Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
Four of us were heading for a birding trip to Sulawesi and Halmahera, with flights passing through Singapore. Since Panti Forest Reserve in Johor State, Malaysia, is less than a two-hour drive from Singapore, we decided to add three days to our trip in order to visit this lowland forest. Our main target would be Rail Babbler that BC, GM and AQ had missed during an earlier trip to Malaysia, and which is supposedly relatively common at Panti. We arranged for Lim Kim Seng (firstname.lastname@example.org), who lives in Singapore, to guide for us. With limited time, his local knowledge and expertise was extremely valuable. In just one full and two half-days we saw 137 species plus seven heard-only. Of these, 112 were at Panti and 35 at other Malaysian sites or Singapore.
July 13th: BC, GM & CC arrived at the very upscale Changi AP at about 6.30 a.m. and took a taxi to the equally posh Changi Village Hotel. We would be staying there the evening before our flights to Sulawesi, and the hotel kindly let us store our excess luggage whilst we were in Malaysia. Kim Seng met us there and we did a little birding outside the hotel while waiting for AQ, who arrived about an hour later. Birds seen here but not recorded in Malaysia included Oriental Pied Hornbill and Red-breasted Parakeet. In mid-morning, we left for the drive to Kota Tinggi, where we would stay two nights (the closest town to Panti). After lunch in town at the Sin Mei Lee restaurant, we first visited Jason’s Bay for an unsuccessful try at Malaysian Plover, a scarce breeder there. We then drove about 30 minutes to the so-called Bunker Trail (now a wide and well-maintained road) entrance to Panti Forest. There was no sign of any guard at the main gate, which was open. We birded along the main road for about three hours, from 3.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. It was very active and top birds seen included a brilliant male Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Wrinkled and Wreathed Hornbills and tremendous views of a male Jambu Fruit Dove. However, not a whiff of Rail-babbler! We went back to Kota Tinggi and stayed overnight in the acceptable Hotel Seri Kota.
July 14th: An early start necessitated breakfast at a 24-hour McDonald’s, over CC’s protests! We arrived at Panti at 5.30 a.m. and stayed until noon when it got quite hot and bird activity slowed. We took a break during the heat of the day, going into town for lunch. We also had to change hotels as ours was over-booked; we moved to the Hotel Nasha nearby, OK rooms with A/C. Back to Panti by 3:00 PM. We concentrated our activities along the Bunker Trail and a smaller road off to the right that eventually leads to a shrine and (beyond) a large open area. We also walked the small forest trail (signed) on the left beyond the second bridge where in the past Crested Partridge has been seen, but it was blocked partway down by tree-falls. Best birds today included White-bellied and Grey-and-buff Woodpeckers, Rufous-collared Kingfisher and three stunning Red-bearded Bee-eaters. In late afternoon we finally heard a Rail-babbler call (and respond to tape) just beyond the second stream. But just as it came in, a sudden, tremendous downpour forced us back into the car and (eventually) back into town!
July 15th: An even earlier start (again including McDonald’s), with owling along the Bunker Road from 5.00 a.m. until dawn. A Buffy Fish Owl was spotted in the flashlight as we drove into Panti. We covered the same general areas as yesterday. As it got hot we left Panti (a little after noon) to find the entrance gate manned and an authoritative sign displayed demanding permits! Obviously early entry is the key to avoiding "imperial entanglements" here – there is certainly a lot of road traffic at dawn and it hard to believe these folks all have forestry permits! (We had written for permits but received no reply, which we understand is common). We ate lunch, checked out of the hotel, and during the early afternoon drove back to Singapore. We visited a couple of sites there (including the Botanical Gardens and Kranji Dam) before bidding Kim Seng good-bye and checking into the hotel. Top birds today included Buffy Fish Owl, Malaysian Hawk-cuckoo, a large party of Dusky Broadbills, Black Magpies and the star bird of the trip, a displaying Malaysian Rail-Babbler which gave brilliant views for over 15 minutes at the side of the Bunker Road!
