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Two 'non birding' trips to Peninsula Malaysia 2014 (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Some notes from two separate ‘non-bird-watching’ (my wife disputes this) trips to Malaysia, primarily in and around Kuala Lumpur. Full bird lists were entered into eBird.

1st Trip: 7 – 21 March

As other visitors to this part of the world have noted Malaysia was suffering a severe drought when we arrived – water restrictions were in place, and this prolonged dry spell had an impact on what we saw (and didn’t see).

Fortunately it started to rain occasionally half way through our stay, which brought some much needed improvements to the air quality – smoke generated smog from the burning of forests in Sumatra and Malaysia dominating the weather up to that point.

7 March

We landed just before sunset at KLIA on Friday the 7 March, and as our plane taxied to the airport building it flushed 1 Grey Heron, 1 Purple Heron and 2 Great Egrets. Immigration and baggage collection took up the remaining hours of sunlight, and the taxi ride to our accommodation was uneventful.

We checked in to the ‘Summer Stay Vacation Home’ – a 3 bedroom apartment in Damansara Perdana, in northern Petaling Jaya. This was a nice relaxing alternative to staying in a hotel, and was in reasonably close proximity to some of the (non-birding) places we were in KL to visit, but is not particularly close to any birding sites I found during my stay.

8 March

An intentionally quiet low key day, I tracked down a few birds in the gardens of the Perdana Emerald apartment complex, before we walked down to the curve shopping complex, where we had a short pre-shopping walk/bird around the slightly scruffy Mutiara Damansara Recreation Park. Late in the afternoon I walked along the road bounding the East side of the forested hill to the North of Damansara Perdana, as far as the large quarry, and given the lack of birds in this area then walked West from Damasara Perdana, passing the water treatment works and down to some grassland beneath an extensive line of overhead HV electricity cables.

The apartment complex gardens held a reasonable selection of common urban KL birds, all of which were seen regularly and widely thereafter; Feral Pigeons, Zebra Doves, Asian Koels, House Swifts, Black-naped Orioles, House Crows, Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Oriental Magpie Robin, Common Myna, Olive-backed Sunbird and Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

The walk around the recreation park repeated most of these sightings and added Striated Heron, Spotted Dove, 2 White-throated Kingfishers, Common Tailorbird, Asian Brown Flycatcher, and Asian Glossy Starling – all of these were again regularly and widely seen throughout the rest of our stay.

The only bird of note on my walk North of Damansara Perdana was a single Blue-tailed Bee-eater, the walk by the water treatment works and alongside the grasslands adding White-breasted Waterhen, Daurian Starling, Nutmeg Mannikin and Javan Myna to my list.

9 March

In the morning I added Plain-throated Sunbird at the apartment complex before we met up with our KL based friends H G and T R for lunch at the Curve. After lunch we headed over to the Ukay Heights area to walk their local patch, the Old Ampang Impounding Reservoir (see http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=2652239 for location details).

The area alongside the stream at the start of the walk up to Ampang Reservoir was reasonably birdy, and in short order highlights included Crested Serpent Eagle, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Black-headed and Red-eyed Bulbuls, and Everett’s White-eye. The steep walk up to the tanks was bird-less, and there was little at the tanks themselves. I glimpsed a bird that we later tracked down as one of a pair of Baya Weavers, presumably displaced by the drought. As we reached the reservoir we had poor views of an elusive female Asian Fairy Bluebird.

Our circuit of the reservoir produced Hairy-backed and Cream-vented Bulbuls, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Arctic Warbler, a stunning Crimson-winged Woodpecker, several beautiful Blue-throated Bee-eaters (plus more Blue-tailed), a single Greater Green Leafbird, Chestnut-winged Babbler, Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker (immature), Plain Sunbird, and over the water many Pacific Swallows, plus House Swifts and swiftlets that I did not identify. On our descent we had good views of a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha.

Returning to Ukay Heights we unfortunately didn’t get good enough views to identify a possible Red-legged Crake which scuttled across the road in front of us.

10 March

No birding. Really.

11 March

We headed out to KLIA to pick up a pre-arranged rental car from Europcar for a couple of days. Unfortunately Europcar do not have a booth at the car pick up location, so you have to phone them once you get there and wait for someone to turn up. We waited well over an hour for a pre-arranged pick up, in a filthy multi-story car-park lacking air-conditioning or somewhere to sit (and had a similar wait on return, both times ruining our attempts to avoid rush hour traffic) – I would avoid Europcar at KLIA for this reason.

