[A full version of this report with graphics is available for a fee from the Oriental Birding Club.]
Myself (Chris Gooddie) and three fellow UK birders, Kit Britten, Bob Harris, and Graham Hogan, put together a trip to combine 4 sites in Malaysia - Taman Negara, Fraser's Hill, The Gap and Kuala Selangor - with a short visit to Khao Nor Chuchi and Krabi in Thailand (principally to look for Gurney's Pitta).
|Sunday 16 Apr||Left London Heathrow 2200Hrs on Malaysian Airlines MH1 (Virgin codeshare) direct to Kuala Lumpur (KL), arrived Mon 17 Apr at 1710Hrs (KL is 7 hrs ahead of the UK)|
|Tuesday April 18||Day 2||Transfer/boat to Taman Negara (TN) - TN pm|
|Wednesday April 19||Day 3||Taman Negara|
|Thursday April 20||Day 4||Taman Negara|
|Friday April 21||Day 5||Taman Negara|
|Saturday April 22||Day 6||Taman Negara|
|Sunday April 23||Day 7||Taman Negara|
|Monday April 24||Day 8||Boat back to Tembeling, transfer to Fraser's Hill (FH)|
|Tuesday April 25||Day 9||Fraser's Hill|
|Wednesday April 26||Day 10||Fraser's Hill, eve transfer to the Gap|
|Thursday April 27||Day 11||Gap, transfer to K. Selangor 6pm|
|Friday April 28||Day 12||K. Selangor until 2pm, transfer to KL airport, Depart for Phuket on Thai air, drive to Krabi.|
|Saturday April 29||Day 13||Drive to Khao Nor Chuchi (KNC) for 7am. All day at KNC|
|Sunday April 30||Day 14||KNC, return to Krabi late pm|
|Monday May 1||Day 15||Boat trip to Krabi river mouth, drive back to KNC pm, return to Krabi via Khao Phenombencha eve|
|Tuesday May 2||Day 16||Khao Phenombencha for dawn, then Krabi mangroves boat trip early a.m. 11am-3pm drive back to Phuket, Fly Thai Air Phuket/KL, 6 hrs stop over, then 2355 Hrs Malaysian Airlines MH2 KL/LHR, arrived back Weds May 3rd 6am.|
Arrived at vast, shiny and largely empty new KL airport on time at 1710 Hrs. Met by Gopi of Kingfisher Tours at the terminal, who drove us to the Hotel Equatorial in KL. A short birding stop en route providing our first Malaysian birds: Asian Palm Swift, Greater Coucal, Spotted Dove, Brown Shrike, our only Changeable Hawk-Eagle of the trip, + 1 Nightjar sp, prob. Malaysian Eared. Night in KL, walked the nearby streets to find beer and dinner.
Up at 5am to meet Gopi - we had pre-arranged a transfer from KL to Tembeling Quay/TN with Kingfisher, leaving KL at 5-30am to arrive at the quay 8-15am. On arrival we confirmed our boat places at the office and bought reserve and camera permits at the office next door. Time for a quick shufti around the quay, which produced Brown Needletail, Red-eyed and Stripe-throated Bulbuls, Common Tailorbird, Smyrna (White-throated or White-breasted just don't sound the same) Kingfisher etc, then the 9am boat in to Taman Negara. A cool breeze and relaxed birding on the way, highlights included 2 Black-and-Red Broadbills (stunning,) 1 Black Hornbill, 2 Red-wattled Lapwing, 3 Common Sandpipers, 1 Stork-billed Kingfisher, numerous Silver-rumped Swifts, 2 Paddyfield Pipits, a Crested Goshawk and lots of gorgeous Blue-throated Bee-eaters.
Arrived at c11am, checked in to the Taman Negara Resort (nice air-con. bungalows, comfortable beds, bug screens etc) then headed out along the Tahan Trail and the first two-thirds of the Jenet Muda trail, returning by the same route. 5m into the start of the Tahan trail we encountered our first leeches in numbers and retreated to the campsite to re-spray boots with 100% deet and don the life-saving leech-proof socks (thanks OBC). Highlights of the first day at TN included a Red-naped Trogon, 2 Straw-headed Bulbuls, a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Rufous Woodpecker, our first Raffles Malkoha, a Crested Jay (seen briefly in the canopy after taping in), and a Pale Blue Flycatcher. The weather was VERY humid, making for tough going, but great birds. We returned to the resort to try at the Kuala Tahan jetty at dusk for Bat Hawk but no sign of any bats, let alone a Bat Hawk.
Taman Negara. Woke at 6am and slowly realised that a Blue-winged Pitta was calling right behind our bungalow, so we roused the other 2 and crept out on to the veranda and attempted to tape in - the bird responded briefly, but did not come in. This was to become a familiar and frustrating scenario at TN: most Pittas would call once or twice and then shut up, presumably many birds already breeding and thus not very responsive?
Out at dawn (c6-30am,) a quick check around HQ (no major fruiting trees unfortunately) but we turned up a Black Magpie doing its usual bizarre machinery-breaking-down-recorded-backwards stuff, and a close perched Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot. We then birded the nearby Swamp Loop/Tahan Hide until 11am (access is signposted from the back of the central area of K. Tahan). Heard a male Banded Pitta close to the trail on the upper side of the loop, which responded well to tape and gave excellent brief views to 3 of us, then continued to call whilst heading further and further off the trail. Also had excellent views of a male Malaysian Peacock Pheasant and 3 Crested Firebacks, the latter just 2m from the Tahan Hide. Checked the clearing in front of the hide (one of the very few open areas visible at TN) and had 2 Hill Mynas and our only Lesser Coucal of the trip, an Asian Pied Hornbill and a noisy Long-billed Spiderhunter. Heard our first Great Slaty Woodpeckers, but failed to see them (just as we did over the next 3 days, despite hearing them frequently).
Re-checked the HQ area on the way through (1 Arctic Warbler), bought some water, and then headed around the JM/Tahan loop - til dusk, this time the other way round, i.e., JM from the Bukit Teresek end. Highlights of the day were great views of 3 Green Broadbills, one of the birds of the trip, more Black-and-Red and 3 Banded Broadbills, plus 1 streak-by Blue-eared Kingfisher. We also heard a really close Great Argus on the JM slope (BT end) and 3 more Banded Pittas, but failed to see any of them.
Taman Negara. We started again with a brief visit to the Swamp Loop - quiet except for 1 female Malaysian Peacock Pheasant and a mixed flock of Rufous-winged, Rufous-crowned and Sooty-capped Babblers. Arrived at the quay for 8-30am to meet the boatmen we'd booked the day before (we had deliberately booked the first boat of the day), on a quest for Finfoot. Chugged slowly up the Sungei Tahan to Latah Berkoh and then drifted back down to the Tabing Hide jetty where we'd asked to be dropped. No sign of the Finfoot, but 6+ Blue-banded Kingfisher, more Black-and-red Broadbills, a Lesser Fish Eagle (at L. Berkoh drop-off point), 1 Black-bellied Malkoha and flocks of 15 Large Green and 10 Green Imperial Pigeon over. Drifting back down we scored a Slender-billed Crow at the nest (does indeed sound like a Rook!) and a (canopy-top) Brown-streaked Flycatcher. Having landed we met our first snake - a c5ft long common water snake - and were delighted to discover that the Tabing Hide was in the opposite direction, a few hundred metres up-river. We wandered through nice open forest hearing lots of Indian Cuckoos (a species we heard frequently but which we never managed to see) and connected with 1 Red-billed Malkoha, 2 Maroon Woodpeckers, a Thick-billed Flowerpecker, a male Great Iora and a female Black Hornbill. Hid from the heat of the midday sun in the hide, then walked the stream near the hide, our first of many unsuccessful attempts to find Chestnut-naped Forktail. (We also failed to find the 2m Cobra that is supposed to inhabit the area thank God.)
Spent the afternoon birding the Tahan trail back to Lubok Simpon, arriving there with an hour's daylight left. We cooled our feet in the river (bliss) and listened to calling Gold-whiskered Barbets, Great Argus, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Garnet Pitta, 2 Banded Pittas, a Banded Bay Cuckoo, and just before dusk, a Hooded Pitta c200m back towards HQ. Standing on the beach at L. Simpon, a White-breasted Wood-Swallow was a surprise, and we had good views of Malaysian Eared Nightjars emerging from the forest opposite, calling repeatedly, a nice end to the day. No sign again of the Bat Hawk, and only one solitary bat, maybe the BH has moved on to greener (blacker?!) pastures?
Taman Negara. Briefly looked in on the Swamp Loop at dawn and again heard a close but unresponsive Blue-winged Pitta, then walked the Tahan/JM/B. Teresek (S. part) trail loop until noon. Highlights included a White-chested Babbler, Grey-breasted, Spectacled and Little Spiderhunters, but the bird of the day was undoubtedly a (first year?) male Great Argus, seen close to the trail at the top of the slope (B. Teresek end of JM trail). As TN was wet we were hearing Great Argus frequently every day, so finally connecting was a blessed relief, celebratory bottles of water all round!
We again heard good birds that we hadn't yet seen - Scarlet-rumped Trogon close to the JM trail, Drongo, Indian, Banded-Bay and Plaintive Cuckoos, plus more Broadbills and another Banded Pitta, just before the first (from the Tahan River end) JM stream.
