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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Sepilok; an oasis in the oil palms #2

Last time I introduced the Sepilok area in eastern Sabah, Malaysian Bornea. With this post I'm continuing that series, but with a fairly brief post, relating to the surrounds of the Rainforest Discovery Centre, which is immediately adjacent to the Orang Utan and Sun Bear rehabilitation centres. 

This is primarily a schools education centre, but the public are welcome. It comprises an excellent interpretive centre and walking tracks through both labelled plantings of rainforest species and primary rainforest. One such walk circles a lake and climbs, via a boardwalk, to a canopy-level viewing tower. Flowering plants around the carpark support a good population of sunbirds. My photos on the whole were disappointing, and some are really not usable, but rather than ignoring the centre I've opted for this short photo essay, covering at least three visits there over two years. 

The forest itself is superb, especially as experienced from the boardwalk and viewing tower. Here are some views of it.

I really can't get enough of tropical rainforest!
The dipterocarps are members of the family Dipterocarpaceae, nearly 600 species of rainforest trees found throughout the tropical forests South America, Africa and Asia, but Borneo is their hotspot. There, you have a very good chance of getting it right by identifying a rainforest tree as a dipterocarp!
Parashorea sp., Dipterocarpaceae, Rainforest Discovery Centre.
Cauliflory on Sterculia megistophylla, Family Malvaceae (formerly in a smaller family, Sterculiaceae,
but in common with the current ways of botanical taxonomy it has been engulfed into a massive megafamily,
with arguably a loss of nuanced information).  Cauliflory ('stem flowering') seems to be a method of offering
flowers and fruit to pollinators and dispersers, though its advantages are not always obvious.
Adenanthera pavonina, a pea family tree, whose flowers are normally way above our heads;
this one was alongside the elevated boardwalk. Parts of the plant have been widely used in traditional
medicine, and there appears to be a fairly sound pharmacological basis to this.
Obviously there are birds present, but as is often the way in rainforests it is not always easy to photograph them. (Still less easy to do so well, though I'd like to be able to have my time there over with my current camera.)
Grey-cheeked Bulbul Alophoixus tephrogenys (at least I'm almost sure of the species, though a bit more
light would have been good). I do tend to  have trouble with bulbuls I'm afraid.
Ashy Tailorbird Orthotomus ruficeps, a common busy little Bornean bird, so named because it constructs
its remarkable nest by sewing the edges of a large leaf together, punching holes and drawing spider web
or plant fibre through them to hold it together.
Female Orange-backed Woodpecker Reinwardtipicus validus. This is a fairly big woodpecker,
and the only one of its genus. He is more colourful.
Eastern Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja. I almost left this photo out, but he is very handsome...
Lower down are reptiles.
Skink Mabuya (or Eutropis) multifasciata.
Malayan Box Terrapin Cuora amboinensis.
But perhaps the most impressive animal we saw there was a mammal, for which we waited until near dark. The following photos give the impression of more light than was actually present - I used a very high ISO and balanced the camera on the boardwalk railing for a very slow shot in torch light. I'd never seen any of the 'flying' squirrels previously, and this one was magnificent. Our guides knew their day-roost hollow, so we just waited for them to emerge.
Giant Red Flying Squirrel Petaurista petaurista.The 'giant' part of the name is not used lightly;
head and body are over 40cm long and the tail longer still.

Giant Red Flying Squirrel against the moon.
After a few minutes it turned towards us and glided directly overhead into the forest, at least 100 metres in the air. It was an impressive finale.

I'll be back next time to complete this celebration of the wildlife of Sepilok.
Sunset over the forest, Rainforest Disovery Centre, Sepilok.
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