Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill) is the closest montane birding site to home and it always will have a place in my heart. My very first few montane birding experiences was at this hill resort and it also provided me a number of great lifers including my first hornbill. Every time I inhale the aromatic fragrance of the Eucalyptus Trees around the former Speedy Bungalow, flashbacks of my birding adventures here as a teenager will fill my thoughts. However one of the letdowns of this site, depending on your tolerance towards the smell of diesel-powered exhaust fumes and high-speed hairpin cornerings, is the jeep ride which happens to be the only mode of transportation that ferries visitors up and down the hill. Inconsistencies in terms of quality birding is another reason why Bukit Larut is often not considered to be one of the premier montane sites in Peninsula Malaysia. My latest visit here did not start off well. Hor Kee and I were greeted by heavy mist and gloomy weather upon our arrival.
The unfavourable lighting condition made photography even harder than it already is in a tropical rain forest. We recorded a good number of birds but shooting them was another thing altogether. A confiding male Orange-breasted Trogon was one of the highlights of the trip. Despite the fact that he was on an exposed perch, my photos did not turned out as well as I hoped they would. At least I have a few images to show for the encounter. This is more than I can say for the shy male Red-headed Trogon that was calling persistently from hidden perches throughout our visit.
The resident male Hill Blue-Flycatcher was just being difficult and it was a frustrating encounter. Despite being extremely vocal, teasing glimpses and distanced shots were all that he was willing to offer today.
The Rufous-browed Flycatcher restored our faith in the locality (and our sanity) by performing a whole lot better than its more colourful cousin. Being drably-coloured and having a preference for the dark domain of the forest undergrowth, its thin penetrating whistle is usually the only thing that gives away its presence.
We were delighted to see a handsome male Siberian Blue Robin still here in his wintering ground. It was a short encounter and one miserable shot was all I could muster before he disappeared into the undergrowth.
In most hill resorts, the persistent calls of the Black-browed Barbet can be heard throughout the day. To see the bird, effort is required as it blends well with the foliage of the canopy levels. To see bird at eye level, luck is required as well. And to compose it well in your shot may be asking for a little too much.
The barbet's call may be very much a part of the sounds of the forest but there is one sound that is noticeably disappearing from the forest. And that is the sultry song of the White-rumped Shama. Cursed with the ability to belt out remarkable repertoires of heavenly notes and with the looks to match as well, this songbird is heavily trapped for the bird trade. The population in Malaysia is on the decline and sadly, even wiped out from a few localities. The pale colouration on the underparts of this male bird suggests that it may be a young bird. Like most youngsters, he tend be a little too bold for his own good. Lucky for him, we are firm believers that caged birds will never sing as well as free birds. And the shama wrapped things up for this slightly mediocre birding excursion.