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Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah & Southern Thailand Birding Trip Report
1 March - 14 April 2000
by Jon Hornbuckle
I plugged some major gaps in my list with 6+ weeks at the main sites in Sabah, peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand, accompanied by Ashley Banwell in Sabah. There were some great birds and mammals, such as Rail-babbler, Fruit-hunter, Malaysian Peacock-Pheasant, 7 species of pitta, Bornean Gibbon and Orang-Utan, with easy logistics and relatively low cost. Saw most of the targets but it was “hard work” at times with fewer birds than expected and little pitta and owl vocalisation. Kinabalu was particularly tough in early March but a return visit 2 weeks later was rewarded by the missing Trogon, Fruit-hunter and Everett’s Thrush. Unusual sightings were Barred Eagle-Owl at Khao Nor Chuchi, Long-billed Partridge, Black-and-white Bulbul and Pin-tailed Parrotfinch at Taman Negara, and Banded Linsang at Fraser’s Hill. Major misses included Giant Pitta, heard briefly at Danum and Taman Negara; Blue-banded Pitta, only 1 heard at Danum, none at Poring; Rusty-naped Pitta and Malayan Whistling-Thrush – not a sniff at Fraser’s Hill; Masked Finfoot and most of the possible nocturnal birds.
The timing was chosen as supposedly the optimum – early breeding season plus relatively dry, but this year was unusually wet and quiet. Surprisingly few other birders were encountered – only a handful plus a Field Guides tour-group. The route worked well but in retrospect I would have pre-booked a short tour at Sukau (see later), had more time at Khao Nor Chuchi and scheduled the trip two weeks later.
Flew with Malaysian Airlines, which offered the best deal to Borneo according to Wild Wings (though not to KL alone): £578.50. Internal flights in Borneo were cheap, eg £16 KK – Lahad Datu. Used public transport and taxis (cheap) thoughout; the only place where a car would have been helpful was Fraser's Hill. Note that the few direct buses from KL to Jerantut (for Taman Negara) go from Pekeliling Bus Station, not the main one – the 10.00 bus gets you there in time to catch the 2.30 boat from Kuala Temberling (reached by taxi from Jerantut).
The fixed price for taxis from Kuala Temberling to Fraser’s Hill is 150R (c.£25), a 3 hour journey; you can save money by taking the Jerantut - Baur bus but taxis would still be advisable for the rest of the journey. To get to southern Thailand from Fraser’s Hill, take buses to KKB then Tanjung Malim, overnight train to Haad Yai (book second class sleeper via phone), coach (from the main station, better and cheaper than minibuses) to Krabi, getting off at Klong Thom, then motor bike to Khao Pra Bang Khram – easier than it sounds! Alternatively, go by coach from KL, which will probably necessitate a change of vehicle in Butterworth or Haad Yai, or fly to Haad Yai or Phuket (2 hours by coach from Krabi) – much more expensive. Krabi does have an airport now but only for Bangkok flights.
Stayed in a variety of hotels, lodges, hostels and huts, usually clean and comfortable, costing from next to nothing (Uncle Tan’s and Khao Nor Chuchi) to £17 for a double (including an excellent breakfast) at Quest Resort, Fraser’s Hill. None were booked in advance, except for Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC), and had no real problem in finding suitable places. One useful item I took and used was a silk sleeping bag liner. Food was cheap, generally good and readily available.
Birding sites in Malaysia. J. Bransbury, N. Pope & P. Heath. 1994. OBC.
The weather was hot and humid, cooler on Kinabalu and Fraser’s Hill, with rain on most days but usually only as afternoon showers – some very heavy. No health problems experienced, and with few mosquitoes I did not take anti-malarials. Large biting-flies were rather too numerous in the lowlands and leeches abundant at times – best to tuck trousers in thick socks and cover tops of boots, inside and out, with deet.
The exchange rate was 5.90-95 Ringgit to the pound and 59.5 Baht, 3.76R to the US$. Cash was obtainable from ATMs. Banks in Lahad Datu, the only place in Malaysia outside KK where I tried them, would not change any currency but a shop recommended by them changed cash at a rate similar to KK airport bank. The resort at Taman Negara changed cash and traveller’s cheques but at a poor rate. At the Thai border, the guard on the train gave a good rate to change Ringgit or US$ to Baht, and the supermarket en route to Butterworth had a money-changing office.
Trails at Danum and Taman Negara were very muddy; wellies were not essential but would have been useful, especially so at Uncle Tan’s. I didn’t take scope but wished I had on several occasions. I did use a Minidisc player to access canned recordings quickly – it worked very well till the end of the trip when it was playing up a bit. It is a Sony MZ-R55, full price about £250 but available now at Sony dealers for £120 as “graded stock”, ie visually imperfect, if you’re lucky; an external speaker is needed too. You can take tracks straight off the excellent Birds of Tropical Asia CD-ROM, via a computer, and be able to judiciously call up birds you hear very quickly.
Many thanks for their help to Ashley Banwell, Clive Carter, Peter Chong, Mike Hunter, Kalan Ickles, Allen Jeyarajasingham, Susan Myers, Janos Olah Snr and Jnr, Rose-Anne Rowlett, and Lim Aun Tiah.
Jon Hornbuckle firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES ON SITES
Mount Kinabalu National Park
This premier montane site is easily reached by bus from Kota Kinabalu in 1.5-2 hours. Accommodation appears to be easily obtained during the week but demand is higher at the weekend, as are prices, eg doubled for the cabins (from 58MR). Difficult key species were seen during our time at the following sites:
Both partridges – either side of the road where the upper end of the Kiau View and Silau Silau Trails start.
Whitehead’s Trogon – upper end of Silau Silau Trail, best seen from road by crash barrier, Km 1.5; also seen on Liwagu River Trail
Whitehead’s Broadbill – by road at Km 1.5 – 2 and opposite twin-bed cabins (late afternoon), also on Kiau View Trail.
Everett’s Thrush – Bukit Ular Trail, especially at 06.40-50 only 50m from the lower end inside the forest where 2 streams are visible.
Fruit-hunter – none seen during first visit but later several seen at bottom end of Bukit Ular Trail and a bit further down the road from there.
Eyebrowed Jungle-Flycatcher – behind Rajah Lodge and near the east end of Mempening Trail.
Bornean Stubtail – AB spotted one near the east end of Silau Silau or Mempening Trail.
Temminck’s Babbler – along road at c.Km 2 and at start of Liwagu River Trail.
Black-sided Flowerpecker – twin bed cabin gardens
Whitehead’s Spiderhunter – behind Rajah Lodge and in trees below café.
We missed the unFriendly Warbler on our first tapeless trek up the mountain, not realising it would be difficult to detect. Experiences vary greatly with this critter: the safest way is to stay overnight at Laban Rata (very cold) - at first light you may hear lots and see it below there (as Chris did) or you may have to go further down, eg to the start of the Nature Trail? track (where Ashley finally saw it). The easiest way is to go to Km1.5, preferably at first light, and trawl with a tape from there upwards – Clive Carter saw it easily here, I did with difficulty. Field Guides heard one and Dennis Yong taped it out at midday a little higher up (Pearl Jordan in litt.).
