On the evening of July 10th, a contingent of our crew decided to hike to the mountains Lucia and Magdalena the next day. We went with hopes of finding montane bird species we hadn’t yet seen, especially those on our target taxa list. Teresa, Jack, Brian, Julian and I were the self-selected explorers intrepidly tramping into mountainous areas of the jungle. We left on the morning of the 11th at 8:15 am with provisions for an overnight camping trip. Our provisions consisted of water, PB & J sandwiches, ramen noodles, and tiger biscuits (our favorite Malaysian crackers). Our essential gear included first aid, binoculars, plastic bags, three hammocks, cameras, audio recorder, playback speakers and a water purifier.
Lucia is 13 km away from base camp and Magdalena a couple km further. At 11.5 km into the expedition, we came upon the hostel in the hills, which looks like a great place to stay if we decide to allot some time to observing montane target taxa.
The species list on the outward bound trip included Eyebrowed Wren-babbler (very rare resident) Chestnut-collared Kingfisher, a pair of Temmick’s Sunbirds and a barbet that sounded like a dentist wielding a drill (Teresa’s quite accurate simile). These were not target species, but we were most excited to hear several Banded Pittas (a target species) on an extremely sharp ridge about 1 km away from Lucia’s summit. When we were close to the top, we spied the distant ocean from some openings in the tree cover, which reminded me of the fact that we’re on a large island (“the jungle” has been my geographic reference point for the past two weeks).
When we pressed onwards from Lucia to Magdalena, the trail into the deep ravine between the two mountains became so overgrown it was clear that no one has used it for at least the entire summer! Julian cleared a path with his parang (machete) for us, but we only continued on the trail for another kilometer because it was past 17:00 and getting quite dark. We set up camp near a stream in the ravine so that we could refresh our water supplies. We realized we had forgotten to bring along a tent, so two of us slept under a hammock, which served as a rain cover. Rain turned out not to be an issue, but this brings me to the topic of montane leeches. Many came to keep me company during the night, although I was not aware of how popular I was until the morning. Let me just say that sleeping without a tent is best avoided in the jungle. Actually it’s a trade-off, because in the absence of a tent, I got to see lovely fireflies blinking amongst the trees before I fell asleep.
On the morning of the 12th we tarried near Mt. Lucia for several hours and used playback (which means we play bird recordings with speakers and an iPod) to call up no less than 8 Banded Pittas from down the ridge! They responded to the playback, and some approached the top of the ridge so we all got a great chance to look at one!
At around 2pm, when we were still 6 km from base camp, torrential rain immersed us for the rest of the hike and the trail became a small waterway. The downpour was our relentless soundtrack for the rest of the trip, which allowed me to sing various songs at very loud volumes (like Singing in the Rain) without anyone hearing me.
A short list of our hike’s outcomes/highlights:
– A great place for targeting Banded Pittas!
– 28 km of great hiking/exercise
– Great video footage of us crossing a raging stream on the way back
– 11 new bird species (well, not new species, but newly seen for us!)
– A yellow throated martin!
– Unidentified mammal screams/barks at night (maybe a clouded leopard??! (: )
– Photo documentation of 17 leeches on one spot on Brian’s foot!
No sightings of Hose’s Broadbill…yet! We have to go back!