Having finally picked up our car and satnav (recommended) we drove down to Melaka, checking in to the Courtyard at Heeren (recommended) for the night. From the Courtyard we headed down to the riverside area for a drink and snack, and spent an enjoyable couple of hours walking around the historic sites of Stadhuys and St Paul’s church. There were a few birds along the river and the trees around St. Paul’s were reasonably birdy – I never quite got good enough views of either Parrots or Barbets that were flying in and out.

Birds along the river included a passing flock of Intermediate Egrets, and the odd Striated Heron and Common Sandpiper. At and around St. Paul’s sightings included White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Pink-necked Pigeon, Arctic Warbler, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and Olive-backed Sunbird.

12 March

In the morning we had a further potter around Melaka (shopping), and took a boat trip up and down the river – reasonably interesting, but only regularly sighted birds were seen. In the early afternoon we departed for the short drive to the Thistle Hotel (recommended) at Port Dickson for a one night stay.

En-route to Port Dickson a brief stop to check some raptors produced 18 Oriental Honey Buzzard passing over, plus a resident Brahminy Kite. Highlights at the Thistle Hotel included a Collared Kingfisher along the beach, and a Dollarbird perched on the hotel’s aerials.

13 March

After breakfast at the Thistle (adding roosting Cattle Egrets to the trip list) we drove to the nearby Tanjung Tuan/Cape Rachado. This is a reasonably well known raptor migration spot, and there is a small park covering the headland, protecting a nice patch of remnant forest. We got to the entrance to the park (by the Ilham Resort) at about 10am, and remained in the park until around 1pm, when heat and the need to get back to KL forced us to leave. Unfortunately the ‘weather’ was dominated by dense smog/smoke from forest fires, so thick that shipping in the straits was resorting to the use of fog horns. According to one of the volunteer raptor watchers, this was the worst they had ever seen, and was likely to lead to little or no visible migration.

Anyway, on arrival a quick scan of the playing fields adjacent to the Ilham Resort produced a couple of Oriental Pipit and a Blue-tailed Bee-eater, a pair of Malaysian Pied Fantail flitted along the forest edge and Pink-necked Pigeons and Common Iora showed well. The walk up the road to the cape revealed only Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and Abbot’s Babbler, despite much more in the way of calls and movement.

We perched ourselves on the right-hand (North-West facing) wall of the light-house, and settled in to wait in the hope of some raptor migration. Fortunately this spot overlooked some scrub and a small fruiting tree, and gradually over the next couple of hours a few good birds trickled through.

Highlights were a Black-bellied Malkoha, a pair of Dollarbirds (regularly perching on the lighthouse), single Lineated, Blue-eared and Coppersmith Barbets, two Scarlet Minivet, several Olive-winged and Red-eyed Bulbul, Orange-bellied and Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers, Plain-throated and Van Hasselt’s (Purple-throated) Sunbird and Little Spiderhunter.

As the day increasingly warmed up resident raptors started to put in an appearance, a pair of Changeable Hawk-Eagles, Brahminy Kites and White-bellied sea-Eagle all tried to show well in the poor light. Shortly after mid-day we heard and then saw the first of several small flocks of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters migrating past – one of the raptor watch volunteers suggested this was a sign we might see a few migrant raptors. About half an hour later I picked up the first of 67 Oriental Honey Buzzard that reached the cape and started to kettle up overhead – just before it was time for us to leave.
This is a great spot, and well worth more effort than I was able to put into it.

14 March

Practically no birding, again.

15 March

Another proper birding trip. H G and T R kindly picked us up from our apartment, and drove us to Kuala Selangor Nature Park (KSNP), which we birded from 9.30am to 2pm, on a hot sunny day. Our birding here was dominated by the almost complete absence of water from what is normally a wetlands and mangrove reserve (the main central lake was completely dry), and the heat. For those planning a visit, only the main watch-tower over-looking the central lake from near the entrance is safe to use, and whilst the concrete loop through the mangroves remains safely walk-able, all that remains of the wooden walkway from this to the shoreline is a few rotten stumps.

Birding started in the car-park, where highlights included 11 Coppersmith Barbets in the bare tree-tops and single Brown Shrike and Forest Wagtail just as we reached the main entrance trail. Voracious mosquitos hurried us through the initial stretch of forest, and we were relieved to leave these behind as we approached and climbed the main watch-tower. We quickly picked up the relatively common birds in this (now) dry scrubby habitat; Ashy Tailorbird, Abbott’s Babbler Malaysian Pied Fantail, Spotted Dove and Pink-necked Pigeon. Water-birds were conspicuously absent.

