The click of the keyboard is matching in time to the drum of the rain outside my window. You see, I live in the rainforest, and I can testify that it really does rain all of the time. Seemingly so, anyway. By January and February, it gets so damn depressing, that I usually up and leave for a spell. In that I left town, this year was no different than most, but instead of heading to a desert, I headed to another rainforest. "Like sending coals to Newcastle", a friend of mine said of this trip. But you see, my points of origin and destination were quite different. I started out in Washington and ended in Malaysia.
The concept for this journey actually began with Charles Hood, who had a hankering for catching up with the last eighty or so birds he needed to reach 2500 in the world. He lives in LA, and southeast Asia was the closest place to accomplish this task. Always glad for an adventure, I was happy to join in on his fun. Our preparations began in August and ended in January, when we were both cheerfully ensconced on the Singapore Air "Megatop" 747 headed from Los Angeles to Singapore via Taipei.
Singapore Air lived up to its namesake. There was no smoking on any of their flights, and we didn't see anyone chewing any gum either. For the long (fourteen hour) leg to Taipei we were able to play video games, watch any one of several movies, or just monitor the flights progress on a series of maps. Not only were there amenities, but the flights actually left and landed on schedule.
Charles and I arrived at Kuala Lumpur in surprisingly good condition and eager to hit the road. Budget provided us with the car, and the gentle warning to remember to drive on the left. You see, in Malaysia, like Britain, you're supposed to drive on the wrong side of the road (as opposed to the right side of the road). Unfortunately, we found that Malaysians drive on the wrong side of the road (i.e., left side) and the wrong side of the road (i.e., right side). Indeed, they drove everywhere and anywhere. The roads were covered by a swarm of logging trucks, lorries, sedans, and motorbikes dashing to and fro, forcing each other onto shoulders, into oncoming traffic, or off the road entirely. Sometimes vehicles passed you on the right, sometimes on the left, and sometimes an oncoming vehicle would pass on your shoulder (for those who are, like me, spatially challenged, picture driving down an American road and coming upon a car driving fast, pointed at you, and on the road's shoulder to your right). Driving in Malaysia was like a continuous game of chicken. Unfortunately, Malaysians are not at good at playing this game as one might hope. During our last Saturday in the country, there were over 450 accidents reported, including sixteen deaths.
The real trip (a.k.a. birding) began at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park. It was sunny and hot, with scrubby forest, mangroves, and marshes. Crab-eating Macaques wandered unconcerned around the small cabins and monitor lizards slithered through the water. It was kid-in-the-candy-store time for us. Look, overhead, Brahminy Kites! And over there, Black-naped Oriole! And, what was that. Kuala Selangor proved to be an excellent place to start. Birds were fairly numerous and generally easier to see than in the jungle-like woodlands. In addition to the dozens of Brahminy Kites and plentiful Black-naped Orioles, there were also large flocks of Pink-necked Pigeons, small groups of Zebra Doves, and an almost continuous chatter from Yellow-vented Bulbuls. The chickens here were not of the barnyard variety, but were instead the ancestral Red Junglefowl from which our chickens were derived. At night, the hammer like clonking of Long-tailed Nightjars was everywhere. Some of the more notable birds we saw here included the secretive Forest Wagtail, the impressive White-bellied Sea Eagle, the sober Lesser Adjutant stork, and the rare Chinese Egret.
During our two day stay here, we made an afternoon excursion to a local shorebird area, called Tanjong Karang, and to the Projek Barat Laut Selangor (PBLS) ricefields. These were a nice alternative to slogging through midday woodland birding. Since the ricefields are birded from the car, it was also a cool alternative. The shorebirds at Tanjong Karang were bountiful, but due to tidal miscalculations on our part, they were mostly distant. Nonetheless, we were able to see Mongolian Plover, Common Greenshank, Rufous-necked Stint, Marsh Sandpiper and a number of other species that North American birders yearn so much to see. We missed the big ticket items here - Nordmann's Greenshank and Asiatic Dowitcher. Both of these have small world populations and Tanjong Karang is one of a few places to see them together. We will just have to go back!
The PBLS ricefields lived up to their reputation as a raptor haven. One large field was being burnt. We just sat at the edge and watched kites, harriers, and eagles swoop in and fly off with prey in their talons. Around this one field we had Greater Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Pied Harrier, and three species of kite. Elsewhere around the ricefields were small groups of shorebirds, twittering flocks of White-rumped and Scaly-breasted Munias, and a generous scattering of the golden-colored Baya Weaver. Along wires and fences, Black Drongos filled the niche of kingbirds. These fields are also the premier place in Malaysia for White-breasted Woodswallows, and we were not disappointed.
After Kuala Selangor, our next destination was the cool mountain resort of Fraser's Hill, formerly a playground of colonial British ministers and merchants and now a playground of middle class Malaysians and foreign birders. The thought of getting there conjured a fear-inducing image of swarming traffic with wild-eyed, adrenaline-surging, jaw-clenching swerving and braking. Sadly, my fretful fantasies were accurate, at least to the point at which we had cleared Kuala Lumpur and vicinity. The winding mountainous road towards Fraser's Hill certainly had less traffic but no better drivers. The sight of a logging truck passing a loaded lorrie on a blind curve is distinctly inspirational.
Before actually arriving at Fraser's Hill, we came to The Gap. At The Gap, the one-way, eight kilometer road to Fraser's Hill branches off from the main roadway. The traffic to Fraser's Hill alternates direction on an hourly basis. One hour you go up, the next you can come down. This forces people to pause at The Gap where there is the famed Gap Resthouse. This is not a place at which jeans retire, but rather is a fine place to have a beer and bird. Actually, the Resthouse has rooms for rent, and if we had had another day, birding around The Gap would have been the best use for the extra time. As it was, we were thrilled by our first Asian Fairy Bluebird and rejoiced over our first (and only) Black Laughingthrush. We also encountered a pair of American vagrants near The Gap: Roseanne Rowlett and Richard Webster. Usually these two fine birders are leading others on tours, but in Malaysia they were playing and not working. Charles and I knew them from back home. It was the "small world" syndrome again. Thousands of miles from home, the first birders you meet are people you know from, loosely speaking, home.
Rolling hills shrouded in mist and forest. A quaint English-style village center complete with traffic circle. The queer-looking Blue Nuthatch, the lime-sherbet colored Green Magpie, and the exultant Sultan Tit. There are many images and moments from Fraser's Hill that will linger delightfully, but the best was completely unexpected. If you had told me ahead of time, I would have smiled and nodded politely and thought you were off kilter.
Upon our arrival at Fraser's Hill, Charles popped into the information center. He was immediately set upon by K.S. Durai. This was a good thing, as Durai is the local birder of note and a generally all around nice guy. He is a man of obsession and passion. His passion is birding, and his obsession is teaching Malaysians (especially children) about nature. We were lucky to have the benefit of his knowledge and company.
There are several birding areas within what is called Fraser's Hill. The most famous of these is "The Rubbish Tip". Americans would call it "The Dump", but actually, tip is more accurate, because the garbage is just "tipped" down a cleared hillside. The Rubbish Tip did not smell nearly as bad as we were warned to expect, but it made up for this failing by smoking continuously. On our last morning at Fraser's Hill, it gave us the pleasure of bursting into flame. The fear of exploding paint cans sent us packing that morning, but on the others this place was quite birdy. Insectivores crowded the edge where forest met garbage, presumably to take advantage of the abundant flies. We had our only Jungle Nightjars there as well as our only White-tailed Robin and Hill Blue Flycatcher. One morning, a pair of Wreathed Hornbills flew low overhead, their wings sighing with every downstroke.
