Tabin Day 2 – Clouded Leopard

Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah, 12 May 2019.

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Birds, Clouded Leopard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Drongo, Gibbon, Hornbill, Landscape, Monitor Lizard, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Tabin, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Gibbon.

We were up very early in the morning and were able to observe a troupe of gibbons making their way past us, high in the trees, from tree to tree.  These are Müeller’s gibbons, or North Borneo gibbons.  Gibbons diverged from great apes around 17 million years ago and they live exclusively on fruit so do not need to descend from trees.  They move by brachiation, swinging from branch to branch, for distances of up to 15 meters per swing, and can move at remarkable speeds, up to 55 km/hr.

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Pygmy squirrel.

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Crested serpent eagle.

After breakfast we went for a ride in a truck and then a walk in the rainforest.

 

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Agamid lizard (draco genus).

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Draco Cornutis (green flying lizard).

It is not apparent here, but this fellow has flaps under its body that allows it to glide from tree to tree.

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Monitor lizard.

In the late afternoon we went for another ride in the truck, photographing with a long lens from the open tray.

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Drongo.

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Drongo.

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Crested serpent eagle.

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Rhinoceros hornbills.

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Crested serpent eagle.

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It was after dark when we came upon another group who had seen a clouded leopard.  It had caught a civet and had settled down up a tree, behind the foliage. It wasn’t visible but we knew it was there so we waited. After about half an hour we caught a glimpse of a tail, which you may be able to see in the image above.

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After nearly an hour, the clouded leopard moved and we were able to see it through the foliage.

This is the Borneo subspecies of the Sunda clouded leopard.  The Sunda clouded leopard is endemic to Sumatra and Borneo, and separated from the mainland clouded leopard about three million years ago.  Note also that the clouded leopard is not a subspecies of leopard.  They are the sole members of the subfamily neofelis, whereas the subfamily panthera includes leopard, tiger, snow leopard, lion and jaguar. The Sunda clouded leopard is medium-sized, weighing 12 to 26kg.  Its flexible ankle joints allow it to climb down trees head first and it has the longest tooth size to head size of any cat, perhaps to help it hold on to prey in trees.  It is classified as vulnerable due to habitat loss as it is dependent on living in rainforest.

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I didn’t see the clouded leopard’s head but Damien Esquerré did and has kindly allowed me to show you this photograph.

Our guides said it was the first one they had seen for five years.

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Tabin Day 1

Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah, 11 May 2019.

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Birds, Crested Serpent Eage, Hornbill, Landscape, Millipede, Monitor Lizard, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Pig Tailed Macaques, Sabah, Tabin, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Orangutan mother and baby.

On this day we travelled to Tabin Wildlife Reserve.  On the way we stopped at the Caves of Goomontong, at a huge cave populated with bats and swiftlets.  Lighting was fiendishly difficult there and I have no images to show you but on the walk back from the cave we encountered a wild orangutan mother and baby.  It looks as though they might be in a zoo but they’re just sitting on the steps of an abandoned building.

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Birds, Crested Serpent Eage, Hornbill, Landscape, Millipede, Monitor Lizard, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Pig Tailed Macaques, Sabah, Tabin, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Millipede.

Now we are in Tabin in the later morning and I think this millipede was on a rail outside our room.  The difference between centipedes and millipedes is not the number of legs, it’s that centipedes have one pair of legs per segment whereas millipedes have two.

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Pig-tailed macaques.

It is now the late afternoon.  We might have been sitting around to escape the midday heat or it might have been raining.  I can’t remember which. You expect to encounter rain each afternoon and perhaps in the evening in Sabah but we were lucky in this trip and that only happened in Tabin.

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Pig-tailed Macaque.

We were photographing these images from the back of a small open truck.

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Monitor lizard and with something, maybe an insect, in his mouth.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve is a large island in a sea of palm oil plantations.  There is a lot of wildlife though most is secondary forest and it shows how much though not all of the wildlife will survive the largest trees being taken out, though the replacement of the forest for uses such as palm oil plantations is another matter.  There is also a much smaller island of primary forest, but that is not open to humans.

