Report Malaysia & Queensland

Subject: Report Malaysia & Queensland
From: Chris Padley <>
Date: 25 Feb 97 19:52:18 EST
G'day Aus. Birders,
               Four of us - 3 Poms. & a Springbok have just returned from a
brilliant birding trip to Queensland, with a 3 day stop over in Malaysia.
Grateful thanks to many Birding- Aus. members who helped with advice in the
early stages and those who took us out & even supplied us with accommodation
(Jo, Greg, Tom, Julian  & Fay to mention just a few). We are looking forward to
helping them out when they next come to England. Thanks again folks and to
anyone else who gave help and advice. Over the next few weeks I will be doing
some trip reports on our activities which I hope will be of some use to other
birders. If it gets too boring let me know & I will stop!
        I went to Malaysia in Jan.'94 so knew the area that we had decided to
visit - the main aim was to try & catch up on Sultan Tit and Silver-breasted
Broadbill, anything else would be a bonus. Anyway the area is really great and
all the birds are super - I don't need to make any more excuses!
        We flew out from England on Monday 20/1/'97 by Malaysia Airlines to 
Lumpur, arriving at 7.15 am. on the Tuesday. Outside the airport we picked up a
taxi to The Gap Resthouse which lies approx 100km. North of K.L. The
accommodation was adequate and at only Au$ 20 per room was great. Arriving at
about 10.30 am. the bird activity was calming down - it is always best here
early morning and late afternoon- but a short walk around the area and gardens
soon provided us with some good birds - Large Niltava, Pacific (Fork-tailed)
Swift, Indian Silverbill, Silver-rumped Swift, Magpie Robin, Black-throated
Sunbird,Little Spiderhunter and Bronzed Drongo. An adult and Juvenile Crested
Serpent Eagle gave a good display and we had our own resident Tiger Shrike in
the garden of the Rest House. Feeling quite pleased with ourselves and somewhat
tired through lack of sleep we went back to the accommodation for a couple of
hours rest. We had noticed a fruiting tree about a Km. back down the road
towards Kuala Kubu Bharu - so late afternoon saw us back at the tree.
Stripe-throated Bulbul, stunning Asian Fairy Bluebirds, Yellow-vented Pigeon (my
first Lifer), Dark-necked Tailorbird, several Green-billed Malkohas, Gold-
whiskered and Blue eared Barbets, Scarlet  & Ashy Minivets and Blue- winged
Leafbirds were all seen around the tree  and we saw several Grey Wagtails and
Thick-billed crows on our way back for breakfast  as well as Mountain Imperial
Pigeons flying up the mountain.  As darkness fell we went back for a meal and
fell into bed. The electricity supply for the area comes from a nearby generator
and seems to vary somewhat from the published times as to when it goes on & off.
Tuesday night was full moon and very bright - I was woken up by Mountain Scops
Owls calling. I mimicked the call and they responded but did not come in any
closer.  We had decided to go back to the fruiting tree for first light so set
the alarm for 6.00am. for when the electricity was due to come on again -
however the generator man must have overslept so light did not return until
6.45am. - of course the brilliant moon had set at about 5.00am. and all was
pitch dark until the generator was restarted!  We eventually got back to the
fruiting tree by 7.40am. and it was still not very light as well as a bit misty.
Many of yesterday's birds were seen again plus Himalayan  and White-bellied
Swiftlets & Black-crested Bulbul.
         We wandered back to the Rest House at about 9.00am. to catch the bus up
to Fraser's Hill. The chef at the Rest House assured us that it would stop as he
was waiting for some chickens! The bus duly arrived at about 9.15 am. with
newspapers (and chickens) and we climbed on for the 8km. journey uphill. The
road is good but only single lane and therefore traffic is allowed uphill on odd
hours and down during even hours which means that if you are walking there is
not a great deal of traffic for much of the time . The cost was 70 cents which
is about 35cents Aus.!
        Fraser's Hill is a lovely old Hill Station and is cooler than down at 
Gap.The altitude is about 1300m. above sea level compared with about 825m. at
the Gap. On arrival in the town square the first stop was at the Punkak Inn for
refreshments. Then into the shop next door for supplies including Baygon to
spray our boots with in order to reduce the attention of leeches. We then went
along the road to the start of the Bishop's Trail where a totally different set
of species from the Gap occurs. On the way we came across a small flock
containing Mountain Fulvettas, Long-tailed Sibias and Fire-tufted Barbet as well
as a Cutia. Once at the start of the Bishop's Trail we were into rain forest and
bird life became much more patchy - we did however manage to tape out Lesser
Shortwing and a superb White-tailed Robin at a site where I had seen them in
1994. Both were unbelievably confiding, the former running around our feet.
Where a stream crossed beneath the track we heard a Pygmy Wren Babbler just
downstream - it responded immediately to tape and gave great views as it crept
along and under a log. A little further on a small flock of noisy
Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes crossed the track in front of us.  We kept our
ears open for Rusty-naped Pitta but heard later that they had been rare over the
last couple of years as a result of the large amount of building work that had
been taking place to accommodate more tourists.
