Friday, 16 December 2016

Day 5, Taman Negara...Kuala Tahan to Lata Berkoh

Day 5, Taman Negara National Park - 28 November 2016

Day 5 of my Malaysian birding/herping trip with the great Nigel Marven (@Nigelmarven). We decided to take to the water once again today in the hope of seeing the Blue-banded Kingfisher and once more headed north along the Sungai Tahan river before drifting back with the current to Kuala Tahan. Within minutes we had a tantalising fly-by bird heading in the opposite direction, now we wanted to get one perched up. Unlike the showy Stork-billed Kingfisher the Blue-banded was more of a skulker, sitting underneath overhanging canopy within a meter of the water surface. It wasn't going to be easy.

Stork-billed Kingfisher - if only they were all this obliging!
In better light today.
We soon started to rack up the species list with another Lesser Fish-Eagle, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Raffles's and Red-billed Malkohas, Gray-rumped Treeswift, Whiskered Treeswift, Blue-throated Bee-eaters, Small Spiderhunter, White-chested Babbler, Black Magpie and the ever decreasing Straw-headed Bulbul, frequently collected for the pet trade.

Straw-headed Bulbul
As we ventured further upriver we started to get feeding parties of Gray-rumped and Whiskered Treeswifts. Although they didn't settle close enough for a good photo the Whiskered Treeswifts were just incredible to look at - yet another bird I've always wanted to see.

Whiskered Treeswift, Taman Negara
Short 12 second video of Whiskered Treeswift

Nigel and Azri enjoying the tranquillity of the river.
Wilbur pointing out a group of Bulbuls, Sunbirds and Spiderhunters 
feeding on the flowering tree to the right.
Long-billed Spiderhunter

Our attention turned to the river bank when Wilbur heard a male Rufous-chested Flycatcher calling to our left. This absolutely stunning little bird put in the briefest of appearances and although I manged great views for about 10 seconds, Nigel missed out because the bird was obscured by foliage from his position in the boat! Despite trying desperately to see it again, it remained calling from thick cover never to re-emerge. Fingers crossed we would find another.

We continued up river to the Kelah Sanctuary, a research and conservation centre for the rare Kelah fish or Malaysian mahseer as it is also know. More Crested Treeswifts settled on the opposite bank and a huge Malayan Water Monitor, about 5ft long, made its way ashore just across from our boat.

Malayan Water Monitor Varanus salvator, a five foot monster!
Malayan Water Monitor Varanus salvator
From the Kelah Sanctuary we continued further up river to our final destination, Lata Berkoh where we pulled ashore and walked a little way along the trail northwards. We were rewarded almost immediately with another female Banded Pitta, the most incredible little birds.
Pitt-stop. Waiting for the Banded Pitta to show.
Photo credit: Junglewalla Tours
Banded Pitta, female
Our boatmen on this particular trip were excellent. They really understood our needs and went out of their way to help us find the birds - worthy of a large tip!

Contemplating the journey back, one of our boatmen.
Me on the bank at Lata Berkoh
The water is stained with tanin, hence the tea-brown colour.
Nigel chilling in the beautiful wilderness, what
a great spot this was...
...Good enough for a dip in fact. Mr Marven taking a refreshing
swim - sensible given how hot it was.
Left to right: Wilbur Goh, Nigel Marven, Roger Harris
On the way back we added Abbott's Babbler, Red-eyed Bulbul and again had fly-by Blue-banded Kingfishers on two occasions.

After a quick lunch we hit the trail to Lubok Simpon once again in the hope of getting the Kingfisher from the shore and also (still hoping) for the rare Crested Fireback. At the campsite we picked up Spectacled Bulbul, Buff-vented Bulbul and Scaly-crowned Babbler. Lubok Simpon didn't hold the sought after Blue-banded Kingfisher so we pushed on further passing a deceased and partly eaten Reticulated Python - a sad sight to see. About half-a-mile further on we hit a bird wave, which delivered a pair of Diard's Trogons, Red-naped Trogon, Checker-throated Woodpecker, Greater Raquet-tailed Drongo and a pair of spectacular Orange-backed Woodpeckers.

Dilapidated building in the jungle
Diard's Trogon, male
Diard's Trogon, male
If only this had snapped into focus...
Diard's Trogon, male
Diard's Trogon, female

Orange-backed Woodpecker, male
Red-naped Trogon, female
Cream-vented Bulbul
Gray-bellied Bulbul, very smart...for a Bulbul
Gray-bellied Bulbul
Abbott's Babbler
Spectacled Bulbul
Worth noting that Malaysia has over 1000 species of butterflies! We saw quite a few during our time there, including several enormous Common Birdwings but alas it was the smaller butterflies that sat still for the camera.
Dark Grass-Brown
Common Posy, male spp  moorei
Yellow Glassy Tiger
On the return journey we had brief views of a rather stunning Maroon Woodpecker and a number of Scaly-crowned Babblers. As we reached the resort we decided we had nothing to loose by walking the boardwalk back towards the Tahan Hide before calling it a day. Boy are we glad we did...

Crested Fireback, male
At last! Not one but four (two pairs) of Crested Firebacks on the boardwalk. The beautiful male (above) demonstrating why it got its name.

Both males and one of the females.
Close up of one of the males. 
What an amazing find on our last evening in Taman Negara, this place certainly delivers wildlife by the bucket-load.

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