9th-26th July 2007
See photo page here
In 2005, we planned and booked a three week tour of Peninsular Malaysia
and Borneo - but a week pre-departure, Julia fell off a ladder and broke
her back. Trip cancelled! Two years on, we set out to slay the ghost,
with a two week trip, this time just to western (i.e. Peninsular) Malaysia.
Monday 9th July
A nice change in that our flight didn't depart until late afternoon,
so we took our time before catching the 1315 bus for Heathrow. And then,
near disaster! An accident on the M3 south of Basingstoke closed the
motorway both ways for an hour - dire premonitions of missing the flight...
but we did get to T4 in time (albeit with the price to pay of separate
seats on the plane), and breathed a sigh of relief
only for us
to board the plane, which had arrived late, and be told that we had
missed our slot and would be on the tarmac for an hour! This was getting
bad - connecting flight due to leave from Schiphol for KL at 2100
And sure enough, we missed it
grrr! KLM "swung" into
action (rather slowly) and we were sent to the local Ibis airport hotel
for the night - with the promise of a replacement flight tomorrow morning
Typically bloody awful airport hotel, rubbish shuttle
buses etc. The curse of Malaysia strikes again?
See photo page here
Tuesday 10th July
Up at 0630 and after a big breakfast, we were back at Schiphol Airport
(Egyptian Goose added to the Big Year List en route!), this time for
the 0920 to Stockholm, of all places, to connect with a Malaysian Airlines
flight to Kuala Lumpur. The first step went fine, and we found the gate
OK at Årlanda
only to be informed by the Malaysian staff
that KLM had not confirmed our flight properly, so we were still only
on standby! Oh no
the curse, the curse
Finally, after much distress and Julia simply wanting to go home, we
fluked a couple of seats on the flight, and got aboard, only to find
again that we were separated by acres of rows. Some neat shuffling and
gentle persuasion got us together on an aisle, but sadly not far from
some appalling children
.and some very sweet, good-natured ones
too, it has to be said.
The less said about the next 11 hours, the better - we left at 1320,
and got in to KL at 0630 local time. Grim!
See photo page here
Wednesday 11th July
KLIA was a wonder to behold - "the best airport in the world",
allegedly, and I can see why people say so. We had a coffee, changed
money, and then easily arranged a taxi to get us straight up to Fraser's
Hill - planning to arrive there a day early, despite being a day late,
if you see what I mean, given that we were unfortunately forced to abandon
our "pre-extension" sidetrip to Kuala Selangor. The taxi was
fine, and we dozed our way to the foot of the hills, where the switchbacks
woke us up and made us feel travel-sick! Finally, in cloudy, cool conditions,
we got to Fraser's Hill, and checked in at the Pine Resort at the east
end of town - top floor of a big pile of apartments - we have three
bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen and a huge sitting room! No shortage
First plan was a thee hour doze (easily accomplished), and we then
dragged ourselves out for an orientation wander into the town - a delightful,
well-kept little hill station, all very manageable and easy - great!
And some good birds straight off too - Long-tailed Sibia, Silver-eared
Mesia, Pacific Swallow, Black-throated Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter,
Mountain Fulvetta, Javan Cuckoo-shrike, Little Pied Flycatcher, Chestnut-capped
Laughing-thrush and Blue Whistling Thrush with young
plus a few
monkeys too! And a Mountain Scops-owl singing after dark
We fluked an encounter with the famous Mr Durai at his information
office in town, and had a chat with a British birder called Sam Woods
we met too - he's been here before, and is about to go off and lead
a Tropical Birding tour in Borneo. Post a lightweights' dinner choice
of fish and chips, we did a spot of shopping, and ambled slowly back
along the trails and minor roads. Our bodies still think it's yesterday
(or tomorrow) morning, and it'll probably be a bit grim tomorrow
we're here, and we'll cope!
See photo page here
Thursday 12th July
Not a bad night's sleep - interrupted by a couple of "wide-awake"
sessions, plus Julia getting the alarm clock wrong again (see Poland,
) and getting up at 0410 thinking it was an hour later!
Still, some spectacular moths by the lights, until the Long-tailed Sibias
had most of them.
I finally woke up quite late (sun up c.0700), and we trudged down to
breakfast - not great, but filling enough. Then out into the field for
a lengthy morning along the Bishop's Trail. Lots of good stuff, but
as usual in tropical forests, often quite slow going at times. The common
birds are clearly Long-tailed Sibia, Mountain Fulvetta and Silver-eared
Mesia, but we also scored with Green-billed Malkoha, Fire-tufted Barbet,
Grey-chinned Minivet, Green Jay, male and female Large Niltava, Black-eared
and White-browed Shrike-babbler, White-throated Fantail, Rufous-browed
Flycatcher, Golden Babbler, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Black-and-Crimson
Oriole, Mountain Imperial Pigeon and even a Blyth's Hawk-eagle.
