11 October 2011

Into the Bat Cave...BORNEO (6 Oct)

Our final afternoon around Sukau was both ghastly and brilliant all at the same time, as we visited the huge caves at Gomantong. What were we as birders doing there you might ask? Well this is home to thousands of swiftlets (and bats). Three species occur within the caves that are numerous and common on Borneo, but are inseparable in appearance and can only safely be told apart by examination of their nests. So we visited Gomantong to see their nests and ensure they were countable! At dusk thousands of swiftlets came into the cave-some tucked up next to their white nests, which were Edible-nest Swiftlets (also known as white nest swiftlets). This is the most highly prized species as its nest is made up of pure saliva and is harvested for edible-nest soup. Other similar swiftlets were tucked up next to dark black nests, and are appropriately called Black-nest Swiftlets. While the ones in this photo were nestled by their mossy nests, and you guessed it, are known as Mossy-nest Swiftlets.

At dusk millions of bats emerged from the cave while thousands of swiftlets piled in for the night. The bats had a small party of Bat Hawks circling and waiting for them as they streamed out of their dark daytime den. The birds and bats share more in common than their home: they both use echolocation to navigate in the dark caves, the swiftlets being some of few birds that possess this ability.

A distraction en-route to the cave was a rather grump male Bornean Orang-Utan, who took distinct displeasure to our presence and vented this in way that only primates can: he broke off branches and thew them down from his lofty position, and then when we showed no fear at this gesture he proceeded to throw his own faeces down. We retreated at this point!

More monkeys and birds from the caves to come...

1 comment:

john said...

What an impressive spectacle all of that must have been. I want to go there someday.