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Published: September 29th 2011
Raffles' malkoha (Phaenicophaeus chlorophaeus)
a relative of cuckoos which run through the trees like squirrels. Photographed at the Kambung Hide.
this post is pretty much solely about birding, so if you're not interested don't bother reading any further....
(And yes I realise there's only one photo of a bird in the post, but that doesn't change anything!).
The birding at Taman Negara started around the Kumbang Hide. I really just sat in the hide and watched out the viewing window but the place is so birdy that even that was good enough for me. The best birds there were Raffles' malkoha, red-bearded bee-eater, dark-throated oriole, black and red broadbill, scarlet-rumped trogon and black magpie. A crested serpent-eagle obviously had its territory there and was seen regularly. There were so many bulbuls that I'd be thinking surely there can't be any more species here, and then another one would pop out. The babblers weren't shy about foraging around the hide either. Its been five years since I birded mainland Asia and I guess I'd forgotten how difficult the Craig Robson guide makes identification of babblers! It's like they were painted by someone who'd never even seen a babbler in real life!
After the return to Kuala Tahan I had two days for the area around the HQ. I wasn't
seeing much that I hadn't seen on previous trips so I wasn't too into it I have to admit, but I thought I should try the Jenut Muda trail for great argus. I hadn't gone far before I found an interesting-looking side-trail so I made a detour onto it and after only about twenty metres what must have been a Malayan peacock-pheasant scuttled off the track and walked away through the forest. I then suffered the perennial birders' problem of walking in the tropics and when you stop and try to look through the binoculars your body-heat steams up the lenses. I'm sure it was a peacock-pheasant but I couldn't see it before it disappeared! It was doubly annoying because it would have been a lifer for me (i.e. a species I hadn't seen before). That trail lead back to the Mutiara resort (the very expensive place where you stay if you can afford a lowest price of 80 Ringgits for a dorm bed), so I headed over to the Swamp Loop trail. On the boardwalk along the way I found a small group of large wood-shrikes which was a lifer. On the Swamp Loop itself the first animal I
and the full snake...
with my boot down the bottom for scale. The tip of the snake's tail is next to my boot, the head is at top right.
found was a white-bellied racer, which I almost stood on the tail of as it crossed the trail. The snake immediately froze and lifted the front part of its body off the ground in imitation of a cobra. I had seen this display before so was unperturbed, merely taking a lot of photos and then leaving the snake to continue with its hunting. A short while later a banded pitta bounded across the trail -- they really are shockingly colourful when they appear unexpectedly like that! -- and when I followed it into the forest I found a trio of male crested fireback pheasants foraging. Everything was going very well I have to say! On one of the muddier stretches of the Swamp Loop I found a ferrugineous babbler chasing a white-crowned forktail, and then two more lifers, a black-backed kingfisher (a lifer only because apparently all the eritheca
in Sabah where I'd seen them in 2009 are actually rufidorsa
-- go figure!) and a pair of large wren-babblers flicking through the leaves on the ground. I only spent the first half of the day in the forest then went back to my hostel to sleep. I was planning on
returning in the evening to search for night critters but, as with the previous night, the rain began hammering down around 5pm and didn't stop through the night.
The next morning I basically repeated yesterday's walk but for longer and went further along the Jenut Muda trail before doubling back to the little track where I'd seen the maybe-peacock-pheasant (but no luck with seeing that again, so I'm still peacock-pheasantless). I thought I should really have a go at finding one of Taman Negara's more iconic birds, the Malaysian rail-babbler, and unusually for me I actually found it by call. Well, sort of. I heard a whistle that made me think "garnet pitta" (see, I do know some bird calls!) and as I was scanning the forest floor up ahead I saw a bird moving. I got my binoculars on it and it was a rail-babbler! A pair of rail-babblers to be precise, walking along bobbing their heads like chickens, just like the field-guide says. I checked the book and it said their call is a single whistle, similar to that of the garnet pitta. Nice.
I continued along the Jenut Muda trail, seeing black magpie along the
way, but after a while of the track going up and up and up I thought flag this and headed back. Just as well too, because I surprised a real garnet pitta on the path which hopped away and perched on top of a log where he obviously thought he was hidden but I could still see him clearly over top of a palm frond. I'd seen garnet pitta at Taman Negara in 2006 but it wasn't good views so this made up for that.
I stopped in the resort for lunch (with my own food bought from a stall in Kuala Tahan, not at the crazily-priced Mutiara restaurant!) then went to the Swamp Loop. Before I got there though I ran into a fantastic bird-and-squirrel-wave, pretty much right where I'd seen the wood-shrikes the day before as it happens. This wasn't one of those poncy little LBJ bird-waves, this was a real man's bird-wave made up of banded and buff-rumped woodpecker, greater racquet-tailed and crow-billed drongo, Raffles' malkoha, black and red broadbill, rufous-crowned babbler, spectacled bulbul and (best of all) a pair of crested jays which caught and dismembered a giant centipede. There were lots of squirrels mixed
in but, being squirrels, most were too nippy to get proper views of but I saw grey-bellied, plantain and Low's squirrels and one that might
have been a red-cheeked ground squirrel. As if that wasn't enough there was also a greater tree-shrew racing along the ground catching anything the birds dropped.
The Swamp Loop itself was quiet so I continued on to the Tahan Hide which was also devoid of life, and then on halfway to the Canopy Walkway, finding another less-exciting bird-wave along the way which added only white-rumped shama and chestnut-winged babbler to the day's tally. Turning around and heading back towards the Swamp Loop I startled a coucal off the track which could only have been a short-toed coucal. A black-bellied malkoha in the trees overhead completed the day's birding.
Tot: 0.037s; Tpl: 0.016s; cc: 9; qc: 22; dbt: 0.0052s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb