Malaysia 2011

...with Chris Bradshaw

July 9th - 19th

The most recent Birdwatching Breaks tour to Peninsula Malaysia changed from our normal late winter / early spring scheduling with a July departure and a slightly shorter duration. Such timing meant that many Palearctic migrants that would be seen on winter tours would be absent. However this is still a good time to visit the peninsula and the trip was very successful with a fine selection of Malay peninsula species recorded among the final total of 229 species, of which 18 were heard only. The weather was generally good although heavy overcast conditions with rain disrupted a morning session at Fraser's Hill. Among the highlights were a male Chestnut-capped Thrush, a stunning Banded Pitta, an obliging Rail-babbler, a quartet of broadbills in the form of Long-tailed, Green, Black-and-yellow and Black-and-red, Blue Nuthatch, Fire-tufted Barbet, Chestnut-capped, Black and Malayan Laughingthrushes, Great, Rhinoceros and Black Hornbills, Malaysian Peacock-pheasant, Chestnut-naped Forktail, a showy Large Wren-babbler, Streaked Wren-babbler, Lesser Shortwing, Rufous-chested Flycatcher, Brown Wood Owl and Buffy Fish Owl, Gould's Frogmouth, 14 species of woodpecker including Great Slaty, Maroon and Bamboo, Black-thighed Falconet and much more besides.

July 9th/10th: London to Kuala Lumpur. Transfer to Kuala Selangor.

Weather: Hot and humid with variable cloud.

Our small group met at Heathrow's Terminal 3, where we took a flight with Emirates to Kuala Lumpur, stopping in Dubai en-route. After a long and tiring flight we arrived at KLIA on schedule and although the immigration and baggage reclaim were rather less efficient than usual, it was not too long before we were on our way to the coastal town of Kuala Selangor. The journey was typically quiet for birds, although we got the trip list underway with Germain's Swiftlet, Asian Glossy Starling, Javan Myna, White-throated Kingfisher and Black-shouldered Kite. We arrived at our hotel with just a couple of hours light remaining, so were quickly out to explore the grounds and the nearby track running alongside some mangroves. Common species we encountered included Coppersmith Barbet, Brown-throated Sunbird, Brahminy Kite, large numbers of Pink-necked Green Pigeons flighting to roost, Yellow-bellied Prinia and Purple Heron. A Stork-billed Kingfisher was perched high in a dead tree, whilst a Collared Kingfisher was fishing along the side of a channel. We were treated to good performances by three Laced Woodpeckers, a pair of Pied Fantails, Dollarbird and Ashy Tailorbird. As the sun set we headed down to the Nature Park where we had brief views of Large-tailed Nightjar and then excellent close range views of two Buffy Fish-owls, a wonderful note on which to end our first day in Malaysia.

July 11th: Kuala Selangor Nature Park, Ulu Yam, Fraser's Hill.

Weather: Hot and humidd but cooler at Fraser's Hill.

We began the day with a visit to the nature park. Walking the trail through the scrub, open woodland, ponds and mangroves was a hot and humid, but enjoyable experience with plenty of interest. Amongst a good selection of species we enjoyed good views of Abbott's Babbler, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Common Flameback, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Collared and Stork-billed Kingfishers, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Mangrove Whistler, Pied Triller and Olive-winged Bulbul. A Crested Serpent Eagle was perched up in a large bush and seen briefly in flight. A visit to the watch tower allowed us to observe the goings on at the heronry with both Grey and Purple Herons with well grown young.

After lunch we began the journey to Fraser's Hill. We made a stop at Ulu Yam, an area of rough grassland and scrub near some abandoned mining ponds. Here we located Long-tailed Shrike, Paddyfield Pipit, Scaly-breasted Munia, Yellow Bittern and Bright-capped Cisticola. Continuing our journey we made a couple of further stops as we made our way to The Gap. The highlights of these stops were undoubtedly the sightings of both Great and Rhinoceros Hornbills; neither of which can be guaranteed on this itinerary. Other nice birds included Bronzed Drongo, a very briefly seen Sultan Tit, Red-eyed Bulbul and several Yellow-bellied Warblers. White-hooded Babbler was heard but eluded our attempts to get a look. We arrived at our hotel just before dusk, noting Long-tailed Sibia and Glossy Swiftlets on arrival.

