Pam and I are late bloomers when it comes to bird watching. Kids and jobs were pretty much fulltime occupations when we were younger. Vacations during those years had more to do with Disneyesque theme parks than tracking the movements of ruby-throated warblers. Up until this year vacations in Asia have been about seeing the sights of this fascinating part of the world: the Great Wall of China, the fabulous ruins of Angkor Wat, and so on. Regular readers of this site will have noticed our absence of travels within Malaysia itself. All that changed when we bought a car. Now it makes more sense to travel by road than air, and now we finally have access to some of the more remote parts of this beautiful country. The last couple of days we have been at Lake Kenyir, and this morning we went out with Misram, a budding bird watching guide himself, to see what we could find in the trees and skies above the park.
I was greatly encouraged to see a couple of hornbills flying through a gap in the trees almost as soon as we walked out the door of our little cabin. From the shape of their head and colouration we think they were Crested Hornbills. The pair was later followed by another pair, and then what appeared to be an unattached bird, although perhaps its mate was simply flying lower in the tree line. We met up with our guide who kindly provided us with a second and much better pair of binoculars – 10 by 42s – to supplement our own meager 8 by 21s, and we set off through the park-like surroundings of our resort. Before we had gone twenty paces we saw a mated pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills in plain view. We were even able to get in a couple of decent pictures before they took off. Our next stop was at a tall stately tree that contained an eagle’s nest and sitting on a branch beside it a young Crested Serpent Eagle nestling, surveying its domain with lordly splendor. Other smaller birds were also in view: swallows and swifts in great profusion, little bulbuls with their fluffy green feathers and a couple of hill mynahs with a very artful song. The most delightful song, however, came from the magpie robin, a black and white striped cousin of our North American variety with a real repertoire of sounds. All this before we even got to the car!
We drove to our first stop by the lake in the hopes of seeing our main prize of the day, the elusive and defiantly gaudy Rhinoceros Hornbill. We saw some more bulbuls and a very dainty little flycatcher. We also saw a brilliantly yellow oriole with black stripes, but no hornbills. We drove on to another disused access road for the dam that forms this lake, and were about to return disappointed when we saw in the distance a couple of Wrinkled Hornbills; not our main prize, but some consolation for our troubles. We got back in the car and were driving back to the resort with Misram called out, and there in a tree by the road were two Rhinoceros Hornbills making their way up the tree in their awkward and ungainly way, pausing to peer upside down as they went and in quite plain view. It was an exciting sight to finally see these fabulous birds after five years.
We returned to the resort and to the cool refreshment of the pool, which we had entirely to ourselves, marveling that such a fabulous resort with such an abundance of wildlife remains so unknown to Malaysians generally and to the world at large. This is an amazing place to come to see some pretty fantastic species, and should be much more widely known than it is. Our thanks to an excellent guide in Mizram we had an awesome bird watching experience.