Trip Report to Sarawak and Sabah in Borneo and Peninsula Malaysia by Sue Bryan
March 23rd – April 12th 2019
This trip was proposed by Ann, Andrew and John as they had birded Borneo many years ago and felt that they had missed several ‘difficult to see’ birds as well as some critically endangered birds. They had a target list which I was quite happy to agree to, as I had never been to Borneo before. I would have three knowledgeable birders as companions and friends and I would enjoy the birding in two new countries gaining many world ticks. At Birdfair we approached James Eaton of Birdtour Asia and Ann showed him the target list which the three of them had compiled. As flights would have to route through Kuala Lumpur it was suggested that we add a couple of days on at the end so that we could re-visit Fraser’s Hill and Bukit Tinggi to gain a few more world ticks. We had all been to Fraser’s Hill before and I was delighted as I had enjoyed my last visit so much.
Guides: Sarawak – Yeo Siew Teck
Sabah and Malaysia - Wilbur Goh
Mar 23rd Heathrow - Kuala Lumpur
Mar 24th Kuala Lumpur - Miri
Mar 25th Miri - Bakelalan
Mar 26th Bakelalan
Mar 27th Bakelalan
Mar 28th Bakelalan – Paya Maga
Mar 29th Paya Maga
Mar 30th Paya Maga – Klias Peat Swamp Reserve - Beaufort
Mar 31st Beaufort - Klias Swamp Reserve – Lahad Datu – Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley
Apr 1st Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley
Apr 2nd Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley
Apr 3rd Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley – Myne Resort, Kinabatangan River
Apr 4th Myne Resort, Kinabatangan River
Apr 5th Myne Resort, Kinabatangan River
Apr 6th Myne Resort, Kinabatangan River –Mount Kinabalu National Park
Apr 7th Mount Kinabalu National Park
Apr 8th Mount Kinabalu National Park
Apr 9th Mount Kinabalu National Park – Kuala Lumpur – Bukit Tinggi
Apr 10th Bukit Tinggi – Fraser’s Hill
Apr 11th Fraser’s Hill
Apr 12th Fraser’s Hill – Kuala Lumpur – Heathrow
April 13th Heathrow
International return flights to Kuala Lumpur with Air Malaysia £582. Flight to Miri with Air Malaysia £139. Other internal flights Miri to Lawas, Lawas to Bakelalan, Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu, Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur were included in the tour price.
Tour cost £4760 each
I used an ATM at Miri airport to exchange about £50 to Malaysian Ringgits for a few biscuits in shops etc. As Borneo/Malaysia is a Muslim country, alcohol was unavailable at the majority of places that we stayed.
Borneo island is made up of three countries which are Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), Brunei (Sultanate) and Indonesia (Kalimantan). It is the third largest island in the world. No visa was necessary for our trip.
As Borneo is positioned in the tropics on the equator, the weather is hot and humid for most of the year, with average temperatures of 27°C to 32°C and relative humidity of 80%. Borneo has two distinct seasons: a wet and dry season, The dry season runs from March to September.
Borneo has a diverse range of habitats. Tropical rainforests, mangroves swamp forests, peat swamp forests, montane forests, heath forests and dipterocarp forests which leads to a wonderful range of wildlife. Sadly much of the lowland forest has been removed to plant palm oil trees and plantations are now increasingly creeping up the slopes of higher altitudes as the world demand for palm oil increases.
Ann, Andrew, John and I caught an overnight flight to Kuala Lumpur.
Ann, Andrew, John and I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Miri in Sarawak where we stayed in a hotel overnight after meeting up with our guide Yeo.
Along with Yeo, Ann, Andrew, John and I flew from Miri to Lawas. Here we had a brief stop enabling us to start our lists off with Striated Grassbird, Cattle Egret and Plume-toed Swift at the airport.
It was good to stretch our legs before boarding our small plane again to continue our flight to Bakelalan. Here we changed into birding gear and our luggage was whisked away on motorbikes to a homestay. We climbed aboard two 4x4s for birding along the Bario road in Bakelalan. Ochraceous Bulbul, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Ashy Drongo were soon added to the list as an endemic Mountain Serpent Eagle flew overhead.
