Bilit Rainforest Lodge to Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, June 15, 2017: There was a slight variation on our morning routine. We had to have our bags out by 5:30, then went to breakfast. After breakfast, we left the Bilit Rainforest Lodge, taking a short ride up and across the river to our waiting bus. On the way we spotted a Wallace's Hawk-Eagle. Someone raised the question of whether it could be a Jerdon's Baza. I was quick to point out that the baza has long wings, and this appeared to be a short-winged raptor. We moved forward to get a good look at the wings---Wallace's Hawk-Eagle. We also saw a Yellow-vented Bulbul. Shortly before reaching the landing, some Long-tailed Parakeets flew over. We transferred to the bus and headed back toward Gomontong Caves.

We spotted several species on the way to the Gomontong Caves entrance road. Those I saw included White-breasted Waterhen, Javan Myna, Spotted Dove, Collared Kingfisher, Purple Heron, and Asian Glossy Starling.

After passing through the entrance gate, we piled out of the bus. The bus continued to the parking lot to wait, 3 miles away. We started birding the road. It wasn't long before a Storm's Stork flew over. There were swiftlets in the air, probably including Plume-toed, Mossy-nest, Edible-nest, and Black-nest Swiftlets.

We then saw some Bushy-crested Hornbills. A Blue-eared Barbet was perched up high, as were a couple of Dollarbirds. A Malaysian Pied-Fantail flew by us and started fanning its tail in the low vegetation. A Crested Serpent-Eagle was perched up. Then we found a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo on a bare branch. One of its racket-tails was more full than the other. A Plantain Squirrel went up a tree.

Then we finally found a bird we had been searching for for days, White-fronted Falconet. In fact, we found two, both young birds with yellow crowns. Soon after, we found two adults with white crowns. Some Bold-striped Tit-Babblers were busy in the bushes. Two pigeons were perched high on some bare branches. Through the scope, it became clear they were Little Green-Pigeons. A Bornean Pygmy Squirrel moved both up and down in a nearby tree, followed by a mighty leap to a nearby tree.

We chased a heard Dark-necked Tailorbird for a bit, struggling to see it. Then it perched for a while and we all got close views through the scope. A Green Imperial-Pigeon flew over. A heard Black-crowned Pitta led to lengthy search, culminating in great looks of a pair of pittas for all of us.

A Black-naped Monarch landed on a branch in the dark understory. Finally, a Moustached Hawk-Cuckoo flew across the road. Like the pittas, there were actually two, and they repeated flew to and fro across the road. Unfortunately, few of us could get a look at them perched (I did not). Then it was time to head on. We called the bus, and headed to Sandakan Airport.

As we entered Sandakan Airport, we spotted an Eastern Cattle Egret, our last new bird for Boreno. Then we flew to Kota Kinabalu. It took about 50 minutes in a turboprop ATR. We had a 4 hour layover at KK and had lunch there while waiting for our flight to Kuala Lumpur. A Eurasian Tree Sparrow was present at the gate. The layover also gave me a chance to catch up with my trip account.

The plane to Kuala Lumpur was somewhat late, and we got the hotel after 11pm. We have an early start tomorrow.

Dorsett Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Bukit Tinggi and Kuala Selangor

Friday, June 16, 2017: We began the morning by driving up to Bukit Tinggi, outside Kuala Lumpur. This was a new site for this trip. Our primary target was the Mountain Peacock-Pheasant. We walked up to the pheasant site. On the way, we found a Greater Coucal, Pacific Swallows, plenty of Oriental Magpie-Robins, and Plume-toed Swiftlets. Then a Black-crested Bulbul came into view, perched high atop a tree. We added Checker-throated Woodpecker before getting to the site. I saw a Silver-breasted Broadbill just before we arrived. We saw it again while at the site. We settled in behind a cloth screen to wait for the pheasant. While sitting there, we added Cinereous Bulbul, Ochraceous Bulbul, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, White-rumped Shama. Oriental Magpie-Robins (and occassionally the shama) raided food put out for the pheasant, as did several chipmunk-like Himalayan Striped Squirrels.

