Birding -Valla Reserve & Bongil Bongil

Square-tailed Kite
Exciting to capture a Square-tailed Kite at Bundagen Headland

 

Hello everyone. It’s hard to believe how quickly the time is going here. It’s just flying past for us. Everyday we are managing to get out and about even though the weather has tried its best to dampen our spirits.

On Friday we visited Valla beach again as it’s only down the road and with the weather being a bit iffy we didn’t want to go too far afield. We got amazingly close to a little Spotted Pardelote pair, the male was just stunning and seemed quite ok with us being so close. They are nesting in the sandy bank so hopefully we will be able to visit them again. There’s always the Black-shouldered Kite hovering around too and he had a bit of a run in with a Collared Sparrow-Hawk , they were squabbling over the same branch. It would have been great on video but I was too slow. Of course the weather turned nasty again and it was very windy so we had to hightail it home but it was still great to get out in nature for a bit.

Spotted Pardalote
Male Spotted Pardalote

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Birds spotted at Valla
Yesterday (Saturday) we decided to check out the Bongil Bongil NP again. We did a bluff loop walk which led onto the same rainforest track near the beach that we had been on before. The weather looked good, blue skies and only a chance of a shower so we were really taking our time looking for birds. The birdsong is fantastic here, so many little birds like the Thornbills and Silvereyes and Gerygones. There’s quite a few Wompoo fruit doves too but they are always hiding in the shadows, Anthony is trying really hard to get better photos of such a beautiful bird. We spotted this cute little mouse in a dead tree stump, what a great little house he has made himself.
We walked for around an hour and a half and all of a sudden it was getting dark, being in the forest doesn’t give you much of a view of the sky but we came to a clear spot and the sky looked very dark. Anthony checked the weather radar and there was this huge red blob coming straight for us. We quickly started half running back to the truck which seemed a long way away. We started hearing thunder….very loud and the sky was black. We really started running then and the last bit was uphill, great stuff, we made it back to the truck in less than a half hour and raced back to the park.

Hiking Bongil Bongil
Hiking Bongil Bongil NP
We didn’t think we would get back before the storm but we just made it. The wind really picked up and it was torrentially rain, then the added bonus of hail. Thankfully it was small round hail so did no damage but where we are parked quickly turned into a lake.
We thought that was it after it passed through but within an hour the sky was black again and we had round two of another ripper storm this time with bigger hail. Crazy stuff. It pretty much rained on and off all night.
This morning was very foggy but was shaping up to be a glorious day at last. We have a resident Satin Bowerbird  here. I got a great video of him calling his girlfriends, he has two that we have seen in his bower. Anthony got a spectacular photo of him, check out his beautiful mauve eyes and plumage, what a stunning bird.
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Satin Bowerbird
We can’t get a clear view of his bower but might snip a few branches away when he’s not looking. We don’t want to disturb him either but would love to get photos of him in the bower.
At Bundagen Headland
At Bundagen Headland, Bongil Bongil National Park

 

Valla & Bongil Bongil

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 Today we drove back to Bongil Bongil as we were having such a great time there yesterday. When we came out onto the beach at the headland we saw a kite flying around and didn’t realise at first but it’s a quite rare Square tailed kite. Wow wow, how cool is that. Anthony got a fantastic photo as he was banking away, what a spectacular bird. We hiked around 8 kms today, we just love that place, so much birdlife, and the coast is spectacular too. What a day. Please enjoy the pics and video.
Cheers Steph and Anthony.
Eastern Water Dragon
Eastern Water Dragon up a tree

Bongil Bongil NP & Urunga Wetlands

Urunga Wetlands Boardwalk
Urunga Wetlands Boardwalk

 

Bundagen Headland, Bongil Bongil National Park
Bundagen Headland, Bongil Bongil National Park

 

