Malaysia 2008

...with Chris Bradshaw

February 23rd - March 7th

The third Birdwatching Breaks visit to peninsula Malaysia again covered the traditional circuit visiting Kuala Selangor, Fraser’s Hill and Taman Negara. This was by some margin the most successful yet with a total of 277 species seen during the trip. An additional 12 species were heard only. A splendid selection of top quality and highly desirable species were seen during the trip, with prolonged views obtained of many of the choicest species. Of the more sought-after groups we found four species of pitta (Hooded, Blue-winged, Garnet and Banded), five species of Broadbill, seven species of Barbet, an impressive seven species of hornbill (including Helmeted, Great, White-crowned and Rhinoceros) and an excellent 16 species of woodpecker. Amongst a great list of other quality birds highlights included Crested Fireback, Crested Partridge, Malaysian Peacock-pheasant, Great Argus, Blue-banded and Banded Kingfishers, Buffy Fish Owl, Whiskered Treeswift, Crested Jay, Black Magpie, Lesser Shortwing, Streaked and Pygmy Wren-babblers, White-hooded Babbler, Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler, Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler and Chestnut-naped Forktail. All in all this tour was a superb sample of some of the finest forest birding available in southern Asia.

February 23rd/24th: Journey to Kuala Lumpur then on to Kuala Selangor.

Weather: Hot and humid.

After meeting at Heathrow we boarded our Etihad Airlines flight to Kuala Lumpur, via Abu Dhabi. A slightly delayed arrival into Kuala Lumpur found us exiting customs soon after 3pm. Here we met our driver Gopi and immediately we headed off to Kuala Selangor. Our first birds included the introduced Javan Myna, White-throated Kingfisher, Tree Sparrow and Black-shouldered Kite.

On arrival at Kuala Selangor we had a short exploration of the hotel grounds and the immediate vicinity in the period before it got dark. A nice list was compiled with highlights including a frustratingly brief Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Coppersmith’s Barbet, Olive-backed Sunbird, Pacific Swallow, Brown Shrike, splendid Black-naped Orioles, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and two smart Black Bazas. Overhead Brahminy Kites were much in evidence and nearby on the waterway adjacent to the hotel we found Striated Heron, Common Sandpiper and Common Kingfisher. We made the short drive down to the Nature Park as dusk fell. Here we saw two Lineated Barbets and heard both Blue-winged Pitta and Large-tailed Nightjar.

February 25th: Kuala Selangor Nature Park. Sekinchan Ricefields, Tanjong Karang.

Weather: Hot and humid

Our first full day in Malaysia began in fine style in the car park at the Nature Park, as here we found a superb Buffy Fish-owl perched close to the ground on a low stump. A great way to start any day! Our slow walk through the park produced a wide selection of the more common Malaysian birds. Among a long list of birds we enjoyed great views of Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Laced Woodpecker, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Drongo Cuckoo, Black-capped and Collared Kingfishers and Pied Fantail. As we entered the main area of mangroves we found a smart little Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker and not far away a Common Flameback. A number of Great Tits were a reminder of home, but these birds lack yellow and are something of a mangrove specialist in this part of the world. We had nice views of Ashy Drongo, Crested Serpent Eagle and Golden-bellied Gerygone, but a Mangrove Blue Flycatcher tantalised and was not seen by all. Retracing our steps we found further interesting species that included White-headed Munia and Yellow-bellied Prinia.

After lunch we headed up to the Sekinchan area. Visiting the coast we found that the tide was rather low and birds very distant. So we visited the rice fields and found some superb Oriental Practincoles. These showed well at close range. Other birds here included White-winged Black Terns, Eastern Cattle and Intermediate Egrets, smart White-breasted Woodswallows and Paddyfield Pipit. Further exploration produced Red-rumped Swallow, Asian Glossy Starling and Black-shouldered Kite. Returning to the coast we were disappointed to find few birds present with only Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper to be found. Heading back to Tanjong Karang we found sizeable flocks of Redshank, but little else of interest.

