Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Burmese border babblers

Working in Mae Sot the last couple of days allowed me to get out to the fields between the airport and Mae Tao village this morning for an hour.  The main highlight was encountering both Chestnut-capped and and Yellow-eyed babblers (a single of the former, and about five of the latter) as well as at least three Red avadavats, two Bright-headed cisticolas, a Blck-winged kite and flock of 15+ Little Bee-eaters.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Panti Forest, 6-8th June

Myself and Richard White visited Panti Forest in Johor, Malaysia last weekend.

Our objective was simple: See a Rail-babbler!

Given that this was going to be a short trip, and that Rail-babbler has a reputation for being a hard-to-see skulker, we were realistic that our objective might be a bit ambitious, so as much as anything we considered this as a "recce" for future trips.

I flew in to Singapore (where Richard lives) and we made the journey from the airport by bus to the border with Malaysia, crossing the border on bus number 170. Once on the Malaysian side of the border our bus dropped us at Johor Bahru bus station from where we took a taxi to the Avis car rental office. On reflection taking the bus across Singapore was probably rather a slow option (the MRT would probably be a faster option, getting off at Kranji station and taking a bus from there). The border itself was a bit of a headache as there were huge numbers of people crossing (it was a Saturday afternoon).

We collected our hire car (costing USD 100 for 48 hours) and then drove our hire car  directly to Panti. A map giving Panti's location can be found here. My flight landed in Singapore at 2pm and we arrived at Panti at about 5.30pm.

An alternative route might be to fly to Kuala Lumpur and then drive down to Panti (Googlemaps indicates drive time of 3 hours and 49 minutes). We did consider taking a hire car from Singapore's airport into Malaysia, but this seemed to be considerably more expensive than hiring in Malaysia itself.

We stayed at the Mayres Hotel in the town of Kota Tinggi (about 20km from Panti), booked through at a total cost of USD 66 for a twin room for two nights.

We were joined on Sunday by local birder Tan Win Sim ("Win") who's knowledge of the area was invaluable in helping us choose which trails to concentrate on.

Birding Panti Forest
Panti's famous "Bunker Trail" is marked by two large stone "bunkers" on either side of the road, with a signpost to "Panti Bird Sanctuary". All of our birding was done along the Bunker trail (a good quality dirt road, drivable in a normal car) and on several side trails going off the Bunker Trail.  The best seemed to a trail known as "Yellow" or "Temple", which was marked by a small yellow sign and ample parking at the trail head. This trail had quite a lot of bird activity and during our final hour's birding there on 8th June it rewarded us handsomely with a pair of Rail-babblers, a pair of Malaysian banded pittas and and a female Rufous-collared kingfisher with newly fledged chick!

We also spent both of the evenings we had at Panti doing some spotlighting, which was made worthwhile by connecting with a Leopard Cat and a fabulous Colugo (seen hanging from a tree, before gliding off into the night), plus we saw a pig spp and a civet spp.

Systematic list of birds:

Crested serpent eagle - one heard over forest

Changeable hawk eagle - one seen over road to Kota Tingii

White-bellied sea-eagle - one seen over road to Kota Tingii

Blue-crowned hanging-parrot - heard over Bunker trail multiple times

Drongo cuckoo - one newly fledged chick being fed by a a pair of Rufous-fronted babblers

Chestnut-bellied malkoha - seen two or three times

Chestnut-breasted malkoha - Seen twice on Bunker trail

Chestnut-breasted malkoha

Raffle's malkoha - two pairs seen

Malaysian eared-nightjar - one or two individuals heard calling over Bunker trail at dusk, with one seen distantly.  Another nightjar spp. seen eraly morning over oil palm plantation.

Silver-rumped spinetail - seen twice

Scarlet-rumped trogon - one pair and a single male seen

Scarlet-rumped Trogon

Red-naped trogon - one heard singing but not seen

Banded kingfisher - several heard but not seen

Rufous-collared kingfisher - adult female seen with newly fledged chick on the Temple Trail.

juv Rufous-collared Kingfisher

female Rufous-collared Kingfisher

Stork-billed kingfisher - one seen along the Bunker Trail

Red-bearded bee-eater - one seen along the Bunker Trail by RW

Red-crowned barbet - heard calling several times.  One individual seen well on the Temple Trail

Crimson-winged yellownape - one seen on the Temple Trail

Chequer-throated yellownape - pairs and small groups seen at least five times, seemingly the commonest woodpecker at Panti

Chequer-throated Yellownape

Banded yellownape - one sen on Bunker Trail

Grey-and-buff woodpecker - one seen on Bunker Trail

Rufous woodpecker - one pair seen on the Temple Trail

White-bellied woodpecker - one seen on the Bunker Trail, sharing a dead tree with a Banded Woodpecker

Buff-rumped woodpecker - one pair seen on Bunker Trail

Dusky broadbill - A pair seen on Bunker Trail and another heard (and ignored) on Temple Trail whilst we were closing in on Rail-babbler.