Returning to the main circular walk-way we turned left, heading around in an anti-clockwise direction. Whilst watching a number of small birds, which included Oriental White-eye, Ruby-cheeked and Plain-throated Sunbirds, Asian Brown Flycatcher and Arctic Warbler, H G pointed out our first water bird of any note, a Lesser Adjutant, as it flew over. Progressing around the trail we saw more of the same birds, plus a few Red-eyed Bulbuls and Common Iora.

A sudden flash of electric blue just beside and below us alerted us to a stunning Blue-winged Pitta, perched barely 8ft from us low down in the scrub in broad daylight. Absolutely astonishing views were had by all of us, soaking in this really magnificent bird. I have seen Blue-winged Pitta before, but never in bright sunlight, clearly visible and for minutes rather than fleeting seconds. Bird of the holiday.

After that our next sightings were always going to be an anti-climax, and in truth the heat and general lack of water meant that birds were few and far between. Next up was a Yellow-bellied Prinia, and then a couple of Black Baza flying over. We reached what would normally be a stretch of water backing on to the mangrove section, and there was a small runnel of water, full of gasping mud-skippers. This held a few birds; Striated, Purple and Grey Herons, Great and Little Egret, Collared Kingfisher and Common Sandpiper.

Approaching the start of the mangrove loop we had brief views of another Black Baza perched in the low trees. Unfortunately the Mangrove walkway itself was almost bird-less – several Malaysian Pied Fantails, but little else. Completing the main loop back towards the car was hard work – it was increasingly hot, the only highlight being a brief glimpse of a Red Junglefowl scurrying across the track.

Fortunately mosquito numbers had dropped for the walk back to the car-park, and H G and I were able to take some time (and H G photos) looking at a Drongo, which subsequently we identified as a first winter Crow-billed Drongo. It was a relief to get back to the car and we enjoyed the air-conditioning!

From KSNP we drove a short distance through palm oil plantations to the nearest area of rice fields. These are called Kampung Sungai Tengi Kanan on google-maps, and are not those described by other birders further North around Sekinchan or the Projek Barat Laut Selangor (PBLS) rice fields. In this area we essentially drove around the smaller roads more or less at random, stopping and occasionally walking short distances when we saw birds of interest.

Highlights in this area included a single Asian Openbill, a few Chinese Pond-Heron in breeding plumage, great views of a few Black-shouldered Kite, 8 White-breasted Woodswallow (a local speciality), 6 Brown Shrike, 4 Zitting Cisticola, a Baya Weaver, and good numbers of White-rumped, Javan, Nutmeg and White-headed Munias.

The Openbill was a real surprise – I am not sure how far (if at all) out of range this sighting was, and the area in general was pretty birdy – we spent an hour here before heading off, and didn’t find any fields without well grown rice crop in them, I suspect given longer much more could be seen in this area.

16 March

After a pleasant night with H G and T R, and a leisurely morning watching the 6 nations rugby games from previous night, we headed out to visit the Putrajaya Wetland Park for a couple of hours. On the edge of the car park we had brief views of a Red Junglefowl, before dropping down to the trail that runs alongside the wetlands areas.

Initially we turned left, quickly picking out 26 Painted Stork loafing on the marsh, together with a few Purple Herons. A scan of the marsh soon revealed a pair of Red-wattled Lapwing, the first of 5 Purple Swamphen (relatively easy to see here) and the first of two Yellow Bittern. Closer in front of us calls from the low trees alerted us to a pretty pair of Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers.

We re-traced our steps and then continued along the track, viewing the wetland and scrub the other side of where we had parked. Four Oriental Honey-Buzzards passed over at height, and highlights as we moved on included Plain-throated Sunbird, Pied Triller, amongst the more common wetland and scrub birds (Common and Ashy Tailorbird, Yellow-bellied Prinia, various Egrets etc).

We didn’t visit this area at the best time for birding, but it is clearly a reasonably easy area with a few birds that is worth a short visit if you are limited on time and in the area.

17 and 18 March

No birding.

19 March

I had planned one full day of local-guided birding on this trip, and arranged to visit the Krau Wildlife Reserve for the day. Unfortunately at very late notice (10pm the night before) they cancelled. This left me with insufficient time to organise anything on my own account for the 19 March, which was a real pain.