We waited and waited, added Buff-breasted Babbler, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Spectacled Spiderhunter, and Gray-bellied Bulbul. No pheasant. Time hour...two hours...still no pheasant. Finally, before we reached the three hour mark, two Mountain Peacock-Pheasants strode into view. This was a life bird for Glen. After the pheasants moved on, we headed back down the hill.

On the way down, we found Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, a pair of gorgeous Blue-winged Leafbirds, Rufous-fronted Babbler, and Chestnut-winged Babbler. I didn't see the White-bellied Erpornis, although its calls were evident enough. We also found Dark-necked Tailorbird and Crimson-winged Woodpecker. A couple of Gray-rumped Treeswifts were perched out in the open further down the hill.

We got back to the van and headed to lunch. Later, we stopped at a gas station where the surrounding area provided some fine birding. The most obvious birds were the House Crows. A pond had Eastern Great Egret, Little Egret, and Gray Heron. We spotted an Eastern Marsh-Harrier in the distance. Yellow-vented Bulbul and White-breasted Waterhen were also present. The tall grasses had Lesser Coucal and Baya Weaver. A Purple Heron came to the pond. Then we noticed a Cinnamon Bittern. It was so cryptic that people had trouble seeing it even through the scope. Finally, as we walked back to the van, we noticed two Paddyfield Pipits in the short grass near the gas station.

We headed off to the coast in Kuala Selangor and checked in to the De Palma Hotel. Eurasian Tree Sparrow and Yellow-vented Bulbul were present on the grounds, and a couple of Brahminy Kites wheeled overhead. Additional searching turned up an Oriental White-eye and Coppersmith Barbet. We walked over the adjacent mangrove area, finding Crab-eating Macaques on the way.

The mangroves soon yielded the rather drab Mangrove Whistler. We also found Sunda Pygmy-Woodpecker and Laced Woodpecker. Brown-throated Sunbird was also present, and a couple of Large-billed Crows flew over. It was quite evident how they got their name. Contining on, we found Javan Myna and Ashy Tailorbird. Then a couple of Common Flamebacks appeared. A few of us chased one, the rest the other. I ended up getting excellent views of both. A Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher was in a small patch of oil palms. We soon saw Pied Triller and Golden-bellied Gerygone.

Passing a few houses, we turned to follow the trail where we added Red-whiskered Bulbul. This is the third continent I've seen these on, but the first where they are native. We also spotted a couple of Striated Herons. Both Spotted Doves and Zebra Doves were common. A couple of Black-naped Orioles flew back and forth. After some effort, I got a good look. There were more Baya Weavers, then we found a Rufous Woodpecker. Some Asian Glossy Starlings flew by and a couple of Pink-necked Green-Pigeon perched for us. On the way back we added White-rumped Munia and Stork-billed Kingfisher.

De Palma Hotel, Kuala Selangor

Kuala Selangor and Fraser's Hill

Saturday, June 17, 2017: We did a little pre-dawn birding at the De Palma Hotel. We found our target bird, the Large-tailed Nightjar. We heard, but did not see, a very noisy Asian Koel. There was also a Black-crowned Night-Heron that flew over.

After breakfast, we birded the Taman Alam preserve in Kuala Selangor. There were plenty of Crab-eating Macaques there. At first, we weren't getting any new birds: Asian Glossy Starling, Pink-necked Green-Pigeon, Striated Heron, Javan Myna, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Prinia, and Olive-winged Bulbul. A long search search for a calling Abbott's Babbler brought views for some, but not me. We walked almost halfway along the circular trail before turning back. We again saw Laced Woodpecker and Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher before we finally got a new bird, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha. Brahminy Kites soared overhead as we returned. We also found some Silvery Lutungs, Oriental Magpie-Robin, and Coppersmith Barbet. Then were were on our way.

It was raining when we stopped a bridge at the end of a lake, either named or near Sungai Chiling (google was not clear on this). We got our target bird there, Rufous-bellied Swallow. Then we hopped into the van and continued on toward Fraser's Hill. On the way we spotted a Pig-tailed Macaque. Finally, we arrived at Fraser's Hill. Fraser's Hill is an old hill station. Some of the buildings are newer, others date from that time. In the modern era, it is a tourist location. Once at Fraser's Hill, we checked in, and went out birding.

