The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Asia

MALAY PENINSULA, WEST MALAYSIA

Saturday 17th July – Tuesday 27th July 2021

Leader: Alex Berryman.

11 Days Group Size Limit 8
Panti Forest & Rail-babbler Extension

Tuesday 27th July – Saturday 31st July 2021

5 Days Group Size Limit 8

Birdquest’s West Malaysia birding tours to the Malay Peninsula explore one of the richest areas for birds in Southeast Asia, featuring Kuala Selangor, Bukit Tinggi, Fraser’s Hill, the famous Taman Negara National Park and Panti Bird Sanctuary. If you have looked at the Southeast Asia field guide, you will have been struck by just how many species are limited to the Malay Peninsula (in other words West Malaysia). Our West Malaysia birding tour is the chance to see the great majority, including a series of specialities. This is the best tour for seeing the strange Rail-babbler, now a monotypic bird family, the splendid Mountain Peacock-Pheasant, Mangrove Pitta and many other great birds.

The long, narrow Malay Peninsula, which encompasses both West Malaysia and southern Thailand, offers some of the most exciting birding in South-East Asia, possessing an enormously rich avifauna. For birdwatchers it is the awe-inspiring rainforests that still survive here that are the prime attraction. Rainforests are the richest habitat on earth and those of South-East Asia are thought to be the oldest of all. There are more tree species found in the Malay Peninsula in Malaysia than in the forests of Amazonia and this floristic wealth is reflected in the remarkable diversity of the forest avifauna. Formerly the entire Malay Peninsula was covered with these lush forests but clearance for rubber and oil-palm plantations and other uses has taken its toll. Nonetheless, extensive areas remain.

The Malay Peninsula of Malaysia is definitely a classic destination for anyone wanting to see tropical Asian birds: after India and the Himalayas, Thailand or Vietnam, the next obvious place to go birding on the Asian mainland is here, largely because of the huge number of ‘Sundaic’ bird species that occur nowhere else on the mainland. Good accommodations and food, and pleasant travelling conditions, makes birding in the area a pleasure. This comprehensive tour concentrates on the finest areas for birds in West Malaysia.

Our West Malaysia birding tour will first take us to the mangroves and coastal habitats at Kuala Selangor, where specialities include Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and, with luck, Buffy Fish Owl and Mangrove Pitta.

Afterwards we will move on to Fraser’s Hill, an attractive hill-station. The excellent broadleaved evergreen forests surrounding the resort offer a sharply contrasting avifauna to that of the Malaysian lowlands, including many species of Himalayan origin such as Pygmy Wren-Babbler and Long-tailed Sibia, as well as more localized specialities like Fire-tufted Barbet, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Javan Cuckooshrike, the endemic Malayan Whistling Thrush, Rufous-browed and Pygmy Blue Flycatchers, Blue Nuthatch, the handsome Black Laughingthrush and the endemic Malayan Laughingthrush (split from Chestnut-crowned). More difficult specialities include the endemic Malayan Partridge, Ferruginous Partridge, Yellow-vented Green Pigeon, Rusty-naped Pitta and Marbled Wren-Babbler.

Next we will make a visit to Bukit Tinggi, where the once near-impossible Mountain Peacock-Pheasant has become much easier to see!

Finally, after travelling by boat into the interior of the Malay Peninsula, we shall come to the immense Taman Negara National Park. The park protects by far the largest remaining tract of virgin rain forest in West Malaysia and indeed the entire Malay Peninsula, and is widely considered to be amongst the finest reserves in the world. A visit to Taman Negara is a profound experience for any naturalist. On entering the forest one is immediately overwhelmed by the awesome tranquillity and timelessness of this vast natural cathedral. Lofty evergreen trees with their huge buttress roots, luxuriant lower storey undergrowth, clambering lianas, spectacular butterflies and strange-looking insects are all integral features of this superbly-balanced and stable environment which is the end-product of millions of years of evolution.

The bewildering variety of birds, ranging from the stately Crested Fireback and magnificent Rhinoceros Hornbill to forest floor gems like Garnet Pitta and Striped Wren-Babbler, includes the full range of South-East Asia’s lowland forest families. Other specialities we have a good chance of observing include Black-thighed Falconet, Large Green Pigeon, Black-bellied Malkoha, Blue-rumped Parrot, Reddish Scops Owl, Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Banded Woodpecker, Malayan Banded Pitta, Black Magpie, Crested Jay, Black-throated and White-necked Babblers, Large Wren-Babbler, Long-billed Spiderhunter and Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker. We should also come across at least one of Taman Negara’s most difficult specialities, which include the extraordinary Great Argus, Malayan Peacock-Pheasant, Rufous-collared Kingfisher and Grey-chested Jungle Flycatcher.

