Brunei: Lower Belait, 24 June

This was my only overnight excursion of the trip. We headed upriver to stay at a sawmill/logging camp.IMG_4267

These are alan batu (Shorea albida) trunks, which are hollow. They reach a height of 60m and  have extensive buttress roots. Elsewhere in the peat dome, the same species has a solid trunk and no buttresses, when it is referred to as alan bunga.

IMG_4270Trunks are taken out of the forest by rail, sawn into lengths, have their bark removed, and are then rolled into the river down the slipway on the left. They are then ‘shepherded’ downriver to the point where they can be transported by road.

IMG_1972The railway. This was our way in. Navigating one’s way along this was quite challenging, as the gaps between the logs on which the rails sat were quite wide, and a misstep into the swamp a meter or so below would not have been pleasant! During the first part of the survey in March, the team had seen some good birds here, and even mammals, as Folhert’s blog narrates here.

IMG_2006 IMG_2036 IMG_2033One of the birds they had not managed to see was Hook-billed Bulbul, but by now I was getting throughly familiar with them!

IMG_2030I even managed a shot of the upperparts, which show a subtle contrast between the warm brown wings and olive mantle and nape.

Black-and-white Bulbul was also present, but not nearly so obliging, so no photos. The birds were slightly disappointing, but perhaps this was a result of the building humidity. The weather had been dry since my arrival, but now it was obvious that a thunder storm was brewing.

IMG_4266Our accommodation – note the lack of air con or fans! In the heat of the day we sat or lay under the zinc roof and prayed for the slightest breath of wind on our sweat-drenched bodies! The river was a short walk away, but I was a bit concerned about crocs, having seen so many of them. The landing/bathing area was a water-level raft of planks from which the men fished in their spare time. With the added attraction of fish, it seemed the perfect spot for a croc to atttack. After many assurances that it was safe, the unbearable heat got the better of me and I sat on the edge of the raft, legs dangling in the water and took a very fast bucket-wash! By the time I walked back to the hut I was sweating just as much as before, so I just sat down and tried to move as little as possible.

Despite threatening to, the heavens did not open, so in the late afternoon we went out along the tracks again, intending to stay till after dark and do some spotlighting. It was so humid we had to almost suck the oxygen out of the air, and after a while we opted to stop walking and adopt a wait and see tactic!

IMG_4280 IMG_4282 IMG_4284Watching night fall. In the end we aborted the spotlighting, as the rain seemed imminent. It started as we made our way slowly along the rickety railway, and I was glad to make it back to the shack without incident. When we got to bed it started to bucket down, and by early morning we were shivering with cold!

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One thought on “Brunei: Lower Belait, 24 June

  1. Bird surveying doesn’t seem like a job for the faint of heart! Thanks for sharing the beauty and adventure of it all.

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