Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Amazing Bukit Fraser - Part 1

I feel very lucky to have had a chance to bird in Bukit Fraser (bukit is the Bahasa Malaysia word for "hill") in Malaysia right after the 5th Asian Bird Fair in Langkawi. We've been hearing from our birder friends just how awesome the place is for birding and there we were!

Jops and I, together with our friends Jun, Christian, Anna, and Jessie, rented an Innova from the airport and were soon on the road to the state of Pahang where Fraser's Hill is located.

Jops drove us to Fraser's Hill, his first time to use a right-hand
drive vehicle!
Half-way to Fraser's Hill, we drove thru heavy downpour!

We got to the town of Kuala Kubu Bharu and thankfully, the rain stopped. We all got out to stretch our legs and stock up on drinks and munchies. Soon, we were on the road again.

The quiet town of Kuala Kubu Bharu

Fraser's Hill has an average altitude of 1,200masl and as we drove up the zigzag road, light rain began to fall and the mist started to cover the surrounding forest.

My view from my seat in the Innova.

I got a bit dizzy on the ride up, but when we got out of the car and the cool mountain air hit my face, I started feeling better immediately. We were booked at the Pine Resort Apartment Hotel and we got settled in quickly.

Pine Resort in the day time

The rain was steadily falling but when we heard a Collared Owlet calling from the trees across our hotel, we donned our jackets and went out to search for it. Unfortunately, this owl is quite difficult to see and we learned later on that we had a better chance seeing it in the day time! We did see an Asian Giant Toad though, which was cool!

Birders in the drizzly night, looking for an owl...
... and spotting a giant toad instead!

We called it a night and prayed for better weather conditions the following day. Our prayers were heard! We woke to clear skies and no rain! We boarded our rented car and headed to the abandoned Jelai Hotel, which is a popular birding site in Fraser's Hill.

And Jelai did not disappoint! After just a few minutes waiting, birds started coming in from all sides! Spiderhunters, sunbirds, mesias, bulbuls, minivets! It was a dizzying birding blur in a very good way! =)

There were a lot of birds feeding on the flowering
Bottle Brush Trees around the hotel. 
The first bird we saw was my most-wanted on the trip:
Streaked Spiderhunter
The Streaked Spiderhunters were joined by Black-throated Sunbirds, all of them busy feeding on the red brush-like flowers. Then came the bigger birds! The Long-tailed Sibias came in flocks and flew among the trees. It's a pity I couldn't get sharp photos through the early morning mist, but I'm still happy with what I got =)

Long-tailed Sibias, common birds in Fraser's Hill

Then a huge flock of birds came in and perched very close to our group! Too close for our cameras and binoculars that we had to back up a few steps to view and photograph them properly! We would encounter them throughout our birding there =)

Chestnut-capped Laughing Thrush
A male Grey-chinned Minivet posed on a fern for me =) 

I wandered a bit to the entrance of the driveway, and a couple of birds flew in the Bottle Brush Tree in front of me: Silver-eared Mesias!! They were big! I thought they were the size of tailorbirds, but they were pretty big! I called to my friends to see the Mesias until they flew away into the trees.

My only shot of the Silver-eared Mesias. I'll try to get a better shot
the next time I get to visit Bukit Fraser!

We turned our attention to a deep, resonating call which seemed to be coming from inside the abandoned hotel. Owl??? The boys wanted to inspect the hotel (I didn't! Too many zombie movies...) but they decided to prop Jun up the ledge so he could peep inside an open door. 

As Jun was inspecting the area slowly, we were able to spot a pair of Mountain Imperial Pigeons perched on a tree faaaaaaaar away. The pigeons were HUGE, so it was easy to spot and identify them. Suddenly, Jun announced he had found the bird making the deep call: it was huge and right in front of him! It turned out to be another Mountain Imperial Pigeon, seated on a nest of twigs.

Mountain Imperial Pigeon on its nest

After everyone spotted the pigeon, we decided to leave Jelai and head back to the hotel to have breakfast. I was also able to tick off: White-throated Fantail, Mountain Leaf Warbler, and Mountain Bulbul in the Jelai parking lot.

That first dose of Bukit Fraser birding gave us such a rush and we knew there was so much more to see! Part 2 coming up!

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