has been far too long since I last experienced the birding wonders of Fraser’s
Hill. When my better half suggested we should do a short getaway from our
hectic working lives and each choose a location, mine was an easy decision. Initially,
I had my doubts if it was even possible for a birder like yours truly to have a
somewhat normal vacation up this hill resort. However, the years have taught me
that a happy marriage is all about compromise and compromise I did. It was only
a night’s stay and I booked a cozy (and birdy) little bungalow that will hopefully
be able to keep both of us satisfied.
Stephen’sPlace lived up to its reputation from the gracious host to the romantic interiors
and the pristine surroundings. Stephen the owner, for some time now, has been
running a second place called the MCM Nature Discovery Villa which is more
impressive and just a short walk from the first bungalow. It has a mini library
and a host of other facilities to keep, you know, ‘normal’ guests occupied
during their vacation in Fraser’s Hill. However, I have been exposed to the
treasures this rich ecosystem hold. Once you are exposed, you are smitten for
life and the only time you can find me indoors during the day and not out
birding is when the weather is unforgiving. Except for this occasion.
is a watch tower at the villa with stunning views of this lush montane forest.
But for me, the view was not the only thing that had my attention.
would have trembled with exhilaration if this was taken at some Godforsaken
marsh out there in the wilds but this Mandarin Duck is also part of the
no, I did not leave my wife to fend for herself during our visit. That is not
compromising. We explored the rustic charms of Fraser’s Hill and took leisurely
walks together. If there is one thing in life that can rival my passion for
birds, it would be her. And time spent together is time well spent. It also made
it easier to excuse myself for a few hours the next morning to bird.
to the birds. I restricted my birding endeavours to the bungalow compounds and
nearby vicinities. And I was fortunate that a fruiting tree next to the
compound was in season and it attracted flocks of Little Cuckoo-Doves. For this
common montane species, heard only records and birds seen in flight constitute
most encounters. However, the availability of food can sometimes sway the will
of even the most secretive species.
Little Cuckoo-Doves took very little effort to conceal their presence and
neither did I. I slowly repositioned myself to improve my photographic efforts
and the doves continued to tolerate my intrusion. It has been a relatively
uneventful birding year for me and naturally this encounter is up there among
of pigeons and doves, they are far from graceful when foraging. Plenty of
flapping and lumbering about as these sizeable birds struggle for foot holds in
order to reach the succulent fruits.
far as I can tell, all the images I obtained were of male birds – not that it
mattered. The mesmerizing pale blue eyes were bewitching and rekindled my love
for this amazing birding locality.
trees, natural or planted, are heaven-sent for nectar feeders like the Streaked
Spiderhunter. And the garden at Stephen’s Place is one of the easiest spots to
observe this common but striking species.
Streaked Spiderhunter was the most photographed species this time. It came as
no surprise given the amount of time I spent at the compound. One particular
individual was exceptionally confiding and left me breathless on more than one
occasion. Most of the time, the status of a bird is irrelevant to me. It is the
experience provided that holds the true value.
usually do not expect remarkable images from my modest setup and moderate
photographic skills. But on those rare occasions when my images turn out better
than expected, it is simply magical even for a common species.
Black-throated Sunbirds also patronized the lovely blooms of this garden but on
this trip, the males were reluctant to fully reveal their splendour for my
and other insects are attracted to the lights of the bungalow at night and a
number of fascinating species greeted us on the morning of our stay here. I
will not attempt to identify the moths I am sharing in this post as we all
know, identification of insects is a whole different ball game. But their
appeal certainly did not go unappreciated.
beloved avian subjects also took a keen interest on the moths but theirs are of
a different nature. Large Cuckooshrikes boldly swoop in overhead to carry off
larger insects for breakfast. Just like the phenomenon of fruiting trees in
season, gluttony is a deadly sin few can resist.
was a little disappointed with the variety of birds that were recorded at this
banquet but the memorable performance by the diminutive Black-thighed Falconet
single-handedly kept that feeling in check.
that occur in the mountains tend to be more obliging than their lowland
counterparts. Add a seemingly endless supply of food into the mix and you will find
yourself enjoying rather intimate observations that would otherwise not be
the Little Cuckoo-doves, the Black-thighed Falconet forages or more accurately,
hunts with deadly precision. I must admit the hunts are nothing as spectacular
as the larger falcons’ but they are still quite a sight.
it is a known birding hotspot, one is not guaranteed a rewarding excursion
every single time. Nothing in birding ever is. A flock of Hume’s White-eyes
with their cheerful calls and active nature is rather difficult to be
overlooked during my brief birding endeavours beyond the bungalow grounds. The conditions
under the lush forest canopy made photography challenging and a stroke of good
fortune produced this decent capture of a resting individual.
vocalization gave away the presence of Buff-breasted Babblers skulking away in
the undergrowth. Patience and determination provided brief glimpses into their secretive
world. Mist and poor lighting may appeal to some as it provides the mountainside
feel. However, I greeted them with profanities because they hindered my efforts
to capture the babblers significantly.
is always a treat to be serenaded by the sweet repertoires of the Oriental
Magpie-Robin. However, I did not put in much effort to photograph this songster
as I was constantly distracted by other species present. This is, after all, a
birding site rivalled by few in Peninsular Malaysia.
migratory Grey Wagtail foraging along the edge of a manmade pond briefly held
my attention. But the distance and restless nature of this individual were
unlikely to improve the encounter if I had decided not to withdraw my efforts.
to wrap things up for this revisit to a beloved birding ground is this image of
a Tiger Shrike with its most vital parts concealed by the vegetation. No one
ever said birding or bird photography is always easy. But I guess that is beauty
of the birding as it keeps you coming back for more.