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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Malaysia, 22nd August – 2nd September 2010,
This was an independent trip with my girlfriend taking in three sites: Fraser’s Hill, Taman Negara and the Perhentian Islands. The Perhentians were visited mainly for snorkelling and chilling so the birding part of the holiday was effectively the eight days at the first two sites. As usual we did it the hard way with no guides or tapes so inevitably missed things but nonetheless saw a fantastic selection of the country’s birds. Malaysia is great for the independent birder, travel and accommodation was a doddle compared to Indonesia! Feel free to email me (Brendan.Threlfall(at)gmail.com)
We arrived in KL airport around 2:30p.m. and decided to get a taxi direct to Fraser’s Hill. You can buy a ticket at the taxi desk just before you exit for 200R (worth it considering the combination of trains and taxi that would otherwise be required).
We stayed at Fraser’s for three nights, which gave us two full days in the field. We stayed at the Puncak Inn in the centre which is highly recommended (90R a night for the standard room and a great nasi lemak for breakfast included in the price).
Birding highlight was probably the Malaysian Whistling Thrush. There is a new site for this species as it no longer seems reliable in the area immediately around the entrance gate. Instead you need to turn left just before the gate up Jalan Mager (if you are approaching from Fraser’s Hill). Carry on round the first left bend to the second seating area on your right hand side (as the road swings round to the right). View up the road from here to the next bend: the thrush was feeding around this area at around 7a.m. for about ten minutes or so. The light wasn’t too bad and the thrush put on a pretty good display, calling and even not too concerned by the cars and motorbikes that started to pass by. Try walking further up Jalan Mager to the next bend if the thrush isn’t showing from the second seating area. I also had a great pair of Lesser Shortwing at the seating area. Rufous-browed Flycatcher was seen just a little way further up Jalan Mager.
For the rest of the two days we birded the entire Telekom Loop, walked the Hemmant, Kindersley and Bishop’s Trail once each, walked to High Pines and briefly on the Pine Tree trail, and walked around 3km down the New Road to the Gap (still closed but apparently due to open in November 2010). Some of the commoner species - Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, Long-tailed Sibia, Silver-eared Mesia, Yellow-vented Bulbul and Black-throated Sunbird - are easily encountered in the village itself. The Shahzan Inn bird table is a particularly good spot.
The Telekom loop was great and a very birdy introduction. We encountered a number of bird waves, all with Mountain Fulvettas and plenty with Golden Babblers, Blue-winged Minlas, White-throated Fantail and Lesser-Racket tailed Drongo. Mountain Leaf Warbler, Grey-chinned Minivet, Mountain Bulbul and Chestnut-crowned Warbler were seen on several occasions. The barbets were a highlight: the sound of Fire-tufted Barbets was a real feature of the place and we had good views of this species . Black-browed Barbet was seen well on several occasions and we managed a single Gold-whiskered Barbet.
We had single sightings of Javan Cuckooshrike, Grey-throated Babbler, White browed Shrike Babbler and Black-eared Shrike Babbler. Towards the end of the loop we had Streaked Spiderhunter (having had Little Spiderhunter near the start), and two cracking Sultan Tits.
Bishops Trail was fairly quiet and, unsurprisingly given the time of year, we didn’t have a sniff of the pitta (which is apparently getting ‘taped out’ here and increasingly difficult). Highlight was two Red-headed Trogons. We also had a brief Rufous-browed Flycatcher. The trail wasn’t particularly well maintained and you need to clamber over a few fallen trees. Also make sure you watch out for the leeches on this one!
High Pines/Pine Tree – only briefly: Little Pied Flycatcher, Olive-winged Bulbul. The view from the High Pines road is great.
Hemmant trail – again only brief, Large Niltava, no sign of Brown Wood Owl
New Road – we walked around 3km down this in the heat of the afternoon. First 2 kms were generally quiet but we did pick up some good species: Black-crested Bulbul near the school at the start, Verditer Flycatcher a little further down, and a Changeable Hawk Eagle over the valley. On the 2-3km stretch of the road activity started picking up and raptors in particular put on a good show: we had great views of juvenile Blyth’s Hawk Eagle and several Crested Serpent Eagles. We also had a single Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler. The supporting cast included Orange-bellied Leafbird, Everett’s White-eye, Scarlet Minivet and White-rumped Munia.
Kindersley trail – this short trail was surprisingly productive, particularly near the Jalan Mager end: Large Niltava, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Lesser Yellownape, Streaked Spiderhunter
Old Gap Road – only walked around 1km down the road on the last morning. Mountain Imperial Pigeon seen well; couple of waves with usual species plus Yellow-bellied Warbler.