During the optional extension we shall visit Panti Bird Sanctuary (also known as Panti Forest Reserve), at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula close to the Singapore border, where the key target is the strange and wonderful Rail-babbler, a species so unique it is now placed in its own family. Naturally this has made this unusual species even more sought-after by birders than ever before. Panti is probably the most reliable site for this species anywhere (certainly in Malaysia), but is also home to an excellent array of other lowland Sundaic forest species, some of which are unlikely to be found elsewhere on the tour, including Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon and Red-crowned Barbet.

Birdquest has operated West Malaysia birding tours to the Malay Peninsula since 1987.

In 2021 this tour can be taken together with: BORNEO, SABAH, MALAYSIA

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are of good standard throughout. Road transport is by small coach and roads are good.

Walking: The walking effort during our West Malaysia birding tour is easy for the most part, but occasionally moderate.

Climate: At lower altitudes many days are hot, dry and sunny, but overcast and rainy weather is not infrequent. At higher altitudes at Fraser’s Hill conditions are similar but temperatures range from warm to cool. It is often very humid in the lowlands.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our West Malaysia birding tour are worthwhile.


PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

Deposit: £360, $470, €410. Panti Forest & Rail-babbler Extension: £140, $180, €160.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates and deposit amount)


2021: provisional £3310, $4250, €3740. Kuala Lumpur/Kuala Lumpur.
Panti Forest & Rail-babbler Extension: £1280, $1650, €1450. Kuala Lumpur/Kuala Lumpur.

Single Supplement: 2021: £430, $560, €490.
Panti Forest & Rail-babbler Extension: £130, $170, €140.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

MALAY PENINSULA, WEST MALAYSIA BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

West Malaysia: Day 1  Our tour begins this morning at Kuala Lumpur airport, from where we will drive to Kuala Selangor, situated on the west coast of West Malaysia, for an overnight stay. In the afternoon we will begin our exploration of the area. As dusk falls we should hear the rhythmic ‘chonking’ of Large-tailed Nightjar and pick one out on by its eyeshine, like blazing embers. A nocturnal foray here could turn up Buffy Fish Owl, Sunda Scops Owl and Brown Hawk-Owl.

West Malaysia: Day 2  During the morning we will continue to explore Kuala Selangor Nature Park, which protects extensive areas of mangroves and intertidal mudflats. Specialities here include Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, which is quite easy, and the brightly coloured Mangrove Pitta which is nowadays hard to find.

Amongst the many other species we may well encounter in this interesting area are Little and Great Egrets, Striated (or Little) Heron, Black-shouldered and Brahminy Kites, White-breasted Waterhen, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Asian Koel, Greater Coucal, Germain’s Swiftlet, House Swift, White-throated and Collared Kingfishers, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Dollarbird, Coppersmith Barbet, Laced and Sunda Pygmy Woodpeckers, Common Flameback, House Swallow, Pied Triller, Common Iora, Yellow-vented and Olive-winged Bulbuls, Black-naped Oriole, House and Large-billed Crows, Abbott’s Babbler, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Common and Ashy Tailorbirds, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Pied Fantail, Mangrove Whistler, Paddyfield Pipit, Asian Glossy Starling, Common and Javan Mynas, Brown-throated and Olive-backed Sunbirds, Oriental White-eye and Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

In addition, Silvered Leaf Monkeys are quite common here, and if we are lucky we will come across Lesser Adjutant, Red Junglefowl, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha or Little Bronze Cuckoo.

Later we will drive to Fraser’s Hill for a three nights stay. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration.

West Malaysia: Days 3-4  Fraser’s Hill is an attractive hill-station set amidst mature montane forest. From the highest point in the area (at about 1300m) there is a breathtaking vista of forested hills stretching away as far as the eye can see. Trails run into the forest but in fact the low density of development means that many species can actually be found along the roads.

The avifauna here is strikingly different from that of West Malaysian lowland forest areas such as Taman Negara, consisting largely of montane forms. Major targets during our stay will include the endemic Malayan Whistling Thrush and Malayan Laughingthrush (split from Chestnut-crowned), as well as Fire-tufted Barbet, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Javan Cuckooshrike, Rufous-browed and Pygmy Blue Flycatchers, the handsome Black Laughingthrush and Blue Nuthatch. More difficult specialities, of which we will be lucky to see more than one or two, include the endemic Malayan Partridge, Ferruginous Partridge, the ultra-difficult Mountain Peacock-Pheasant, Yellow-vented Green Pigeon, the elusive Rusty-naped Pitta (easy to hear but a devil to see!) and Marbled Wren-Babbler.

