Today it was back into the deep peat – similar forest to where we had observed the Grey-breasted Babblers, and similarly hard-going underfoot!
In such unstable terrain, it’s very natural to reach out and grab the nearest tree for balance (at least for someone like me, who has the natural agility of an overweight gazelle with two legs!). However, this can be a hazardous exercise – grabbing trees that is. In this particular forest, the evil rengas tree is common. This tree exudes a sap which turns black on contact with air, and causes a violent and painful reaction when in contact with the skin, from blisters and burns to severe swelling. See here for more details. Angus told me (with some glee!) that a group of students who cut saplings to make a bed for the night unfortunately chose young rengas trees, and all of them were hospitalized!
Helpfully, those who had blazed the trail left a warning by ‘skinning’ a tree by the trail. I’m not much of a botanist, but I spent some time observing this tree so I could recognize others. So now my progress was something like this: step, slip, start to fall, quickly glance at nearby tree, if not rengas, grab tree/ if rengas, fall on my face!
Another day at the office!
Birds were up there, somewhere, but tough to see. At one point I heard a snatch of Grey-breasted Babbler song, and the playback duly elicited a response.
Unfortunately for me, since the camera was now working perfectly, the bird was much less obliging than the pair we had seen on the 19th. It appeared to be alone, so maybe it wasn’t so concerned about protecting a territory. Despite playing the song regularly along the trail we had no other responses, so this species seemed genuinely scarce.
Hook-billed Bulbuls, on the other hand, were among the most obvious birds in the forest, now that we had ‘zoned in’ to their nasal call, which sounds very like that of a White-breasted Woodswallow. It was interesting that almost every adult we saw was in tail moult.
There aren’t many photos of these around, so I hope you don’t mind if I OD on them a bit! The pale lemon-yellow underparts were quite a prominent feature, but apparently may not so obvious on East Kalimantan birds (according to James Eaton).