Birding trip to Malaysia 1997


 Malaysian Flag


by Tom and Marie Tarrant

During September 1997 we returned to the UK with a two-week stopover in Malaysia and managed to visit 3 main sites, Kuala Selangor, Bukit Fraser (Fraser's Hill) and Taman Negara; This is a brief description of the wildlife seen during that period. If you have any questions or require more detailed information please contact us by email  Why not visit our Homepage,take a look at our return stop-over in Goa, India


We arrived in Kuala Lumpur on September 4 spending the night there, the following day we hired a car from Mayflower Car Hire for six days at approx M$100/day and drove to Kuala Selangor. At KS we booked into the rest-house at Bukit Melawati for M$40/night.
Unfortunately the smog from Kalimantan and Sumatra was evident here and was to be present for most of the two weeks we spent in Malaysia.


Kuala Selangor
The first evening at Bukit Melawati brought Crested Goshawk(Accipiter trivirgatus), Drongo Cuckoo(Surniculus lugubris) and Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus). In the morning we walked down to KS Nature Reserve and Marie found a family of Smooth-clawed Otters at play; something I was hoping to see on a previous trip.

Track at Kuala Selangor

Pacific Swallow

Track leading to 'scrapes' in Kuala Selangor NR

Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica) 
The birding here was good although the only unusual sighting was a Kingfisher showing a blue tone more reminiscent of  Blue-eared (Alcedo meninting) than Common (A. atthis) which were very common. We enquired about this to one of the park staff who did not think Blue-eared was a possibility.  Sadly, there was no sign of the Mangrove Pitta (Pitta megarhyncha) that I had observed in August 1994 near the southern tower-hide.
At Bukit Melawati we had lunch and I found a rather pretty female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (Ficedula zanthopygia) perched near the car-park.
Later we drove to Tanjong Karang, an area of rice cultivation that had a large number of migrant waders in 1994, however the rice seemed to have reached a substantial height and Common Sandpipers (Actitis hypoleucos) were the only waders seen.  With patience Cinnamon Bitterns (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus) appeared to be plentiful but we saw several workers spraying pest or herbicides on the rice with 'fogging' machines.
In the evening we drove to Kuantan and took a boat-trip down the river to see the famous 'fireflies' or Kilip-kilip, this was very tranquil and an excellent trip but very little other wildlife was recorded.


Bukit Fraser (Fraser's Hill)
On Saturday September 7 we set off for Fraser's Hill and reached there in the afternoon. We checked into a rather expensive chalet-style room for one night as we were unable to stay at the Gap Rest-House until the following evening. We explored the Telekom loop road in the late afternoon but were dismayed to see much 'development' proceeding, however we caught up with some interesting birds at the eastern end such as Grey-chinned Minivet (Pericrocotus solaris), Long-tailed Broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae) and Black-and-Crimson Oriole (Oriolus cruentus)

Golden-throated Barbet

Mangrove Boardwalk

Golden-throated Barbet (Megalaima  franklinii) 

 Mangrove Boardwalk
The following day we checked into the Gap Rest-House (much better value than the chalet at Temerloh) and returned to Fraser's Hill where we were fortunate enough to meet Mr Durai, an excellent birder who helps run the new nature centre near the mosque, he invited us to accompany him the next day on a birdwalk along the soon-to-be opened new road which will replace the old windy one from the Gap.
Later we walked up to the Seri Berkat Rest-House where we found a fruiting-tree, this seemed to be a magnet for various frugivorous species such as Mountain Imperial Pigeon (Ducula badia), Chestnut-Capped and Crowned Laughing-Thrush (Garrulax mitratus and erythrocephalus), Black-browed and Golden-throated Barbet(Megalaima oorti and franklinii) (which according to Durai were well above their usual altitude) we managed to obtain some reasonable video-footage and  photographs of these.  Unfortunately on returning the next day there were virtually no birds present.



Gap Rest-House

Large Niltava

The 'Gap' Rest-House 

Large Niltava (Niltava grandis) 