The thickly vegetated treetops shelter larger species like Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Little Cuckoo-Dove, Green-billed Malkoha and Black-browed Barbet. Skulking in the understorey are many subtler, though no less interesting birds, such as Streaked and Pygmy Wren-Babblers, and Lesser Shortwing. Long-tailed Broadbill and Green Magpie are amongst the more colourful forest inhabitants, though hard to see, while hiding in the darker forest recesses will be Red-headed Trogon. An excellent variety of more widespread flycatchers occur, with Verditer, Little Pied, Hill Blue and Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers, as well as Large Niltava, all possible.

Other species that we are likely to encounter include Blyth’s Hawk Eagle, Glossy Swiftlet, Asian Palm-Swift, Orange-breasted Trogon, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Speckled Piculet, Greater and Lesser Yellownapes, Grey-chinned Minivet, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Black-crested, Ochraceous and Mountain Bulbuls, Bronzed and Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos, the spectacular Sultan Tit, Large Scimitar Babbler, Buff-breasted Babbler, Golden and Grey-throated Babblers, Spectacled (or Chestnut-capped) Laughingthrush, Silver-eared Mesia, Blyth’s (split from White-browed) and Black-eared Shrike-Babblers, Blue-winged Minla, Mountain Fulvetta, Long-tailed Sibia, White-bellied Erpornis, Slaty-backed Forktail, Yellow-bellied, Chestnut-crowned and Mountain Leaf Warblers, Mountain Tailorbird, White-throated Fantail, Everett’s White-eye, Black-throated Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker.

We are also likely to encounter at least one or two of the area’s more uncommon but widespread inhabitants, which include Rufous-bellied Eagle, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Dark Hawk-Cuckoo (split from Large), Sunda Cuckoo (split from Oriental), Collared Owlet, Wreathed and Great Hornbills, Bay Woodpecker, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Ashy Bulbul, Himalayan Cutia and Collared Babbler (split from White-hooded).

Amongst the local mammals, we can expect to see a variety of squirrels, as well as Banded Leaf Monkeys and, if we are lucky, a family of Siamangs. The latter are a large species of black gibbon, and their extraordinary vocalizations can frequently be heard echoing around the hills in the early mornings.

West Malaysia: Day 5  After spending the morning at Fraser’s Hill we will transfer to Bukit Tinggi for an overnight stay, arriving in time for some late afternoon birding. Our main reason for coming to this second ‘hill station’ is to look for the once-hard-to-see Mountain Peacock-Pheasant, which has now become regularly observed at Bukit Tinggi thanks to bird photographers leaving food for them! As well as this magnificent pheasant, we will have another opportunity to see some of the montane birds listed for Fraser’s Hill.

West Malaysia: Day 6  After some final birding at Bukit Tinggi, we will travel to Taman Negara National Park for a five nights stay. First we drive through forest and large areas of rubber and oil-palm plantations to Kuala Tembeling and then we shall travel by boat for nearly 60km upriver to the park’s headquarters and lodge at Kuala Tahan. Although we will not be able to identify many birds from the motorized longboats, the journey itself is an unforgettable experience. As we gradually leave civilization behind, we enter pristine rainforest.

West Malaysia: Days 7-10  Taman Negara is Malaysia’s foremost national park, protecting over 4300 square kilometres of virgin tropical rainforest extending from the lowlands to the highlands. The upland areas of the park are very hard to reach, so we shall concentrate on the more diverse lowlands. There are no roads inside the park, but an excellent network of trails allows access to many areas.

There is a fantastic variety of fauna and flora within the park and many bird families reach their greatest diversity in rainforests such as this. Woodpeckers are a typical example and we will be in with a good chance of seeing Rufous Piculet, Rufous, Crimson-winged, Checker-throated, Banded, Buff-rumped, Buff-necked, Great Slaty, White-bellied, Grey-capped, Maroon and Orange-backed Woodpeckers and also Greater Flameback. There is an equally wide variety of bulbuls, with likely species including Black-headed, Puff-backed, Stripe-throated, Cream-vented, Red-eyed, Spectacled, Grey-cheeked, Yellow-bellied, Hairy-backed, Buff-vented and Streaked.

Inside the forest, sounds are all-important. A host of babblers are found here, and we should see Black-capped, Short-tailed, Ferruginous, Moustached, Sooty-capped, Scaly-crowned, Rufous-crowned, Chestnut-rumped, Chestnut-winged and Black-throated Babblers, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler and Striped Wren-Babbler, and perhaps also Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler, Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler, Large Wren-Babbler and Brown Fulvetta.