It was still hardly hot, but we were quite tired by 1230 or so, and
we took lunch in the strawberry farm opposite the mosque - strawberry
juice all round plus a noodle dish and chocolate ice cream. Yum. We
then did the inevitable over-borrowing of our stamina resources, wandered
on towards Ye Olde Smokehouse, didn't see a lot, and got hot and bothered.
So we trudged back home for another post jet-lag kip, before heading
out once more at 1730 or so (after Yellow-vented Bulbul by the hotel)
for a final thrash of the day on the Bishop's and Hammant Trails. Still
pretty quiet in the woods, but we did finally nail down Lesser Shortwing
on the trail by the stream, just above the golf course.
Dinner was taken in the Hillview Restaurant under Puncak Inn - more
excellent Chinese food and a big, cold beer. We also managed to get
in some shopping, including (amazingly) Rooibos tea, and walked home
in the dark, grateful for the Petzl headtorch! A final surprise awaited
us in the form of a highly confiding and showy Brown Wood Owl, right
above the path in a pine tree by the hotel reception! Awesome photos
See photo page here
Friday 13th July
Up and ready at dawn, but then a very heavy shower passed through,
and we had a rather pessimistic spell watching the rain! But it stopped,
and we had breakfast on time, via a slightly tatty but impressive Atlas
Moth. We met up with Durai at 0815, along with an Austrian couple (he
was actually an ex-pat Brit), and Barry and Kristen Thomson (he an Orcadian)
from California - all very international.
We set off down the New Road - quiet, cool and cloudy, with plenty
of birds to see - highlights included Red-headed Trogon, Buff-rumped
Woodpecker, Black-browed and Fire-tufted Barbets, Slaty-backed Forktail,
Ochraceous, Mountain and Black-crested Bulbuls, Scarlet Minivet, the
much wanted Sultan Tit, Everett's White-eye, Chestnut-crowned Warbler,
Green-billed and Red-billed Malkohas, Verditer, Hill Blue and Rufous-browed
Flycatchers, Blue-winged Minla, White-bellied Yuhina, Fire-breasted
Flowerpecker (sadly only a female
), Orange-bellied Leafbird and
Crested Serpent-eagle - bird-packed and really good fun, despite having
to turn round and slog our way back up the hill!
We were back by noon, and chilled out for a bit with cold drinks, raisin
bread, garlic peanuts and dodgy liquorice fig rolls
Post-snooze (getting into some excellent habits here), we trogged off
once more, in very grey and gloomy (and cool) conditions, this time
towards town (via Rufescent Prinia and a superb family party of Blue
Nuthatches), and then uphill via the rather slippery Kindersley Trail,
and on via Mager Road towards the gatehouse at the top of the Old Road.
Rather few birds about (no great surprise given it felt like Scotland
on a cool day!), but some quality in the shape of Blue-winged Minla,
Green Jay, Little Spiderhunter and Barred Cuckoo-dove - plus some very
dull Large-billed Crows! And we're starting to get our calls sorted
to a certain extent!
Dinner tonight was at the rather overpriced and obsequiously staffed
Shahzan Inn, and then we dropped in at the town centre for a quick shop,
taxi arrangements with Durai, and a mini-Internet session. Lazy gits
that we are, we even got driver Sammy to take us home!
See photo page here
Saturday 14th July
A very long day today, after a night when neither of us had a lot of
sleep, for some reason. We got picked up by Sammy at 0800, and he dropped
us at the start of the Telecom Loop - thus avoiding a time-consuming
walk through duff habitat. We were primed for high altitude specialities
and constant waves of forest birds, but the reality was rather different
- we saw rather few birds, and indeed no new ones at all - the highlights
being just Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Blyth's Hawk-eagle, Rufous-browed
Flycatcher, White-browed Flycatcher-shrike, Golden Babbler and Buff-throated
Babbler (which admittedly we hadn't actually seen before, only heard).
Rather deflated, we trudged down the hill, with a local dog in tow,
and made our way across to the Mager Road, and down to the Upper Gate
on the Old Road. It was by now after 1200, and we photographed a few
Banded Langurs, and genned ourselves up for tomorrow's planned dawn
run for the endemic Malayan Whistling-thrush.
While we checked out the gully, a bird wave materialised, containing
Blue-winged Minla, Blue Nuthatch, both Chestnut-capped and Chestnut-crowned
Laughing-thrushes, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Bronzed Drongo and various
common forest birds. But what's that blue thrush-like bird? Surely not?
Oh yes it was - a Malayan Whistling-thrush kicked out of the gully and
started feeding in the low vegetation towards the back! Awesome - not
least because it saves us getting up ridiculously early for naff views
under the streetlight!
