A Few Days Birding in Mainland Malaysia

My son and I flew to Malaysia at the start of Easter, and after a couple of days poking around Penang met up with Choy Wai Mun. Mun has a blog titled the Penang Birder [penangbirder.blogspot.com.au].

We arranged a four day itinerary with Mun that started in Penang, had two nights at Frasers Hill and ended in Kuala Lumper. We visited a range of lowland habitat varieties, including rainforests, mangroves, mudflats, freshwater wetlands and paddy fields, as well as the iconic highland rainforest at Frasers Hill.

Birding guides around the world use call playback, but on this trip the new element was the stakeout. A stakeout site is a bit like a lek, where visiting birders place food for targeted species. The birds know there may be an offering when they hear call playback at these sites and are motivated to show up.

Courtesy of the meal worms, seeds and rock melons, we had close views of partridges, barbets, pittas, sibias, mesias, kingfishers, thrushes, robins, flycatchers and babblers etc. Indeed, a Pygmy Wren-babbler scurried mouselike (within touching distance of me) on its way to the worms on a log.

Away from the stakeout sites, call playback had mixed results. Sometimes it attracted the birds, in other places it had no effect. The most frustrating dip was a Collared Owlet. It was persistently calling one afternoon at Frasers Hill. We circled around its location [even walked up a steep driveway that brought us roughly level with it] but were unable to see it.

In some ways birding in Malaysia was similar to birding in similar habitats in Australia. The big difference was the complete absence of water birds [such as ducks, grebes, cormorants, gulls and terns]. It was disconcerting to have large birdless waterbodies.

Weatherwise, we had very little rain. It was hot at sea-level and pleasant at higher altitudes [Penang Hill and Frasers Hill]. My main frustration was a camera lens that was coming apart at the seams.

Overall, we were very happy with Mun’s guiding. He had fast visual and bird call recognition, and was also familiar with many of the mammals. If you are looking to go birding in north-western Malaysia, you can email him via either peregrine@live.co.uk or choywaiimun@gmail.com .

Regards, Laurie.

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