Another fine spot is Bishop's Trail. This was the center of leech activity at Fraser's Hill and also for travelling bird parties. Groups of flycatcher-shrikes, shrike-babblers, minlas, drongos, yuhinas and other exotics would come sweeping through in a frenzy of activity and chattering. Flocks of sibias glided through calling sibilantly, Gray-chinned Minivets posed as giant American Redstarts, Mountain Fulvettas foraged about looking dull, Golden Babblers foraged around looking brilliant, and White-throated Fantails lived up to their name. The birds along the Bishop's Trail performed grandly, but so did the gibbons. Black Gibbons are big black tailless monkeys that we were happy to see when we ran across them over the trail. Later they set up a chorus of hoots, shouts, whistles, and whoops that are impossible to convey with words. Let me just say that I now understand where the Monty Python catchphrase, "and the gibbons are loving it" comes from.
Taman Negara....... It is a preserve, yet you can hear the poaching at night. The rooms have air conditioning, but the windows won't close. There are miles and miles of trails through ancient rainforest, and house cats run wild around the buildings. Many rare and fancy birds are present, yet finding them is like catching water in your cupped hands. There is a magnificent elevated trail through the canopy, but the rangers try to stop you from birding on it.
Taman Negara..... the National Park of Malaysia. It was our last major stop. It was rumored to be the best of birding and the worst of birding. All rainforests can be tough - the dense foliage and sky high canopies hide the avifauna. In Costa Rica or Ecuador, you have to work your way into a rhythm. You have to change the way you seek your birds. You walk differently. You scan differently. Eventually, you are in sync with the forest, and the birds begin to appear. In Taman Negara, however, you can get in sync all you want. You can bird with the intensity of a Zen master and see only two birds in one hour. There just aren't that many birds, at least when compared with Neotropical rainforests.
But when we saw birds, what magnificence. On the forest floor roamed the aptly named Malaysian Peacock Pheasant and Crested Fireback, while among the branches Spectacled Spiderhunters hunted and Whiskered Treeswifts swiftly darted. Hornbills flew overhead honking, and along the streams frolicked kingfishers and forktails. Our favorites, however, had to be the broadbills. We saw three species of these peculiar birds, each looking like it was made from spare parts. The Green Broadbill, stubby and wearing a mohawk on its forehead, is the the color of artificially flavored Italian ice. On the other hand, the Black-and-yellow Broadbill stares out from its unadorned black head with lemon yellow eyes, while its belly is the color of a faded flamingo. More realistic looking birds you've seen in easter baskets. Not to be outdone, the Black-and-red Broadbill has a breast the color of day old blood and a bill as blue as a robin's egg.
There was another saving grace - leeches. These attenuated small slug-like creatures are the paradigm of patience. They hang by the trailside (and off-trail as well) wait for a tasty mammal to walk to wander by. A human - all the better. Much less of that annoying hair to deal with. If you walk quickly pass, they ignore you. If you stop, their sucking end waves wildly in the air. They inch up your socks and then up onto your body (or into your boot) until they find soft delicate flesh. Then it's latch and suck. They are quick and painless. Often they drop off before you even know they were there, leaving only a bloodstain to tell of their passage. Fortunately, Charles was definitely the leech magnet. My malodorous feet do have their advantages.
There were a number of birding options at Taman Negara. The trees around the resort were actually the easiest to bird. A fruiting fig there was often festooned with Asian Fairy Bluebirds, barbets (3 species), green pigeons (2 species), and broadbills (Green). A flowering tree at the back of the resort area had three or four species of Spiderhunters and occasional sunbirds. Oriental Pied Hornbills visited the fig tree around dawn and dusk.
The trails were quite variable. Some mornings and portions of trail were good, some dull. The Jenet Muda Trail and Bukit Teresek area were probably the best we encountered. Rich and Roseanne heard Great Argus there and we had Yellow-and-Black Broadbill, Scarlet-rumped Trogon, and other goodies. The Swamp Loop is a short loop directly out of the Resort. A local guide asked us to accompany him on his search for a Spitting Cobra that had been seen earlier. We missed the cobra but got Malaysian Peacock Pheasant here. Otherwise, it was pretty much a bird-free zone.
The Canopy Trail is a short jaunt away from the Resort. It is exactly what it sounds like, a trail through the canopy made of aluminum ladders, plywood planks, and rope. Its 5 ringetts to get on. The hours of access are peculiar: 11am to 3pm, except Fridays, when it is open 9am to Noon. We went twice - once on a Wednesday at Noon and once on a Friday at 9. Both times, park personnel were circling ahead and behind us pounding on nails with broomhandles and whacking at vines with machetes. If you paused for more than a minute or two at any of the eight viewing platforms, they would blow whistles and ask you to move on - even when no one else was on the trail. This was immensely frustrating and the harassment while on the Canopy Trail seemed like an endless and unreasoned attempt to stop us from viewing what we were walking through. I guess it was supposed to be like a ride at Disneyland.
Despite the active discouragement of the park workers, we had some good birding. The noon visit was, oddly, better. We saw the elusive Finsch's Bulbul and had splendid views of Whiskered Tree-Swifts. The Friday morning walk was virtually birdless with the exception of (and maybe because of) a magnificent Crested Goshawk that gave us nice looks.
Another birding option at Taman Negara is to take a boat ride. Twice we took a boat up to the Cascades and drifted back down. Once this trip was great, the other time dull, even though the days and time of day were similar. This drift tour gave us great views of finfoots, Lesser Fish Eagles, Rufous-collared Kingfisher, and Red-and-Black Broadbill. The drift tour also provided fine relief from the afternoon sweat fest.
Babbler and Bulbuls, Broadbills and Hornbills, Sunbirds and Leafbirds, Spiderhunters and Flowerpeckers. The names themselves are evocative enough. The birds themselves are even more dramatic. There were fish eagles, sea eagles, hawk eagles and spotted eagles. There were wood shrikes, cuckoo shrikes, flycatcher shrikes, Tiger Shrikes, and shrike babblers. The poor old bland Brown Shrike could only suffer an inferiority complex.
Then there are the other animals. Gibbons having parties in the jungle, squirrels as big as otters, and lizards as big as alligators. Spiders that could span dinner plates lurked in the tree and leeches hunted the ground. We knew that somewhere out there a couple tigers remained while the monkeys in the trees threw fruit at passing tourists.
I left Seattle on the evening of January 13, 1998 and flew to Los Angeles where I met Charles. We then flew on Singapore Air to Singapore via Taipei. In Singapore, we changed planes and flew to Kuala Lumpur, arriving early on the afternoon of the 15th. We rented a car and headed to Kuala Selangor.
January 15: Road to Kuala Selangor (KS) and around the KS reserve. We stayed in the "chalets" at the reserve. The drive from KL to KS was about 2 hours, but we did stop to bird. Dinner at a small shop within walking distance from the reserve.
January 16: In the morning, we birded the KS reserve. We walked around the Ring Bund trail that circles the marshy areas and walked the trails through the woods. In the afternoon, we birded Tanjong Karang (TK) and the PBLS Ricefields. The drive time to TK was roughly ½ hour. Similarly, it did not take long to get to the ricefields. Birded from 6:30am to 7:00pm. Breakfast was oatmeal, granola bars, etc. that we had brought. Lunch was nibblies we had brought. Dinner was in the new part of KS at a Chinese Seafood restaurant. Not recommended. Besides the many unidentifiable objects, sea turtle eggs were identifiable.
