Birding In Sabah
The sites to look for montane specialties include Kinabalu Park, the Crocker Range, the Rafflesia Forest Reserve and the Trus Madi Range. Kinabalu Park HQ remain on obvious target because of its easy accessibility and availability of accommodation, both inside the Park and along the road passing by the Park Entrance. This is the place to fill your list of montane species which include 17 endemics. However Kinabalu Park also attract many day trippers and can be quite crowded on local holidays. Birders hoping to catch a glimpse of the Friendly Bush Warbler and the Island Thrush on the Summit Trail have to contend with a daily procession of happy trekkers heading up or coming down the mountain.
The Rafflesia Forest Reserve is the best site for the endemic Mountain Barbet and the beautiful Kinabalu (Mountain Blue-Winged) Leafbird. The site lies on the busy Penampang – Tambunan Road and can be reached by public transport.
The next site, the Trus Madi Forest Reserve is rarely visited by birders. The main attraction here is the 2,642m Mt. Trus Madi (second highest mountain in Malaysia) and various pitcher plants. If the Whitehead’s Spiderhunter proved to be just an illusion on the other places, this is the place to be. But access is by chartered 4WD from Tambunan and there is no facility of any sort.
Lowland Forest Birds
The lowland forests of the tropics are some of the most species rich habitats in the world. Here thousands of species of plants and insects abound, to be shared by a further array of hornbills, barbets, babblers, sunbirds, spiderhunters, leafbirds, trogons and floor dwellers like pheasants, pittas and wrenbabblers. Mixed species feeding parties are not uncommon. Be forewarned though, the gaps between such flocks can be long and patience is more than necessary.
In Sabah, accessible lowland forests are found in different reserves such as Kinabalu Park (Poring Hotsprings), Danum Valley, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve, Kinabatangan River, etc.
The big bonus for birding in these areas is that these are also the domain of different primates such as the orang utan, the Borneo gibbon, the proboscis monkey, red and silver leaf monkeys and macaques
Coastal & Riverine Forest Birds
These include fresh water swamps and mangrove forests. These places are crucial for the survival of species such as the threatened storm’s stork, Lesser Adjutant, Cinnamon Headed Pigeon, Borneon Ground Cuckoo and Straw Headed Bulbul. Other birds such as the Ruddy Kingfisher and the Hook Billed Bulbul depend on the health of the mangrove forest.
In Sabah, the mighty Kinabatangan River is a must for a glimpse into these habitats. Access is available through riverside villages such as Batu Putih, Bilit, Sukau and Abai. Boat transport is essential in all these areas.