Thursday 18 January 2018

West Malaysia - January 2018 : Part 2

Day 3: 8th January 2018

Stephen suggested to us that we can try to bird at Jelai Resort's Carpark early morning. This former establishment used to be a hotspot for birds since they have their lights turned on at night which attracted the moths - which attracted the birds in the morning. But since it's closer a few years ago, things are not the same no more and birds moved out of the area as there weren't any moths left for them to eat. It's still however visited by birders and photographers, where if you place a Papaya out in the car park you may attract some birds. Stephen prepared for us an overly ripe Papaya (it's already gone mouldy) and told us to place it out and wait for the birds. It was rather foggy when we got to Jelai, but we decided to give it a try anyway. The first birds which came for the feast were a flock of Long-tailed Sibias, obviously the most common bird here...

Long-tailed Sibia - the permanent supporting cast

Papaya party...

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes were equally common, although not as aggressive as the Sibias. While flocks of Silver-eared Mesias soon joined in, we were hoping a Fire-tufted Barbet which is known to come down to feed on the papaya may join in, but it never did. After looking at just three species of birds for a while we got a little bored, so we left the birds to finish off the papaya and headed off somewhere else.

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush

Silver-eared Mesia

Since the early mist was not getting any thinner we decided to head down the New Gap Road, hoping things will be clearer down there, and clearer it was. I stopped the car when I heard some birds along the road, I detected some heavy wingbeat noises coming from above, a sound that only Hornbills can make. We scanned the trees above and soon saw some movements, before we knew it we were looking at a beautiful male Wreathed Hornbill! The male perched nicely out in the open although the female was in dense foliages. The pair later flew out and we caught glimpses of the female with the blue throat pouch as well.

Wreathed Hornbill - male

Wreathed Hornbill - female

There wasn't that many interesting birds around, a Rufous-browed Flycatcher by the roadside gave us fairly good views. A Rufous-bellied Eagle in the distance was a nice addition to our list. We searched the area that we saw a flock of Black Laughingthrushes last time but had little luck except for a group of Dusky Langurs.

Rufous-browed Flycatcher

Rufous-bellied Eagle

Dusky Langur

Some movements on a treetop caught our attention, it did not behave like a bird, soon a large Black Giant Squirrel emerged. We caught up with a bird wave lower down with mainly the common babblers, within them was a single Blue-winged Leafbird. Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers fed on some weird looking fruits next to the road and gave cracking views. The best birds though were a trio of Hill Blue Flycatchers, one of the male was singing it's beautiful song.

Black Giant Squirrel

Blue-winged Leafbird

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker - male

Hill Blue Flycatcher - male

We visited the little town of Raub for lunch, this old chinese town is not your usual holiday destination, other then the famous Ratha Curry House where we had an excellent lunch (Prawn and Chicken Curry is a MUST try)! The town is also famous for it's Durians, of which Raub reputably have the best!

Ratha Curry House at Raub

Famous durians from Raub

It was around 4pm when we arrived back to Fraser's Hill, just in time for another session at Richmond's Bungalow. I scattered some remaining bread crumbs which Stephen gave us this morning at the Partridge stakeout. The flowers just outside the bungalow attracted a few Streaked Spiderhunters. A few Black-and-Crimson Orioles joined in with a bird wave, a male showed fairly well. Smaller birds includes a few Black-eared Shrike-babblers, attractive as always!

Streaked Spiderhunter

Black-and-Crimson Oriole

Black-eared Shrike-Babbler

A few of the Black-eared Shrike-Babbler's cousin; Blyth's Shrike-Babbler, were also present, they usually forage high up near the canopy, so it's nice that a few birds dropped down to near eye-levels! The males have very smart looking plumage, while females have greyish head and greenish back. Our attention shifted when we noticed a Blue Nuthatch crawling on a tree trunk, this beautiful species of nuthatch is rather uncommon up at Fraser's, definitely one of the most splendid looking nuthatch species in existence.

Blyth's Shrike-Babbler - male

Blyth's Shrike-Babbler - female

Blue Nuthatch

After the bird wave had past, we went back to the partridge stakeout, and at around the same time as the day before, the partridges returned once again! They stayed much longer this time, allowing us to enjoy some wonderful views for nearly twenty minutes! We saw four partridges in total, one of them was obviously younger, but I think all of them were pretty young birds, all likely just hatched last year. After we had our fair share of good views we left the partridges at peace.