January 17: We birded the edge of the marshes and woods at KS for an hour or two in the morning and then went to TK. Around 11am we headed for The Gap, reaching it at 4pm. We birded around The Gap until 5pm and then headed up to Fraser's Hill (FH), where we birded around the dump until 7pm. Breakfast was pastries and cookies we had bought/brought. Lunch was (sorry to all purists) KFC during the hair raising drive through KL. Dinner was at a nice Indian restaurant at FH called Spices. We stayed at the Quest Resort which provided a quiet clean air-conditioned room at a decent price.
January 18: A fine day at FH starting at the dump, then Bishop's Trail, then around Telekom Loop. 6:30a-7:30p. Breakfast of cookies and such, lunch at Spices, and dinner at Spices.
January 19: The dump at sunrise, then The Gap, then High Pines and Telekom Loop (brief) at FH. 6:30a-7:30p. As above for meals, except for dinner at the Quest. This was more expensive but quite good.
January 20: The dump at daybreak (until it went from smoke to outright flame), then drove (with some birding) to Kuala Tembeling, where we caught the boat to Taman Negara (TN). We had a bit of birding before dark here. The drive took about 4 hours with just brief birding. The boat ride takes about 2 ½ hours. Lunch was at Kuala Tembeling boat launch (ok) and dinner at the TN Resort (buffet- fairly good). We avoided eating at the floating restaurants, partly after watching them wash there dishes in the river.
January 21: Took the Jenet Muda Trail to Bukit Teresek and then went back to Canopy Trail. Walked Canopy Trail in mid-day (and it was still good). Then back to Resort area and down Swamp Trail. Breakfast of snacks in room, lunch and dinner at Resort. 7:30a-2p. 4p-7p.
January 22: Around TN Resort (and its lovely fruiting tree) first thing in am. Then to Yong Hide at 8am. Back to Resort at Noon. Drift trip down Tahan River late in pm. 7am-7pm.
January 23: Around TN Resort, Canopy Trail, Trail up Tembeling River and drift trip down Tahan River.
January 24: Bird around Resort in early AM and then boat back to Kuala Tembeling. Lunch at Kuala Tembeling boat launch again and then dinner at the wonderous Crown Princess Intercontinental Hotel in KL.
Food: generally quite palatable. If a question arises, fried rice/fried noodles seemed to usually yield a tasty dish. Breakfast places don't open early enough for dawn birding, so we brought some dried oatmeal (mixed with powdered milk) and cookies. Replenishment of cookie/pastry supply was easy as was the purchase of bottled water. Lunch and dinner was as listed above. We found the food at Fraser's Hill to be much underrated. Both Spices and the Quest Hotel served good food, with some meals being very good. Also, the lunch at the TN Resort was very good. Dinner was a buffet until 9pm (so we always ate at the buffet) and it was fairly good.
Accomodation: At the KS reserve, the accomodations were simple yet clean and without insects. Definitely the most basic place, and you need to bring your own towels and toilet paper. There is a small store at the reserve for soda/bottled water. Phone 03-8892294. The Quest Resort (phone 09-3622300) has good rooms and a good restaurant (see above). The Taman Negara Resort (phone 03-2455585) had rooms that were clean and air-conditioned. Unfortunately, since not all of the windows closed, the room was not too cool during the day. It was very comfortable at night, however. The Crown Princess was a fine way to finish the trip off.
Phone and Money: Use ringetts. They are easy to obtain at airport. Credit cards at major locations work fine as well. The international country code for Malaysia is 60.
Safety: They drive on the left and very poorly. It makes Central America look like a spin around the park on a Sunday morning. Off the roads, we never felt in danger. The people seemed friendly or indifferent, but we encountered very little, if any, hostility. I'd still keep valuables and passport, etc close at hand, of course.
Health: Don't drink the water and do get the oral typhoid and injected Hepatitis A vaccines (once cleared by your doc). Call the CDC for further details. For our trip, malarial prophyllaxis with Lariam was recommended. Also, Malaysia is hot, so don't forget to old addages about drinking lots of water.
Airlines: Singapore Air was friendly, efficient, comfortable and is, therefore, highly recommended. They officially have an 11 pound carry-on limit. Lots of carry-ons (including ours) were clearly heavier than that. Carry-ons do need to fit their dimension restrictions (to fit in overheads).
Books: No single book covered the Malay peninsula at the time of our visit. We found the Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali (by MacKinnon and Phillipps) to be most useful. I gutted the plates and had them bound with the outer pages laminated. At Kinkos, this cost about 12 bucks and was well worth it. The Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Lekagul and Round was also useful and provided info on a the species that occur on the Malay Peninsula but not on Borneo, etc. The illustrations in Lekagul and Round seemed generally inferior to those in MacKinnon and Phillips. By using these two books, only the Malaysian Whistling Thrush and Mountain Peacock-Pheasant are left uncovered. Good photos, which are also helpful, can be found in A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore by Strange and Jeyarajasingam and in A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore by Davison and Fook. Both books are useful, but the smaller Davison and Fook also seemed to have better photos. For a finding guide, a Birdwatcher's Guide to Malaysia by John Bransbury was actually quite good and served its purpose well.
Birdlist (using Clements order)
Little Egret: common at Kuala Selangor reserve and Tanjong Karang. Maximum 20 on 1/16. Do note that not all individuals in Malaysia have yellow "slippers".
Chinese Egret: superb view through a scope of one bird on 1/15 at the KS reserve with Little and Great Egrets. We realized the rarity of this bird and were not casual with the ID.
Gray Heron: common at KS reserve. Also seen at TK and the PBLS ricefields in smaller numbers. Max 12 on 1/15.
Purple Heron: one at the PBLS ricefields on 1/16 was the only bird seen.
Great Egret: Common at KS reserve and TK. Maximum count 8 on 1/16.
Chinese Pond-Heron: Common at KS reserve and TK. Maximum of 8+ on 1/15. Only one bird was in breeding plumage and the others could have conceivably been the much rarer Javan Pond-Heron.
Striated Heron (aka Little Heron): Common at KS reserve, TK, and PBLS ricefields. Also seen along Tembeling River from boat. Max of 10+ on several dates.
Black-crowned Night-Heron: One seen from bridge over creek just before reaching the "bird hide" at KS reserve. CH only.
Cinnamon Bittern: One in PBLS ricefields on 1/16 was the only bittern of any kind seen.
Lesser Adjutant: One of these impressive birds came to roost in the KS reserve nightly. It was visible from the "bird hide". Ugly yet magnificent.
Osprey: One seen on boat ride up to TN from Jerantut on 1/20.
Black Baza: One was seen on several occasions near the chalets at the KS reserve on 1/15 and 1/16. This is one nifty and peculiar looking raptor, that (per the KS reserve director and contrary to assorted books) does often winter at KS.
Bat Hawk: One hunting bats at dusk was visible from the jeti at the Taman Negara resort on 1/20.
Black-shouldered Kite: seen several times in transit, plus 12 or so were seen at the PBLS ricefields on 1/16.
Black Kite: Only seen at PBLS ricefields on 1/16 when as many as 20 birds were seen, including a number of birds at a burning field.
Brahminy Kite: Very common at KS and nearby areas, including the PBLS ricefields. Maximum of 40 on 1/16. Don't let its abundance stop you from appreciating its elegance and beauty.
Lesser Fish-Eagle: Seen both times on boat rides on Tahan River, with two birds on 1/23.