July 12th: Fraser's Hill. Telekom Loop. New Gap Road.

Weather: Pleasantly warm, a bit breezy in the afternoon.

A pre-breakfast foray for Malayan Whistling Thrush proved unsuccessful, but the feeders outside the hotel restaurant were attracting Spectacled Laughingthrushes, two Malayan Laughingthrushes (a recent split from Chestnut-crowned) and Long-tailed Sibia. Our main activity for the morning was a walk around the Telekom Loop. We enjoyed a steady stream of good birds through the morning with many enjoyable encounters. Among the highlights were Long-tailed Broadbill, Black-throated Sunbird, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Javan Cuckooshrike, Black-browed Barbet, Mountain Fulvetta, Mountain Tailorbird, Black-eared Shrike-babbler, Blue-winged Minla, Grey-chinned Minivet, Golden Babbler, Red-headed Trogon and Lesser Yellownape.

In the afternoon we birded the New Gap Road miraculously open, for the first time during one of my visits to Malaysia. We opened with Slaty-backed Forktail, then a small feeding party provided the sought after Blue Nuthatch. Other birds in this area included Speckled Piculet, Grey-throated Babbler, a couple of family groups of Long-tailed Broadbills totaling at least 12 birds and three Sultan Tits. After a slower spell we drove further down the road and an unplanned stop produced a steady stream of new birds that included Greater Green and Blue-winged Leafbirds, Large Woodshrike, the recently split Cinereous Bulbul, three Brown Barbets, an all too brief Buff-rumped Woodpecker and three more obliging Orange-backed Woodpeckers. We finished the day at The Gap where we enjoyed views of Brown-backed Needletail and at least two Malaysian Eared-nightjars.

July 13th: Fraser's Hill. Hemmant Trail, Bishop Trail, Road to Jeriau Waterfall.

Weather: Warm with variable cloud.

After breakfast we headed out onto the Hemmant Trail, which initially at least proved to be quite busy. Birds were active around the entrance to the trail and apart from the usual suspects we quickly located Greater Yellownape, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, the ever impressive Fire-tufted Barbet, Red-headed Trogon, Black-and-crimson Oriole and Mountain Bulbul. Mountain Leaf Warbler tantalised but did not quite give itself up, whilst at the end of the trail a pair of Large Niltavas obliged on the road. Heading onto Bishop Trail we found a smart Lesser Shortwing, whilst feeding flocks added White-browed Shrike-babbler and White-bellied Erpornis, with a Blue Nuthatch a welcome second showing. Up at High Pines we eventually obtained good views of the Mountain Leaf Warbler and headed for lunch a contented group.

The afternoon proved to be very slow. Although we encountered a couple of feeding flocks we didn't find much new, although an excellent showing by several Red-headed Trogons was notable, with Ochraceous Bulbul being new for one of the group. Other interesting species included Yellow-bellied Warbler, Blue-winged and Orange-bellied Leafbirds. With an owling session planned we took an earlier than usual evening meal and headed out to enjoy two young Brown Wood Owls. A distant Mountain Scops Owl was heard but too far away to even attempt to see.

July 14th: Fraser's Hill. New Gap Road & Gap Road.

Weather: Overcast for much of the day with rain in the morning. Warm.

The weather had a significant effect on our birding today, with cloud and rain in the morning reducing bird activity markedly and the afternoon session, although brighter was similarly quiet. However we made the best of it and nevertheless found some wonderful birds. The morning produced Streaked Wren-babbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Pin-striped Tit-babbler, a very obliging Dark-necked Tailorbird, the uncommon Scaly-breasted Bulbul, Yellow-vented Green Pigeon, Thick-billed Flowerpecker and Blyth's Hawk-eagle amongst a range of other species already recorded on the trip. In the afternoon the New Gap road produced sightings of Grey-rumped Treeswift, an adult and juvenile Purple-naped Sunbird, a juvenile Hill Blue Flycatcher, three Pygmy Blue Flycatchers, another Blyth's Hawk-eagle, some very obliging Long-tailed Broadbills, an all too brief pair of Black Laughingthrushes, two wonderful Great Hornbills and a Bamboo Woodpecker. All the while various barbet species we had yet to see taunted us, unseen, from the tree tops! After dinner, whilst compiling the bird log news of a Brown Wood Owl right outside the hotel caused an immediate exodus and we enjoyed views of this wonderful bird on a building in the centre of town. An excellent way to end our last full day at Fraser's Hill.