Malaysian Partridge stakeout

Malaysian Partridge - one of the star bird of Bukit Fraser

Just before we headed back to Stephen's Place, we encountered yet another group of Dusky Langurs, this group were much less shy and we got pretty good views, their "spectacles" made them one of our favourite primates of this trip. I heard the call of Common Green Magpie so we got out of the car to look for it, we did indeed found one individual, but that turned out to be our only bird of the trip, considering how common they were last time I visited it's strange that we saw so few of them.

Dusky Langur

Common Green Magpie

The song of a Pygmy Wren Babbler right next to the road attracted our attention, it took little effort for us to find the bird in song from an open perch, the race harterti differs from our local race pusilla in southern China by having whitish throat and scales. I find their songs slightly different as well, with harterti having more of a pause between the notes "see" and "saw", while giving a lot of single "see" on occasions.

Pygmy Wren Babbler - race harterti

Mothing session was much drier, along with some moths we already encountered the day before, there were also a lot of new ones, highlight includes a Glanycus coendersi which is suppose to be a rather uncommon moth at Fraser's Hill according to Stephen. The stunning looking Antheraea rosieri; a large moth of the Saturniidae family also got a lot of our attention, it's translucent spots on it's wings were simply out of this world. While the beautiful and jewel like Tasta micaceata was one of Hoiling's favourite.

Agrioglypta naralis

Barsine euprepioides

Percnia foraria

Problepsis achlyobathra

Lemaireia leopoides - photo credit to Hoiling

Glanycus coendersi

Antheraea rosieri - photo credit to Hoiling

Tasta micaceata - photo credit to Hoiling

Day 4: 9th January 2018

Liew our bird guide met us at 7:30am, a Malaysian born Chinese, he spoke fluent Cantonese with us. A very experienced birder and full of local knowledge, Liew seems to know his way around Malaysia like the back of his hand! We decided to take his car and went out for a morning session of birding with him around Fraser's Hill.

He planned for us to visit Jelai Resort again hoping to find the Fire-tufted Barbet there, on the way there we encountered a bird wave with a few Large Cuckooshrikes foraging very low, this species usually stays high up on tall trees where they are often heard but difficult to observe.

Large Cuckooshrike

At Jelai we took to the same tactics as the day before, the offering of a Papaya was almost ritual like. Birds flooded in, although most were of the same three species we saw the day before. The weather was much better, so I took the opportunity to take some better shots of the common birds anyway.

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush

Silver-eared Mesia

We gave up on the barbet turning up there soon enough, as we drove along the road Liew noticed a pair of Large Niltava feeding by the roadside, we got some decent views. What do you know, we also found a pair of Fire-tufted Barbet foraging nearby! This time much closer, although the light was not optimal at that location, I would make do with such decent views of this magnificent looking bird, and easily one of my favourite Barbet species.

Fire-tufted Barbet

Liew led us to a known stakeout for Large Niltavas so we can get some better views of this species. For some bizarre reason, I only caught glimpses of this supposedly common species on my last visit. At the stakeout, a confiding Rufous-browed Flycatcher greeted us, this sub-montane species is found at higher elevations throughout South East Asia.

Rufous-browed Flycatcher

Soon after, a pair of Large Niltava arrived, both the male and female showed exceptionally well. Males are overall dark navy blue with sapphire bluish crown, collar and rump. Females like other Niltava species have greyish blue crown and blue collar and brown overall.

Large Niltava - male

Large NIltava - female

At the same location, a pair of Malayan Laughingthrush came down to feed. This species was once considered a subspecies of the Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, but had since been split and is now a Malaysian endemic. Much shyer than the common Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, the Malayan Laughingthrush don't travel in large flocks, but often in pairs. Other than the birds near the ground, a flock of Sultan Tits also passed us by higher up, although we got a good look at them, they never came closer for better photos.

