Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Birdwatching around Hilltop Lodge Lambir Hills NP

We have always wanted to spend a weekend at this secluded lodge. Being right at the head of Innoue trail was perhaps one reason, the other perhaps is it's "away-ness" from the rest of the other chalets ... makes you feel like a part of the landscape rather than the touristy part of the park.

That aside, we finally managed to get a hold of it last weekend. Since the Lambir NiteWalk with MNS Miri members was taking place over the Saturday nite, we thought it was a good excuse to just hangout at the park until Sunday, maybe do a bit of birdwatching at the trailhead and listen to the birds.

Several visits ago, once during WMBD 2008 with Choo Tse Chien and gang, I remembered there were quite a few birds flitting around the lodge then. We caught glimpses of a fiery red kingfisher dashing back and forth, Asian Fairy Bluebirds flying around and heard a variety of calls thoughout the morning, some we couldn't recognise. Later during a trekking exercise (which got me crawling back after about 20 minutes into the trail) during MNS Miri Branch 2008/2009 AGM, we could hear quite a spectrum of bird calls at the start of the Innoue trail.

We woke up the Sunday morning to a loud call of a Sooty-capped Babbler, it was just so melodious, I can't possibly not remember it if I were to hear it again next time. It called from the top of the trees all the way to the bushes at the edge of the lodge. Two simultaneous notes which I swear could not have been more sweeter than that coming from this tiny grey bird. Several chirps, followed (if not simultaneously) by a melodious lengthy portion of the song.

It even came out to an open perch for a perfect photo-op! (I wouldn't belabor the fact that the CF card wasn't in the camera at the time %$£&^!)

The rest of the morning was as eventful. The small fiery kingfisher flew from under the house just as I was leaving the porch! It's either hanging out under there or was extremely good at hiding itself in the bushes nearby.

As lady fortune would have it, the kingfisher flew and perched inside the trees not 10 feet away from where I first spotted it. I got some pictures this time ... a Rufous-backed Kingfisher!

Hilltop Lodge's Rufous-backed Kingfisher at Lambir Hills.

The same with flash!

Throughout the morning, other birds made their way through our frontyard as they have always done so on numerous other occasions. Black-headed Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Lesser Leafbird, Crimson Sunbird, Dusky Munia, and ... Blue-eared Kingfisher! All these without us having to be out of sight of the front porch of the lodge!!! There's also a tiny hut just by the pond which makes perfect spot to hang out and watch birds fly past.

The most ubiquitous bulbul in the park office area.

Blue-eared Kingfisher, finally on camera albeit a bit too far away even with a 600mm!

Blue-eared Kingfisher in side profile.

The only featherless "flying" creature captured on camera that weekend.

To our family at least, the Hilltop Lodge has just been elevated to the status of "weekend home away from home" which promised more of us spending quality time at Lambir Hills watching birds and listening to their songs. Other favorite spots in the same niche are Nepenthes Villa at Kinabalu Park, and the musty King Edward's Lodge at Mesilau Kinabalu Park.

Nazeri Abghani, Mar 2010

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