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Borneo Bird Festival 2016

WBCP President, Willem van de Ven, writes about his experience in the 8th Borneo Bird Festival and shares some photos he took of the wildlife he saw while there.

The 2nd week of September means it is time for the Borneo Bird Festival! Organized by the Sandakan Borneo Bird Club, this year their 8th annual festival was held at the Rainforest Discovery Center in Sepilok, Sandakan. This beautiful venue is not only great for organizing the festival, it is also a great place to go birding. The area offers various trails through the forest and also an extensive canopy walk and several towers or 20-30 meters in height. Wonderful to see the Bushy-crested Hornbills soaring over the canopy, a pair of Wallace’s Hawk Eagles perched in a nearby tree at eye height, or the sunbirds, tailorbirds and leafbirds flitting through the canopy only meters away.


The Borneo Bird Festival differs from other festivals in the region in that it is much more focused on birdwatching. The venue of course also encourages this; few people can resist going out large parts of the day to visit the forest, though there are also some booths where partners and delegates can set up their stands.

In the evenings dinners with local bird club members and national and international delegates is organized, with some presentations or just general comradery. This makes for short nights, as bird walks are organized every day, and with the irresistible area surrounding you, getting up at 5:30 to go birdwatching is, well, irresistible.

And birds are not the only thing to see. Borneo has a rich diversity in mammals too! I encountered countless squirrels (at least 3 different species), a flying squirrel and twice I found Orangutans on my path, who then gently moved on to a less crowded place.

Several other activities are organized besides birdwatching. The Borneo Bird Race is still held in a smaller version (only in the vicinity instead of all over Borneo), there is a Photo Race and a Photo Contest, a Bird Run and lectures on topics such as wildlife trade, the East Asian Australasian Flyway partnership and ‘how to find difficult to see pheasants of Malaysia’. Plenty to do for all.

I hope the Philippine delegation to Borneo will be larger next year!

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