Crested Serpent-Eagle: seen in ones or twos at KS, The Gap, FH, and TN. Perhaps the best bird name in Malaysia. All the non-birders at home will gasp when you tell them you saw a Crested Serpent-Eagle.
Northern Harrier: Despite our best efforts to turn this bird into a different species, we were forced to identify a female bird as this species on 1/16 at the PBLS ricefields. We also saw a Pied Harrier and a couple unidentified harriers.
Pied Harrier: One at PBLS ricefields on 1/16. Next time, I want a male.
Crested Goshawk: One seen remarkably well perched along Canopy Trail at TN on 1/23. Very cool bird.
Greater Spotted Eagle: One seen at PBLS ricefields feeding along burning field on 1/16.
Booted Eagle: One feeding perched on ground near above-mentioned burning field at PBLS on 1/16.
Rufous-bellied Eagle: One seen low over Tembeling River on AM boat ride back to Jerantut from TN on 1/24.
Changeable Hawk-Eagle: One seen low over Tembeling River on AM boat ride back to Jerantut Tembeling from TN on 1/24.
Blythe's Hawk-Eagle: One gave us stunning views while perched over road on Telekom Loop at FH on 1/19. Also seen over TN Resort and over Tembeling river on boat ride up to TN.
Black-thighed Falconet: One seen on the way up river headed towards TN from Jerantut on 1/20 and another on boat ride back on 1/24. Richard Webster and Roseanne Rowlett also had one at camping area at TN Resort.
Red Junglefowl: Easy to hear but hard to see at KS where birds are of wild phenotype. Others of presumed feral or farmyard origin where widespread in disturbed areas. When is a chicken not a chicken- when its a Red Junglefowl!
Crested Fireback: As proported by others, common and tame at TN. Seen along Swamp Trail, near Bukit Teresek, and along Tembeling River between Resort and Canopy Trail. We also saw an odd bird at KS that was fireback-like (female type), with blue facial skin, small crest, larger-than-chicken size. After reviewing photos and seeing live females, we feel that this wasn't a Crested Fireback, though what it was, we don't know.
Malaysian Peacock-Pheasant: One along Swamp Trail at TN on 1/20 gave great views.
Slaty-legged Crake: One seen well but briefly in mangroves and across trail between bridge and "bird hide" at KS on 1/15.
White-breasted Waterhen: Common at KS and TK. 10+ were seen on 1/15. Splendid looking bird.
Masked Finfoot: One seen on each boat trip along Tahan River at TN (1/22 and 1/23). It looks like a Sora trying to be a grebe.
Pintail Snipe: One bird seen on 1/16 in PBLS Ricefields was presumably this species, though the rarer Swinhoe's Snipe could not be ruled out.
Common Redshank: Common at TK.
Marsh Sandpiper: Very common at KS and TK.
Common Greenshank: Very common at KS and TK.
Wood Sandpiper: a couple at KS and PBLS Ricefields.
Terek Sandpiper: a couple at KS and TK.
Common Sandpiper: Common at KS, TK, and along Tembeling River.
Ruddy Turnstone: one at TK on 1/16.
Rufous-necked Stint: a few at TK on 1/16.
Curlew Sandpiper: a few at TK on 1/16.
Pacific Golden-Plover: Two at PBLS ricefields on 1/16.
Little Ringed Plover: A small group at PBLS ricefields on 1/16.
Mongolian Plover: Very common at TK. Undoubtedly we missed a few Greater Sand-Plover hidden among them.
Whiskered Tern: Very numerous at TK on 1/16. Mostly distant and undoubtedly missed WW Tern among them.
Gull-billed Tern: One at TK on 1/16.
Little Tern: Probably two at TK on 1/16. Could not rule out the much rarer Saunder's Tern.
Rock Dove: Fairly numerous around lowland cities and villages, including a small flock at FH.
Spotted Dove: Common at KS and TK and on roads through villages.
Little Cuckoo-Dove: Numerous in flight at dusk and to a lesser extent in early morning. Also, saw a number at a fruiting tree along Telekom Loop on 1/18. Maximum was 100 on 1/18. Quite pretty close up.
Zebra Dove: Common along roads through villages and at KS. Also known as Peaceful Dove (as opposed to Murderous Dove, I guess).
Little Green Pigeon: Several coming to fruiting tree at TN Resort in early morning and late evening.
Pink-necked Pigeon: Common at KS with swarms during evening of 1/15 easily totalling 300 or more.
Thick-billed Pigeon: A couple at same fruiting tree as Little Greens at TN Resort on 1/23.
Large Green Pigeon: A bird, apparently of this species, was seen at KS. It was perched high in a tree, showing the orange breast band of a male. The seemed to lack obvious gray on the head, the tail appeared relatively longer than that of the numerous PN Pigeons, and the bird appeared noteably larger as well. However, this is a rare species not usually seen at KS, so without an exceptional look, some doubt must remain.
Mountain Imperial Pigeon: A couple were seen over KS on 1/15, and 30 or so (in 2 flocks) were seen over TK on 1/17. Common at FH.
Blue-rumped Parrot: One was in trees at Kuala Tembeling jeti on 1/19. Extremely cute.
Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot: Seen several times in flight at TN, mostly around Resort. A dull parrot.
Large Hawk-Cuckoo: Heard several times at FH. One seen behind Bishop's House on 1/18.
(Indian Cuckoo): Heard frequently but never seen at TN.
Oriental Cuckoo: Heard several times and seen once (along Telekom Loop) at FH.
Drongo Cuckoo: Two were seen during drift back down Tahan River on 1/22. Also, one was seen just outside camping area and another was seen in trees around Resort.
Asian Koel: Very common at KS and TK. Max of 25 seen and more heard on 1/16. Usually seen in flight.
Chestnut-bellied Malkoha: One seen on 1/16 along woodland trail at KS.
Green-billed Malkoha: Four seen at The Gap on 1/17.
Raffle's Malkoha: Common at TN, often in small noisy groups. Squirrel Cuckoo like in appearance, but smaller.
Chestnut-breasted Malkoha: Seen several times at TN, mostly around resort, with as many as 6 on 1/22. Dark glossy blue-green back unlike any book's depiction. Very attractive.
Greater Coucal: A couple seen at edge of marshy areas at KS and also seen stalking through garden areas at TN Resort in a very cat like manner. We did not see any Lessers and do not think we misidentified them as Greaters, either.
(Mountain Scops Owl): Heard at several locations around FH, including behind the Quest Resort, but could not get one to show itself.
Jungle Nightjar: Also known as Gray Nightjar. We saw three at dawn near the dump at FH on 1/18.
Large-tailed Nightjar: Common at KS with as many as 25 heard on 1/16. Also, several nightly around TN Resort where could be seen around lights at night. At KS, parking area for non-guests was good area to look.
Gray-rumped Treeswift: Treeswifts are totally cool! We saw 5-10 of these on the boat ride from Kuala Tembeling to TN and on each ride down the Tahan River.
Whiskered Treeswift: Smaller than GR Treeswift and apparently less likely to soar. Had crippling views of one from the Canopy Trail on 1/21 and saw it there less well on 1/23. Also, a couple on boat rides down Tahan River.
Giant Swiftlet: During the afternoon of 1/19, we took the boat from Kuala Tembeling to FH Resort and had impressive numbers of swifts feeding low over the water. One was all dark, had a forked tail, and was as big or bigger than Pacific Swift. We had great views, and this bird had a dark rump. It appeared to be as big as our Black Swift. Of the Malaysian swifts, only Giant Swiftlet fits what we saw, and it fits nicely! This bird is also known as Waterfall Swift.