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Crested serpent eagle.

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White-crowned hornbill.

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Buffy fish owl.

We are now on a nighttime walk.

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Stick insect (probably Haaniella echinate), endemic to Borneo.

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Unidentified moth.

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Kinabatangan River Day 2 – Proboscis Monkeys

Kinabatangan River, Sabah, 10 May 2019.

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These images are from two trips along the river in a boat, one in the early morning and one in the late afternoon.  All the wildlife shots are from a considerable distance with a very long lens (420mm, full frame camera).

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Oriental Pied Hornbill.

This is the most common Asian hornbill and the most adaptable to habitat loss, so is not considered threatened.  Its distribution spreads over India and South-East Asia.

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Blue-throated Bee Eater.

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Egret.

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Male Proboscis Monkey.

The male proboscis monkey is recognisable by his large nose, thought to aid in making calls.

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Female Proboscis Monkey.

Proboscis monkeys are endemic to Borneo, and live in coastal areas close to water.  They are quite large monkeys and are good swimmers, having partially webbed feet.  They are classified as endangered due to habitat loss.

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Female Proboscis Monkey.

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Female Proboscis Monkey.

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Rhinocerous Hornbill.

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Rhinocerous Hornbill.

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Saltwater Crocodile.

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Rhinocerous Hornbill.

The rhinocerous hornbill is a large hornbill with a wingspan of around a metre.  It is endemic to Borneo, Sumatra, Java, the Malay Peninsula and Southern Thailand.  It requires large tree hollows for nesting and is classified as vulnerable due to habitat loss.  The females seals herself for nesting in a tree cavity sealed with mud and the male feeds her through a hole in the mud.

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Some views of the river from the boat.  Her as Usual it is quite hot and humid

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… though sometimes it cools a little off due to rain.

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Usually it rains often but we were pretty lucky.

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Proboscis Monkeys.

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Collared kingfisher.

 

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Blue-eared kingfisher.

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A boat on the river, showing something of the scale of the rainforest.

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Proboscis Monkey.

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Proboscis Monkeys.

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Male Proboscis Monkey.

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Lines over the river. Not zip lines or for flying foxes, they are for monkeys to cross without having to tangle with the crocodiles.

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(And yes, those three images in the middle were infrared).

Kinabatangan River Day 1 – Pig Tailed Macaques

Kinabatangan River, Sabah, 9 May 2019.

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Asian Palm Civet, Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Kingfisher, Landscape, Monitor Lizard, Nature, Photography, Pig Tailed Macaques, Sabah, Slow Loris, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Collared kingfisher.

These daylight images – this one and the next nine, were all taken from a boat on the Kinabatangan River, all with a very long telephoto lens (420mm).

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Asian Palm Civet, Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Kingfisher, Landscape, Monitor Lizard, Nature, Photography, Pig Tailed Macaques, Sabah, Slow Loris, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Long tailed Macaque.

Macaques are amongst the most widespread of monkeys and are endemic to Asia. North Africa and Gibraltar.  Long tailed Macaques are endemic to South East Asia.  They live in a variety of environments and can be closely associated with human settlements.  They can be an invasive species in some places, including Hong Kong and West Papua.  They are onmivores and considered of least concern for their conservation status.

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Long tailed Macaque.

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Southern Pig-tailed Macaques.

Southern Pig-tailed Macaques are endemic to Borneo, Sumatra and mainland Malaysia.  They live in rainforest and are also omniverous.  They are classified as vulnerable.

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Pig-tailed Macaques.

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Pig-tailed Macaques.

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Male Proboscis Monkey.

Proboscis monkeys are large monkeys endemic to Borneo.  The large nose of the males may assist in giving them a more resonant call.  They are aboreal (tree-dwelling), live close to water and are good swimmers.  They mostly eat fruit and leaves and will jump from tree to tree.  They are classified as endangered, due to habitat loss.

