Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Birding Marathon (Part III)

Since my main targets for the trip were securely in the bag, the final day of my birding marathon was conducted at a more leisurely pace. I even had time to soak in the breath-taking landscapes that surround Fraser’s Hill. I get carry away with my birding especially during long trips like this when I am far from my home state. Perhaps with age, I might be able to broaden my passion for other things as well. Perhaps there is more to life than just birds. Who am I kidding? It will always be the birds. Always have and always will be.

The Silver-eared Mesia is the rightful mascot for this hill resort. Colourful, charismatic and common throughout the locality; no visit to Fraser’s Hill is ever complete without encountering them. Our first locality this morning which was a bungalow compound, was literally overrun with flocks of Silver-eared Mesias. I think I can consider myself to be a seasoned birder but these cheerful birds still can get me all excited.

Birders often take them for granted. I am occasionally guilty of this too but not this morning. The Silver-eared Mesias were given their due admiration and affection. In return, the birds provided a display of colours and beauty that was simply spectacular and a bit nostalgic. As a kid, I often wandered when I will finally lay my eyes on the exquisite colours of this gorgeous bird. Since it only occurs in mountains along the Titiwangsa range, it took me a while. Anyway, it was nice to be momentarily transported back to those carefree days. Birding does not only excite but it rejuvenates as well.

The Long-tailed Sibia is a common sight here as well. What it lacks in colour is made up with grace and charm. The sight and sound of a flock in flight, that marks their arrival each time, can never be mistaken for anything else. At rest, it is an exquisite looking bird but it suffers the same fate as the Mesia because of its common status.

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes were everywhere as usual and yet I still cannot resist taking a shot or two. What can I say? I am easily smitten by anything with feathers especially those that look like this.

The shyer Malayan Laughingthrush usually requires a little more effort in order to capture its image. One was seen foraging in the open and it brought out the colours of this Malay Peninsular endemic. Due to its preference for the gloomy lower storeys and slightly wary nature, the subtle colouration of this bird is often concealed. A moment to admire its true beauty was the natural thing to do.

A lone White-thighed Langur casually moved alongside the bungalow and momentarily distracted me from the birds. Animals living in the mountains tend to be more confiding than their lowland counterparts and this docile mammal does not seem to mind the attention it was receiving.

A sizeable bird glided down from the canopy and no optical aid was required to identify it. The Fire-tufted Barbet is the biggest barbet in Malaysia with eyelashes that will put most ladies to shame. It certainly had my undivided attention. At such close proximity, the Fire-tufted Barbet is truly impressive. Rare birds are always exciting but for me, sometimes even the common birds are capable of escalating my senses to ecstatic levels as well – especially when they perform remarkably well like this barbet.

The Fire-tufted Barbet wanted to make sure it was the star of this little patch and provided views from the front as well. And I would be a fool not to oblige.

A stroll along the more isolated roads away from the weekend crowd produced a few small bird waves. However, the only species that found its way to my memory card was a pair of Blue-winged Minlas. Not all that uncommon, this plain but attractive tree babbler can be seen combing through the vegetation of montane forest in small flocks. This pair was at the canopy level when they were spotted and inevitably, photography was challenging. There was a particular shot I took with strong backlight that surprisingly, caught my fancy.

The Rufous-browed Flycatcher seemed to be everywhere today as well. If it I was up to me, I would have named the bird with something to do with the conspicuous white throat. Even from the depths of the understorey in which this flycatcher makes its home, the first thing you will notice is the white throat. Anyway, I find this species adorable and delighted that the population is thriving here.

It rarely visits the higher storeys of the forest and that makes it an ideal subject for photography. Lighting conditions can sometimes hinder your efforts but luckily, we had very little issue with this today. In fact, these may be my best images to date.

I wish I could say the same about another little brown job but the Buff-breasted Babbler was wary throughout our stay at Fraser’s Hill and seldom offered any photographic opportunities.

The Pygmy Cupwing got the better of two grown men last evening and we just had to give it another try. We positioned ourselves the best we could and waited. But the juvenile Lesser Shortwing was the first to arrive and this time the lighting was so much better. The more I look at it, the more this youngster gained my affection. Its confiding nature had a lot to do with that as well.

A second Lesser Shortwing made an appearance and this one was an adult female. The juvenile did not receive any motherly love from this new arrival. In fact, they got into a bit of a squabble at one time and I can only assume, there are no blood relations between the two.

As for the Pygmy Cupwing, it did show up eventually but like last evening, was in no mood to be photographed. The Lesser Shortwing and the Pygmy Cupwing may be somewhat similar in appearance and thrive in the same type of habitat but their personalities were as different as night and day. On one occasion, the Cupwing stood still slightly longer than usual. I managed to squeeze the shutter once and was surprised to see the image being reasonably good. Gotcha!

As my 3-day birding marathon came to a close, Victor suggested we be normal tourists for a moment and immortalized this incredible trip by taking a photo of ourselves at the iconic clock tower of Fraser’s Hill. It was certainly incredible and the 800-km round trip was worth the effort. The drive back from long trips always give me ample time to reflect. And I certainly had plenty of reflections of wings and inspiration to ponder upon courtesy of this time’s birding adventure.


Wilma said...

What a trip! Each bird a beauty and personality in its own right.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Yes, Wilma. It was a rewarding trip.

kezonline said...

Trying to catch up on your blog after some absence. What a great 3 part post of your Frasers hill trip and what a beautiful bird the silver eared mesia is even though at that location it is common. Ah, its good to be back reading your birding adventures!

Choy Wai Mun said...

Good to have you back, Keiron.