Glossy Swiftlet: Common at FH and The Gap with over 100 seen each day. Not seen elsewhere. Also known as White-bellied Swiftlet.
Edible-nest Swiftlet: Throughout our stay at KS and at TN, we saw numbers of Edible-nest type Collocalia swiftlets, sometimes by the hundreds. Many had distinct pale-ish gray rump bands and relatively significant tail notching plus paler underparts contrasting with slightly darker upperparts. From various sources, this seems to fit well with Edible-nest Swiftlet which, I believe, should be the most common species in Malaysia. Unidentified swiftlets of this general kind were most numerous at TN, but we got the best views of birds appearing to Edible-nest Swiftlets at KS.
Black-nest Swiftlet: During the afternoon of 1/19, we took the boat from Kuala Tembeling to FH Resort and had impressive numbers of swifts feeding low over the water. One bird resembling a Black-nest Swiftlet, gave us great views. It had virtually no rump contrast and very little tail notch. We feel that this bird was likely a Black-nest Swiftlet. There were other candidates that did not give us enough of a view. This species is supposed to be common in Malaysia.
Silver-rumped Spinetail: Seen first at The Gap on 1/17 in small groups, large numbers were sometimes present at TN, especially over Tahan River. Over 100 were seen there on 1/23.
Asian Palm-Swift: Several seen each day around Kuala Selangor. Also, seen while driving from KL to KS, from KS to The Gap, and at the KL airport.
Pacific Swift: Several seen on 1/16 at KS, then seen in fair numbers on boat from Kuala Tembeling to TN. Several seen most days at TN. May have been more numerous, but we eventually grew tired of trying to sort out swifts! Also known as Fork-tailed Swift.
House Swift: A large flock was seen on multiple occassions over the newer part of the town of KS.
Scarlet-rumped Trogon: One seen in mixed-feeding flock along Jenet Muda Trail at TN on 1/21.
(Red-headed Trogon): Heard at trail down to waterfall near dump. Voice identified for us by Durai.
Common Kingfisher: Two seen at KS on 1/15, one on boat ride up to TN and another on ride down. Also, one along Tahan River.
Rufous-backed Kingfisher: One seen along small stream along Jenet Muda Trail on 1/21 by CH only. Formerly considered a subspecies of Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher.
Stork-billed Kingfisher: One to two seen each day at KS. Also, one on boat trip back down from TN. Impressive bird in stature and color.
White-throated Kingfisher: Very common at KS, TK, and the PBLS Ricefields. Also seen on boat trips up to and down from TN. Max 30 on 1/16 at KS/TK/PBLS. Stunning bird.
Black-capped Kingfisher: Common at KS and TK. Also seen on boat rides up to and down from TN as well as along Tahan River. Max 15 on 1/16. Also stunning.
Collared Kingfisher: Yet another stunner. Common at KS and TK, but not seen elsewhere. Max 20 on 1/16.
Rufous-collared Kingfisher: One seen on boat ride up to TN from Kuala Tembeling on 1/20 and another on ride up Tahan River on 1/22. How come none of our New World Kingfishers are this snazzy?
Blue-throated Bee-eater: Several along river just before reaching TN from Kuala Tembeling on 1/20 and one at TN resort on 1/22. How come we don't have any bee-eaters in the New World?
Blue-tailed Bee-eater: Common at PBLS ricefields and also at TK and KS. One seen at FH on 1/20. Max of 25 on 1/16 at PBLS and TK.
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater: SM had an excellent view of the distinctive head and throat of one as it sat in a fig tree at the TN resort. It then flew, apparently within the tree, and showed no enlongated central tailfeathers. The bird was never seen again. The chestnut crown and nape, along with the bright yellow throat, were clearly seen.
Dollarbird: This distinctive roller was seen several times in transit, but only once at a place we went to bird: KS on 1/16.
Oriental Pied Hornbill: Two came in every morning and evening to the trees around the TN Resort giving crushing views and acting cute by preening each other. Also, two were seen at Kuala Tembeling.
Black Hornbill: Three were seen flying over Tahan River from boat on 1/22.
Rhinocerous Hornbill: Two flew over the road near The Gap on 1/17 and one flew over the trail on Bukit Teresek at Taman Negara on 1/21.
Wreathed Hornbill: One flew over the Fraser's Hill dump on the morning of 1/19 and two were there in the evening. Six flew over Jenet Muda Trail on 1/21.
Fire-tufted Barbet: This unusually ornamented but somewhat dull-colored Barbet was common at FH. Max of 15 were seen (and more heard) on 1/18.
Gold-whiskered Barbet: Common at TN, where we saw them around the Resort, the Swamp Trail and elsewhere. Also, 2 were at Kuala Tembeling after our return boat trip.
Black-browed Barbet: Common at FH and probably The Gap. Maximum of 10 seen (and others heard) on 1/18 at FH.
Blue-eared Barbet: One came into the fruiting tree at Taman Negara Resort on 1/23 and 1/24.
Coppersmith Barbet: One came into the fruiting tree at Taman Negara most mornings. Also, we saw one at Kuala Tembeling.
Speckled Piculet: One of these nifty critters greeted us along Telekom Loop at FH on 1/18 and another was just above The Gap on the road to FH on 1/19.
Rufous Woodpecker: One on Jenet Muda Trail and along Tembeling River at Taman Negara on 1/21/98.
Lesser Yellownape: Common at Fraser's Hill. Max of 6 on 1/18.
Crimson-winged Woodpecker: One along Jenet Muda Trail at Taman Negara on 1/21/98.
Greater Yellownape: Saw a couple at scattered locations at Fraser's Hill.
Laced Woodpecker: Common at KS reserve. Max of 10 on 1/16 at KS. Clements is apparently in error when he claims that the very similar Streak-breasted Woodpecker also occurs in Malaya. According to the 'Woodpeckers of the world' by Winkler et al., this is not the case.
Common Flameback: We saw 3 at KS reserve on 1/16. Also seen near Yong Hide on 1/22. Though it may be common, its gaudy plumage is hardly ordinary.
Greater Flameback: We saw one (noting distinctly split malar stripe and large size) at Kuala Tembeling on 1/20. Though listed as common in Strange and Jeyarajasingam's photo guide to Malaysia, this bird is strangely absent from most people's list.
Bay Woodpecker: Easy to hear but hard to see at FH. Finally saw one on Telekom Loop on 1/18.
Buff-rumped Woodpecker: A very cool woodpecker despite its lack of bright colors. We saw our first on 1/19 just above The Gap on the road to FH. Also saw one in woods just past campground at TN Resort.
Black-and-red Broadbill: A stunning, mind-numbing beauty. We saw two. The first was on 1/20 was along the Tembeling River trail just east of the Taman Negara Resort area. The second was along the Tahan River during our float back to the Resort on 1/22.
Black-and-yellow Broadbill: Another cosmic mind-blower. How can such awe-inspiring birds have such turd names. Usually, tropical ornithologists do better. How about Superb Broadbill. Or Mind-blowing Broadbill. Anyway, we had one of this particular species at Bukit Teresek on 1/21.
Long-tailed Broadbill: My favorite bird of my favorite group. We saw two on Bishop's Trail (FH) on 1/18 and then another along the Telekom Loop on the same day.
Green Broadbill: I thought this color green occurred only on artificially dyed Italian ice. A pair of these crippling critters frequented a fruiting fig at the TN Resort.
Golden-bellied Gerygone: AKA Flyeater. We saw three from boardwalk through mangroves at KS reserve.
