Posted by: Ross Gardner | February 4, 2018

Mount Kinabalu Park

View from Kinabalu Park (scaled)

The wooded hills around Kinabalu Park.

What better place for us get our walking boots back on (literally and metaphorically) as we acclimatised to our new surroundings?  Kinabalu Park was one the first national parks to be established in Malaysia back in 1964.  It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and not without considerably good reason.  The giant peak of the eponymous mountain encompasses four climatic with all the vegetative variety (including around 4,500 species of plant!) that goes with it, comprising an area that many would describe as unique.  Indeed, of the 61 species of birds endemic to Borneo Kinabalu Park is noted in the excellent ‘Phillips’ Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo’ as being the best location to find 20 of them.

We did not climb the mountain, but explored the wonderfully rich forested slopes around the Park HQ at around 1500 metres. Endemic birds we did see – the Treepie of a previous post, Bornean Whistler, two species of laughing thrush and Bornean Forktail among others.  There was, as will come as no great surprise, plenty more forest creatures to be discovered.

One of these was an oddity indeed, a beetle by the name of Platerdrilus paradoxa, one of the so-called trilobite beetles.  The male insect is small (less than a centimetre long) and typically beetle-like in appearance.  The female however, is to say the least, quite different.  She is huge by comparison, perhaps by 8 times the length of the male.  But more peculiarly, she maintains her larval form throughout her life.  The resulting creatures is impressively striking.

Platerodrilus paradoxa (scaled)

A female Platerodrilus paradoxa – one of the trilobite beetles.

These forest are mysterious places, where so much more seems to be heard than seen.  This a truism, I suppose, of any indigenously wooded area, but something especially evident here.  On several occasions we would see nothing and hear little for lengthy periods as we walked forest trails, to suddenly find ourselves amidst the flurry of small birds moving through the understorey; a Velvet-fronted Nuthatch perhaps, on the move with fantails and minivets, much the same as the common European species does with the mixed tit-flocks in a British winter wood.  A flurry which after a few minutes might disappear as abruptly as it arrived.  Where the trees meet the open sunshine, such bursts of activity included the smaller wings of the butterflies, partrolling the forest edges.  Many species would flit frustratingly in and out of view, offering a brief and tantalising taste of the natural treasures that hopefully awaited us during a time in Borneo as we made our way eastwards through Sabah.  Some, it has to be said, were more obliging than others……

Kaniska canace - Blue Admiral (scaled)

……. this splendid Blue Admiral (Kaniska canace) was anything but camera-shy.



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