In the end I took a variety of public transport and taxis to the grounds of the Forestry Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), arriving just after 11.30am (hardly prime birding time), and spent nearly 5 hours working hard to find some birds. Taxis will take you to FRIM from either of the nearest stations on the KTM Kommuter Line (Kepong or Kepong Central), but the drivers out here are real bandits, and don’t really like the short distance, and so will either refuse to take you, or refuse to use a meter and charge a flat rate.

Getting a taxi back is even harder, as at least as far as I could see there is no taxi rank, and you are at the (expensive) mercy of passing taxi drivers. It would be best to book a taxi there and back in advance – it is too far to walk, and at the end of a slog around FRIM you are unlikely to be in the mood to argue much with the few passing taxi drivers who do stop.

As for birding, I did the sort of obvious thing, bought a ticket for the canopy walkway, walked the trail up there, across the walkway, and then back down via the picnic area. After that I turned right along the Jalan Foxworthy loop, tried to follow the poorly kept Engkabang trail, but wound up exiting this near the junction between Jalan Symington and Jalan Bkt. Wayson. At this point I turned left and followed Jalan Jelutong back to the Information Centre, then I walked out on the main entrance road to the primary school, turned right here as far as the wetlands area, before retracing my steps back to the entrance to get a taxi back.

By the time I had finished the Engkabang trail I had worked out I was much better off birding from the various quiet roads around the grounds, than the trails – the roads giving much better views up into adjacent canopies, and of birds flying over. Whilst it is sort of worth doing the canopy walkway loop, birds are few and far between here, and to be honest if I had a day available to bird from KL, I would try and find somewhere other than FRIM to visit. If you only have a few hours then it is OK, but go with low expectations!

Highlights on the canopy loop included a Gray-headed Canary-Flycatcher, 2 Velvet-fronted Nutchatch, and 5 Fiery Minivet (from the canopy walkway), unfortunately I didn’t get decent views of a fly-over Malkoha to identify it. The loop around to the start of the Engkabang trail produced great views of 3 Spectacled Spiderhunters and a Gray-rumped Treeswift, but the walk along the trail only added another Gray-headed Canary-Flycatcher.

Walking back to the info centre produced good views of Blue-throated Bee-eaters, 3 Scarlet Minivet, a Brown Shrike, a pair of resident Crested Serpent-Eagles, plus migrating over 7 Oriental Honey-Buzzards, and a single flock of 19 Black Baza – which prompted a double take I have to admit. The wetland area was particularly birdy, there were a couple of Oriental Pipits on the adjacent grassy areas, plus good numbers of Blue-throated Bee-eaters, a couple of White-throated Kingfisher, a pair of Baya Weaver and best of all a Black-and-Red Broadbill. That felt like a reward for working hard to see some birds, and cheered me up on the way back home.

20 March

A shopping day, however the walk down Jalan PJU 7/1 towards the Curve produced nice views of two Common Iora, and great views of a lovely little Gray-capped Woodpecker, the final species addition to my trip list. (The 21 March was essentially a travel day, returning home).

2nd Trip

Weather and water levels were much more normal for this our second visit in 2014, and at this time of year there was no issue with smog from the burning of rainforest.

23 October

A travel day, arriving in KL too late for any birding. Whilst in KL we stayed at the Royale Chulan Damansara Hotel (recommended) adjacent to the Curve shopping centre in the ‘burbs of KL.

24 October

A quiet acclimatising day, bookended by short early and late visits to the scruffy Mutiara Damansara recreation park, and a lunch time spell in the KLCC park as time off for good behaviour shopping in KLCC.

First thing in the morning, jetlagged, mentally not entirely there, but definitely not actually asleep I walked from the hotel towards the local recreation park. As I walked past Ikea I saw a few birds hawking for insects around the roof, which in my slightly befuddled state I identified as Dusky Crag Martins. This seems rather unlikely on habitat and location, and with hindsight I am now rather sceptical about this identification. There were also good numbers of small dark-rumped swiftlets spiralling up in the pre-dawn light. However, I have learnt not to try to identify these, and continued on.

The park itself provided a handy re-introduction to the regular suburban birds of KL, the following being seen in short order, and widely elsewhere thereafter: Brahminy Kite, Spotted Dove, House Swift, Black-naped Oriole, House Crow, Barn Swallow, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Common Myna and Tree Sparrow. I put a bit of effort into tracking down and seeing a calling Asian Koel, was pleased to see White-throated Kingfisher, a small group of Black-crowned Night-Herons flying over, and 10 Striated Heron feeding around the pond margins. The biggest surprise was 2 Common Kingfishers; recently arrived winter visitors I suspect.

On walking back to the hotel I was delighted to see an immature Tiger Shrike in the ornamental bushes outside the hotel entrance, and an Olive-backed Sunbird.

After breakfast we took a shuttle-bus into KLCC and spent the rest of the morning wandering around the shops. At 1pm I spent an hour pottering around the KLCC park – it was very hot, but a small oasis for birds in the area. More regular birds seen here were Common Iora, Black-naped Oriole, House Crow, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Asian Glossy Starling, Common Myna, Plain-(Brown) throated Sunbird and Tree Sparrow.

I was also pleased to pick out a nice male Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, and some evidence of migration in the form of singles of Brown Shrike, Dark-sided Flycatcher and female Green-backed (Yellow-rumped) Flycatcher.
A later afternoon circuit of the Mutiara Damansara recreation park added Pacific Swallow to my list from earlier in the day.

25 October

We decided to visit Pulau Ketam (Crab Island) for a bit of sightseeing today, but by the time we had got into downtown KL and then got a train down to Pelambutan Klang for the ferry it was already just past mid-day. If you plan to do this trip it is worth getting going early to be able to make the most of it – and it is an interesting visit. Whilst waiting for a ferry I picked out a few Little Egret and Great Egret feeding amongst the shoreline rubbish.

The ferry itself was a sort of souped-up canal narrow boat, which everyone sat inside, with grotty little port-holes or poor quality glass the only outside view – not good for birding. It looked like it was possible to hire a small dedicated taxi-boat to take you out, if I went again, I would. There were various terns and waders as we sped along, none of which I could identify given the viewing conditions.

From the pier at Pulau Ketam I was delighted to pick out a single Lesser Adjutant on the opposite shoreline, and a few Common Terns passing by. In addition to the more regular birds I also saw single Whimbrel, Redshank and a couple of Grey Herons. We enjoyed the ambiance of the little fishing town, and lunch at the most popular looking restaurant along the main ‘street’. This was very enjoyable, both the predictable crab, and the steamed fish we also ordered. No ill effects.

After returning to Pelambutan Klang we had a short wait at the station for a train back to KL, this produced a White-breasted Waterhen, Zebra Dove, and 5 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters in addition to some of the more regular suburban birds. No further birding that day.

26 October

In the morning we went for a walk around the pleasant Lake Gardens in central KL, and then visited some of the other more touristy sites in that area for the rest of the day. The highlight in the gardens was a couple of Coppersmith Barbet, and Javan Myna, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Red-eyed Bulbul and a Crested Serpent Eagle were added to the list of more common birds seen (all in the park).

27 October

The only birding today was a short morning watch from the poolside balcony of the Royale Chulan Damansara hotel – this elevated perch providing nice views of 3 Grey-rumped Treeswift hawking over the adjacent trees.

28 October

A proper day of birdwatching, and some good birds.

At fairly short notice I booked a day of guided birding through www.endemicguides.com to the Krau Forest (Bukit Rengit) area with guide Mr Lee. I was picked up on time at 6.20, and quizzed at length as to what my target birds were during the 1 ½ hour drive to our first stop. Despite (honestly) setting out that I would be happy to enjoy some rainforest birding and see what was to be seen, eventually I admitted that Garnet Pitta or Malaysian Rail Babbler would both be new birds, and that I would appreciate good views of Banded Broadbill.

Just before 8am we arrived at the Lanchang Toll Plaza, and stopped here for 5 or so minutes. This stop produced excellent views of a pair of Black-thighed Falconet (always a favourite bird of mine), hunting and perched, plus a single Common Hill Myna and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.
From here we then drove along the road to the Krau Forest research centre, birding along the way, eventually notching up about 60 species – I will only list the highlights.

An initial stop at an area of farmland and secondary scrub with a few old remnant trees produced pairs of Oriental Pied-Hornbill and Black Hornbill, a dozen fly-over Blue-rumped Parrot, Crimson-winged Woodpecker, Little Spiderhunter, and a couple of Orange-bellied Flowerpecker. Next stop was an area of fish-ponds and grassy scrub, which produced a Purple Heron, Gray-headed Fish-Eagle, Lesser Coucal, Common Flameback, Rufous Woodpecker, and a single distant Black-thighed Falconet. The best bird here, and my first life bird for the trip was a Lanceolated Warbler that called repeatedly and hopped around providing excellent views in low scrub and wet grass. Fabulous.

