(Expedisi Kulamba, Universiti Malaysia Sabah)
We two birders leave at dawn, sneaking out of camp before breakfast. It is the perfect time on the river. We encounter a roost of Black-Crowned Night Herons, and suddenly the air is filled with birds. And then with flying foxes. Their little furry faces stare down at us as they pass by, on their way to their daytime roosts.
There are snake birds, the Darters – consummate divers which have to spend the greater part of their lives drying out their wings just in order to fly. And the egrets – over 200 of three species in the one roost, their breeding feathers – once so beloved of milliners and fashionable ladies – swirling in skirts about them. The Storm’s Stork overflying. The brilliant Crimson Sunbird. Egrets fishing like terns in the wake of a boat out on Dewhurst Inlet.
One lunchtime, when we return to camp, there is an agitated fussing over out heads – eight different species of birds in a flock of fourteen or so birds, I can’t see what is bothering them; a snake perhaps. There are flocks of green pigeons everywhere, constantly flying or calling. We hear a prrrrr prrrrr – the deep cooing of the imperial pigeons as the sun goes down. We see the hanging-parrots with their bright flashes of red and blue and green.
And I make one discovery – I see a bird that has never been recorded from eastern Sabah, and rarely from Borneo. That sighting will go into the expedition report.