Asian Brown Flycatcher
It was good to be back to some serious birding in a hot climate where I knew I would be adding some life ticks with knowledgeable birding friends who enjoy world birding as much as I do. We were soon adding Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, the endemic Bornean Barbet and Mountain Barbet. Photography was challenging as many of the birds were so high in the trees and I soon developed the well known birders neck-ache!
A Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle drifted overhead as we watched Yellow-vented Bulbul. Yeo soon called us all together and we began the wait for one of the pittas that I was keen to see. We could hear it calling and we were soon all in position for the wait. Asian forests all contain leeches and sitting down can be an interesting experience with one eye kept on the likely spot for the pitta and one eye kept on the leeches keen to suck your blood! Luckily the wait was not for too long as a Bornean Banded Pitta hopped along a log giving good views for us all but too dark for photography for fear of disturbing it.
We returned to Bakelalan and walked the final stretch through the village to our homestay where we had lunch and sorted ourselves out. We added Oriental Magpie Robin, Little Egret, Pacific Swallow, Cinereous Bulbul and Tree Sparrow on our walk back. Unfortunately a tropical rainstorm put paid to any birding in the afternoon and we had a fruitless trip in the evening for a frogmouth.
We were up for 4am for another attempt at the frogmouth in the dark but sadly it did not appear. We drove back up the Bario road where birds were appearing too fast for me to see the bird, take photos and keep note of what we were all seeing. We started with a group of birds that were flying over trees in the distance and were surprised to see that they were Malaysian-eared Nightjar. I added Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush to my life-list as well as Gold-whiskered Barbet. Hair-crested Drongo, Cinnamon Bittern, Spotted Dove, Mountain Imperial Dove, Ruddy Cuckoo Dove, Cream-vented Bulbul and Wreathed Hornbill were all good to see again as well as Asian Fairy Bluebird. More life ticks came in the form of Crested Jay, Bornean Bulbul, Spectacled Bulbul, Charlotte’s Bulbul, Bornean Forktail and Pygmy Whiteye.
Most of the birds were we adding to our lists were world ticks for me and the birding was my type of birding where we could look for ourselves with open vistas in a warm climate knowing that the birds were new for me. I added Blue and White Flycatcher, Golden-naped Barbet, Bornean Treepie, Whitehead’s Broadbill, Bornean Leafbird, Crested Yuhina, Bornean Flowerpecker, Green Broadbill, Crested Partridge and Scaly-crested Bulbul.
We returned to the Bakelalan Homestay for lunch and resumed birding at 3.30pm adding Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Maroon-breasted Philentoma, Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler and Thick-billed Green Pigeon as well as many other birds. Towards dusk we made our way to the site where once again we failed to see the frogmouth. One of the drivers suggested to our guide another site where he had taken another group a few days before. By now it was dark and I had no camera with me. All of a sudden the rare and very localised Dulit Frogmouth flew in and perched on an open branch. I ran back to our 4x4 and grabbed my camera and managed one quick photo before I had chance to set my camera up properly before the bird flew away.
After adding Oriental Pratincole, White-breasted Woodswallow, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, White-breasted Waterhen and Red-eyed Bulbul as we walked and drove by the airstrip in Bakelalan, we had an hour’s birding along the Bario Road before walking a trail for a few hours. Along the road birding we watched Banded Woodpecker, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Large Woodshrike and the beautiful Black and Yellow Broadbill. We also added Bornean Spiderhunter, Crested Serpent Eagle, Grey-throated Babbler and Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher.
After watching a Sunda Cuckooshrike, we walked along a trail we heard an Orange-breasted Trogon, a bird I was particularly keen to see as I have worn a pin badge of one on my RSPB jacket for several years now and I really wanted to see it, as trogons are one of my favourite families of birds. It took some time before I saw it as it kept disappearing before I could lay my eyes on it. After lunch and yet more rain we added Verditer Flycatcher, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, Malaysian Pied Forktail and Black-crowned Night Heron.