White-throated Fantail: Common at FH and The Gap. Max was 10 seen on 1/18 at FH.
Pied Fantail: We saw only two. One was along Coastal Bund just to the north of the KS reserve itself. The other was along the Ring Bund at the KS Reserve. Both were on 1/16.
Black-naped Monarch: We saw one of these nifty birds near the Yong Hide on 1/22.
Asian Paradise-Flycatcher: Our first of these was at the FH dump on 1/19. We had 4 total that day, including one down by The Gap. We also had a couple later at TN.
Black Drongo: A few were around the KS reserve, but this species was abundant at the PBLS ricefields, where it filled a kingbird-like niche. On 1/16 we saw 75 at KS/PBLS ricefields.
Ashy Drongo: Seemed more common at KS than Black Drongo, but much less common around ricefields. We saw a few each day at KS. Not nearly as pale as shown in Sumatra/ Borneo guide. Rather, they looked much more like depiction in Thai guide.
Bronzed Drongo: A shining bird indeed. Shimmering Drongo would be a better name. This was the common drongo at The Gap and we saw a couple around TN as well. Max was 12 seen on 1/19 at The Gap. We did not see any at FH.
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo: This was the common drongo at FH, but we did not see any at The Gap or elsewhere. Max was 10 seen on 1/19 at FH.
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo: This was the common drongo at TN. We also saw one at The Gap on 1/19 and another at the FH dump on 1/20. Without its rackets, the tail is shallow and forked. Also, the bill seems thicker than shown in guides. Our first was at The Gap, where neither this species or Crow-billed Drongo was listed by various observers. We were temporarily duped. Fortunately, the truth eventually became clear.
Green Magpie: This was definitely one of the top-notch birds of our trip. We heard them at several locations around FH and had one distant look before Charles spotted a silent bird (a.k.a. Stealth-Magpie) only 20 feet away virtually directly above us. Splendid. Both of the Green Magpies we saw were along Telekom Loop on 1/18.
House Crow: Common around towns and at the KL Airport.
Slender-billed Crow: On our last morning at TN (1/24), a calling bird flew out of the forest and into the Resort area, only to return a couple minutes later with a big fruit in its beak. It disappeared back into the woods.
Large-billed Crow: Common around towns and abundant at KS. Also, some at FH and a couple at TN. Max of 100 at KS and the PBLS ricefields on 1/16.
White-breasted Woodswallow: We saw a couple hunting from wires around the PBLS ricefields on 1/16.
Common Iora: We saw two at the KS reserve in the scrub along the Ring Bund on 1/16. A bird or two was also seen around edge of the TN Resort.
Green Iora: A male was seen twice behind the laundry are at the TN Resort.
Dark-throated Oriole: Three were seen along Jenet Muda Trail on 1/21.
Black-naped Oriole: Common in disturbed areas, especially at and around KS. It was not uncommon just to see them flying overhead. We saw at least 20 at KS on 1/16. Also seen at Kuala Tembeling and in fruiting tree at TN Resort.
Black-and-crimson Oriole: Sometimes, not black and crimson but just black. This was a pleasingly common bird at FH with 10 seen on 1/18.
Large Cuckoo-Shrike: OK, so it's a dull bird. Nonetheless, two along the Telekom Loop on 1/18 were a treat.
Lesser Cuckoo-Shrike: OK, so it's dull, too. But it's rarer. One was in a mixed species flock along the road to FH not far above The Gap on 1/19.
Pied Triller: A few were seen at scattered gardens in the expanse of the PBLS ricefields on 1/16. Also, on at the KS reserve on 1/17.
Ashy Minivet: Not really ashy, just gray. We saw this species only once: 3 were viewable from our porch at the TN Resort on 1/22.
Fiery Minivet: One seen well from The Canopy Trail at TN on 1/21.
Gray-chinned Minivet: Common at FH and a few at The Gap as well. Max of 15 on 1/19 at The Gap/FH. These are very attractive birds and active feeders, almost reminiscent of giant American Redstarts.
Scarlet Minivet. A couple seen on different days at FH, The Gap, and TN.
Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike: A few seen each day at FH.
Asian Fairy-Bluebird: An absolutely glorious bird, the magnificence of which was diminished only by its abundance. We saw an individual or two of this species at The Gap, and then on the way towards TN, we encountered a flock of 50 to 100. The birds were flying in and out of a fruit tree (the tree itself was, sadly, not visible). This was a drop you to your knees type experience! Good numbers were also seen daily at TN at the Resort and along the trails.
Greater Green Leafbird: One was at fruiting tree at The Gap and a couple frequented the TN Resort area.
Lesser Green Leafbird: Two were in fruiting tree at the TN Resort on 1/22.
Blue-winged Leafbird: Seemed fairly numerous around The Gap. Several were also seen at FH and at TN. Eddie Myers notes claimed that the somewhat similar Golden-fronted Leafbird was common at TN, but we saw none, and it is not on the lists we've seen for peninsular Malaysia.
Orange-bellied Leafbird: Common around FH.
Tiger Shrike: Seen at The Gap on 1/17 and again on 1/19.
Brown Shrike: Several seen each day around KS and the PBLS ricefields. Only other one seen was at The Gap on 1/17.
Rufous-winged Philentoma: One on 1/24 on Swamp Trail. CH only.
Asian Glossy Starling: Also known as Phillipine Glossy Starling. First seen in towns between KL and KS on 1/15, a few were also seen at KS reserve on 1/16. We saw a couple more on the boat trip back from TN to Kuala Tembeling. Birds were seen in adult and immature plumage.
Daurian Starling: AKA Purple-backed Starling. We saw this species but once - four birds together on 1/16 at the KS reserve.
Common Myna: Abundant in towns and fields. A couple also hung around lawns at TN resort. A fair number of the birds around KL were missing feathers from head and upper back revealing underlying brilliant yellow skin. With a quick flyby, these can look really dramatic and really baffling. We didn't see any birds like this away from KL.
Jungle Myna: Thick as fleas around KS. Max of 50 on 1/16 at KS/PBLS reserve.
White-vented/Crested Myna: We saw two birds on a wire in a village between KL and KS on 1/15. Sadly, the lighting sucked and we couldn't see enough to ID them.
Hill Myna: Common around TN Resort.
Dark-sided Flycatcher: One was at Bukit Teresek on 1/21.
Asian Brown Flycatcher: Perhaps better named Asian Gray Flycatcher, since the common race in Malaysia is utterly lacking brown. The two races in Malaysia, M.d. williamsoni and M.d. latirostris, are listed as separate by some authors- named Brown-streaked and Asian Brown, respectively. The latter is supposed to be the common bird, and indeed, most birds we saw fit nicely in with this taxa. Some birds looked like they might be Brown-streaked, but we are not sure of how to specifically make this ID. We saw several Asian Brown Flys virtually every day.
Mugimaki Flycatcher: A male in a garden at the Telekom Loop (FH) on 1/18 was a delight. We saw a couple others at FH and The Gap, including a bird at the famous FH dump.
Rufous-browed Flycatcher: A couple were seen along Bishop's Trail at FH on 1/18 and 1/19. These seemed to feed in the understory.
Little Pied Flycatcher: Fairly numerous around FH and The Gap with a maximum of 8 seen on 1/18 at those two locations.
Verditer Flycatcher: We saw a few of these bluish flycatchers at scattered sites at FH and The Gap. They were often high up in trees.
Large Nitalva: This was a stunning, magnificent, and absolutely beautiful bird. We saw only one, but it perched out in sunlight at 20 feet or so. It was just below the High Pines area of FH on 1/19.