A celebratory lunch at the Hillview Restaurant followed (excellent
prawns), and we felt new energy enter our legs. So we decided to stay
out in the field, and headed off down the Jeriau Waterfall Road, past
the Smokehouse and down into the forest, on a very steep, twisting road.
We found ourselves another good flock, with Greater Yellownape, Speckled
Piculet, Golden Babbler and various others, and saw yet more Banded
Langurs - but we only heard the Siamang Gibbons Sam told us had been
around earlier. Hope we catch up with them
Still fired-up (if hot), we refreshed ourselves with strawberry juice
and chocolate ice-cream, and after working the Hemmant Trail (Little
Pied Flycatcher, Large Niltava), we overshot the hotel (now crawling
with weekenders up from KL) and went on down the New Road (with Grey-throated
Babbler new en route), hoping for hornbills over the lower forests,
but not succeeding - though we did score with Slaty-backed Forktail,
Ochraceous Bulbul, Black-browed Barbet, Rufescent Prinia, Black-crested
Bulbul, Blyth's Hawk-eagle and a very confusing juvenile male Black-throated
Finally, we called it a day, and wearily trudged back up the hill to
the hotel - over 10 miles of tramping today, and constant up and down
- knackered. Sadly, the weekend resort atmosphere is in full swing as
I writer, with obnoxious (and bad - Bee Gees, Osmonds, late Black Sabbath)
music being played at some volume down at the restaurant. How will we
get on? Watch this space
See photo page here
Sunday 15th July
Well, not too bad at all - they did stop the music at 2300 as promised.
We woke up to the sound of more activity downstairs (but on schedule),
and were regaled with a 200+ strong aerobics and Tai-Chi session before
breakfast - we only just beat the locust-like plague descending on the
We escaped as swiftly as was decent, and walked across to town (via
Chestnut-crowned Laughing-thrushes on the Shahzan Inn bird tables),
and then on down the Old Road - traffic was very light, and we had a
very pleasant 3½ hour stroll downhill. Birds were again at something
of a premium, but with patience and persistence, we saw some good ones
- Pygmy Blue Flycatcher, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Blue-winged Leafbird,
Crimson-winged Woodpecker, and at the last stand of bamboo the much-anticipated
and hoped-for Black Laughing-thrush - what a great bird! Also in the
various flocks were Grey-chinned Minivet, Golden Babbler, Blue-winged
Minla and all the commoner high altitude species. We also heard Gibbons
hooting and whooping, but simply couldn't get to see them. A major invertebrate
highlight was an evil-looking, eight-inch long centipede, with red legs
and blue "anal appendages", with its head apparently stuck
inside a large snail! Who would win? We didn't have time to wait and
We finally emerged after eight kilometres at The Gap, managed to get
a cup of tea out of the Resthouse staff, and sat down to watch the Black-crested
Bulbuls, Magpie Robins and even another new species - Orange-bellied
Flowerpecker. Sammy was there right on time to pick us up at 1300, and
we drove back up the New Road in ever-increasing low cloud and rain,
and returned to the town centre for lunch at the Hillview, whereupon
the heavens opened and we sat happily watching the tropical downpour
with beer and great Chinese food!
We did a spot of shopping, and then walked back in the now diminishing
rain for that traditional siesta back at the ranch. The rain only stopped
at about 1700, and Julia had had enough - but Simon (manic as ever)
headed out for a walk down the New Road once more. Two new species gave
poor views - Lesser Yellownape well down the road, and a fly-by Large
Hawk-cuckoo. A Red-headed Trogon called unseen in the forest, and variety
was provided by Orange-bellied Leafbird, Green-billed Malkoha, Ochraceous
Bulbul, Black-browed Barbet, Slaty-backed Forktail, a smart male Flame-breasted
Flowerpecker and still more Banded Langurs.
See photo page here
Monday 16th July
A superb day! We got up extra early at 0600, skipped breakfast, and
set off for the Jelai Highland Resort, where photographic opportunities
were promised. No disappointment! This resort is renowned for attracting
numerous insects to its lights overnight, and consequently stacks of
birds a first light. We had loads of confiding species - Long-tailed
Sibia and Chestnut-capped Laughing-thrush were the most numerous, but
also present were White-throated Fantail, Verditer Flycatcher, Javan
Cuckoo-shrike, Blue-winged Minla, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Mountain
Fulvetta, Golden Babbler and others. Fantastic stuff.
We then trogged on up High Pines road - no great specialities, but
still several nice flocks of montane species, plus both Mountain Imperial
Pigeon and Little Cuckoo-dove, and Large Niltava. We decided against
trying the very overgrown (4km long and one way!) High Pines trail,
and instead dropped back down the hill to try our luck on the Bishop's
Trail once more. We heard some gamebirds calling in the forest en route,
but no luck in seeing them
Instantly much better on the trail though, with a pair of Red-headed
Trogons right above the trail, the male showing very well. Shortly afterwards,
Simon glimpsed a wild pig (either Wild Boar or Bearded Pig) panicking
away up the hill from a wallow, and almost instantly, we found a party
of about 10 Malaysian Partridges grubbing about on the forest floor
- very confidingly! Were they perhaps following the pig and finding
food where it had grubbed up the mud?
Buoyed up by our success (although the less said about the leeches
after yesterday's rain the better), we emerged onto the road, and proceeded
to be frustrated once more by calling gibbons! While scanning the distant
canopy, however, we did pick up a dark-topped, white-underneath bird
which had us flummoxed. Cuckoo? Large flycatcher? Julia finally solved
the problem - raptor! It was a Black-thighed Falconet! Distant views,
but pretty awesome once you saw what it was!
Still buzzing, we emerged onto the main road at the start of the Heermant
Trail, where a high-pitched double whistle greeted us. Investigation
quickly turned up another new species - Pygmy Wren-babbler! Superb stuff.
The Heermant Trail was better than on any of other visits too - we finally
worked out that many of the drongoes we have been seeing are actually
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongoes - without rackets (shouldn't that be "racquets"?
Not according to the bird book!) Also here was a large flock of small
passerines - all the usual suspects, plus Blue Nuthatch and an excellent
Mountain Leaf Warbler, quite a scarce bird at Fraser's Hill it seems.
Julia also finally got good views of Rufous-winged Fulvetta and Buff-throated
We emerged feeling pretty happy, and headed off to the Shahzan Inn
for a late coffee, via a long (and final) chat with Sam about The Gap,
Peru, PNG and New Caledonia. After that, and having changed money and
done our postcards, it was lunchtime (really hard work, this), and once
again the Hillview Restaurant did the business!
Recharged, we hiked off north to the Jeriau Waterfall road, and dropped
slowly down the hill - again, lots of birds about! Highlights here included
yet more flocks of forest birds, with a new species in the form of Yellow-bellied
Warbler, and a Striated Swallow of the (probably splittable) rufous
form badia by the rubbish dump - also Black-and-Crimson Oriole. We turned
round after about 2km, and headed back uphill to a superb "Devonshire
Cream Tea" (actually pretty authentic!) at the Ye Olde Smokehouse,
where the Long-tailed Sibias also enjoyed their afternoon feed
But we weren't done yet! The final stretch of road up to town produced
a brief Striped Tit-babbler in the roadside bracken, and finally we
worked out what an annoying stuttering whistling we had heard two days
ago was - Golden Babbler.
The very last birds on the approach to the hotel were a Dark-necked
Tailorbird feeding a juvenile - an excellent close to an action-packed
and very enjoyable day - and just to repeat, we even had a CREAM TEA!
See photo page here
Tuesday 17th July
Up at the normal time today, and down for breakfast. Durai turned up
as arranged at 0800 (with a Bay Woodpecker calling unseen from the trees
above the hotel), and we got into the car with Sammy for the drive down
the Old Road. We stopped some 2km short of The Gap, and birded our way
downhill for the last stretch. Once again, there were some disappointingly
quiet passages, but we did pick up some excellent birds too, notably
at least two Orange-breasted Trogons, Gold-whiskered Barbet, Greater
Racket-tailed Drongo (with rackets), Yellow-bellied Warbler, a brief
Emerald Dove, a superb Red-bearded Bee-eater and a brief White-tailed
Once we hit The Gap, we headed west along the Kuala Kulu Bahan road
for about another two kilometres - birds included White-bellied Yuhina,
a superb pair of Maroon Woodpeckers, Ashy Bulbul, Pale Blue Flycatcher,
more Gold-whiskered Barbets, Stripe-throated Tit-babbler, Sultan Tit
and overhead a few Silver-rumped Needletails and a Blyth's Hawk-eagle.
Sadly, still no Broadbills or Hornbills, though
We trudged back along to the New Road in the growing heat, and trogged
uphill, intending to get a lift - but virtually every car was full,
and the others didn't stop! So we ended up doing perhaps 4km uphill
in hot conditions, and eventually linking up with the bus at about 1430
and sticky! Inevitably, we crashed out back at our pad for a few hours,
tired and pretty fazed
Some time later, the cloud had descended, and we were still a bit "birded
out" - so we decided to give it a rest completely this afternoon
and just snooze and read! So much so that Julia didn't even leave the
room. Simon went and got her a takeaway from the hotel restaurant -
the nearest thing to room service! While this resort is fine, and the
flat is MASSIVE, it's unutterably quiet and ghost-town like all week
- we feel it just needs a bit of life, i.e. some other guests! Of course,
at the weekend, we had far too much of that "good thing",
when it was overrun - it's clearly run on a feast/famine basis.
Location wise, it's OK, if a bit distant from the town centre, but
it is at least quiet, very close to the New Road, and pretty well-placed
for the Heermant and Bishop's Trails. On balance, the Jerai Highland
resort might possibly have been a better option, but then we'd have
been at the top of an uphill road. The Shahzan Inn also would've been
the benefit of experience!
Final evening note: a Wild Boar came down to raid the bins outside
tonight - only to be seen off by the local moggies!
See photo page here
Wednesday 18th July
We woke this morning, after rain in the night, to near zero visibility!
So we took our time having breakfast, and then sauntered down the New
Road, whereupon we saw a few bits and pieces (Orange-bellied Leafbird,
Slaty-backed Forktail, various Bulbuls, Grey Wagtail new for the trip
etc.), and then hit yet more dense cloud and drizzle! Thinking better
of our endeavour, we trudged back up again, to find the weather much
more tolerable at the top of the hill.
We birded around the hotel and golf course for a while, had coffee,
juice and a pancake at the Shahzan Inn (nice Pacific Swallows on the
wire outside), and then dropped a couple of kilometres down the Old
Road and back up again - lots of good views of the birds with which
we are now familiar, but nothing new - excellent views of a young Blyth's
Hawk-eagle were the highlight.
Lunch was taken in the now traditional style at the Hill View, and
we dropped by at Durai's office to say goodbye and make a small contribution.
He has been an excellent guide, a great source of information and help,
and dare we say it, a good friend for our week's stay at Fraser's Hill
- he is highly recommended.
On the way back we had decent photographic opportunities with the same
Blyth's Hawk-eagle, Javan Cuckoo-shrike and Streaked Spiderhunter, and
also had our second sighting of Paddyfield Pipit. Back at the ranch,
the clouds gathered once more, and while we dozed a little, an almighty
battle broke out in the heavens, with vast claps of thunder, torrential
rain and once again zero visibility - no problem, we were safely tucked
With the rain still pouring down, we arranged a ride with Kiri from
the front desk to take us to Ye Olde Smokehouse for dinner, where we
had a vast, slap-up gastro-pub style meal - complete with bread and
butter pudding and custard and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. We enjoyed
having a chat with a couple up from Singapore on a short break, inspected
a stunning suite for future reference, and rolled home stuffed and happy
See photo page here
Thursday 19th July
Our final morning in Fraser's Hill, and a very relaxed one at that.
The rain had cleared the air to leave an absolutely beautiful morning,
which we enjoyed to the full before taking a late breakfast, and meeting
up with Sammy for the long drive to Taman Negara. Durai had one last
surprise for us - we dropped by at his office to find a Rufous-browed
Flycatcher perched on his office clock, giving point blank views! Nice!
Finally, it was time to go, and we swooped down the hill, with Sammy
at the wheel and his friend (confusingly also Sammy) in the passenger
seats - somewhere past Raub, we dropped off to the dulcet tones of the
two of them chatting with animation in what we think was Tamil!
But we did see Zebra Dove and Common Mynah en route, plus an Emerald
Dove for Julia. After about 2½ hours, we reached the small jetty
town of Kuala Tembeling, where Durai had set us up with the excellent
Rosni, a local agent who looked after us beautifully, arranging all
the boat tickets and permits for us. We sat and waited, having said
goodbye to the two Sammys, and picked up a few new birds around the
jetty - Asian Glossy Starling, an extremely smart Yellow-vented Flowerpecker,
Coppersmith Barbet and White-throated Kingfisher.
Finally, at about 1415, it was our turn onto a boat - and there followed
a rather uncomfortable two and a bit hour journey upstream on the quite
swollen River Tembeling - behind the world's smelliest English tourist,
alas. We did have a few good birds to take our minds off things, however
- quite a few Blue-throated Bee-eaters, a Crested Serpent-eagle and
best of all, a pair of Wreathed Hornbills high over the canopy.
At 1630 or so, after a sharp rainstorm, we got to Kuala Tahan at last,
and when the boat stopped, we realised how hot and sticky it really
was! We checked in at the dudishly flash (and rather comfy) Mutiara
Resort, lightweights that we are, and settled in for a while. Simon
then decided (characteristically) that it was time to go for an explore,
and he checked out the camp facilities, before heading for a wander
not 20 yards down the boardwalk towards Bumbun (=hide) Tahan. First
bird - GARNET PITTA! A sprint back to get Julia, and within 10 minutes
we were back o site - but of course it declined to show again
tomorrow? We did spend some time in the area of the hide however, and
saw some top birds - Dollarbird overhead, a pair of Black-thighed Falconets,
two Black-bellied Malkohas, a Drongo-cuckoo and a Black Magpie, no less!
And the icing on the cake came on the way back, when back at the Pitta
spot, we detected movement - and it turned out to be an incredibly small
Pretty satisfied (although divorce is of course on the cards for that
), we took a boat over to the floating restaurants and stuffed
our faces in the now traditional fashion, and now we sit sweltering
in our room, willing the fan to do its work!