Most readily reached on the twice daily bus operated by the National Park to and from Mt Kinabalu (30R). Less accommodation available here so advisable to pre-book if you want anything better than a hostel bed (tel 088 243629, fax 242861). Key birds, found with luck on the only real trail, to Langanan waterfall, are:-
Mountain Serpent-Eagle (if missed on Kinabalu) - high, Crested is lower, near the springs
Bornean Barbet and Blue-banded Pitta - none seen for certain by anyone
Rufous-collared Kingfisher - near bat caves
Bornean Spiderhunter – between bat caves and bamboo.
Hose’s Broadbill has been seen just below the waterfall but I only saw Green there.
Danum Valley Conservation Area, 438Km2 is the largest remaining area of undisturbed dipterocarp forest in Sabah. Travelling there it is heart-breaking to see the remains of many of the largest trees on Earth on the backs of huge logging-trucks. Boycott hardwood from Malaysia if you can!
Danum Valley Field Centre (map) will now take birders again – book through Peter Chong on email@example.com (tel 243251). Unfortunately the hostel was washed away by the high river level in Jan this year, so the cheapest accommodation is currently in the Resthouse (70R) but doubtless the hostel will be rebuilt. You can camp, if you don’t mind getting wet. Up to 3 buffet meals a day can be taken – generally simple but tasty. Alcohol is not available but beer can be brought in and stored in the communal fridge (risky if British birders are around....) Transport to and from Lahad Datu is available on Mon, Wed and Friday for 50R per person, at 3.00-5.00 pm. from and 7.30-9.00 am to. A vehicle can be chartered at DVFC to go elsewhere, eg Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL) for 30R return.
BRL is well-worth visiting but costs upwards of $70 a day to stay – food is said to be excellent and one of their guides is knowledgeable about birds. The Canopy Boardwalk there is good, especially for Bristlehead, and Pygmy White-eye has been seen in the Lodge gardens.
All the lowland Borneo birds can probably be found at Danum, some of the most troublesome specialities being:
White-fronted Falconet – only seen along approach road to BRL
Bulwer's Pheasant – how lucky can you get!
White-crowned Hornbill – party c 2km along Rhino Ridge
Giant Pitta – heard at 2 sites on Rhino Ridge, where Susan Myers saw a pair in Feb, and at W12N5 but not really tape–responsive at this time.
Blue-banded Pitta – only heard about 1.5km before BRL, where seen by at least 3 birders (one on 5th attempt!); in the past was found at higher parts of Rhino Ridge, where access is difficult now due to fallen trees.
Bristlehead - at least 2 wandering parties at DVFC but often elusive; learn the voice and follow up any you hear.
Bornean and Black-throated Wren-Babblers – appear to have large territories and Bornean, seen at W15N3, especially shy; Black-throated seen at W7N5 and c1km along Rhino Ridge.
Grey-breasted Babbler – in the grid, eg W5N1, but scarce.
This was by far the best site visited for mammals, eg Gibbons, Orangs and a Leopard Cat were seen several times.
Sepilok & Sukau
The key bird here is Storm’s Stork. We elected to go to Uncle Tan’s Jungle Camp (tel 089 531639) to see it, and were successful, but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you like roughing it. Better to book Robert Chong, who owns Labuk B & B near Sepilok at Mile 15 (from Sandakan), on firstname.lastname@example.org (tel/ fax 089 533 190) to take you to Sukau and Gomantong Caves. We didn’t visit the latter (for the swiftlets) because Uncle Tan claimed it was too muddy to reach and it was too late by the time we found this to be bullshit. Other good birds to look for here are Cinnamon-headed Pigeon, Violet Cuckoo, Gould’s Frogmouth and Wrinkled and White-crowned Hornbills. Sukau is said to be especially good for Orangs and Proboscis Monkey – we did see the latter on boat trips from the Jungle Camp.
We found Sepilok disappointing, although Susan found it good for Bristlehead. Forest in the Orang Rehabilitation Centre is being destroyed by the high density of Orangs. There is good birding in the forest near the village, if you can find the trail in. A botanical research group is based here, led by Kalan Ickles, a keen American birder who may be willing to tell you where to find Giant Pitta, Malaysian Honeyguide and other goodies - email@example.com.
The rare Grey Imperial-Pigeon can be found on at least one of the islands off Sandakan – contact Sipadan Dive Centre for transport – you may even get a free ride to the Philippines if the Muslim dissidents are still active!
The peninsula equivalent of Danum, much written about and visited. Good birding but too many noisy people in the main area (Kuala Tahan). The only thing I would emphasise is that Trenggan Lodge seemed the nicest place to stay (100R for a very pleasant chalet), the only drawback being the rather limited and relatively expensive menu at the only restaurant. I suspect all the lowland birds could found on the trails here, in peace and quiet. As for accommodation in the Park, book on firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise the best trails seemed to be Tahan Trenggan and Jenet Muda, with Yong Hide (best reached by boat) a good, quiet area too. Tahan Hide was a good watching point from 5.30-7.00 pm, best from the clearing outside the hide (reached via the short trail to the right of the hide).
Some of the best sightings whilst I was here were:-
Long-billed Partridge - short trail to Trenggan river near Trenggan Lodge
Malayan Peacock-Pheasant - Swamp Loop
Masked Finfoot - Tahan River boat trip (but not by me!)
Rufous-collared Kingfisher – Kumbang Hide trail, c1km from Trenggan Lodge
Garnet Pitta - Tahan Trenggan, just beyond second small settlement, and Kumbang Hide trail, c1km from Trenggan Lodge
Banded Pitta - c1.5km from Trenggan Lodge on Kumbang Hide trail, first stream on Jenet Muda Trail and 500+km on main trail north of Yong Hide.
Giant Pitta – heard c700 m from Trenggan Lodge on Kumbang Hide trail.
Rail-babbler - Tahan Trenggan (after second small settlement, before Tabing Hide jetty), and Kumbang Hide trail, c1km from Trenggan Lodge
Malaysian Blue-Flycatcher – Tahan River boat trip
Black-and-white Bulbul – in fruiting tree on Tahan Trenggan, just before second small settlement, and bathing in first stream on Jenet Muda Trail
Finsch’s Bulbul - Tahan Trenggan, just before second small settlement
Pin-tailed Parrotfinch - Kumbang Hide trail, c800m from Trenggan Lodge.
A useful annotated check-list is available at Tahan Guest House for 5R.
It is necessary to bird around both Fraser’s Hill and The Gap, 9km lower down. A helpful local birder is KS Durai, Nature Education Centre, tel/ fax 09 362 2517 (email@example.com but not known to reply). The best sites at Fraser’s were Bishop’s Trail, Hemmant Trail, Telekom Loop and the Dump. [Map] Good birds are seen on the two roads to the Gap (the new one is still not open) but the only one I saw was Black Laughingthrush. I totally missed 3 key birds – Yellow-vented Pigeon, Rusty-naped Pitta, and Malayan Whistling-Thrush which appears to have deserted its traditional spot near the entrance gate, not to mention Cutia and Brown Bullfinch (the High Pines species) and Mountain Peacock-Pheasant of course. Didn’t try too hard for Cutia, having seen it in Sikkim, but also failed to see any thrushes or shrikes (several Siberian Thrush had been there in Feb).