        The Siamang - the largest of the Gibbons could be heard calling most of
the time but we did not see them on this visit. In 1994 we had watched them for
some time near the top of the Gap Road.  A lot of noise in the trees around us
eventually yielded 2 Green Magpies. In a clearing which had presumably been the
Bishop's garden we had Golden Babbler & Streaked Spiderhunter. Back to the
Punkak Inn for refreshments and then a gentle uphill stroll to an area called
High Pines, birding along the road. Barn Swallow, House Swift and Brown
Needletail were all seen in a mixed flock circling around at the top of the
        Late afternoon saw us at the top of the Gap Road facing an 8 km. walk
downhill. A couple of Silver-Eared Mesias gave excellent views near the top but
not much else new was seen until we had gone about 6 Km. when Helen & I heard a
peculiar whinnying call, which was repeated about every minute. I quickly put a
blank tape into my recorder and made a recording of the call. On playback it
responded and turned out to be a Brown Wood Owl which was certainly the bird of
the trip so far!  And so back for food & bed.
        Thursday morning at dawn saw us back at the area around the fruiting
tree. We went up a gulley and played a tape of Marbled Wren Babbler but to no
avail. However in the same area we did see and hear several Black
Laughingthrushes. These are very much birds to see at first light when they come
down near the road. Back at the Resthouse for breakfast and quite a bit of
activity on the other side of the road. A pair of Grey-throated Babblers only 6
feet away gave us a hard time as they skulked in the undergrowth but eventually
gave themselves up and we had good views - another lifer!  Duncan was saying
that the last time he was at the Gap he had missed Scaly-breasted Bulbul when
one popped up in a tree in front of us - I got the feeling that this was going
to be a good day.  Quite near to the Resthouse we came across an empty car with
lots of bird stickers on the back window including two from back home in Norfolk
and several recording the Fraser's Hill Bird Race which takes place each year (I
        After breakfast we started to walk back up the road to Fraser's Hill.
Near the 2 km. sign there is a ridge trail off to the left where Ferruginous
Wood Partridge have been recorded but we had no luck. On returning to the road
we met a young Malaysian who continued walking up the hill with us. When I told
him about the Brown Wood Owl he became very interested and when I played the
recording I had made he became very excited. He said that he had never heard the
call before so we copied it onto his recorder and showed him the place where we
had seen the bird. He said that he intended to return there at dusk. He told us
that his name was Choo Jsin Hwg and that he was very interested in bird calls -
having made recordings of most Malaysian birds - and he certainly new his bird
calls. As we walked along a bird wave went through and he identified them by
call and then found them. In a memorable 10 minutes we had Malaysian Cuckoo
Shrike, 3 Sultan Tits ( lifer) and a small party of about 6 Silver-breasted
Broadbills. My two target species within minutes of each other!! Eventually we
met up with Choos lady friend Terry and apologised for delaying
 him. She said that she was quite used to this happening and was quite happy
looking at palm trees - her interest. We eventually left them and carried on
walking up the hill, seeing Wreathed Hornbill, Blyth's Hawk Eagle and Lesser
Cuckoo Shrike. After a while the birds became scarce and it got very hot so we
hitched a lift up to the top and stopped off at the Punkak Inn for much needed
refreshments. We also arranged with one of the locals to take us back to K.L
Airport for our flight to Aus. We agreed a price which was much less than the
official taxi and agreed to meet at the Punkak Inn at 4.00pm.
         Fully replenished we decided to go to the rubbish tip - I mean, what
self respecting birder can miss out on an opportunity to visit a rubbish tip? We
set off on the mainly downhill road and almost immediately came across a flock.
Black and Crimson Oriole, Blue -winged Minla, Long-tailed Sibia,
Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush and more SultanTits - common!  I was not looking
forward to reaching the tip of which I still retained ophthalmic memories from
1994. I have never come across a worse smelling one - thank goodness ones sense
of smell becomes numb after a while in such conditions! However I was nearly
pleasantly surprised - it did not seem as bad as I remembered!  The main thing
was that the pair of Red-bearded Bee Eaters were still there. They are somewhat
silly looking birds but are quite stunning and well worth the walk and stench!
An Asian Paradise Flycatcher also got in on the act. The long walk uphill in the
sun made us contemplate as to whether it was all worthwhile but after more
refreshment we agreed that it was! 
        Our "taxi" took us back down to the Gap Resthouse where we loaded our
gear and then we sat off for K.L.  A  Km. or so on the road to K.L. our driver
stopped to point out a Blyth's Hawk Eagle nest  in clear view in a tree on the
right hand side. A chick was visible but no sign of the parents. In the same
area a perched Crested Serpent Eagle allowed a photographic session. Then the
four of us plus our driver made our way back to K.L. Airport. If the car had any
shock absorbers when we set off it didn't by the time we arrived!!
        In all 77 species including 5 lifers - Not a bad start ! 
Next stop Cairns. 
                                        Chris Padley.

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