Thursday, April 21, 2016

Goodbye Cameron Highlands


Fruiting fig tree above looked so promising and we could just imagine birds coming to feed on figs, since figs were strewn all over the road leading to the Lutheran Bungalow. No hornbills calling nor seen that Saturday morning. We encountered bird waves near this tree including the white morph Paradise-Flycatcher. Cameron Highlands is more popularly known for it scenery of undulating green hills comprising of tea estates such as BOH Plantations. There are still pristine montane forests along the road from Mossy Forest entrance before the view changed to that of Mountain Strawberry Farm and tea estate below. Although Cameron Highlands is famous for its tea plantations, vegetable farms and strawberry farms, the birdlife and wildlife deserve our protection. We didn't see the Brown Bullfinch during this trip. A flock has been sighted in Brinchang Mountain before since this bullfinch feeds on cones of native conifers. The birdwatching hunt continues for this bullfinch, Rusty-naped Pitta, Barred Cuckoo-Dove and Wedge-tailed Pigeon......          

Shorebirds to Montane Birds in One Day


Goodbye shorebirds of Malim Nawar, Perak above as we headed to Kampar for lunch. After having our fill of economy rice, Ang drove us to Tapah as we began our journey to Cameron Highlands in search of montane birds. Stopped to pack our afternoon tea snacks at Tanah Rata before we reached our hotel in Brinchang. Checked-in at Snooze Hotel, Brinchang to offload our baggage. Didn't explore the hotel much since we were out birdwatching until late night, looking for owls near Strawberry Park Resort. Owls didn't come out nor call that Friday night but a Civet (Musang) kept us company that night as it stealthily walked across the wires of telephone poles, and jumped into the trees, curiously looking at us throughout its night walk.


We returned to hotel for forty winks before resuming our birdwatching session on an early Saturday morning at 6.30am in Strawberry Park Resort. A flock of four (4) Little Cuckoo Doves flew around valley below. Was looking out for the rarer Barred Cuckoo Dove which unfortunately was a no-show that morning. Everett's White-Eyes, Black-throated Sunbirds did show up and were seen feeding on bottle-brush trees growing in the gardens of Strawberry Park Resort. 

Dawn view at Strawberry Park Resort
Sun is finally shining on valley!
We waited as long as we could for the Wedge-tailed Pigeons but no luck there. It was already 9am and we decided it was time for Breakfast. Sausages with baked beans and French toast somehow tasted extra delicious when it is eaten in Cameron Highlands:) 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mossy Forest of Cameron Highlands


Chestnut-Crowned Warbler of Cameron Highlands. It was flitting around the trees growing at the embankment just outside the Mountain Strawberry Farm as Ang, Raj and myself were exiting the Mossy Forest in Brinchang, Cameron Highlands. Looks like the Mossy Forest is open to the public. A group of policemen stopped by that Friday afternoon and gave us friendly advice to look after our camera, binoculars, and valuables whilst in Brinchang since petty criminals were lurking around town.
We walked along the tarred road leading to the Mossy Forest. The road that leads to the telecommunications tower was shrouded in mist that Friday and Saturday afternoons.

Town of Brinchang is 11km away from Mossy Forest
A moss that looks like the tail of a fox!
Silver-eared Mesia was part of the bird wave that Saturday afternoon near the Mossy Forest which included the Blue Nuthatch, Grey-chinned Minivets (male and female as shown in picture below), Chestnut-Tailed Minla, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Large Niltava, Mountain Tailorbird, many pictures of which have been captured beautifully by Ang Teck Hin. He has posted these in his Facebook page. These Malaysian montane birds have been recorded and entered into my E-Bird account.




Mountain Strawberry Farm was another good area for birding as we had seen the Streaked Wren-Babbler there earlier on Friday evening. The Wren-Babbler came out that day and Raj has a really good picture of it. I took some pictures of the Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike and a pair of these are shown below. A solitary Flycatcher-shrike was the focus of my attention thereafter. A trip to Cameron Highlands is not complete without strawberries so the my final picture is of the latter:)  


Strawberries at the Mountain Strawberry Farm of Cameron Highlands

Shorebirds of Malim Nawar Perak


Count the number of Stints in the picture above. With beautiful breeding plumage, these Long-Toed Stints were feeding in the algae-covered (almost dried-up) pond in Malim Nawar, Perak. Also seen were Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Snipe species, Oriental Pratincole, Black-winged Stilts, Grey Herons, Purple Herons, Cattle Egrets, Little Egrets, Red-wattled Lapwings all of which have been updated through E-Bird portal. It was a hot Friday morning and we (Ang, Raj and myself) ended our birdwatching session at around 11.45am since our primary goal was to birdwatch in Cameron Highlands. We sat in Ang's Isuzu 4-wheel admiring these shorebirds and took pictures from inside the car in order not to spook them.
 
Grey Herons above, with two looking to the right of the lake and one looking to the left. Such elegant birds.
Four White-breasted Woodswallows perched on a wire, with one of them a juvenile. First sighting of the day at Malim Nawar, Perak. Little Grebe were swimming away whilst a flock of White-Winged Terns were flying around the mining ponds, in their dark breeding plumage. Lovely sight indeed.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Robin of Brinchang Cameron Highlands


White-tailed Robin. Male as seen above finally displayed its white tail before Ang, Raj and myself on Saturday, 16th April 2016, evening as we exited the road from Brinchang Mountain as we headed home from Cameron Highlands. The Robin of Brinchang, Cameron Highlands shied away from our cameras that Friday afternoon when we first spotted it as Ang drove up the road towards the Mossy Forest. The Male Robin perched on the barrier for quite awhile, all glossy black and flew off when the car behind us honked us that Friday. Ang parked at the side of road and we waited for it to return but it didn't. We saw it a few times that Friday at the side of the road but cars frequented that road and the honks scared these robins away. This male White-tailed flew across Ang's Isuzu to the embankment from the road barrier and returned to perch on the road barrier. We were lucky that Saturday evening since NO cars were behind nor in front of us. This robin gave us a really memorable farewell as it displayed both whites on its tail before flying down into the thick undergrowth. Was laughing so hard in Ang's car together with Raj since this White-tailed was displaying itself so prominently that evening and FINALLY fanned its tail for us after all the frustrating moments that we encountered the day before and earlier that day. Add to that the one single bar of battery left for my Panasonic Lumix - Lady Luck (of Birdwatching) was smiling at us that day as I had just enough battery power left in my camera to take pictures of White-tailed Robin as below.  More to come from this 2 days 1 night outing to Cameron Highlands.