Hello everyone, we have been having a great time just hanging out along this fantastic part of the coast. Within an hours drive is just so much to see. The Bundageree Walk , a coastal section of the Bongil Bongil National Park is fantastic, there is quite a few trails there but we only walked along the track just in from the beach, which began at the end of Tucker’s Rocks road. it was a very windy day and we could hear the wind whipping through the tops of the trees but we were very well protected in there. It’s a 3 km walk one way and about half way along the forest has a definite change, almost like a line drawn there. Fantastic as it gives you a variety of birds. It ends at the mouth of the Bundagaree creek at Bundagen Headland. We started to walk along the beach but quickly got sandblasted so turned back. You can walk all the way back to the car park along the beach making it a loop. We saw lots of birds here, of course always very hard to get photos of birds in rainforest as they don’t pop out into the open very often and there were lots of those messy vines everywhere so hard to even spot the birds in the first place. We will definitely go back and do some other walks there. September is when all the migrant birds start to come back so hopefully we will see more and more different birds as we get out and about.

 

Brahminy Kite Flyby
Brahminy Kite Flyby

 

Eastern Water Dragon
Eastern Water Dragon

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Birds spotted on the Bundageree Walk

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Urunga Wetlands

Urunga Wetlands 
We also found this amazing Wetlands in Urunga itself, you can read more about it HERE. I don’t think we would have known about it if we hadn’t been told by a friend. But it is fantastic, not very big but the council here has done an amazing job of revamping this once derelict site. We saw 3 different birds of prey there, spoonbills, swans, ducks, grebes etc and they do get jabiru there too sometimes so we will always have to go and have a look. In the mornings the reflection is amazing if there is no wind. We have some horrible rainy windy days upon us now so will catchup with friends,  drink lots of cuppachino’s and play with our cat Chloe……she has turned into a kitten again and meeows at us constantly to pick up the piece of string so she can chase it round and round the coffee table. Cats are so easy to please.
Cheers Steph and Anthony.

Some birds from Urunga Estuaries 

It’s a Puffer Fish

Puffer fish are so cute

 

Dorrigo National Park, NSW

Crystal Showers Falls, Dorrigo National Park
Crystal Showers Falls, Dorrigo National Park

Well our little trip to Urunga went well, with traffic getting through Coffs Harbour it was around an hour. We decided to leave Chloe in the van instead of stressing her out by putting her in the pet carrier and then in the noisy truck. We had plenty of time so we slowly packed things away, she only started to notice something was up when we put the sliding walls in but we just patted and reassured her a lot and she was fine.

When we pulled up at the van park in Urunga I quickly checked on her and she was miaowing and had wedged herself between the bed and the cupboard so that was good, she came out straight away and had her tail up and was quite vocal but in a good way so she got lots of pats and once we had set up again she was fine. We will put another concertina door in, blocking off the bedroom so she will be locked in there with her litter tray when travelling and it’s not a big space with the bedroom slide in so hopefully she will get used to it.  Our other two cats always travelled in the van but were clever enough to wedge themselves into our bed pillows and look out the window and watch the world go by.
Our camping spot on the River at Urunga and collapsible Cat Outdoor enclosure
We have a nice spot here on the river so will be able to blow up our little two man canoe and see if we can get some photos of some river birds maybe. Today we drove up to Dorrigo, we have been there before and it’s a great little village, we had brunch at a nice cafe then walked around the National Park for the afternoon which is another beautiful spot in nature. It’s very dry at the moment but rain is coming for the weekend. It was rather cool up there though so we had jumpers on all day. A lot of birds have migrated north but we still saw quite a few and saw 3 Lyrebirds which was great, they are normally quite elusive.

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Dorrigo National Park 

 

 

We feel very relaxed here and have many day trips planned so stay tuned.
Bye  for now Steph and Anthony.

