Wednesday 27 July 2011

24-25/07/2011: Fraser's Hill (Pahang)

After weeks of unbelievable datelines and insane working schedules, I finally had some time for myself and tended to the things that matter most in my life – my wife and birding. We decided to go for an overnight trip just to get away from it all and relax. Fraser’s Hill was the ideal choice as I’m sure my wife will adore the atmosphere and sights. And, it also happens to be one of the best sites for montane birds – enough said.
The first highlight of the trip was a rather unexpected surprise that we came across just as we drove past the guardhouse at the top of the old Gap Road. It was a young Siamang. It was not only accepting food from a couple of visitors but it was extremely tame as well. Naturally, I took a few shots and at that distance, I don’t even need my telephotos lens. My past encounters with wild gibbons have taught me that these graceful animals are rather shy and wary of human presence. Anyway, after a while it started to move higher up into the canopy and behaved slightly more like a wild gibbon rather than like a pet. I can only guess that it had probably learnt the easy way to survive.

As this was not a pure birding trip, we did a fair share of sight-seeing and one of the places that we did visit was the High Pines Bungalow. My wife took an immediate liking to the picturesque setting and we took our time to soak in the ambience and environment. The fact that it is one of the very few spots in Malaysia where one can actually hope to see the rather elusive and scarce Brown Bullfinch had absolutely nothing to do with my decision to bring her here…

Jeriau Falls was the one of the other spots that we visited. There, the resident Slaty-backed Forktail did make a brief appearance before disappearing back into the forest.

A pair of foraging Orange-bellied Leafbirds did not stay long enough for me to obtain any reasonably good shots.

Come on, guys. Give me a break, will ya?

The Jelai Highland Resort was our choice accommodation for the night. Early mornings will usually bring in quite a number of birds to the compound as they feast on insects attracted by the night lights and as well as the “bird food” that the management put out. I had quite a rewarding session during the first few hours of daybreak the next morning. One of the most conspicuous species around is undoubtedly the Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush.

It also happens to be one of the boldest as it will literally hop right up to where you are standing looking for food.

Despite the presence of several individuals, these birds rarely do squabble for food.

The Silver-eared Mesia is the icon of Fraser’s Hill and I have to yet to break the spell this species have on me ever since my first encounter with it many years back. The striking colour combination makes it one of the most vivid and recognizable species in Malaysia.

Unfortunately, their active nature and the lighting conditions did not make photography easy and clear good shots are rather hard to obtain.

At this locality, the birds are quite accustomed to human presence and certainly do come very close at times…

What I would give to able to see this first thing every morning when I open my curtains…

The Long-tailed Sibia is another regular patron to this compound.

In fact, this species seems to be around throughout the day.

The ornamental plants at the compound provided extra colours to the images.

And from a tender age, the young ones learn from the adults the art of foraging on human hand outs.

A confiding male Verditer Flycatcher performed brilliantly for this visiting birder from the north. This rather common species is often under-appreciated and that is quite a shame because the blue plumage is simply stunning.

These are certainly my best shots of this species ever.

Did I mention that the birds come really close here?

The arrival of a male Javan Cuckoo-shrike received my undivided attention. He did not come here for the hand outs but for the insects.

Gradually, he got used to my presence and became rather confiding – much to my delight.

Surprisingly, there was only a single Oriental Magpie-robin present in the compound and it was a juvenile. The abundant of food and insect will certainly make this fellow grow into a strong and healthy adult.

Even large moths like this one are not spared and it did not take long for the birds to pick the compound clean of insects.

However, this giant Cicada was a little too intimating for the birds here and was left alone.

A young Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo did make a brief appearance. The racket tail that these birds are so well known for has only started to form.

I never managed to gain the trust of this Fire-tufted Barbet and it kept its distance…