Popular birdwatching spots

Ewe Paik Leong lists 10 sites in the country

THIS weekend, the annual birdwatching event, Raptor Watch, will be held at Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve, Melaka. The following are the easily accessible birding spots in the country:

Timoh Tasoh Lake, Perlis

Created in 1992, this artificial lake is 13km north of Kangar in Perlis State Park. Measuring 14 sq km in area, the lake receives water from Sungei Pelarit and Sungei Tasoh.

From September to April annually, migratory birds from the northern hemisphere come here to rest and feed. The number of migratory and resident bird species found here is estimated to be more than 140. The peak months of migratory activity are December and January.

Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve, Perak

This park spans 2,200 hectares and is easily accessible from Ipoh City. A trek along the trials afford opportunities to encounter many species of tropical trees. A major attraction is the Nepenthes Garden, profuse with several species of pitcher plants. For birding, the best time is early morning when the birds are most active. Toilets and a car park are available.

Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary, Perak

Located in the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve which covers 40,000 hectares, Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary sees migrant birds from Japan, Siberia, China and Mongolia from September to April every year.

From the village of Kuala Gula, boat operators can take visitors to visit charcoal factories, cockle culture farms, shrimp paste making factories and the mudflats where thousands of wading birds can be seen. The more common species include Milky Stork, Redshank, Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper. and Lesser Adjutant.

Kuala Selangor Nature Park, Selangor

Spread over 300 hectares, Kuala Selangor Nature Park comprises secondary forests, mangroves swamps, mudflats and a brackish lake. Rich in flora and small wildlife, the park is also a popular birding spot.

More than 90 species of birds live here and over 50 foreign species pass through the area on their annual migration.

The Egret Trail (550 metres), Pangolin Trail (1 km), Coastal Bund (1.7 km) and Langur Trail (1.1 km) give easy access to the park. In addition, observation towers and bird hides provide opportunities to view the winged creatures up-close. Basic accommodation is available.

Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve, Melaka

In 1971, 122 hectares of coastal forest at Tanjung Tuan were gazetted as a wildlife sanctuary. During the spring migration from February to April, raptors from Indonesia come here to roost and feed. Among them are the Oriental Honey Buzzard, Brahminy Kite, White-Bellied Sea Eagle and Black Baza.

Malaysia Nature Society organises an annual Raptor Watch on the first weekend of March to create awareness of the importance of conserving Tanjung Tuan. Another attraction here is a lighthouse perched atop a cliff. It was built by the Portuguese in 1528, and is a popular spot for watching the sunrise.

Fraser’s Hill, Pahang

Having an average height of 1,200 metres above sea level, Fraser’s Hill has the advantage of cool weather for birdwatching. Take your pick from any of eight trails that offer various levels of difficulty. The shortest trail is Kindersley at 300 metres; the longest, Pine Tree Hill, 5.5 km.

According to estimates by the WWF, more than 250 species of birds are found here. The annual Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race has put this hill station on the international birding map. This is a competition where teams try to spot and identify as many species of birds as possible within certain stipulated rules.

Leka Beach, Johor

Located at Parit Jawa village in Johor, Leka Beach sprawls over a 20-hectare mudflat surrounded by a mangrove forest. This area provides plentiful supply of food such as mudskippers, worms, crabs and shellfish for migratory birds. Though there are no walkways over the mudflats, birdwatchers can position themselves on the shore under shady trees or on the concrete jetty. Storks, cranes and kingfishers can be seen feeding just metres away.

Parit Jawa is a tourist attraction in itself as it has seafood restaurants, assam pedas stalls and a grilled fish centre.

Panti Bird Sanctuary, Johor

Covering 1,800 hectares, this area is situated 16km north of Kota Tinggi and a permit is required to enter. You can get it from the Forestry Office of Southern Johor District. Though this area is a relatively new eco-tourism product in Johor, it is already popular with Singaporeans.

Birdwatchers usually follow the Bunker Trail which branches off from the Kota Tinggi-to-Mersing road. Paved for the initial few kilometres, it becomes a dirt track as it heads southwest. Many smaller trials lead from the main track into the forest. Though Kota Tinggi has basic accommodation, many visitors prefer Kota Rainforest Resort as it is located on the edge of the sanctuary.

Setiu Wetlands, Terengganu

Terengganu’s latest eco-tourism product is Setiu Wetlands, a 19km stretch of lagoon running parallel to the State’s coastline. Spanning 23,000 hectares, it is fed by the Setiu, Chalok, Bari and Merang rivers. The area comprises sand islands, swamps, mangrove forest, mudflats, seagrass beds and interconnected brackish lakes.

More than 160 native and migratory species of birds are found here. Abundant numbers of terrapins also live on the sand islands. Visitors can take a boat cruise or trek on a 400-metre board walk at Setiu Boardwalk at Kg. Pengkalan Gelap.

Bako National Park, Sarawak

Despite its small area of 27-sq-km sprawled on the northern tip of the Muara Tebas peninsula, Bako National Park has more than 150 species of birds. The park has 16 jungle trials ranging from easy 30-minute walks and four-hour hikes to full-day treks. Park HQ runs hostels and lodges for accommodation but they come with spartan facilities. A cafeteria provides simple food.

FAST FACT

WHAT TO BRING

• Binoculars or spotting scope

• Camera

• Insect repellent

• Camouflage clothing and hat

• Recorder

• Snacks and water

• Patience, lots of it!

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