Back at HQ we encountered a Bar-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike, before returning to the Swamp Loop which yielded another female Black Hornbill, a pair of Crested Firebacks and a couple of Hill Mynas before torrential rain intervened at 5pm, soaking us in seconds. Within a couple of minutes the trail had literally became a river, and we legged it to shelter in the Tahan Hide, about the only place not already under water. Having spent a while drying off, we headed back to Lubok Simpon before dusk to look for the Hooded Pitta heard the previous night, finding a Checker-throated Woodpecker on the way. No sight nor sound of the bird, but we heard another Blue-winged Pitta, and finally managed to connect with a Great Slaty Woodpecker which flew over us across the Sungei Tahan and disappeared into the low cloud, the only bird we saw on the entire trip. Shortly before dusk we picked up a shrike flying across the river which proved to be an adult female Tiger Shrike, a tick for all of us, and a suitable alibi for a few (massively expensive) beers in the restaurant in the pouring rain.
Taman Negara. Feeling rested and full of energy after a good (though typically short) night's sleep we decided to head up Bukit Teresek and then continue round to the top of the River Trail, then loop back down the Tahan Trail to HQ. It doesn't look too far on paper but it's a steep climb and an even steeper descent past the 2nd viewpoint, and any scrambling up and down hill trails in TN humidity is hard work.
The day started well when a Blue-rumped Parrot flew over the HQ clearing, and continued in similar vein as we finally got brief views of 2 Drongo Cuckoos. The view from the first BT viewpoint was shrouded in mist, which cleared long enough only for us to add a Greater Green Leafbird and a responsive Blue-eared Barbet, another bird we had been hearing everywhere but which had proved tricky to see. (Barbets etc are way easier at Fraser's Hill, as canopy and forest edge is a lot more visible from the wide tarmac roads there.) We met a couple of non-birders at the viewpoint who had (almost literally) bumped into a male Great Argus on the way up. We chatted to them, and demonstrated our Mini Disc/Speaker set-up. Having proved ourselves by taping in the Barbet we headed on to the 2nd viewpoint to feast on Garibaldi biscuits and water, enjoying a feeding flock which contained a single Ashy Minivet (finally a bogey laid to rest for GH who had missed them on an almost daily basis at Beidaihe a few years before,) another Tiger Shrike, Leafbirds and Rufous-winged, Moustached and Rufous-crowned Babblers. Descending the steep slope 200m beyond the 2nd viewpoint we suddenly froze as we heard a close Malaysian Rail-Babbler close to the trail - we whistled back for 30 mins, and the bird came in a little but then moved off. We eventually crept towards the calling bird but finally lost it without scoring - intensely frustrating but not a major surprise. A couple of Rhino Hornbills called from the canopy, and all but CG got brief views.
We spent a little while at the stream at the bottom of the hill failing again to find Chestnut-naped Forktail, then headed round to the Tahan trail. About half a km N. of Lubok Simpon, we came across a pair of Red-bearded Bee-eaters calling, and the birds showed well for a couple of minutes.
On the advice of the warden we had booked a second attempt for Finfoot on the last boat up the Tahan. The trip up river was very quiet, with no kingfishers etc (having all been disturbed by the numerous boats during the day), but the drift downstream from 5-30pm was restful and relaxing, if not initially bird-filled. A Whiskered Treeswift perched on a dead snag woke us up a little, and a few minutes later the boatman on our helm shocked us out of our reverie by yelling "Finfoot!" Sure enough, a male Finfoot was flapping up a bare overhanging bough on the right bank, and the panic gradually calmed as everyone got on the bird, by now c10ft up and peering out from under the low canopy of a riverside tree. The boatmen took the boat right up under the bank, and we were able to gaze eyeball to eyeball with THE BOY! After 10 minutes of incredible views the bird flew to the far bank and swam behind a group of logs, where we left it in peace.
By now we were on a roll, and we passed close to two Malaysian Blue Flycatchers on the edge of the riverside vegetation. CG then picked up a calling Violet Cuckoo which headed off over the canopy with indecent speed. A little further down-river we heard what was probably another Rail-Babbler on the Cegar Anjung side of the river, and a White-crowned Forktail shot across the river in front of us calling. Great views of Stork-billed and Blue-eared Kingfishers and another Drongo Cuckoo added to a memorable trip, and as we pulled in at the Kuala Tahan quay again, an Orange-backed Woodpecker undulated over the river. Tragically the bird landed near the bar, so the only decent thing to do was to go and look for it and celebrate the Finfoot with a few cold ones!
Taman Negara. Our last full day at TN saw us heading to a new area. We took a pre-booked 7-30am boat (earliest available after negotiation) to the Blau Hide area (far side of the Tahan River, c3km from TN HQ ie Kuala Tahan), walked down to the Yong Hide, back to the Blau Hide, and up the trail to Gua Telinga (Bat Cave). Then we retraced our steps back down the same trail and turned left to continue along the main trail back to the W. bank of the Tahan River.
The Yong Hide allows a nice view of all storeys of the forest, and CG had a brief Black-capped Jungle Babbler, with everyone seeing Long-tailed Parakeets, Blue-rumped Parrots and Yellow-crowned- and Gold-whiskered Barbets.
We left the hide and immediately heard a Garnet Pitta (which turned out to be the only one we saw all trip), finally tracked down after a painstaking hour off the trail immediately behind/c100m beyond the Yong Hide. The bird was c60m off the trail (opposite side of the trail from the hide) and at first we thought we were stalking a Rail-Babbler, the end-stopped nature of the call only becoming obvious as we got closer. We eventually stood in 2 groups 4m apart pointing in different directions and realised the bird was between us, hence very confused as the ground was clearly visible all around, until we finally twigged that the bird was up high. After a few minutes of scanning with bins we found the calling male perched out on a bare bough. We enjoyed the bird from every angle (except above!) for the next 30 minutes, during which time it called continuously, enabling us to get a nice recording. Suitably elated we headed out to the Blau Hide, and a speculative play of the Mini Disc brought an immediate response from a male Banded Pitta. Bob finally scored brief views as the bird bounced to the edge of the trail, stuck its head out, and then flew across the trail. A Scarlet-rumped Trogon responded well and gave brief views next to the hide (which is no longer accessible as there's no ladder up to it these days).
We moved on to the Bat Cave, coming across a calling Brown Hawk Owl 100m down the short Gua Telinga trail. We checked out the Bat Cave itself, but the very narrow dark entrance, big Cave Racer snakes within and the unmistakable stench of bat droppings in the midday sun meant we didn't venture in - apparently people do, they must be off their heads!
We returned down the trail and found a nice babbler flock, played Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler and were delighted to hear an immediate response. A couple of minutes later we had crippling views of a male and female duetting on a low bough, sitting close together like Lovebirds. The same flock also contained 2 Striped Tit-Babblers, a species we saw/heard incredibly seldom. Headed back to the main trail and turning left, we heard a Large Wren Babbler calling by the obvious bridge across the river (shortly after turning left back on to main trail). We recorded the bird and played back, getting a prolonged response but failing to score views - denied again! 200m further on we had a close Banded Pitta calling, but again failed to see it.
By this time we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves; the level trail was easy going, and the slightly more open nature of the forest meant birds were easier to track down than elsewhere at TN. Further down the trail we bumped into a Banded Broadbill, 1 Banded (our sole sighting) and 4 Rufous Woodpeckers, 2 Crested Firebacks, and heard another Banded Kingfisher and a group of Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babblers that failed to materialise. CG again dipped a fly-over Rhino Hornbill (picked the wrong sky-gap again!).
The last section of the main trail to the jetty on the W. side of the Sungei Tahan was very up and down, with only a 2nd White-crowned Forktail to reward our labour, so we were happy to pause at the jetty for a while to recover and look for Black-thighed Falconet. One conveniently arrived on schedule 10 mins after we sat down and perched up on the large telecomms mast on the other (HQ) side of the river. An Orange-bellied Flowerpecker put in an appearance before we took the 50c crossing boat back to K. Tahan. Two species of pitta and a great supporting cast made this probably our favourite day at TN.
Taman Negara, Fraser's Hill. Following news (from a couple of Sunderland birders we had bumped into in the café the night before) of Giant Pitta sightings in the same area for two successive Springs at TN, CG and GH were in position at the junction of the Tahan and JM trails at dawn looking for them, but without success, not a squeak. We did, however, come close to a Banded Pitta which responded well to tape but didn't give views. Returning to the bungalow, news that the same birders had just seen a Blue-winged Pitta at the very start of the Bukit Teresek Trail (less than 100m from our bungalow) had us running down there to meet the other two, but we all failed to see the bird which had already become tape-shy it seemed. Running out of time we picked up our bags and headed back to the jetty for the 9am boat back to Tembeling. The trip out was quiet, seeing the same Red-wattled Lapwings etc, until we had a pair of Rhino Hornbills fly across the river in front of us, much to the relief of CG who finally caught up with the flying Rhino.
The ever-reliable and smiling Gopi from Kingfisher Tours met us at Tembeling Quay and drove us to Fraser's Hill, a thorough discussion of Malaysian politics being the main highlight for those of us not crashed out. We stopped off at The Gap Resthouse, waited for the up-traffic hour to arrive, and ordered noodles. We sat on the back veranda and had close views of a female and a 1st winter male Mugimaki Flycatcher, Red-throated and Black-browed Barbets, Streaked Spiderhunters, and a Green Magpie (GH, KB), all visiting a fruiting tree just behind the Resthouse. However, there was no sign of the Siberian Thrush, which had been reported a few days earlier, maybe it had already headed north?
We then drove up the hill and arrived at The Quest Hotel (formerly the Merlin) to check in, having arranged to rendezvous again with Gopi at The Gap Resthouse 3 days later.