Last days in Borneo

Silver Leaf Monkey
Silver Leaf Monkey, quite a common sight in the jungles of Sarawak

 

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A short Video from Sarawak

Well the weather did fine up for us but we have been struggling to find any birds.  On the second day we drove about 45 minutes to Kubah National Park first which has actually been extensively logged so no really big trees and hardly a peep to be heard. Because it had been raining we stayed on the road going up to the summit but it still was very green with moss but it gave us a really good view of the forest as we walked up and we did hear a few birds and saw a couple of drongos . On the way back down we walked on one of the tracks instead and it was still tree roots and slippery rocks, it seems to be the same terrain wherever we go. There was no cafe here but we had seen a couple on the way in, one was on top of a rubbish tip…..yes really and the other one didn’t look to bad. We had to share an iced lemon tea as there was nothing else except for Pepsi and we had a choice of 4 meals so we picked some noodle dish with some type of crumbled meat in it but couldn’t actually tell you what it was. But the flies there were just crazy, I don’t know why, maybe from all the rubbish but we just gobbled our noodles and high tailed it out of there.

 

Just for something different, a nice flower

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Yesterday we went to Bako National Park which involved another 45 minute drive in the opposite direction. We were lucky to get one of the last car parks at the jetty area, very busy place and we had to get a boat from there up the river to the  NP. We were expecting it to be busy as it sounds amazing and there is the best chance to see proboscis monkeys there. Well you could hardly move at ticket box, people just en masse. I had to go to the loo and sadly had to leave Anthony to organise boat tickets in that mayhem…..actually he normally turns to jelly in big crowds so I was expecting to come back and he maybe wanted to bail out, but he thought it’s either deal with this or we are back on the highway. I couldn’t believe it but he had it all organised……(typical Borneo) he had to register us at one booth, get tickets at another then go back to the original booth to organise a driver for the boat, I kid you not there were around 20 boats waiting for all the tourists to get their paper work in order. We were suppose to stand in one spot and wait till they matched us up with other people as they wanted full boatloads. But after 2 minutes Anthony went and harassed them a little and we were off, straight down the jetty with some others that they had quickly scrambled together. You can only imagine the chaos there, people were so confused and most had that stunned mullet look on their faces so it was great to get out.
The only way to Bako NP is by boat
Our Transport to Bako NP

 

Bako National Park 
The trip there was good, very fast little boats with twin 40 hsp outboards on the back . Too bumpy for videos though. When we arrived at the park we had to take our paper work to their office and then we were free.
We saw some silver leaf monkeys straight away and then the Bornean bearded pig so we got quite excited thinking we had finally found a National Park with wildlife, yahoo. So off we went on one of the trails picked for the birdlife…….we walked and walked , heard nothing, in fact it was deathly quiet. Next thing we are climbing up the side of a mountain back on those dreaded slippery tree roots and rocks again. After about 20 minutes of climbing, we were both drenched with sweat and still no sounds from the jungle and still a long way up that bloody mountain, so we bailed out to find an easier trail. There was only one cafe there so we had lunch early before the masses and chilled out a bit. This heat is really getting to us. We walked up another path and some people had seen a proboscis monkey on it high up in the trees. This path followed the cliffs along the beach. It was also climbing but we had something to look for now so we were very keen. It took a while but we heard them first, crashing around in the trees but couldn’t get a look because of the foliage in front and then after manoeuvring off the path and into the jungle a bit we could see the male and then after a while we spotted the female. They are quite a large primate and they are very hard to spot in the trees, it’s only because we heard them that we knew where to look. It’s hard to believe they’ve been squashed into this last place on the coast. They only live near the mangroves so they won’t be able to survive, they are critically endangered already and were still hunted for their meat not so long ago, very very sad.
It was fantastic to see them so it really made our day. The trip back was good too, the boats all pick you up from the beach at 3 pm, it was a tiring day.
A large Male Proboscis Monkey
A large Male Proboscis Monkey Looking very much like a drunken Sailor !!!
Female Proboscis Monkey
Female Proboscis Monkey
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Bornean Bearded Pig
Amazed to see a Bornean Bearded Pig waltzing up the beach
Today we went for a quick walk in the forest here, we did see some silver leaf monkeys but still no birds, had lunch instead at the Damai Resort on the beach, a very nice spot and a nice lunch. We relaxed around the pool till it cooled off enough to go for a quick drive to Buntal beach about 15 minutes drive as we heard they had a big walkway along the mangroves there. It was really nice and picturesque, the sun was setting, there were kingfishers and other birds around, a really nice spot. But best not to look around too much and see all the rubbish scattered among the mangroves, it’s just everywhere here. I don’t think they know what a beautiful country they have, it’s been hard to get away from the rubbish.
View over to Bako from Buntal Bay
View over to Bako from Buntal Bay