Pale Blue Flycatcher: We were lucky enough to see one of these at The Gap on 1/17.
Hill Blue Flycatcher: We definitely had bad luck with the assorted small blue-and- orange flycatchers that occur in Malaysia. We saw only one, a Hill Blue Fly, at the FH dump. At least it gave us good views on a couple different mornings.
Oriental Magpie-Robin: One or two of these were in virtually every garden. They provided greeting card poses by singing from the cornices of the "chalets" (a.k.a. cabins) at TN Resort.
White-rumped Shama: one seen by CH in woods near the campground area of TN Resort.
White-tailed Robin: One at the FH dump on 1/18.
Chestnut-naped Forktail: We had two of these along the trail that parallels the Tembeling River east of the turnoff to Bukit Teresek. Both were at stream crossings, though surprisingly, one of these streams was dried up.
Slaty-backed Fortktail: One was seen briefly as it flew up from stream crossing along Bishop's Trail on 1/18. Another most lucky find.
Blue Nuthatch: OK, this is a nifty bird, but I fail to understand the unending stream of superlatives that are usually attached to any sighting. Instead, give me any broadbill, anytime. We saw a couple of these at the FH dump on 1/18 and two along the Telekom Loop on 1/19.
Barn Swallow: This friendly reminder of home was abundant and ubiquitous. There was enough overlap in breast pattern that some birds seemed to be quite similar to those in the US. Saw hundreds on several days.
Pacific Swallow: We first identified one of these at the PBLS ricefields. However, there seemed to be a couple most times enough Barn Swallows were around, and the looks were good enough. Not seen around FH and The Gap.
Straw-headed Bulbul: Several seen on float trip down the Tahan River on 1/23.
Black-crested Bulbul: This species was abundant at The Gap. We saw few, if any, at FH and none elsewhere. Max was 50 on 1/20, most of which were at a fruiting tree 10km or so east of The Gap. This colorful bulbul looks like a mistake. The crest is so long that, at times, it droops forward like a quail's.
Scaly-breasted Bulbul: Five were with the big bulbul group 10km or so east of The Gap on 1/20.
Gray-bellied Bulbul: We saw one of these bulbuls on 1/21 along the Canopy Trail at TN. We then saw a couple on the following two days at the TN Resort fruiting tree.
Puff-backed Bulbul: We saw our first near the Yong Hide on 1/22. We saw another while drifting down the Tahan River 1/23.
Stripe-throated Bulbul: We saw only one. It was at The Gap on 1/19.
Yellow-vented Bulbul: This dull but cheerful bird was abundant in the lowlands, especially in open areas. They were quite common around KS, and a few were around the Resort at TN. We saw none at FH. Max was 50 at KS and the PBLS ricefields on 1/16.
Olive-winged Bulbul: We saw only one. It was in the woodlands at the KS reserve on 1/16.
Cream-vented Bulbul: We saw three well while drifting down the Tahan River on 1/22 and saw two more around the TN Resort on 1/23.
Red-eyed Bulbul: A few were seen each day on the grounds of the TN Resort.
Spectacled Bulbul: A couple were seen most days on the grounds of the TN Resort.
Finsch's Bulbul: This moderately colorful bulbul gave us great views from the Canopy Trail at TN on 1/21.
Ochraceous Bulbul: This species seemed fairly common at The Gap, but we saw it only once or twice at FH.
Gray-cheeked Bulbul: One gave us good views while we were drifting down the Tahan River on 1/22.
Yellow-bellied Bulbul: Two were seen on 1/22 near the Yong Hide at TN.
Hairy-backed Bulbul: We obtained good views of a couple from the Canopy Trail on 1/21 and later saw a couple near Yong Hide and another while floating down the Tahan River. All of these locations are at TN.
Streaked Bulbul: We got smashing views of this dull bird from the Canopy Trail, TN, on 1/21. We later saw one or two at the fruiting tree at the TN Resort.
Ashy Bulbul: We first saw one at The Gap on 1/17 and subsequently saw a coule more there. On our way east from The Gap to Raub, we saw 25 or more at a fruiting tree on 1/20!
Mountain Bulbul: We saw 10 at FH on 1/18, mostly along the Bishop's Trail.
Oriental White-eye: Five were seen in the mangroves at the KS reserve on 1/16.
Everett's White-eye: Seemingly always in swarming, noisy flocks, we saw sizeable groups twice along Telekom Loop, FH. One flock was 30+, the other about 10.
Yellow-bellied Prinia: Supposedly common, but we saw only two in the marshes and scrub around the KS reserve.
Oriental Reed-Warbler: A dull, but nonetheless tasty, bird. We saw one along the coastal bund near the KS reserve on 1/16 and another at TK on 1/17.
Mountain Tailorbird: We saw three at FH on 1/18.
Common Tailorbird: Small in size, but great in voice. They're small, but they're noisy. A couple seemed to always be in the bushes around the TN Resort. We also saw small numbers at The Gap and at KS. Females surprisingly difficult to tell from Dark-necked Tailorbird, we relied mostly on the undertail coverts.
Dark-necked Tailorbird: Two were seen at The Gap on 1/19.
Ashy Tailorbird: Common at KS reserve and TK. Like its relatives, noisy and active and unlike them, quite attractive to the eye. Max of 7 seen on 1/16 at KS/TK.
Radde's Warbler: On 1/17 at TK, we saw a bird in the mangrove roots that we believed to be a Dusky Warbler. This was in part due to the similarity of these two species, and in part due to Dusky Warbler, but not Radde's Warbler, being on the Malaysian lists that we had with us. Dusky is considered rare, but as far as I can tell, Radde's has not been reported. Other sources show the regular range of Dusky and Radde's both occurring as far south as the northern end of the Malay Peninsula (which is not Malaysia, but Thailand). The similar Yellow-streaked Warbler occurs in northern Thailand.
Charles and I both seized the opportunity that this bird provided to study the Dusky/Radde's ID problem. We had remembered a number of marks that distinguished the two, but couldn't remember which mark belonged to which species. Again, we figured that the bird had to be a Dusky, because Radde's wasn't on the list, and we had no preconceived notion of which mark would belong to Dusky or Radde's. We noted the bird's bright pink-flesh leg color, and the thick appearing bill that was pale with a dark tip. Also noted and discussed was the buff flanks and fairly bright yellowish undertail coverts. Finally, the bird gave a soft "chup" call repeatedly. I snidely commented that the people who had told me about the emphatic distinctive call of the Dusky Warbler must be hallucinating. Charles agreed that the call was soft and unremarkable. We watched the bird in excellent light for a couple minutes before it moved off into thicker undergrowth.
I have looked through Baker's Warblers of Europe, Asia, and North Africa as well as A Guide to the Warblers of the Western Palearctic and assorted guides to the rare birds of Britain and Europe. I also reviewed photos published in British Birds and Birding World. The undertail covert color, leg color, bill size, and call all seem to fit in quite nicely with Radde's Warbler. Though some Duskies look like Radde's with regard to one or other of these marks, the suite of marks taken together seem very unlikely to be found in a Dusky. Furthermore, the call would seem to eliminate Dusky (and Yellow-streaked as well). We discussed these marks before ever looking at a guide. When we looked at the Thai guide a few minutes later, we realized that the bird might be a Radde's, but the true realization didn't hit until we were able to compare our notes with the sources mentioned above. Even before we realized that this was apparently a Radde's Warbler, this was one of my top favorite birds of this trip. I am not sure exactly what this says about me, other than I have some disease which is likely incurable.
