Friday, April 2, 2010

JEWELS of the bornean rainforest floor : The PITTAs

No other bornean rainforest bird will claimed the title of being the JEWELS of the rainforest floor other than the elusive and simply beautiful Pittas. Pittas, from the family Pittidae inhabits mainly the humid tropical rainforest regions of South East Asia and Australasia even though pittas can also be found in both Africa and India. The name pitta is said to have been derived from the Telugu language in Andhra Pradesh of India which generally is used in reference to small birds.

In the rainforest of Borneo, 9 species of pittas can be found and 3 of these species are endemic to this island. The 3 endemic species are the Black-headed Pitta (Pitta usherii), Blue-headed Pitta (Pitta baudii) and the Blue-banded Pitta (Pitta arquata). In the rainforest of Sabah, 8 species of pittas including this 3 endemic species can be found. The other 5 species is the big Giant Pitta (Pitta caerulea), the Banded Pitta (Pitta guajana), the Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordida) and 2 species of migratory pitta that will normally be visiting Borneo after thier breeding season that is the Fairy Pitta (Pitta nympha) and the Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis)

To spot one, you must be extremely patient and lucky as most pittas are known to be very secretive and they tend to sulk a lot in the darker areas of the rainforest floor. With thier high pitched and piercing whistles it is most likely that you will be hearing one more often than having a chance of seeing one. Best places in Sabah to see this Jewels are in the rainforest of Sepilok, Kinabatangan, and Danum Valley.

So far, I have only managed to photographed 2 of these beautiful species of pitta. It will be a big challenge and indeed a tough proposition for me to capture images of the remaining species of pitta but nature works in its own wonderful way and who knows i might just see this JEWEL crossing down a forest trail in the first early morning light...

The Beautiful Black-headed Pitta (Pitta Usherii)
Nikon D80 + 70-300mm VR at 300mm F5.6 ISO 800 Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

The Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordida)
Nikon D80 + 70-300mm VR at 300mm F5.6 ISO 800 Sepilok Forest Reserve

Global Warming?

It has been awhile since i last updated my blog (thousand apologies on that).. and it has also been awhile since we last had any "REAL" rain in Sabah (not my fault though). This ongoing drought that we have been experiencing since the last 7 weeks have seen changes in our natural landscape in particular our rivers are slowly receding in its water levels, soil surfaces are cracking due to the extreme dryness and minor forest fires are happening here and there cause by the heat and constant humidity. This is a total contrast to when I was at the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in January this year. There, I saw the onset of the northeasterly monsoon, a period of time when the whole of sabah will be lashed by heavy rain and I also saw how fast the water can rise in less than a week of continuous rain. This flood lasted for about 3 weeks and just as it stopped, the dry period we are experiencing right now started. For most of the wildlife in the rainforest, wether it is rain or shine or drought or flood or even la-nina or el-nino the need to survived in such unpredictable weather patterns have allowed them to slowly acclimatize and to also change and at times improvise from thier normal behaviors to adapt to these circumstances. This weird weather pattern that we have been having has led me to believe that this could be the start of the effects of Global Warming. Are we ready to adapt and improvise to such uncertainty in our environment now?

"Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he's been given. But up to now he hasn't been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life's become extinct, the climate's ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day." [Uncle Vanya, 1897]

Nikon D300 + 70-300 mm VR at 300mm F 5.6 ISO 800, Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

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