Malaysia - Taman Negara: 11-17 Jun 2012






11-17 June 2012.
Hot. Partially cloudy. Dry.
Taman Negara (Kuala Tahan and Merapoh).

With Paul Carter. The idea for visiting Taman Negara originated from a mixture of Paul having to visit Kuala Lumpur and both of us making use of the dry season to revisit Taman Negara with a view to finding a few target birds and mammals. All arrangements were made privately. The weather was excellent the whole time, and leeches and mosquitos were only encountered in small numbers. We originally planned to visit Kuala Tahan, but added Merapoh on a couple of recommendations.


11 Jun. Took Air Asia from Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur, arriving on time. Due to Kuala Lumpur having effectively three airports, had to take a taxi (50 RM) to the international airport to meet up with Paul and our prearranged car. We'd arranged rental from Hawk Rent A Car who provided a new Camry that was more than fine. The rented GPS though gave us some navigation problems getting across KL as several of the not-so-new highways were not on the GPS base map which kind of implied the map was a few years out of date. Consequently we found ourselves on non-existent roads with the GPS trying unsuccessfully to recalculate our route. So we were not impressed by that aspect of Hawk.

Kuala Tahan
Kuala Tahan

Taman Negara canopy walkway view
Canopy walkway view

Taman Negara canopy river trip
River trip to Kumbang hide

Left the airport just after 15:00 and arrived Kuala Tahan about 19:30, just after dark. We'd booked to stay at the Traveller's Home, which was adequate but not particularly recommended, and like all the accommodations in Kuala Tahan, not very good value. On the plus side, the owner, "Jack" (read Mohammed), was very helpful and friendly, and gave us a discount as we missed most meals to be out in the field. On the negative side the shared bathroom facilities had only one facility operational, a non-working hot shower and pressure problems with the cold shower.

We made a quick dash to the local stores to buy some general provisions for the forest trip, and then took a boat (1 RM) across to the park HQ to arrange permits, hides and boats for the trip upriver to Kumbang Hide. Despite the late hour the park office remained open until about 22:00. By 21:00 we'd completed the necessities so decided to try some spot-lighting. After trying a couple of roads we eventually discovered the road parallel with the river that runs past the Rainforest Resort that dead ends at a pumping station after a couple of kilometres. Some taller trees and hacked over forest along here gave us Leopard Cat and Common Palm Civet as well as vocalising Sunda Scops Owl and Reddish Scops Owl.

12 Jun. Set the alarm for 6:00 but discovered it was still pitch black, so had another 30 minute lie in. We took the first boat across to park at 07:00 and did a slow walk to the canopy walkway. The walkway doesn't open till 09:30 - far too late for any meaningful wildlife, and costs 5 RM. To make matters worse, just before opening, a guy with a leaf blower walks the walkway scaring away every bird and mammal anywhere nearby! Not surprisingly we failed to see anything of much note - just Long-tailed Macaque, Common Treeshrew and Buff-rumped Woodpecker. Basically the canopy walkway is a tourist attraction rather than a serious attempt at nature observation, as a steady flood of tourists ensures you have limited time on the walkway and are surrounded by noisy visitors. Best to give this a miss from a birding perspective.

The rest of the morning was spent walking back along the river trail, with birds including Grey-bellied Bulbul, Raffles's Malkoha, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Scaly-crowned Babbler, Black Magpie, Large Woodshrike. Grey-breasted Spiderhunter and Rufous-crowned Babbler. Lunch at the resort, then back to the Traveller's Home to gear up for the trip upriver. The 12 kilometre boat trip from Kuala Tahan to the drop off took only 35 minutes, and we had to navigate some pretty mean looking rapids which the boatman handled excellently. The walk to Kumbang Hide took about an hour, and although only two kilometres felt a lot more carrying all our sleeping stuff, food and water. Around the clearing was Black-thighed Falconet. Night spent in the hide, with four others. Malayan Tapir came into the clearing several times after dark. A fair number of undentified rats and mice were very active; raiding bags and trying to run off with plastic boxes and anything remotely edible.

Malayan Tapir
Malayan Tapir (Paul Cater)

Malayan Civet
Malayan Civet (Paul Carter)

Sundaic Arboreal Niviventer
Sundaic Arboreal Niviventer (Paul Carter)

13 Jun. All day spent based at Kumbang Hide. In the morning a walk to and from the river produced Black-capped Babbler, Short-tailed Babbler, Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher, Ochraceous Bulbul, Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Grey-cheeked Bulbul, Yellow-bellied Bulbul, Bronzed Drongo, Rufous-winged Philentoma, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Dark-throated Oriole, Spotted Fantail, Large Wren-Babbler, Crested Treeswift, Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon and Black-and-red Broadbill, plus a Prevost's Squirrel. Night in the hide again, with Malayan Tapir and Malayan Civet around the hide. Surprisingly only a single rodent visiting in the night - Sundaic Arboreal Niviventer. Vocalising night birds were Reddish Scops Owl, Sunda Scops Owl and Gould's Frogmouth.

