My son and I flew to Malaysia at the start of Easter, and after a couple of
days poking around Penang met up with Choy Wai Mun. Mun has a blog titled the
Penang Birder [https://penangbirder.blogspot.com.au].
We arranged a four day itinerary with Mun that started in Penang, had two
nights at Frasers Hill and ended in Kuala Lumper. We visited a range of
lowland habitat varieties, including rainforests, mangroves, mudflats,
freshwater wetlands and paddy fields, as well as the iconic highland rainforest
at Frasers Hill.
Birding guides around the world use call playback, but on this trip the new
element was the stakeout. A stakeout site is a bit like a lek, where visiting
birders place food for targeted species. The birds know there may be an
offering when they hear call playback at these sites and are motivated to show
Courtesy of the meal worms, seeds and rock melons, we had close views of
partridges, barbets, pittas, sibias, mesias, kingfishers, thrushes, robins,
flycatchers and babblers etc. Indeed, a Pygmy Wren-babbler scurried mouselike
(within touching distance of me) on its way to the worms on a log.
Away from the stakeout sites, call playback had mixed results. Sometimes it
attracted the birds, in other places it had no effect. The most frustrating
dip was a Collared Owlet. It was persistently calling one afternoon at Frasers
Hill. We circled around its location [even walked up a steep driveway that
brought us roughly level with it] but were unable to see it.
In some ways birding in Malaysia was similar to birding in similar habitats in
Australia. The big difference was the complete absence of water birds [such as
ducks, grebes, cormorants, gulls and terns]. It was disconcerting to have
large birdless waterbodies.
Weatherwise, we had very little rain. It was hot at sea-level and pleasant at
higher altitudes [Penang Hill and Frasers Hill]. My main frustration was a
camera lens that was coming apart at the seams.
Overall, we were very happy with Mun’s guiding. He had fast visual and bird
call recognition, and was also familiar with many of the mammals. If you are
looking to go birding in north-western Malaysia, you can email him via either
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