A trip to Fraser's Hill has become an annual tradition for our family whenever we have been in Malaysia, ever since we spent part of our honeymoon there in 1990. We must have made well over 20 visits, and have lost count of how many different places we have stayed since my own first visit in 1987, when I stayed with the famous Nash, and sampled his legendary curries.
Nash is now long gone (to Australia somewhere), though not forgotten, and there have been many other changes in the last 20 years. Still, Fraser's retains enough of its original charm to draw us back year after year. Another reason for going is that my wife's family have the admirable taste and sense to organise the family reunion at Chinese New Year there every year, and this year was no exception. So our visits are a great combination of catching up with the family, enjoying some great cooking, and yet still losing weight due to the cool weather and many temptations to spend most of the day outdoors!
Over the years there have not been too many birds that have eluded me, so I decided to focus my attention this year on looking for the few that have - namely Marbled Wren Babbler, Pin-tailed Parrotfinch, Bamboo Woodpecker, Ferruginous Partridge and Mountain Scops Owl. The first four of these five don't actually occur on the Hill itself, and are most likely to be encountered down at the Gap and on the road up to the Hill, so that's where I spent most of my time.
This first morning of our visit was somewhat cloudy, with rain setting in later in the morning, making conditions for photography less than ideal.
Black Laughingthrush is one of the special birds one hopes for on a visit to Fraser's. Several flocks were much in evidence around the Gap.
Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes, on the other hand, are ubiquitous and impossible to miss.
This Black-bellied Malkoha was a nice contrast to the Green-billed photographed a few weeks ago in Kelantan. Shorter-tailed and slighter-billed, this species also lacks the pale surround to the red orbital skin of Green-billed.
Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler isn't a species you see on every visit, so I was pleased to photograph this bird - one of a small flock foraging about 1km up from the Gap.
It's odd how on certain visits some species will turn up everywhere and on others seem to be completely absent. This visit will be remembered for the number of trogons seen and heard. The first of these was a pair of Orange-breasted Trogons that spent 20 minutes hunting for insects close to the road up from the Gap. Here's the female.
And the male.
Most birds have distinctive calls, but this species really called attention to itself! There I was quietly going about my business when I heard someone calling my name. It turned out to be none other than fellow birder and blogger Dr Naim Yunus (and family!), on their way down from the Hill. Some smart spotting on his part and a good 'lifer' for me! Check out Naim's blog
Not the greatest picture, but this shot of a White-hooded Babbler was the fruit of several hours spent looking for parrotfinches and Bamboo Woodpecker in some bamboo stands about 2.8km towards Raub from the Gap.
In the end, despite hearing drumming from a stand of bamboo, Ferruginous Partridge calling way up some inaccessible hillside, a Marbled Wren Babbler heard once only, and some small passerines feeding in bamboo which I couldn't get binoculars onto, I had to concede defeat on my quartet of wanted birds for the day.
The afternoon was spent very civilizedly enjoying cream tea at the Smokehouse with my family, where I got this amusing shot of a Long-tailed Sibia.