Day Five at Sepilok: Orangutan and Sunbear Centres and More Wildlife

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June 15th 2018
Published: June 15th 2018
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It did seem a bit cooler following the rain, although the birds didn't seem any more active and the only thing seen from the canopy walkway first thing in the morning was one of the resident Wallace's Hawk Eagles, as well as loads of Pig-tailed Macaques. Walking around on the trails though, I did find my first tree shrew on Borneo, a Large Tree Shrew. Given how many species there are present and how many are supposed to be common, I was expecting to see more. Large is a nice species to see though.

After breakfast I went back to the RDC for a bit more birding and I got a lovely view of a group of Bushy-crested Hornbills up close from the canopy walkway. A bit later, I found a patch of trees which for some reason had a large number of bird species just there and an odd assortment too with drongos, babblers, barbets, malkohas, and woodpeckers, as well as a Lesser Tree Shrew. It was still very hot, and largely bird dead with almost no birds seen at all for the next few hours, but a bit cooler than it had been and it 'only' got up to a max of 33/34 degrees. It's obviously still super-humid of course, but it is a tropical rainforest so that goes without saying.

I decided to have lunch at the café/restaurant at the RDC because it was open for once as I walked past. I popped back to my room briefly after lunch and then headed out to visit the Sun Bear and Orangutan centres. It's about 2km each way and I looked at a grab which was only RM4 but I decided I fancied the walk.

I went to the sun bear centre first and it has a rather attractive aquarium with native fishes at the entrance. The centre itself is 'just' an area of natural forest fenced off with raised walkways through it for the visitors, and bears roaming around in the forest below. Simple, but very effective. There was a wild endemic Bornean Brown Barbet around too which is nice. A great little place.

I then popped across the road to the Orangutan centre where they made me leave my bag in one of their lockers which I wasn't keen on (but what if I have a sudden and desperate need for a field guide???). Th place is an area of forest with boardwalks through it and orangutans roaming around with a feeding platform where they gather, especially at the set feeding times twice a day (I was there at the afternoon time, quite a lot of people there at the feeding time). I don't think it's fenced at all though at the orangs are free to roam in the whole Sepilok forest? But I believe they were all brought here and rehabilitated and released though so I don't think they're countable as wild. There are trails through the forest at the Orangutan centre too which is the same block of forest that the RDC is part of, but I can't really bird properly without the stuff in my backpack so it's kind of annoying that you can't take it in. I did still see a tree shrew which may have been a Slender but I'm not sure, as well as a Prevost's and a showy Bornean Pygmy Squirrel. The most surprising wild sighting there was a flock of Wrinkled Hornbills that flew past and it's a good thing I had looked at the ID features recently because without my field guide I wouldn't have been sure of wreathed/wrinkled hornbills. There's an elephant enclosure at the centre as well with presumably Bornean Pygmy Elephants but you can't actually go up to it and I didn't see it advertised anywhere so I'm not sure what that's about.

I'm pleased I popped around to see the two places, they are the main touristy things to see at Sepilok after all and they are zoo-type facilities, though at RM30 each they are relatively expensive by the standards of this trip. Not really that expensive in absolute terms though. It started raining as I was walking back, which sucked but oh well.

I sat out the rain for an hour or so and thought it might continue through the rest of the evening, but at about 5:30 it stopped raining heavily and was just lightly drizzling but still very ominously overcast indeed. So I did the sensible thing and called it a night and stayed dry. Oh no wait hang on, I didn't do that. There might be animals. Instead, I put my rain coat on, wrapped up my gear, and headed back to the RDC for the evening. I did finally hear a definite Black-and-Yellow Broadbill but I still haven't seen any of this 'most common and easily seen' bird. The thunder and heavy rain starting at sunset made me wonder if I was being a bit stupid to go spotlighting but last time I went spotlighting in a thunder storm turned out well so... though the fact that the official night walk (that had been paid for in advance with the guide there and ready to go) was cancelled suggests that it's not generally recommended.

Many mammal watchers claim that you can't spotlight when it's raining because the water droplets on leaves look like eyeshine. I think this is rubbish and an excuse made up by mammal watchers who don't want to get wet because unless you're looking for spiders, water droplets look nothing like eyeshine. In fact, the point at which you can't go spotlighting is when the rain is so heavy that the falling rain water causes the entirety of the 1000lm torch beam to be reflected directly back into your own eyes and not in front of you. At this point I sat the rain out a bit in one of the shelters that are throughout the park. Lots of cool frogs through, including one that looked like a fallen leaf. Really high frog diversity though I'm not going to be able to identify any of them. I think I give up with trying to do a year list of wild herptiles. At best I'm identifying 10% of the species I see.

The rain did die down a bit before my 8PM cut off, and the guard is more relaxed about 8-ish now anyway, so I went out again in the slightly less heavy rain. The rain did pretty much stop and the spotlighting was actually rather successful. First was a particularly good view of a slow loris in an exposed tree directly above me. Nothing like that first Bukit Fraser view, but I could see the body pattern and face pattern clearly and watched it for a while. I also got a few 'record shots' which are clearly recognizable as a slow loris though not great. I have a technique for photographing things that are directly above me at night with a spotlight now. I should probably patent it or something, but here it is for free: you hold the torch in your mouth and point your head directly up so gravity keeps the torch in and you have both hands free for the camera. Simples. The problem though is that moths and other night insects are attracted to extremely bright points of light so you mouth soon fills with moths and they completely cover your face and neck and chest which is not exactly conducive to photography to be honest, especially because some of them bite like hell and then they all go down into your shirt when you're done. Hmm, maybe I don't need to worry about my amazing technique being stolen.

I then got a bunch of cool sightings all in quick succession. First was a tree that was absolutely filled with Large Flying Foxes, then a Lesser Mouse deer right by the path that ran off, then I turned a corner and right by the path was a Malay Civet - not new because I saw one at Kumbang Hide in Taman Negara but new for Borneo, assuming no one has split them while I wasn't looking - and then just a bit further on was the biggest surprise of the night: a Bearded Pig! Just a single individual rooting around quite close to the path. There is an information sign about Bearded Pigs but I hadn't expected them in the RDC itself, just in the main forest block that the RDC is connected to, but what do I know. There really are Bearded Pigs, or rather at least one, in the RDC itself. I'll be darned.

New birds:

Pied Triller

Grey-chested Jungle-flycatcher

Red-billed Malkoha

Red-throated Barbet

Rufous Piculet

Bold-striped Tit-babbler

Bornean Brown Barbet

Wrinkled Hornbill


Large Treeshrew

Bornean Bearded Pig

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


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