Hotspots for birding in Malaysia
I have to admit I was not a birder till I bought a 70-300mm zoom lens. But once I could get close to the birds I started to identify them and my interests in birds just grew.
There are many hotspots for birding in Malaysia like Taman Negara, Kuala Selangor, Fraser Hill and on the many islands. If you are an experienced birder you can travel to these places on your own but otherwise many agencies offer organized birding trips in Malaysia. There are bird watching options even in the busy Kuala Lumpur.
Taman Negara is spread over three states – Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang. It is home to 350 bird species. Many types of hornbills can be seen in this region but it usually takes a lot of patience and some luck to spot the birds. Also the chances of spotting anything are more during early morning and late evening as that is when the birds come out. Apart from hornbills there are chances to watch Asia Fairy Bluebird, minivets, woodpeckers, barbets and many others on a visit to Taman Negara. Bird sightings are possible both while trekking and boating.
Kuala Selangor is a town located in the Selangor region of Malaysia about an hour from Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Selangor Nature Park is a paradise for bird watchers. There are four clearly marked walking trails within the park. But if you are new to bird watching having a guide can make the experience so much more enriching. Even experienced bird watchers prefer to go with a guide as they would be more knowledgeable about the habitats of the different birds. Birds, along with many other species in the animal kingdom, are very good at using camouflage. A trained guide can spot them among the leaves or bark which you might otherwise miss. The most commonly sighted birds in this region are herons and storks. Other birds in the area are kingfishers, woodpeckers, barbets, flycatchers. Kuala Selangor also has fireflies by the thousands and tours can be taken to see them in the dark.
The Common Kingfisher at Kuala Selangor. Pic: jack2964, Flickr.
Fraser Hill is an old colonial hill station in Malaysia and is known for its birds and bird watchers. It is home to around 250 species including a few endangered ones like the Malaysian Whistling Thrush and the Mountain Peacock Pheasant. But sighting these birds is a matter of luck and infinite patience. More commonly sighted birds are Asian Fairy Bluebird, Black Crested Bulbul, woodpeckers and many types of warblers.
Loagan Bunut National Park in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo is another birding hotspot. The Lake Loagan Bunut covers an area of 65 hectares. There are walking trails within the park through the dried up lake during particular seasons. However it is strongly suggested to take a guide who can negotiate through the swamps. Birding can be done on boat rides too. Darters, hornbills and eagles can be commonly sighted. The landscape of the national park is in itself quite fascinating and makes for excellent pictures.
The beautiful Loagan Bunut National Park. Pic: norm-digitalfoto, Flickr.
The island of Langkawi boasts a bird park located on the main road across the island. The Langkawi Bird Paradise is a five acre park that is home to 150 bird species and around 2500 birds. Feeding is permitted and photography with the birds is also possible. Hornbills, flamingos, parakeets, mandarin ducks, owls and eagles can be commonly sighted.
There are also some options for bird watching closer to Kuala Lumpur as well. Putrajaya is the administrative capital of Malaysia 25 kilometers from the capital. It is a planned city with large number of water bodies that attract birds. The Putrajaya Wetlands Park is spread over 200 hectares and attract a variety of local and migratory birds like egrets, herons and bitterns.
Finally right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur there is KL Bird Park and it was on my agenda. I was in Kuala Lumpur on business and I managed to see it only on my last day. It was a completely mesmerizing experience. I clicked non-stop and I ended up with so many pictures that I made a stop motion video!
Within three hours I spotted flamingos, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Splendid Starling, Scaly-brested Munia, hornbills, golden pheasants, parakeets of various colors and more. And what would I give to watch that Scarlet Ibis out in the wild! Three hours were not enough but I had a flight to catch later in the day.
The Asian Fairy Bluebird at KL Bird Park. Pic: Mridula Dwivedi.