Trip Report: Malaysia, July 3 and 16-21, 1998

Peter N. Thompson, Onderstepoort, South Africa;

This is a short account of two birding stopovers in Malaysia on my way between Johannesburg and Sydney. Apart from being one of the cheapest routes between South Africa and Australia, it is probably also the birdiest. The field guide I used was Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali by MacKinnon and Phillipps, which includes virtually all the Malaysian species. In Taman Negara, however, I frequently found myself referring to the Thailand guide, by Lekagul and Round, belonging to some Belgian birders I met there. It was my impression that this book had better illustrations, particularly of the bulbuls and babblers, which can be quite confusing at first. I also used a tape recorder and A Field Guide to the Bird Songs of South East Asia by Terry White. It really helped learning some of the calls beforehand, and the tape recorder was also invaluable for taping and playing back to attract birds. I would have missed several good birds like some of the forest kingfishers, pittas and trogons, and the Malayan Peacock-Pheasant, if it had not been for the tape recorder.

On 3 July I had a full day's wait (06h00 to 18h00) at the new KL International Airport, so I jumped in a taxi and headed straight for Taman Pertanian (Agricultural Park) in Shah Alam, described in Bransbury's Birdwatcher's Guide to Malaysia. Fortunately this is not too far away from the airport, about 30-40 minutes by taxi. The habitat is mainly secondary lowland forest and has a good variety of species. I notched up 46 species in about 8 hours, a good introduction to the commoner forest species. Highlights were Banded Kingfisher (attracted by playing back an unidentified call), Banded and Black-and-yellow Broadbills, Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler (responded to whistled imitation of its call), Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (about 3 metres away, what a stunner!) and a pair of Hill Mynas.

On my way back from Australia I stayed in Taman Negara for 5 nights. This place is incredible, a huge tract of virgin lowland rainforest. It's well worth visiting, although it takes a full day to get there from KL. The diversity of animal and plant life is amazing, although many of the birds are difficult to see, and I would say you would need at least 4 or 5 nights to see a good selection of birds. The longer the better. I stayed in the hostel -- basic but adequate, and in addition spent one night at Yong Hide, which was worth the effort. Details on accommodation, etc. have been well covered in previous reports. If anyone would like more information you are welcome to contact me.

Day 1 (16 July): The boat trip from Kuala Tembeling to TN was fairly quiet bird-wise. Highlights: Lesser Fish-Eagle seen from the boat; Bat Hawk hunting over the river at dusk, seen from one of the floating restaurants across from the resort.

Day 2: I went to the canopy walkway (Friday is the only day it opens reasonably early), then up towards Bukit Teresek, along the Jenet Muda trail and back along the Tahan River trail. Highlights: Wreathed Hornbills seen from the walkway; small party of Dusky Broadbills around a nest, with one sitting on the nest, near the start of the Bukit Teresek trail; Great Argus (YES!!!) male seen along the Jenet Muda trail; pair of Jambu Fruit-Doves along Jenet Muda; White-bellied Woodpecker along the Swamp Loop; at the end of the day a group of Black Hornbills and excellent views of a single Helmeted Hornbill from the Tahan Hide (this was probably the bird I had most wanted to see).

Day 3: Along the Tahan River trail, although I didn't get very far because the birding was so good. I did about 3 km in 8 hours! Highlights: Crested Jay; group of Wrinkled Hornbills in a fruiting tree; Rufous-collared Kingfisher responding to playback; pair of White-crowned Forktails building a nest along a small rocky stream -- these birds were VERY shy, it took me about an hour to get good views; Garnet Pitta -- another painstakingly slow stalking effort, trying to locate a calling bird, but worth every minute of it.

Day 4: I set off for Yong Hide, via Gua Telinga (bat caves) and Blau Hide, spending quite a while in the vicinity of the two hides. Highlights: immature Chestnut-capped Thrush feeding on the path; Maroon-breasted Philentoma; male Scarlet-rumped Trogon; 3 (three!) Banded Pittas behind Blau Hide -- after recognising the call I played the tape and eventually had excellent views of these stunning birds, which seemingly glow in the dark undergrowth; Rhinoceros Hornbills perched and flying overhead on several occasions; a beautiful male white-phase Asian Paradise Flycatcher near Yong Hide; group of Great Slaty Woodpeckers in a dead tree above the hide.

Day 5: After walking around in the area of the hide I headed back to the main resort, with a couple of short detours along the way. Swamp Loop in the afternoon. Highlights: one very elusive Malayan Peacock-Pheasant seen after playing back a call which I suspected was of this species; male Red-naped Trogon seen near Blau Hide after another long stalk.

Day 6: Return to KL. The return boat trip was uneventful. Highlight: pair of Barred Buttonquails seen along path at Kuala Tembeling while I was waiting for the bus.

The highlight of the trip has to be the hornbills (6 species, all of which were seen really well). The biggest challenge was sorting out the bulbuls, of which I saw 16 species. Fortunately, most of them could be studied at close quarters in the fruiting trees in the resort. Sorting out the babblers (13 species) was also fun, but easier than the bulbuls. Most of the other birds were pretty easy to identify, but often hard to see way up in the canopy or hidden in the undergrowth.

Species accounts:

TN = Taman Negara; TP = Taman Pertanian, Shah Alam

  1. Bat Hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus) - Single bird(s) seen on 2 occasions at dusk over Tembeling River, TN
  2. White-bellied Fish-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) - 1 on boat trip to TN
  3. Lesser Fish-Eagle (Ichthyophaga humilis) - 1 on boat trip to TN
  4. Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus) - 1 in flight, Tahan R trail, TN
  5. Black-thighed Falconet (Microhierax fringillarius) - 1 in Kuala Tahan, TN
  6. Crested Fireback (Lophura ignita) - several small groups, TN
  7. Malayan Peacock-Pheasant (Polyplectron malacense) - several heard, 1 seen near Yong hide, TN
  8. Great Argus (Argusianus argus) - heard all the time, 1 male seen on Jenet Muda trail, TN
  9. Barred Buttonquail (Turnix suscitator) - pair on track along river at Kuala Tembeling
  10. Thick-billed Green-Pigeon (Treron curvirostra) - many at fruiting trees in resort, TN
  11. Little Green-Pigeon (Treron olax) - many at fruiting trees in resort, TN
  12. Large Green-Pigeon (Treron capellei) - one near Yong hide, TN
  13. Jambu Fruit-Dove (Ptilinopus jambu) - pair seen along Jenet Muda trail, TN
  14. Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis) - around villages between KL and Kuala Tembeling
  15. Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata) - TP and between KL and Kuala Tembeling
  16. Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica) - commonly heard, several seen, TN
  17. Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) - few pairs seen in flight, TP and TN
  18. Blue-rumped Parrot (Psittinus cyanurus) - 2 at resort, 1 near Yong hide, TN
  19. Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot (Loriculus galgulus) - several TN
  20. Little Bronze-Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx minutillus) - 1 at resort, TN
  21. Drongo Cuckoo (Surniculus lugubris) - 3 near resort, TN
  22. Black-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus diardi) - several TN
  23. Raffles's Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus chlorophaeus) - several TN
  24. Red-billed Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus javanicus) - 1 near Yong hide, TN
  25. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus curvirostris) - 1 Tahan R trail, TN
  26. Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis) - resort and Tahan R trail, TN
  27. Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis) - 1 at Tahan hide, TN
  28. Edible-nest Swiftlet (Collocalia fuciphaga) - 1 over Tembeling R, TN
  29. Glossy Swiftlet (Collocalia esculenta) - 1 TP
  30. Brown-backed Needletail (Hirundapus giganteus) - several over Tembeling R, TN
  31. Silver-rumped Spinetail (Rhaphidura leucopygialis) - common TN
  32. House Swift (Apus nipalensis) - TP and between KL and Kuala Tembeling
  33. Grey-rumped Treeswift (Hemiprocne longipennis) - several in flight, TP and TN
  34. Red-naped Trogon (Harpactes kasumba) - 1 male near Blau hide, TN
  35. Scarlet-rumped Trogon (Harpactes duvaucelii) - males seen near Blau and Yong hides, TN
  36. Banded Kingfisher (Lacedo pulchella) - 1 seen TP, several heard TN
  37. White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) - several along rivers, TN
  38. Rufous-collared Kingfisher (Actenoides concretus) - 1 Tahan R trail, TN
  39. Blue-throated Bee-eater (Merops viridis) - common TP and TN
  40. Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) - seen twice over Tembeling R, TN
