Thursday, February 18, 2010

Birding Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah

The mud volcano at Tabin, you do not get one of these at Danum. Such natural mineral sources are important for maintaining populations of Sumatran rhinos.

With Danum shut in the early part of the year for refurbishment (except for occasional large groups) we were diverted to Tabin in January this year. I have always wanted to visit this site and was interested to see what we could find there in our four-day stay, especially when compared to the premier site up the road (Danum).

The accessible parts of Tabin are all secondary forest. Birdwatching is mostly along the roads and there is no doubt that you can see a lot of large forest bird species this way. Raptors, hornbills and canopy-flock species were much easier to see in the more open habitat at Tabin than at Danum. But when it came to deep-forest species like the pittas and the special flycatchers and babblers, then Tabin is a poor second choice. Tabin has a primary forest core area, but this is not easily accessible to the casual visitor. Secondary habitats at Tabin also proved to be remarkably poor for dragonflies and amphibians, two groups well represented at Danum.

One of the great things about Tabin though were the lengthy night drives. These lasted 2.5 hours and even the stretches of road along the boundary with oil-palm plantation were very good for mammals. I doubt there is a better place to find and photograph leopard cats in Asia, we were finding ten animals a night on some roads! We also had plenty of encounters with Javan civet and the three large flying-squirrels were present in small numbers and were often seen in 'flight'.

I would recommend Tabin to wildlife photographers, as well as to birders with a little bit of time on their hands. It cannot replace Danum as a lowland rainforest location in Sabah but a visit to Tabin would add value to a trip that already included some time at the former. People who try are sometimes rewarded with views of a rhino, a good enough reason to return one day I reckon.

You can read more about Tabin in an article here.

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