Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gunung Kinabalu - Birds and "Monkey Cups"

For me, it seems to be an annual pilgrimage that saw us once again on our beloved mountain - Gunung Kinabalu.

Beloved for us, as it is one of the easiest accessible mountain which exceeded the 4,000 m mark from our tropical island

Last year, I was captivated by the moths, and this year I tried to do it differently by focusing on the birds and the pitcher plants.

At about 3,300 m (2nd Montane) near to a resting point, we were visited by this bird (Mountain Blackeye Chlorocharis emiliae). This bird prefers the cool of the mountain top, and will occasionally descend to the lower plain at the Kinabalu Park (about 1,500 m) if the weather is nice and cool. Otherwise, you have to climb to their habitat.

Another commonly sighted feather friend at the Kinabalu Park is this Chestnut Hooded Laughing Thrust (Rhinocichla treachery), it was early morning about 7 am, and it was feeding time. Near to our dorminotry was couple of fruiting trees that attracted many types of birds. This hungry and definitely not shy Laughing Thrust was just at my eye level feasting on the fruits.

Kinabalu is home to about 15 different species of Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes), and occasionally it is also called the Monkey Cup, as it has been observed that monkey drinks from it. The word Nepenthes comes from the Greek for “no sorrow”, referring to an ancient drug called nepenthe.

Nepenthes are carnivorous, and the pitcher serves as a death trap to many unsuspecting insects as well as other vertebrates. However, there is the Nepenthes lowii that even collect bird’s dropping, and thus the lid will not enclosed the pitcher opening (peristoma).

In this walk up to the summit, we came across 2 different species.

Nepenthes tentaculata

Saw this species in abundance at about 2,500 m just before the Mersilau Trial merged with the Summit Trial. The unique feature of N tentaculata is the “hairiness” of the pitcher plant that “hairs” are growing from the lid as well.

Nepenthes macrophylla

In almost the same location as N tentaculata, the N macrophylla which is slightly bigger than the N tentaculata also grows in abundance.


It would have been very difficult for me to identify the birds and nepenthes as I am not familiar to this habitat, but thanks to an elderly German couple whom I spotted having breakfast with birdwatching utensils (binocular and long lens on their camera) that I intruded into their mealtime to ask them to help me to ID the birds. They were most helpful, and even go into the trouble to dig out their reference book to assist me.

For the nepenthes, the climbing guide that we have engaged to climb with us was knowledgeable in the fauna to provide me with the ID.