  41. Wrinkled Hornbill (Aceros corrugatus) - small group in treetop along Tahan R, TN
  42. Wreathed Hornbill (Aceros undulatus) - pair seen from canopy walkway, TN
  43. Black Hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus) - small group at Tahan hide, TN, 1 on return boat trip and 1 at Kuala Tembeling
  44. Oriental Pied-Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) - small groups around resort, TN
  45. Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) - one seen from bus up Gombak valley, several seen and heard between resort and Blau hide, TN
  46. Helmeted Hornbill (Buceros vigil) - 1 male seen from Tahan hide, TN
  47. Gold-whiskered Barbet (Megalaima chrysopogon) - commonly heard TP and TN, 2 seen TN
  48. Red-crowned Barbet (Megalaima rafflesii) - heard once only at Yong hide, TN
  49. Red-throated Barbet (Megalaima mystacophanos) - several heard, 1 seen near Blau hide, TN
  50. Yellow-crowned Barbet (Megalaima henricii) - commonly heard, 1 seen at resort, TN
  51. Blue-eared Barbet (Megalaima australis) - commonly heard, several seen TP and TN
  52. Brown Barbet (Calorhamphus fuliginosus) - several at resort, TN
  53. Rufous Woodpecker (Celeus brachyurus) - small group TP
  54. Crimson-winged Woodpecker (Picus puniceus) - several TP and TN
  55. Banded Woodpecker (Picus mineaceus) - 1 between Yong and Blau hides, TN
  56. Common Flameback (Dinopium javanense) - several TP and TN
  57. Buff-necked Woodpecker (Meiglyptes tukki) - several TN
  58. Great Slaty Woodpecker (Mulleripicus pulverulentus) - noisy groups seen at Yong and Tahan hides, TN
  59. White-bellied Woodpecker (Dryocopus javensis) - 1 swamp loop, 1 Yong hide, TN
  60. Grey-and-buff Woodpecker (Hemicircus concretus) - few near resort, TN
  61. Maroon Woodpecker (Blythipicus rubiginosus) - 1 female near canopy walkway, TN
  62. Orange-backed Woodpecker (Reinwardtipicus validus) - few TP and TN
  63. Dusky Broadbill (Corydon sumatranus) - small group and single bird in nest near start of Bukit Teresek trail, TN
  64. Black-and-red Broadbill (Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos) - several TN
  65. Banded Broadbill (Eurylaimus javanicus) - several TP and TN
  66. Black-and-yellow Broadbill (Eurylaimus ochromalus) - single birds seen TP and TN, commonly heard TN
  67. Green Broadbill (Calyptomena viridis) - several TN
  68. Garnet Pitta (Pitta granatina) - several heard TN, one seen near Tahan R trail
  69. Banded Pitta (Pitta guajana) - several heard and 3 seen near Blau hide, TN
  70. Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica) - common in open areas
  71. Large Woodshrike (Tephrodornis gularis) - several TP
  72. Fiery Minivet (Pericrocotus igneus) - small groups near Yong and Blau hides, TN
  73. Green Iora (Aegithina viridissima) - pairs near Blau hide and Gua Telinga, TN
  74. Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia) - pair at Kuala Tembeling
  75. Lesser Green Leafbird (Chloropsis cyanopogon) - few, resort and Tahan R, TN
  76. Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati) - few, resort and Yong hide, TN
  77. Blue-winged Leafbird (Chloropsis cochinchinensis) - few TP and TN
  78. Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) - small group along Tahan R trail, TN
  79. Black-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus atriceps) - common TN
  80. Grey-bellied Bulbul (Pycnonotus cyaniventris) - 1 TP, several TN
  81. Puff-backed Bulbul (Pycnonotus eutilotus) - 2 near resort, TN
  82. Stripe-throated Bulbul (Pycnonotus finlaysoni) - several at resort, TN
  83. Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) - several TP, TN and elsewhere
  84. Olive-winged Bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus) - 1 swamp loop, TN
  85. Streak-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus blanfordi) - 2 resort, TN
  86. Cream-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus simplex) - several TP and TN
  87. Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus) - common TP and TN
  88. Spectacled Bulbul (Pycnonotus erythropthalmos) - 1 TP, common TN
  89. Grey-cheeked Bulbul (Alophoixus bres) - few resort, TN
  90. Yellow-bellied Bulbul (Alophoixus phaeocephalus) - several TN
  91. Hairy-backed Bulbul (Tricholestes criniger) - several TN
  92. Buff-vented Bulbul (Iole olivacea) - few resort, TN
  93. Streaked Bulbul (Ixos malaccensis) - several resort, TN
  94. Bronzed Drongo (Dicrurus aeneus) - few near Yong hide, TN
  95. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) - common TP and TN
  96. Dark-throated Oriole (Oriolus xanthonotus) - 1 male Jenet Muda, 1 female Yong hide, TN
  97. Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) - single males TP and resort, TN
  98. Asian Fairy-bluebird (Irena puella) - 1 TP, common at resort, TN
  99. Crested Jay (Platylophus galericulatus) - 1 Tahan R trail, TN
  100. Black Magpie (Platysmurus leucopterus) - several small groups, TN
  101. House Crow (Corvus splendens) - many in KL and other built-up areas
  102. Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) - few around resort, TN
  103. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis) - 1 male TP, 1 near Yong hide, TN
  104. Black-capped Babbler (Pellorneum capistratum) - several TN
  105. Short-tailed Babbler (Malacocincla malaccensis) - 1 Tahan R trail, few near Yong hide, TN
  106. Ferruginous Babbler (Trichastoma bicolor) - 1 Tahan R trail, few near Gua Telinga, TN
  107. Horsfield's Babbler (Malacocincla sepiarium) - several small groups, TN
  108. Abbott's Babbler (Malacocincla abbotti) - common TN
  109. Moustached Babbler (Malacopteron magnirostre) - several near Yong and Blau hides, TN
  110. Scaly-crowned Babbler (Malacopteron cinereum) - common TN
  111. Rufous-crowned Babbler (Malacopteron magnum) - common TN
  112. Chestnut-rumped Babbler (Stachyris maculata) - several, Yong hide and Gua Telinga, TN
  113. Black-throated Babbler (Stachyris nigricollis) - small group near Blau hide, TN
  114. Chestnut-winged Babbler (Stachyris erythroptera) - very common, TN
  115. Striped Tit-Babbler (Macronous gularis) - few TP and TN
  116. Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler (Macronous ptilosus) - few TP, few near Yong hide, TN
  117. Oriental Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis) - common almost everywhere
  118. White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) - common TP and TN
  119. White-crowned Forktail (Enicurus leschenaulti) - pair building a nest along rocky stream crossing the Tahan R trail, TN
  120. Chestnut-capped Thrush (Zoothera interpres) - 1 immature on trail between resort and Gua Telinga, TN
  121. Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) - few TP
  122. Dark-necked Tailorbird (Orthotomus atrogularis) - several in resort, TP
  123. Rufescent Prinia (Prinia rufescens) - few TP and Kuala Tembeling
  124. Rufous-chested Flycatcher (Ficedula dumetoria) - 1 male Tahan R trail, TN
  125. Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis) - 1 Tahan R trail, TN
  126. Spotted Fantail (Rhipidura perlata) - few TN
  127. Black-naped Monarch (Hypothymis azurea) - fairly common TN
  128. Maroon-breasted Philentoma (Philentoma velatum) - 1 male near Yong hide, TN
  129. Rufous-winged Philentoma (Philentoma pyrhopterum) - several TN
  130. Asian Paradise-Flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi) - several, including a white phase male near Yong hide, TN
  131. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) - built-up areas and in resort, TN
  132. Jungle Myna (Acridotheres fuscus) - common TP
  133. Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa) - several TP and TN
  134. Plain Sunbird (Anthreptes simplex) - few TP, 1 Tahan R trail, TN
  135. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird (Anthreptes singalensis) - several TP and TN
  136. Purple-naped Sunbird (Hypogramma hypogrammicum) - 1 TP, 1 Tahan R trail, TN
  137. Scarlet Sunbird (Aethopyga mystacalis) - male feeding fledgling, Tahan R trail, TN
  138. Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra) - few TP and TN
  139. Spectacled Spiderhunter (Arachnothera flavigaster) - 1 TP
  140. Grey-breasted Spiderhunter (Arachnothera affinis) - several around resort, TN
  141. Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus maculatus) - 2 Tahan R trail, TN
  142. Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus percussus) - 1 male in resort, TN
  143. Yellow-vented Flowerpecker (Dicaeum chrysorrheum) - 1 in resort, TN
  144. Plain Flowerpecker (Dicaeum concolor) - 2 TP
  145. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) - single males Kuala Tembeling and in resort, TN
  146. Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) - built-up areas
  147. Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata) - several TP
  148. Black-headed Munia (Lonchura malacca) - 2 TP

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