We left Bakelalan and drove for 4 hours to Long Tuyo. En-route along the Lawas road we saw Pink-necked Pigeon, Asian Emerald Dove, Yellow-bellied Prinia and Black-bellied Malkoha. We had lunch at Long Toya and left the majority of our luggage in a home-stay here after watching a Brahminy Kite and a Dusky Munia as we unloaded. We had to pack our clothes and requirements for two-night stay in a wooden shed into a small bag. This had to be carried along a 5km trail uphill through jungle. We had lunch and were then taken in our 4x4s along the road and then up a track as far as the vehicles could take us. We had several stops where fallen trees were dealt with, using machetes. Eventually the vehicles could get us no further and in the heat of the day porters helped with carrying of food, water and some of our items for the rest of the trek. It was very wet underfoot and I discovered to my horror that my boots leaked. I had waterproofed them before leaving home. I was not a happy bunny! I sloshed around through the wet vegetation, crossing streams using fallen logs and negotiating small rivers with uncertain log bridges. Thank goodness I had been advised to take a walking pole. It certainly proved useful in places. Leeches were dispensed with as we walked, as several were dropping onto us as we brushed up against vegetation. Birding is all good fun. How our porters managed with the huge weight of our supplies on their backs, goodness knows!
It started to rain and we were all soon soaked. The going underfoot soon became a quagmire in places and I was concerned for my camera which John kindly carried for me underneath his cape.
We arrived hot, wet and sticky but were soon delighted as one of our target species was waiting for us as we arrived, sitting at the top of the trail. However the Black Oriole did not sit long enough for a photograph but we were all delighted to see this near-threatened bird. At this point we had no idea how difficult the other target species were going to be! Fluffy-backed Tit Babbler was also added to my life list before we settled in to the rigors of the next two days.
After dark we donned our now very-wet leech socks once again and stuck on our wet walking boots. We walked along a short track with our torches and waited. The frogmouth won again as we did not see it. We were all grateful to collapse into our sleeping bags on the mattresses we were provided with.
John Andrew Sue and Ann at Paya Maga
We were up before dawn to look for the frogmouth once again. The bird was still not keen to reveal itself as I sloshed around in my wet boots.
The trail uphill was more or less a stream which made my soaking boots very unpleasant to walk in as we left the accommodation in search of our target species. I was glad of my walking pole as we kept together so that we did not miss any sighting, as we filed uphill along the narrow track. I added Olive-backed Woodpecker before we entered a spot a few hours after our departure where Yeo knew our quarry might be. We had failed at the first site but he was determined with a bit of effort and quiet we just might spot it. We are all experienced birders and able to get onto a bird quite quickly given a fair chance. All of a sudden a bird flew in and landed briefly before darting off again. However sometimes with John being so tall and Ann and I being much shorter we are often challenged with vegetation in the wrong position. It was to be several minutes before we all saw the bird to our satisfaction of being able to tick it! Hose’s Broadbill was now firmly on our lists much to everyone’s delight. I knew today would be difficult underfoot and needing a walking pole and so I had reluctantly left my camera behind so there will be no photos today!
A Spotted Fantail flew out onto the trackway before we watched a Hairy-backed Bulbul, White-bellied Erpornis and Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker. We walked a trail for Scarlet-rumped Trogon where we saw two individuals as well as a Temminck’s Sunbird as we made our way back down the trail for lunch.
We were all shattered by the morning’s excursion and had a small revolt after lunch as none of us wanted to go birding in the afternoon, as being the age we all were, all in need of some sleep and rest! I sat in the hut and watched the skies whilst others slept and added Rhinoceros Hornbill and Whiskered Treeswift to my list. After our evening meal we had all recovered and in the dark we walked the trail again in search of our elusive frogmouth, dipping yet again Grrrrr....
Once again we were up before dawn in search of the frogmouth without success. Our guide was not the sort to give up and he missed breakfast to keep trying for us. We enjoyed our breakfast without him and he asked us to try once more after we had finished eating as he thought he could hear the frogmouth calling. Once more we entered the trail without too much expectation. We spread out and looked. I looked up at what I thought was a dead leaf but could not make my mind up if it was tail feathers or not. I deliberated over whether to call it or not, as I was not keen to make a fool of myself! I decided to call the others over but they could not see it through the very narrow window I was looking through and I knew I couldn’t risk taking my binoculars down from my eyes looking through the thick vegetation that the possible tail was in. Fortunately I managed to get one of the others onto it and Yeo got onto it by stepping a few feet away from me where he had a better view. The Bornean Frogmouth was eventually on all our lists. Result!
A Whiskered Treeswift bade us goodbye as we left the hut. Our porters loaded everything back up and we made our way back downhill along the 5km trail. It was hot and sticky and still very wet underfoot in places. I added several more lifers to my list as well as a few trip ticks. We saw Plain Sunbird, Silver-rumped Needletail, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Finsch’s Bulbul and Greater Coucal before we met the 4x4s waiting for us at the bottom of the hill. Our porters must have been glad to offload their backpacks.
Loading up to leave Long Tuyo (photo courtesy of J.Geeson)
We were driven back to Long Tuyo to have lunch and to collect our luggage from the homestay. We motored on for the next few hours to Lawas where we said goodbye and thanked to Yeo who had been an excellent guide and met up with Wilbur who was to be our guide in Sabah and Peninsula Malaysia for the rest of the trip.
We swopped over vehicles at a hotel, loaded up our luggage and drove the hour’s journey to the Klias Peat Swamp Reserve where we added several more specialised lifers for me. Red-naped Trogon, Hook-billed Bulbul, Black-naped Monarch and the difficult to see Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker was added as well as Buff-rumped Woodpecker and Edible-nest Swiftlet. After dark we saw Reddish Scops Owl.
We spent the night in Beaufort.
We drove back to the Klias Peat Swamp Reserve where we added Black Hornbill, Chestnut-rumped babbler, Chestnut-winged Babbler, Long-tailed Parakeet and Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot but not the babbler that Ann and Andrew were hoping for.
After breakfast we boarded the vehicle once again and drove towards Kota Kinabalu. En-route near Beaufort we stopped and added Great White Egret, Wandering Whistling Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Purple Swamphen and Moorhen on some roadside pools. On the coastline we added Terek Sandpiper, Turnstone, Grey Plover Greater Sandplover and Pacific Golden Plover. We drove to the airport at Kota Kinabalu where we caught a flight to Lahad Datu in Sabah.
We cleared customs and were met at the airport by a minibus belonging to The Rainforest Lodge at Danum Valley. We were driven for several hours along a track leading through primary forest where we added Common Hill Myna, Slender-billed Crow, Chestnut Munia, White-crowned Sharma, Green Imperial Pigeon, Lesser Green Leafbird, Plaintive Cuckoo and Bat Hawk. I was pleased with the number of lifers I was seeing and was already halfway to the number that I expected to see!
We unloaded our luggage and were delighted to find ourselves in a deluxe cabin with our own balcony spa...a bit of a contrast to Paya Maga!
After our evenng meal we went for a night drive where we saw Bornean Colugo, a flying lemur as well as a Lesser Mouse Deer.
I woke up with a terrible migraine and began to wonder if I was not going to be able to go out today. After taking some medication I could just about function but could not carry anything as I was struggling to keep my balance and focus my eyes. John said he would carry my supplies as it was as much as I could do to even carry my binoculars around my neck let alone look through them. I did not want to miss the key species of this wonderful reserve. We walked some trails and I was soon adding more lifers. Red-billed Malkoha, Bornean Crested Fireback, Rufous-winged Philentoma, White-fronted Falconet, Banded Broadbill, Great Slaty Woodpecker, White-crowned Forktail and Bornean Brown Barbet were all seen before the excitement of stopping to watch a Chestnut-necklaced Partridge on one side of the road and then realising that a Black-crowned Pitta was showing on the other side of the road! What a shame that I had no camera!
Ann RFL guide Wilbur
Ann Andrew and Sue(photo courtesy of J. Geeson)
We continued down the track adding Dark-sided Flycatcher, Mugimaki Flycatcher and Indian Cuckoo. A Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagle flew over but we could hear a Great Argus calling its amazing ‘Oh Wow’ call from somewhere deep in the forest. This was a bird that John so wanted to see and his excitement levels were already almost uncontrollable. We had a guide from the lodge with us as well as Wilbur and the guide thought that he would be able to find a trail path near to where the Great Argus was calling from. Stealthily we made our way along the trail with the ‘Oh Wow’ getting louder as we crept along. We could sense the bird nearby but the thickness of the vegetation meant we could not see it. John thought he could see a few feathers and I could see some moving spots. It had obviously stopped and so had we, as we desperately tried to find a gap in the vegetation to see it. Wilbur instructed us to stand still as he was convinced it would cross over the path. We waited with baited breath and little by little with a step at a time the Great Argus did just that and we all had stunning views. John could not contain himself as one of his most wanted birds was now on his list and on ours!
A little further along the path we stopped to admire our first Orang Utans. I could only use my iphone for taking pictures as I led on my back on the ground to watch them until Wilbur lent me his camera. I risked the leeches but was disappointed by the results from my iphone but was delighted that I had seen some. We continued on our way adding Maroon Woodpecker when all of a sudden a pitta hopped along the path in front of me. It was a female Blue-headed Pitta. It was not keen to show itself to the others and did an amazing disappearing act behind a log.
We returned for lunch and I tried to sleep as I was still feeling very poorly. I slept to 3.30pm and joined the others for a short walk. Another guide had found two more Orang Utans and so we diverted to see them before walking along trails that produced Rufous-tailed Sharma, Blue-throated Bee-eater and a Bornean Blue Flycatcher. We returned to the lodge and in the evening found a wonderful golden-coloured Longhorn Beetle (Cerambycidae) glistening on the floor of the restaurant.
Crested Honey Buzzard
Along the track as we walked we added several more lifers for me including Grey-cheeked Bulbul and Bushy-crested Hornbill as well as a few more trip ticks including Bronzed Drongo and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. We decided to walk another trail where a few more lifers gave us fun before we saw them well in the shape of Bornean Bristlehead and Moustached Hawk Cuckoo. Through the trees we could hear hornbills calling and I was lucky enough to be in the right position to see through a gap to see Helmeted Hornbill. As we returned to the lodge for lunch we added Oriental Honey Buzzard and Black Magpie.
I took my camera with me for lunch with Ann and Andrew and took photos of a Blue-throated Bee-eater that was catching insects from a nearby tree from the verandah. Bliss!
We walked more trails in the afternoon and I had good views of a male Blue-headed Pitta and a brief view of a female Great Argus as it scuttled up the trail in front of us.
The evening was spent on a night drive where we saw a roosting Black-crowned Pitta and a Thomas’s Flying Squirrel.
Sue and Wilbur enjoying some relaxation
As the others had missed the Blue-headed Pitta yesterday, we split up and John, Wilbur and I were taken 4km up the track and walked back to the lodge, birding as we went. The birding was excellent once again and I added several more lifers. My first was a Black-throated Wren Babbler followed by a Narcissus Flycatcher. Rufous Piculet, Lesser Cuckooshrike and Bold Striped Tit Babblers were also lifers. It was going well as we added Black-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Green Iora and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch to the trip list as well as Slaty-crowned Babbler, Pale-blue Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Babbler and Dark-throated Oriole too. More lifers were added as a Grey-headed Babbler lurked in the vegetation before a Wallace’s Hawk Eagle flew overhead.
We returned back to the lodge and were asked to pack our belongings ready for departure after lunch. We met in the restaurant to heightened activity amongst the staff who were quite clearly very busy and had areas cordoned off. We asked what was going on to be told that Dame Judi Dench was just about to arrive. We heard a helicopter arriving and she was escorted up to where we were sat in the restaurant. She was apparently there to do some filming for the BBC.
After lunch we were driven back to Lahad Datu where we changed vehicles and drove to Gomantong Caves. As the others had been before only Wilbur and I walked to the caves along a boardwalk. I was warned not to hold the handrail as it would be covered in droppings and warned about the smell. Wilbur and I walked all the way around inside the cave as Wilbur explained the difference in the nests and how the locals harvested the nests by climbing the ropes hanging from the ceiling and then how they would be offered for sale and consumption! The smell was overpowering!
We left in the dark and continued our journey to the Myne Resort on the Kinabatangan River where there was a Buffy Fish Owl sitting in the car park!
We stayed at the Myne Resort on the Kinabatangan River so that we could have several days of sitting in a boat admiring the birds along the river. We added many common birds that I have seen before but Blue-Eared Kingfisher was new for me as was Malaysian Blue Flycatcher. The morning’s boat ride was a bit disappointing but the afternoon boat ride made up for it as we saw 7 different species of hornbill including Wrinkled Hornbill which was a lifer for me. Storm’s Stork was also a lifer. We stopped by the bank to admire a pair of Hooded Pittas but the vegetation prevented any attempt of a photograph.
We had another boat ride on the river in the dark but failed to see the Oriental Bay Owl we had as a target.
We were up before dawn and after breakfast we had another boat ride followed by another boat ride after lunch. With the weather being hot and sunny it was a lovely way to spend a day’s birding relaxing and admiring the birds as we boated down the river and into some of the channels.
New birds added to the trip list included Black and Red Broadbill, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Crested Goshawk. Jerdon’s Baza, a life tick, White-chested Babbler, Asian Drongo Cuckoo and White-bellied Woodpecker another lifer.
I enjoyed the challenge of photography from a moving boat, especially some of the species of monkeys which were always on the move!
Buffy Fish Owl
John and I declined an evening boat ride and took photos of the Buffy Fish Owl visiting the car park area of the Myne Resort instead
We had another early morning boat ride. However due to another boat being in the channel ahead of us by about 5 minutes, they unfortunately flushed the ground cuckoo away from the bank edge and we failed to see it. We only added Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher to our trip list. However I managed a few more photographs and we had very close views of a White-bellied Sea Eagle.
After lunch we packed our bags and drove the 5 hour journey to the Kinabalu Pine Resort where we had stunning views of Mount Kinabalu emerging from the clouds from the balcony of our chalet.
Sue at Mount Kinabalu Park (photo courtesy of J.Geeson)
We were up before dawn to be up at Kinabalu Park to be in position in the dark to try and see Mountain Scops Owl. Although we heard the bird and John and Andrew saw it, I only had such a brief drop-down view that I could not possibly tick what I saw.
I was looking forward to today because being at altitude I was assured of some new ticks and in fact nearly every bird that I saw today was a lifer.
The day started with us walking trails and then driving to the top of the road to the entrance where the trail to the top of the mountain starts for those brave enough to attempt it.
I added Red-breasted Partridge, Yellow-breasted Warbler, Bornean Whistler, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Bornean Stubtail, and Mountain Leaf Warbler and another partridge which I felt was our target bird but could not get the others onto it before it scuttled away. We entered another trail. We had not all seen our target bird and we were nearly back to the road when I thought I saw a coconut on the trail. I suddenly realised what I was looking at. I alerted the others to look at the trail ahead. It was our much-sought after Crimson-headed Partridge. Result!
We continued back down to the road watching Grey-chinned Minivet, Indigo Flycatcher and Black-capped White-eye before we reached the restaurant where a much needed food and drink stop was necessary. It had a delightful balcony where we could watch the birds in their activities and I added Little Pied Flycatcher to the list.
Whilst the tour was being planned John had asked Birdtour Asia to investigate the possibility of the guide locating a Rafflesia. Rafflesias are parasitic plants that live in the roots and stems of a host plant. They are noted for producing the largest individual flower on Earth and have an unpleasant smell of decaying flesh to attract pollinators. Being a botanist it was a plant/flower that he had always wanted to see. Wilbur gave us all the option of seeing one that he knew of, as they only flower for a few days and he had done his research as to where we could find one.
We returned to the Mount Kinabalu Park but were soon up in the clouds and rain prevented any further birding for the day.
Once again we were up before dawn and in position on the mountainside for the Mountain Scops Owl. Once again we dipped it, not even hearing it this morning. It was beginning to bring memories of how hard we had had to work for the frogmouths!
We still had another target bird that we had failed on yesterday. We entered a trail but today luck was on our side as we all had brilliant views of an Everett’s Thrush. Conditions were just against any photography for me in the dark with thick vegetation cover and the terrain beneath our feet was difficult to negotiate!
We returned to the road and were driven to the top of the road again where we walked the 4km back down to the restaurant for an 11am lunch. Once again nearly every bird I saw was a world tick so I was delighted as I saw Sunda Laughingthrush, Dark Hawk Cuckoo, Sunda Bush Warbler, Bornean Green Magpie, Mountain Blackeye, Bornean Shortwing, Pygmy Flycatcher, Eye-browed Jungle Flycatcher, Temminck’s Babbler added to my world list as well as adding White-throated Fantail and Mountain Tailorbird to the trip list. The birding was excellent and we were also seeing several mammals that delighted us all too. Wilbur was an excellent guide and we enjoyed his humour and his patience of putting up with all our demands!
Sue and John tucking in to some
We birded again down the road in the early afternoon as I was keen to see the trogon but despite our best efforts we could not find it. We admired the study being done on the Indigo Flycatchers and found several ringed birds and talked to the scientist studying them. Rain stopped play once again and we returned to the Pine Resort to catch up on notes and photographs.
Once again we were up before dawn for what now seemed like a familiar vigil for the Mountain Scops Owl and once again despite hearing it we failed yet again to see it. Grrr...
A Sunda Cuckooshrike gave us a hard time as we all tried to see it but it kept hopping away in the tree before we could all tick it. Wilbur heard a Fruithunter, a bird that I was keen to see. I spotted it eventually and managed to get the others on to it and even managed a photograph with a bit of patience!
John and Sue at Mount Kinabalu
We said goodbye to Mount Kinabalu and dove to Kota Kinabalu airport where we caught our Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur. However we had some concerns as we boarded the aircraft as it had fogged up inside and we could barely see our way to our seats. However we lived to tell the tale and arrived at Kuala Lumpur safely.
Wilbur drove us to a Pizza restaurant where we met up with James Eaton who had arranged our tour. It was good to see him as we listened to his exploits. After adding House Crow to our trip list we waited until it was dark and drive to a park where we saw a Large Frogmouth. At least this one didn’t take too much effort to see! We continued to Bukit Tinggi where we stayed in a flat for the night.
We left the flat at Bukit Tinggi at 6am and drove to the Japanese gardens. Here we sat on logs and waited at a feeding station in the jungle of vegetation for our target species. We were entertained at first by some familiar species of Oriental Magpie-robin, White-crowned Sharma, Scaly-breasted Munia, Purple-naped Sunbird and Black Laughing Thrush (Scimitar Babbler). A Tiger Shrike appeared before our first target arrived. We had excellent views of Ferruginous Partridge before a female Mountain Peacock Pheasant arrived complete with a chick. Bingo! Later on we also saw two young male Mountain Peacock Pheasants.
(photo courtesy of Cheong Weng Chun)
James Eaton came to join us and we sat admiring not only the Mountain Peacock Pheasants as they ate the mealworms that Wilbur had provided but we were entertained mostly by the Oriental Magpie-robin and the White-crowned Sharma devouring the free breakfast on offer. A Pin-striped Tit Babbler, Yellow-crowned Barbet and Pacific Swift were new for the trip list.
We were on our way towards the vehicles when both guides stopped as they had heard a Rail Babbler calling below us on the thick steep vegetated slope. My attention was there immediately as this was another bird that I dearly wanted to see. All eyes were now focused to where James and Wilbur were now concentrating their efforts. I followed their instructions and saw a Rail Babbler run across a small gap in the vegetation. I was very excited and could not believe my luck as I tried desperately to get the others on to it. After several anxious minutes we all managed to see the bird. James let other friends know about the site and a friend of his and Wilbur’s have kindly allowed me to use a photo that one of them took of the bird a few days later.
After the euphoria of the last couple of hours’ birding had calmed down with some of Malaysia’s most sought-after birds now on our lists we continued down a steep hill to another car park where we added Stripe-throated Bulbul, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Hume’s White-eye, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Malayan Brown Barbet, White-rumped Sharma and Brown Shrike to the trip list.
It was now very hot and we were need of ice-creams to celebrate our successful morning. Spirits were high as several Pin-tailed Parrotfinches flew by us calling as they went as we devoured our ice-creams.
We bundled ourselves back into Wilbur’s car, bid James farewell and drove to Stephen’s Place at Fraser’s hill on the telegraph loop.