We had c3 hours of daylight left, so we set off in the blissfully cool (all things are relative) afternoon to find our first Fraser's Hill birds. Gopi had recommended heading up the road towards the Telekom Loop, and the birding proved productive; it's easy to actually see birds (what a concept) compared to TN. Silver-eared Mesias, Little Cuckoo-Doves, Long-tailed Sibias, White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Chestnut-capped and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, Mountain Leaf Warbler, Little Pied Flycatcher, Blue-winged Minla, Fire-tufted Barbets, Mountain and Ashy Bulbuls and a Long-tailed Broadbill all put in an appearance at what became known as 'tick corner' before a cracking male Lesser Shortwing was easily taped in close to claim the coveted 'bird of the day' crown. A flock of Everett's White-eyes proved the first of many, and even failing to elicit any response from our Cutia tape failed to dampen our spirits.
Fraser's Hill. We headed out to the fabled Bishop's Trail shortly after dawn, and even before we had reached the start of the trail, we heard a Rusty-naped Pitta calling either side of the path down to the lily pond - a good omen? Sadly not today; despite hearing another 2 or 3 birds, none were very close to the trail. We did find a number of feeding flocks however, and activity was generally high. Highlights included a Collared Owlet which obligingly perched out in the open, a female Red-headed Trogon, 2 pairs of Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, a stunning male White-tailed Robin which came in to tape, Black-eared Shrike-Babblers, a Rufous-browed Flycatcher, a single Large Hawk-Cuckoo, and 2 more Lesser Shortwing.
After a couple of hours we paused to play tape for Large Scimitar-Babbler; GH had no sooner poured scorn on the comment on the tape that LS-Babs "will come in a long way through the forest in response to a tape," when 3 birds shot across the trail and spent the next 10 mins playing hide and seek with us next to the trail. As we exited the trail a Pygmy Wren-Babbler called from the bank next to the stone steps, but we were unable to tape it into view.
Having refreshed ourselves with a truly English repast of Tea and Scones at The Olde Smokehouse (our one act of true decadence on the trip), we walked slowly down to the dump, coming across our first Blue Nuthatch on the way. The dump appears to have been severely reorganised recently (large earth-mover still in evidence) but still had birds, and still smelled suitably appalling. The stench really does have to be experienced to be believed, but it yielded a couple of Malaysian Cuckoo-Shrikes, Grey-chinned Minivets, our first Black-and-Crimson Oriole, 2 Hill Blue, 1 Little Pied and 1 Dark-sided Flycatcher, another Tiger Shrike, and a Verditer that tried to land on CG's scope.
We started the slow climb back up to crossroads, but our efforts were spared as GH hailed a truck, which stopped and gave us a lift up the hill - the coolest and easiest solution on balance. As we got down from the truck we finally heard a Green Magpie which performed nicely for all of us, and we then walked up to High Pines and spent an hour there chilling out in the garden and waiting for a Cutia to put in an appearance. It never did, but we enjoyed a male Little Pied Flyc. flicking in and out of the low cloud, heard a pair of Long-billed Partridge duetting, and finally came across a calling Oriental Cuckoo on the way back to the hotel at dusk, which posed for our scopes.
Fraser's Hill, night at Gap Resthouse. Having arranged our transport down to the Gap Resthouse through the helpful lady at The Olde Smokehouse yesterday (The Quest had suggested we walk the 8 kms down the hill with our luggage as there are no taxis at FH... there are private vehicles which can be arranged it transpired), we had the whole day free for birding.
We started just after dawn at the traditional site for Malaysian Whistling Thrush, the Upper Gate at FH, but failed to score, not a major surprise as we had heard in advance that the Thrush has not been seen at this site "for months." A pair of Slaty-backed Forktails provided a diversion however, whilst looking down the famous "hole in the vegetation" that provides a view into the stream, just above the gate. We then returned to The Bishop's Trail to try again for Rusty-naped Pitta. Just as yesterday, multiple pittas were calling as we arrived, and bearing in mind advice from Aidan Kelly's report that the first 200m of the trail (from the Mini Zoo end) were often the best for the pitta we started out extremely slowly and cautiously. We recorded and taped in a Streaked-Wren Babbler only 30m down the trail, and moved forward only c100m in the next hour. Yesterday we had avoided using tapes as so many others had reported that the birds responded only by shutting up immediately, but today we decided on a different approach - a bird fairly close to the trail provided an opportunity for recording, so we set up our mic and Mini Disc and obtained a reasonable minute or so of "Chom-wits" for our pains. We spent another 30 mins or so trying to see the bird unsuccessfully and decided to try a quick burst of tape - BANG! The bird responded immediately and flew in, still out of sight, but calling less than 5m away. KB had a quick glimpse, but we were still unable to get tickable views, as the bird moved a little further up the trail, still very close.
We crept to the corner and tried one more short burst of tape, and the pitta finally crossed the trail as we had hoped, a reasonable flight view as it continued down into the ravine. The bird continued calling so we stayed still and scanned the ravine floor below, but without success - a reasonable flight view would have to do - having had UTV's on Doi Inthanon in '99 CG was reduced to grinning inanely and slapping trees mumbling "we've seen Rusty-naped Pitta" for the next few minutes as it was.
We left the calling bird in peace and headed up the trail as far as the second shelter at the T-junction. Birds were pretty much the same as yesterday, with a second White-tailed Robin, Mountain Fulvettas everywhere, a couple of Chestnut-crowned Warblers etc. We rested up at the second shelter; two more Rusty-naped Pittas called close to the trail but we failed to find them, a close and obliging male Red-headed Trogon was some recompense. The walk back down the trail was relatively quiet, but we heard a Malaysian Peacock Pheasant and had a couple of Rufous-browed Flycatchers show well on the trail. Above the Roti shops on the way down to the centre of FH we had great views of a pair of Blue Nuthatches in a feeding flock before pausing for lunch. We then started out down the New Road (still closed to traffic due to landslides) to try to improve our Hornbill success.
Having checked the FH resort en route for Cutias, we strode out down the hill, finding White-rumped Munias, minivets, a Dusky Crag Martin, and a Black Eagle overhead. Rain stopped play at 3pm, but only for a little while, and we again hailed a truck to save the walk back up the hill, which allowed us just enough time to head around the Telekom Loop in full, our last chance for Cutia. We played the tape at a number of likely-looking locations, but no sign, but the Loop did provide our only 2 Grey-throated Babblers of the trip, 2 Golden-throated Barbets, a Lesser Yellownape, and a brief Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo for GH only. Our unofficial taxi arrived only 10 minutes late, and we squeezed the four of us plus luggage into a Proton (no mean feat) and slid down the hill and into the charming Olde Worlde embrace of the Gap Resthouse.
Any thoughts of catching up with Bat Hawk from the rear veranda were dashed as the rain returned, but not before we'd had a probable Yellow-vented Pigeon shoot over. We sat down with a well-earned beer as the sound of a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo calling brought another successful day to a close. In fact we'd managed to erect a passable empty-beer-can version of the Great Wall of China by 10pm - that's what even a flight view of a Rusty-naped Pitta will do for you...
The Gap. As we only had a single day at The Gap, we decided to sample a short section of each of the three roads (right to Raub, up the hill towards FH, and left to KKB). A full day gave us enough time to do c2km of each at birding (ie snail's) pace. The Resthouse turned up last night's Rusty-breasted Cuckoo without too much trouble, before we headed down the Raub Rd. About 1km down we finally bumped in to a small party of Black Laughingthrushes which glided, one at a time, over the road. Strolling further down the Raub Rd also provided a Green-billed Malkoha, another Oriental Cuckoo, 3 Scaly-breasted Bulbuls in a fruiting tree (surely not really a Bulbul? Far too interesting...) a couple of Blue-rumped Parrots, and 2 Slaty-backed Forktails at the stream c2km down from the Resthouse.
Whilst looking again for the Forktails on the way back up we came across a small canopy flock which included at least 4 Sultan Tits and a few White-bellied Yuhinas, plus Scarlet Minivets, Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrikes etc. GH had by now been appointed our official truck hailer following his earlier successes and was gradually taking us up-market, flagging down increasingly classy trucks. This time however he outdid himself and hailed a Police Van (the first time for most of us in the back of a police van, honest Mum), and the officers kindly dropped us back at the Resthouse, despite having asked us a few questions on the way up the hill about our binoculars, telescopes, mini disc recorder etc... we were happy to help with their enquiries before setting off up the Hill to FH.
On the way up the road to FH we played Marbled Wren-Babbler tape at every suitable ravine up to the 2.5km point, but not a squeak from any of them. However, an Orange-breasted Trogon appeared briefly, as did a few Yellow-bellied Warblers, a perched Rhino Hornbill, 2 more Black Laughingthrushes, at least one Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler and a Rufous-fronted Babbler in a feeding flock. On the way back down we heard an unfamiliar call that had also puzzled us as we ascended, so we broke out the water and paused to try to find the source of the sound - eventually GH found the bird on a bare branch just off the road, a juv. Banded Kingfisher begging for food. After scoping the bird (like a mini version of adult female with a black, pale-tipped bill, even raising and lowering the crown feathers as it called - very endearing) we waited at a distance for 30 minutes or so, but managed only to glimpse the adult female briefly, a little further up the road (CG).