July 15th: Fraser's Hill. Travel to Taman Negara. Kuala Tahan.

Weather: Overcast with a little rain in the morning. Then hot, humid & overcast in the lowlands. After dark a thunder storm.

Today was mainly a travel day. We headed down the New Gap road making occasional birding stops. We enjoyed better views of Streaked Wren-babbler, with everyone connecting this time, at last saw some curiously elusive Mountain Imperial Pigeons (where have they been the past three days?), and also noted an obliging Rufous-browed Flycatcher, and an all too brief Gold-whiskered Barbet. At The Gap we at last connected properly with Black Laughingthrush, whilst Striated Swallow and Silver-rumpled Needletail were also new. Departing The Gap around 10am, we travelled to Jerantut, where we took lunch and then continued on to Taman Negara, arriving a little before 3pm. After locating our rooms at the far end of the resort, we began our exploration of this magnificent lowland rain forest. We were hardly more than a few metres down the Teresek trail before we located a group of Crested Firebacks, always a cracking bird to see. Next up for me was a Banded Pitta, but unfortunately it hopped off into the undergrowth before the group could connect and then refused to show itself further. Very frustrating. Continuing along the trail we found our first Chestnut-winged Babblers and a White-rumped Shama sang from the undergrowth. Retracing our steps and heading to the Tahan Hide we encountered a juvenile Drongo Cuckoo begging for food, whilst at the hide we notched up highlights that included Black-thighed Falconet, a pair of copulating Large Green Pigeons and two Hill Mynas. Finally around the clearing near our chalets we saw a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and a smart Crimson-winged Woodpecker, rounding off our introduction to this wonderful location nicely.

July 16th: Taman Negara. Tahan clearing and River Trail.

Weather: Overcast and hot, but less humid in the morning with sun breaking through by lunchtime.

Our bird list for the day began with a somewhat surprising Green Broadbill, feeding outside the restaurant as the light started to come up. After breakfast we spent some time in the Tahan clearing but although we notched up a splendid Black-and-red Broadbill and Raffle's Malkoha things were generally quiet. I therefore decided that we should hit the trail. Busy with people and quiet for birds I was wondering about the wisdom of this decision, but things turned out pretty well, especially once we hit the River Trail. We saw a selection of birds that included a Maroon Woodpecker excavating a hole in a tree trunk, a very responsive Black-capped Babbler that came in to our feet, a stunning Rufous-chested Flycatcher flitting about the understorey, several foraging Chestnut-rumpled Babblers plus Sooty-capped and Rufous-crowned Babblers and a Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker. A juvenile Gold-whiskered Barbet feeding low down by the side of the trail obviously hadn't learnt that it should be sat in the tree tops calling away and taunting birders. Bet he gets in trouble with its mates!

The afternoon session began with a walk around Swamp Loop. A small flock of bulbuls included Grey-cheeked and whilst watching these I heard a distant call that I initially believed was a Garnet Pitta. Heading off in its direction I quickly realised it was in fact a Rail-babbler and after positioning ourselves, I played it in and we good if brief views as it crossed the path ahead of us and wandered off across the forest floor. Cracking! A Garnet Pitta then started up not too far away but it proved impossible to get a view if it. Leaving the Swamp Loop we birded along the flat section of Teresek trail, where we had our next major find of the afternoon when a Chestnut-capped Thrush flew up in front of us. Thought to be nomadic, this is a tricky bird to see anywhere, so was particularly pleasing. Other birds that were new in this area were Oriental Pied Hornbill, Rufous-tailed Tailorbird and a most obliging Black-and-yellow Broadbill. We ended the day back in Tahan hide where we didn't see much of note, so we headed back to our rooms very contented.

July 17th: Blau area. River Trail.

Weather: Cloudy start but becoming sunny and hot.

