Monday, 23 September 2013

Magic on the Tapan Road

Back on the Tapan Road very, very early this morning with Dewie and the driver cooking us some breakfast on a small gas stove beside the road just as the sun was rising over the surrounding hills.  Our target was the endemic Graceful Pitta but there were no calls at all for the first hour or so, so we contented ourselves with a little birding along the road where Grey-throated, Spot-necked and Golden Babblers were working their way through the undergrowth right next to us. Then an unfamiliar call sounded close by and a small, non-descript babbler came into view when I played back the call. It didn’t match either of the Short-tailed Babbler or Horsfield’s Babbler calls I have but the grey sides to face and thin black moustachial line, weakish bill and (dare I say it), short tail all pointed to Short-tailed Babbler – a bird I wasn’t expecting here.

Graceful Pitta

All of a sudden the distinctive monotous, one-note call of a Graceful Pitta was heard and we dived into a nearby gulley and sat down on our little camping stools (!) and shortly after a bright crimson shape could be seen in the darkest corner. A short wait then followed before it hopped out in the open for a few seconds before being chased away by a freakin squirrel. We waited a little longer and the pitta returned and over the next 10 minutes it was on view, mostly in the dense tangle of undergrowth but twice it hopped out into a clearing for breath-taking views. Wow!

Totally amazed with this we decided to push our luck and drove lower down for a bird that has bugged me for many years, Marbled Wren-babbler. Having only heard the sucker on a few occasions in Malaysia, this time I wasn’t denied and managed great views over the course of a 5 minute period. It really is a beast and one of the toughest nuts to crack in Asia but after circling us a few times we manoeuvred into a great position where we could look down on it as it crept along a muddy pathway. Oh yes!! The same spot held a very busy flock with Black-and-crimson Oriole, Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, a cracking Banded Woodpecker, yet more Blue Nuthatches and lots of commoner species.

Banded Woodpecker

Black-and-crimson Oriole

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush

The hat-trick came a little later when a Bronze-tailed Peacock-pheasant spent ages calling back to the ipod before walking across the slope below me. Sounds easy right? Well it wasn’t and I got lucky – BIG TIME! Amazingly we’d see another one on our last day as well. So what a day so far and one we didn’t want to end, so kept on walking to see what else we could find.

Cinereous Bulbul - a split from Ashy Bulbul

Well we got Rhinoceos Hornbill, Sunda Forktail, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Ochraceous and Cinereous Bulbuls, Fulvous-chested Jungle-flycatcher and several Whiskered Treeswifts at various locations.

Whiskered Treeswift - who you looking at!

At a fruiting tree several Bushy-crested Hornbills were present, along with Asian Fairy Bluebird, Blue-winged and Sumatran Leafbirds and Sumatran Bulbul also present. A little later I called in this Banded Broadbill for nice views and this was pretty much the last new bird of the day.

Banded Broadbill

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