Panti Forest Malaysia Trip Report (long)

To: "Birding-Aus" <>, "Con Foley" <>, "Tony Palliser" <>, "Frank O'Connor" <>, "Murray Lord" <>
Subject: Panti Forest Malaysia Trip Report (long)
From: "Peter Marsh" <>
Date: Sat, 2 May 2015 18:08:07 +1000
Birding in Panti Forest, Peninsular Malaysia

15 to 17 April 2015

Peter Marsh

The Plan

I, like many birders, am chasing the intermediate goal of seeing a 
representative of every bird family. I chose a trip to the Panti Forest in 
southern Peninsular Malaysia to seek the Rail Babbler, the only member of the 
family Eupetidae. While this was the prime target of the trip I was, of course, 
open to the enjoyment of any and all birds encountered on the trip.


I flew from my home in Sydney to Singapore by Qantas on points. I stayed 
overnight at the Hotel 81 Chinatown, chosen because it was relatively 
economical while being in a convenient place to be picked up and dropped off by 
my guide Con Foley. The hotel was fine for the short time I was resident but 
the rooms are ridiculously small and would be unpleasant for a longer stay.

Con Foley is an American who has lived in Singapore for many years. He has had 
a close association with the Panti Forest for over a decade. His trip there 
with me was his 396th trip to the Forest, he told me. I had seen good 
references to his guiding prowess on the ‘net and admired his photography at 
his web site . He turned out to be very good company, a 
fund of knowledge about the Forest and its avifauna as well as being a very 
versatile mimic of the bird calls. I can thoroughly recommend his services to 
anyone wanting guiding to the birds of the Forest. Con picked me up in the 
China town area of Singapore and returned me there in his comfortable 4X4.

I engaged Con to guide me for 3 days starting pre-dawn on day 1 in Singapore 
and returning at around 4pm on day 3. We stayed for 2 nights at the Rest Inn 
Hotel in Kota Tinggi, the town closest to the Forest. The hotel was very 
inexpensive but very comfortable. We ate at restaurants in the town for lunch 
and dinner and bought breakfast provisions in a supermarket. Meals were 
Malaysian for lunch and Chinese for dinner as only the Chinese served beer! 
Food was delicious and cheap.

At the end of this trip I stayed the night in Singapore. The following morning 
I took an early morning flight on Silk Air to Manado on the Indonesian island 
of Sulawesi

The Birding

We drove straight to the Forest from Singapore on day 1 and were there just on 
dawn. We tried for the Brown Hawk-owl and Blyth’s Frogmouth without success. We 
then picked up a bunch of Flowerpeckers and Bulbuls before getting into the 
main game and looking for the Rail Babbler. Con advised that there are around 
10 territories for the Rail Babbler in the Forest that are readily accessible. 
On the second territory we got a response to a played call. We followed the 
call into the forest and were close to the bird for the best part of an hour 
but it did not show itself despite coming within 30 m or so of us. While 
waiting we did get distracted for a little, as one would, by a calling pair of 
Banded Pitta that were seen well. After that first ray of hope we visited all 
the other territories without any sign of a Rail Babbler. The Forest seemed 
very dry. Whether it was due to this, or other causes, Con reflected that the 
birds were very unresponsive. While looking for the Rail Babbler we were not 
oblivious to other species and the list gradually climbed.

Our second day started as the first had with the exception that Con managed to 
call in a Brown Hawk-owl. Then to work surveying the territories for Rail 
Babbler. We did not get a single response during the morning despite surveying 
all territories. We decided toi take a break and drove to Le Grandeur Palm 
Resort at Senai, about an hours drive from the Forest to try for Barred 
Eagle-owl. The birds are known to roost here, in fact they regularly nest in a 
planter box on the verandah of the presidential suite of the resort. We duly 
found a young bird roosting in a tree beside the resort and retired to lunch in 
the restaurant of the resort. Upon returning to the forest we concentrated on 
sighting a trio of Broadbills, Black-and–Red, Banded and Black-and-Yellow, the 
latter two species having active nests. We also came across Elephant tracks 
beside a stream where they had not been the previous day.