We nipped in to The Resthouse to maintain our healthy balanced diet of Coke and Snickers bars, then headed down the KKB road from 3pm. This turned up a Drongo Cuckoo, another Scaly-breasted Bulbul, a Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker etc, but it wasn't until we were c1km down the road that the excitement started. A pair of Rhino Hornbills floated majestically over the valley and perched up in front of us giving great views through the scopes. Less than 5 minutes later a Helmeted Hornbill appeared high to the right, looking like some kind of bizarre stunt kite - having heard them daily at TN and FH we had become convinced that we would never see one, so to have good views in the last hour of our last day at FH was a huge relief. We headed back up to The Resthouse, and as we turned the last corner just before the Chinese restaurant, GH picked up a group of 10+ Pin-tailed Parrotfinches in a tiny area of flowering bamboo, the only flowering 'boo we had seen despite checking everywhere. The birds performed nicely, and we all enjoyed excellent scope views before heading back to the Resthouse to rendezvous with Gopi.
The transfer to Kuala Selangor took a couple of hours down the twisting roads towards KKB, and as we arrived the torrential rain that had started as we left The Gap had just abated, typical of the excellent fortune with the weather that we enjoyed throughout. We spent the night at the de Palma Inn, nice bungalows, but not the world's greatest food late on a Thursday night.
Kuala Selangor. We arranged transport from the hotel to Kuala Selangor Nature Reserve to arrive on-site before dawn and bumped into the very helpful warden as we arrived. Having been informed ahead of time that the Buffy Fish Owl stake-out up on the hill was no longer active we had not expected to see this species, but the warden cheerily informed us that he had seen the owls every day that week. He also informed us that they were in the car park about 25m behind where we were standing, so we scurried over and sure enough had incredible views of a pair in the small trees on the edge of the parking lot just as it got light.
Elated, we set off for the mangrove boardwalk, promptly got lost, found the long way round (but not before KB had dipped Chicken, sorry, Red Junglefowl again) and arrived at the boardwalk. Within 15 mins we had found both Mangrove Whistler and Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, but no sight or sound of Mangrove Pittas. (NB the hide at the end of the boardwalk is no longer there, the boardwalk now just stops abruptly in the mangroves.) We scoped from the tower hides adding Flyeater, Common Greenshank, Yellow-bellied Prinia and a number of other common species to our list. A Chestnut-bellied Malkoha popped up, and a Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker flew in.
By 10am the heat was intense, and we decided to head to one of the hides on the Info. Centre side of the reserve to cool off. As we crossed the small stream on the way, KB called "Finfoot!" and to our collective amazement a male Finfoot drifted off under cover of the vegetation not 5m away and surveyed us with a nervous stare. We scribbled a few notes, thinking that we should at least have a basic description for such a rarity, and headed back to the Info. Centre to share our good fortune with the warden. On being told of our sighting he smiled and said nonchalantly "oh great, how many did you see?" It transpired that he had seen SEVEN Finfeet fly in together earlier in the year, and the birds had remained to winter on the reserve, the first record for KS.
We headed back out to the mangroves, sitting in the small shelter at ground level between the boardwalk and the first tower hide on the warden's recommendation to listen for Mangrove Pitta. By now it was hotter than a Macaque's bum however, and we heard and saw little of note. We tried the boardwalk again but only saw more Mangrove Whistlers, Common Ioras, 1 Common Flameback and a couple of Asian Koels. We followed the outer trail back to the info. centre (KB finally scores Chicken en route- ┴Yo!) and connected with our pre-arranged transport back to the hotel.
Gopi met us on time as ever, and we crashed out on the bus arriving at the airport a couple of hours later in plenty of time for our flight to Thailand. Our Thai Air flight arrived in Phuket on time at 1815Hrs, and baggage reclaim, customs, immigration and car hire took c20 mins in total, allowing a leisurely drive to Krabi in time to nip in to Chan Phen Travel to book Mr Dai for a boat trip a few days hence. The helpful Mr Dong booked our trip and translated the latest football scores for us (agony for BH as Watford were relegated, joy for CG as Man. City came one step nearer to securing automatic promotion to the Premiership), before we drove to the swanky Meritime Hotel for a night of luxury - 2001 Baht for a double room (outrageously expensive, ie about the same as one night's B+B on Scilly!).
As CG had seen Gould's Frogmouth behind the hotel on the path to the jetty the previous year, we checked the site, but progress had arrived in the form of a wide smooth path, cleared vegetation, a brand new jetty, and bloody efficient electric lighting all the way, so no chance. We crashed out at 11-30pm, our long days and short nights starting to take their toll.
KNC. Drove to KNC, leaving at 6am, delayed slightly by KB forgetting his bins - doh! Arrived at KNC (with bins) via the newly improved roads at 7am. We dropped in to the Danish HQ to see if Yothin was around, but found the site derelict, so we headed out to Trail U to try for Gurney's where CG had seen a pair in Jan '99. As we reached the U0.20 ravine we heard a male Gurney's calling close by, so we sat down on the bank on the far side of the ravine to wait. Within 30 mins GH/KB had great views of the male, and 10 mins later BH/GH had also scored brief views of the male and female, calling to our left on the bend of the ravine. CG was blocked by a large tree and only had blip views. We waited sitting silently on the trail, for another hour but no further sign. Once we had retreated to a safe distance elation set in before we continued down Trail U, almost immediately recording and taping in a Large Wren Babbler - stunning views of the calling bird perched at head height. It was nice to finally connect with this bird having heard 3 in Malaysia and missed them twice before at KNC (CG). We spent the rest of the morning creeping along U and N, hearing Plaintive and Drongo Cuckoos, Crested Jay etc, but only seeing a couple of Blue-throated Flycatchers and 2 Crested Serpent Eagles.
We booked in at the excellent new Morakot Resort to a friendly welcome and chilled bottles of water, bumping into Mr Yothin and two English birders having lunch - they had been at the site 5 days and had only had brief flight views of a female Gurney's - and GH, BH, and KB started to appreciate how truly jammy we had been to see the birds immediately. Just how jammy became clear when Yothin told us that the pair at U0.22 hadn't been seen since April 6th. We arranged with Yothin for him to take us up to the Honeyguide stake-out the next day, before driving up to the car park by the reserve gate to hit trail B. As it was the weekend the food stalls were all out for business, so we had an excellent roast chicken/fresh pineapple budget lunch en route.
The birding was as hard as ever at KNC - lots of good stuff in there, but low numbers of everything. We managed to tape in a Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo and saw a flock of 4 Short-tailed Babblers, 1 Scaly-crowned Babbler (amazingly we had dipped in Malaysia), and a Grey-breasted Spiderhunter. We also heard 2 Hooded Pittas (coming very close to one in the ravine off to the left of B0.6-0.7), Banded, Black-and-Yellow and Green Broadbills, Banded Kingfisher, and a distant Red-crowned Barbet, the only sniff we had all trip.
We celebrated our early Gurney's success with cold Chang Beer and excellent Gaeng Keowan Gai/Tom Kha Gai at the Morakot before wrestling with mosquito nets and crashing out at 11pm.
KNC. We were back at U0.22 sitting above the ravine at dawn with the other 2 UK birders we had met yesterday, but alas no sign of the Gurney's this morning - we heard 3 Large Wren Babblers along U and enjoyed our first perched Drongo Cuckoo of the trip, the only other bird seen being a single Moustached Babbler. We'd arranged to meet Yothin at 1pm, so we headed back a little early, driving 2kms down the road that forks left as you leave Bang Tieo (the right fork heads past Riverside House back out to the main road) to try for Blue-winged Pitta. We played a couple of seconds of tape, and a Pitta shot out of the forest, flew into the rubber plantation and sat out in full view calling for the next 20 mins, allowing us time to fetch a scope from the car, set it up and zoom in to 60x. I guess if all Pittas behaved this way there'd be less excitement in finding them in the first place, but it made a refreshing change.
We duly met up with Yothin at The Morakot and drove our 4x4 up onto the KNC Plateau. Stopping to look for a Gold-whiskered Barbet at the nest en route, we heard a male Gurney's Pitta calling just a few metres into the forest along trail Q, but failed to find it despite stalking for c30 mins - very frustrating.
Higher up, a brief but torrential downpour turned the roads into a mudbath within seconds, but our vehicle coped admirably. We climbed up the hill to the Honeyguide site, hearing the bird even before we reached the site - as KB pointed out, it sounds uncannily like a Vespa scooter accelerating up through the gears. Yothin found the bird within a couple of minutes, and we all enjoyed scope views. On the way back down we saw a couple of Plaintive Cuckoos, 4 Large Wood-Shrikes, a couple of Vernal Hanging-Parrots (sadly not upside down, but then you can't have everything), a 1w male Mugimaki Flycatcher, 2 Rufescent Prinias and a Sultan Tit, Mr Yothin's first at the site for 8 years. We also heard White-crowned Hornbill but no chance to see the tree in which it was sat. The drive back was enlivened by two Barred Buttonquail sprinting across the road in front of our vehicle (CG/BH), and we stopped again close to trail Q, encountering a feeding flock which included a nice white morph male Asian Paradise Flycatcher, a pair of dark-throated Orioles and a Red-billed Malkoha, with a Black-thighed Falconet perched out in full view nearby.
Finally Yothin took us to a stake-out for Spotted Wood Owl (on the left hand side of the main dirt road heading out, opposite side/beyond Riverside House- see Morakot log for details), and we had great scope views of an immature roosting. Having settled up with Yothin we headed back to Krabi to check in at The Royal Hotel (opposite the Meritime), cheaper (c£9 a night each, 2 sharing a room) and less ostentatious than the latter but with friendly staff and clean rooms nonetheless.
