Malaysia Trip Report

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Subject: Malaysia Trip Report
From: "David Fischer" <>
Date: Sat, 14 Mar 1998 18:59:54 +1000
Hello Birders,

My son and I have just returned from a two week birding trip to Malaysia.
We spent three nights at Kuala Selangor, three nights at Bukit Fraser, and
seven nights at Taman Negara. This year was particularly hot with
temperatures of 37C at Kuala Selangor and occasional afternoon
thunderstoms at Taman Negara.  The showers tended to be brief and did not
disrupt birding.

At Kuala Selangor, we visited the single remaining boardwalk into the
mangroves and also borrowed gumboots from the warden and walked through a
portion of the mangrove forest.  We searched for the Mangrove Pitta but none
were calling this year.  We did have great views of Common Goldenbacks,
Laced Woodpeckers, Mangrove Blue Flycatchers, and Great Tits.  In the
wetlands of the reserve, waterbirds were abundant including Yellow Bittern,
Cinnamon Bittern, Chinese Pond-Herons, Watercock, many kingfishers, and
others. Black Baza's were present in small flocks in the dry woodlands which
surround the wetlands and were often seen throughout the day. A Collared
Scops-Owl was found in a nestbox located across the road from the old
headquarters. Forest Wagtails were sighted on a few occasions along the
embackments which bordered the wetlands. At Bukit Melawati, a hill just
outside of the reserve, we found 3 Lineated Barbets and 2 Coppersmith
Barbets one evening.

>From Kuala Selangor, we drove north to the mudflats near Tanjong Karang.
Waders were numerous here and included many Common Redshanks, Greenshanks,
Terek Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Sand-Plovers, Marsh Sandpipers,
Red-necked Stints and others

We also visited the rice fields near Sekinchan and the adjacent peat-swamp
which are located about an hour north of Kuala Selangor. Some of the rice
fields were flooded and many waders were observed. This area was good for
Black Drongos, Blue-tailed Bee-Eaters, Oriental Reed-Warblers, and Baya
Weavers. Most interesting was a Greater Spotted Eagle which flew out from
the peat swamp and spiralled over the rice fields. The peat swamp may be
entered  via a small bridge over the canal which separates the rice fields
from the swamp. This bridge may be reached by travelling on one of the
east-west roads between Tanjong Karang and Sekinchan, and then turning north
along the road which borders the canal. Not many birds were seen in the
swamp, but Fluffy-backed Tit-Babblers, a difficult species, were fairly
common along the dirt track. Wood-Partridges and Hodgson?s Hawk-Cuckoos were
also heard but we could not spot the birds.

>From Kuala Selangor, we travelled to the cooler highlands of Bukit Fraser. A
new road has been constructed down the hill but due to landslippages, it was
not yet open to traffic. This provided an excellant site for birding and we
recorded Rusty-naped Pitta (heard only), Pigmy Wren-Babblers, Crimson-winged
Woodpecker, nesting Black-thighed Falconets, Black Laughing-Thrushes as well
as Dusky Leaf Monkeys and a Siamang.  Several figtrees were fruiting next to
the road in the vicinity of the second bridge from the top and these
attracted numerous Black-browed, Fire-tufted, and Red-throated Barbets, and
Mountain Bulbuls.  Bishop's Trail was fairly quiet although it did produce a
few mixed-species flocks which included the spectacular Long-tailed
Broadbill. One afternoon, we found a good bird party along the road to the
waterfall. Some of the more beautiful birds in the flock included a pair of
Sultan Tits, several Green Magpies, a Red-headed Trogon, and Grey-chinned
Minivets. The Telekom Loop is still worth visiting, but habitat loss
continues as more bungalows are constructed. The loop was good for Blyth?s
Hawk Eagles, Silver-eared Mesias, Blue-winged Minlas, Lesser Yellownape, and
various barbets.  On this trip, the famous tip was smouldering and quiet
with no sightings of Siberian or Orange-headed Ground Thrushes. Durai, a
local birder, suggested that their absence may be due to the thick smoke
which blanketed Malaysia in September when the birds normally arrive. We did
see Hill Blue Flycatchers, Mugimaki Flycatchers, Grey-throated Babblers, and
Streaked Wren-Babblers feeding at the tip-face.

We drove down to the Gap before sunrise one morning. While awaiting sunrise,
we saw and heard a couple of Malaysian Eared Nightjars which were hunting
above the Gap Resthouse. At sunrise, I was disappointed to find that the
giant figtree that stood across the road from the Gap had collapsed.  The
Gap area was great for barbets with Blue-eared, Red-throated,
Yellow-crowned, Black-browed, and Gold-whiskered all recorded.  Other
interesting species included a pair of Black Eagles, Yellow-vented Pigeons,
Banded Broadbills, Ferruginous Flycatchers, Verditer Flycatchers,
Rufous-fronted Babblers and a pair of Rhinoceros Hornbills which fed in a
fruiting tree not far from the road.  Siamang and White-handed Gibbons were
both heard from the Gap Resthouse.