We returned to the Nature Park for the final hour of light and here we enjoyed a relaxing time in the observation tower where Watercock and 12 Smooth Otters were the main highlights, but Purple Heron and Pink-necked Green Pigeons also obliged providing us with a very pleasant way to end what had been a very good first full day in Malaysia.

February 26th: Kuala Selangor Nature Park. Travel to Fraser’s Hill with stops at lower elevations & exploration of Telekom Loop.

Weather: Overnight thunder & rain, resulted in overcast skies and slightly cooler conditions. Sunny late afternoon.

An impressive thunderstorm resulted in a disrupted night’s sleep for most of us. However, we were keen to be out in the field and soon we were again enjoying some good birding in the Nature Park. Most of the birds were similar to yesterday, but there was distinctly more activity and as we made our way to the mangroves additions to the list included Ruby-cheeked and Brown-throated Sunbirds, Dollarbird and Greater Coucal. Once in the mangroves we enjoyed good views of four Common Flamebacks, whilst Mangrove Whistler was a welcome sight, and a Pacific Swift drifted over. We had glimpsed Mangrove Blue Flycatcher yesterday, but were hoping for better this morning. After a bit of a struggle we eventually found a position where we could coax this beauty into view and we all enjoyed views at point blank range. Wonderful stuff! Continuing our walk we explored some slightly different areas of the park, and in the process we located our first Olive-winged Bulbuls and obtained better views of Abbott’s Babbler than yesterday. The walk back to the vehicle resulted in sightings of Lineated Barbet and Common Tailorbird.

After lunch we headed off to Fraser’s Hill (Bukit Fraser). Traffic was slow, but we reached the lower slopes of the forest by soon after 3pm. Birding stops as we headed up to The Gap resulted in sightings of our first Black-crested, Red-eyed and Ashy Bulbuls, Scarlet Minivet, Striped Tit-babbler and the excellent Whiskered Treeswift. At The Gap itself we enjoyed Bronzed Drongo, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Brown Flycatcher and some Glossy Swiftlets. With the up session to Fraser’s Hill commencing at 1700hrs, we began the drive up around 1720. Nearing the top a White-crowned Hornbill flew in front of the vehicle giving everyone at least brief views, but sadly it did not linger. Once at the top, we had a quick exploration of the Telecom Loop where the first birds of interest were a couple of Verditer Flycatchers. Our next stop produced a good flurry of birds, with Long-tailed Sibia, Black-eared Shrike-babbler, Chestnut-capped (Spectacled) Laughingthrush, Silver-eared Mesia, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Blue-winged Minla and Grey-chinned Minivet all quickly found. Further stops produced sightings of the striking Fire-tufted Barbet, Black-browed Barbet, Orange-bellied Leafbird and Javan Cuckooshrike. After this brief introduction to the joys of birding at Fraser’s Hill we headed to the hotel a happy and contented group.

February 27th: Fraser’s Hill - Gap road 2km above Gap. New Gap Road. Bishop Trail area.

Weather: Low cloud & drizzle in morning, clearing to sunshine. Mid afternoon rain cleared to drier conditions. Pleasantly warm.

Our planned birding on Telekom loop was disrupted by low cloud and drizzle. So, we elected to head down the hill towards The Gap. We birded the lower 2.5km in rather cloudy conditions and the level of bird activity was disappointingly low. Nevertheless persistence usually pays and we did find plenty of interest. Among the highlights during our walk were Crimson-winged Woodpecker, Black Laughingthrush, Green-billed Malkoha and a Chestnut-naped Forktail that disappointingly was not seen by everyone. At The Gap itself we found raptors beginning to get active and Blyth’s Hawk Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle and Black Eagle were all seen well.