According to Allen J the Bullfinch still nests at High Pines, but few if any birders appear to have seen it lately. Long-billed Partridge called repeatedly in late afternoon below High Pines and may have been visible from Mager Trail but both ends of this trail have disappeared – the only way to find it is to go in the big gate at Maybank Lodge, ignore the “No Trespassers” notice, turn sharp left and go though the high wire fence gate in the corner – this is the start of the somewhat overgrown but nice trail. I had Black Laughingthrush here. It should end on Jalan High Pines but I had to scramble along a recently bulldozed bank to reach the road.
The Pitta has been seen and heard this year just inside the forest at the Dump and on Bishop’s Trail but I never heard or saw it. I did see:
Grey-breasted Partridge – just above left fork in Hemmant Trail
Red-bearded Bee-eater – Telekom Loop
Long-tailed Broadbill – Bishop’s Trail
Large Scimitar-Babbler - Bishop’s Trail
and Bamboo Woodpecker, Silver-breasted Broadbill and White-hooded Babbler at my 4th attempt along the Baur Road from the Gap (my first mid-morning visit). Marbled Wren-Babbler responded briefly to tape in the second gully on the right 1km above the Gap, but wouldn’t show – Ashley saw it here earlier after considerable effort.
The two buses a day go from the Gap to Fraser’s at 9.15/30 and 15.00, returning promptly at 10.00 and 16.00 but I found it easy to hitch lifts at other times.
I had not intended to visit this site but Kalan so enthused about it that I did spend 24 hours here, and now strongly endorse his view that it is a fine reserve with good facilities and helpful staff. Highlights were great views of Mangrove Pitta near the shelter between the southern Hide and the new mangrove boardwalk (which does not reach the mudflats now unfortunately), and Leopard Cat with 2 young, along with a good selection of waterbirds and dry forest birds. It is easily reached by bus from KL or taxi if short of time (130R to the international airport, arranged through the reserve staff, saving the hassle of a night in KL) if on a morning flight.
Khao Nor Chuchi
I came here for Gurney’s Pitta of course, soon had a brief view then “wasted” much time trying for a better view of this and Banded Pitta. I resorted to employing Yothin Meekaeo, tel/ fax 01 228 4586, a good local guide for a day. He showed me Malaysian Honeyguide (the Gurney’s at this site last year had gone) and we had an unexpected bonus of Barred Eagle-Owl in the daytime, only his second record in 6 years, but no pittas (Gurneys and Banded heard briefly), Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle, Spotted Wood-Owl or Frogmouth, the last 2 due to heavy rain. Some diplomat should tell him to ask for a reasonable fee, not to say that he charges a ridiculous $150 a day but you can give him what you want. At the other extreme, the accommodation at Ban Bang Tieo was only 300B a day ($US 8) including 3 good meals plus tea and coffee, worth twice the price!
The Gurney’s I saw was at U20; this first gully crossing trail U and the nearby boundary trail had been the best site in March, but visibility is rather limited. There are other pairs along boundary trail N, eg at the junction with U where Yothin said he’d seen one well a few days earlier (how many times have you heard this before?). Later in the month, one was showing fairly well on E (Gavin Maclean in litt.) I was surprised how good the birding was at times, although more often the forest appeared almost empty.
Here are possible sites for specialities:
Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle – in large trees by main track going up hill to Phaen Din Samur c200m past the broad track after Q
Spotted Wood-Owl – main track between S and Q
Barred Eagle-Owl – in primary forest opposite R/H
Gould’s Frogmouth – near top of main track beyond Hawk-Eagle site
Rufous-collared Kingfisher – near end of B (1.30) and C
Malaysian Honeyguide – in primary forest beyond top of main track, to the right.
Banded Pitta – near N – Q junction and along B, eg at 1.30.
Large Wren-Babbler – seen well in second gully on U.
According to Yothin, who’s whereabouts is known to the Ban Bang Tieo accommodation owner, forest destruction continues unabated, despite the presence of 50 so-called rangers. He only gives the site 10 more years....
The only good birding here is in the mangroves and at the high tide wader roost in the bay. I made the false economy of taking a cheaper boatman then the legendary Mr Dai, who claimed to know the birds but later revealed complete ignorance. Brown-winged Kingfisher and flight views of Mangrove Pitta were easy but Finfoot, Streak-breasted Woodpecker and Copper Sunbird were notable by their absence. Low tide may not have helped as the boats are too unwieldy to manoevre up small creeks. He also managed to flush the roosting waders, when we eventually found them, by going too close but I did see Nordmann’s Greenshank and Great Knot at a distance.
I went by bus to Jan Vermeulen’s forest patch, Ban Nai Chong, but it was rather disappointing with Tiger Shrike the only notable bird and Gibbons calling invisibly nearby.
1/3 Arrived Kota Kinabalu at 12.30. After reconfirming flights, etc, took minibus to Mount Kinabalu National Park. Booked into spacious twin bed cabin (with hot water) for 58R. An hour’s birding but little of note. Restaurant cheap and quite good. Some afternoon rain.
2/3 Various trails all day from 05.45, rain on and off most of afternoon: good selection of flycatchers, Black/ Bare-crowned Laughingthrush, and the highlight, a Bornean Stubtail, plus an unidentified Indian Robin-like bird on a trail early on; Mountain Serpent-Eagles were calling repeatedly 10.00 – 10.15 in clear, sunny conditions but we were on a forest trail and emerged too late. Dined with Susan Myers and Stuart Dashper.
3/3 Main roads then 07.30 bus to power station, hike up to Laban Rata resthouse 08.30 – 12.30: Black-eye, Island Thrush; Pygmy Blue-Flycatcher feeding brown and buff juv. near start of trail. 1500m climb exhausting due to unfitness: lots of Sunda Bush-Warblers but no Friendly Warbler. Down in 3 hours then heavy rain for rest of day.
4/3 Roads and trail near chalets up to Kiau View ridge trail: Eye-browed Thrushes, heard Mountain Barbet. Bus to power station: Ashley back up to Laban Rata while I did Liwagu River trail - lovely forest valley, couple of bird waves but nothing new. Afternoon on KV trail, birdless except for both partridges calling near bottom. Watched flock of small birds feeding behind Rajah Lodge. No rain until dark when quite heavy.
5/3 Low cloud nearly all morning. Silau Silau trail first - Mountain Scops Owl calling unseen. At upper end where KV trail starts, close Mountain Wren-Babbler and Crimson-headed Partridge. Walked up to Km3.5 where Broadbill had been reported – nothing – then down to Km2.3, did start of Mempening Trail, back up to power station (no bus) at 09.40 where I met Ashley who had seen Friendly Warbler with difficulty, after cold night at Laban Rata. Ferruginous Fly at start of Liwagu River Trail. Walked down main road - heard Broadbill at Km2.5 but only saw it in flight, not tape responsive. Main trail only gave another Mt Wren-babbler. 12.45 lunch at café. White-tailed Blue Flycatcher at chalet, then watched from behind Rajah Lodge in heavy rain (15.00 – 21.00): Whitehead’s Spiderhunter high in treetop and 2 Jungle-Flycatchers.
