Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gems around Fairy Caves in Bau

MEMBERS from the Malaysian Nature Society Kuching branch turned up at the Fairy Caves with high expectations of an interesting morning. We had come hoping to catch a glimpse of the Bornean whistling thrush (Myophonus borneensis). This bird is a highland species that can be quite easily seen on Mount Kinabalu, Sabah. For some unknown reason, the Bornean whistling thrush is also found around the limestone outcrops at the Fairy Caves in Bau, a mere 40-minute drive from Kuching.

The swiftlets were out to welcome the beautiful day; their wings slicing through the crisp morning air. The dusky munias flew over the padi fields to make a landing occasionally before taking off again. The scaly-breasted munia was among them.

A small flock of whistling ducks was on its way to frolic in a nearby pond. The plaintiff cuckoo called while the crimson sunbird and red-eyed bulbul played hide-and-seek with us in the trees. Both the greater and lesser coucals came into view, though on separate occasions, leaving the birders to deliberate as to which was greater and therefore not lesser. Apparently, the greater coucal has a booming call, while the lesser coucal has streaks on its body. Unfortunately, no one heard the coucal call nor observed the streaks.

The Bornean whistling thrush was late.

Pitcher plants dotted the karst landscape. One of the most famous and spectacular pitcher plants, Nepenthes northiana, could be seen growing in heavy clusters on the steep sides of the limestone cliffs.

The limestone hills in Bau and Padawan are the only known localities in the world for this carnivorous plant, making it endemic toSarawak. The discovery of the species in the late 1800s, during the reign of the White Rajahs, further boosted the exotic reputation thatSarawakalready enjoyed as a place populated by remarkable people, plants and animals.

There was a high-pitched call from a flowerpecker and a song from the tailorbird. As we stood under some stalactites, sharp calls from the Eurasian tree sparrows drew our attention to the grey limestone walls. The rugged surface offers an excellent foothold for rock climbers.

Snakes known as cave racers use the rough surfaces to ‘climb’ as they hunt for bats and swiftlets. These adept climbers inhabit limestone areas and often leave their moulted skins in the cliff crevices.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Gems around Fairy Caves in Bau

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