After lunch we decided spend some time along the New Gap road. This road is closed to traffic due to landslides and offers some great birding. Mugimaki Flycatcher was the first interesting species to present itself. Further down the road we enjoyed Rufescent Prinia, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Little Pied Flycatcher, Mountain Fulvetta and splendid Grey-chinned Minivets. The goose-like calls of flying hornbills alerted us to the presence of four Helmeted Hornbills flying over the forest. These dropped into a tree and it wasn’t long before we were enjoying scope views. A mini hornbill frenzy then broke out with two Rhinoceros Hornbill and three Great Hornbills present in the same area - a splendid hat trick! Nearby we at last located a Red-throated Barbet (after previously hearing several at fairly close range) and returning up the hill we encountered Black-browed Barbet as well.

We ended the day in the vicinity of Bishop Trail. Here there was quite a bit of activity and we were able to enjoy Golden Babbler and a splendid Mountain Tailorbird amongst an increasingly familiar selection of the usual suspects.

February 28th: Fraser’s Hill (Telekom Loop, Jeriau Falls).

Weather: Cool and overcast with rain between 1130 and 1630

An excellent day began with a great birding walk along the Telekom Loop. Birds were to come at a steady pace all morning with plenty of great things to keep us entertained. First up was a Greater Yellownape which although distant was in the scope for a short while. Our first sizeable feeding flock was the usual hectic experience and amid the frenzy of activity we found our first much-desired Blue Nuthatch, a female White-browed Shrike-babbler, Black-eared Shrike-babbler, plenty of Mountain Fulvettas, Golden Babbler, Yellow-browed and an all too brief Mountain Leaf Warbler. A great start! Further along the road we had our first really good views of Black-throated Sunbird. Green Magpie kept the group amused while I was checking out some latest sightings with another birder (my shout of Mountain Bulbul was ignored in preference to the Magpie... now I wonder why?). We had a good morning for some of the inhabitants of the lower levels of the forest. Lesser Shortwing was superbly seen at close range, whilst a very obliging Streaked Wren-babbler gave storming views. Icing on the cake for most though, was a very obliging pair of Rufous-browed Flycatchers; yet another cracking bird! The morning slipped by all too quickly. So much so that we only managed to get half way around a circuit that I usually comfortably complete in a full morning. Other good birds included a stunning Long-tailed Broadbill (low down for once), a pair of Large Niltavas, several Little Pied and a Mugimaki Flycatcher, Eastern Crowned Warbler and a brief Pygmy Wren-babbler. The rain began again around 1130, and this quietened things down quite a bit, so it was not too long before we returned to the hotel for lunch, where the bird table hosted the recently split Malayan Laughing thrush (split from Chestnut-crowned). Thus concluding a superb morning’s entertainment.

The afternoon was spent heading down to Jeriau Waterfall. Despite light rain to start with, we had a pretty good session of birding. Our first stops yielded Little Pied and Brown Flycatcher and another Eastern Crowned Warbler. The Fraser’s Hill rubbish dump is not the most picturesque of locations, but it is great for birds and we found Dark-sided Flycatcher, a stunning Verditer Flycatcher and Orange-bellied Leafbird here. The last 2km to the falls passes through some excellent forest and amongst the highlights of our walk were a female Red-headed Trogon, White-bellied Erpornis (Yuhina), another showy Streaked Wren-babbler, a briefly seen Yellow-bellied Warbler and a Rufous-browed Flycatcher. At the falls themselves we had a frustratingly short view of Slaty-backed Forktail, a smart Blue Whistling Thrush and some great views of Grey-throated Babbler. We returned to the hotel for a slightly early dinner and then, despite very poor misty and cool conditions, we headed out in search of night birds. Unsurprisingly no owls were calling (not even Mountain Scops - which can usually be heard from the hotel!), but we did find a Grey Nightjar, which was a nice way in which to end what had been a wonderful day in the field.

February 29th: Fraser’s Hill (Telekom Loop, Gap Road).