Night birding proved pretty quiet, with no sign of the Brown Wood Owl sometimes seen around the Shahzan/clock tower area. Several Mountain Scops Owl were heard (off Jalan Mager, behind Puncak Inn, top of Old Gap Road) but never got close to seeing one.
On the mammal front, Banded Langur were seen on several occasions and the Long-tailed Macaques were always good value.
To get from Fraser’s Hill to Kuala Tembeling we booked a taxi through Puncak Inn. Cost was 230R and it took around 2 ½ hours on a clear run. The forest on the way down to Raub looks good (on the road around 25km from Raub we had a Chestnut-naped Forktail).
A fantastic place. We stayed for five days and needed all the time we had. As ever in this sort of habitat the birding wasn’t easy. My purist approach to not using tapes probably cost us Garnet Pitta and a couple of other species: we ended up with a frustratingly good ‘heard only’ list of Great Argus, Malayan Peacock Pheasant, Rail Babbler and Garnet Pitta (the latter heard in at least 9 different sites but never seen!)
The undoubted highlight here, though, turned out not to even be a bird. We stayed one night at Bumbun Kumbang (highly recommended) and scored with a superb all night show from at least three Malayan Tapir (two males and one female). The first Tapir came to the salt lick around 9p.m. and we then saw Tapirs pretty much throughout the night until around 5:30a.m. There were a few almighty skirmishes as different Tapirs chased each other off the salt lick, squealing and stomping off into the forest.
Kampung Kuala Tahan – we had some great sightings sat in the floating restaurants eating! On our first night a Bat Hawk crossed the river (viewed from Mama Chop at around 7:30p.m. ish). Another morning having our breakfast at Mama Chop we had Long-tailed Parakeet flying past, and an extremely showy White-breasted Waterhen. From Wan’s restaurant one evening we had Stork-billed Kingfisher.
Resort area/Bumbun Tahan/Back loop – not staying at the resort meant we probably missed a few of the regulars here (e.g. I was very surprised never to see Crested Fireback)
At the resort area itself we had a superb Red-bearded Bee-eater. Rufous Woodpecker was also seen here. We had several visits to the Tahan Hide which was always good value, if a little slow going. Black-thighed Falconet put on a great show here in the middle of the day on one occasion; and four Red Junglefowl were seen on an evening visit. Black-and-red-Broadbill was regularly seen here; and we had single Black-bellied Malkoha and Crested Serpent Eagle from the hide.
Swamp loop was birdless the one time we walked it (though this was in the middle of the day). The Back loop produced a nice Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and White-rumped Shama feeding young.
Jenut Muda/Bukit Teresik
Jenut Muda itself echoed to the fantastic calls of Great Argus but we never got close to seeing one despite hanging around the Teresik end of the trail for quite a while on two occasions. We got a fantastic consolation whilst waiting with great views of the awesome Rhinoceros Hornbill.
We only walked the whole trail itself once and found it excellent for babblers. Short-tailed, Rufous-crowned, Buff breasted, Ferruginous, Chestnut-winged and Black-capped Babbler were all recorded. Rail Babbler, Garnet Pitta, Malayan Peacock Pheasant and Scarlet-rumped Trogon were all ‘heard only’ but we did manage fantastic point blank views of a Green Broadbill (which turned out to be our only sighting of the trip). Buff-necked and Rufous Woodpeckers and Rufous-winged Philentoma made up the supporting cast.
Bukit Teresik is quite a tough climb given the heat and humidity but well worth it for a great view from the top. There was very little on the climb up but we were amply rewarded at the summit with superb views of a female Whiskered Treeswift perched on a branch only a few yards away. Silver-rumped Needletail was also recorded for the first time from the summit.
River trail/Lubuk Simpon/Bumbun Tabing
Lubuk Simpon is a fantastic place for a swim and the perfect way to cool off having slogged up Bukit Teresik or along Jenut Muda. There’s also the novelty of seeing great birds whilst swimming in the jungle. The undoubted highlight was the monstrously impressive Helmeted Hornbill which languidly flapped over our heads as we sat in the river! Definitely one of the top experiences of the trip. Malaysian Blue Flycatcher was another good species recorded at Lubuk Simpon.
