Sleepless In Kota Kinabalu

Posted: July 25, 2010 in holidays, macro photography, wide angle photography

Kota Kinabalu.. a land so mountainous that there is only so much you can do when it comes to tracing that elusive critter through the bushes… before you began free-falling down the beautiful mountainside.

The birds know this so they brazenly come close during breakfast, fearlessness and bravery written in their little angled white brows, winging in close at the moths who have stayed too long at their late night parties.  Their ragged wings lay limply against the dewy wooden floor, with their myraid comrades, paying the price of a late night with more than a hangover.

Note on photo: This White Throated Fantail lived up to its name, flashing its angry little white brows and swinging its tail like a pendulum, spreading it out and staring down at cameras inquisitively.

This adorable little bird is strictly montane and occurs in forest between 900 and 2600 metres so it wasn't surprising to see it at breakfast up the mountain.

These hard-shelled stationary denizens of the undergrowth of the montane forest, magnetically attractive in their own right at the other end from pretty, were cooperative.  But the butterflies flutter thick in the speckling of light in the forests and seduce the obsessed photographer onto an empty chase, getting nothing but glimpses of hope and the odd bush brown lurking compensatingly at the feet. 

After trekking around Poring Forest and getting a bite from one enthusiastic Tiger Leech, and an entourage of more brown fans slinkying over for an autograph of blood, I retreated into the Poring Butterfly Park and stole myself a few moments of gratification with the poor captive butterflies wandering aimlessly within their small enclosure.

Note: It was difficult to photograph the butterflies in a perfectly natural setting due to the size of the enclosure and the understandable sttraction of the butterflies to the edges of the enclosure, clinging onto the green fencing as if looking out of their imprisonment into the great outdoors longingly.  Thankfully, the Great Orange Tip and the Leaf Butterfly were more interested in captive feed.




Even though the forest didn't yield much, the blood debt to the leeches paid off at one point, however, when we encountered the tristis hanging around next to a cheerily bubbling bust in a long pipe running alongside the stream in the open forest.  As soon as it opened its wings, we descended generously to the waiting leeches on the forest floor, knees and elbows on the ground, prone and ready for our brown and striped slinky friends to come on board (and they did). 

The Malayan species of this genus is purportedly rare. This coupled with the fact that the flat-like butterfly sidled up its wings for a rare underside shot makes the long trek all worthwhile. 

Note on photos: The "probable" amnosia decora behaves very much like The Purple Duke butterfly, ducking under leaves like a moth the moment it lands.  The skittish butterfly only allowed us to approach when it was poised high and safe up on a steep hill side (we scurried up clumsily).   

The lack of activity might be attributed more due to a lack of sleep and consequent inability to be as responsive to movements in the forest as I'd like.  The trip was birthed from the notion that the less sleep one had, the more fun one could have with the time that could have been used for sleeping, as espoused by my fellow photographers. 

Note on Colour Sergeant: Shot in Kipandi Butterfly Park.

The notion proved truer for me because I couldn't drive and slept rigorously and immediately through every single leg of the journey the moment the back of my head touched the headrest of the carseat.  While everybody else drove at (through fleeting peeks) breakneck speeds on unlit roads in the dark of night without so much as a wink of sleep.

Note on Delias above:  This free ranging butterfly came down to grace the small flowers at the entrance to Kipandi Butterfly Park.  But refused to venture within the park itself.  The butterfly is apparently a frequent visitor as it was also sighted by the other photographers on their previous trip to Kipandi butterfly park.

The notion was of course also conditional on the outcome that none of us died from driving over the edge of the mountain roads or sleeping at the wheel.  Which didn't happen. O_O.  

Note on Eurema above: This strikingly different Eurema butterfly caught my eye while circling flowering pagoda flowers.  As it turned out, I really had never encountered this butterfly before.   So it was a good thing I decided to invest some time circling the pagoda flowers together with the butterfly.

We did the bak kut teh-crawl (pub-crawl equivalent of eating bak kut teh at different stalls one after another just to taste the difference), crawled adventurously through forests, photographed people carrying on with their lives, shot star trails while gazing philosophically (and sleepily) at the star-spangled sky, peed in the weirdest and wildest of places in the strangest of hours, irritated shot-gun carrying people up in the mountains when attempting to navigate to a good spot for clear skies and deprived them and their dogs of sleep when they persisted in baying at us for hours until we left.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have fun

Note on photo above: A rare encounter of the Magpie Crow sunning open winged on the edge of a leaf, glistening beautifully in the sunlight.

Note on Judy:  Kipandi Butterfly Park is home to quite a number of Riodininae, hopping prettily in the shadey forest cover. 


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  1. Fabulous pictures. I cannot even come up with the correct adjective to describe the lovely butterfly pictures you have taken. Stunningly beautiful!

  2. fatcat says:

    I've only skimmed the post (I should be in bed by now, it's laaate), but my! how beautiful, stunning and amazing your pictures are! You have a true talent for capturing these little critters 🙂 the beetle is my immidiate favourite, but i'll have to go back and look at the others when I have more time. Great work!

  3. Raymond says:

    Beautifully written, Ellen, wonderfully photographed.

  4. Thanks Freedom Smith! Glad you liked it! 🙂

  5. Thanks! 😀 LOL! Yes the beetle is cute~! He's a neat bonus on top of the butterflies that came to land.

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