Wednesday 17 January 2018

West Malaysia - January 2018 : Part 1

Malaysian Partridge - one of the star bird of Fraser's Hill

Having been to Sabah Borneo four times already, I felt that it was only fair if I also do a bit more birding around West Malaysia, although it is not as endemic rich as the east, but there are still a lot of exciting birds to be found on the peninsular. Birding in South East Asia had developed quickly in the last decade, and known stakeouts and feeding stations had made several extremely difficult species more accessible for birders, a few in Malaysia including the extremely elusive Mountain Peacock Pheasant, the mysterious Malaysian Partridge as well as the beautiful Ferruginous Partridge can now be found relatively easily at Fraser’s Hill and Bukit Tinggi - as long as you know the stakeout location.

Overlooking the forests of Fraser's Hill

Having picked up mothing with Hoiling last year, Fraser’s Hill became another attraction for mothing opportunities, as it is famous for having a huge variety of moths. I also missed several key species on my last trip to Fraser’s Hill that urge me to return once again. So, after some planning, Hoiling, my dad and I hopped on the plane to Kuala Lumpur on the 6th of January. For the first few days we were to bird and moth on our own at Fraser’s, from 9th to 13th onwards we hired a local bird guide Liew W K to help us out with finding some more difficult to find species around the Malaysia Peninsular.

Day 1: 6th January 2018

Four hours flight had us landed at KLIA2 at around 3:00pm, the horribly slow customs set us back a whole hour! It was already 4:30pm by the time we picked up the hired car and set off to Fraser’s. Luckily we didn’t run into any heavy traffic, the drive up to Fraser’s was smoother than expected, there were still a bit of light when we arrived. We had dinner at Shahzan Inn, where we also visited Mr. Durai’s shop to pick up a pair of leech sock and moth book for Hoiling. Mr. Durai remembered my dad and I from our last visit and was as friendly as ever. The cooks at the hotel also remembered us and greeted us warmly. It just shows how welcoming and friendly Malaysians are!

Famous Clock Tower at Fraser's Hill town centre

After dinner we drove up to the Telecom Loop towards Stephen’s Place; our accommodation at Fraser’s. Stephen Hogg the host greeted us and went over some things about the home stay, he stated that the weather had been terrible lately, that's why he didn't put up the moth trap that night, but if the weather improves then the moth trap should be up and running on the remaining three nights of our stay. The rooms were extremely comfortable and we had a good night sleep, ready to get up early the next day.

Day 2: 7th January 2018

Telecom Loop

We woke up before dawn and got ready for some early morning birding. Being situated in the Telecom Loop, we decided to leave the car at the lodge and do some birding on foot. It took some time to acclimatise to the different sounds of the forest, but once we got tuned in birds started emerging. Our first bird was a Fire-tufted Barbet, one of the key species at Fraser's Hill, their cicada like calls are also hard to miss. Black-browed Barbet also made an appearance and showed well. An Asian Brown Flycatcher hawked for insects from a high perch, a winter visitor to this part of the world I presume.

Fire-tufted Barbet

Black-browed Barbet

Asian Brown Flycatcher

We hit a bird wave with some common species, including a lot of Grey-throated Babblers, as well as Mountain Fulvettas. Golden Babblers are also one of the more common small babbler species which often move with the flock. White-throated Fantails were as vocal and active as ever.

Grey-throated Babbler

Mountain Fulvetta

Golden Babbler

White-throated Fantail

A few larger birds revealed themselves to be Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, a species which although commonly seen at Fraser's Hill, still leaves me in awe every time! Their long streamer dangling from their tail often breaks off, resulting in those with one streamer or none at all. Another dark bird which moved with the flock was a Black-and-Crimson Oriole, but this one did not have any red on it's breast.

Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo

Black-and-Crimson Oriole

A much larger bird landed on the tree high above, a quick look through my bins confirms it to be a Mountain Imperial Pigeon. A Greater Yellownape joined in on the action, but remained quite high up in the trees. While a Red-headed Trogon danced along the roadside, giving us great prolong views. By mid morning we headed back to Stephen's Place for breakfast, weather was glorious!

Mountain Imperial Pigeon

Greater Yellownape

Red-headed Trogon - female

Stephen's Place - Buona Vista

During breakfast I managed to snapped a few shots of a Streaked Spiderhunter which frequently visited the flowers in the garden, you can almost always detect their presence by listening out for their loud calls.

Streaked Spiderhunter

After breakfast we decided the good weather should not be wasted and headed back out again, this time in our car. I stopped near the end of Telecom Loop having heard a lot of birds, stepping out of the car we saw a few Grey-chinned Minivets, the subspecies up in these sub-montane forests are montanus, with much darker throat then the lowland race. Golden Babblers were again numerous, a confiding flock provided great photography opportunities.

