Relaxed Wildlife Watching at Sepilok


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Asia » Malaysia » Sabah » Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
June 14th 2018
Published: June 14th 2018
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I started the morning with a slightly different approach and rather than going straight onto the canopy walkway, I decided to try birding the ground-level pathways because there were a couple of endemic babblers that I hadn't seen yet. It seemed to be a quieter birding morning anyway and I didn't find the babblers, but I did still find a few interesting things including a couple of endemics and Grey-headed Bulbuls which is a bird I've been looking at longingly in the field guide whenever I'm identifying nondescript brown bulbuls for something more interesting looking and they are nice birds. The field guide describes them as 'widespread but very scarce' anyway so that's good.

It was already getting hot when I went for breakfast but I went out again afterwards anyway because it doesn't get really blistering until about midday ish (after which point it's pretty pointless to be out until 4/5ish). There wasn't much around though, even before 9 still.

After lunch in the afternoon I had intended to pop around and visit the Bornean Sun Bear Centre and the Orangutan Centre (both hold captive animals, not countable for the wild list) but I decided I would rather just relax a bit that afternoon having had the day out yesterday and I have all day tomorrow and the next day still and I think I’ll visit those places tomorrow. It also occurred to me that I haven't had any rain in Sepilok at all and I haven't really had a storm since Bukit Fraser weeks ago. I thought this was supposed to be a rain forest? Certainly not complaining though, and I've probably jinxed it now. I also enquired about their laundry service but they want 10 ringgit per kilo which is an unjustifiable expense here because I am in a position where I can wash my own clothes here.

I started the afternoon birding with some Little Green Pigeons in the B&B grounds but there weren't so many birds around in the evening after that, apparently the lack of rain is making it stay extra hot and decrease bird activity, and I still haven't seen the supposedly common Black and Yellow Broadbills. But I did finally get a brief view of the "easily seen at the RDC" Bornean Pygmy Squirrel which is such a cool little squirrel and it is really tiny. A Bornean endemic too so one of the top mammals on my hit list.

It's really nice that I'm not sneaking around at night for the spotlighting, despite the 8PM restriction. And as a result of my, erm, persistence, or possibly stubbornness, with getting permission to go in at night, I am now very well known to all of the staff at the RDC. After dark I stayed on the canopy walk until later rather than going into the forest straight after dark and just after the Red Giant Flying Squirrels come out which was a good move because on a distant tree of the end of the walkway I found a Black Giant Flying Squirrel which is smaller than the red and, naturally, black. One of the information signs in the park actually suggests that Black Giant Flying Squirrels can be seen from the walkway coming out later than the reds. The signs do generally seem to be of top notch quality actually, from a zoo-nerd type perspective. I was hoping for an up close view of a slow loris from the walkway, but no such luck. Just a distant "I'm 90% sure this can only be a slow loris based on how the eyes are moving and what I can just about see of the animal but wouldn't count it as my first sighting" type view.

The other things of interest seen were a tickable Dusky Fruit Bat (there don’t seem to be too many similar megabats around so I’m confident with my ID, unlike the possible Dusky seen at Taman Negara) and something gliding over the path that I just saw out of the corner of my eye and couldn’t find in the trees. I think the most likely thing would be a Colugo, it didn’t seem very bat like, but I can’t be sure enough to count it. Still no tarsiers though, and speaking to the night tour guides, they’re not seen very often here. There were a few fireworks every now and again too which must be because today is the first day of Eid or Hari Raya Aidilfitri as it’s called here. (that’s the reason that I had to stay another night at Sepilok and only stay two nights instead of three at Kinabatangan, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago – the place I had booked closes for Eid but the person who made my booking a few months ago hadn’t realised – I’m still doing a 3 day 2 night standard tour at Kinabatangan, just not adding an extra day, so it’s fine. I like it here at Sepilok anyway, I could happily stay longer.)

Because this is not a very long post, I may as well write a bit about my spotlighting set up because I'm quite happy with the set up at the moment and it seems to be producing decent results. I've got three torches as well as my phone torch which is useful for looking in field guides. My weakest torch is just 70 lumens which is just about powerful enough to get obvious eye shine but it has the advantage of having a wind-up dynamo to charge it so I can potentially use it without electricity indefinitely. My two main torches are one 220 lumen one that I've used for ages with an adjustable beam to be focused or spread. I'm not sure what the manufacturer is, it says 'Light S7" on it. My final torch is my newest one bought especially for this trip. It's a Fenix UC30 which goes up to 1000lumens at max setting giving a central circle of 1000lm and a wider 200lm circle. It does get very hot at max power but can be used at lower power as well and it has a built in battery that is charged inside the torch and it seems to last a good length of time on one charge and maintain very high brightness for a long time before running out rather than slowly dimming. It's a really good, small, torch for spotlighting and water proof too in theory. Oh, and another advantage is that it charges through a USB cable and doesn't need a wall socket so I can charge it from the power bank that I have for my phone anyway. Note: Just as I am about the post this, it has started raining absolutely torrentially. Like, having to shout to be heard because of the rain sounds on the roof torrential. I knew I’d jinxed it, and I didn’t even have to post anything. This is my first storm since Bukit Fraser though, which really is surprising. Hopefully this brings the temperature down a couple of degrees.

New birds seen:

Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker
Bornean Spiderhunter
Grey-bellied Bulbul
Grey-and-buff Woodpecker
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter
Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler
Plain Sunbird Scarlet Minivet

Mammals:

Bornean Pygmy Squirrel
Black Flying Squirrel
Dusky Fruit Bat



Additional photos below
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14th June 2018

Pigmy squirrel.
What does a pigmy squirrel look like William. There is a family of very small and cute squirrels that live in Perfect Place and I somwtimes see them and wonder if they are pigmy squirrels.
15th June 2018

It just looks like a teeny tiny brown squirrel with a tail that is a bit shorter than the body. They are absolutely tiny, the body is max 8cm according to the field guide, maybe a bit longer than a thumb. You won't have them in Thailand, the Bornean Pygmy Squirrel AKA Plain Pygmy Squirrel is endemic to Borneo (and there are a couple of other endemic Bornean pygmy squirrel species) i.e. it is not found anywhere else in the world. There are some other squirrels called pygmy squirrels like in Africa and such but I don't think there are any in mainland SE Asia.

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