I am Oscar Moss, a new writer on this blog. I am writing about the first few days of my trip to Singapore and Malaysia in early April 2018.
The first few days were mostly spent visiting family in Singapore, though I did manage to bird in quite a few spots, including the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR), Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG), Gardens by the Bay, and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR). Some of my favorite birds from this portion of the trip were Crimson Sunbird, Crow-billed and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Korean Flycatcher, Long-tailed Parakeet, Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot, White-rumped Shama, Yellow Bittern, and Changeable Hawk-Eagle.
The first few days of the trip spent in Singapore were really fun. However, the hardcore birding of the trip was just beginning! At 5:00 am on Wednesday, April 4th, birding guide and naturalist extraordinaire Subaraj Rajathurai, and fellow awesome birder/driver Yeo Suay Hwee picked my dad and me up to go birding in the legendary Gunung Panti Forest Reserve, in southern Peninsular Malaysia. I knew that the birding was going to be great when our first bird of the day was my lifer Oriental Pied-Hornbill!
After a quick breakfast at a small Indian restaurant, we began our drive into Panti. A few minutes on a dirt road known as the Bunker Trail (where the majority of our birding was done) passed, and Subaraj motioned for Suay Hwee to stop the car. We got out, Raj set up the scope, and the diverse rainforest birds began to swirl around us. “Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker! Crested Jay! Fiery Minivet! Little Green-Pigeon!” Raj excitedly called out. A Great Argus yelped from distant hilltop, and a Crested Partridge scurried across the road in front of us. Rufous-backed Dwarf, Rufous-collared, and Banded Kingfishers called in the jungle around us. Pin-striped, and Fluffy-backed Tit-Babblers flitted in the roadside shrubs, and a majestic Black Hornbill glided overhead. A calling Crested Serpent-Eagle, as well as a perched Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle kept the raptor show exciting.
A few minutes more of driving along, and we stopped at a large tree, where a Black-thighed Falconet was perched. One of the smallest raptors in the world, the Black-thighed Falconet is scarcely larger than a sparrow!
We continued up the road, until Raj found a spot that looked good. We jumped out of the car and a stunning adult male Diard’s Trogon started calling on one side of the road, while a Red-bearded Bee-eater watched us from within some foliage. We then began to hear some odd calls, which I initially thought were broken police sirens, but Raj said were actually White-handed Gibbons (Lar Gibbons), a close relative of Great Apes, native to lowland rainforest. Additionally, I found my first ever leech (!) which had climbed inside my shoe, and began to suck me.
As we continued down the road, Raj pointed out a Short-tailed Mongoose running across the road. When we got out to look for it, our attention was diverted to an adult male Amur Paradise-Flycatcher, in the trees above our heads!
Our final stop of the morning was at the base of a large hill, where Raj had staked out a Whiskered Treeswift. Treeswifts are odd birds; in flight they look very much like typical swifts, though they can perch on tree branches, unlike swifts, which can only cling to surfaces. They are related to swifts, and hummingbirds, though they’re placed in their own family, Hemiprocnidae. Suay Hwee spotted a Whiskered Treeswift, right where it was supposed to be, perching, and flycatching from a large, broad-leafed tree.
After some time spent enjoying the treeswift, a loud squawk echoed through the forest. “RHINOCEROS HORNBILL!” yelled Raj as a pair of these epic beasts landed above our heads. An awesome finale to our first morning in Panti Forest!
Back at the Tanjung Sutera Resort in Sedili Basar, the birds continued to flow in, with many Oriental Magpie-Robins, Pacific Swallows, a Stork-billed Kingfisher, nesting Scaly-breasted Munias, a Rufous Woodpecker, a Coppersmith Barbet, and a great showing from the resident Blue-throated Bee-eaters.
The first day ended with an evening trip to the rural area surrounding Sedili Basar. We started by visiting a small cemetery, which held a nice Black-headed Bulbul among the the more common Yellow-vented, and Olive-wingeds. Continuing into a wooded area we picked up such species as Common Flameback, Malaysian Pied-Fantail, and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker. In coastal mangrove habitat, we found a Pied Triller, and a calling flyover Ashy Minivet was a nice bonus. Also present were many fiddler crabs and mudskippers. We ended the day in a low, dense, marshy area, where we saw Chestnut Munias, Asian Koel, Greater Coucal, and finally ended the day with a pair of Oriental Pied-Hornbills – the same species we started the day with!
That evening I did some nocturnal birding around the resort – and was rewarded with good looks at Large-tailed Nightjar – an awesome finale to a great day.
Stay tuned for part two of the trip coming soon!