Our final destination was to Taman Negara, a large national park located in
central Malaysia. The park was fairly dry and fruiting trees were scarce,
with the exception of a couple of figs near the cafeteria and a fig at the
start of the camp ground. These trees attracted a huge number of birds and
we recorded 14 species of Bulbuls in these trees during a single day. Often,
several of the similar species such as Red-eyed, Spectacled, Cream-vented,
and Buff-rumped were perched in close proximity. The highlight was an
extended observation of the rare Puff-backed Bulbul.  Other birds at the
tree included Lesser and Greater Green Leafbirds, Blue-eared and
Gold-whiskered Barbets, Fairy Bluebirds, Little/Thick-billed/Large Green
Pigeons, Pied and Black Hornbills, Hanging-Parrots, and Yellow-vented

The Tahan River trail was good as usual, especially in the vicinity of the
Tabing Hide. This seems to be a good area for Finch's Bulbuls and I have
recorded this species here on each of my visits to Taman Negara.  We saw a
Masked Finfoot from the small boat dock below Tabing Hide as well as on a
boat trip to Lata Berkoh.  We also saw or heard Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoos,
Banded Bay Cuckoos, Violet Cuckoo, Crested Firebacks, Rufous Piculets,
Checker-throated Woodpeckers, and a Maroon-breasted Flycatcher.  Mammals
along the trail included a Yellow-throated Martin, various small squirrels
and 1 Prevost?s Squirrel, a strickingly-marked large squirrel which is black
above with a white band across the head and sides, and a rufous throat and
undersurface.  Elephant Tracks were numerous in the Tabing area, and we
found a 2m cobra which reared in front of us as we walked along the small
creek below the hide.

One day, we took a boat to Yong Hide then walked the Cegar Anjung Trail
before returning to Kuala Tahan. Near Yong Hide, we saw a Scarlet-rumped
Trogon, Crested Jays, and a pair of Buff-necked Woodpeckers. Further along
the trail, Malaysian Peacock Pheasants were heard and one was seen as it
walked across the trail and then moved slowly up a slope in the vicinity of
Bleu Hide. The Cegar Anjung Trail was one of the most beautiful trails that
I have visited in Taman Negara and it was devoid of other hikers on our
visit. It supports tall forest with many damp areas and is particularly good
for pittas. We heard several Garnet and a single Banded Pitta calling near
the track. Other good birds included Rufous-tailed Shama, Red-naped Trogon,
Helmeted Hornbill and Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babblers.

The high-point of the trip was a visit to Kumbang Hide.  We took a boat
early one morning to Kuala Trenggan, then walked to the hide.  Kuala
Trenggan would be a much quieter place to stay than Kuala Tahan and is only
marginally more expensive than the hostel.  Along the trail between Kuala
Trenggan and Kumbang, we found a Garnet Pitta, Short-tailed Babblers,
Crested Wood-Partridges, Helmeted Hornbills, and a Banded Kingfisher.  After
setting up our bunks at the hide, we walked another 3 hours to a cave known
as Gua Kepayang.  This cave is in a remote portion of the park and we did
not see any other people on the trail for the entire day.  The main purpose
of visiting the cave was to search for whip-scorpions which greatly interest
my son.  We found these in the dark caverns along with many bats, cave
crickets, toads, and a beautiful black and red frog which resembled one of
the arrow-poison frogs of the Neotropics. As we left the cave we found an
anvil site of one of the pittas, but we did not have time to search for the
bird.  On the return walk, we found 2 Crestless Firebacks on the trail about
3 km from Kumbang, and also heard another Banded Kingfisher.  That night, we
had brief views of a Malay Civet which came to a can of tuna which I left at
the bottom of the ladder to the hide, and we had stunning views of a
Malaysian Tapir which visited the salt-lick in front of the hide for nearly
30 minutes.  The next day, we walked 12 km from Kumbang back to Kuala Tahan
via the Tahan Trail, and this produced Bushy-crested Hornbills and Large
Wren-Babblers.   Mouse-Deer were also sighted.

We visited the canopy walkway (850 m long) near Kuala Tahan on two
occasions.  It was a popular site with tourists so it was difficult to spend
much time searching the trees.  We did have good close views of a
Chestnut-breasted Malcoha, and a mixed flock of Blue-winged Leafbirds and
Fiery Minivets.  On the second visit we also saw a beautiful Giant Squirrel,
a huge black squirrel with a white throat and breast.

One of our final walks was to Bukit Indah, a hill along the Tembeling River.
The river trail was generally quiet, but we saw a few good birds from the
lookout.  One of these was a juvenile Dusky Broadbill which perched in a
leafless treetop below the lookout.  It would occasionally open wide its
bill to call but only produced a feeble squeak that would be hard to detect
from the forest floor. Fiery Minivets were also seen from the lookout.

Altogether, we had a great trip and recorded 282 species of birds.  I will
soon prepare a complete trip report and list.  If anyone would like a copy
of the report or other information about bookings, prices, etc., please feel
free to contact me.

David Fischer

Wollongong, Australia

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