Grey-chinned Minivet - race montanus

Golden Babbler

A few other smaller birds in the bird wave turned out to be the brilliant looking Black-eared Shrike-babbler, certainly one of the most interesting looking bird up at Fraser's Hill. A Chestnut-crowned Warbler fluttered about and showed well.

Black-eared Shrike-Babbler

Chestnut-crowned Warbler

Larger birds within the flock were mainly Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush; one of the dominant species at Fraser's. Me and Hoiling noticed a small bird climbing the vines, a better look revealed it to be a Speckled Piculet subspecies malayorum differs from our race in Hong Kong by having no reddish tones on crown or nape.

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush

Speckled Piculet - race malayorum

We drove to the junction where the Hemmant trail and Bishop's trail meet, where we heard a group of Siamangs close by but they never revealed themselves. We were however met by a group of White-thighed Langurs feeding by the roadside. Around the same area we picked up on a few Siberian Thrushes feeding on a fruiting tree, being quite a rare species in Hong Kong it's nice to see them so numerous here.

White-thighed Langur

Siberian Thrush - male

We drove down towards Jeriau Waterfall, the trail to the waterfall was closed but we gave it a try anyway, my guess is that they want to keep a low maintenance during off-season. There wasn't a lot of birds along the trail, we found an Asian Brown Flycatcher, as well as a confiding male Fire-breasted Flowerpecker. We startled a few Water Monitors sun bathing, I managed to take a photo as one was scurrying away. There were plenty of beautiful butterflies around, such as this Black-tipped Archduke.

Jeriau Waterfall

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker

Water Monitor

Black-tipped Archduke

On our way out we stopped near a little shrine and found a few birds such as Buff-breasted Babbler, Mountain Fulvettas and White-throated Fantail, I also saw a few Yellow-bellied Warbler. Since there weren't much to see, we decided to take a rest at Shan King Restaurant at the food court. A cup of iced Lime Juice and Kaya Toast is perfect for an afternoon tea! I also found a large flock of Long-tailed Sibias just behind the food court, one of which came down very low for a photo.

White-throated Fantail

Yellow-bellied Warbler

Long-tailed Sibia

At the little park outside Shahzan Inn, a few Oriental Magpie Robins sang from the overhead wire. The Bottle Brush Trees in the park also provides great feeding spots for Black-throated Sunbirds, one male was resting in the tree sitting motionlessly after feeding.

Oriental Magpie Robin - male

Black-throated Sunbird - male

Stephen told us about the Malaysian Hill Partridge stakeout just below Richmond's Bungalow and stated that the best time would be to wait there from 3:30pm to 5:30pm, so we thought to give it a try. A few Dusky Langurs were there when we arrived, they were quite shy though and moved on quickly once they spotted us.

Dusky Langur

We waited at the bottom of the Bungalow, a lot of these beautiful old colonial houses are now owned by big companies as a holiday home, so my guess is that they are vacant half of the time. We waited for a little while, I think we didn't wait more then 15 minutes when I suddenly saw a few rounded birds emerged from the slope, what else could they be but Malaysian Hill Partridges! Five of them came up to a platform, when they saw that there was no food on offer they quickly ran off to the other side of the road and not to be seen again. 

Richmond's Bungalow

Malaysian Partridge

We had dinner at Stephen's Place, you need to reserve for dinner before hand at 50rm per person, food was a simple yet excellent three course home made meal, all the vegetables were home grown! Stephen had already setup the moth trap outside before dinner, so after dessert we went out for the first mothing session. The moth trap uses a strong UV light to attracts the moths, a white waterproof nylon sheet anchored with poles gets filled with insects very soon after dark.

Hoiling hard at work

Moth trap at Stephen's Place

The first night of mothing was slightly overwhelming, as everything was new and we were going "ooooo" and "ahhhhh" constantly, exclaiming on the amazing patterns on some of the moths!

Agrioglypta naralis

Ourapteryx claretta

Zeusera indica

Cyana malayensis

Tridrepana flava

Herochroma sp.

Dog's Paw Moth - Plutodes malaysiana

Syllepte iophanes

Acosmeryx anceus

Lyssa zampa

Auriculoceryx transitiva

It started raining halfway through, by 9:30pm it was chucking down with rain! Curiously, it was then that a huge shadow drifted past the white screen, I first thought it was a bat, but a closer look revealed it to be a moth; a huge one. It was an Atlas Moth, one of the largest moths in the world, this one we saw was at least 25 - 26cm wide. Although not a specialty at Fraser's, they are certainly very impressive to look at. The rain kept coming, so we called it a night.

Atlas Moth - Attacus atlas


  1. Nice and welcome to Malaysia again.

  2. I really like Bukit Fraser - tons of good birds, moths and affordable accommodation.
    It's a pity the old Gap Resthouse is no longer operating.

  3. Wow, Thanks For sharing, Nice information