At this point I was struggling a bit. I'd been coughing and sniffling during the day and was feeling worse by the time we started birding. It may be the same thing that Scott has. At Fraser's Hill, we found Black-throated Sunbird and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker. There were more Oriental Magpie-Robins. A Streaked Spiderhunter was a nice addition. Several Long-tailed Sibias flew back and forth between the trees. We also saw both Malayan Laughingthrush and Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush. About 5pm, I decided I needed to rest, so the van took me back to the hotel. The group kept birding for a couple of hours.

Shahzan Inn, Fraser's Hill

Fraser's Hill

Sunday, June 18, 2017: Definitely sick today. I didn't go birding at all and slept much of the day. Doesn't seem like an ordinary cold, but most of the symptoms are in that range. In the evening, our two doctors (Chantal and Shailesh) came by to see how I was doing. They think I have the same thing that Scott has and gave me some Cipro to take. Hopefully it will help.

Shahzan Inn, Fraser's Hill

Monday, June 19, 2017: Still sick. I'm a little better today, but not dramatically so. Didn't go birding. Did notice some Long-tailed Sibias right outside the hotel. It seems that there are now three of us who are sick. I don't think the Cipro has helped much, so it's probably something viral.

Shahzan Inn, Fraser's Hill

Fraser's Hill to Taman Negara

Tuesday, June 20, 2017: I'm well enough to do some birding just as we are leaving Fraser's Hill. As we loaded up the vehicles, some Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes were working the trees. Then a Lesser Yellownape was spotted, in fact two. Even more exciting was the Common Green-Magpie, which took a little chasing (running) to track down. I also saw House Swift and Oriental Magpie-Robin before leaving the hotel.

We made a stop partway down the hill, where we found Streaked Spiderhunter, Greater Yellownape, Mountain Fulvetta, Black-throated Sunbird, and Little Pied Flycatcher. Pretty soon, a Gray-chinned Minivet appeared on the wire. I looked away to see a Brown-backed Needletail. When I looked back, it had been joined by two smaller birds, Blue Nuthatches. The group had been looking for them for two days. We added a number of other species as we walked along the hill: Plume-toed (Glossy) Swiftlet, Blue-winged Minla, Hill Blue-Flycatcher. Then I saw a green bird fly into a tree, Fire-tufted Barbet. Further on, someone (Shailesh, I think) spotted a Collared Owlet. This is the mainland race that should be split from the Bornean race we saw earlier. It was easy to tell that the calls were quite different. Before returning to the car, I also added Black-eared Shrike-babbler. I missed some potential lifers in the flocks, but overall, it was good to be birding again.

As we continued down, we passed a Pig-tailed Macaque on the side of the road, then stopped for Crested Serpent-Eagle above the Gap. We heard Siamangs, and with some effort, managed to spot them. The best views were from somewhat downslope.

At the Gap, we heard, but did not see, White-handed Gibbons. Birds seen included Ochraceous Bulbul, Black-crested Bulbul, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, and Yellow-bellied Warbler. Then a Orange-bellied Leafbird appeared, and some Scarlet Minivets. A Red-billed Malkoha was a nice find. We heard, but did not see, Red-headed Trogon. Rufous-bellied and Pacific Swallows were present at an old building. We later got a great look at a Black-browed Barbet. Blue-winged Leafbird was the last new bird before heading on.

The drive to Taman Negara didn't produce anything of interest. We finally arrived at the village across from Mutiara Taman Negara. From there it was a short boat ride to our lodge. Dennis has been coming here over 40 years, and recalls that in the old days, the village did not exist, and it was a boat ride up the river to get here.

A fruiting ficus yielded Purple-naped Sunbird and Buff-vented Bulbul. We made a visit to the hide, noting the blue ferns along the trail. My now-emeritus colleague David Lee has written about these and other plant colors in “Nature's Palette: The Science of Plant Color”. In fact, he got interested in the subject when he found some blue ferns near Kuala Lumpur.

We added Rufous Woodpecker and saw several Oriental Magpie-Robins out in the grassy area by the hide. A couple of Large Green-Pigeons flew in and landed. This is the only reliable spot to see these endangered birds. We also saw a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo that was missing a racket, Lesser Cuckooshrike, and Banded Woodpecker. Somewhere in here were also saw Gray-rumped Treeswift. Then we headed back to the lodge and dinner.