6/3 Cloudy morning, sprinted up to Km3.5 for last try for Broadbill to no avail; 2 Short-tailed Green-Magpie vociferous on way back and an accipiter flew across road. Left Park at 08.00, minibus 08.15 ® Kota Kinabalu 09.45. Taxi to airport (12MR). Flight to Lahad Datu on time 11.50 – 12.40, taxi to nearby Danum Valley Field Centre office - shut for lunch but able to leave bags there. I went to look for waders on coastal mud, but muddy area had been filled in; Ash emailed. Back to office, finally leaving at 15.45 ® DVRC, arriving 17.30 - allocated reasonable 3-bedded room. Watched at main suspension bridge – only Rhinoceros Hornbill, no Bat Hawk or Giant Flying-Squirrel. A squad of British soldiers was building two observation towers, and Australians measuring their energy balance. No rain in day but heavy from 19.30 onwards.
7/3 Up at 04.30 thanks to Ashley, up very muddy track but no night birds except Reddish Scops calling. Taped out Black-headed Pitta almost pre-dawn, great views by flashlight! Then mainly on Rhinoceros Trail: Bushy-crested and White-crowned Hornbills, Red-naped Trogon, Grey-chested Jungle-Flycatcher. Back to centre at 12.30 for lunch. The Olahs, Hungarians I’d met 2 years earlier at Lava, arrived. Afternoon on Nature Trail: Black-and-yellow Broadbill, watched young male Orang-utan in tree for ten minutes eating fruit. Along road to tower hide - Buff-rumped Woodpecker - then short time on grid trails. Pair of Malaysian Blue-Flycatcher at pool near centre, and Buffy Fish Owl later at badminton court. No rain all day but 40-50 leeches on legs and boots.
8/3 Up at 05.10: Sunda Frogmouth calling, two Gibbon high in tall tree; Chestnut-naped Forktail, Long-billed Blue-Flycatcher W5 S2; 2 Bristlehead W8, male Argus W10 S2. Back for 12.15 lunch. Returned to the grid - Raffles Malkoha – up to W10 then heavy thunderstorm at 16.00 so back to bridge where sheltered – White-chested Babbler along riverbank. Watched from centre balcony: Bat Hawk flew over, but rained almost continuously until 21.00+.
9/3 Morning with Hungarians, starting early with Crested Partridge by flashlight on main trail, then on to Rhino Ridge: Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Banded Broadbill, Black-throated Wren-babbler, Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler, a beautiful Malay Weasel. Waterfall Trail after lunch, and along river late afternoon – nothing new. Dry all day!
10/3 Walked to tower by road, too misty for observation: Black-and-red Broadbill, Hairy-backed Bulbul. Breakfast at lodge for the first time – good but took too long. Bornean Wren-Babbler briefly at W5 en route to Rhino Ridge but little else so returned to grid: Rufous-winged Philentoma, Banded Woodpecker and Black-headed Pitta on nest with 2 eggs. Returned to centre to find Ashley had videoed Bristleheads there after lunch. Did Nature Trail, watched fruiting tree by badminton court and finally walked along main road but only Rollers seen, no Falconet.
11/3 Around W10 saw Blue-headed Pitta at last, Bornean Blue- and Red-chested Flycatchers and Lesser Cuckoo-Shrike; heard Giant Pitta on Rhino Ridge Trail. Watched female Orang-utan with youngster – she pelted me with fruit! Saw Helmeted Hornbill at last, after hearing them daily, plus Horsfield’s Babbler and Rufous-tailed Shama.
12/3 Out all day, 2 Muntjak in pond pre-dawn. Up and down Rhino Ridge: Cinnamon-rumped Trogon, first white male Paradise-Flycatcher. Fruiting tree 09.30 – 10.00 with Hungarians – Brown Barbet, Scaly-chested Bulbul; returned there 13.00 – 15.00: Bristlehead, all black Black Magpie and a few Hornbills. Farewell to Hungarians in evening.
13/3 Rain 04.30 – 07.00. Up to Rhino Ridge: male Siberian Blue Robin and Striped Wren-Babbler at W7 en route. Nothing on ridge – trawled for Giant Pitta; Rufous Piculet near W10. To fruiting tree, nothing new. Pitta nest now with young at W5 N5. Siesta after lunch. 14.30 back to riverlet at W10 S5: Black-backed Kingfisher and Spectacled Bulbul. Watched 2 large Orang-utans in the rain. Tried unsuccessfully for Chestnut-necklaced Partridge, then back for dinner. Brief nocturnal foray – Buffy Fish-Owl and Leopard Cat.
14/3 Awaiting driver of pick-up to go to Rainforest Lodge – finally arrived at 08.15. Stopped 2km short of Lodge due to bad road, White-fronted Falconet en route. Soon heard Blue-banded Pitta near road but couldn’t get it out. Small fruiting trees alive with sunbirds and Yellow-eared Spiderhunters plus 1 Finsch’s Bulbul, Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle perched nearby. To Canopy Walkway then heavy rain (till late afternoon). On to Lodge grounds to seek Pygmy White-eye but only Great-billed Heron, on the river. Walked back for pick-up in rain (15.30) – Wrinkled Hornbill. Back into the grid at DVFC. Last night for army squad – the major and RSM had arrived – so much beer drunk by them, but none offered to us!
15/3 Main trail and grid all day: female Argus, 2 Black-capped Babblers, male Red-rumped Trogon, glimpses of Chestnut-necklaced Partridge and Grey-breasted Babbler. Back at Centre, had Brown-backed Flowerpecker in fruiting tree at last.
16/3 05.30 start to W7, then W5 N trail to fruiting tree: Large Green-Pigeon and much activity around 07.30 but too distant without scope. Tried to get to W12 N5 where Ash had had Black-throated Babbler and a possible Giant Pitta – too muddy, but Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler en route. Return circuit then W15, N5 for Bornean Wren-babbler; observed Green Broadbill with large leaf in beak and young Black-headed Pitta (at W10 N3), with Chestnut-necklaced Partridge nearby. Visited newly-completed tower but looked too precarious to climb alone. Back for lunch at 13.15; Waterfall Trail 16.30 – 18.00: 2 good sightings of male Argus, plus noisy Purple-breasted Philentoma, at 310m (centre at 210m).
17/3 Bit of a lie-in, breakfast and balcony birding: Bushy-crested Hornbill. Departed on minibus to Lahat Datu at 08.45, arriving 10.30; changed money at shop, eventually located speaker to replace dead one whilst Ashley e-mailed and sorted flights. Booked Uncle Tan’s Jungle Camp by phone. Took Sandakan minibus through oil palms to Kinabatangan River 13.15 – 14.30. Given drink and sweet tray at local house, then down river in boat 15.15 – 16.00, seeing lots of Long-tailed Macaques, a few crocodiles and distant Proboscis Monkeys. Very muddy long walk to Jungle Camp, badly damaged by recent floods. Birded along lake edge – Jerdon’s Baza, Violet Cuckoo and Wrinkled Hornbill. Good fish meal.
18/3 Dry day. Up at 06.00 for 06.25 – 08.15 boat trip on Kinabatangan River - many Proboscis Monkeys. Saw a Storm’s Stork in flight almost immediately and another distant bird later. Malay Civet under table in kitchen. After noodle breakfast decided to leave with Heinrich (who’d had White-crowned and Wrinkled Hornbills while we were boating) at 09.15. Few Proboscis Monkeys this journey but 1 Stork and some Silvered Leaf-monkeys. Long wait for cramped minibus to Sepilok. Labut B&B was full but owner took us to Sepilok B&B - 25R for basic room with fan and cold shower, good food at the restaurant. Afternoon in reserve mainly on Waterfall Trail – dead with only Chestnut-breasted Malkoha and Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler of note, and no animals until on way out when encountered aggressive male Pig-tailed Macaque.