On we drove to our first stop in rain-forest proper. Here birds calling from the canopy tops revealed themselves to be Violet Cuckoos, and then Mr Lee picked out a calling female Diard’s Trogon (latter followed by poorer views of a male), Banded and Checker-throated Woodpeckers were added to the list, soon to be followed by a noisy family party of Dusky Broadbill, which performed well, and a vocal Sultan Tit which was a little harder work. Finally one of my target birds was heard approaching from the distance, and soon we were enjoying excellent views of 2 Banded Broadbills.

From here we moved to an area of forest gradually (and perhaps by now entirely) being fenced off, and although we picked up Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, female Dark-throated Oriole, Chestnut-rumped Babbler, and Asian Fairy-Bluebird, there was no sound from the hoped for Garnet Pitta.
Continuing on we parked near to the entrance to the research station, and then birded this section of road and a trail running off of this.

At first this was quite hard work, with few birds, early highlights being some Whiskered Treeswifts, Long-billed, Spectacled and Yellow-eared Spiderhunters, and a calling Green Broadbill which eventually gave itself away by moving. Then a final walk along the roadway produced a small bird wave with a torrent of first bulbuls and then babblers, these including Black-headed, Stripe-throated, Olive-winged, Cream-vented, Spectacled, and Buff-vented Bulbuls, Pin-striped and Fluffy-backed Tit-Babblers, Chestnut-winged, Sooty-capped and Rufous-crowned Babblers. As we returned towards the car Mr Lee’s sharp hearing registered the calls of Malaysian Rail Babbler – perhaps sparked into life by the passing bird wave.

We walked along to the closest point on the road to the calls, and waited patiently as the birds got closer. Eventually a Malaysian Rail Babbler moved through the undergrowth and into sight – we watched this bird whistling and making a low clucking noise for quite a while, occasionally crossing clearer patches to give good views, and at one point a second bird was briefly visible. Magic. I had no idea these birds could be seen in this area, and certainly no expectation of seeing them. Second life bird for the day, and a bird I have missed before more than once.

By now it was lunchtime, and getting hot, so we drove back and stopped at the Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary, having lunch in the small café by the car-park – with only a few common hirundines and bulbuls being seen.

After lunch we returned for a final crack at Garnet Pitta, stopping by the area being enclosed to contain tigers (think Jurassic Park style fences). As we got there the sky clouded over and rain threatened. Perhaps this change prompted our eventual change in fortune as shortly after arriving we could hear probably three Garnet Pittas calling distantly from different directions. We spent a long time just waiting here – turning up Asian Paradise-Flycatcher and Gray-cheeked Bulbul, but little else.

Eventually we cracked and decided to walk slowly through the forest and up the hillside in the hope of tracking down a pitta. After an hour or so Mr Lee had got us very close to a bird, but working out its direction/location was very hard. Scanning slowly and determinedly I eventually picked up the bird, a stunning Garnet Pitta, perched and calling much higher up than I had expected – perhaps 4m above the ground. This was a perfect end to an excellent day of birding – the new life sightings, the last two both birds I had previously heard but not seen.

29 October

In a change of form today’s visit to the Mutiara Damansara park was in the early afternoon, and in my hour there I added a couple of Zebra Dove, and singles of Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Common Tailorbird and Asian Brown Flycatcher to the list of birds seen here on this trip. Careful checking of the Mynas revealed Common, Javan and Great (White-vented) Mynas to also all be present.

30 October

A late morning visit to the Mutiara Damansara park (this is not a great birding spot, just the only piece of greenery within an easy walk of the hotel) produced 4 Common Ioras in the trees outside the hotel, and additions to what I had seen in the park in the form of a Brown Shrike, a distant Grey-capped Woodpecker, an Oriental Honey-Buzzard and a flock of 7 Daurian Starling – these latter two species presumably evidence of some migration/arrival of winter visitors.

31 October

Today we drove up to Georgetown for an enjoyable two night stay on Penang Island. In reward for doing all the driving we had a couple of hours break in the early afternoon at the FRIM Bidor pools – a set of roadside wetlands left-over from mining. This area was well worth a short stop, and I am sure would have produced much more in the early morning or later afternoon.

Most immediately visible were reasonable numbers of herons – comprising Purple Herons, Great, Cattle and Little Egrets plus a winter plumage pond-heron sp. A Little Grebe graced the waters, and diligent searching of the grassier wet areas and pond margins produced a few waders; Grey-headed and Red-wattled Lapwings, Common and Wood Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers and Pacific Golden Plovers.