Mutiara Taman Negara, Taman Negara National Park

Taman Negara National Park

Wednesday, June 21, 2017: We began the day in the restaurant next to fruiting ficus. The tree had Crab-eating Macaques and Gray-bellied Squirrels (Presbytis rubicunda). This would be true throughout our visit. A tame Great Argus was walking around the restaurant. We also spotted a handsome Golden-whiskered Barbet in the ficus.

We started to head out on one of the trails, but saw two Great Slaty Woodpeckers before we could get anywhere. Black-throated Babbler was more heard than seen, but I got a poor look at one of them. A female Oriental Paradise-Flycatcher was a nice find. We also added Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler while listening to the calls of White-handed Gibbons. We got a look at Abbott's Babbler (which I'd missed a few days ago). Silver-rumped Spinetails flew overhead. Our morning walk also found Oriental Magpie-Robin, Greater Green-Leafbird, Malaysian Blue-Flycatcher, Crested Jay (which I never managed to see) and Diard's Trogon.

At the restaurant, there was a tame Bushy-crested Hornbill, possibly hand-raised. The tree include Stripe-throated Bulbul, Gray-bellied Bulbul, Asian Fairy-bluebird Buff-vented Bulbul, Asian Red-eyed Bulbul, Common Myna, Thick-billed Green-Pigeon, Yellow-crowned Barbet, and Purple-naped Sunbird.

Later on, we returned to the hide, where two Black-thighed Falconets were perched in a bare tree. Abbott's Babbler made an appearance, as did Hairy-backed Bulbul. A pair of Greater Coucals patrolled the grassy area. Their patrol was briefly interupted by a Malaysian Weasel. Othere birds present included Straw-headed Bulbul, Black-and-red Broadbill (nesting), Black-bellied Malkoha, Large Green-Pigeon, and White-throated Kingfisher.

We did some birding by the cottages, where a White-bellied Woodpecker landed in a bare tree. We also found a rare Jambu Fruit-Dove. Some Large-billed Crows flew over. A Raffles's Malkoha played hide-and-seek in one of the trees, and both Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrots and Blue-rumped Parrots flew over.

Then we went to the campsite, where we found Banded Woodpecker, Dark-throated Oriole, and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. Common Tailorbird was present later between the cottages and restaurant. We had planned to look for nightbirds after dinner. This plan was ended when a storm blew in. It was raining somewhat as I made my way back to my cottage, almost half a mile away. Then the heavens opened up!

Mutiara Taman Negara, Taman Negara National Park

Thursday, June 22, 2017: Birds seen at breakfast include Golden-whiskered Barbet, Purple-naped Sunbird (the sunbird that is really a spiderhunter), and Asian Red-eyed Bulbul. We went down to the landing and got on a boat to take us to a new trail. From the boat, we saw Black-and-red Broadbill (going to an from a nest), and two Black Magpies. The climb up the bank was a little tricky. Fortunately, we found a better way down later. On the top of the bank, we heard Large Green-Pigeons. Then we encountered our first Green Broadbill of the day. This is a new family for me (Calyptomenidae: Asian Green Broadbills). A Great Argus was heard, but not seen. We also heard, but didn't see Malayan Peacock-Pheasant. It wouldn't respond to playback. The Malayan Banded-Pitta did respond to playback, but I didn't see it. Ditto for the Rail-babbler, which would have been another new family. Before we left, we found Buff-necked Woodpecker and Rufous Piculet.

Back at the lodge, I saw Oriental Magpie-Robin, Plain Sunbird, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Buff-vented Bulbul, Greater Green-Leafbird, Stripe-throated Bulbul, and Oriental Pied-Hornbill in the fruiting ficus. Then one of the locals heard a Green Broadbill. Pretty soon, we had some of them chowing down figs, including at least a pair that sometimes sat together. We also saw Yellow-vented Bulbul, Rufous Woodpecker, Common Tailorbird, and Purple-naped Sunbird in the fruiting ficus.