19/3 Walked to Sepilok, entered at 06.15, then met watchman who, to our surprise, willingly let us go into the forest. Little again on Waterfall Trail. Back to B&B, then tried to find trail into forest at village without success. Met Robert Chong who does trips to Sukau and the bat caves for up to 4 people in his Landcruiser, but already booked up. Taxi to Sandakan (25R), all KK buses gone but caught minibus to Ranau (25R), arriving at 16.00. Too late for minibus to Poring Hot Springs but our driver kindly found us one to charter for 20R for the 19Km. No problem getting dormitory beds, chalets expensive. Decent meal after birding around Springs, etc.
20/3 Early birding around pools then to breakfast at 07.00 but slow service. Hike up to Langanan waterfall: Rufous-collared Kingfisher & White-necked Babbler on way but no pittas or Serpent-Eagle. Back early afternoon, birded pools - Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike - and then had a hot dip. Pint with Clive Carter from Cape Town, ex Zambia. Heavy rain after dark, dry before. Restaurant full of “little butterflies”, ie small, slow-moving flies.
21/3 Ashley up mountain in dark, I followed at 05.30. Stopped for Bornean Spiderhunter but reached bamboo by 07.00; nothing notable until Green Broadbill and Crested Jay then Mountain Serpent-Eagle circled overhead. Two hours in afternoon on canopy walk (41m high): a few birds including Large Woodshrike and Gold-whiskered Barbet, then heavy rain, easing at dusk so had another hot dip. Ash was stung badly by bees, also attacked my head but fortunately failed to score.
22/3 Up at 05.30 and straight up mountain: nothing except Bornean Spiderhunter & babblers including Short-tailed, until final waterfall when a pitta-like bird flushed from trackside vegetation and flew to the far side of the river where it disappeared. Thought it was Blue-banded but utv as they say. On way back, Maroon-breasted Philentoma at bat caves and Scaly-breasted Bulbul on the canopy walk. 10.50 bus to Mt Kinabalu National Park where rented chalet again and found other birders in residence. After lunch looked for Whitehead’s Trogon at Km1.5, failed but good flock of standard species then heavy rain for three hours. It eased, so back for Trogon – successful at last, a beauty too – and on for Everett’s Thrush which had been seen earlier by the Hungarians and Kalan Ickles at the lower end of Bukit Ular, but a 90 minute vigil gave nothing. No hot water in chalet, reported to Reception. Good evening at restaurant with four other birders. Back at chalet, heater had been repaired but the room was full of small flies, the door evidently having been left open.
23/3 Up at 04.15, walked quickly up to power station 4.25 – 5.05 and on to the mountain, reaching Km1.5 at 5.40. Next hour spent trawling for Friendly chap but only response came from one bird below ridge (2090m) - flight view only. Back to power station 07.10, down Bukit Ular trail, trawling for partridges - none but an Everett’s Thrush flushed and perched in a tree (1750m). The other birders had had a pre-dawn vigil for the Thrush, but had gone by time I reached the site, leaving a message of having seen it and an elusive Fruit-hunter (to my chagrin). As I waited folornly, two locals arrived with chainsaw and started to “tidy up” the trail! Proceeding down the road (1735m), I saw a bird fly across and perch up – a male Fruit-hunter with plum-sized fruit in beak! Further down, had brief views on both sides of road, in response to tape, of Red-breasted Partridge – almost a clean up! Celebrated with breakfast at the cafe and then left at 10.00.
Minibus to Kota Kinabalu, checked in Backpackers’ B&B near terminus for convenience (Faridas B&B in Likas Bay had been recommended) - friendly but noisy with TV on. Boat to Paulau Manuken 13.00 – 13.15: Tabon Scrubfowl, Mangrove Whistler, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Green Imperial Pigeons flying between islands, White-breasted Sea-Eagle, Pied Triller. Ready to be picked up at 15.00 as arranged but no boat, so had to wait till 16.00. Walked on airport road to mudflats with stilt houses (too far – should have taken taxi or bus) – many egrets including Chinese but few waders. Bus to Likas Bay – waterbirds but nothing outstanding. Good nase goreng (4R) at outdoor café overlooking sea, beautiful sunset.
24/3 Noisy night due to street traffic, up 03.00 for taxi to airport (20R) for 04.20 flight. Found my booking had been cancelled due to alleged failure to show up for an earlier flight (false) and this one was full! So much for Malaysian’s computer system! Had to wait until nearly 04.00 wait-listed, then given boarding pass. The British army contingent was on the flight, going home, which accounted for the lack of spare seats. Arrived at KL 06.50 on time. Coach to town and minibus transfer to main bus station (25R) – one hour but wrong bus station I eventually discovered, so taxi to Pekeliling bus station just in time for 10.00 bus (air-con) to Jerantot, arriving 13.15. Taxi to Kuala Tembeling jetty (16R) supposedly for 14.00 boat, which didn’t go until 14.30, with only four passengers (38R return), arriving Kuala Tehan 16.45. Booked in at Tahan Guesthouse (35R) a small en suite twin-bed room with fan and hot water. Birded down the road through coffee plantation – but nothing of note. Ate cheaply at floating restaurant. Light an hour later than in Sabah due to 1 hour time-change.
25/3 Boat aross river at 07.15 and did Lubok Simpon trail then Tahan Trenggan/ River Trail, Jenet Muda, Bukit Teresek ® canopy boardwalk, Temberling Trail, and Tahan Hide until c14.00. The few birds included Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle and male Argus; abortive tape duel with Peacock-Pheasant at first stream on Jenet Muda. Siesta then fruiting tree at resort - Little Green Pigeon, Green Iora. Swamp Loop was birdless but full of leeches – why don’t birds eat them? Fine till mid afternoon, then rained till 17.30.
26/3 Got boatman out of bed to cross river at 07.00, raining. To fruiting tree at resort – lots of bulbuls and a few pigeons but nothing outstanding - then Lubok Simpon, swimming area for some time (Straw-headed Bulbul, Blue-banded Kingfisher) ® Tabing Hide: Rail-babbler, Whiskered Tree-swift, Chestnut-naped Forktail. Bit further along trail trawling for pittas, then back to centre – Garnet Pitta calling from tree unseen. Heavy rain so returned to guesthouse c16.00.
27/3 Breakfast of egg rotis on house-boat with Chris at 7ish. To Swamp trail – good view of Peacock-Pheasant, but little else. Little Green-Pigeons and two other species at fruiting tree opposite hostel. 10.00 boat to Trenggan Lodge (10R one-way) – 10.35, walked nearly to Kumbang Hide and back till 15.00: Hooded Pitta, Pin-tailed Parrotfinch and Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher were pleasant surprises; Green Broadbill, Diard’s Trogon and Rufous-backed Kingfisher more expected; heard two Garnet and one Banded Pitta. 15.30 boat back, river almost in spate, with floating restaurants cut-off. Walked to Garnet Pitta site on River Trail, good view of Crested Fireback at last, and eventually spotted the Pitta, unconcerned and calling, c10m up on horizontal branch! Maroon-breasted Philentoma also seen there. Supper on Family Restaurant with other birders.
