Well after the marathon journey just to get to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia (via Brunei) we woke after a great night’s sleep and were ready to begin our birding. Only thing was we had a 4 hour drive up to Kuala Tembeling to look forward to, so crammed in a quick check of the gardens where Black-naped Oriole and Orange-bellied Flowerpecker were the highlights. Breakfast was a buffet affair and we topped up on scrambled egg and baked beans before setting off at 8am on the drive to the jetty. It was a pretty interesting journey as we drove across brilliant, forested rolling hills for many miles before reaching Kuala Tembeling and had a spot of lunch. A Rufous-bellied Eagle soaring overhead was a surprise, and from the restaurant we also saw Brown-throated Sunbird and Red-eyed Bulbul. Eventually we set off on the boat up the river for 69 kilometres, passing through excellent forested hills for the whole journey, just a shame it was so uncomfortable.
|Beautiful forest on the way to TN|
|This is the way to enter Taman Negara|
But we saw a few birds, like White-throated Kingfisher, Dollarbird, Blue-throated Bee-eater and a flyby Emerald Dove. We reached the Mutiara Resort by 5.30pm and after checking-in, just dumped our gear into our chalet which was on the far side of the complex and quite a walk. The good thing was that there was a huge fruiting tree right outside our door and we managed to connect with Asian Fairy-bluebird, Stripe-throated Bulbul, and both Little and Thick-billed Green-pigeons here. There was also a trail right next to our chalet and we walked in maybe 40 metres and just listened to the sounds of the rainforest. It was quite ‘birdy’ and almost immediately there was some movement off to our right and an Abbott’s Babbler popped into view. I tried a few other babbler calls, but all I got in response was a White-rumped Shama and then a Straw-headed Bulbul sang – only a shame it didn’t come in really.
Then some kind of deer (non-bird) ran across the boardwalk and then I became aware of a scratching sound in the leaf litter. We just froze and waited quietly, hoping for something good but when a blue face appeared from behind a thick tree trunk we just couldn’t believe it, as it belonged to a male Crested Fireback – lifer No 1 for me!! Wow! I wanted to take a photo but there were just too many vines and leaves in the way, but it continued to walk right towards us, 15 metres away, 10 metres away, 9, 8 then it became aware of us and turned left parallel to the boardwalk and continued its sedate walk. Amazingly another male, then another appeared and Lee and I just looked at each other in amazement! Three male firebacks feeding so close to us and not scurrying away but feeding naturally, at ease with their environment – we felt so privileged. Isn’t it amazing what can occur if you use good fieldcraft and stay quiet and move slowly. Even the sound of my camera clicking didn’t spook them, or my quiet curses about not getting any decent photos because the light was so low! As the trio melted away, two females and another two males appeared off to the right and crossed the boardwalk in front of us as well. OK well that’s enough of that, as just then we got distracted by a calling Red-throated Barbet and a couple of Oriental Pied Hornbills as well. With the light fading we went back out into the open area outside our cabin and watched the Grey-rumped Treeswifts hawking for insects, and the odd Blue-crowned Hanging-parrot zipping by. Mental note, need to get that one tomorrow….. So with rumbling stomachs we headed to the Park HQ, hearing Black-and-yellow Broadbill along the way, and met up with the third member of our TN crew, Sophoan Sanh, the top bird guide from Cambodia and a good friend of ours. Over dinner down at one of the floating restaurants we discussed our plan for tomorrow over some delicious local cuisine and scanned the river at dusk for Bat Hawk. Only some Brown-backed Needletails were seen, but a brief nightjar must have been a Malaysian Eared right? Shame it was too dark to see properly and then the heavens opened with thunder and lightning and the customary torrential downpour I seem to get everywhere I go. Hope it stops during the night.