Royal Assyrian
Royal Assyrian (Paul Cater)

Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher
Grey-headed Canary-Flycacther (Paul Cater)

Barred Eagle-Owl
Barred Eagle-Owl (Paul Cater)

14 Jun. Pre dawn had calling Brown Hawk-Owl plus Moustached Hawk-Cuckoo seen close to the hide. On the return to the river Rail-babbler and Great Slaty Woodpecker heard. At the river a good fruiting tree had a number of bulbuls including Finsch's Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Ochraceous Bulbul, Red-eyed Bulbul and Buff-vented Bulbul as well as Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot. The buffet lunch at the HQ restaurant went down greatly after two days of beans and tuna in the hide.

In the afternoon took a boat (80 RM) to the Blau Hide area and walked back. On getting off boat a bunch of game birds were flushed but not seen. On the three kilometre walk we had three Malayan Banded Pitta including a recently fledged juvenile, Crimson-winged Woodpecker, Moustached Babbler and Green Broadbill. Beer and dinner then a night walk through the lodge with the tame Malayan Tapir, then up the Camp Site Trail to the first river crossing but nothing seen. An Eastern Barn Owl was calling. We returned to the road on other side of river past the Rainforest Resort and obtained good views of Barred Eagle-Owl, but no mammals.

15 Jun. Into the park at first light. We'd intended to walk the Loop Trail but found a good fruiting tree in the clearing in front of the Tahan Hide. Again an Idiot with a leaf blower came around. However, in two hours the tree attracted an impressive collection including Jambu Fruit Dove, Finsch's Bulbul, Greater Green Leafbird, Lesser Green Leafbird, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Golden-whiskered Barbet, Sooty Barbet, Scaly-breasted Bulbul, Common Hill Myna, Rufous Woodpecker and Asian Fairy Bluebird.

Merapoh entrance road
Merapoh entrance road

Buffy Fish Owl
Buffy Fish Owl (Paul Cater)

We left Kuala Tahan around 12:00 to drive to Merapoh, arriving about four hours later. The facilities here, were better than we'd been expecting - as we'd been expecting to find nothing. Canned food was available in the local village so beans and tuna were back on the menu. The accommodation was OK, with aircon and cold shower for 70 RM. Walked the main entrance road from 17:30 - 19:00 but few birds; Buff-rumped Woodpecker, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha and Rufous-capped Babbler. After a quick dinner, out again at 19:30 but found the road now gated.

Prevost's Squirrel
Prevost's Squirrel (Paul Cater)

Large Frogmouth
Large Frogmouth (Paul Cater)

Small-toothed Civet
Small-toothed Civet (Paul Cater)

However, one of the staff allowed us to pass, and within a couple of hundred metres we had good views of Large Frogmouth. Other night birds included vocal Reddish Scops Owl and Sunda Scops Owl as well as a fly by large owl that was probably Barred Eagle-Owl. By the time we arrived back at the bridge at the entrance Buffy Fish Owl was perched over the river as well as a group of Small-toothed Civet.

16 Jun. Out at first light to find the gate on the bridge locked this time. Apparently this gate doesn't open till 08:00, so we contented ourselves with a walk along the River Trail for an hour.

First bird of note was Red-naped Trogon, followed by a group of Chestnut-rumped Babbler and a Chestnut-naped Forktail. Walked the entrance road until 10:00 covering only about 1.5 kilometres but finding Sooty-capped Babbler, Garnet Pitta and Large Green Pigeon. Returned for tuna and beans, then walked the river again with another Red-naped Trogon but little else in the heat of the day. At 15:00 we walked the 1.6 kilometre loop which was really quiet. Walked the Interpretive Loop twice but only Black-capped Babbler seen despite good looking habitat. At night we walked the river trail yet again seeing roosting Tickell's Blue Flycatcher, and Lesser Mousedeer. Walking back through the camp site had Buffy Fish Owl and calling Brown Wood Owl.

17 Jun. A four hour drive to Kuala Lumpur to drop car, with a short shower en route being the only rain of the whole trip. Taxi to airport (140 RM). Air Asia to Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Details of the mammals and reptiles seen and photographed on this trip, by Paul Carter, here.