Weather: Cool and overcast.

A return to the Telekom loop was once again an enjoyable experience. The birding was a little slower than yesterday, but there was plenty to keep us interested. First up was a nice Bay Woodpecker that eventually performed well, with scope views obtained. Other good birds during the morning included Long-tailed Broadbill, at least three Blue Nuthatches, Pygmy Wren-babbler, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Red-headed Trogon, three stunning Sultan Tits and a few Mountain Leaf Warblers.

In the afternoon we headed back down to lower elevations, where we had a superb afternoon and ran out of light all too quickly. Near the top of the Old Gap Road we all got good views of Mountain Bulbul and three Blyth’s Hawk Eagles. Lower down a slow walk down to The Gap produced a large number of great birds with the best of the bunch including Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler, White-hooded Babbler, three Orange-backed, Grey-and-buff, Crimson-winged and Grey-capped Woodpeckers, Black-bellied Malkoha a pair of Hill Blue Flycatchers and Large Woodshrike. At The Gap itself we lingered until dusk to enjoy Malaysian Eared-nightjars hawking for insects, a fitting end to our birding at the wonderful Fraser’s Hill.

March 1st: Fraser’s Hill to Taman Negara.

Weather: Rain and low cloud at Fraser’s Hill. Warm, but largely cloudy in the lowlands with heavy rain at Taman Negara in the late afternoon.

Today was mainly a travel day. We left a wet Fraser’s Hill and descended into the lowlands heading for Kuala Tembeling. On the way we stopped for Grey-rumped Treeswift and a Black Hornbill, whilst a rest stop produced a small group of Ashy Minivets. At Kuala Tembeling we had a bit of time to kill before the boat trip up to Kuala Tahan on the edge of the wonderful Taman Negara. A bit of birding here resulted in sightings of Orange-bellied and Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, Oriental Honey-buzzard and Common Tailorbird.

The three-hour journey by boat up to Kuala Tahan passes through some wonderful forest and although perhaps not the birdiest of boat trips it can result in some interesting sightings. Additions to our list during the journey were Stork-billed Kingfisher, a brief Blue-eared Kingfisher, Blue-throated Bee-eater and Red-wattled Lapwing. On arrival at the comfortable Mutiara resort at Kuala Tahan we were soon accommodated into our chalets. Disappointingly the heavens opened and rain delayed our initial exploration of the site. An Oriental Honey-buzzard flew over the chalets and a short walk soon found us in the Tahan hide and enjoying some birds despite the rain. Black-headed Bulbul and Asian Fairy Bluebird were common, a Hill Myna appeared briefly and Stripe-throated Bulbul was close to the hide. A nice flock of ca12 Crested Firebacks were perhaps the highlight though, with great scope views obtained. Back in the chalet clearing a Black-and-red Broadbill disappointed by disappeared almost as soon as we had found it and then with the light beginning to fade we ended proceedings for the day.

March 2nd: Taman Negara - Kuala Tahan Clearing, River Trail, Trail to Bukit Teresek (flat section).

Weather: Largely overcast, but some sunny intervals. Light rain showers late afternoon.

Our first full day in Taman Negara was perhaps typical of the place. Some periods of much bird activity followed by some very slow spells when little was happening and with a few of the choicest species thrown in for good measure. We began the day in the main clearing around Kuala Tahan. Among the first birds were Little Green Pigeon, Banded Woodpecker, Buff-rumped Woodpecker, Greater Green Leafbird, a small group of Blue-crowned Hanging-parrots and the usually difficult Black-and-white Bulbul. A flowering tree was a magnet for spiderhunters with Long-billed and several Spectacled and Yellow-eared present, allowing us to appreciate their quite subtle differences. A Chestnut-breasted Malkoha was well received and a Brown-breasted Flycatcher was also seen well. Things quietened down quite quickly so we headed down the River Trail. We slowly added interesting birds to the list with Yellow-bellied Bulbul, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Scaly-crowned, Moustached and Chestnut-winged Babblers all enjoyed during the walk. Our return for lunch was interrupted by a flock of four of the much wanted Great Slaty Woodpecker that afforded superb scope views as they poked about in holed for grubs and insects. On the campground we were treated to a pair of immaculate Black-and-red Broadbills and so we headed to lunch a happy group.

