Tuesday, July 29, 2008

27th July 2008: Gunung Brinchang, Cameron Highlands

A short detour to Gunung Brinchang Mossy Forest failed to produce the hoped for Rufous-vented Niltava, but was nevertheless quite productive.

A dark phase Changeable Hawk Eagle gave close views...

A little too close for its comfort!

A Blyth's Hawk Eagle for comparison.

This Snowy-browed Flycatcher was near the summit.

And this delightful juv male fed on the road close to us. Unfortunately, the thick fog spoiled the photo opportunity. While we were watching this bird, a probable Javan Mongoose scuttled across the road behind it.

27th July 2008: Sungai Relau, Taman Negara

Our last morning started with rain, but fortunately it had stopped by about 7 o'clock.

The distinctive bell-like notes of a group of Black Magpies was soon heard, followed by their equally distinctive flight silhouette.

They were extremely wary and difficult to see well.

A singing Black-throated Babbler was much more obliging.

What a cracker!

I crept into the forest after what I thought was a calling Rail Babbler, and was quite surprised when this Garnet Pitta popped up onto a branch. Again, getting a clear shot was a big challenge.

I was really thrilled when this Black-and-White Bulbul showed up after a lengthy stake-out at a fruiting tree. My only previous encounter with one gave only flight views. I think this may be a female.

This female Green Broadbill was strongly territorial, chasing away all other birds from its preferred patch of fruit.

The last in my series of blurry flight shots! A Raffles' Malkoha overhead.

Another new dragonfly for me - Agrionoptera insignis.

26th July 2008: Sungai Relau and Sungai Juram, Taman Negara

Into the interior. Today, some of us took a 14km ride to Sungai Juram, which is the base camp for the trek to Gunung Tahan. The habitat there is submontane. On the way, we had a brief view of a Golden Cat crossing the road in front of us. Meanwhile, Boo Cheng, who stayed behind, watched a party of 9 Dholes - a large wild Asian dog, so it was a good day for mammals!

A female or juv Blue-winged Leafbird watched at HQ while waiting for the jeep.

The Sungai Juram camp is at the confluence of two rivers, the clear Sungai Juram and the peaty Sungai Tanum (pic).

The rivers are home to both Chestnut-naped and White-crowned Forktails.

A Large Wren Babbler was singing next to the camp.

It was even more challenging to photograph than the pitta!

A Rufous-bellied Eagle flew low overhead.

This White-chested Babbler crept around in the undergrowth by a forest pool.

Two's company! A small group of Chestnut-rumped Babblers began to duet excitedly at my approach.

These Fluffy-backed Tit Babblers make a good mirror image!

On the way back to the HQ, we stopped at an observation tower, which gave commanding views of the Park, including Gunung Tahan (shrouded in cloud unfortunately). It also gave me a change to get some eye level shots of Silver-rumped Needletails.

Some had fresh plumage, while others were in mid wing moult.

Bigger than a fire extinguisher! A praying mantis visited out chalet after dark.

A Lantern Bug on my shirt, which was hanging out to dry.

25th July 2008: Sungai Relau, Taman Negara

Our first full day! Thankfully, after the rain of the previous evening, the weather was dry, although overcast. Birding in the forest was incredibly exciting the whole day - the birds never seemed to go quiet. There was so much activity and diversity - giving us an idea how rich virgin lowland rainforest is compared to even lightly logged forest, which is the habitat we are more familiar with. Four Pitta species were heard or seen - Banded and Garnet being more or less widespread, and Giant and Blue-winged heard once each. Malaysian Peacock Pheasants also seemed numerous, with birds heard or seen at four separate localities during the day. Other highlights were 9 woodpecker species, 6 hornbills, 4 trogons, 4 kingfishers, 15 bulbuls, 13 babblers and 5 spiderhunters!

Rufous-crowned Babblers foraged by the roadside.

Ferruginous (top) and Grey-headed Babblers were more likely to be encountered on the forest trails.

Jewel of the forest! Garnet Pittas had a variety of calls, not all rising in pitch, causing confusion with the similar-sounding Rail Babbler.

The red crown seems to have its own internal light source, shining beacon-like in the darkest undergrowth.

This one did a circuit round us in response to imitated calls. Seeing it was one thing; photographing it unobstructed by undergrowth was quite another!

A male Scarlet-rumped Trogon came to the edge of the forest to check us out.

I came across a family of Banded Broadbills on another trail. This one is presumably a juvenile.

I got this close to a Malaysian Peacock Pheasant!

Unfortunately the bird was not attached to the feather!

Fruiting trees were common, especially macaranga trees. These were neck-straining opportunities to see many species coming and going, such as Greater Green Leafbird (male top, female below)...

...Grey-breasted Spiderhunter, ...

... Lesser Cuckooshrike (female),...

... and Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker.

Black-thighed Falconets, not much larger than a swallow, frequented more open areas with dead trees.

Helmeted Hornbills are arguably the most spectacular of all hornbills. Their outlandish call sounds as if it originates in a lunatic asylum, and the long central tail feathers make them look like a bird of myth and legend.

My first Gynacantha! This genus of dragonflies, with their distinctive long anal appendages (at the end of the 'tail') fly at dawn and dusk, and are attracted to lights, as this one was. Gynacantha subinterrupta after dinner!

24th July 2008: Sungai Relau, Taman Negara

Looks can be deceptive! This doesn't look like a particularly promising venue for wildlife at first glance. A group of 13 of us stayed here for 2 half days and 2 full days, and we managed to record 163 bird species, with only 1 migrant among them!

We stayed at the HQ (marked by the red oval) and did most of our birding along the main jeep track up to about 2km into the park. The mountain to the right is Gunung Tahan, the highest peak in the peninsula - 42 km from where we stayed!

Our chalets were very comfortable - air con was a welcome luxury after a day in the incredibly humid forest conditions.

Since there are no cooking or restaurant facilities, we chose to have food catered, and Encik Roslan did not disappoint, either in terms of quantity or quality!

The Wild starts here! The entrance to the Park.

The birdlife around the HQ was quite interesting, with a mix of open country species and forest birds, like this Yellow-vented Flowerpecker.

The trails were very wet, and I have never seen so much evidence of large mammals on the ground, with elephant and wild boar tracks and dung commonplace, and a fresh set of Sun Bear footprints. This is the front foot.

Tetrathemis irregularis was a new dragonfly for me, resting beside a forest trail.

Hornbills could be heard often, but were typically hard to spot. This female Rhinoceros Hornbill was more obliging than most.

This female Jambu Fruit Dove flew up from the ground and then posed nicely!

At dusk the unearthly calls of Black Hornbills could be heard, and this one flew over the HQ.

Night walks were disappointing - no owls and few mammals - perhaps there is too much for them to hide in? Javan and Gould's Frogmouths were heard but not seen. This spider was the only creature photographed.