See photo page here
Friday 20th July
Up at 0630 and straight into breakfast at 0700 - slap-up buffet style
saddlebacking all round. Once we'd handed in some laundry (real softy
), we hit the trails by 0730. We did check for the
Pitta (as I suspect we will all week), but soon headed off north-east
along the riverside, aiming for the Jenut Muda trail up and over the
side of the hill.
Although it wasn't too hot at first, the sky was overcast, and the
humidity was absolutely stifling - after about a mile we were completely
drenched and hating our pastime for bringing us here! But the power
of the obsessive birder took over, and we ploughed on, past the canopy
walkway and up the hill - which was even tougher going.
Birds were slow coming at first, as usual in any tropical forest, but
eventually we did have such sub-goodies as Stripe-throated and Grey-cheeked
Bulbuls, Black-capped, Sooty-capped and Rufous-crowned Babblers, Striped
Wren-babbler, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Asian Paradise Flycatcher and
But there were some outstanding birds too - notably a small party of
Crested Partridges (missed by most birders, it seems), White-capped
Forktail, Green Broadbill (a Broadbill at last!) and no fewer than two
new Trogon species - the exquisite Diard's and Scarlet-rumped.
Also, we could tantalisingly hear Great Argus in the distance on several
occasions ("oh-WOW!"), along with at least one hornbill sp.
and various other astonishing noises which simply defied identification.
Mammal interest was provided by various small squirrels and a couple
of Sunda Giant Squirrels.
By now it was noon, and getting very hot and rather quiet - though
pleasantly less humid! So we route-marched it back to base, for cold
drinks and cool showers.
Post lunch, we took an hour or two out in the heat of the day, and
then once again the heavens opened, if only briefly. After an hour of
enjoying nature's air-con, we saddled up once more at about 1700, for
a brief exploration of the eastern end of the resort and the adjacent
forest. Birds were again frustratingly tough to see, but we did score
with Grey-rumped Treeswift overhead and a few more Grey-cheeked Bulbuls.
We finished the day down at the Tahan hide once more (still no Garnet
), where a Red Muntjac emerged from the trees and visited
the salt lick blocks in the clearings. A small party of Pink-necked
Green Pigeons sat high in a dead tree, and some of the same birds as
yesterday - Black-thighed Falconet, White-breasted Kingfisher and Black
Magpie, but there were also some Silver-rumped Needletails over the
trees, a few Hill Mynahs flew in, and best of all, three superb Oriental
Pied Hornbills flapped over the canopy towards dusk.
After a light meal in our room, we optimistically turned up for the
advertised night walk - maximum 14 people, so we thought it might be
worthwhile. Except the Resort had contrived to book at least 10 groups
of 14 people for the same route - so it was simply absurd - no hope
of seeing anything bar the odd stick insect, spider and luminous mushroom.
We bailed out in disgust - and successfully negotiated our money back!
Bed by 2200 after all
See photo page here
Saturday 21st July
Same routine - up for 0700 breakfast and then out on the Tahan River
trail northwards out of the resort. Once again, fiendishly humid and
sticky - utterly uncomfortable, and by 0730 we were drenched in sweat
Again, the birds were slow in coming at times, but again, it was really
worth it! Brown Fulvetta, Black-capped Babbler and White-rumped Shama
were repeats, but everything else was new - Plaintive Cuckoo, three
Crested Firebacks swiftly across the trail, a superb (and much wanted)
Great Slaty Woodpecker high in the trees, the Sunda endemic Spotted
Fantail, Dark-throated Oriole, Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker, Raffles's
Malkoha, Black-headed Bulbul, Chestnut-rumped Babbler, Black-winged
Flycatcher Shrike, Black-naped Monarch, Greater Green Leafbird and a
small covey of Black Partridges.
The finally reached the Tabing hide after about 2½ hours of
slow walking, and sat there resting and watching for about half an hour
- no mammals apart from squirrels - hardly a surprise given it was mid-morning!
The way back was pretty tortuous and even more bird-free than the way
there (although the list above is a composite!), but the very last tree
before we emerged at the campsite produced two excellent lifers - Banded
Woodpecker, and better still, a simply unbelievable pair of Black-and-Red
Broadbills, doing a very tolerable impersonation of Helmet Vangas (not
that we've seen one of those yet
Finally, we emerged to chilled water and air-con - aaaaaahhhh!
