Hornbills Unexpected! 8-15 October 2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017

"Thank you, Weng Chun for your hospitality and great birding! We truly enjoyed the benefits of your years of hard work. Most of all, your passion for the birds and your excitement when showing them to us made the trip! Every bird, and particularly, every Hornbill never gets old for you." - John, USA

We started the trip from Kuala Lumpur early in the morning, and our first birding stop was Kuala Selangor Nature Park. A good start but weather was a bit hard on us (as usual). Time really flies when you are birding in this park - we spent about 3-4 hours here and by the time we reach the car park, all of us were exhausted. Some of the highlights include white morph Asian (Amur) Paradise Flycatcher - good spotting John!, Cinereous Tit, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Plain-throated Sunbird, Mangrove Whistler, Brahminy Kite, Ashy Tailorbird, Olive-winged Bulbul and Scaly-breasted Munia. The rest of the day, we spent time checking the surrounding habitats which we managed to add Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern, Black-shouldered Kite, Cinnamon Bittern, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Laced Woodpecker, Common Flameback, Sunda Woodpecker and many more. In the evening, we had a Buffy Fish Owl flying away from its perch. Dipped on 2 other targets.

On Day 2, we started going out early in the morning hoping to find the owl again. We only managed a Barn Owl and Large-tailed Nightjar. After a short birding in the vicinity, we headed towards the highland. Upon reaching the hill station, we wasted no time and went to check on the partridge. Almost giving up, but then, I heard it calling and after a short moment, I spotted 1 coming out from the bush. Quietly I signalled to John and Kathy to sit still and wait. Shortly after that, it came to the open ground, not 1 not 2 but a family of Malaysian Partridge! with 4 chicks....What else did we managed to get today? Let's see, Chestnut-naped Forktail, Whiskered Treeswift, Red-wattled Lapwing, Rufous-bellied Swallow, House Swift, Plaintive Cuckoo, Gray Wagtail, Common Green Magpie, White-throated Fantail, Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, Malayan Laughingthrush, and many more.

Up in the hill station, weather was not too bad. Much cooler than Kuala Selangor. We stayed here for 3 nights. Lovely birding in which we managed to get Red-headed Trogon, Orange-breasted Trogon, Long-tailed Broadbill (quite a big flock), Sultan Tit, Pygmy Cupwing, Large Niltava, White-tailed Robin, Buff-breasted Babbler, Grey-throated Babbler, Wreathed Hornbill, Great Hornbill, lots of migrating Oriental Honey Buzzard, and many more.

Along the journey into Taman Negara, (as usual and fortunately I have Adam as driver) I always keep an eye on the trees, it was drizzling but I was still hoping miracle to happen and it did! "Hornbills!!!" I shouted and quickly Adam tried to find a safe spot to stop the vehicle. I was not sure which species initially until I had my binocular on the bird as it was moving from 1 tree to another. No doubt about the id when i saw the unusual long tail. Helmeted!!! I told John. Adam quickly pull out the spotting scope and tripod while John and myself struggle to take a photo of the hornbill. Camera lenses and scope all fogged up! AAARRGGHHH!!!! We tried out best to wipe the optics and thankfully the hornbill stayed long enough for us to get a view of them and eventually it flew nearer (John got shots of the hornbills in flight, well done!).

The next morning, we were the first people to be out in the trail (ok, boardwalk). Actually we had to delay our predawn walk slightly due to rain.We were trying hard for nocturnal species. Still no luck. A Sunda Scops Owl was calling from the same spot as the day before. Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient time to hunt for the owl. Need to get to the jetty and take our boat ride. The water level was really high compare to yesterday. After the boat ride, we had a quick breakfast before we go back into the forest. A quiet walk for almost 1 hour walk and suddenly we found a male Banded Kingfisher not too far from the boardwalk. All of us managed to get very good look at the bird. Stop by mid-day for lunch and rest. Later in the afternoon, we were out in the forest again to look for more birds. Strange, it was really quiet. But John managed to find a female Malayan Peacock Pheasant and the bird gave a really good view for all of us! Not much activity from the observation hide today.

Our final morning in Taman Negara, we went out for an early morning walk but without Kathy. Not much of activity. A Sunda Scops Owl was calling not too far away from us, and we decided to trace the call. VoilĂ !!! Nail it at almost point blank. After breakfast, we hit the trail again for 1 last look. Another good bird to add into our trip list - White-crowned Forktail.

After lunch, we check-out from Taman Negara and head towards Bukit Tinggi. Of course, there is a stop in between. At this stop, we found Hairy-backed Bulbul, Yellow-bellied Bulbul, White-rumped Shama. Scarlet-rumped Trogon (male), a family of Black Hornbill, and a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbill. 

Our final morning, with 2 final targets in Bukit Tinggi. We nailed the Mountain Peacock Pheasant but dipped on Ferruginous Partridge. Still a very good day today .... as we were walking back to the car, we added Orange-breasted Trogon and Siberian Blue Robin. That was not the final species for the trip, we made a trip to a "smelly" spot and end the trip with a Blue-eared Kingfisher. 

Birds & Wildlife in Malaysia

About Me

I'm a bird watcher, digiscoper, photographer and a licensed nature guide. Welcome to my 'A Malaysian Birder' blog. I will post my bird sightings and photographs on this blog. I started bird watching while studying in university. After graduating with a degree in forestry specializing in parks and recreation management, I have been attached to the parks and gardens industry. My past work experiences involve conducting environmental education program, bird watching and many more. When I go out to the field, I will usually have my Kowa 10x32 BDXD binocular, iPhone and Kowa TSN-501 spotting scope with me. This is the lightest setup for me as I prefer to go light these days. Although sometimes, I will (and I need to) take out my Nikon 10x42 Monarch binocular, Nikon ED82 spotting scope, Nikon1 V1 setup for specific targets.

Bird Watching Tours

There are quite a number of birding groups from Australia, United States and United Kingdom that come over to Malaysia annually visiting the traditional key sites that include Kuala Selangor, Fraser's Hill and Taman Negara. There is not doubt that the 3 sites are the preferred birding sites in Peninsular Malaysia. So if you are coming over for birding and intend to hire a guide, you can send me an email at and go over to posting section to view photos and summary of trip reports with testimonials from past clients.

Besides following the traditional route, I also customized trip according to clients needs, preference and interests. So there are some local patches that I can introduce to all bird watchers, digiscopers and photographers.

Bird Video

I am also interested to take video of birds. Here are some of my favorite videos for your viewing. Video taken with Nikon1 V1 attached to a Sigma 500mm f4.5 and most of the time iPhone SE through the spotting scope. Editing is done on smartphone Power Director for Android device and I also like the iMovie on iPhone. Enjoy.

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