Well what a day this turned out to be! My excitement at our first days birding at Taman Negara was kind of overwhelming and I was not disappointed with many classic Asian birds, and we packed a whole weeks highlights into one day. What with a trogon, good kingfisher, 4 broadbills, 3 hornbills, 8 babblers (in their name), excellent woodpeckers, a frogmouth and a Bat Hawk! Yes, my first time in Taman Negara and I guess the top bird guides will probably snigger at that – oh well!
So we got up and were ready for a full day on the trails by 6am and with first light at 7am it was worth a little blast into the trail that begins beside our cabin. I tried a few owls with no response, and then tried Gould's Frogmouth, but not with much expectation. All of a sudden one responded far off but the trail split into two right next to us and we walked a bit in the direction it had called. Waited. Waited. Another call, this time much closer. I clicked the ipod and bam! It flew right over my head and into the tangle behind me, fortunately a gap in the foliage revealed some eyeshine and there it was, about 30 feet away at eye-level - well my eye-level anyway! Excellent. I fired off a couple quick shots with Lee holding the spotlight but I never manage to get good nightbird photos, so had to settle for a record shot. We were totally ecstatic with that and my first lifer of the day. Then we had a great breakfast to celebrate as the restaurant opened at 7am – and my favourite, pancakes!! Sophy arrived shortly after and we also met another Brit birder, spending a few weeks here Dom, who had some great recent info which certainly helped. In fact we all worked really well as a team, finding each other lifers all day and a great spirit of camaraderie developed very quickly. No pressure, just good birding, and no stone-coloured clothes in the rainforest amongst us!
An Abbott’s Babbler got the ball rolling on the steps of the Mutiara, although I did try stringing it into something else more interesting before playing the call and the bird firing out of the dense undergrowth like a rocket and almost colliding into us. We spent the whole day along the River Trail and probably only walked maybe 3 kilometres along it, so quite easy, a little tricky in places with some steep, slippery sections. We took some food from the breakfast buffet for lunch as there was no way we were coming back for lunch – just too many birds to see. So one of my main reasons for coming here was to get more familiar with the calls, which is working and to really crack the babblers. Well this is easier said than done but with some perseverance and help it turned out to be a good day for that also.
A few glaring babbler omissions on my list were finally put to bed, with Rufous-crowned, Sooty-capped and White-chested Babblers showing nicely. The latter was really obliging right alongside the river when we took a detour just to scan the tall trees for hornbills, and succeeded in getting the first of several views at Rhinoceros Hornbill. The other two are canopy babblers and it was good to get them done with, sorted the calls and move on! Chestnut-winged Babbler was the commonest of the family, and Ferruginous Babbler showed well, as did Moustached and a surprise for me anyway was a Buff-breasted Babbler.
So on to more birds, I really liked the Rufous-backed Kingfisher that posed nicely on a vine for us, just a shame I’m not on form with the camera as it’s not a sharp image. But an immature male Scarlet-rumped Trogon came out well, but it’s always a pain getting something satisfactory on these canopy birds. Such as the broadbills, which really put on a show today. A pair of Black-and-red Broadbills got the ball rolling, followed by Black-and-yellow, then Banded and finally Green Broadbill much later in the afternoon. And we had seconds of two of them at different times of the day, so could really appreciate the beauty and their colours. It was nice just to admire them and see how they behave.
We also had a few flocks as well, with one in particular giving us Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Scarlet Minivet, Black-naped Monarch, Buff-necked Woodpecker, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird and Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker. During the heat of the day, and it is hot here (and sweaty) we lounged beside the river which was nice as we had a flask of coffee! But there was Malaysian Blue Flycatcher (another lifer to add to the Rufous-chested Flycatcher earlier), Rufous-tailed and Ashy Tailorbird, and a Stork-billed Kingfisher as well. And possibly my biggest surprise of the day was just before lunch when a really huge fruiting tree, well I knew it was fruiting because on inch long bullet of a fruit missed my head by a millimetre, anyway a Wrinkled Hornbill flew out of it and was later followed by a couple of very big Rhinoceros Hornbills. Yes another lifer!
|Orange-backed Woodpecker (female)|
There were several bulbuls today as well, but we’ll see to them tomorrow! We also had Purple-naped Sunbird, Dark-throated Oriole, Rufous-winged Philentoma, a great view of Orange-backed Woodpecker (a bird I’d wanted to see for a long time), Grey-and-buff Woodpecker, and some commoner things. But the frustrations of rainforest birding are a great leveller as we heard some other really good birds, most notably Rail Babbler, and didn’t hear others I was hoping for like Garnet or Malaysian Banded Pitta (yet). But you can’t win them all and I was happy to get Bat Hawk flying over the Kuala Tembeling river from the floating restaurant. Not too shabby huh?!