28/3 Dry today apart from a late short shower. First stop was Falconet tree at the resort - success at last. 08.00-12.00 boat trip up Tahan River to waterfall (90R) with Jörg et al: Abbott’s and Horsfield’s Babblers near there. No Masked Finfoot on river but Lesser Fish-Eagle, Blue-banded Kingfisher, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Helmeted and Black Hornbills, and lots of Black-and-red Broadbills nest-building over river, oriole-like. Afternoon on River Trail, Jenet Muda ® view point, Swamp Trail ® Tahan Hide but few birds: male Paradise-Kingfisher, none of the wanted Large Wren-Babbler, Black-throated Babbler or Banded Pitta. Great Slaty Woodpecker flew over resort c18.00. Crossed the river and walked on Nusa Camp road to no avail (while Chris and Steve had Long-tailed Parakeet over Tahan Hide clearing). Shower in evening, heavy rain in night.
29/3 Crossed river at 07.00 ® Tahan Trenggan to fruiting tree where Chris had Grey-bellied Bulbul previous day. No joy except Red-throated Barbet, with Large Wren-Babbler calling unseen nearby, but a beautiful Prevost’s Squirrel was a consolation. 10.00 boat to Trenggan for over-night stay. Walked to Kumbang Hide – Red-naped Trogon and elusive Large Wren-Babbler at last, at two sites; Dusky Broadbill at the Hide. Male Siberian Blue-Robin and Spotted Fantail on way back; Malaysian Nightjars flying over the river at dusk. Well equipped chalet (100R) but no power until 18.00. Beef dinner and milo, then nocturnal foray - nothing. Rained 15.30-17.30 only.
30/3 07.00 – 08.30 short trail to Trenggan River, flushing Long-billed Partridge and taping Black-throated Babbler; female imm. Siberian Blue Robin had no blue on tail. To Kumbang Hide after breakfast and up hill beyond: flock of Crested Jay, Black Magpie, Crimson-winged Woodpecker, Cinnamon-rumped Trogon, Black-throated Babbler but no Banded Pitta. On way back found Jörg listening to a calling Banded Pitta; crept in and had brief view. Giant Pitta called for a while but stopped before I could track it down. Heavy rain 15.00 - 16.00.
15.30 boat back, to guesthouse, then crossed river ® Tahan Hide at 17.15 where Chris and Steve were scoping. Good birding with many bulbuls flycatching, especially Black-headed, with Fairy Bluebirds, later replaced by Raquet-tailed Drongo, Blue-throated Bee-eaters, numerous swallows and swifts, and even an Indian Cuckoo. Also saw Great Slaty and Grey-and-buff Woodpeckers, Tiger and Brown Shrikes, Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Pied Hornbill, Black-bellied Malkoha, Black Magpie, White-throated Kingfisher and many insects, especially flying ants - until 19.15. Water level had risen again so ate at Indian restaurant – only one reachable on foot – discovered that “chicken chop” was the breast, explaining why all previous chicken had been dark meat (and bones etc).
31/3 07.00 – 08.00 forest edge on Nusa Camp road - some birds but nothing new. Quick breakfast to catch scheduled 08.30 boat to Yong Hide, taken by Chris and Steve yesterday – no boat, so finished up chartering one for 30R per journey. Finally left at 09.00 but dropped off at village instead of Hide jetty, discovered afterwards – no luck with Banded Pitta seen well by C & S yesterday. (Village was suffering from an outbreak of elephantitis!) Returned to boat at 11.30. Back at resort, to fruiting tree on River Trail – only two birds in 30 minutes – Grey-bellied (tick) and Grey-cheeked Bulbuls. Then to Garnet Pitta site - no response - Tabing Hide - female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher en route. Hard climb up to Bukit Teresek 120m – 350m, then well down when met Chris and Steve coming back up for Black-throated Babbler, Red-naped Trogon and Large Wren-Babbler, all seen earlier by Chris, who had also heard Banded Pitta at first stream on Jenet Muda, so I returned there - no joy. On to Tahan Hide clearing at 17.30, staying until 18.50: Large Green Pigeon, Falconet. Ate at Family Restaurant, now accessible from our side. Steve had had Masked Finfoot on 13.00 boat trip!
1/4 Having booked boat for a one hour Finfoot trip on Tahan River at 07.30 (40R), had breakfast but no boat appeared, eventually got one at 07.55: Malaysian Blue Flycatcher and Lesser Fish-Eagle but no Finfoot. Back to Jenet Muda for Banded Pitta and Large Wren-Babbler, hearing neither, but did see Black-and-white and Finsch’s Bulbuls at fruiting tree and another bathing at Jenet Muda stream. ® clearing (Brown Shrike), hoping for parrots – none - then part of Swamp Loop where a few babblers were seen. Across river at 13.30 to confirm 15.00 boat, only to find it was leaving at 14.00! Uneventful trip to Kuala Tembeling 15.50, then taxi to Fraser’s Hill (150R). Reached the Gap at 18.30 – road closed, lots of traffic waiting to go up, so decided to stay at Gap Resthouse (41R for huge, slightly seedy room) where fish and chips (12R) plus beer (5.5R) were a welcome change. Started raining – heavily.
2/4 Left 07.00, walked nearly 2km along road to Raub – much bamboo but no birds, then 09.15 bus ® Fraser’s Hill. Did Hemmant Trail (Grey-breasted/ Hill Patridge, Lesser Shortwing and a nice flock), Bishop’s and Maxwell’s Trails (long): a few flocks but only Speckled Piculet and Rufous-browed Flycatcher of note. Reached Concord Nursery 13.30 then walked down new road until 16.30 (11km, rain from 15.30): few birds but good views of a Siamang. Another 2km along Raub road but still no bamboo birds – 3 unidentifiable pigeons in flight, 1 Slaty-backed Forktail. Fillet steak and chips at The Gap, not quite up to best western standards but what do you expect for 22R? Rain continued, ruling out nocturnal birding.
3/4 06.45 up hill 2km for Marbled Wren-Babbler (heard at 1km) – saw a brown robin with long tail on road and wires – presumed female White-tailed but no white evident; then down KKB road 1Km, nothing ® 08.30 breakfast, 09.15 (09.25) bus ® Fraser’s Hill, checked into Puncak Hotel (33R), cash at Maybank. Walked down old road back to The Gap: Black Laughingthrush, Blue Nuthatch & Siamang at 1080m but little else of note. Raub road for 3km, hitched lift other way towards KKB 1.5km past The Gap, walked back to Resthouse – nothing. 14.45 rain started so visited Resthouse, where found Field Guides group of 14 led by Rose Anne Rowlett and Dennis Yong, including Pearl Jordan whom I knew from Bolivia. Gave me a lift to Fraser’s Hill (15.30) where I met Allen Jeyarajasingham and Lim Aun Tiah; drove with them to High Pines garden until 19.00 – Long-billed Partridge calling, Little Slaty Flycatcher, Black-eared Shrike Babbler and a beautiful Banded Linsang, but no Brown Bullfinch or Cutia. Dined at Spices.