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Macaque.

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A Proboscis Monkey family tree.

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Female Proboscis monkey.

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Monitor lizard sleeping on the branch of a tree.

After dinner we went for a walk and I took some more images by torchlight.

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Slow Loris.

This is one was actually moving around quite quickly, despite the name.  It was a challenging photographic situation, dimly lit by torchlight.  requiring an exposure of 25,600 ISO and still three stops under.

This is a Phillipine Slow Loris, one of four species of what was previously the Borneo Slow Loris.  Ironically. it is endemic to Northern Borneo and not the Phillipines.  It is nocturnal and sparsely populated.  It is thought to be more nocturnal than other slow loris sub-species but little is known about it.  Not something you are guaranteed to see in a Borneo rainforest at all.

Unique for primates, slow lorises have a poisonous bite.  They have a poisonous gland near their armpits which they lick and the secretion becomes mixed with saliva.  They are more closely related to lemurs than monkeys.  They are classified as vulnerable or endangered and some subspecies have yet to be classified.  As well as habitat loss, they are threatened by a pet trade.  They look very cute with their large nocturnal eyes but the trade is very cruel.  They usually have their teeth cut or pulled due to the poisonous bit and often die from that.  Then they are nocturnal and have a specialised diet so do not do well in captivity.

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Stick insect.

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Asian Palm Civet.

Civets are part of the feliformia suborder of carnivora that includes cats, hyenas, mongooses and civets.  Civets are found in South East Asia, India and China.  Asian Palm Civets are nocturnal omnivores, mainly eating berries and fruit and leading solitary lifestyles.  There is a strange demand for coffee made from beans that have been eaten and digested by civets.  Traditionally, this was from harvesting the faeces of wild civets but it has led to captive civets in battery cages being fed coffee beans to produce the coffee.  There is also an unfortunately large (and illegal) usage of civets in Indonesia as pets.

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Katydid.

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Unidentified butterfly.

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Lantern bug (Pyrops whiteheadi).

They are called lantern bugs because it was believed erroneously in the eighteenth century that their extended hollow “snout” glowed in the dark.

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Sepilok Day 2 – Sun Bears and Orang Utans

Sepilok, Sabah, 9 May 2019.

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Unidentified butterfly.

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In the morning we visited the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre.  Each one has a unique chest patch.

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The sun bear is the world’s smallest bear, averaging one metre in length and is endemic to Borneo.

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They are primarily nocturnal, feeding on insects, though they also have a taste for honey.

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Obviously here, they are not in the wild and are feeding on carrots.

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They are listed as vulnerable and their population is declining due to habitat loss.

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Note the formidable claws, presumably for climbing trees.

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Unidentified bees and hive, on the trunk of a tree.

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Unidentified caterpillar.

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In the afternoon we visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

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Feet and hands are relatively interchangeable.

There are rescued orangutans here, including infants without parents.  Food and care is provided and the centre is open to adjacent rainforest including wild orangutans.

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Orangutans, including the Borneo species, are critically endangered due to habitat loss.  Population in Borneo has declined by about 15% since the middle 20th century and they may become extinct in the wild within ten to twenty years without effective conservation measures.

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This and the preceding three images were taken through glass in an observation building.

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We are now out of the building and in the rainforest.

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There are also some feeding sites out in the open.

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You have to stay back from the orangutans though.  While they are not usually aggressive, they are eight times stronger than a human.

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Orangutans make a nest in a tree each night.  Here some were doing just that.

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You can only take one camera and lens in the see the orangutans and no bags of any kind.  Otherwise, an orangutan might take a fancy to your camera bag (and you’d be well advised not to argue).  I had a 300mm lens (for a full frame body) and a 1.4x teleconverter.  This was too long to be convenient inside the building but came in handy for these last images.

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There was also a plantain squirrel checking out the culinary options on display.