One of the best ways of seeing large numbers of species is to find a fruiting tree and wait nearby as fruit-eating birds fly in to reap the forest’s bounty. The park’s wide variety of frugivores include Thick-billed, Little and Large Green Pigeons, Blue-rumped Parrot, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Black, Oriental Pied and Rhinoceros Hornbills, Gold-whiskered, Red-throated, Yellow-crowned, Blue-eared and Brown Barbets, the gorgeous Green Broadbill (which seems to glow like an emerald amongst the leaves), and Yellow-breasted, Crimson-breasted and Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers.

We will no doubt hear the frustratingly hard-to-locate call of the Garnet Pitta and we should eventually be able to track down this gem of the forest glowing in the shadows as it calls from a low perch.

The park is well-watered and the variously sized rivers and streams provide niche habitats for a variety of more striking species. Along the larger waterways we will watch for resting Stork-billed and Blue-banded Kingfishers and listen for the beautiful melodious song of Straw-headed Bulbul. The smaller streams and rivulets support the striking White-crowned Forktail, as well as the more sombre White-chested and Horsfield’s Babblers.

Other typical forest and edge species that we will search for include Crested (or Oriental) Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black-thighed Falconet, Crested Fireback, Emerald Dove, Long-tailed Parakeet, Banded Bay, Plaintive and Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoos, Black-bellied, Raffles’s, Red-billed and Chestnut-breasted Malkohas, Silver-rumped and Brown-backed Needletails, Grey-rumped and Whiskered Treeswifts, Red-naped, Diard’s and Scarlet-rumped Trogons, Banded Kingfisher, Black-and-red, Banded and Dusky Broadbills, the striking Black-and-yellow Broadbill, the attractive Malayan Banded Pitta, Bar-winged and Black-winged Flycatcher-shrikes, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Large Woodshrike, Scarlet Minivet, Green Iora, Greater Green, Lesser Green and Blue-winged Leafbirds, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dark-throated Oriole, Asian Fairy-Bluebird, Black Magpie, the bizarre Crested Jay, White-rumped Shama, Dark-necked and Rufous-tailed Tailorbirds, Rufous-chested and Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers, Rufous-winged and Maroon-breasted Philentomas, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Hill Myna, Plain, Red-throated, Ruby-cheeked and Purple-naped Sunbirds, and Little, Spectacled, Yellow-eared and Grey-breasted Spiderhunters.

Now that it has been placed in its own family, the strange and shy Rail-babbler is of huge interest to visiting birders. We have a fair chance of seeing one here at Taman Negara, but the odds of seeing this much-wanted speciality are much better at Panti Forest during the optional extension.

Although we shall hear the loud calls of the Great Argus every day, for most of the time one has to be very fortunate to catch even a glimpse of this huge but elusive pheasant, but from time to time a male becomes habituated to the presence of people and will stand guard over its dancing ground seemingly oblivious to one’s presence!

We should come across a few of Taman Negara’s other shy or more uncommon inhabitants, which include Lesser Fish Eagle, the extraordinary Crested Partridge, Malayan Peacock-Pheasant, Jambu Fruit Dove, Rufous-collared Kingfisher, White-crowned and Wrinkled Hornbills, Malaysian Honeyguide, Grey-and-buff Woodpecker, Scaly-breasted and Black-and-white Bulbuls, Fiery Minivet, White-necked Babbler, Rufous-tailed Shama, Grey-chested Jungle and Malaysian Blue Flycatchers, Spotted Fantail and Long-billed Spiderhunter.

As evening descends we may hear the distinctive whistles of Malaysian Eared Nightjars as they patrol the darkening skies around the headquarters. We will venture out in search of other nightbirds and with luck we will find Reddish Scops Owl and perhaps even one of the more difficult species such as Gould’s or Javan Frogmouths.

A wide variety of mammals occur in Taman Negara but, apart from Crab-eating Macaque and a variety of squirrels, most are rather retiring. However, we should encounter Wild Boar and perhaps Lesser Mouse-Deer.

West Malaysia: Day 11  After some early morning birding at Taman Negara we will return by boat to Kuala Tembeling and then drive back to Kuala Lumpur airport, where our the main section of our Malay Peninsula tour ends this afternoon.

PANTI FOREST & RAIL-BABBLER EXTENSION

West Malaysia (Panti): Day 1  From Kuala Lumpur airport we will head southwards to the tip of the Malay Peninsula, where Malaysia and Singapore meet, for a four nights stay at Kota Tinggi.