A slow day began with a boat ride down to the area around Blau Hide. Once off the boat things started brightly with a couple of Black Magpies calling high up as usual. We then set off after a calling Garnet Pitta but it was somewhat distant and deep in thick cover so eluded our attempts to locate it. The birds were quiet in the dull overcast conditions and it was hard work. The overnight rain also meant that the leeches were out in force, providing something of a distraction and finding the most unusual of places to take a meal! Soon the sun began to break through and things improved with a concentration of birds high up in the canopy including two Fiery Minivets, Green Iora, Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike and a Black-and-yellow Broadbill. Further along the trail we located two Buff-necked Woodpeckers, but they eluded most. My plan to continue on to Yong hide was thwarted by the steep banks and deeper than usual water levels on of the streams, so we returned the way we had come. This had it's compensations in the form of a Malaysian Peacock-pheasant, which was lured out onto the trail, albeit rather briefly. We have a surprisingly good record of getting views of this rather difficult to see species, it having been seen on all of the last four Birdwatching Breaks tours to peninsula Malaysia. Back at the jetty we waited for our return transport and enjoyed two Blue-eared Kingfishers and a Changeable Hawk-eagle.

After lunch we birded the River Trail, picking up a Yellow-vented Flowerpecker around the Tahan clearing as we headed out. Predictably quiet for much of the time we did enjoy views of Red-throated Barbet (at last!), Buff-rumped Woodpecker, Cream-vented Bulbul, Lesser Green Leafbird and a number of other, by now, increasingly familiar species.

July 18th: Boat trip to Lata Berkoh. River Trail, Tahan Hide.

Weather: Hot and sunny with largely clear skies.

The best day of the trip by some margin was also one of the most relaxing. With fine sunny weather the birds were very active and our morning was spent on a boat trip to the rapids at Lata Berkoh. Our journey up river was soon producing new birds at a rate of knots. Flowering trees and their associated foraging spiderhunters and sunbirds had been difficult to find, but clearly they were all along the river. Soon we were enjoying our first Spectacled and Grey-breasted Spiderhunters, and careful searching produced a lone Yellow-eared Spiderhunter. A stunning male Red-throated Sunbird was also present with a female not far away. The hoped for Straw-headed Bulbuls were much in evidence and in good voice too. Blue-banded Kingfisher is a target along this river and we were not disappointed with a pair located not before too long. Stork-billed and White-throated Kingfishers were also seen. A Tickell's Blue Flycatcher posed briefly, whilst other welcome sightings included Lesser Cuckooshrike and two magnificent Great Slaty Woodpeckers. At Lata Berkoh we took a short walk and although quieter than on some of my previous visits we still enjoyed Hairy-backed Bulbul and a couple of very obliging White-chested Babblers. On the journey back we drifted without the engines for much of the way and it was a joy to sit back and enjoy the forest from this different perspective. There were also more good birds of course, and we saw Rhinoceros Hornbill and a brief Black Hornbill (unusually low to the ground), Chestnut-naped Forktail, Lesser Fish Eagle and back amongst the flowering bushes a Plain Sunbird.

After lunch and a break during the heat of the day we headed out on the River Trail in order to try and find one last species that had been eluding us despite much effort. The trail was quiet and although we had good views of Raffle's Malkoha there was not a great deal of activity. With a little desperation I yet again decided to trawl for Banded Pitta and soon had a seemingly enthusiastic answer. A quick walk further along the trail, some careful positioning and I played the recording again. At last we had a co-operative individual and soon we were all enjoying some good views of this stunning jewel of the forest floor as it hopped about tossing leaves. Simply wonderful. Heading along the track a long overdue Moustached Babbler was something of a contrast (!), whilst a Large Wren-babbler was in danger of suffering from vertigo as it moved about the middle storey in response to the recordings. In my past experience this species has been firmly rooted to the floor! The day ended at the Tahan Hide where a productive hour or so added Rufous Woodpecker, Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike, a lone Green Imperial Pigeon, some fly over Blue-rumped Parrots and some better views of Black Hornbill. A wonderful way to finish our last full day birding at Taman Negara.

July 19th: Taman Negara to KLIA.

Weather: Misty with low cloud at Taman Negara, the hot and sunny.

No time for any birding this morning, so it was off to KLIA after breakfast. The journey added Large-billed Crow and Olive-backed Sunbird (mystifying why these two eluded us for so long), and there was a sighting of Crested Serpent Eagle. We arrived at KLIA in good time and said our goodbyes to Bert, whilst the rest of us joined the recently arrived participants for the Borneo trip and took our flight to Kota Kinabalu.

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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