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Black fur but pinkish underneath.

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Much later we went for a night walk.  This is an Island Palm Civet by torchlight.

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Rufous-backed kingfisher.

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Strange unidentified insect.

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Slow Loris (such as you can see – pushing the boundaries to get that much).

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Black and Crimson Pitta, sleeping in a tree.

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A Western Tarsier.

We were very fortunate to encounter a Tarsier, which are rare, nocturnal and hard to find.  It is an ancient primate, little changed for 45 million years.  (Primates include monkeys, lemurs and apes, which in turn include us).  There are several species and all are classified as vulnerable to extinction.  It is tiny, 70-150cm in length and 1 kilogram in weight and each of its giant eyes are as large as its brain.  It is the only carnivorous primate, eating mainly insects but also birds, lizards and bats.  It can take great leaps from one tree to the next, to a distance of around thirty times its body length.  It can also rotate its head 180 degrees.

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Sepilok Day 1 – Giant Flying Squirrels

Sepilok, Sabah, 8 May 2019.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
Palm oil plantations surrounding Sepilok.

Most people probably think of Borneo as a wild land covered in rainforest and populated with exotic tribes and remarkable wildlife.  And so it was as recently as fifty years ago, when ninety percent of it was covered in rainforest, the vast majority of that lowland rainforest.

Since then, all of Borneo has been intensively logged and now only 6% is intact virgin lowland rainforest.  Sarawak Governor over several decades Taib Mahmud accreted many hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks from logging companies and the exploitation of the rainforest was even more intensive in Indonesian Kalimantan.  Much has been lost in Sabah  but a higher proportion remains there.  Certainly in Sarawak and Kalimantan, logging was accompanied by ruthless exploitation of native peoples who depended on the forest for their livelihood and whose land it really was.    And this continues today.

Removal of the prime timber trees carried a large ecological cost but much of the wildlife could still survive in secondary forest..  The next stage was the oil palm plantations, which in many places seem to stretch to the horizon.  Some species, such as hornbills, macaques and bearded pigs, can exploit these plantations whereas for others such as the near-extinct Bornean rhinos, they are as deserts.

It’s true that most countries in the West have devastated their ecology over a longer period and there are significant preserved areas in Sabah and Sarawak (not so much Kalimantan) but there are insufficient contiguous areas of protected rainforest to allow many species to flourish or even survive.  It is particularly sad how rapid the destruction has been and how ruthless it has often been.  Brunei has the most intact rainforest because their oil revenues mean they don’t bother with logging, but Brunei is small.  Many native populations have also been displaced from their traditional lands and lifestyles without effective compensation, often with little alternative lifestyle choices and commonly without their permission (I refer mainly to Sarawak and Kalimantan, Sabah may be similar but I don’t know).

While there is a place for palm oil plantations to generate income in poor countries, the systematic destruction of the rainforest has been and remains a crime.  Perhaps tourism will assist in funding rainforest preservation though that can be a double-edged sword as well.

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Brown shrike.

We had arrived mid-afternoon and later headed off along a road near the lodge before dinner looking for birdlife,  I saw a tree in flower off a sideroad so I headed for that (image above).

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Scarlet-backed flowerpecker (and next two images).

This bird was in a nearby tree.

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Baya Weaver.

Further down the road we found these three Baya Weaver nests, with the odd bird flying in and out.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
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Giant red flying squirrel (and next three images).

After dinner, we headed for the Rainforest Discovery Centre and the Canopy Walkway in the gathering gloom.  We were hoping to see a giant flying squirrel in flight and were very luck to see multiple flights.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Here’s one about to launch.

Taking the images with a very long lens in the near dark was a challenging task.  This is at 22,000 ISO for example.

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Birds, Butterfly, Giant red flying squirrel, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Scarlet-backed flowerpecker, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
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Rufous-backed kingfisher.

Following on from the Canopy Walkway, we went for a walk in the rainforest after dark and these images are by torchlight.