After a break during the heat of the day we headed out again. Close to our chalets we found Raffle’s Malkoha and a singing Plaintive Cuckoo. The flat section of trail towards Bukit Teresek was typically quite, but again we managed to winkle out a few interesting species with White-rumped Shama seen for the first time on the trip and a group of four Black Magpies were a nice find. The slow return walk produced the first pitta sighting of the trip with a fine Hooded performing well. Nearing the chalets again I took the path to the Tahan Hide and heard a nearby Banded Pitta calling. A quick blast of the iPod and we were soon enjoying superb views as this jewel of the forest floor circled us, often in full view and even pausing on the path to show off. Simply stunning! We finished off at the Tahan Hide, where a Von Schrenk’s Bittern was a surprising discovery out on the pool in the clearing. A fitting end to another excellent day birding in peninsula Malaysia.

March 3rd: Taman Negara - Trails in Blau/Yong Hide area. River Trail.

Weather: Mainly cloudy with some sunshine. Showers late afternoon with heavy rain between 1700-1800hrs.

Today we began with an exploration of the trails in the vicinity of Blau and Yong hides. This area is less frequently visited by tourists and thus the trails are a quieter. Early birds included a party of Black Magpies, our first Sooty-capped Babblers and at Yong Hide two Black-thighed Falconets. Drongo and Indian Cuckoos were calling, but remained unseen. A little flurry of activity resulted in the discovery of our first Buff-necked Woodpeckers, two cute Fluffy-backed Tit-babblers and a Black-throated Babbler. A Garnet Pitta was calling in the same area, but was some distance off the trail in thick vegetation. Later we located Diard’s Trogon and in the same area a Scarlet-rumped Trogon and Chestnut-rumped Babbler. As we meandered our way back to catch the boat back to Kuala Tahan we bumped into a small covey of Crested Partridges, a nice way in which to end another pleasant session.

The afternoon birding session was disrupted by light and then heavy rain. However we managed to find a few interesting species. Near the campground we located Brown Barbet, whilst a small feeding party comprised Black-naped Monarch, Rufous-winged Philentoma, Green Broadbill and a bit further along the trail two Orange-backed Woodpeckers. Fruiting trees attracted various bulbuls, but Dark-throated Oriole and Black-and-yellow Broadbill were more obliging. Back in the clearing we spent some time watching the flocks of swifts forced low by the rain and got good views of Brown-backed Needletails for the first time.

March 4th: Taman Negara - Jenut Muda Trail. River Trail.

Weather: Hot, sunny and humid. Dry!

We spent the morning birding the Jenut Muda Trail. Heading out from our chalets it was hot and sweaty work heading up the lower part of Bukit Teresek to the junction of the trail with Jenut Muda. However, stops for birds were productive and allowed us to rest. Banded Broadbill and Banded Kingfisher were most obliging and very welcome! The Jenut Muda trail is a traditional site for Great Argus, but on my last visit the dancing ground had been abandoned. However, the calls echoing out from the trail indicated that the territory had been reoccupied. On this occasion it was occupied by a bird that showed no fear and was happy to call right in front of us and allowed approach to within just a metre or so! Incredible. Continuing along the trail further nice birds included a splendid Banded Pitta (seen whilst unsuccessfully trying to get views of a Malaysian Peacock-pheasant), Black-capped Babbler, Chestnut-rumped, Rufous-crowned Babblers and a calling but stubbornly elusive Rufous-collared Kingfisher. Back on River Trail we encountered a variety of babblers, Black-naped Monarch and Asian Paradise Flycatcher before reaching the restaurant for lunch and a rest.