Krabi, KNC. Having seen Gurney's on day #1, we had decided to book 2 Mr Dai trips, enabling us to do the river mouth today and mangroves tomorrow, so we met Mr Dai at The Floating Restaurant on the Krabi waterfront at 7am. The day was cloudy and cool, but things heated up at the very first sandbank we stopped at - a large wader flock contained 6 Common Greenshank, 1 Red-necked Stint, Terek Sandpipers, Whimbrel, Lesser and Greater Sand-Plovers and... a solitary Nordmann's Greenshank. As luck would have it, we had 'dropped anchor' on a very shallow sandy area, so we crept out of the boat and set up the scope to feast our eyes on the bird - having missed Nordmann's twice before at Krabi CG was delighted to finally see the bird, probably the only individual not to have already headed up North. We had noted in the log at Chan Phen travel that 4 birds had been present April 6th, only 2 by c24th, so we probably just scraped it late in the season. A couple of Oriental Pratincoles also flew in.
However, more was yet to come - the next flock we checked held 7 Great Knot, and we then headed to the other side of the bay (ie turned left) to a sandbar Mr Dai knew which held a large flock of Sand-Plovers (c280 Lesser and 15+ Greater) with a couple of Kentish Plovers mingled in. Scanning the flock, CG picked up a full adult male Malaysian Plover feeding alone on the left hand edge of the flock - again we were able to creep out of the boat and set up the scope for amazing views - a really cracking bird. The pale legs, complete black hind-collar, and especially, scalloped upperparts were very obvious even through bins from the boat. (Interestingly, we also noted that one of the nearby adult Kentish Plovers had legs that were black to the knee but strikingly pale from knee downward - this didn't appear to be sand/mud.)
We returned, jubilant, to the quay at 11-30am, and drove back to KNC for a final session. After a quick lunch at The Morakot we walked slowly down the first part of Trail B, intending to try for Hooded Pitta before forking right down Trail C. In the end, the pitta found us, a male calling ahead of us and seemingly very close to the trail. We crept forward and were rewarded with stunning views of a male calling in a sapling over the trail - the bird continued to call from a succession of exposed perches, gradually working its way round behind us, a real show-off - our guess is that it was a newly arrived bird, keen to establish territory. We heard more birds today than we had heard before at KNC, and Yothin had said that by early May few Hoodeds had arrived.
Trail C held a pair of Rufous-winged Flycatchers, a male Orange-breasted Trogon, another Short-tailed Babbler and a briefly-seen Rufous Piculet in the thicket just after the first stream crossing (CG only.) We also heard another White-crowned Hornbill and a Banded Kingfisher, and tried taping for Rufous-collared Kingfisher and Chestnut-capped Thrush, but no sign or sound of either. (The latter has been seen a number of times in the last few years at KNC. Trail C seems best, although we met a birder who had seen one a couple of years previously on the edge of the forest right next to The Emerald Pool. Given that this same gent's first ever pitta was a Giant Pitta at KNC he was perhaps lucky to escape without a good kicking.)
Resting at the junction of C/D trails we suddenly heard a male Gurney's Pitta calling further down C trail. We walked carefully down C towards the far junction with B, stopping a little way beyond C/D junction. The male continued to call, so we silently picked our way into the forest and sat scanning for a while. The male was clearly not more than 25m from us, and the forest floor was relatively open, but we still couldn't see the bird, so we advanced very slowly - KB and BH thought they saw a movement, but none of us could get on the bird. When we arrived at the area the bird must have been in, we noticed fresh droppings in the area where the movement had been, and suddenly a female Gurney's called behind us. As a result we then followed the ravine back to the trail to avoid causing disturbance - immense frustration, but at least we had found our own Gurney's location.
We continued up C and returned down Trail B without seeing much, and decided to shoot back to Khao Phenombencha to try for Chestnut-naped Forktail, having met birders at the Morakot who told us they had seen a pair there feeding young, from the first bridge over the river on the way up to the waterfalls. We arrived at the site only just before dusk, but no sign, the birds had probably already gone to roost. We drove slowly back to Krabi c25 mins away and returned to The Royal, then headed out for a slap-up meal of fresh Red Snapper etc at the beach-front restaurants at Krabi Resort, c20 mins drive West from Krabi town (follow signs for Noppharat Tara/the Phra Nang Inn, and you'll find the resort area, see below).
Krabi. Having missed the C-n Forktails the night before our chance of a lie-in until 6-30am was gone, and we dragged ourselves back to K. Phenombencha to be in position at the bridge at 6am. No sign again however, despite walking the trail up the river, so we returned to Krabi to meet up with Mr Dai for our appointed foray into the mangroves. Mr Dai is THE man to hire if you want to target specific mangrove species. He knows where they are, knows the calls, and even whistles birds in. As ever he didn't disappoint, and we had brief flight views of a Ruddy Kingfisher shooting across the river (CG, GH) and heard another 5 or 6, saw 2-3 Mangrove Pittas and heard another 7 or so, and Mr Dai also picked up a pair of White-chested Babblers. Brown-winged Kingfishers were common as ever along the quieter stretches, and we also found a couple of Black-bellied Malkohas, Greater Flamebacks etc. Highlight of the trip however was Mr Dai's hilarity at the antics of KB acting as "the boatman's apprentice" trying to free the outboard from submerged foliage in a narrow mangrove backwater.
We returned to the quay at 11am, said our goodbyes and drove to Phuket to dump the jeep and catch our 1545Hrs flight, despairing on the way at how totally the island habitat has been denuded. A small flock of Oriental Pratincoles, a couple of Paddyfield Pipits and 3 Red-wattled Lapwing made for a nice farewell, before we crashed out for 5 hours at KL airport, finally catching the 13 hour Malaysian Airlines return flight MH2 to London at 2355Hrs. We arrived back at Heathrow, exhausted but very satisfied at 6-30 on the Wednesday morning.
All our ground arrangements in Malaysia were made through Kingfisher Tours: 11.07, 11th Flr., Bangunan Yayasan Selangor, Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia; Tel: 00-603-242-1454, Fax: 00-603-242-9827. Dennis Yong is the man, and their company is highly recommended. Their staff were helpful and efficient throughout our preparation, and also once we had arrived in Malaysia. Dennis will also guide if you want and if he's not booked up with tours, and he is one of Malaysia's top birders.
It's also well worth hiring Mr Yothin at KNC if you want to look for Malaysian Honeyguide - he can also significantly improve your chances of seeing Gurney's Pitta, as well as showing you a number of other specialities. He can be contacted on Tel/Fax: (66) (0)1-2284586, best time to call him is 8-9 p.m. local time) or contact him via The Morakot - just leave a message with the helpful ladies at reception.
For our morning boat trips in Krabi we hired Mr Dai contactable through Chan Phen Travel on the waterfront in Krabi town, see site detail below. At least 24 hrs notice is required for Mr Dai, it's definitely worth booking him specifically.
We pre-booked everything through Kingfisher in Malaysia, staying at The Equatorial Hotel in KL, The Taman Negara Resort at TN, The Quest Hotel at FH, The Gap Resthouse at The Gap, and the de Palma Inn at KS.
We didn't pre-book any accommodation in Thailand but found room easily at most places - highly recommended is the new Morakot Reserve at the Gurney's site (on the left just beyond Riverside House as you enter Bang Tieo), no aircon, and you need mozzie nets, but nice bungalows and an electric fan in each. The food is excellent, the beer is cold and plentiful, there's a small log book, and they even have Gurney's t-shirts for sale.
In Krabi we stayed at The Royal Hotel and The Meritime Hotel at the N. end of the waterfront High Street. NB Rong's Guesthouse in Krabi referred to in earlier reports is no longer open.
At Khao Nor Chuchi (Gurney's site) I've stayed previously at Riverside House where the accommodation is in huts on stilts, no fans/air con, but mozzie nets/pillow provided - the one I used was in good condition, and I had a good night's sleep in Jan 99 - however, it is very basic and hot and sticky in May, about £4 cheaper per person per night than the Morakot based on two sharing a room.
Staying on-site at KNC is fun, saves the dirt roads maze in the dark, allows a lie-in until 6am, the food is great, and you're contributing to the local economy - turning Gurney's into Baht is the only sustainable way of conserving them, so staying at KNC and explaining why you are there is a positive thing. You don't even need to take in your own beer these days, although we bought 12 litres of bottled water on the way in at Bang Khram for c70p total.
We sourced the following reports before travelling (most are now available free on the Internet through Urs Geiser's excellent site at: http://www.camacdonald.com/birding/tripeports/ - reports are text only) or through Steve Whitehouse (reports cost money but have the benefit of maps and are often more detailed.) Contact Steve at FBRIS, 6 Skipton Crescent, Berkeley Pendesham, Worcester. WR4 0LG, UK. Tel: UK (+44) (0)1905-454541.) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
A Field Guide to the Birds of West Malaysia and Singapore - Jeyarajasingham. Essential for Malaysia, a major improvement on previous coverage.
A Guide to the Birds of Thailand: Boonsong Lekagul & Philip Round 1991, Publisher Saha Karn Bhaet Co Ltd. The standard ID text for Thailand. Very useful for Thailand but not essential if only doing the South - Jeyarajasingham covers 99% of relevant species.
Craig Robson's new Field Guide to the Birds of South East Asia is also excellent and very useful; we found the illustrations were consistently better on the small details than in Jeyarajasingham, although both are excellent.
A Birdwatcher's Guide to Malaysia: John Bransbury (Waymark) Not essential but has lots of site details, OK maps, useful if doing more than just TN/FH/KS etc. I photocopied just the relevant site pages from mine to keep luggage weight down.
Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit: Malaysia; Useful for logistics etc if on a budget.
VERY hot and humid in general, making the steeper trails at TN very hard work, KS was also extremely hot by 11am. It's cooler at Fraser's Hill in the early morning (eg 15-18°C), nice climate for birding. It can rain heavily in the afternoon at any of the sites, usually only for max. 15 mins., but occasionally for a few hours, although April is not the wettest time. A small umbrella is useful for the showers - waterproofs make you sweat so much you may end up wetter than if you weren't wearing any - and a hand towel (not white) for brow-mopping indispensable at all lowland sites. I usually bird with a small towel permanently tucked into my belt. It was light from 6am (forest interior birdable by 6-15/6-30am) until 7pm in Thailand, 6-30am-7-30pm in Malaysia. Wear dull colours/not white/bright as Pittas etc b*gger off at the 1st sign of a Hawaiian shirt etc; with 4 of us it was tough to avoid flushing things as it was.
Visas are not required for UK residents for either Malaysia or Thailand for stays of less than 30 (?) days.
We pre-booked a 2-litre 4x4 for Thailand from Avis, picking up and returning from Phuket airport, standard UK license and credit card is all that's needed. The vehicle was a Hyundai Kia, $177 all in unlimited mileage, only other cost was petrol. All transfers were covered in Malaysia by Kingfisher, except for the short trip from FH down to The Gap which was easy to arrange on-site, just ask around.
Most roads are good, the road to Khao Nor Chuchi (KNC) is now much improved with only the last 6 or so kms being unpaved now. However a 4x4 may still be necessary after rain. See site details below.
Site maps are very useful for FH, TN, and especially KNC. See maps [available upon request from the author] which are for the most part updated versions of those in my report on Thailand in '97 and '99/updated versions of others' maps for Malaysia. We also had a basic road map for Thailand, it's easy to navigate around Krabi.
Get as many species as you possibly can on tape ahead of time. You'll see a lot more, especially at TN/KNC, with tapes. I had learnt most of the calls before we left the UK, and it made a huge difference. Although we'd heard TN was crawling with birds, it was still hard birding most of the time, and both TN and KNC can be extremely frustrating if you don't know what to listen for or have some way to pull birds in once you hear them. Needless to say, use tapes sensibly, especially at busy/well-known sites. Yothin requests that birders do not play Honeyguide at the stake-out, and extra care should obviously be taken not to disturb the Gurney's.
We had 7 cassettes, covering almost all of the major target species, c175 species in total, which I transferred to two Mini Discs. MD's are quicker to access in the field than cassette, hold up to 150 species on one tiny disk etc. The MD recorder was a Sony MZ-R55 MD recorder/player (2 x AA battery) and an AKG ATR55 shotgun condenser mic. (requires 1 x AA battery) so we could playback and record easily in the field. We also bought a battery-powered mini speaker (Walkman remote speaker type affair) from a hi-fi store, 6 x AA batteries add to the weight, needed replacing every 3-4 days, but overall compact and useable. I'd definitely recommend Audio specialists HHB in London if you want to kit yourself out; contact Tim Shaxson Tel 0181-962-5000, E-mail: email@example.com. I recorded and played back in mono.
I also invested in a '5 pocket tool pouch' ie builder's belt ("Town & Country" brand from Thomas Bros. at Archway roundabout, London N1, c£12.99) which was indispensable and enabled me to carry, hands-free, the MD player, mic., speaker, cables, note book and laser pen (all carried on one hip.) We took the precaution of bringing compact cassette player/cassettes so we had peace of mind with a back-up (never having used MD in humid conditions I was a little worried), however we had no serious problems. Material we used was sourced from:
We all carried laser pens for indicating the positions of those difficult-to-describe-exactly-where-they-are-in-a-hurry forest floor skulkers but didn't use them very much.
Malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended for interior Malaysia eg Taman Negara, and Yothin also mentioned that the localised area around the Morakot had recently been very malarial at KNC, so I'd recommend taking some kind of precautions whatever advice you get. We found that regular GP's hadn't a clue about the latest information; specialist travel clinics are a better bet. We variously took Doxycycline or the Progaunil/Chloroquine combo., neither of which have any serious side effects unlike the dreaded Lariam. (If your GP should recommend Lariam, get a second opinion - Check out the problems Antcliff, Cook, Gibbins & Hunter had with this drug in their report! Personally I'd rather take nothing than Lariam, and it shouldn't be necessary to take it anywhere in Thailand or Malaysia?)
Mosquitoes are present at forest and mangrove sites, mozzie-spray vital (I used DEET-free citronella-based sprays in '97 which were 100% effective with regard to mozzies but b*gger all use in deterring leeches). We used 100% DEET on boots and 55% DEET on exposed skin in 2000. Don't go out anywhere without spraying.
As with most places in Asia, up to date Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Polio are strongly recommended. Cuts and abrasions can very quickly become infected in tropical conditions - never regard any cut as too small to worry about - wash the wound, and apply antiseptic and cover with a plaster. Same goes for blisters on the feet, leech bites etc.
Not too much to worry about - Terrestrial leeches were a problem at Taman Negara, hundreds of the little b*ggers on almost every trail - however it's easy to stay leech-free and not worry about them - spray boots with 100% DEET (you can see the leeches approach, test the edge of your boot repeatedly and eventually give up in disgust!) and wear leech-proof socks at all times on the trails - available from OBC and worth every penny, we bought two pairs each. We saw lots of tourist on the trails in pumps and short socks which had started out white but which were stained vivid pink after the first few minutes! It was wet at TN when we were there, so I guess leech numbers were higher than usual, we saw very few at FH, only on the Bishop Trail.
To remove leeches, use salt or a lighted cigarette applied to the leech for a second - they fall off. Or you can leave them until they're satiated (yeah right!), in which case they fall off of their own accord, or just pull them off. Birding Guide to Malaysia notes "Leeches can be a real pest, and you can pick them up not just in the forest but also in damp grass, often when you least expect it. They are basically harmless, but leech bites can turn septic. Although there is no complete answer to them, you should wear light coloured trousers securely tucked inside long socks. Soaking your boots in insect repellent helps as well, and don't forget to check yourself regularly for leeches and ticks during the day." Leeches do not carry disease, so they are an irritation and a distraction, not a danger. However if you get a fair number, be prepared to lose a fair bit of blood - they excrete an anti-coagulant when they attach themselves. See the OBC web-site for a fuller discussion of how to avoid the leech menace!
Ticks carry typhus and Japanese encephalitis (the latter during monsoon only I think) and can be found at some sites. We saw a few but no bites, the leech-proof socks keep them off.
Snakes - we only saw a couple of Common Water Snakes (at TN), but there are Pit Vipers, Cobras, and others around in Thailand and especially at TN, so tread carefully - be sensible, don't pick them up (!) don't put your hands into places you can't see, don't go off trails unless it's for a Pitta or Rail-Babbler etc.
Spiders - quite a few, but mostly small, one or two big ones here and there.
Tigers do still occur at Taman Negara but they are seen extremely rarely. Kumbang Hide is the best bet, but you can safely assume you won't seen Tiger. Tapir is a better bet but still far from guaranteed - we met an unhappy German family who had stayed overnight at the Kumbang Hide and seen only very big rats and lots of leeches. However, you can take a boat out late in the day and arrange to get picked up next morning if you don't fancy the c10km walk each way, and the birding is also supposed to be excellent in the Kumbang/Trenggan area.
(NB: Do carry a trail map when at TN until you find your way around. We heard a great story of a guy who got lost at TN and spent a night alone in the forest. He survived OK but needed a large whisky and a change of underwear etc.)
Boots - see notes on leeches above, we used lightweight hiking boots (NOT leather as these get wet/heavy very quickly and never dry out) ie stout walking shoes. We all wore dull clothes so as not to scare pittas etc off, long trousers/usually long-sleeved shirts to avoid biting insects etc. Result: no sun-tan, but no distractions when birding.
Bottled only is my advice throughout. Ice in drinks is usually OK in Thailand/Malaysia - we drank soft drinks etc with ice throughout and didn't have any problems at all.
Food is great in Thailand, not bad in Malaysia, but if eating in country locations be a little careful - pack Immodium or similar if you suffer upset stomachs easily, avoid salads, washed fruit (ie basically as per India but less extreme). Recently there has allegedly been the odd report of people becoming very ill when eating at the floating restaurants across the river from the resort at TN. However, we variously ate at The Resort restaurant (very expensive, and the beer is extortionate - the restaurant have a monopoly, so take your own in to TN with you and drink in the bungalows), the budget café at the other end of the HQ (nice curry etc), and the floating restaurants, and had no problems anywhere.
The currencies are the Thai Baht in Thailand (c55/£1) and the Malaysian Ringgit in Malaysia (c4.7/£1). Haggle when shopping, for taxis etc. US dollars are easier to change than UK Pounds, traveller's cheques can be hard to change outside major cities (KL). We took almost all funds in US cash, usual precautions apply: carry it with you not in your luggage on the plane, once in Malaysia split up your money so it's not all in one place, get locks for luggage so you can leave it unguarded all day when you're out in the field etc. Travellers' Chqs are safer but less convenient; if you want to go this route make sure you have a list of the chq numbers kept separately from the chqs themselves and make sure you get US dollar chqs not sterling.
We usually carried ours with us at all times except out on trails etc, when we left them in locked luggage at TN/FH/KNC - you should carry it when eg out in KL, as if you are stopped by the police and don't have it, theoretically you can get thrown in jail thus wasting valuable birding time...