West Malaysia (Panti): Days 2-4  Panti Bird Sanctuary (formerly known as Panti Forest Reserve) protects a large tract of mainly lowland dipterocarp and peat-swamp forest that was partly logged in the past, but which is now well regenerated. The avifauna is quite similar to that of Taman Negara, but being largely secondary forest there are differences.

Our particular focus will be on the very localized Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, the near-threatened Red-crowned Barbet and the uncommon Black-and-white Bulbul. If we are exceptionally lucky we will come across Crested Partridge or Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker.

Above all though we will be on the lookout for the unique Rail-babbler, the sole member of the family Eupetidae. This beautiful and mysterious species is notoriously shy and difficult to see, but Panti Forest probably offers a better chance than anywhere else of observing it, and our chances during a stay of this length are very high. As we walk along the reserve’s trails, we should hear the long mournful whistles that betray the presence of our quarry and then we will attempt to watch it stalking through the leaf litter like an elongated rail, or calling from a stump or low branch.

Other species we may well encounter at Panti, or in the surrounding area, include Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Emerald Dove, Little Violet Cuckoo, Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Raffles’s and Chestnut-breasted Malkohas, Blue-rumped Parrot, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Long-tailed Parakeet, the splendid Barred Eagle-Owl, Malaysian Eared and Large-tailed Nightjars, Germain’s Swiftlet, Silver-rumped and Brown-backed Needletails, House Swift, Asian Palm-Swift, Grey-rumped and Whiskered Treeswifts, Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, the stunning Red-bearded Bee-eater, Rufous-backed and Collared Kingfishers, Blue-eared and Brown Barbets, Rufous, Banded, Crimson-winged, Checker-throated, Buff-rumped and Grey-and-buff Woodpeckers, Common Flameback, Green, Banded, Dusky and Black-and-yellow Broadbills, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Greater Green, Lesser Green and Blue-winged Leafbirds, Bronzed and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, House and Large-billed Crows, Dark-throated Oriole, White-bellied Erpornis, Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike, Scarlet Minivet, Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Green Iora, White-rumped Shama, Hill Myna, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Pacific Swallow, Black-headed, Yellow-vented, Olive-winged, Cream-vented, Red-eyed, Spectacled, Yellow-bellied, Hairy-backed and Buff-vented Bulbuls, Dark-necked and Rufous-tailed Tailorbirds, Everett’s White-eye, White-chested, Black-capped, Moustached, Short-tailed, Sooty-capped, Chestnut-rumped and Chestnut-winged Babblers, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Yellow-breasted, Crimson-breasted and Orange-breasted Flowerpeckers, Plain, Ruby-cheeked, Purple-naped and Olive-backed Sunbirds, Little, Spectacled and Grey-breasted Spiderhunters,

Less common or less often observed species we could encounter at Panti include White-bellied Sea Eagle, Oriental Honey-Buzzard, Crested Goshawk, Red Junglefowl, Great Argus (only likely to be heard), Pink-necked and Thick-billed Green Pigeons, Jambu Fruit-Dove, Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, Indian and Plaintive Cuckoos, Red-billed Malkoha, Lesser Coucal, Gould’s Frogmouth, Cinnamon-rumped and Red-naped Trogons, Dollarbird, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Banded and Black-capped Kingfishers, the splendid Wrinkled and Rhinoceros Hornbills, Black, Bushy-crested and Wreathed Hornbills, Yellow-crowned Barbet, Rufous Piculet, Common Flameback, White-bellied and Maroon Woodpeckers, Garnet Pitta, Crested Jay, Black Magpie, Common Iora, White-crowned Forktail, Stripe-throated, Grey-bellied, Puff-backed, Grey-cheeked and Streaked Bulbuls, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Common Tailorbird, Ferruginous, Horsfield’s, Rufous-fronted, Grey-breasted and Grey-headed Babblers, Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler, Large Wren-Babbler, Purple-throated and Crimson Sunbirds, Thick-billed and Yellow-eared Spiderhunters, Paddyfield Pipit and Scaly-breasted Munia.

Providing the habitat survives ongoing development, we will also visit a mangrove area to look for Mangrove Pitta, assuming we failed to see one at Kuala Selangor.

West Malaysia (Panti): Day 5  After a last morning at Panti we will return to Kuala Lumpur airport where our tour ends this evening.

MALAY PENINSULA, MALAYSIA TOUR REPORT 2017

by Craig Robson

View Report

Other mainland Southeast Asia birding tours by Birdquest include: