Sepilok Day 2 – Sun Bears and Orang Utans

Sepilok, Sabah, 9 May 2019.

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Unidentified butterfly.

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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In the afternoon we visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

There are also some feeding sites out in the open.

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
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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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
Much later we went for a night walk.  This is an Island Palm Civet by torchlight.

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
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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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
Black and Crimson Pitta, sleeping in a tree.

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Birds, Butterfly, Insects, Island Palm Civet, Landscape, Nature, Orang Utan, Photography, Plantain Squirrel, Sabah, Sun Bear, Tarsier, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

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

 

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

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Millipede.

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Juvenile keeled pit viper.

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Poring Hot Springs and Sabah Tea Plantation

Poring Hot Springs and Sabah Tea Plantation, Sabah, 6-7 May 2019.

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Butterfly, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Sabah Tea Plantation, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Markets on the way between Mt Kinabalu Lodge and Poring Hot Springs.  Mt Kinabalu in the background.

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Butterfly, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Sabah Tea Plantation, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Heliconia Rostrata (native to Central and South America), Poring Springs.

We are now at Poring Hot Springs though we didn’t try the hot springs.  I don’t think they would have been as compelling as an onsen in Japan in winter.  What we did ckeck out was the butterfly farm there.

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Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing Butterfly.

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Common Tree Nymphs.

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Unidentified butterfly.

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Roadside shop outside the hot springs.

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Rafflesia in flower.

This is Rafflesia Arnoldii in flower, the largest rafflesia and also the world’s largest flower.  From memory I think this one was 78cm in diameter (31 inches).  They can reach over 100cm and weigh 10 kilograms (22lb).  This flowering happens very infrequently.  It takes nine months for a bud to get to florescence, and then the flower lasts only two or three days.  The flower has five petals, so there is actually two of them here.  Rafflesiae are also know as corpse flowers on account of their smell.  Swedish entomologist Eric Georg Mjöberg described the smell in 1928 as “a penetrating odour more repulsive than any buffalo carcass in an advanced stage of decomposition”.  I cannot personally attest to that as I have very little sense of smell.

 

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Sunset at Sabah tea Plantation (and following four images).

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These images are taken from just outside the cottages we were staying in for the night at Sabah Tea Plantation..

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Butterfly, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Sabah Tea Plantation, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

I took a full range of lenses with me, expecting to be taking landscape shots as well as wildlife.  This proved to not be the case.  I didn’t find much cause for wide angel lenses in the rainforest, so apart from some street photography in Kote Kinabalu with me Fuji X100s, pretty well all my images were macro telephoto or long telephoto.  Even these images, which are landscapes, were long telephoto.

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Butterfly, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Sabah Tea Plantation, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Butterfly, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Sabah Tea Plantation, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Butterfly, Insects, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Sabah Tea Plantation, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Malaysian Forest Scorpion.

On the road near the restaurant after dinner, we encountered this large scorpion which demonstrated its ability to fluoresce under ultraviolet light.

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Siti photographing Teetash, Mt Kinabalu in the background.

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Rhinocerous beetle (Chalcosoma moellenkampi) on clothing.

This is a male because only the males have horns.  They use them for fighting during the mating season and digging.  They are also known for being incredibly strong for their size.

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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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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).

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Female Papilio memnon, Common name: Mormon.

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

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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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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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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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KL to KK (Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu)

Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, South China Sea, 1 May 2019.
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The images in this post are taken from a plane above the South China Sea, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, on my way to a two week wilderness photography excursion in Sabah, formerly British North Borneo.

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Leaving KL Airport.

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Still over the outskirts of KL.

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Aerial Photography, Infrared, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Landscape, Photography, Sabah, seascape, Travel

Taking photographs from a plane requires a relatively clean window.  Internal reflections can be a problem and sometimes one side of the plane is better than the other.  A rubber lens hood against the window might help for the internal reflections. You need a high enough shutter speed to account for the vibrations of the plane.

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Aerial Photography, Infrared, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Landscape, Photography, Sabah, seascape, Travel

Haze can be a problem but I don’t think a polarising filter would help as I think it would pick up diffracted colours from the plane’s windows.  Post processing is likely to make a big difference.  Infrared can help too as it tends to cut through the haze.

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Islands in the South China Sea (I can’t work out from Google Earth exactly which ones).

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Aerial Photography, Infrared, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Landscape, Photography, Sabah, seascape, Travel .

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Coast of Sarawak.

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This and the next one is probably the coast of Sabah, possibly Brunei.

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Aerial Photography, Infrared, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Landscape, Photography, Sabah, seascape, Travel .

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Approaching Kota Kinabalu.

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All images are infrared, taken with a camera with a converted infrared sensor.  There is a lot of scope for variations in colour in processing colour infrared.