Get some. I busked it without this time and was OK but I wouldn't recommend it.
Bins, scope, tapes, mic and playback system, field guides, notebook, bin cleaning cloth, small sweat towel, mozzie spray/net, anti-malarial pills, leech-proof socks, boots, portable umbrella, sun-tan lotion, reports, passport, tickets.
We paid £685 flights (Malaysian Airlines increased the fare by £53.70 1 month before departure...), £287 to Kingfisher for Malaysia travel + accomm., and additional costs were approx. £15 misc. travel + £10 KNC accomm. + £30 Krabi accomm. + £100 food + £30 car hire + £80 misc. (mostly beer...) = c£1,237 each. If doing it on the cheap you could probably get this down to c£800 fairly easily if you can find a cheap flight and are prepared to rough it a little.
The birding site in W. Malaysia, loads of goodies, but we were surprised how hard going TN was, having heard some great stories. We did well and had a great time, but the numbers of birds were lower than expected (still not down to KNC levels tho'!). For TN in particular, spend as much time as possible before you travel getting stuff on tape and learn the calls - you'll see at least twice as many of the scarcer species if you do. The trails are reasonably easy to walk, not brilliantly maintained these days but it's not a case of hacking your way through the jungle or anything. Note however that Bukit Teresek and to a lesser extent the BT end of the Jenet Muda trails are quite steep, so it's hard going in the humidity - there are ropes and tree roots to help you up and down the steeper sections, no problem for anyone reasonably fit. Jenet Muda, the Swamp Loop and the River Trail are all easily accessible from HQ, The Tabing Hide is c3km from HQ and a good hour's walk if not birding, the Kumbang area is a full day out and another day back (if walking), Blau and Yong Hides/Gua Telinga cave make a nice full day if you take the boat out and walk back at birding pace.
On-site information - we saw only 3 other birders in 6 days; ask the warden at the Information centre where you book the boats (next to the shop) for specific recent gen. Boats work out reasonably cheap between 4 - there's a notice-board to advertise for boat-shares etc next to the info. centre if you're on your own.
Easy birding, mostly from paved roads, a relief from the sweaty leech socks syndrome (ours were walking around on their own after 2 weeks...) - even the Bishop's trail is easy going though narrow in places. Best areas for us were the famous sites: Bishop's Trail, start of the Telekom Loop, The Dump etc. The new Road is also supposed to be good, but we only walked it early afternoon, ie not ideal. All sites are max 30 mins. walk from the centre, so easy to get around even without transport. Reasonable food at eg Spices Restaurant (Asian and Western menus, but don't be a sad git and eat Western food the whole trip!), the Roti shops are OK too, browse and see what you like the look of. Durai is still contactable thru the Nature Centre (on the right hand side half way up the hill on the road up to the Bishop's trail etc), but it was closed when we checked. He is a good source of up to date information apparently.
Bishop's trail - it's easy to find the start when you know what you're looking for: walk up the hill from the centre of the resort (roti shops etc) towards the playground/Dump/High Pines etc. At the t-junction at the top (left to The Dump/High Pines etc) look for a narrow paved path that is directly opposite the junction (this used to lead to the Mini Zoo I guess). Follow this as it winds down the hill, and just before the Lily Pond, turn right onto a small track (overgrown) that leads past the now derelict toilet block - the trail starts immediately after the toilet block which is on your right hand side as you head in. The trail comes to a t-junction by the 2nd shelter after c400(?)m and then continues to the left - the right fork here only leads back to the road after 50m.
Any direction from the Gap Resthouse can be good, all paved roads, uphill all the way walking back up the Raub Rd or the KKB Rd when returning to the Resthouse but easy to hitch. Nice and open so lots of opportunity for forest edge species, bird waves, hornbills etc. The Resthouse is great, food is pretty good, beer cold, atmosphere nostalgically colonial.
Easy to walk around; the mangrove boardwalk is best for the mangrove species, tower hides for the wetland stuff, HQ-side of the wet areas for Finfoot! Best to get a taxi to the reserve from KS town to get there for first light. Birding is useless by 11am, too hot for anything to move, so start early. Evenings can also be good; we only had a morning; one day is enough to cover the site.
Now the only confirmed site left for Gurney's Pitta following extensive clearance in Tennasserim (S. Burma) and at Khao Phenom Bencha near Krabi, where birds persisted until 1988 at least. KNC is now under more intense pressure than ever from forest clearance - former Gurney's sites close to the edge of the forest have been cleared by locals during the last 2 or 3 years, and the future of the whole site looks very bleak. 13 pairs were known to have bred in the '98 season, so the species is certainly not increasing from the precarious position in the early 90's. 2000 looked even worse, with 10 pairs max. located.
How to get there: From Krabi, take route 4 east/south (bypass Krabi town to the North if coming from Krabi resort, or follow Uttharakit Rd north to Route 4 and then turn right if staying in Krabi town). Turn left off Route 4 just after a PTT gas station (NB: no longer Esso) 40kms after leaving Krabi. There is still a very battered large plaster cast of a Gurney's Pitta at the edge of the gas station forecourt, but this is difficult to see (just like the real thing...). This road left off Route 4 is the A4038 and is signed "Wildlife Sanctuary" amongst other things.
The route to KNC from here is a little difficult, but getting easier - I got lost both days in the dark in '97, but using the following instructions/on-site road improvements made it easier in 2000:
Turn left off Route 4 onto the A4038 as described above, then take the right turn (90° right) after only c0.1km. (The road you are on, the 4038, bends to the left at this point, and another dirt rd continues straight ahead. There are a number of signs in Thai pointing to the gentle right fork, ie, straight ahead - ignore these and take the 90° right.) After 0.3km further, turn left at the cross-roads. Follow this road for 4.7km, then turn left signed to the "Hot Stream." Follow this 1.6km and turn right. Follow this for 2.8km to a fork, take the right fork, then after 0.7km take the left fork signed (ambiguously) to KNC, Thung Tieo, Crystal Pool. (The 90° right fork is signed "Hot Springs" - ignore it.) 0.7km on you cross a concrete bridge, and 0.3kms beyond this you come to a cross-roads - turn right onto the dirt road signed to KNC etc. 2.2km on you cross a 2nd concrete bridge, and a further c4km on the road bends gently left (ignore a sharp right here). Follow the rd round to the left and you'll soon see Riverside House (look for the sign and the thatched huts just beyond), just before a final concrete bridge. The Morakot resort is just beyond, also on the left. Directly opposite, set back to the right of the road, is the HQ - signed "Danish Co-operation Project" or similar, now derelict.
To reach the main forest/reserve, continue on past the Morakot, and less than half a km further on turn 90° left on a driveable dirt rd - this is the start of trail A. There is a white sign on the right hand side of the road at the turn signposting Thung Tieo, Crystal Pool etc. (NB: Nor Chuchi MT or similar is signed straight on here - this road also leads to the trail-heads for Trails U, S etc.)
Follow for 0.1kms, ignoring the car park on the right, and park in the car park on the left just before the sentry pole/food stalls. Total distance from Route 4 - c18.5kms. There is no vehicular access beyond this point for B, C, Crystal Pool etc.
The road in to KNC can be barely passable by 2-wheel after rains, but it should be just about OK if you don't mind doing it slowly and preferably in daylight. Bring a torch to check directions if driving in before dawn as there are no lights at all except in Bang Tieo.
For Trail B (and some others, eg C) walk from the car park ahead past the bridge/sentry pole/stalls that mark the start of the reserve proper. A further c0.1km up you come to the main trail (B), well-/multiple- signposted, on the left - the famous pole bridge is c300m up this trail - Gurney's were regularly seen either side of this pole bridge in the past, but Trail U and other areas now seems better - get up to date gen. on site. Trails B and C are still good for other stuff, maybe also for Gurney's; B leads for c2km, initially through secondary and finally primary forest (after c1km). Beyond the pole bridge after another c600m, trail C branches off on the right into the swamp forest; we only birded it once in 2000 but wished we'd had more time - C probably offers the best chance for Chestnut-capped Thrush and Giant Pitta...
For the Crystal Pool, walk past the sentry pole on dirt road (trail) A, past the start of trail B on the left, and continue on the main dirt road, ie Trail A for c400m until you come to a clearing with the "substation" on the left (pillars and roof but no walls). Bear right and cross over a small foot-bridge, and follow the new boardwalk (bear left) over the rocks until you see the pool. A swim after a day's sweaty birding is a relief and a magical experience in the amazingly blue pool - if you fancy a jacuzzi, just lie in the shallow channel cut into the rock that feeds the pool from above! It's also possible to walk up to the upper pool over the rocks, but it's extremely slippery.
For trails U, S, Q etc, drive 0.1km from the (sentry pole) car park back to the junction with the main dirt road leading out of the reserve - turn left (right is back towards The Morakot, Bang Tieo, Route 4 etc), and park after a few 10ths of a km opposite whichever trail-head you choose. The trails all lead off to the right, but the trail-heads are not very easy to see. Copy down the trail map from the large board at HQ if you don't have one - it's extremely useful - this is the same map as in Eddie Myers' report.
Gurney's can be seen in Winter/Spring if you're lucky, but are easiest in March/April when calling. They always associate with spiny palm trees (Salacca rumphii) and seem to have a preference for areas with small ravines/streams. Blue-winged and Hooded Pittas are wet season breeders and so do not arrive until mid./late April earliest.