Malayan Laughingthrush

Sultan Tit

Seeing that things were in general quite quiet around the hill station, Liew decided to head down New Gap Road to get some other birds. While Liew stopped the car to listen out for hornbills, I scanned the sky for any interesting Swifts...other then the common Plume-toed Swiftlet (a split from Glossy Swiftlet...), I saw a few larger ones with forked tail and white rump, of which are the "Fork-tailed Swift" complex, Pacific Swifts we get in Hong Kong are the race pacificus, while these found at Fraser's are likely to be of race cooki, sometimes considered a full species as Cook's Swift. I also noticed a few Needletails, a closer inspection confirms them to be Silver-rumped Needletails, first photo below showing the "needles", while the second photo shows the diagnostic rump.

Cook's Swift

Silver-rumped Needletail

Although Liew found no hornbills, he found us a lovely male Buff-rumped Woodpecker perched on a dead tree nearby, these small and beautifully marked Woodpeckers are always a crowed favourite. While on another tree, I noticed a large bird perched conspicuously, turns out it was a Red-billed Malkoha, my first lifer of this trip! It's certainly one of the best looking Malkoha, with a bright red bill, blue eyelids and orange throat with metallic greenish back.

Buff-rumped Woodpecker - male

Red-billed Malkoha

The rest of the way down was pretty quiet, we stopped at the now abandoned Gap Resthouse to look for Rufous-bellied Swallows which sometimes roost on the house, unfortunately we found none. Only a female Orange-bellied Leafbird perched quietly nearby.

Abandoned Gap Resthouse

Orange-bellied Leafbird - female

Seeing how quiet things were at the Gap, we drove back up and lunched at Shahzan Inn. Liew wanted to try for the Marbled Wren-babbler he had seen a few months ago along the road towards Jeriau Waterfall, he played a recording hoping to get a response from a bird nearby. At that location we also saw a few Greater Racket-tailed Drongos. A pair of Streaked Wren-babblers passed through and gave us some decent views.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

Streaked Wren-babbler

We heard a Collared Owlet nearby, a species that is very often heard at Fraser's Hill but seldom seen. Liew managed to call one in within reach and we got some cracking views from below. Much smaller then Asian Barred Owlet which we get in Hong Kong, this is the smallest owl species in Asia, measuring at just 15cm!

Collared Owlet

The Marbled Wren-babbler never showed, a flock of Bronzed Drongo were there singing their melodic songs as if to mock us. The other interesting birds we managed were a brilliant looking male Red-headed Trogon which showed well, a few Bay Woodpeckers which as always were extremely difficult to pin down, plus a brief encounter with a single Red-bearded Bee-eater which did not want to show itself. A single Brown Shrike was about the only bird we managed before we had to get back to Stephen's Place ready for dinner.

Bronzed Drongo

Red-headed Trogon - male

Brown Shrike

Liew decided to take us out on a night drive around Fraser's Hill, hoping to find some owls. We started off with a Tarantula, Coremiocnemis hoggi or commonly known as the Malaysian Purple Femur Tarantula, it's scientific name was named after none other then our host Stephen Hogg, as he gathered the specimens for this species. They are still rather common at Fraser's Hill, although illegal collecting had decreased their numbers significantly.

Coremiocnemis hoggi

We heard a few Mountain Scops Owl calling, but none of them were willing to show. We visited the area near the Chinese school where the bright lights usually attracted a good numbers of moths, where in turn they attracts a Brown Wood Owl to feed on them. The heavy mist didn't help us in finding the bird, we only caught a glimpse of the large owl when we flushed it from it's perch. There were a lot of moths around to keep Hoiling busy, including a beautiful Jade Hawkmoth. We tried another Brown Wood Owl down near the Indian school but got a few calls only, there we encountered another Atlas Moth.

Jade Hawkmoth

Atlas Moth

The rain set in as we arrived back at Stephen's Place, Hoiling and I stayed out at the moth trap a short while before the weather got even worst. There were a few interesting moths around despite the heavy rain.

Herminiinae sp. - photo credit to Hoiling

Tortriciforma tamsi - photo credit to Hoiling


  1. Wow, nvr saw the wreath HB in FH, nice.

    1. I've seen them there twice, I guess they are pretty nomadic.

  2. Great bunch of stuff here - Wreathed Hornbill is just beaten by Blue Nuthatch in my very biased opinion. The lighter blue on the nuthatch looks hand-painted....

  3. An amazing series of pictures, Matt, with a fine narrative. Your blog just keeps getting better and better.