    


Friday, April 1, 2016

Fraser Hill with Birder Friends


Oriental Honey Buzzards were soaring above New Gap Road that Sunday, 27th March 2016, 5.25pm on their migratory route to Northern Asia and Russia. Sifu Ang caught a picture of two of the nine OHBs above, whilst we observed them. I initially thought these soaring birds were hornbills after hearing the Great Hornbills calling earlier from the Valley facing the New Gap Road. I've entered our Fraser Hill bird sightings in EBIRD portal which is under the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Although Fraser Hill is known worldwide as a popular birdwatching site, the unique flora, fauna and mammals of montane forests found here deserve as much attention as the birdlife. Thanks to Sifu Ang for driving around the hill in record time as we did as much birding as humanly possible. Mrs Ang's Sugee Cake was a welcome relief during early morning (and late night) birdwatching sessions. Thanks to Raj for bringing along fantastic home-cooked Sambal Chicken all the way from Malacca. Their sense of humour adds to the fun part of the trip. I'm still grappling with my Panasonic Lumix. Will definitely need to make many more outings to hone up my photography skills.   




Broadbill and Trogon of Fraser Hill

Silver-breasted Broadbill appeared as we birded along Bishop's Trail that Sunday afternoon. It had a huge insect for its afternoon tea. The female Red-headed Trogon appeared thereafter and perched for quite some time on branch below. The male Trogon was the final bird we saw at Bishop's Trail before we headed out to the New Gap Road in search of the Helmeted, Wreathed and Great Hornbills.


Barbet and Woodpecker of Fraser Hill

Fire-tufted Barbet and Lesser Yellownape. We saw the Yellownape at Hemmant's Trail that Sunday afternoon. We had checked out of Puncak Inn by 1.15pm. Lunch was at the Warung along Jalan Lurah, Fraser Hill, near the Paddocks. The lady owner is from Kedah and her asam laksa and rojak buah tastes fantastic when eaten at 900m above sea level:) Our Sunday birdwatching sessions continued at Hemmant's Trail and Bishop's Trail later that afternoon.


Little Cuckoo Dove along Mager Road on Sunday morning. Mountain Imperial Pigeon was "hiding" from us that weekend:) Mountain Bulbul, Mountain Fulvetta, White-throated Fantail and Streaked Spiderhunter were seen at the Telekom Loop, that Sunday mid-morning. We continued birding here after having our morning breakfast at Puncak Inn. The Brown Wood Owl near Seri Berkat was sighted by 6.30am that Sunday morning. We missed seeing this owl the night before.


Sunny Saturday and Sunday in Fraser Hill

Sunny Saturday with blustery wind condition. Iconic Chestnut-Capped Laughingthrush (or should it now be called the Spectacled Laughingthrush?) greeting us upon our arrival in Fraser Hill. The Hill Patridge did not turn up at Methodist Bungalow even though we waited for it until 6.45pm that Saturday evening. We dinner at Arzed's Corner in the food court near the Children's Playground. Ang drove us to Seri Berkat for some night-birding and we walked along the roads looking for the Grey Nightjar (Ang's bogey bird). It was almost midnight when we returned to Puncak Inn. I was quite tired by Sunday afternoon when we were birding at Hemmant's Trail. I didn't follow Ang and Raj as they walked further ahead along the Trail (where they spotted the Lesser Shortwing). I rested for a while, sitting on a stone, surrounded by the trees, flora and fauna of the Trail. The Rufous-browed Flycatcher flew and perched on a branch in front of me (see pictures below). As we continued birding that Sunday in Fraser Hill, some of the pictures I manage to take included that of a White-throated Fantail. This fantail is moving all the time and it really does live up to its name as picture below shows. Himalayan Striped Squirrel was also seen foraging for food together with the birds. It is a very fast-moving mammal, hopping from branch to branch - not an easy subject for photography:)




Cuckoo and Other Montane Birds of Fraser Hill


Finally found online tool for compiling pictures in a Collage! The Rusty-Breasted Cuckoo was a lifer for me. I've never seen it in Fraser Hill before. Ang and Raj have clearer and better pictures of this Cuckoo. After spending the entire Saturday morning birding along the old Gap Road and Phenology trail, we reached Fraser Hill around 1pm. We checked in at Puncak Inn after 1pm. We stopped by the Fraser Hill Community Library, since I had promised to donate some of my second-hand bird field pocket guides, DVDs, books to the Library in return for the many happy birdwatching memories I've had in Fraser Hill. We had lunch Al-Fresco style in one of the Gazebo along the Golf Course road. Mrs Raj cooked Sambal Chicken for us birders. We ate and birded at the same time. Grey-chinned minivets (Male & Female), Long-tail Sibia, Large Niltave (Male & Female) were some of the birds we saw often in Fraser Hill. The Grey-throated Babblers were out and about along the new Gap Road on Sunday, 27th March. We birded the entire Saturday afternoon in Fraser Hill, and waited for the elusive Hill Patridge......
 

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