When the tour was being organised we had been offered an extra night at Fraser’s Hill to have an extra day’s birding there. We had all birded Fraser’s Hill before on different trips and knew it to be an excellent destination for birding. I had stayed for 9 days in 2010 as part of my round the world trip and had enjoyed it very much so it was an easy decision to accept the offer. I had done well in 2010 here but had missed some key species, as we all had. However because back in 2010 I had had no car, I had missed the Telegraph Loop which is excellent for birding, so it was fantastic to discover that Stephen’s Place was located on the Telegraph Loop road. It could not have been better.
We stopped down at The Gap to take photos and to breathe in our surroundings of such a joyous place of birds and wildlife. The memories came flooding back for all of us as we looked forward to the next two days.
We arrived and unpacked at Stephen’s Place and listened to his tales of being a wildlife camera man all his life. He had some amazing wildlife photos on the walls of the lounge and dining room. His garden was alive with birds but we were soon on our way to the spot where I remembered seeing Malayan Whistling Thrush nine years ago. Sure enough a Malayan Whistling Thrush hopped out at the same spot! Wilbur then took us to a spot where he hoped we would see Malayan Partridge. He scattered some mealworms and we sat and waited. We watched Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, Silver-eared Mesia, Long-tailed Sibia, Mountain Fulvetta and Blue Minla. Soon several Malayan Partridge came out to feed and I added another lifer to my list.
We made our way back to Stephen’s Place and went for a short walk on the Telegraph Loop Road. Here I added Slaty-backed Forktail, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Black and Crimson Oriole, Long-tailed Broadbill, Red-headed Trogon and Black-throated Sunbird to the trip list. It was good to be back at Fraser’s Hill. In the evening once it had got dark Ann, Andrew Wilbur and I tried again for Mountain Scops Owl. We heard it calling and failed to see it once again. It was getting personal now!!!
Wilbur drove us down to The Gap, where once we had seen Bamboo Woodpecker, one of our target species and a life tick for all of us, we walked 2km back up the old road and back down again. We added Blue-winged Leafbird, Blue Nuthatch and Black-browed Barbet to our trip list and Rufous-bellied Swallow to my life list.
Sue at the start of The Bishop Trail
Ann and Andrew decided to rest in the afternoon and so it was only John, Wilbur and I that set off along the famous Bishop Trail. We struck lucky when we heard a Marbled Wren Babbler calling. As it was another lifer and a difficult to see bird, I was delighted. We also added Fire-tufted Barbet, Common Green Magpie and Pygmy Cupwing.
After our evening meal Ann, Andrew and I (now shattered) once again set off with Wilbur for yet another vigil for Mountain Scops Owl. We could hear it again but where was it??? It was pitch-dark except for the street lights but Wilbur was convinced that it had flown closer and was now down the Bishop Trail (not ideal in the pitch-dark as it is a steep trail in places. He bravely set off and would wiggle his torch if he wanted us to follow him. Within a minute he was wiggling his torch. I set off like a mountain goat as quietly as I could (We had already missed one bird at Kinabalu) and there right in front of us was a Mountain Scops Owl...............a few swear words were issued under my breath. The hours that we had spent trying to see one were now all behind us as we celebrated!
After saying farewell to Stephen and thanking him for our stay, we drove down to The Gap. I was sad to leave Fraser’s Hill as I had enjoyed birding here. Down at The Gap we walked down the hill and added Orange-backed Woodpecker, Black-crested Bulbul, Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Crimson-winged Woodpecker before Wilbur mentioned a Hill Blue Flycatcher that he had seen. I realised that I needed this as a lifer and so we walked back up the hill to try and re-find it. Luckily it hadn’t gone far!
It was time to turn around and we added Grey and Buff Woodpecker and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker before we got back to the car.
We drove to Kuala Lumpur where we had lunch in a Chinese Restaurant before driving to the Green River Resort area at Perdik where we added Zebra Dove, and my last lifer of the trip Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo.
It was soon time to head to the airport and after a quick shower in a motorway rest area, Wilbur dropped us off at the airport. We thanked him for his efforts and John and I are looking forward to his guiding once again in a few weeks time. Wilbur and Yeo had both been excellent guides and we had all enjoyed our Bornean and Malaysian adventures. Thanks must also go to James Eaton of Birdtour Asia for the excellent arrangements.
We flew to Heathrow on an overnight flight arriving on 13th April.