4/4 06.45 to gate with Allen for Whistling-Thrush - no joy but Red-headed Trogon seen. Roti breakfast then High Pines again - nothing new; the Dump – Black-browed Barbet, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike; and Telecom Loop (10.30 – 13.30): Red-bearded Bee-eater, Fire-tufted Barbet, Black Eagle, Sultan Tit, Mountain Bulbul. Farewell to Allen and Lim Aun Tiah who returned to KL. Afternoon on trails – Bishop’s (Long-tailed Broadbill with large cicada), road above had fruiting trees with Fire-tufted Barbet, Blue Nuthatch, Bay Woodpecker, Black-and-crimson Oriole; Hemmant Trail ® Mager Trail (found with difficulty) – no birds till end when big party included White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Blue Nuthatch and possibly Cutia. Tried for Whistling-Thrush again without success. Good satay dinner near mosque. Only light showers in afternoon.
5/4 06.30 – 06.50 failed to see Whistling-Thrush again. Then Hemmant Trail, Bishop’s Trail, fruiting tree, Hemmant Trail till 08.50: few birds included Large Scimitar-Babbler; nice views of 2 Siamang, 1+ Banded Langur. Big breakfast then walk to Dump – Banded Broadbill, Ferruginous Flycatcher but no Pitta, so continued down road to waterfall (5Km) – nothing except Blue-banded Kingfisher and Forktail. Lift back with church people, to fruiting tree but little activity except F-t Barbets; Pygmy Wren-babbler at top of Hemmant Trail. 13.30 walk down old road for 3Km (only seeing Falconet), then lift to The Gap. Raub road unproductive except for a large fruiting tree with bulbuls and treeswifts. 17.00 lift back to Fraser’s Hill then Bishop’s Trail – Buff-breasted Babbler ® Hemmant Trail – probable L-t Broadbill. Dinner at Quest Resort, chat with Field Guides who’d had similar birds.
6/4 Up at 06.00, walked to Dump in dark but nothing. Breakfast then lift to The Gap at 08.00, walked Raub road again and soon had single White-hooded Babbler feeding alone in bamboo. Continued to fruiting tree – watched for 30 minutes, plenty of bulbuls and Fairy Bluebird, a Bamboo Woodpecker flew past, called with typical woodpecker 4 or 5 note sound, landed in nearby bamboo and worked its way down the trunk! Silver-breasted Broadbill and Green-billed Malkoha en route back. Lift with first car up at 11.00 to Fraser’s Hill. Walked Abu Suradi and Mager Trails seeing usual species plus shy Black Laughingthrush ® High Pines, nothing much there. To hotel, packed and checked out at 14.00 – caught 16.00 bus to KKB ® 17.00 (2R.30), bus to Tanjung Malim (20Km, 1R.70) ® 18.00. Walked to railway station, eventually got ticket (37.50R for second class berth, booked earlier by phone) and waited till 22.55 for train, in torrential rain (first of day).
7/4 Reasonable journey though noisy at first, to border at 08.00 when discovered Kalan, the American from Sepilok/Kinabalu was in next berth, but was having to return to KL to collect his passport! Long time getting through customs, Ringit changed by train guard at good rate; delay leaving but eventually reached Haad Yai at 10.05 when discovered time was one hour different, ie almost on the scheduled time of 09.00. Taken to minibus terminal for 09.30 minibus to Krabi, paid 300B for ticket but bus was full so, after big row, got refund and went to main bus terminal for 10.00 (hourly) air-conditioned bus to Krabi (153B) – fast, half empty; arrived Klong Thom 13.30, including 15 minute lunch at Trang. Motorbike (100B) to Khao Pra Bang Khram (18Km). Most of road recently tarmaced – all drivable in car but taxi drivers I asked wouldn’t do it. Booked into Riverside Lodge - bamboo hut on stilts (300B per day full board) with mattress and mosquito net.
Main trail to pool, busy with locals, then along “wet-feet” trail – many flowerpeckers and 1 Thick-billed Spiderhunter. On to dark trail D east, thunder and some rain; taped out Red-crowned Barbet near road, then 90 minutes on Trail U, nothing. Good meal and beer but no electricity tonight.
8/4 06.30 – 09.30 Trail U ® Trail M: Drongo Cuckoo, white male Paradise-Flycatcher but little else. Breakfast then 10.00 – 12.00 good birding on Trail U: Orange-breasted Trogon, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Great Iora, Large Wren-Babbler, Rufous-winged Philentoma, barbets at fruiting tree, then brief view of male Gurney’s Pitta at 11.45 at U18. Back to Riverside because Yothin was supposed to come at noon. He didn’t so took motorbike to his house; wife was there, motorcycled to shop to ring him, then took me; was told he would come to Riverside at 20.00, bike back. Trail U again, quiet except for a few babblers, to Emerald Pool and beyond for a dip – many flowerpeckers including Yellow-vented, Munias, Thick-billed Pigeon, Grey-and-buff-Woodpecker. Back to Riverside at 18.00, to find Kalan had arrived. Good food. Yothin came and agreed to guide tomorrow – claimed his rate was $150! and that he surveyed Gurney’s Pitta for Oriental Bird Club mid April to mid June.
9/4 After 06.00 breakfast, to Trail N with Yothin, tried some time for Banded Pitta. Heard Gurney’s briefly on boundary trail, and many other species, seeing little. 10.45 back to Riverside for lunch then motorbike to primary forest: Malaysian Honeyguide, Banded Bay Cuckoo, flock of Large Woodshrike, heard Banded Kingfisher and Red-throated Bee-eater; pair of Green Broadbill noisy with wing-fluttering distraction display. Down main road to primary forest, heard loud “single note” calls of an eagle-owl – found to be Barred, seen after it moved twice; then heavens opened and we were marooned for over an hour in very heavy rain. Then to Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle site but damp and dim; did see Common Woodshrike - first record for Yothin (Barred Eagle-Owl was only his second) and Moustached Babbler. Back to Riverside at 18.00, paid Yothin $20. Kalan had failed to see Gurney’s.
10/4 Breakfast at 06.00, till 10.00 on Gurney’s hunt without success, only a single call heard. Little else except Large Wren-babbler. ® Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle site but little except a Black Drongo and Drongo Cuckoo. Back to Trail U then heavy rain at 12.30 for most of day, ceasing late afternoon. 14.00 4-wheel drive to town (400B), then bus to Krabi. Songthew to town, checked in at new Riverside Hotel (Tel: 612128 Fax: 612301), 350B for large clean room with all facilities including TV, except hot water. Booked bus back to Kuala Lumpur and boat to mangroves etc. Ate reasonable pizza and ice-cream, for a change.
11/4 Virtually no rain, though cloudy morning. 07.00 – 10.00 boat trip in mangroves – Brown-winged Kingfisher and Pitta but no Finfoot or Copper Sunbird. Boatman willing but ignorant, tide low and boat poor manoeuvrability. Then to mudflats in bay – waders too distant really but 3 Nordmann’s Greenshanks, no stints. Some Greater Sandplovers with white crowns and mostly in summer plumage, whereas Lessers were not. To Chicken Island 11.15 – 12.15, had to wade across to island proper: Great-billed Heron in flight over sea and 3 Black-naped Tern. Back 14.00 – 15.00 to high tide wader roost on shingle, not posts as in JV’s day, but boatman too close and most interesting waders flew off. ® Krabi at 16.00 (1,600B for day on boat). Walked to other side of town to secondary mangroves (30 mins) to search for Copper-throated Sunbird – only 1 in flight, Plain-throated fairly common. Good value quality meal at restaurant near pier/ open air eating stalls.
