Once again I found myself in Singapore, the city-state that is so nicely green, clean and manicured.
Here I have had many inspired birding adventures, seeing such delicacies such as Chinese Egret, Red-legged Crake, Straw-headed Bulbul, Copper-throated Sunbird, White-headed Munias, Long-tailed Parakeets, Red Knot and much more.
Knowing that an even better birding place is just next door, that is, Malaysia and famous places like Taman Negara and Fraser's Hill does put an eagerness to venture out away from the somewhat limited boundaries of Singapore. The problem with the two above-mentioned places is time and money. Both are many hours away and would require car rental along with food and lodging. Fortunately, there is an easy alternative: the Panti forest, only a dozen or so kilometer past the little town of Kota Tinggi, Johor. It is an easy drive from Singapore varying from 1-2 hours depending on the traffic crossing the causeway.
Since being "discovered and pioneered" some years back, some hardcore birders from Singapore have faithfully returned to this lowland rainforest again and again, finding an endless number of bird species.
I have had the blessing of being able to accompany some of these "happy to take you along" birders on 4 or 5 occasions, each time adding a number of new lifebirds to my list.
The forest itself is no longer primary but more of a secondary nature having once been logged out. However, there are still many stately trees around, and a host of Hornbill species including Helmeted, Rhinoceros, Bushy-crested, Black, Great and Wrinkled show signs that the forest is still healthy enough to hold a great many birds. My friends tell me that Storm's Stork has been seen along the trails, and other jewels like Garnet Pitta, Malaysian Rail-Babbler, Great Argus, Large Wren-Babbler and Scarlet-rumped Trogon are also to be found.
The place to go is what has been christened the "bunker trail." Right after these two major bunkers (remnant from WW2, I presume), one on each side of the road, there is a graveled road to the left. On any day there is an ever-flowing stream of lorries going in to fetch sand from the banks of a river deep within the area. There is logging going on (albeit illegal), and my friends from Singapore tell me the site may not last more then another couple of years. Instead of dwelling on what man is doing to himself and his surrounding, which is a very depressing subject, there is still great rejoicing to be found along this road.
This time we arrived around 8 o'clock and had to wait a few minutes for the skies to clear up. As they did, birds started to come alive. I was told that the week earlier they had found a flowering tree which had attracted flowerpeckers, sunbirds, spiderhunters, bulbuls and leafbirds feeding on the nectar side by side. They had then seen a Red-throated Sunbird which is a rare bird for the area and wanted to go back for some more documentation. Well, we dipped on the Red-throated Sunbird but scored on Scarlet Sunbird which is also a rare bird on this trail, according to one of the "veterans."
Knowing the bird calls really helps, and the best bird was called out by tape: Scarlet-rumped Trogon. If anyone is looking for a "far out" picture or color combination of shapes and wonder - this is it! In the scope it looked almost magical.
Another top bird was Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler with its chestnut cap, dark rufescent plumage and turquoise orbital skin roaming through the undergrowth.
We spent only 4 hours at this site but saw a wealth of birds, as can be sampled from the birdlist below. My friends rated the day "normal," saying that "you never know what will show up at Panti!"
Surely someone with the know-how ought to do something to conserve this beautiful place!
We finished the day with a delicious lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Kota Tinggi town before returning to Singapore.
The best way to go about it is to contact the Singapore Nature Society at 7412036 for information and to get in touch with the birding group. Their e-mail is email@example.com.
Crimson-winged Woodpecker Red-crowned Barbet Heard Brown Barbet Black Hornbill Rhinoceros Hornbill Heard Red-naped Trogon Heard Scarlet-rumped Trogon Blue-eared Kingfisher White-throated Kingfisher Red-bearded Bee-eater Heard Indian Cuckoo Heard Drongo Cuckoo Heard Violet Cuckoo Heard Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Raffles Malkoha Blue-rumped Parrot Lifer Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Long-tailed Parakeet Heard Grey-rumped Treeswift Whiskered Treeswift Thick-billed Pigeon Dusky Broadbill Black-and-yellow Broadbill Heard Flyeater Asian Fairy Bluebird Dark-throated Oriole Greater Green Leafbird Lesser Green Leafbird Lifer Blue-winged Leafbird Large-billed Crow Scarlet Minivet Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Bronzed Drongo Greater Racket-tailed Drongo Dark-necked Tailorbird Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Black-naped Monarch Heard Green Iora White-rumped Shama Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Cream-vented Bulbul Red-eyed Bulbul Lifer Hairy-backed Bulbul Olive-winged Bulbul Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler Lifer Striped Tit-Babbler Black-capped Babbler Heard Short-tailed Babbler Heard Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Oriental White-eye Plain Sunbird Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Nesting Scarlet Sunbird Lifer Purple-naped Sunbird Little Spiderhunter Spectacled Spiderhunter Lifer Grey-breasted Spiderhunter
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