White-throated Kingfishers, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Brown Shrikes were all relatively common, and obvious on fence post and tree stump perches. Amongst the lily pads and more heavily vegetated ponds (Black-backed) Purple Swamphen were reasonably common and visible, two birds were watched fighting vigorously for quite a while, an amazing sight that even my wife found interesting.

At one point a lot of the smaller herons flew up, and bird alarm calls rang out, and as I scanned for a presumed raptor I was delighted to pick out a stunning Chestnut-winged Cuckoo lurking in the scrub. The general alarm calls also prompted a White-browed Crake to raise its head and upper body out of some wet vegetation nearby – another top bird that I haven’t seen in years.

There were plenty of small birds in the scrub surrounding the ponds, these included Malaysian Pied Fantail, Ashy Tailorbird, and Van Hasselt’s (Purple-throated) Sunbird. Amongst the Common Myna I picked out a Jungle Myna, and also making use of the short grass areas, 3 Oriental Pipit.
Finally as we departed my wife picked out a small immature bittern lurking beneath the shade of a raised lily pad, which has subsequently been identified as a Yellow Bittern on the ID part of bird forum (thank you).
Once we had checked into our hotel in Georgetown (the delightful Seven Terraces), we had time for a short walk up to and around Fort Cornwallis. This added White-bellied Sea-Eagle and Crested Myna to the trip list.

1 November

After a bout of shopping including visiting the local street markets I returned to the Fort Cornwallis area in the late morning for a little while, seeing a number of the more common birds, White-bellied Sea-Eagle again, nice views of a Coppersmith Barbet, and new for the trip, perched right on top of the flag pole/mast structure in the fort, a Dollarbird.

After lunch I suggested to my wife that she might like to visit the Gurney Drive shopping mall, she was keen. It turns out that right outside this are the Gurney Drive mudflats and a small area of mangrove – who knew? My wife graciously agreed to my suggestion she shop for a couple of hours whilst I waited patiently outside birding as the tide rose. As if by chance I had bought my scope with me.

Fortunately I was there on a rising tide, but sadly could not wait until full high tide. I found myself a good spot on the deck of a seafood restaurant at the far end of Gurney’s drive, and slowly worked my way through the various waders and herons.

By far the most common wader was Redshank, rendered a little tricky by the gloopy mud sticking to and discolouring their legs. Having got to the bottom of that the next wader I picked up was a single Asian Dowitcher, another new life bird for the trip, and again one that I have tried and failed to see several times before. Thereafter I picked out good numbers of Common Sandpiper, a single Red-necked Stint, a few Whimbrel, Terek Sandpiper and Lesser Sandplover, and 7 Marsh Sandpiper lurking up the creek.

There were good numbers of Great, Intermediate and Little Egrets plus Striated Heron and winter plumaged pond-herons stalking the mudflats and tideline. As the tide gradually came in kingfishers became more obvious along the remnant mangrove fringes, and I picked out single Common Kingfisher and Black-capped Kingfisher and three noisy Collared Kingfishers.
All too soon my wife had finished shopping and it was time to return to our hotel for dinner.

Birding wasn’t quite done for the day, as sitting down to a pre-dinner drink I added 4 Pink-necked Pigeons in a large tree by St George’s Church. With a return drive to KL and then onwards flight home from there, these were the last birds I recorded on the trip.

Let me know if you want any more detail on any of these sightings or locations. Happy birding,

Hi Paul,

I enjoyed reading your account, as I've made several similar trips to Malaysia, always having to balance birding and the demands of non-birding companions.

You talked about Ampang Reservoir. Is this the same place as Taman Riman Ampang, located at the end of Jalan Ampang? This is where a road runs along a stream up to a kind of pumping station or something like that. I've had some good birds here, although sadly it's becoming more and more disturbed. One thing about this place is that you get Glossy Swiftlet here, which is easy to identify compared to the others. I never have worked out which swiftlet I used to see in KL - Germain's, Edible Nest or Black Nest. They all fly around about 200 mph and look virtually identical.

I've also birded Kulala Selangor NP twice and also got bitten to death, even when covered with repellent the second time. Where did you see the pitta? Are you sure it wasn't a Mangrove Pitta, which is resident in the mangroves there?

Asian Dowitcher is a great sighting at Penang. I presume by Oriental Pipit you mean Paddyfield?

I was very interested in your account of Krau Forest. Next time I'm heading to Malaysia I might get in touch for more info.

Thank you – as I said at the start my wife disputes the ‘non-birding’ tag, but had it been a birding trip I would have been out all day every day, and some of the night too.