I saw a male and a female Gurney's briefly together on my 2nd day at KNC in Jan. '99, after sitting down on the bank just beyond the 1st ravine that cuts across trail U at km0.20. There are small, blue, diamond-shaped metal signs on trees every 100ms on most trails giving the trail name and distance (eg, U0.20 = 0.2 kms from the start of trail U.) I also pulled in a stunning male Gurney's in '99 whilst sitting on the trail playing a Banded Pitta tape at U0.37km the following day. The bird came in to c5m range, eventually called once ("whilip"), stayed close for a while, and then disappeared back into the forest. (I had never realised it was possible to stay silent whilst every fibre of your body is screaming "HOLY F*** THERE IT IS," but it can be done.)
We saw presumably the same birds at the exact same location in 2000. If the birds are being seen at U0.22 it's not too hard to see them if you sit silently on the trail where it climbs up out of the U0.20 ravine and scan with bins back down around the ravine floor. In 2000 we staked out U in this way which provided our only sighting, but we were extremely lucky to score as the birds were not being seen regularly in the area. The best plan is to get up to date info. before you travel, and also to find Yothin and get gen./pay him to help you try to track one down if you're struggling.
How to get there: Krabi is an easy 2.5 hour drive to the South of Phuket, via Route 4 toward Phang Nga (turn right onto the A415 just before Phang Nga) and Ao Leuk. (NB: the 415 forks left 96kms after you have left Phuket airport at a cross-roads - continue straight on here on Route 4 again to Krabi.) It's c155kms easy drive in total Phuket to Krabi.
Most of the mangrove specialities can only be seen by boat. The famous Mr Dai is strongly recommended, as he knows where to find the birds, and which species birders want to see. Rate was 300 Baht/Hour in '00. To find Mr Dai, first find Chan Phen Travel on Krabi waterfront. It's approx. opposite the floating restaurant, in one of the 1st blocks on the left hand side of the road as you head North on Uttharakit Rd towards Route 4, ie opposite side of the road from the waterfront. It's best to book 24hrs in advance if you can, insist on Mr Dai if possible; he's more expensive than the other boatmen and definitely worth it. See Mr Dong who speaks good English to book. Specify whether you want to go to the river mouth or the mangroves. Rising or high tide is best for the river mouth, low tide for the mangroves, so bear this in mind when booking your boats if you have flexibility. Early morning is much better for the mangroves before the shyer species stop calling/get disturbed by fishermen. It's certainly worth taking a scope/tripod for the river mouth in case you can get out in the shallow areas. Trips to the Mangroves are 3-4hrs duration, to the sand bars, 2-3hrs.
If you can't get Mr Dai, tell whichever boatman you get what you want to do (cruise slowly in the narrower mangrove tributaries, not down the centre of the main channel where you'll see nothing, ask them to stop when you come across a feeding flock/hear something good etc.). The other boatmen are all willing and helpful but don't know the birds - hence Mr Dai is especially useful when trying to find Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Mangrove Pitta, Ruddy Kingfisher, Mangrove Whistler etc. This is still the only site for the whistler and the flycatcher in Thailand so far as I know - but a few trips and a little luck should still mean a fair chance of connecting - if you're going to KS in Malaysia don't get stressed about them at Krabi.
To reach the Krabi resort area (possible Malaysian Plover on the sand flats west of the resort, and Great-eared Nightjar at dusk c200m W. of the resort main gate on a small hill - NB rapid development in Krabi may soon drive them out) from Krabi Town, take the Western route back towards route 4, then turn left c1km before reaching route 4 onto the A4034. Follow this for c15km approx. until you see the A4202 on the left. Take this, and follow to the coast. The beach opposite the end of this road is Ao Naang. You can also turn left again and drive parallel to the coast (alongside Ao Naang Beach) on the A4203 - this leads to Krabi Resort/beaches/'the strip' after c2km. Ao Naang is the long beach immediately west of Krabi Resort, with Noppharat Thara at the West end (widely signposted).
How to get there: Easy to get to if you have your own transport. From Krabi Town, head North on Uttharakit Road to Route 4. Turn right, and after c0.2km (?) before leaving the built-up area at the edge of Krabi Town, turn left on a paved road signed to Huay To Waterfall. Follow this road to its end (c19km from the junction) and park in the car park area. This area and the main track can be productive early morning. The climb to the series of 7 waterfalls is worth doing for the scenery. Probably worth a look here and there en route also, eg Chestnut-naped Forktail certainly bred in 2000 (although we dipped).
KPB is also the only other recent site for Gurney's Pitta in Thailand/the world (recorded as recently as 1988), but the area of forest in which they formerly occurred has been cleared - Phil Round may have more details.
How to get there: Only c15 mins max. drive North from Krabi Town on Route 4 heading for Ao Leuk. We didn't have time to bird here in 2000, but it's a nice site and very convenient for Krabi hence included here. Ao Phraa Naang (old Buffy Fish Owl site) is on the same page from my old Thai report as a bonus!
The forest is a thin strip either side of the road from km c118-122 (look for roadside kilometre posts. A Ban Nai Chong village sign appears at km c114 - keep going). There is a road on the left leading to a plantation checkpoint at km122 (just after this point the forest on the right stops). Better access on this side is via a small overgrown track at km c120, which is driveable with care after rain, easy when dry. The best birding here however is down the track off to the right of the road at km122 (I think - anyway, it's definitely where the power lines cross the road). Park up along the track and then find a way in to the forest to the left. It's also possible to bird from the main road itself dawn-7am when the traffic increases. According to Mr Yothin at KNC, Gould's Frogmouth ("try at 3am or 4am with a flashlight") and Malaysian Rail-Babbler still occur at the site.
TN = Taman Negara
FH = Fraser's Hill
KS = Kuala Selangor
KNC = Khao Nor Chuchi (aka Khao Pra Bang Khram)
Kr = Krabi
[ ] indicates species heard but not seen
[Long-billed Partridge - Rhizothera longirostris]
2 heard duetting from the heavily wooded slope immediately below main High Pines garden area, 25/4.
[Indian Cuckoo - Cuculus micropterus]
Heard on 3 different days at TN, but did not respond to tape, either falling silent, or calling from cover/not moving. Also heard at FH, The Gap, and KNC but never seen.
[Banded Bay Cuckoo - Cacomantis sonerratii]
Heard on 2 successive days at TN but not seen, see comments for Indian Cuckoo.
[Large-tailed Nightjar - Eurostopodus macrurus]
1 heard from the resort at TN 18/4, somewhere near the Tembeling river, 1 heard at KS, 28/4.
[Oriental Dwarf (Black-backed) Kingfisher - Ceyx erithacus]
1 heard at the 1st JM stream, TN, 20/4.
[White-crowned Hornbill - Berenicornis comatus]
3 heard, the call is very distinctive, 2 distinct, different-pitch notes, 1 heard at KNC Honeyguide site, 1 from the Trail B ravine B0.6-0.7, 1 from C/D junction, all calling in areas we couldn't access.
[Red-crowned Barbet - Megalaima rafflesii]
One heard on Trail B at KNC, 29/4.
[Brown Barbet - Calorhamphus fuliginosus]
Two heard at the Malaysian Honeyguide site on KNC Plateau 30/4.
(Horsfield's Babbler - Malacocincla sepiarium)
We came across one bird which we thought possibly of this species, along Trail U at KNC, and recorded the song. Suspecting a Horsfield's we played tape (Terry White's tape of Horsfield's Babbler), and the bird responded strongly. However, Dr Phil Round has since commented via e-mail "There are no Horsfield's Babblers at KNC, and the song supposedly of this sp. on Terry White is actually Abbott's again. Horsfield's has an incredibly distinctive song: an explosive 'chip, chop, tiu.' It is usually found near rushing streams but does not seem to get north of the Malaysian rainforest zone."
[Pygmy Wren-Babbler - Pnorpyga pusilla]
Heard twice at the start of The Bishop's Trail at FH but we were unable to find them despite brief tape-response.
[Malaysian Rail-Babbler - Eupetes macrocerus]
We whistled in and latterly stalked a calling bird for c45 mins, but no views, c300m down very steep slope N. of Bukit Teresek (beyond the 2nd viewpoint) at TN. The Sunderland birders we met also heard the bird later the same day in the same place, but also failed to see it. Very disappointing, but at least you expect to dip this elusive and enigmatic skulker, which eases the pain a little.
[Rufous-tailed Tailorbird - Orthotomus sericus]
We heard 2 at KNC up on the plateau and in Bang Tieo Village but failed to persuade them out of dense cover - probably common?
(295 Species total + 11 heard)
Thanks to: all the people who responded to my request for recent information via the OBC forum especially Phil Benstead, Wim Veraghtert. Thanks to Paul Holt, Eddie Myers and Ashley Banwell for copying tapes, to Dennis and all at Kingfisher for ensuring a smooth, birding-time-maximised, hassle-free holiday, to all authors of reports mentioned above, and to Urs Geiser for his excellent free website, to Mr Yothin at KNC, Steve Whitehouse for reports, and Dr Phil Round for his update on KNC. Finally thanks to OBC for the invaluable leech-proof socks and for setting up the OBC forum in the 1st place - an invaluable source of information - if you're not an OBC member, shame on you! Join today and help protect the forests for future generations to enjoy. You can get more information at firstname.lastname@example.org, write to OBC, c/o The Lodge, Sandy, Beds, SG19 2DL, UK, or visit their website.
If you have any questions or need further information (eg, maps), you can reach me at email@example.com, or on 0207-609-1108, or at Flat 1, 155 Hemingford Rd, Islington, London N1 1BZ, or daytime at work 01494-462246. If you have any recent reports of your own I'd be delighted to receive them at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the address above.
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