Species List

  Taman Negara   Count
  Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela 2
  Changeable Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus limnaeetus 1
  Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius 1
  Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 2
  Common Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica 2
  Orange-breasted Green Pigeon Treron bicinctus 10
  Thick-billed Green Pigeon Treron curvirostra 6
  Large Green Pigeon Treron capellei 6
  Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu 2
  Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea 1
  Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Loriculus galgulus 40
  Blue-rumped Parrot Psittinus cyanurus 3
  Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis 4
  Raffles's Malkoha Rhinortha chlorophaea 8
  Chestnut-breasted Malkoha Phaenicophaeus curvirostris 6
  Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii 2
  Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus 2
  Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris 5
  Moustached Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx vagans 1
  Eastern Barn Owl Tyto javanica 1
  Reddish Scops Owl Otus rufescens 4
  Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji 6
  Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus 2
  Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu 1
  Brown Wood Owl Strix leptogrammica 1
  Brown Hawk-Owl Ninox scutulata 1
  Large Frogmouth Batrachostomus auritus 1
  Gould's Frogmouth Batrachostomus stellatus 1
  Grey-rumped Treeswift Hemiprocne longipennis 6
  Germain's Swiftlet Aerodramus germani 100
  Red-naped Trogon Harpactes kasumba 3
  Scarlet-rumped Trogon Harpactes duvaucelii 4
  Rufous-collared Kingfisher Actenoides concretus 1
  White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis 5
  Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca 1
  Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis 1
  Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris 4
  Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil 10
  Wreathed Hornbill Rhyticeros undulatus 2
  Golden-whiskered Barbet Psilopogon chrysopogon 20
  Yellow-crowned Barbet Psilopogon henricii 10
  Sooty Barbet Caloramphus fuliginosus 2
  Rufous Piculet Sasia abnormis 1
  Crimson-winged Woodpecker Picus puniceus 4
  Maroon Woodpecker Blythipicus rubiginosus 1
  Rufous Woodpecker Micropternus brachyurus 1
  Buff-rumped Woodpecker Meiglyptes tristis 4
  Buff-necked Woodpecker Meiglyptes tukki 2
  Great Slaty Woodpecker Mulleripicus pulverulentus 2
  Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis 4
  Black-and-red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos 20
  Black-and-yellow Broadbill Eurylaimus ochromalus 2
  Malayan Banded Pitta Hydrornis irena 3
  Garnet Pitta Erythropitta granatina 3
  Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis virgatus 1
  Rufous-winged Philentoma Philentoma pyrhoptera 10
  Green Iora Aegithina viridissima 2
  Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike Coracina striata 4
  Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus 4
  Dark-throated Oriole Oriolus xanthonotus 6
  Bronzed Drongo Dicrurus aeneus 4
  Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo Dicrurus paradiseus 10
  Spotted Fantail Rhipidura perlata 1
  Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea 2
  Black Magpie Platysmurus leucopterus 6
  Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 5
  Rail-babbler Eupetes macrocerus 2
  Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis 4
  Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps 3
  Scaly-breasted Bulbul Pycnonotus squamatus 2
  Grey-bellied Bulbul Pycnonotus cyaniventris 4
  Puff-backed Bulbul Pycnonotus eutilotus 2
  Stripe-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus finlaysoni 4
  Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier 10
  Streak-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus conradi 20
  Cream-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus simplex 2
  Asian Red-eyed Bulbul Pycnonotus brunneus 4
  Spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus erythropthalmos 2
  Finsch's Bulbul Alophoixus finschii 2
  Ochraceous Bulbul Alophoixus ochraceus 4
  Grey-cheeked Bulbul Alophoixus bres 20
  Yellow-bellied Bulbul Alophoixus phaeocephalus 10
  Hairy-backed Bulbul Tricholestes criniger 3
  Buff-vented Bulbul Iole olivacea 10
  Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica 20
  Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius 2
  Dark-necked Tailorbird Orthotomus atrogularis 4
  Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus 3
  Chestnut-rumped Babbler Stachyris maculata 4
  Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera 25
  Pin-striped Tit-Babbler Macronus gularis 10
  Large Wren-Babbler Napothera macrodactyla 2
  Abbott's Babbler Malacocincla abbotti 20
  Short-tailed Babbler Malacocincla malaccensis 3
  Moustached Babbler Malacopteron magnirostre 2
  Sooty-capped Babbler Malacopteron affine 5
  Scaly-crowned Babbler Malacopteron cinereum 30
  Rufous-crowned Babbler Malacopteron magnum 20
  Ferruginous Babbler Trichastoma bicolor 10
  Black-capped Babbler Pellorneum capistratum 6
  Asian Fairy-bluebird Irena puella 20
  Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis 40
  Common Hill Myna Gracula religiosa 2
  Jungle Myna Acridotheres fuscus 6
  Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 10
  White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus 40
  Rufous-tailed Shama Trichixos pyrropygus 1
  Chestnut-naped Forktail Enicurus ruficapillus 2
  ¬†White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti 3
  Tickell's Blue Flycatcher Cyornis tickelliae 2
  Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati 4
  Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon 20
  Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus maculatus 3
  Plain Flowerpecker Dicaeum concolor 2
  Purple-naped Sunbird Hypogramma hypogrammicum 6
  Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra 2
  Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera modesta 4
  Additional Species en route   Count
  White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus 1
  Zebra Dove Geopelia striata 3
  Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus 1
  Silver-rumped Spinetail Rhaphidura leucopygialis 2
  House Swift Apus nipalensis 10
  Common Iora Aegithina tiphia 1
  Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis 3
  Rufous-bellied Swallow Cecropis badia 2
  Common Myna Acridotheres tristis 10
  Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 30
  White-headed Munia   2