Elsewhere on the grounds, we added Blue-throated Bee-eater and Common Iora. Then we visited the Tahan Hide again. Sooty Barbets kept flying back an forth, and the Black-thighed Falconets put in another appearance.

Back by the cottages, we had a flyover Little Cuckoo-Dove, Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrots, and Green Imperial-Pigeons.

A late walk for Crested Fireback was unsuccessful, but we got a reward anyway. A Blyth's Frogmouth flew in a perched a short distance over my head. Very cool. I was surprised by how small it was as I had previously only seen the large Papauan and Tawny Frogmouths. The Blyth's is the smallest frogmouth.

Once again, we had a torrential downpour at dinner.

Mutiara Taman Negara, Taman Negara National Park

Friday, June 23, 2017: We went back to the same trail in the of actually seeing some of the birds there. We saw Stork-billed Kingfisher and Black Magpie on the way. Our first interesting sighting on the trail was not a bird, but a *Malayan Colugo (Malayan Flying Lemur)*. In spite of the name, it is not a lemur. In fact, it is not even (quite) a primate, falling just outside the primate clade.

A long search yielded a brief look at a Garnet Pitta as it crossed the path. Searches for the other skulkers were less successful. We did get good looks though the scope at a Rufous-collared Kingfisher, one of the wood kingfishers. We also saw a female Red-naped Trogon and White-bellied Woodpecker before heading back to the lodge.

Some pre-dinner night birding turned up the Blyth's Frogmouth again. Several Brown Wood-Owls were heard, but not seen.

Mutiara Taman Negara, Taman Negara National Park

Saturday, June 24, 2017: We did not do any special birding this morning, having breakfast and crossing the river back to our bus. Then we headed toward KL. We stopped at the same Chinese restaurant near Bukit Tinggi that we had visited on the 16th (126 restaurant). Then we said some of our goodbyes as those who were going directly to the airport stayed in the bus, and the three of us going to the Dorsett took another van.

My bird totals were 285 species, including 262 lifers, which brings my life list to 3492.

I'm still not feeling that great, and ended up resting in the hotel. I had hoped to get out to see some of the town, but I don't think that's going to happen.

Dorsett Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Sunday, June 25, 2017: Seeing some of the town (Kuala Lumpur) is definitely not going to happen today. I rested much of the day today, rousing myself for lunch and to write up the last few days. My ride to the airport should be here at 2pm tomorrow.

Dorsett Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Return Home

Monday, June 26, 2017: I took a walk around downtown KL in the morning. I had to check out at noon. My ride to the airport wasn't until 2pm, so I sat around the lobby for a while. The driver, who is a friend of Dennis Yong, came right on time. It takes a surprising amount of time to get to the airport. On the way, he told me a bit more about the history of Mutiara Taman Negara. Dennis had mentioned that it took a lengtht boat trip on the river to get there then (it still takes a boat ride, but just minutes to cross). The lodge was much smaller then, and much lower standard. Utilitization was low. At some point the government decided to promote tourism there, and brought in outside hotel people to reorganize the operation. That has been a continuing success.

Finally, we arrived at the airport. Not too much to say here. The flight to Hong Kong was fine, as was the flight to San Francisco. Unlike the flight over, I was unable to get much sleep on the flight. Nonetheless, I was glad I had the extra seatroom and legroom of premium economy, which made the 12 hour flight much more comfortable. We got into SF about an hour before the scheduled time. That meant 10 hours in the airport, so I got a hotel room for the night. I also kept my main bag after customs so I would have everything with me. Immigration and customs were quick. The Mobile Passport app helped.

Westin San Francisco Airport

Tuesday, June 27, 2017: I wasn't sure how long process would take, so got up early to take the shuttle to the airport. One nice thing about gold status is that you can use the priority lines. I only had to wait for one person before I got to the counter, checked my bag and got a new boarding pass (with my requested first class upgrade). Although security took longer than the priority lines at MIA, it wasn't horribly long. This may be because American has only a minor operation at SFO, while they have half of the terminal space at MIA. Once the plane left, it was about 5 1/2 hours to MIA. After the usual baggage wait and a lengthy SuperShuttle ride, I got home about 7:30pm. That's 7:30am tomorrow, KL time, which makes the total travel time about 41 1/2 hours. It's good to be back!