Yellow-browed Warbler: Frequently called Inornate Warbler. We had a superb view of one of these at FH. The bird was seen on 1/19 in a mixed flock that contained Mountain Leaf, Arctic, and Chestnut-crowned Warblers. We saw the bird from the road that goes south where the road to the Dump goes North. I go into this detail, because I have heard some say that they felt this species is rarer than believed in Malaysia. The two distinct white (or whitish) wingbars, contrasting pale tertial tips, and lack of central crown stripe were all noted. I have seen several of these in Britain, and this bird looked to be the same. No, I can't promise that it wasn't a Hume's Leaf Warbler (aka Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler), but this species range does not closely approach Malaysia. We had another bird that was almost certainly this species on the road to FH about 1.5km above The Gap.
Arctic Warbler: A couple were seen most days in mixed flocks at wooded locations. Individuals were seen at KS, FH, The Gap, and TN.
Eastern Crowned Warbler: We saw one individual in the woods at KS reserve on 1/16 and then 5 on 1/19 between various spots at The Gap and FH.
Mountain Leaf Warbler: We saw a few of these at scattered locations around FH on 1/18 and 1/19. Looks like a yellow Worm-eating Warbler.
Chestnut-crowned Warbler: We saw a couple of these at scattered locations around FH on 1/18 and 1/19.
Yellow-bellied Warbler: One was near the Dump at FH on 1/18 and one was at the bamboo at the Dump on 1/19.
Black Laughingthrush: We saw one at The Gap on 1/17.
Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush: We saw a couple around The Gap and many at FH. Max was 18 seen at FH on 1/18.
Ferruginous Babbler: We saw one at Bukit Teresek (TN) on 1/21. As you will see, our babbler list sucked. This is one group that tapes would have made a significant difference (for better or worse).
Sooty-capped Babbler: One was along Jenet Muda Trail at TN on 1/21.
Rufous-crowned Babbler: Two were seen along Jenet Muda Trail at TN on 1/21.
(Large Scimitar-Babbler): One heard along Telekom Loop at FH.
Golden Babbler: This colorful warbler-like babbler was common at FH and seen around The Gap as well. Max seen was 40 at FH on 1/18.
Gray-throated Babbler: A few seen at various sites around FH and The Gap. Best spot was the FH Dump.
Chestnut-winged Warbler: A group of four gave us prolonged views along Tembeling River just upstream from TN Resort.
Striped Tit-Babbler: Great Name! I saw one in the woods at the KS reserve on 1/16. We subsequently saw a couple at The Gap and TN.
Silver-eared Mesia: Like splashes of paint on an easel, this bird is a spectacular combination of bits of color. We saw a couple flocks around FH in gardens and weedy areas.
White-browed Shrike-Babbler: Several were seen around FH on 1/18 and 1/19 in mixed-species flocks.
Black-eared Shrike-Babbler: Common in mixed-species flocks around FH. Max of 15 seen on 1/18 at FH. A snazzy little bird.
Blue-winged Minla: Common in mixed species flocks around FH with up to 15 in a day. Kind of dull, but not every bird can be a mesia.
Mountain Fulvetta: A surprisingly sharp-looking bird in good light. Common in mixed-species flocks around FH. I believe that we also saw some near The Gap. Max of 15 on 1/18 at FH.
Long-tailed Sibia: Long and elegant, this species is also omnipresent at FH, where flocks frequently filter past calling sibilantly. Max of 40+ on 1/18.
White-bellied Yuhina: Another small bird with a cool name that occurs at FH. Several were seen on 1/18 and 1/19 at FH and The Gap.
Sultan Tit: A big bulky tit colored brilliant lemon yellow and glossy navy blue. One of my faves of the whole trip. We saw a couple around the Dump at FH and along Telekom Loop at FH as well as near The Gap and from the Canopy Trail at TN. In other words, not rare, but do note, we never saw more than two at any place.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow: Abundant in towns and fields, much like House Sparrows in the U.S. We did not see any at FH or TN, or for that matter, in the KS reserve itself.
White-rumped Munia: Abundant in weedy areas around PBLS ricefields with 70 there on 1/16. Also seen elsewhere in weedy spots around KS. One was feeding on lawn at FH on 1/19.
Scaly-breasted Munia: Numerous in same areas as White-rumped Munias. Max numbers were more in 20 to 40 range. Only seen in the KS/TK/PBLS ricefield vicinity.
White-headed Munia: Listed as common in Strange and Jeyarajasingam, but not on any of the trip reports we read. We stumbled on a flock of 20 or so of these guys when trying to find the nature reserve at KS. We had gone down a dead end road in KS a bit south of the reserve on 1/15, and found the flock and found no others thereafter.
Forest Wagtail: A somewhat shy bird that we were able to get some good looks at in the woods at the KS reserve. We saw three (two together and plus another later) on 1/16.
Yellow Wagtail: one seen on 1/17 only at the FH dump. Durai had apparently seen it here before as well.
Gray Wagtail: One here, one there at various spots around FH, including the Quest Resort parking lot.
Richard's Pipit: A couple were seen in the PBLS ricefields.
Baya Weaver: A brilliant sparrow-like bird seen at several locations around the PBLS ricefields. At least 20 in total on 1/16.
Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker: One seen near fruiting tree about 10km down from The Gap towards Raub on 1/19. Also seen around Resort at TN.
Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker: One of these superb birds was along Bishop's Trail, FH, on 1/19. Also, one around TN Resort on 1/22.
Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker: One was around the TN Resort on 1/23.
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker: One by CH only at airport on last day.
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker: One was at FH on 1/20 and another was seen near The Gap on the same day. One was around the TN Resort 1/23.
Plain Flowerpecker: Two were seen in woods at KS reserve on 1/16.
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker: One of these nifty birds was at Kuala Tembeling on 1/20 and another was at the TN Resort on 1/22.
Brown-throated Sunbird: AKA Plain-throated Sunbird. A bright little bird, excepting the throat, of course. It was common in the scrub around the ponds at KS. A couple were also in the flowering trees around the TN Resort.
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird: A very tasty bird. We saw five in the woods at the KS reserve on 1/16 and then one at TN Resort on 1/21.
Purple-naped Sunbird: Three were seen near the Yong Hide at TN on 1/22. This is a big sunbird and a dull sunbird and initially looks a bit like a spiderhunter.
Olive-backed Sunbird: A common species at the KS reserve and in nearby gardens. We saw 12 on 1/16.
Black-throated Sunbird: We saw a few around The Gap and FH on 1/17 and 1/19, usually in garden-type situations. Another good looking species.
Little Spiderhunter: One near the Yong Hide at TN on 1/22. Another in the TN Resort area on 1/24.
Long-billed Spiderhunter: One near fruiting tree on way from The Gap to Raub, about 10km from The Gap.
Spectacled Spiderhunter: One or two of these fed in a white flowering tree at the TN Resort. This tree was thick with spiderhunters, most of which were Yellow-eareds. There may well have been more Spectacleds, and I can't promise that we did not miss a Thick-billed here. Gray-breasted Spiderhunters also frequented this bush. I doubt that there was a spider left!
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter: Common at the above-mentioned flowering tree at the TN Resort with a max of 15 or more birds on 1/22. Very few elsewhere at TN.
Gray-breasted Spiderhunter: Fairly common at TN, with a few birds around the resort, but also along trails (seen near Yong Hide and on Canopy Trail as well as elsewhere).
Streaked Spiderhunter: Common around FH, especially in gardens and the like. Max of 10 seen per day on 1/18 and 1/19.