Colugo Closeup

The RDC employees said the Colugo had a baby but it was tucked out of sight so we couldn't see it.

Gomi talked about the Colugo a bit and told us that the baby was likely in the Colugo's pouch.  What?  "The Colugo has a pouch?" I asked.  "Oh yes, the baby will stay with the mother in the pouch for 6 years" said Gomi.  "Wait" I said "Only marsupials have pouches I thought and the Colugo is not a marsupial".  "It has a pouch" says Gomi.

OK, so I let the pouch thing go but Gomi's already paper thin credibility melted away with me.  The others pressed him a bit on the 6 year thing.  They even asked how long the Colugo lives to which he replied 12 years.  So, I guess they spend half their lives with a baby in their pouch.  Seemed kind of fishy to us...but we let that one go too eventually.

Next, Andrea (not Gomi) spotted a really cool green lizard which Gomi correctly identified as the Green Crested Lizard (AKA Green Tree Lizard):
Green Tree Lizard

Notice its extraordinarily long tail in the photo above.  This was a pretty lizard so I couldn't resist taking more photos:
Green Tree Lizard

That was pretty much the end of our afternoon trip but we booked a 6PM night walk at the Orangutan Sanctuary again (I will find you Tarsier!).  So, we were going to go straight there.  When we got to the RDC parking lot there was no taxi though.  Instead, Gomi went up to to a small car in the parking lot and opened the doors.  He, Tim, and Andrea got in and drove off to the Sanctuary.  I guess Gomi does have a driver's license after all, I thought.

A while later Gomi returned and this time there was a girl in the passenger seat.  Maybe she was there all along and I just missed her.  After climbing in, I noticed distinctly feminine decorating.  I think the pink tassel and steering wheel cover were a dead give away that this car must belong to his friend.  When we arrived at the sanctuary he thanked her for letting him borrow her car and made some comment about her being pretty...was Gomi a "playa"?

As we entered the sanctuary, the Red-tailed Racer was in the same tree as the night before but still not very visible so we quickly moved on to see Orangutans playing around the sanctuary buildings.  It was fun to watch them climb around the roof and drink water from the rain gutters.  There was also a big male around that was fun to watch as well.  You can tell how intelligent these apes are when you look them in the eyes.

I couldn't be sure but it seemed like the Orangutan looked at Gomi and then at me and proceeded to give me a "Sorry dude" look and then shake his head.

Orangutan Glance

For this night walk, they took us to the Orangutan Nursery area where Flying Squirrels would be likely to emerge and glide around at dusk.  So, we made a beeline for that area but not before stopping to see a much more visible Bornean Keeled Pit Viper.  That's a good looking snake:
Bornean Keeled Pit Viper

We got to the nursery and waited around for a bit.  Soon, one squirrel emerged:
Red Giant Flying Squirrel

Then another from a different tree.  Then the second one glided majestically to a nearby tree.  Then more squirrels emerged and started gliding.  We must have seen 4 to 6 squirrels glide which was fantastic even though it got too dark to photograph them.

During this Flying Squirrel circus, a young Orangutan showed up and didn't seem to like us NOT paying any attention to it.  So, it got on its back and rolled around in the grass, looked our way...then rolled more with hands and feet in the air.  It seemed to be looking for attention that we could not give.  But, there was an employee nearby that went over to it and that seemed to satisfy it.  I called it the "diva" Orangutan and it was quite entertaining.

The rest of the night walk was OK. We saw some cool stick insects, some roosting birds and lizards but no Tarsier...again! (I am beginning to doubt their existence).  Once again, as we left the center the word came out that a Slow Loris was in the Sun Bear Sanctuary across the road.  Since they were letting us in to look, we went.  This time the Slow Loris was much more visible and we soon realized that there were two in the same tree and one was moving pretty darn fast to catch the other.

Philippine Slow Loris moving quickly:
Slow Loris Moving Fast

But, it eventually gave up the chase and stayed still for a bit:
Slow Loris

Slow Loris

Wow, these guys are adorable.  But, they are venomous, believe it or not, so you certainly don't want to get near one.  The have a gland that they lick to mix with their saliva and then they coat themselves with it.  Apparently, there is enough of this venom in their mouth through licking to do some damage to someone if bitten.  Especially if that person happens to be allergic to the toxin.  So, there you have it.  Cute...but don't touch!

As we were walking back to the entrance there was a 3rd Slow Loris in a tree.  Three in one night is a pretty good haul.

Back at the entrance to the sanctuary, the car we were delivered in was no where to be seen.  Gomi came up to us and pointed to a nearby car with a guy in it and said that he would take us back to the lodge.  The car was actually big enough for all 4 of us so after looking at each other we shrugged and walked towards the car.  Gomi said he was staying at the Forest Edge and would see us later at dinner.  So, I opened the front passenger door only to find a bag of groceries on the seat.  Between that and the lack of leg room, I barely managed to contort myself enough to squeeze into the seat and off we went.  The drive back was uneventful except for the can of soup in my intergluteal cleft (look it up).

At dinner, we did see Gomi but he ended up sitting at a different table and eventually disappeared with all his stuff still on that table.  We waited a bit to say goodbye but he never came back.  So, after another nice dinner and more of our "best of Gomi" stories we walked back to the room.

On the way was a really cool Common Greenback frog:
Common Greenback

It was another really good day of animal sightings and once again there was no rain!  The daytime Flying Squirrel and Colugo and the night time Slow Loris were huge highlights.

Despite Gomi's obvious shortcomings as a guide, he was always on time with some sort of  transportation for us and he did try to find things for us.  He just didn't really succeed in anything but providing us with some false information and entertainment.  It would be better if he had just said he didn't know what something was as opposed telling us the wrong thing.  We also learned that Colugo's don't have pouches and the babies stay with their mother's for 6 months...not years.  That is why we Karen coined the name Gomi for him.  Guide Of Mis-Information.

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