 

Buntal Bay raised walkway over the mangroves
A nice monument at the beginning of a raised walkway of the mangroves.
I did a little research because I was concerned about the lack of wildlife in the parks, I mean we are in the Bornean jungles, we were expecting a lot more mammals and birds, but it’s so quiet. They also have a cat problem, starving cats in the parks, you can only imagine what they are eating. I am convinced most of the prize animals are gone, there are still traditional hunters in the parks, and don’t forget most of the forests are wiped out by palm oil or heavily logged so the only place for wildlife is in the parks but they are not protected there. They also have a huge poaching problem, I won’t gabble on about it because I know the world is pretty much stuffed as far as nature is concerned but will include an interesting article I read from an Australian professor of ecology.

This is our last night in Borneo, we had some amazing times seeing amazing wildlife, but doubt we will return.
Off to Malaysia tomorrow.
Bye for now Steph and Anthony.

Some extra last day pics around our Digs

Damai Homestay and Santubong NP – Sarawak

Still love a cold one at the end of a day.

 

Hello everyone,.We woke up this morning to thunder and lightning , then of course some heavy rain followed, I checked the weather and it didn’t look real good for the next couple of days which is a real bugger as rain and trekking through jungles doesn’t really go together. We are in our little home stay, it’s really nice what the owners have done here as you can see by the photos. There’s a nice view from our room which you can’t even see on the photos, it’s the only room with a landing area with a couple of banana lounges and some pot plants, also there’s a big overhang so we could sit there on our lounges this morning and watch the rain……riveting stuff. There’s also a little waterfall next to the house and really beautiful gardens and a fish pond. Our room is ok but very tired, when you look at photos on bookings.com I guess they do use their best photos when everything was new many moons ago and we were a little disappointed when we first arrived but have settled in very nicely now.

 

fantastic setting and backdrop
Damai Nanga Homestay – stunning setting

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Also the breakfast here was raved about on the reviews as Anthony kept telling me, so I was really looking forward to this amazing breakfast this morning and had images of all types of tropical fruits, muesli, yogurt and maybe omelettes in my head. Well there was cornflakes, uht milk, diced watermelon and pineapple, toast and jam, marmalade and wait for it………1 hard boiled egg..cold of course 😢 Really not what we expected but maybe we are just really fussy or maybe our expectations in Borneo are just way too high.
Trekking Santubong National Park
Santubong National Park
Well we were getting settled on our double bed for the day as it was still raining and around lunch time the sun actually peeked out, we couldn’t believe it, so we quickly got ready and drove just up the road a few minutes to the Santubong National Park. There’s a huge summit hike, which we would do but not after rain so we decided to do the loop walk which to me always sounds easy and we didn’t want to push our luck with the weather. Well 2 hours later and seeing only 1 bird, we were absolutely drenched, I mean really you could have wrung out Anthony, it was so steamy in that forest, our goggles kept fogging up, and it was really slow going as the whole loop was slippery tree roots and even more slippery rocks with the green moss on them. And guess which Wally decided to wear white shorts?? It was quite picturesque there, in places, and took up some of our afternoon.
We were pretty hungry after that and found a nice beachfront bar and grill just a few minutes further up the road and we also went back there for tea tonight. The weather stayed good all afternoon but the mountain behind has very low cloud again and we just had another shower so we are really praying for a nice day tomorrow.
A Hornbill Monument being built at Damai Village
A Hornbill Monument being built at Damai Village
Oh I have to tell you when we were down by the beach there were a couple of horses tied up together, for riding, there was a sign there if you want to hire these horses and oh my god they were unbelievably skinny, one was really just skin and bones. I got Anthony to take some sneaky photos and have sent them off with an email to the local equivalent to the RSPCA in Kuching, thank god they even have one here. We are hoping they can help, we really hate seeing animals so mistreated and these horses looked so miserable and dejected I really had to do something.
This is one of our pet hates besides rubbish when travelling to different countries, is seeing so many skinny sick domestic animals.
Well we did get a few nice photos for the day so enjoy and keep your fingers crossed for us that tomorrow is a nice day.
Cheers Steph and Anthony.

