Day Six at Taman Negara: Wildlife Around Kuala Tahan

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June 7th 2018
Published: June 7th 2018
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Has it really been six days already?

I was a bit slow off the mark this morning as you might expect, and I left the hostel just after 8 rather than just before 7 as I had been doing. I decided that I would spend the morning going to Tabing Hide which is 3.1km each way from the entrance with about the first km boardwalked and the rest on trails though it wasn’t a bad trail, it was certainly rather better than the one going to Kumbang Hide. I think I’ve said it already, but I really like the woodpeckers around in Taman Negara. There’s lots of diversity and a wide variety of different shapes, sizes, and colours, and woodpeckers are really cool birds generally. The top mammal is obviously the Malayan Tapir but for birds I think it’s got to be the woodpeckers. Trogons and peacock pheasants and fireback pheasants and broadbills and more are all super-cool too. There’s just lots of amazing birds here.

The walk to Tabing Hide took longer than expected because I was of course birding all along the way and with birds so high up in the canopy in Taman Negara, a Taman Negara birding pace is even slower than a normal birding pace. It took me a little over 4 hours to do the 3.1km to the hide and about 3 hours to do the walk back. There were lots of cool birds of course including one’s I’d already seen and I got another view of a falconet too. I also spent ages trying to ID a small nondescript brown bird from the back of the camera which seems similar to half the passerines in the book but doesn’t quite match any of them. It seems, with the help of the Birdforum ID forum, that it was an immature Moustached Babbler transitioning into adult plumage with an odd mix of juvenile and adult features. Generally, the bulbuls and the babblers pose the biggest ID challenges. There’s dozens of species of each and most of them all look exactly the same when they’re up in the trees. It’s not just the birds that are cool in the forests of course, there are loads of cool insects and fungi and plants, some notable ones are lots of lovely flowering gingers as well as quite numerous Titan Arum plants. No flowers or buds, but the plants themselves are quite distinctive and there were quite a few along this trail. There was one clump of small white mushrooms that seemed to be deliberately attracting some sort of small fly but I’m not sure why it would do that. Mushrooms don’t need pollinators or anything. It strikes me that I really know very little about fungus biology although I know they do weird things with chromosome number in reproduction.

Obviously, I was late and hungry by the time I got back across for lunch having underestimated how slow I would walk but I got across for lunch at about 3 and after lunch went to buy some water and things from the shop before relaxing a bit before going for the evening birding session. I also made the mistake of converting the price of a few things in ringgit into pounds and now everything seems ridiculously cheap. I need to remember that this is Malaysia not the UK though and that I do have to make the money last for almost four months. My accommodation for example is about £2.80 per night, the RM240 boat which seems stupidly expensive here compared to other costs is about £45 (the price of the boat to the hide is really inflated above what it should be because it’s an official price set by the park) and my daily average cost taking everything into account is only about £15 per day. If you were being very frugal you could probably just about keep it to £10 per day. Excluding getting boats and things, Taman Negara is a really cheap place to be. My one unnecessary spend though are the fresh fruit juices/smoothes/milkshakes which I’ve been having with meals. They’re not cheap, often a similar price to the food itself, but they’re extremely nice and just what you want after a birding session in the heat. I also tripped and grazed my arm slightly last night. It’s not bad at all, but I only mention it because it’s right in the wrong position for how I have my bag and camera and I keep agitating it and making it worse. I’ve got to try and hold my stuff differently until it heals.

In the later afternoon, I went back across for the evening birding and to have another go at just spotlighting by myself. It was super-quiet on the swamp loop, hardly any calls at all apart from a single Coucal calling loudly and the occasional bulbul. I didn’t add anything new, but that’s how it goes. It’s also getting really hot and apparently that’s because it hasn’t rained enough recently. It has hardly rained since I arrived, just very briefly a light shower during the night before I went to the hide so I’ve been much luckier with the weather here than I was a Bukit Fraser. Apparently it will cool down a bit once it rains.

In the late evening, towards dusk, I walked down the boardwalk up to the bottom of the canopy walkway and the spotlighted back up the couple of kms at night. There were lots of huge impressive spiders, including one hunting cockroaches and I saw a single Red Giant Flying Squirrel high in a tree in a break in the foliage. I also came across a fruit bat flying around very close to me which I got enough of a look at to identify as a Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bat. I went all along the boardwalk and around the swamp loop and I heard White-faced Scops Owls in the distance a few times. It’s quite difficult spotlighting though because the forest is so closed and to torch light doesn’t penetrate very far. I also want to mention how much I hate DEET. It’s really horrible, but it does seem to work very well when I use it and I imagine it’s better than dengue fever. As I was returning, I had to navigate my way around the night tour groups on the boardwalk near the resort and at one point one of the tourists asked if I had seen anything interest and I replied that I had seen a flying squirrel. Their guide was quite annoyed and responded that it was not possible and you can’t see flying squirrels. He clearly didn’t want them to get their hopes up that they would see anything interesting as they were quite literally looking at cockroaches and ants. Don’t get me wrong, cockroaches and ants are cool, but if I had spent RM30 on a night walk, I would expect to see a bit more than that. It was only about 8:40 when I got back to the resort so I went a bit of a way up the boardwalk towards the genet muda trail. I saw hardly anything along the boardwalk, not even many insects, but I did see a mouse deer near the campsite which was quite large and showed two distinct white markings on the side of the throat which means it was a Greater Mousedeer which is a bit odd since I had only heard of lessers being seen near the resort.

I crossed back at about 9:30 and didn’t really fancy a proper meal so just had some milk and biscuits. I will be asleep relatively early tonight and I should get to sleep before midnight which makes a change. I was also not the last person back at the dorm for the past days, I’ve been the last back and first out which does suggest I’m not getting enough sleep. I’m seeing lots of wildlife though, so that’s alright.

New birds seen: (not massive numbers obviously because I’ve been here a while now, but for my sixth day in the same national park, that’s quite a good number of new species!)

Little Spiderhunter

Lesser Green Leafbird

Banded Woodpecker

Moustached Babbler

White-crowned Forktail

Black Magpie

Buff-rumped Woodpecker

(+Possible Bushy-crested Hornbill

Mammals: (the gibbon should be in the list in the previous post but I forgot to include it in. I mentioned it in the post itself but just missed it in the list at the end.)

White-handed Gibbon

Greater Mousedeer


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