The fear was that today would be something of an anti-climax following yesterdays rich haul of goodies, and the day started well with a very confiding pair of Black-throated Babblers that gave repeated views. Then a Scaly-crowned Babbler began calling and flew in nicely for us, and as we watched this Sophy had a quick view of a Crested Jay flying by. We really wanted to get to the place where we heard Rail Babbler yesterday, but as we crossed the tricky little creek there was so much commotion coming form some large trees off to the right. It must have been another fruiting tree as loads of green-pigeons were flying in and out, mainly Thick-billed but also a couple of Large Green-pigeons were present. Then a Black Hornbill flew out and a short while later a Wreathed Hornbill flew across the tree. Wow! What with more looks at Rhinoceros, and later a Bushy-crested Hornbill in a huge tree across the river, and later still we heard Helmeted Hornbill and we were on a hornbill-roll. Much better than the pancakes served at breakfast!!
But anyway, back at the fruiting tree Lee latched on to yet more Black-and-red Broadbills, then a Buff-necked Woodpecker appeared, whilst Sophy and I worked on calling in one of the three Large Wren-babblers calling. Somehow Lee was the only one to nail it, which is somehow remarkable as we spent maybe an unsuccessful hour on them and he just bowled up and saw one straight away! But we’d get it later today, so whatever! We walked on for maybe a kilometre along the undulating trail, over tree roots, across the bridge and got to the real muddy area beside the old fruiting tree and got lucky with a pair of Short-tailed Babblers that just appeared right in front of us showing their grey faces, thin moustachial-line, scrawny necks and small heads – oh and short tails.
A Horsfield’s Babbler then began calling but we really messed up as it was another lifer for me, but it somehow disappeared in the canopy overhead. So finally we got to the Rail Babbler place but it was all quiet and frustration began to set in. Not even a Garnet Pitta calling and I know there’s one on territory somewhere here. But just then a Malaysian Banded Pitta starts calling and I beckon Lee over to the steep gulley where I think the bird is. It’s actually a little further away over on top of the opposite side of the gulley, so we sit down on the muddy floor and I play the call which makes the bird go berserk and it calls a lot faster than before. It’s moving around a lot, calling from here and there and we are scanning frantically and then I spot some blue and yellow through the foliage which looks really out of place amidst the brown bank and green foliage....... and there it is. Yes! It hops along a bit and comes out onto a fallen log and sings repeatedly, letting us watch it at leisure and far enough away not to disturb it. After a few minutes it melts away, and we go over and try to get closer views but it remains elusive, crossing the path twice at high speed. Excellent but I must admit I was getting a bit tetchy despite this success. Where are the Garnet Pittas?
So we go down to the river for a break and get Stork-billed and Blue-eared Kingfishers, Rufous-tailed Tailorbird and Straw-headed Bulbul. Then Dom arrives and says the Garnet is calling now, so we rush up to the path and sure enough I can hear one – at last. This is my No.1 bird for the trip but how are we going to get it, as it’s way up the slope and it’s so dense in there. I try calling it in and after a little while it does come closer, but not a lot. Nothing for it but to move slowly and as quiet as possible up the hill, which in the end was only a couple of hundred yards sneaking between vines and over fallen, rotting trees. It was difficult to be quiet but we take it slow and the birds still calling and as we get closer realise its high up somewhere form a dense (of course!) area of vine covered trees. We wait and listen, cupping our ears to get a sense of direction as to where the bird is and we look and look but nothing is apparent. We’re afraid to move any more as the bird is really close but we have to get a different angle as we’re looking into the sun so clamber over a large rotting tree trunk and there it is! Wow – Garnet Pitta!
A stunning vision of scarlet, black and deepest most exquisite blue is calling from a bare perch some thirty feet up a tree and we all get on it with beaming smiles all around. A lifer for three of us and a thrilling hunt. We spend the next 20 minutes admiring its beautiful plumage and I manoeuvre around to try and get a photo, which once again results in a record shot as they all seem to be here! But man, what a bird! I really wanted to punch the air right then but waited til we got back down to the path! So then we decided to go over to the opposite side of the Tahan River as we’d heard of another birder getting Jambu Fruit-dove, Crested Partridge and Finsch’s Bulbul at a fruiting tree. Must admit I had to look at the book for that last one – never been on the radar with that bird until now. Well it took an age to get back to the Mutiara, with loads of students walking past us noisily and a few birds on the way back. We took a boat across to one of the floating restaurants for some refreshments as it was hot and mid-afternoon before taking another boat across to the other jetty. We managed to find the tree without much problem and settled down for a lengthy wait and within 10 minutes a bulbul with a yellow throat, yellow vent and darkish olive cheeks flew in above us quite close…. Could it be, yes checking all the features and sure enough we’re looking at Finsch’s Bulbul – another lifer.
Boy we’re really doing well up to this point, but as you know birding is a great leveller and we can’t keep this hit rate up. But then a Chestnut-rumped Babbler creeps out from the vines overhead and onto our life lists as well – what a cracker with black throat, pale eye and strong chest streaks. I’m feeling like a kid in a candy shop all of the time here and not afraid to admit I’ve had a load of lifers so far – so I’m making a mental note right now to go on a birding holiday more often. This is so much fun! No pressure, great birds, lifers and not just any old lifer but birds that I’ve wanted to see for a long time. And I’ve learnt a lot of calls and had really good looks at loads of birds I’ve seen whilst leading tours but sometimes I don’t get the chance to study birds as much as I’d like on tour. So this is heaven. I walk back to a small stream then, trawling for Crested Partridge, but stumble upon loads of birds bathing and manage to get a photo of Sooty-capped Babbler amongst others. Frustratingly there was probably a jungle-flycatcher here but it disappeared quickly.
Still more Chestnut-rumped Babblers and then a Large Wren-babbler calls and I run back to get the others and we have mind-blowing views of it perched out in the open for ages, then circling us and more views. Much better than my last time in southern Thailand. And that was it, as a heavy rain shower ends proceedings here and we get drenched going across the river but the rain stops and we spend the rest of the evening scanning the swiftlets. Think they are all Germain’s but……. Although the view across to the National Park & Mutiara Resort is quite something. A quick bash at night birding drew a blank so we finish for a well deserved hot shower.