I’ll try and respond to each of your questions/points, let me know if I miss any…

Ampang Reservoir / Taman [Rimba] Ampang: These are different places, I have seen a few reports on the latter, but never made it there myself – I have generally been on the wrong side of KL, and if I have the time to dedicate to birding had enough time to go further afield. Ampang Reservoir is worth a look if you are nearby and at a loose end, but I would not suggest going out of your way to visit it. I will attempt to attach a map showing both places.

On the swiftlets, my suspicion is that I generally see Germain’s and Glossy around KL – but really I would want to spend some time with a local birder very familiar with the ID of these before trying to call them myself.

As to Kuala Selangor, I was pretty certain the mossies hitched a ride on the back of my rucksack, and it was only climbing the tower that shook them off (those we didn’t swat). If you take the main loop walk anticlockwise (right when coming from the entrance), the pitta was at the first 90 degree bend left – i.e. on the landward side of the square-ish circuit. I have been fortunate enough to see both Mangrove and Blue-winged Pitta before elsewhere, the latter a few times on different trips, and am certain of the ID. My understanding is that Blue-winged Pitta is a scarce but regular winter visitor to this part of Peninsula Malaysia – and down to Singapore, and that the 2013/14 winter saw relatively good numbers of this species wintering. The following accommodation option which I would love to try seems to offer one almost en-suite some winters http://fireflyvilla.com/ . I gather that Mangrove Pitta is now relatively hard to see or hear at Kuala Selangor (we did not hear any calling), and that there are better sites along the coast from here.

Asian Dowitcher at Penang: Yes, I was delighted by this – I have previously looked for this bird on multiple trips to Hong Kong, and a couple of trips to the now very popular Thailand. Generally my visits to South East Asia are timed to see the IRB Rugby Sevens in HK (end of March), and I think mean I tend to miss the Dowitchers. I know Dowitchers are seen in winter/ passage at Teluk Air Tawar/ Kuala Muda relatively near Penang Island (see the excellent https://digdeep1962.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/teluk-air-tawar-kuala-muda-iba-penang-18-sept-2014/), but I don’t know how often/ rarely they are seen from Gurney Drive.

Oriental Pipit = Paddyfield Pipit; I have gone with the names used by eBird.

The Krau Forest: This is an excellent area, and well worth a visit, though how compromised it will be by the completion of the tiger enclosure I don’t know. As I mentioned in my report I paid a guide to show me this area, and would recommend following the same approach if you have limited time. I’m not sure I can offer more than ‘drive along the road towards the research centre, stopping at areas of good looking habitat’!

All the best, and happy birding, Paul
Ampang Reservoir and Taman Rimba Ampang


Hopefully I have attached a map showing Taman Rimba Ampang and Ampang Reservoir to this reply...

Regards, Paul


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    Ampang locations.jpg
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What a great haul for a non-birding trip! Two pittas and Rail Babbler - the stuff of dreams!

Asiatic Dowitcher is a rather late spring migrant in HK - midApril onward, while the Sevens are usually in the last week of March

very nice report of your birding experience in Malaysia. Pittas and trogons are always favorite targets for many visiting birders. :D
Thanks for this, Paul. Rimba Ampang is worth a look on a weekday morning. It suffers a fair amount of disturbance (I've also been menaced by Pig-tailed Macaques - frightened the life out of the wife!) but I've notched up quite an impressive list over a number of visits.

Krau Forest sounds impressive. I've been meaning to go to Taman Negara before but the non-birders have always got in the way. Maybe this is an alternative. I also hear that Panti is particularly good.
Andy, the notorious Long-tailed Macaques are a threat to a good birding experience. The macaques are "well-fed" by park users so whenever you come across a macaque, they would expect something from you. I have seen 1 macaque grabbing a kids' arm when the kid was trying to be playful. Fortunately no serious injury. My advice is always be alert and not to hold any food in your hand (or on the side of your bag) while walking in the park. Another famous macaque "infested" site is in Kuala Selangor and Tanjung Piai (this is where I was charged by an alpha male while birding along a path next to the mangrove).

Happy birding!
Hi Weng,

I've encountered Long-tailed at Rimba Ampang and they've growled at me, but this was nowhere near as alarming as being charged by a big, stocky alpha male Pig-tailed! I've birded Kuala Selangor too and seen plenty of Long-tailed there too, but they've never given me any trouble. Last time I was up an observation tower when a whole troupe of them arrived, but they let me pass.
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