Mount Kinabalu – Revisited

Mt Kinabalu, from our Hotel
The ever changing view of Mount Kinabalu

 

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Our Digs at Kundasang

 

Well we had a great start to the day, got to the park around 8 am and soon as we paid at the gate we wound our windows down and started listening for birds. After only about ten minutes we pulled over as we could hear some birds quite loud, we got out of the car and looked and looked but they were just behind a wall of trees so we couldn’t quite see them. I was looking through my binoculars and all of a sudden I realised I could see some talons on a tree branch and after manoeuvring a bit I could see it was an owl sitting there asleep and the birds were literally flying around his head and he wasn’t one bit bothered. Maybe he had one of them for breakfast and they obviously weren’t happy. We just couldn’t believe it, what a find, if I hadn’t been looking through binoculars we wouldn’t have seen him. Anthony had to put his extender on the camera to get a good photo as it was quite dark in amongst the trees and the owl was quite a distance away. He is a Barred eagle owl, just fantastic to see.

 

Barred Eagle-Owl

 

We then had breakfast at the restaurant in the park but when we came out all we could hear was noise. They are doing a lot of maintenance rebuilding some chalets, I know it’s necessary but when you are looking for birds the last thing you want to hear is a band saw going. Then we thought we would have a quick tour around the botanical gardens as we have seen a few birds there. But guess what…..they were using those very loud petrol blowers,  Grrrrrrr 😡😡😡 just our luck.
We went on a little hike along one of the tracks and eventually got away from the noise but I was thinking ……since I’ve been taking videos I have realised how noisy we are as humans. As you’ve probably noticed we don’t have many photos or videos with people in them or peoples noises, but it takes a lot of effort, pretty much if there are people around I don’t bother taking videos and for photos we always get up early or get somewhere early if we want photos of things besides wildlife.
I do wonder though what sort of HUM planet earth must be emitting and I’m sure if there’s alien life out there they must hear us loud and clear.
Little Pied Flycatcher
A gorgeous Little Pied Flycatcher
A few more birds of Kinabalu
Yellow breasted Warbler
A very pretty Yellow-breasted Warbler
Bornean Jezebel - Delias eumolpe eumolpe
A great find – the uncommon Bornean Jezabel
Anthony developed a really bad headache so after lunch we came back to the hotel. This Perkasa hotel was built in 1981 and sadly looks like it…..but it’s on a perk spot up on a hill and we only noticed today that they have a fantastic landing with a great view of the mountain here. This Kinabalu mountain is just amazing, every time you look at it the clouds have either totally covered it or there’s some type of picturesque cloud hovering around it, it really is a very majestic brooding mountain.
We are hoping to get some nice morning photos from the landing before we check out and  head back to Kota Kinabalu for our flight around lunch time to Mulu, which is another place in Borneo but in the Sarawak region.
Bye for now Steph and Anthony.