Day 2 (Friday, 24th March)
The transfer bus from Jerantut to the Tembeling ferry eventually arrived at the hotel to pick us up. Stopping on the way to fill up with fuel, we arrived at the jetty 20 minutes late, which bore no significance at all since the boat just seems to leave when all have arrived. Of interest from the bus was a Chinese Pond-heron in a fowl litter laden stream in Jerantut. We had read reports that the 2½ hour boat journey upriver to Taman Negara was picturesque but relatively birdless, but this certainly wasn't our experience. Hirundines and swifts were profuse, but we did also spot some interesting species, some of which were new to us. Kingfishers, which would have been an odds on bet, had to be waited for, but we eventually picked up half a dozen White-breasted & 3 Black-capped Kingfishers. Many Bee-eaters were seen, but it took some time to pick up the chestnut cap and long tail streamers of Blue-throated. Perhaps prize of the journey was a single Crested Serpent-eagle, sitting motionless on a bare branch as we sped past. 4 or 5 Hornbills flew over, looking all dark, but no identifying marks could be attributed to them. Despite the many sand banks on the meanders of the river, we picked out only one wader - a Red-wattled Lapwing. Compared with the bus which can now be used for the transfer, the boat has to be the method of choice, due both to the birds which can be encountered, and also the experience itself.
Once the gear had been stashed in the capacious cabin that we were to call home for the next two nights, we set off with the intention of exploring the resort area. It was immediately obvious that, despite the clouds, this location was much hotter than in the highlands yesterday. In addition, the birding was hard going to begin with, although this may also have been due to the starting time of around midday. Most of the species seen were in the canopy, and mainly consisted of a few species of bulbuls, but we were happy to add Streak-throated & Black-headed to Yellow-vented Bulbul. Oriental Magpie-robin continued to be a ubiquitous feature. Scanning just above the roof line of the chalets, we did manage occasional sightings of Blue-crowned Hanging-parrot, and a little later, the only White-bellied Sea-eagle of the trip. The layout of the chalets lends itself to easier views of the birds, since the forest encircled the long stretch of cabins set adjacent to the river. However, it wasn't until we reached the reception area that we added a small group of Ashy Minivets. Fed by the thought of some of the mammals and birds illustrated on the large board next to reception, we trudged off to the location of the campsite, which consisted of a small clearing to the western end of the resort. Birding was at much the same doggedly slow pace here. As we sat and drank in the magnificence of the rain forest surrounding us for an hour or so, we picked up a small group of Rufous-fronted Babblers which frequented the area for some time. Amongst these was an Ochraceous Bulbul, proving surprisingly tricky at first until it was eventually pinned down. A stunning Crimson-winged Woodpecker appeared just behind the sitting bulbul. A family of tourists which appeared at the entrance to the Bumbun Tabing trail reported seeing what sounded like a group of firebacks or pheasants along the track. We took the decision to explore this option, and donned the uncomfortable but necessary leach socks. This move was proven positive when a Common Flameback appeared beside us only 100m or so into the forest, followed by a less obliging but no less stunning Black-and-red Broadbill, which was to be seen in the same location on the two subsequent days. Asian Fairy-bluebird followed, alighting in a tree directly above us, requiring neck breaking contortions.
There wasn't much else to report until we reached the river, where a much more obliging Ochraceous Bulbul welcomed our reaching the resort swimming spot. We had enjoyed a break at this initially peaceful haven, before a group of tourist boats hammered past breaking the tranquility. We were just about to leave when a Stork-billed Kingfisher skimmed by and landed about 100m downstream. During this time, one of the short tailed unmarked babblers appeared next to us. We were fortunate enough to see this bird quite well, and also to make the decision of it being Abbott's Babbler, due to the unstreaked breast, and concolourous head to back. The return along the trail unearthed more Rufous-fronted Babblers, before again briefly picking out the Black-and-red Broadbill. Back at the campsite, the second Raffles's Malkoha was pinned down in the canopy, as well as Hairy-backed Bulbul, demonstrating its characteristic face markings. The afternoon was just about winding up when a pair of Black-thighed Falconets was homed in on, perched in a large bare tree to the rear of the camp site. We had expected to have to visit the local village to see these, making this a fortuitous encounter. In flight there is the possibility that they could lose themselves quite easily in a gathering of hirundines.