Great Argus: Unfortunately this mega-pheasant was not seen, but 1-2 birds were heard making their distinctive "Oh-Wow" call daily.
Rufous Woodpecker: A single bird seen and another heard.
White-bellied Woodpecker: A party of three birds of this large impressive woodpecker was well seen.
Banded Woodpecker: Single birds recorded on two days.
Crimson-winged Woodpecker: A very attractive woodpecker seen well with four birds over two days.
Checker-throated Woodpecker: Another beautiful woodpecker; it was recorded on all three days with a daily maximum of three birds.
Common Goldenback: A single bird seen near the Changi Village Hotel [Singapore].
Buff-rumped Woodpecker: A single bird seen quite well along the shrine side road at Panti.
Grey-and buff Woodpecker: A party of four birds of this small, unique looking woodpecker was enjoyed on our first day at Panti.
Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker: After quite a bit of searching we managed to see a single bird at Kranji Dam in Singapore.
Red-crowned Barbet: Commonly heard but only a single bird seen at Panti. This is a globally near - threatened species. (Photo below, left.)
Yellow-crowned Barbet: Heard on two days but unfortunately we were unable to connect with this species.
Blue-eared Barbet: Another commonly heard barbet but again with just s single bird seen.
Coppersmith Barbet: One bird seen well at the Botanical Gardens in Singapore. (Photo previous page, center)
Brown Barbet: Heard daily at Panti and with at least two birds seen.
Oriental Pied Hornbill: A party of four birds seen right outside the Changi Village Hotel in Singapore.
Black Hornbill: Two individuals of this globally near - threatened species were well seen at Panti.
Bushy-crested Hornbill: A party five birds seen. Unfortunately they were shy and flighty allowing only brief views.
Wrinkled Hornbill: Excellent views of a single male of this impressive and globally threatened hornbill were obtained.
Wreathed Hornbill: This huge impressive hornbill rounded out our fifth hornbill species seen. A fine male was seen well on our first day. One of the top birds of seen at Panti.
Scarlet-rumped Trogon: This stunning trogon was another top bird. We actually had great views daily of this species with both males and females seen. One of the males was photographed carrying food to its nest. (Photo previous page, right.)
Common Dollarbird: A single bird feeding in the fruiting tree at the Singapore Botanical Gardens.
Rufous-backed Kingfisher: This tiny forest kingfisher was heard every day and well-seen on two of them.
Banded Kingfisher: Birds heard calling on two days but unfortunately none seen.
White-throated [Smryna] Kingfisher: A single bird seen on the drive from Singapore to Panti.
Collared Kingfisher: Seen daily on the drive to and from Panti, with daily maximum of five birds.
Rufous-collared Kingfisher: A single male of this stunning forest kingfisher was seen well (and photographed) as it perched quietly in the forest. (Photo below, left.)
Red-bearded Bee-eater: This brilliant forest bee-eater was recorded on two days with a daily maximum of at least three birds. This stunning species was one of the top birds of the trip. (Photo below, right.)
Blue-tailed Bee-eater: Yet another beautiful bee-eater. In all about eight birds seen, most along the shrine side road.
Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo: A single vocal juvenile bird seen quite well. [This is a split from Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo.]
Indian Cuckoo: Birds heard calling but as usual with this species, none seen.
Plaintive Cuckoo: Heard calling but regrettably not seen,
Violet Cuckoo: Birds heard calling on two days but not seen.
Asian Drongo Cuckoo: Single birds seen on all three days including a large speckled juvenile being fed by an Olive-winged Bulbul. (Note: It has been suggested that this species should be split into Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo and Fork-tailed Drongo Cuckoo, based on voice and other factors. If so, the birds at Panti would be Square-tailed.)
Raffle’s Malkoha: Just a single individual seen.
Chestnut-breasted Malkoha: Four individuals of this large impressive malkoha were seen over two days.
Blue-rumped Parrot: Three birds seen in flight plus other heard calling.
Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot: Recorded on all three days usually of birds flying rapidly overhead. The daily maximum was fifteen birds
Long-tailed Parakeet: Two individuals of this exotic looking parakeet were seen at Panti.
Red-breasted Parakeet: Another handsome species with a party of eight birds seen well just outside of our hotel in Singapore.
Tanimbar Corella: A single individual of this introduced (but established and "countable") species was seen in Singapore just outside the hotel.
Edible-nest Swiftlet: Thousands of these swiftlets swarm over Kota Tinggi (and other areas) where large specially-designed buildings have been erected to attract this economically valuable species.
Silver-rumped Spinetail: Two birds seen briefly in flight by a lucky few in the group.
Brown-backed Needletail: Six birds seen on our second day.
Asian Palm-swift: Common & widespread on the drive to & from Panti.
House Swift: Another fairly common swift, which was simply ticked in the log.
Grey-rumped Treeswift: This large attractive species was quite common, and excellent views were obtained of it both in flight and perched. Great value!
Whiskered Treeswift: Another brilliant species although far less common than the previous species with a total of three birds seen over the three days.
Buffy Fish-owl: A single bird seen by flashlight sitting in a roadside tree prior to dawn, along the Bunker Trail.
Rock Pigeon: Common & widespread in urban areas.
Spotted Dove: Commonly seen on the drive from Singapore to Panti.
Emerald Dove: Fairly common at Panti with a total of nine birds seen and others heard calling.
Zebra Dove: Another dove recorded on the drive from Singapore to Panti.
Cinnamon-headed Green-pigeon: A single male of this very attractive dove was our only sighting.
Little Green-pigeon: Recorded daily with a daily maximum of at least six birds.
Pink-necked Green-pigeon: At least 100 birds feeding actively in a immense fruiting tree at the Botanical Gardens in Singapore was an amazing sight. (Photo below, left).
Green Pigeon sp.: Right now the jury is still out on the identification of a bird
photographed along the shrine trail. The bird shows elongated and pointed central tail feathers,
cinnamon vent, pale lower belly, blue lores, bill base and eye-ring. Possibilities suggested have been Yellow-vented, Pin-tailed (but not in range) or molting Wedged-tailed. Or is it an immature of a more expected species?
Jambu Fruit-dove: A brilliant male was well seen perched quite low down along the Bunker Trail, one of the top birds of the trip!
Great Crested Tern: About ten birds seen at Jason’s Bay.
Little Tern: A few birds seen at Kranji Dam, Singapore.
Osprey: A single bird seen in Singapore.
Oriental Honey-buzzard: A single bird seen on the drive from Kota Tinggi to Panti.
Brahminy Kite: Two birds seen at Jason’s Bay.
White-bellied Sea- Eagle: Close views obtained of two individuals this impressive eagle at Jason’s Bay.
Crested Serpent-Eagle: Single birds seen on two days at Panti.
Changeable Hawk-Eagle: A single bird seen once and heard on two other days at Panti.
Grey Heron: Three birds seen on the round-trip drive from Singapore to Panti.
Purple Heron: A single bird seen at a wetland in Singapore.
Great Egret: A single bird seen at a wetland in Singapore.
Cattle Egret: A total of ten birds seen on the drive from Singapore to Panti & return.
Striated Heron: A single bird at Kranji Dam.
Dusky Broadbill: A large loose group of ten birds seen on the shrine track (side road) at Panti.
Banded Broadbill: A single bird seen by some members of the group plus others heard calling.
Black-and- yellow Broadbill: Another broadbill seen by just a couple of us and heard calling on a second day.
Green Broadbill: Heard calling but regrettably not seen.
Golden-bellied Gerygone: Just a single bird seen at Kranji Dam in Singapore.
Asian Fairly-bluebird: Recorded on all three days with a daily maximum of six birds.
Greater Green Leafbird: Single birds recorded on two days at Panti.
Lesser Green Leafbird: Recorded on two days with a daily maximum of five birds. (Photo above, right.)