 

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White-lipped frog.

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Millipede.

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Juvenile keeled pit viper.

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Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, 4th to 6th May 2019.

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Clouded leopard.

On the morning of the 4th, we were still in Kota Kinabalu and we visited the KK Museum before leaving for Mount Kinabalu, just a few hours drive.  I photographed the clouded leopard on display because it was not very likely we would actually see one.

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Birds, Butterfly, Funghi, Gecko, Insects, Landscape, Moth, Mount Kinabalu, Nature, Orchids, Photography, Sabah, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Chinese cemetery, KK.

On our way, I took this photograph of a Chinese cemetery from the moving bus.  I had earlier missed photographing another, larger one as we passed it due to not being sufficiently alert.  I was told they are on the tops of hills and I think facing North.  The next two images are also taken from the moving bus.

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Village in forest.

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Forest in mist and cloud.

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Unidentified moth.

I think we were still en route, though in the hills, and this was somewhere we stopped, probably for lunch.

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Leaf litter.

This is the first image from Mount Kinabalu, which is also the location of all following images in this post.

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Unidentified orchid.

In the late afternoon, we went for a walk along a road near where we were staying, albeit in the rainforest.

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Roadside ferns on dead log.

This is a focus-stacked image.  In other words, it combines many exposures at different pints of focus to get greater depth of focus than would otherwise be possible.  Admittedly, I was a bit careless with the exposure and there is more noise than there should be (though not visible at small image size).

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Unidentified mushrooms.

Another focus-stacked image, taken using a camera that largely automates the process of taking the exposures.

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Rainforest foliage.

(Two images combined for depth of focus for this one).

Birds, Butterfly, Funghi, Gecko, Insects, Landscape, Moth, Mount Kinabalu, Nature, Orchids, Photography, Sabah, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Female Papilio memnon, Common name: Mormon.

We are now back at the Lodge, probably in or near the dining area.

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Birds, Butterfly, Funghi, Gecko, Insects, Landscape, Moth, Mount Kinabalu, Nature, Orchids, Photography, Sabah, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Kuhl’s Creek Frog, maybe

Early next morning, we are on another walk before dawn.  These exposures are by torchlight.

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Unidentified frog.

In some cases there was very little light.  This was 180mm, 1/400sec, f6.3 @25,600 ISO and is a 70% crop.

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Spider’s web.

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Funghi on log.

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Mt Kinabalu.

(Now later in the morning).  Mount Kinabalu lies within a World Heritage Site, Kinabalu Park.  It is the highest mountain in Sabah at 4,095 metres.

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Birds, Butterfly, Funghi, Gecko, Insects, Landscape, Moth, Mount Kinabalu, Nature, Orchids, Photography, Sabah, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Juvenile female leaf insect (Phylliidae).

Remarkable camouflage from this leaf insect.  A 47 million year fossil indicates they have changed little over time.

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Birds, Butterfly, Funghi, Gecko, Insects, Landscape, Moth, Mount Kinabalu, Nature, Orchids, Photography, Sabah, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Orchid.

In the afternoon we visited the local Botanical Gardens and I took some focus-stacked images of orchids.

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Birds, Butterfly, Funghi, Gecko, Insects, Landscape, Moth, Mount Kinabalu, Nature, Orchids, Photography, Sabah, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Orchid.

“A recent botanical survey of the mountain estimated a staggering 5,000 to 6,000 plant species (excluding mosses and liverworts but including ferns), which is more than all of Europe and North America (excluding tropical regions of Mexico) combined.”.

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Longicorn beetle: Family Cerambycidae, possibly Dihammus species.

In the evening we went for another night walk.

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Unidentified Gecko.

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Stick Insect – Phasmid.

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Unidentified caterpillar.

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Kinabalu Torrent Frog?

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Unidentified Bird.

These last two images are near the Lodge, on the morning of the 6th.

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Indigo Flycatcher.

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