The afternoon was typically quiet, but we found a number of new species by concentrating our efforts on some fruiting trees along the River Trail. Highlights included Green Iora, Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Wreathed Hornbill and a selection of bulbuls new for our list.

March 5th: Taman Negara - Boat Trip to Lata Berkoh. Trail to Bukit Teresek (flat section). Kuala Tahan area.

Weather: Overcast, but hot and humid. Some sunshine late morning/early afternoon. A light shower in early evening.

As a change from the trails we enjoyed a more relaxing mode of birding today. A boat trip up the river to Lata Berkoh was a thoroughly enjoyable way to bird and we found plenty of interest. Good birds seen during the journey upriver involved Crested Fireback, White-chested Babbler, several stunning Black-and-red Broadbills, Lesser Fish-eagle, a stunning Red-bearded Bee-eater, a flock of Bushy-crested Hornbills and a Rufous-tailed Tailorbird. Once at Lata Berkoh things were rather quiet, but we winkled out our first Hairy-backed Bulbuls. On the journey back down river, we just drifted with the current with the engine off. This was a delightful mode of travel and we enjoyed sightings of Blue-banded, Stork-billed, Black-capped Kingfishers (with Christine finding a Blue-eared) and at last we saw some Straw-headed Bulbuls.

The afternoon session was relatively slow until we returned to the Tahan Hide. Here we found a smart Gold-whiskered Barbet, Hill Myna, Dollarbird and two Rufous Woodpeckers. After dinner a short excursion for night birds proved quiet, but we did locate roosting Blue-winged Pitta - a delightful find!

March 6th: Taman Negara - Trails in Blau/Yong Hide area. River Trail.

Weather: Hot, humid and largely sunny

Today we revisited the area in the vicinity of Blau and Yong Hides. This proved to be an excellent decision as we were focused on trying to locate some of the more tricky species. After a Spotted Fantail and a pair of typically frenetic Maroon Woodpeckers we had a Malaysian Peacock-pheasant cross the trail. Not the extended views I had perhaps hoped to deliver up, but an excellent find nonetheless. A Rufous-backed Kingfisher was by a stream and nearby I heard a Garnet Pitta calling. After some careful positioning and a fairly extended period of playback we had all obtained good views of this stunning jewel of the forest floor. Excellent! Further along the trail we at last saw two Crested Jays (two previous heard-only encounters had slipped through the net), whilst other good birds included Pale-legged Leaf-warbler, a variety of babblers and Scarlet-rumped Trogon.

The afternoon was once again spent along the River Trail. Fruiting trees were the focus of our interest and we had soon added Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker and Buff-vented Bulbul to our list, along with another of the uncommon Black-and-white Bulbul. A couple of Brown Hawk Owls decided to start calling in the late afternoon period and overhead a Crested Goshawk was seen. An opportunistic burst of the relevant recording and a Checker-throated Woodpecker was in view right in front of us. Excellent. The return to the chalets produced more of the now familiar birds of Taman Negara, but Black-and-yellow Broadbill and Dark-throated Oriole were especially enjoyed.

March 7th: Taman Negara - Kuala Tahan. Journey to KLIA.

Weather: Very hot, humid and sunny

Rain started to fall during breakfast, so we spent the final morning having some leisurely birding around Kuala Tahan and the Tahan Hide. He we spent time enjoying many of the commoner birds of Taman Negara, but also managed to squeeze out a few more additions to the trip list; Plain Flowerpecker, Large Green Pigeon and Green Imperial Pigeon. Other birds enjoyed during the morning included Black Magpie and Plaintive and Drongo Cuckoos.

After lunch we departed from Taman Negara and headed to Kuala Lumpur International Airport a journey that took around four hours and concluded a thoroughly enjoyable tour.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at


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