Blue-winged Leafbird: A total of five birds seen on just one day.
Malaysian Rail-babbler: When we arrived in Singapore, Kim Seng warned us that he had been at Panti the previous weekend and found the Rail-babblers to be virtually silent. Bit of a blow, as it was a main target! They were not calling when we were there as well, despite diligent trolling with tape. It was not until late afternoon on Day 2 that a bird responded and started to come into view. Suddenly a drenching cloudburst sent us scrambling for the car! The next day we had better luck. Hearing a calling Grey- headed Babbler a few km into the park, we stopped to try for it; as we played the GHB tape a Rail-babbler flew across the road virtually where we were standing. A flying Rail-babbler is a very strange sight indeed! Colin immediately played the call on his iPod and the R-B walked into full view, hopped up onto a small branch right next to the road, and for the next 15 minutes called and displayed while we gaped in awe (and tried to take photos!) It lowered its head, stretched out its neck and bill, spread its tail, lifted its wings, and as it puffed out the blue patches on its throat, gave a long thin whistle. Occasionally it would also give a low cluck. Absolutely mind-blowing and for most of us, the Bird of the Trip (including Sulawesi and Halmahera!)
Black Magpie: We were very pleased to see a party of three birds of this globally near-threatened species.
House Crow: Common & widespread in urban areas outside of the park.
Large-billed Crow: Just a single bird seen in Singapore.
Dark-throated Oriole: Heard calling each day and two birds seen.
Black-naped Oriole: Not seen at Panti but four birds seen at Kranji Dam in Singapore.
Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike: Two birds recorded at Panti.
Pied Triller: A single bird seen at the Kranji Dam.
Scarlet Minivet: Just two birds seen.
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike: A pair of these rather smart little birds was well seen at Jason’s Bay –the lowland equivalent of Bar-winged F-S..
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo: A total of seven birds seen over the three days.
Black-naped Monarch: Single birds seen on two days.
Common Iora: Four birds seen over two days.
Green Iora: We obtained nice views of this attractive species with four birds seen at a small fruiting tree.
Rufous-winged Philentoma [Rufous-winged Monarch]: Just a single bird seen over three days.
White-rumped Sharma: Recorded daily in small numbers, but heard much more frequently.
Oriental Magpie Robin: Surprisingly just a single bird seen.
White-crowned Forktail: This very attractive species was usually flushed from the Bunker Trail roadside in the early morning. Recorded daily with the high of six birds.
Asian [Philippine] Glossy Starling: A fairly common species with small flocks seen daily, especially in urban settings (e.g. nesting on buildings in Kota Tinggi).
Common Myna: Seen in Singapore and on the drive to Panti.
Javan Myna: A common introduced species both in Singapore and on the drive to Panti.
Hill Myna: Four individuals of this striking forest species were seen at Panti.
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch: Four birds, an apparent family party, seen at junction of Bunker and Shrine trails.
Pacific Swallow: Common & widespread mainly in open country.
There were many shrubs laden with small fruits along the road, and these were attracting mobile flocks of smaller fructivorous passerines, including bulbuls and babblers. As the following species moved rapidly around in mixed flocks, we have probably under-estimated the numbers.
Black-headed Bulbul: Fairly common & widespread.
Stripe-throated Bulbul: Just a single bird seen at Panti.
Yellow-vented Bulbul: Recorded in both Singapore and Panti with a daily maximum of six birds.
Olive-winged Bulbul: Another fairly common bulbul being recorded daily with maximum of six birds.
Cream-vented Bulbul: A common & widespread forest species, which we simply ticked each night in the daily log.
Red-eyed Bulbul: Another common [and dull] bulbul, which just received a tick in the daily log.
Spectacled Bulbul: Just a single bird seen at Panti.
Grey-cheeked Bulbul: A rather attractive bulbul with just a single bird seen.
Yellow-bellied Bulbul: Recorded daily in small numbers with the high count being just four birds.
Hairy-backed Bulbul: Another uncommon species with just two birds seen.