We also visited the famous (or infamous!) Fraser's Hill Tip, which can yield some excellent insectivorous species but also subjects your respiratory system to toxic smoke and all manner of unpleasant smells.  Bronzed and Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos (Dicrurus aeneus and remifer) Hill Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis banyumas) Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela) and Golden Babbler (Stachyris chrysea) are some of the species seen on this trip and Blue Nuthatch (Sitta azurea) were seen there 3 years before.
After lunch, we took a walk along the Abu Suradi Trail near the mosque and although it was very quiet we came across a superb Bay Woodpecker (Blythipicus pyrrhotis) displaying along a fallen log.
Later  we went out with Durai for the walk along the new access road, with a group of other interested locals and  tourists,  one of the first species seen was an incredible Blyth's Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus alboniger) which soared above us for some time against a clear blue sky; After all the smog on preceding days, a real highlight.
The road development has caused much disturbance to the surrounding forest but it did enable us to get good views of White-handed Gibbon and Sultan Tit (Melanochlora sultanea)  Green Magpie (Cissa chinensis) and Streaked Wren-Babbler (Napothera brevicaudata) were glimpsed briefly in thick cover.
We returned to the Gap in the afternoon and waited for dusk and the arrival of the Malaysian Eared-Nightjars (Eurostopodus temmincki) which I had seen and heard well there in 1994, they appeared briefly around 7.30pm but were difficult to see due to the smog which had consolidated during the day. Their call is noted as "quick-three-beers" and is easy to remember once heard.
The next day we were regaled with the calls or songs of White-handed Gibbons, which so impressed Marie that she tape-recorded them; they are certainly easier to hear than see.
I decided to try filming around the Gap, and had success with a family party of Black Laughing-thrush (Garrulax lugubris) They looked rather like glove-puppets as they displayed to each other; In the same area I was fortunate to see my first Crested Jay (Platylophus galericulatus) and Grey-throated Babblers (Stachyris nigriceps)
After about 08.30am the area became busy with traffic, probably working on the new Fraser's Hill access road so we decided to cut our losses and pack up and leave for KL. On the road to Kuala Kuba Bahru we had excellent views of a perched Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela) and Whiskered Tree-swift (Hemiprocne comata)


Green Broadbill

Scarlet-rumped Trogon

Green Broadbill (Calyptomena viridis) 

Scarlet-rumped Trogon(Harpactes duvaucelli)
Taman Negara
We organized our transport to Taman Negara from the Malaysian Tourist Information Centre on Jalan Ampang in Kuala Lumpur. We were picked up by minibus around 8am from the Hotel Malaya and taken to the Hotel Istana where we boarded a luxury coach which took us to Tembeling to meet the ferry for the boat-trip to Taman Negara. At the bus terminal there are a couple of cafes where one can buy refreshments for the trip and book accomodation in the resort or in the kampung across the river. The speed-boat left at 2pm  and took approx 3 hours to arrive at Kuala Tahan, the headquarters of Taman Negara. We had decided to stay at the Agoh Chalets at Kuala Tahan, these were cheap at M$30 for a double-room per night but were very basic although they did supply an electric fan. (the cheapest rooms in the resort were M$125 per night)
Conditions at TN were far from perfect, the sun was a red disc at midday due to the smog and incredibly humid (although drought conditions were prevalent...this had it's advantages as we didn't see a leech until it rained on our penultimate day).
Our first days birding was excellent, the variety was enormous, many different Broadbills, Babblers and Bulbuls, Woodpeckers, Malkohas and Flycatchers although we found it very energy-draining.  I continued birding at lunch-time through the rainforest to the canopy-walk whilst Marie returned to the chalet for a siesta. On the way I saw little but a surprise tick on a vine was a Rufous Piculet (Sasia abnormis) and later I heard an incredible cacophony coming from across the river, suspecting the impending approach of unknown hornbills I prepared to pack up my video-camera. The noisy shapes passed over and appeared to land on large trees behind me on Bukit Teresek. The ramble up the hill initially appeared to be a fairly gentle climb but soon turned into something resembling the 'Kokoda Trail' and after about an hour under the trees trying to get a glimpse I gave up. The following morning Marie and I tried again in the same spot and with cooler conditions were treated to astonishing views of Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) Unfortunately the only other hornbill seen was a Malaysian Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) near the HQ early the following morning. In the same area we heard the "kow-wow" call of the male Great Argus (Argusianus argus) but no views were had.



Slow Loris

Hill Blue Flycatcher

Slow Loris 

Hill Blue Flycatcher(Cyornis banyumas)
Spot-lighting was not very fruitful bird-wise but we did see Mouse deer at close quarters and a Slow Loris which was so close to enable video to be taken.
On one day I came across some people engaged in 'banding' and saw three species not seen in the wild, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher(Ceyx erithacus) Scarlet-rumed Trogon(Harpactes duvaucelli) and Grey-headed Babbler(Stachyris poliocephalus)
Another trip we took was a speed-boat up to the 'Cascades' at Lata Berkoh, Unfortunately we missed Masked Finfoot(Heliopais personata) which is occasionally seen in the early-morning but saw our only Chestnut-naped Forktail (Enicurus ruficapillus) and Blue-banded Kingfisher (Alcedo euryzonia) for the trip.
Overall the six days at Taman Negara went very fast but the birding could be quite variable and the smog made observation difficult at times....on one occasion I saw a probable Bat Hawk(Machaerhamphus alcinus) which I think I could have identified positively under normal conditions, and the Great Slaty Woodpecker (Mulleripicus pulverulentus) was a similar story!

Thanks to everyone who helped us with this trip, especially those who sent us information through email and internet links, If anyone reading this is planning a trip to Malaysia please contact Mr Durai at the Nature Education Centre c/o WWF Office Bungalow Bentong 49000 Bukit Fraser (Fraser's Hill) Pahang Darul Makmur, Malaysia. (There is an email address but I'm not sure if it's current, try:
I've put some links to Malaysian sites at the end of this page please take a look!



Species List
Click here to see a list of Bird and Mammal species seen


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