Post a deeply unhealthy snack lunch, Simon took a snooze, whereupon
Julia risked immediate divorce by going briefly into the field, and
sure enough returned having seen Rufus-tailed Shama! Not a Pitta, but
all the same
We eventually drummed up the energy to head out into the field once
more, choosing the Swamp Loop trail behind the hotel. Almost at once,
we had a pair of very obliging Crested Firebacks. Other than that we
saw a couple of Black Magpies and Spectacled Bulbul, but other than
that just a few leeches. Half an hour in the Tahan hide with James,
our new vulcanologist friend, and some very keen young Swedish kids,
and we saw a few more bits and bobs - Silver-rumped Needletail, Hill
Mynah, Blue-rumped Hanging-parrot, Dollarbird, Changeable Hawk-eagle,
Thick-billed Green Pigeon and best of all, a pair of very high-flying
A dusk watch over at Kuala Tahan village failed to produce the hoped-for
Bat Hawk - so we sought solace in the form of yet another excellent
Chinese meal by the river, and returned home shattered but happy once
See photo page here
Sunday 22nd July
Same routine, and out by 0730, this time heading for the Belau and
Yong trails/hides, over the river to the Park HQ and then south along
the Tembeling River. The first section was incredibly steep and treacherous,
and we almost gave up! But it got much flatter (if no less muddy and
leech-infested), and we ended up doing the whole trail there and back
- we half-planned to get a boat from the far ferry, but nothing came
by in 15 minutes of speculative waiting, so we simply turned round and
did the whole trail in reverse! 7 hours of sore feet, aching legs and
constant checks for unwelcome molluscs
Bird wise, it was numerically really rather poor, but as usual, there
was some very great quality to make up for the plain lack of numbers!
We had an excellent Crested Fireback on the trail, a Little Spiderhunter
was by one of the hides, more Rufous-crowned Babblers, and Julia got
back Black-crested Bulbul, but new ones were Purple-naped Sunbird, Buff-vented
Bulbul, Black-throated Babbler (a really smart skulker), Chestnut-winged
Babbler, great views of a pair of Blue-rumped Parrots, and best of all
an absolutely superb Malayan Peacock-pheasant right on the trail. Right
back at the Park HQ, when we were at the very limit of our combined
endurance, a Rufous-backed (=Oriental Dwarf) Kingfisher flashed tantalisingly
across the trail.
What an epic! We returned to the resort looking like cryptozoological
humanoid throwbacks emerging from the primeval forest - but that was
nothing that cold drinks and a shower couldn't fix!
Post siesta, we wandered down to the far end of the resort and finally
found a half decent fruiting tree - and sure enough, there were four
Oriental Pied Hornbills in it! Also around here were a couple of Dollarbirds
on the wires and a Black Magpie, plus assorted Bulbuls.
We spent the last hour of light at the Tahan hide once again - presumably
the same Common Muntjac came out to the salt licks, and we saw much
the same birds, plus two Red-and-Black Broadbills (Julia also had a
Green Broadbill by the start of the trail) and an adult Plaintive Cuckoo.
Pretty shattered, we had a quick Chinese over the river, and then crawled
home for an early night!
See photo page here
Monday 23rd July
Time to cover some of the same ground again, and given that it had
been the best trail last time, we chose the Jenut Muda trail - and it
was dire! We saw perhaps a dozen birds all morning, despite lots of
sitting and waiting, following of calls and so on. An hour at the well-known
Great Argus spot was rewarded with nothing more than a couple of Crested
Partridges and a leech bite, and the long haul up to the top of Bukit
Teresek turned up just a single Silver-rumped Needletail! We did hear
the Argus calling, of course
but no sightings to be had.
The descent was also bird-free for long stretches, and only along the
very last stretch of the trail back to the resort did we get some quality
- first a Malayan Peacock-pheasant right by the track, and then a truly
superb Chestnut-breasted Malkoha - in the first tree inside the resort
grounds. Huh! So much for rainforest birding
We had lunch (vast), and then Simon nipped over the river to do the
internet thing and to book up tonight's night safari and tomorrow's
boat trip - all very easy and straightforward!
We spent the late afternoon around the fruiting trees again - no Hornbills
this time, but Asian Glossy Starling, Coppersmith Barbet, Little Green
and Thick-billed Green Pigeons, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Yellow-vented
Flowerpecker and Red-eyed Bulbul instead.
Simon went to the hide for half an hour - tactical error by Julia,
as some nice birds showed up - Golden-throated Barbet and Orange-backed
Woodpecker were new, plus a stunning female Orange-breasted Trogon very
close to the hide, and perhaps surprisingly (at this altitude) a pair
of Mountain Imperial Pigeons overhead.
After another abortive bat hawk attempt at dusk, we ate yet another
excellent meal at the Family Restaurant, and then went down to the LBK
Restaurant to meet up with our night safari trip. Eight of us piled
into the back of a 4WD, and a rather good guide called Eddie sat on
top of the cab with his spotlight.
We drove maybe 10km out of town to a depressingly extensive oil palm
plantation - it had been virgin forest as recently as 20 years ago
Nevertheless, Eddie was confident we'd find some things to see in there,
and he wasn't wrong - Leopard Cat, Common Palm Civet, two Brown-backed
Snakes, Common Tailorbird and White-breasted Kingfisher, plus a perched
Malaysian Eared Nightjar in an open area en route. An excellent return,
and quite a contrast to the dismal night walk of a few nights ago!
We got back at about 2300, and hailed a late boat home - to bed tired
See photo page here
Tuesday 24th July
Our ninth (official) wedding anniversary, and we had decided to give
ourselves a bit of a break from jungle slog this morning - and that
turned out to be a good decision bird wise!
Our boat arrived to pick us up at 0730, and we were soon whizzing up
the Tahan River, past the Tabing Hide and through several small shoals
and rapids. After about 4 or 5km, we stopped, turned off the engine
and drifted slowly back downstream, birding along the way. We also stopped
at Bumbun Cheggers Plays Pop (sorry, I mean "Chegar Anjing")
en route for a few minutes, certainly long enough for Simon to slip
on some wet steps and come crashing down, smacking elbow, lower back
and lower leg - no serious damage, but both a bit painful and very embarrassing!
Still, back to the birds - lots to see for a change. We had Stork-billed
and Blue-banded Kingfishers, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Silver-rumped Needletail,
Red-eyed, Straw-headed and Olive-winged Bulbuls, Lesser Fish Eagle.
Abbott's and White-chested Babblers, Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, Red-bearded
Bee-eater, Black-bellied, Chestnut-breasted and Chestnut-bellied Malkohas,
Malaysian Blue Flycatcher, Dollarbird, Checker-throated Woodpecker and
Long-billed Spiderhunter - pretty good for a couple of hours sat on
your behind in a nice cool boat!
The end of term feeling continued over lunch and the early afternoon,
when we just did some loafing and birding around the garden - most frustrating
was a large Needletail which whistled past twice, but simply refused
to show any features - presumably Brown-backed Needletail, but sadly
UTVs... The highlights were actually from our balcony, where a family
party of Blue-winged Leafbirds and three Fiery Minivets worked their
way through the trees.
The evening session was predictable and yet very pleasant - the Tahan
hide turned up "the" Red Muntjac, plus Rufous Woodpecker and
Greater Coucal, and Crested Partridge and Changeable Hawk-eagle heard.
It was also good to finish the "proper birding" phase of the
trip with some proper birders - a bloke called Bram from Belgium, a
young Hungaro-Australian woman called Judit and her partner James, a
South African. All very cosmopolitan.
We decided to splurge on a massive buffet meal at the resort for our
last night in Malaysia, and set off in our best attire (ahem) at 1945.
On the way, a black shape appeared overhead - BAT HAWK! A stunning and
very exciting icing on the cake, celebrated appropriately with what
was indeed a vast blowout meal.
See photo page here
Wednesday 25th July
A slight change to our routine this morning, with a pre-breakfast walk
to the Tahan hide - not a great deal about, but we did finally pin down
the Brown-backed Needletail which had slipped through our grasp yesterday.
After a hearty breakfast (Green Broadbill and Golden-bellied Gerygone
in the trees by the restaurant), it was time to check out, and we crossed
the river to catch our boat from the LBK restaurant. The run downriver
was significantly faster than the upstream leg (1 hour 40 mins), and
we saw some good birds en route - more Brown-backed Needletails, another
(or the same?) pair of Wreathed Hornbills, two Crested Jays, seven Long-tailed
Parakeets and several Straw-headed Bulbuls.
At Tembeling jetty, we met up once more with Rosni, and he put us in
what was in truth a rather rubbish taxi - a 1980 Nissan heap - which
did not provide the most comfortable ride back to KLIA! The driver was
also fractionally wayward and more chatty (in appalling English than
we wanted), so we unsubtly donned MP3 players and dozed. We didn't miss
a lot en route - it's almost completely depressing palm oil plantations
On arriving in Kuala Lumpur, we perked up a bit, and picked up a few
new birds - Striated Heron over the dual-carriageway, White-vented Mynah,
House Crow and even the exciting Feral Pigeon - and ticked off the Petronas
Towers in central KL.
We arrived at the airport at 1430 or so, and bedded down (in Julia's
case, literally!) for a lengthy wait for the flight - at 2315! We simply
couldn't face the trawl into KL for just a few hours meandering - we'll
shop here! I type this final entry from Malaysia while logged on to
KLIA's free WiFi system - this really is a damn good airport! And there
was a Grey Heron flying past the terminal a few minutes ago
We finally boarded our KLM flight for a 2315 departure, and arrived
in Amsterdam 12 hours later, at 0530 local time - breakfast was scoffed,
and now we sit on the tarmac ready for the short hop back to Heathrow.
We are beyond tired!
And the plane was an hour late leaving Amseterdam - luckily, this did
not affect our onward connection, and we finally reached home shortly
after 1400, having taken exactly 36 hours door-to-door from Taman Negara.
See photo page here