12/4 06.30 to pool behind hotel: Lesser Whistling-Ducks, Coot, Lesser Coucal – all trip ticks. In town saw Mr Dai who claimed a recent Finfoot and 4 Nordmann’s, wanted 300+B an hour. Songthew to bus terminal just in time to catch 07.15 bound for Phuket. Off at Ban Nai Chong, Km12 where JV had malkohas, spiderhunters, Green Iora, etc. Long narrow strip of forest but little activity apart from Tiger Shrike and Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike so aborted and took motorbike through spectacular coastal scenery to Krabi and on to mangroves again. Here found flowering mangroves with White-eyes but no Copper-throated Sunbird, heard Mangrove Whistler. Collected from hotel at 10.40 by minibus which then visited other hotels etc and finally left Krabi at 11.30 ® Haad Yai 15.15. 15.30 ® border (1 hour) in different, crowded mini-bus, then hung around duty free supermart before proceeding to Butterworth, arriving 20.30 (19.30 Thai time). Air-conditioned luxury coach to KL left at 23.30 so had to eat and chill out in scruffy bus terminal.
13/4 Arrived Kuala Lumpur 05.10, fairly peaceful journey. Taxi to Kuala Selangor, Taman Alam (Nature Park), arriving 06.30 (nearly 70km) – had agreed 40R but driver demanded 140R, despite meter saying 37R. Driver refused to take bags out of boot so I had to take car key and remove them against his will, giving him 50R. Found warden’s house and he soon opened a chalet, well-equipped (45R). So into reserve shortly after dawn: highlight was Leopard Cat with two half-size juvs, mostly walking along track in front of me, young sometimes underneath mun. Other animals were 2 otters and large monitors swimming, and many Long-tailed Macaques and Silvered Leaf-Monkeys, some of former jumping from trees into pool in heat of day. Birds included stellar Mangrove Pitta responding to tape from 2m perch, 3 species of woodpecker in same area of mangrove boardwalk, and Slaty-breasted Rail.
After lunch at 99 restaurant in town, walked up hill - fruiting trees but no birds of note. Siesta then back in reserve 16.15–19.00 – Lesser Adjutant, Laced Woodpecker - before returning to hill for owls – none, despite large starling roost. Flushed medium/large owl during nocturnal walk in reserve but nothing else.
14/4 06.30 – 07.30 in reserve: Large-tailed Nightjar and Night-Heron but no mammals. “Taxi” to airport (130R) but broke down with oil leak after 30 minutes. Replaced by driver’s friend after 40 minute delay, arriving at airport at 09.25 – no problem at quiet check-in. 11.00 flight to London on time.
The following species which would be new to me are regularly seen; there are others such as Bulwer's Pheasant, Mountain Peacock-Pheasant and Hose's Broadbill which are seen but rarely:
Masked Finfoot tnTN, K
Yellow-vented Pigeon FH
Jambu Fruit-Dove -almost anywhere
Long-tailed Parakeet TN, KS
Moustached Cuckoo DV, KNC
Blue-rumped Parrot TN
Reddish Scops-Owl DV,TN
Spotted Wood-Owl KNC
Brown Wood-Owl DV
Sunda Frogmouth DV, Sukau
Gould’s Frogmouth TN, KNC
Mountain Barbet TK
Bornean Barbet PHS
Streak-breasted Woodpecker K
Giant Pitta DV,TN
Blue-winged Pitta DV,TN, KNC
Rusty-naped Pitta FH
Blue-banded Pitta DV,PHS
Malayan Whistling-Thrush FH
Chestnut-capped Thrush TN
Pygmy White-eye DV
LIST OF MAMMALS
This list follows the sequence and scientific nomenclature of Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo by Junaidi Payne, Charles Francis & Karen Phillipps, 1998, The Sabah Society.
Slender Treeshrew, Tupala gracilis
Small numbers at Poring Hot Springs.
Lesser Treeshrew, Tupala minor
A few Danum Valley CA.
Mountain Treeshrew, Ptilocercus montana
A few at Mt Kinabalu NP.
Common Treeshrew, Tupala glis
A few Poring Hot Springs.
Maroon (Red Leaf) Langur, Presbytis rubicunda
Common Danum Valley FC, a few at Poring.
Proboscis Monkey, Nasalis larvatus
Fairly common along the Kinabatangan River to Uncle Tan’s Jungle Camp.
Long-tailed (Crab-eating) Macaque, Macaca fasciculais
A few Danum Valley FC, common along the Kinabatangan River near Sukau and very common and at Kuala Selangor and Taman Negara.
Pig-tailed Macaque, Macaca nemestrina
A few Danum Valley and Sepilok.
Silvered Langur (Leaf-monkey), Presbytis cristata
Common Kuala Selangor Nature Park and 1 troop along the Kinabatangan River.
Banded Langur (Leaf-monkey), P. melalophos
Fairly common Taman Negara.
Dusky Langur (Leaf-monkey), P. obscura
Common at Fraser’s Hill.
Siamang, Hylobates syndacylus
A few at Fraser’s Hill.
Bornean Gibbon, Hylobates muelleri
A few Danum Valley FC.
Agile Gibbon, Hylobates agilis
Heard at Taman Negara and Krabi but never seen.
Orang-utan, Pongo pymaeus
Several Danum Valley FC.
Kinabalu Squirrel, Callosciurus baluensis
A few Kinabalu National Park.
Grey-bellied Squirrel, Callosciurius caniceps
Several Taman Negara.
Plantain Squirrel, C. not atus
The most common squirrel seen throughout.
Prevost’s Squirrel, Callosciurus prevostii
A few Taman Negara.
Jentink’s Squirrel, Sundasciurusjentinki
A few at Kinabalu National Park.
Bornean Mountain Ground Squirrel, Dremomys everetti
Small numbers at Kinabalu National Park.
Three-striped Ground-squirrel Lariscus insignis
Several Taman Negara.
Striped Tree-squirrel Tamiops macclellandi
Common at Fraser’s Hill.
Giant Squirrel, Ratufa affinis
2 Danum Valley FC.
Horse-tailed Squirrel, Sundasciurus hippurus
1 Danum Valley FC.
Plain Pygmy, Squirrel, Exilisciurus exilis
A few Danum Valley FC.
Malay Weasel, Mustela nudipes
1 Rhino Ridge Danum Valley FC.
Smooth Otter, Lutra perspicillata
2 swimming Kuala Selangor.
Small-toothed Palm Civet, Arctogalidia trivirgata
A single sighting in a large tree during the day at DVFC.
Malay Civet, Viverra tangalunga
1 Uncle Tan’s Jungle Camp.
Banded Linsang, Prionodon Iinsang
1 High Pines, Fraser’s Hill — a real beauty.
Leopard Cat Fells, bengalensis
1 regularly at the pond at night, sometimes early morning at DVFC; 1 with 2 juv.s at Kuala
Selangor early morning, a magnificent sight.
Bearded Pig, Sus barbatus
A few DVFC.
Eurasian Wild Pig, Sus scrofa
Bornean Yellow Muntjac, Muntiacus atherodes
A few Danum Valley FC.
Greater and Lesser Mouse-Deer, Tragulus napu & javanicus
A few Danum Valley FC and Taman Negara, difficult to separate the species.