Our third day again started well before dawn. Rather than try again for the 
Frogmouth we went to the old sand mine sight and picked up Savannah Nightjar 
before again doing the rounds of the Rail Babbler territories. We were on our 
8th territory and holding little hope of an RB when Con heard a very faint 
response to his playback. We were soon close to the bird and after a few 
minutes it appeared through the undergrowth and proceeded to slowly and 
seemingly quite calmly circumnavigate our position. The bird called 
occasionally as it did its stately walk around us puffing up its blue 
cheek-pouches as it did so. We were both stoked to see the bird after mentally 
writing off our chances. We notched up a few more species after that before 
heading for lunch in Kota Tinggi and the end of the trip in Singapore.

The 3 days were focused on finding the Rail Babbler and I am sure we would have 
notched up more species in total if that had not been so. Interestingly the 
only rain we had fell just as we were watching the Rail Babbler. Was the bird 
stimulated to call by imminent rain or was it pure coincidence? Whatever it was 
wonderful to add another family to the family list and 31 new species to my 
life list.

Birds Seen

Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela)   

Changeable Hawk-eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus)   

Red-wattled Lapwing  (Vanellus indicus)   

Spotted Dove (Spilopelia chinensis)   

Common Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica)   

Little Green Pigeon (Treron olax)   

Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans)   

Chestnut-breasted Malkoha  (Phaenicophaeus curvirostris)   

Violet Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus)   

Barred Eagle-owl (Bubo sumatranus)   

Brown Hawk-owl (Ninox scutulata)   

Savanna Nightjar (Caprimulgus affinis)   

Scarlet-rumped Trogon (Harpactes duvaucelii)   

Oriental Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis)   

Banded Kingfisher (Lacedo pulchella)   

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca)   

Red-bearded Bee-eater (Nyctyornis amictus)   

Blue-throated Bee-eater (Merops viridis)   

Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros)   

Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris)   

Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus)   

Red-crowned Barbet (Megalaima rafflesii)   

Grey-and-buff Woodpecker (Hemicircus concretus)   

White-bellied Woodpecker (Dryocopus javensis)   

Crimson-winged Woodpecker (Picus puniceus)   

Black-and-red Broadbill (Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos)   

Banded Broadbill  (Eurylaimus javanicus)   

Black-and-yellow Broadbill (Eurylaimus ochromalus)   

Malayan Banded Pitta (Hydrornis irena)   

Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis)   

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus)   

Asian Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi)   

House Crow (Corvus splendens)   

Rail-babbler (Eupetes macrocerus)   

Black-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus atriceps)   

Grey-bellied Bulbul [sp] (Pycnonotus cyaniventris)   

Puff-backed Bulbul (Pycnonotus eutilotus)   

Yellow-vented Bulbul [sp] (Pycnonotus goiavier)   

Olive-winged Bulbul [sp] (Pycnonotus plumosus)   

Cream-vented Bulbul [sp] (Pycnonotus simplex)   

Yellow-bellied Bulbul [sp] (Alophoixus phaeocephalus)   

Buff-vented Bulbul [sp] (Iole olivacea)   

Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)   

Pacific Swallow [sp] (Hirundo tahitica)   

Rufous-tailed Tailorbird [sp] (Orthotomus sericeus)   

Pin-striped Tit-babbler [sp] (Macronus gularis)   

Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler [sp] (Macronus ptilosus)   

Sooty-capped Babbler (Malacopteron affine)   

White-chested Babbler [sp] (Trichastoma rostratum)   

Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus)   

Common Myna [sp] (Acridotheres tristis)   

Rufous-tailed Shama (Copsychus pyrropygus)   

White-rumped Shama [sp] (Copsychus malabaricus)   

Pale Blue Flycatcher [sp] (Cyornis unicolor)   

Grey-chested Jungle Flycatcher (Cyornis umbratilis)   

Blue-winged Leafbird [sp] (Chloropsis cochinchinensis)   

Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker [sp] (Prionochilus percussus)   

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker [sp] (Dicaeum trigonostigma)   

Eurasian Tree Sparrow [sp] (Passer montanus)   

Baya Weaver [sp] (Ploceus philippinus)   

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