Friday, October 24, 2014

All aflutter over Borneo Bird Race

THE sharp granite ridges atop Mt Kinabalu are silhouetted across a blue dawn sky over Sabah, scything through the thin white clouds that are slowly trying to obscure the mountain.

Driving into the park, it looks every bit like the tail of a dragon that one local legend contends is protecting a pearl within.

It is an appropriate place to begin what is known as the Borneo Bird Race 2014.

Deemed a sacred place, the words "kina balu" mean "resting place of the dead". So, over the years, locals never disturbed or cut any of the trees or animals from the area, as they did not want to offend the mountain spirit, and thereby kept the area virtually pristine.

It is truly a beautiful sight.

Kinabalu Park, in Sabah, is undoubtedly one of Malaysia's eco-treasures, covering 754sq km, and is the country's first UNESCO World Heritage site.

It is one of the premier birding destinations in Borneo, ranked in the world's top 10 destinations for birding, and home to more than 33 endemic species of birds.

It is the kick-off point for the Borneo Bird Race, which is now in its second year and has nine teams from around Asia competing for the coveted Bornean Bristlehead Trophy, won last year by the Philippines, who are keen to go back-to-back.

This year, the teams will cover the forests from Sabah to Brunei and Sarawak, more than 1000km, with necks craned high in search of more than 200 species of birds in a bird Olympics of sort.

The teams, consisting of three members each, must correctly identify each bird they see each day over three legs and record the information in a logbook with a marshal overlooking each team to ensure legitimate sightings.

Everybody is excited as they exit the bus in Kinabalu Park, as not only is the prospect of spotting endemic birds they have never seen probable, it is likely they could see a new bird not known to science.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: All aflutter over Borneo Bird Race