Buff-vented Bulbul: A total of five birds recorded over two days.
Streaked Bulbul: Just two birds detected amongst the mixed bubul flocks.
Yellow-bellied Prinia: Just a single bird seen in scrub habitat at Jason’s Bay..
Everett’s White-eye: A total of five birds seen over two days, all at fruiting trees.
Common Tailorbird: Single birds recorded at Panti and in Singapore.
Dark-necked Tailorbird: Common forest bird at Panti with up to ten [including heard birds] on a day
Rufous-tailed Tailorbird: Just single birds seen on two days at Panti.
As mentioned previously, several of the babblers occurred in mixed bird flocks. A good site at Panti for babblers was at the junction of the Bunker Trail and the road off to the right that leads up to a shrine.
White-chested Babbler: Two birds seen and others heard.
Black-capped Babbler: This handsome ground-dwelling babbler was a challenge to see, necessitating getting off the road and into the forest. Based on calling birds, it was quite common, and eventually most of the group got sightings of about five birds. – Good value!
Moustached Babbler: Less numerous than the previous species with two birds seen and others heard calling.
Short-tailed Babbler: A single bird well seen along the forest trail which starts just beyond the 2nd bridge..
Sooty-capped Babbler: Another interesting babbler with two birds seen in a mixed babbler flock.
Rufous-fronted Babbler: A single bird seen in a mixed babbler flock, also along the forest trail.
Grey-headed Babbler: A single bird heard singing and seen briefly early on our final morning, just moments before the Rail Babbler flew across the road. Consequently, our attention was immediately diverted from this species!
Chestnut-rumped Babbler: About six birds of this handsome babbler were seen. This included several birds seen in a mixed babbler flock by the "shrine" road.
Chestnut-winged Babbler: Just a single individual of this attractive babbler was seen and others were heard calling.
Striped Tit-babbler : Four birds seen again with some in a mixed babbler flock. (Sometimes spilt as "Pin-striped Tit-babbler).
Yellow-breasted Flowepecker: A total of four birds of this attractive species were seen at Panti.
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker: This tiny gem was quite common with about ten birds seen over three days.
With many flowering plants, Panti was an excellent place for the small nectar feeders. In all, on our short visit we tallied a combined total of ten species of sunbird and spiderhunter, including eight at Panti.
Plain Sunbird: An excellent name for this species with the male almost as dull as the female. Just two birds seen.
Brown-throated Sunbird: None at Panti but a female seen at Kranji Dam.
Red-throated Sunbird: Just a single female seen at Panti.
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird: Two birds seen at Panti.
Purple-naped Sunbird: A total of four birds of this large sunbird were seen over two days.
Olive-backed Sunbird: A total of three birds seen with two at Jason’s Bay and a single at Kota Tinggi.
Little Spiderhunter: Recorded daily with at least four birds seen and several others heard at Panti.
Thick-billed Spiderhunter: A single bird seen at Panti.
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter: A single individual at Panti.
Grey-breasted Spiderhunter: Another single bird seen at Panti, this along the shrine trail.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow: Common & widespread in urban areas.
Paddyfield Pipit: Three birds seen at Jason’s Bay.
Scaly-breasted Munia: A single bird seen at Kota Tinggi.
White-handed Gibbon: A common (and very vocal) species throughout Panti; some troops had over 20 members.
Banded Langur: Sever al troops of a dozen or so seen in the Reserve.
Long-tailed Macaque: A small troop seen along the road on the drive from Jason’s Bay to Panti.
Wild Pig: One seen crossing the Bunker Trail and much evidence of others rooting in the forest.
Slender Squirrel: We encountered this active tiny squirrel throughout the Reserve, often in groups of 3 or 4 dashing through the branches.
Black-banded Squirrel: This larger squirrel is somewhat similar to Palm Squirrel in shape and size; its tail is faintly banded (hence its English name).
Three-striped Ground Squirrel: One seen just off the forest rail (beyond the 2nd bridge).