We only walked the stretch from Lubuk Simpon to Bumbun Tabing once. The heat of the afternoon made birding fairly slow going but things soon picked up as the evening drew in. Black-naped Monarch and Gray-headed Canary Flycatcher were two attractive new species seen on this stretch. Crimson-winged Woodpecker put in a noisy appearance and we also had White-rumped Shama, Blue-winged Leafbird and Raffle’s Malkoha. The path from the Tabing hide to the junction with the main trail would probably reward closer scrutiny: on this stretch we heard (but did not see!) Great Argus and Malayan Peacock Pheasant. Garnet Pitta was heard about 1km from the Tabing hide on the main trail.
The stretch from the resort to Lubuk Simpon could be good value and we probably should have devoted more time to this stretch. Suzanna put the relationship on a knife edge by seeing a stunning Scarlet-rumped Trogon whilst I was watching a Straw-headed Bulbul (and not mentioning it!!). Purple-naped Sunbird, White-chested and Sooty-capped Babblers and a nice Chestnut-breasted Malkoha were also seen here.
Yong/Blau hide area
We got the riverbus to and from the Blau jetty for Bumbun Yong – we were the only people on the boat both times so it was effectively a charter for half the price the Mutiara charges! Return trip was 25R each, departing at 08:30a.m. and returning 6p.m. Few people seem to use this service so don’t walk one way to Bumbun Yong and then rely on being picked up at the scheduled time!
We had a great experience at the Yong hide early in the morning: a herd of Asian Elephant were heard creating an almighty racket moving through the forest. Despite my temptations we didn’t head off into the forest to try and see them, but the mighty sound was an experience in itself! A couple of Barking Deer also visited the lick.
Highlights at the hide itself included White-crowned Forktail (in the evening on the salt lick), Greater Green Leafbird, and Blue-rumped Parrot. On the path from the jetty to the hide, Banded and Rufous Woodpeckers and White-chested Babbler were seen. Banded Broadbill was heard here and it was on this stretch of path that I came closest to nailing Garnet Pitta. Unfortunately as I was nearing in on a bird calling repeatedly, around 50 yards towards Yong from the jetty/Blau/Yong path junction, I realised I needed to leave to make our boat back!
From the path between the jetty and the Blau hide we had Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler, Hairy-backed Bulbul, Purple-naped Sunbird and various Babblers. A Dark-throated Oriole was behind the Blau hide looking fairly agitated by the presence of a super Prevost’s Squirrel. We saw little to and from Gua Telinga, probably because of the midday heat. The caves were closed for safety but we did hear both Garnet Pitta and Great Argus whilst sitting nearby. A Rufous-tailed Tailorbird was a surprise here, and I also saw a Black-headed Bulbul. Whilst waiting for the boat back we had Straw-headed Bulbul, and a single Blue-throated Bee-eater was on the wires above the river as we neared the village.
You can book a night at Bumbun Kumbang at the wildlife office (behind the mini-market) at the mutiara resort (5R a night). We got the riverbus from Nusa for 50R return each, the path from Trenggan to Kumbang is well marked and takes around 1-2hrs depending how much birding you do. The hide itself can sleep twelve on hard wooden bunks. Visiting rats seem to be a common theme of stories about staying in Kumbang: we had one visit early in the morning but managed to scare it off!
The path to Kumbang passes through wild and remote forest which was clearly good for birds, though pretty tough work. Large Wren Babbler was surprisingly easy here: despite not using tapes I had good views on two occasions (with others heard). Sightings were around 800m and 500m before Kumbang on the path to Trenggan, but the whole area is probably good for this species. Garnet Pitta and Great Argus were both heard in several places (including from the hide itself) but frustratingly remained hidden. Rail Babbler was heard around 300m from Kuala Trenggan (on both the walk out to the hide and back) but not seen.
The hide itself produced some good sightings: a close but brief Crested Jay in the morning, a small group of 3 Black Magpies, and showy Asian Fairy Bluebirds and Black-and-red Broadbills. Night birding was surprisingly disappointing, though the Tapirs were a fairly major distraction! Kuala Trenggan itself was productive as we waited for our boat back: Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Green Iora, Raffle’s Malkoha and Striped Tit Babbler.
This was a few days devoted to snorkelling (good) and chilling not birding. But there were a few sightings worth noting. Pied Imperial Pigeon were very common and streamed west over Perhentian Kecil every evening to roost (seemingly on one of the smaller islands west of Kecil). Didn’t have a sniff of Nicobar Pigeon though. White-bellied Sea Eagle showed fantastically well around Kecil. On the west of the island near Mira beach we had Purple-throated Sunbird and White-rumped Shama. Black-naped Terns were frequently seen offshore.