Banded broadbill - common by voice.  One seen on Elephant Trail

Malaysian banded pitta - one heard on Bunker Trail from the car. One pair seen in forest at the junction of Bunker and Temple Trails

Large woodshrike - one seen on Bunker Trail

Lesser cuckooshrike - one seen on Bunker Trail

Black-winged flycatcher-shrike - one seen on Bunker Trail

Scarlet minivet - two pairs seen on Bunker Trail

Asian glossy starling - large numbers roosting in the multi-story car park of our hotel in Kota Tinggi

Greater racquet-tailed drongo - seen several times

Black-naped oriole - one seen over oil palm plantations on the road to Singapore

Dark-throated oriole - seen three times on Bunker/Temple trails

Black-naped monarch - one seen by RW and Win on Bunker Trail

Green iora - two seen on Bunker Trail

Pacific swallow - large numbers roosting in the multi-story car park of our hotel in Kota Tinggi

Grey-bellied bulbul - one seen on Bunker Trail

Puff-backed bulbul - one seen on Temple Trail

Olive-winged bulbul - one seen on Bunker Trail

Cream-vented bulbul - regularly seen on Bunker Trail

Red-eyed bulbul - seen on Bunker Trail at least twice   

Spectacled bulbul - one seen by RW and Win on Bunker Trail

Yellow-bellied bulbul - regularly seen on Bunker Trail  

Hairy-backed bulbul - regularly seen on Bunker Trail

Rufous-fronted babbler - encountered twice.  Once a pair seen feeding a fledgeling Drongo Cuckoo.

Chestnut-winged babbler - encountered twice

Grey-headed babbler - one of these impressive babblers was seen on Bunker Trail

Black-capped babbler - encountered twice on Temple Trail and once on Elephant Trail

Short-tailed babbler - encountered once on a small side trail

Rail-babbler - heard in three different locations on 7th, but none seemingly close enough to follow (one attempt failed).  On 8th one heard singing at the start of Temple Trail, walking down the trail and using playback we eventually determined the best location to go off trail and try to pull the bird in.  About 50m off the trail we found a small rise where we decided to station ourselves and see if the bird would come in. Fairly quickly RW spotted it at about 15 metres range, walking along a log and giving us good, if rather brief views.  We saw it again at least twice, and on the second of these occasions I actually saw that there were two birds walking side-by-side across the forest floor.  We found the song to be difficult to interpret in terms of a) the distance between us and the bird - it was actually a lot closer than we had expected as the call is quite soft, and b) the difficulty in determining the direction from which the song was coming from - it seemed difficult to triangulate due to the monotone nature of the whistle.

Striped tit-babbler - seen several times in bird waves

Streaked wren-babbler - heard on the Bunker Trail

White-bellied erpornis - seen several times in bird waves

Common tailorbird - seen several times 

Rufous-tailed tailorbird - seen at least four times along Bunker Trail

Hill myna - one pair seen

Javan myna - seen in Kota Tinggi

Velvet-fronted nuthatch - one pair seen along Bunker Trail

Oriental magpie-robin - seen on the Bunker Trail

White-rumped shama -  several seen

Asian fairy-bluebird  - encountered at least three times

Lesser green leafbird - one seen by RW and Win

Blue-winged leafbird - seen in several bird waves

Crimson-breasted flowerpecker - encountered on at least three occasions

Crimson-breasted flowerpecker

Yellow-breasted flowerpecker - seemingly common

Orange-bellied flowerpecker - seemingly common

Ruby-cheeked sunbird - seen once by RW and Win

Purple-naped sunbird - seen twice

Red-throated sunbird - seen once

Spectacled spiderhunter - seen once by RW and Win

Grey-breasted spiderhunter - at least two seen in bird waves