 

Sabah Itinerary

1 May to 15 May 2019.
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Kota Kinabalu, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Sabah Itinerary, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

My partner Jools and I embarked on a trip to Sabah in May 2019.  It was a two-week wildlife tour, organised by NatureArt Lab, based in Canberra.  Links to posts appear below..

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Kota Kinabalu, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Sabah, Sabah Itinerary, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

There is a great profusion of wildlife in Sabah which is much less affected by logging than Sarawak and Kalimantan.  There should be much to see including orangutans, sun bears, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, hornbills, spectacular butterflies and remarkable vegetation such as orchids and the giant rafflesia flowers.

Using the letters from the map above (click it if you need to see more detail):

  • (a) We arrive in Kota Kinabalu Airport
  • (b) We spend a couple of days in and around Kota Kinabalu, the capital and largest city of Sabah
  • (c)  Cool rainforest in Mount Kinabalu (everywhere else we go will be hot and humid)
  • (d)  Different birds, insects and animals at Poring Hot Springs and staying the night in a Tea Plantation.
  • (e)  Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Centre, Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre and the Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre
  • (f)  Photography from a boat on the Kinabatangan River
  • (g)  Tabin Wildlife Reserve
  • (h)  Fly out from Lahad Datu Airport.

 

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Canberra Nature, 2018

February 2018 to February 2019, Canberra, ACT

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In the changeover from one trip to another, here are some local images from the last year.

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There are two groups of images. The first is from a Nikon-sponsored event on Black Mountain Peninsular, late one afternoon.

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No prizes for identifying these birds.  They were cited in the second century AD by Roman poet Juvenal as an example of something that could not exist.  They were originally believed to be a hoax when reported back in Europe by the Dutch in 1697.

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Lake Burley Griffin in the late afternoon light.

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After a while, I mainly focused on semi-abstract details.

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There was a prize of a canvas print for best image of the afternoon.  I won that with this image.

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The remaining images are out the back of where we live, in Canberra Nature Park, or in the case of the first image, in the back yard.

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Kangaroo in the back yard, through the dining room window.

Over many months towards the end of last year there was a severe drought and there was no grass left for the kangaroos on Mount Ainslie.  The kangaroos would come down at night to eat on the roadside grass verges.  At the same time our back fence had disintegrated so we had kangaroos coming in at night as dinner guests.  This is one still there in the morning.

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Kangaroo in Fog.

Before we left on the Uzbekistan trip at the end of September, there were many kangaroos on the mountain and we would often see mobs of twenty or thirty.  One time I counted and we saw one hundred and thirty kangaroos on our half-hour morning walk.  They were under pressure at this time and we found two discarded kangaroo fetuses in our back yard.

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Close up of young kangaroo.

When we came back from the trip there were none, or so it seemed.  They had either found alternative pasture, perhaps beyond the other side of the mountain, or I suspect more likely, there had been a mass starvation event.  Numbers recovered a bit and we now usually see between three and ten kangaroos on our morning walk.

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Big male kangaroo reclining in shade.

Canberra has a controversial annual kangaroo cull.  Kangaroos have greatly increased in number due to clearing of forests with European settlement and there are around fifty million of them in Australia.  The Australian Capital Territory Government says that without a cull there will be greater kangaroo population explosions and crashes, while rare plants are threatened when the kangaroos feel pressured to eat everything in sight.  Animal rights groups are opposed to this and demonstrate against the Government.  If I correctly interpret these events, the Government may have a sensible strategy.

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Cunningham’s Skinks (and background insects).

On our walk every morning we go past a hollow log where a family of Cunningham’s Skinks live.

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If it’s warm enough they come up on top of the log in the sun, perhaps also to catch passing insects.

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This is a small one.

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They are much larger than a garden skink.  They grow to 40 centimetres (16 inches) and are viviparous (give birth to live young).

All of these Cunningham’s Skink shots are focus stacked, in other words, multiple images combined for depth of focus.

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Superb Parrots.

(No, really, that’s what they’re called).

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Superb parrots are a bird of inland New South Wales and Canberra is on the edge of their range.  They are increasing in Canberra but this is partly because they are being pushed out of their normal habitat by climate change and land clearing, and they are classified as vulnerable.

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They prefer to nest in two species of eucalypts, Scribbly Gums and Blakely’s Red Gums with a trunk diameter of 1.1 metres or more, and 95% of their natural woodland environment has been cleared.

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Eastern Bearded Dragon.

At one point in our morning walk there is a dead tree that forms an archway over the path.  I used to sometimes hit my head on it until it settled a bit lower.  One day there was a dragon stretched out on the top though pretty well camouflaged.  I went back for my camera and this image is also focus stacked.

Males grow to about 60 centimetres (24 inches) long and they are diurnal.