Monday, March 03, 2008
29th February: Cameron Highlands
Cameron Highlands is the most popular of Peninsular Malaysia's four highland destinations among general tourists, but is generally less visited by birders in favour of Fraser's Hill. Fraser's has more accessible intact montane habitat, whereas Cameron is more spread out and much more developed. Generally, birding at Fraser's is much easier, but Cameron has a few specialities that are easier to see than at Fraser's.
Cameron Highlands, famous for tea plantations...
...and giant self-plucking strawberries!
Cameron Highlands is also the place where Landrovers go when they die.
Actually, they don't really die, they get cannibalised and re-in-CAR-nated (groan!).
Anyway, back to the birds. Apart from a fairly unrealistic 'wish-list' of really difficult birds, my main goal was to try to photograph Malayan Whistling Thrush, White-tailed Robin and Pygmy Wren Babbler. These are three species that are usually easier to see at Cameron than Fraser's.
Within 15 minutes of checking into my hotel I was happily photographing the first of these targets.
One of Peninsular Malaysia's few endemic bird species, the Malayan Whistling Thrush has been rarely photographed. Formerly easy to see at Fraser's Hill, they have become difficult to see well there over recent years, with fleeting glimpses at dawn usually the best one can hope for. The main problem with this one was that it came too close to fit into the frame!
It was amazing how the light could affect the apparent colour of the bird - it could appear black, brown or blue at different times.
The angular head, caused by the prominent supra-orbital ridge, and the hefty bill were noteworthy. None of the birds I saw had shiny blue lesser coverts, supposedly a feature of Malayan.
EDIT: These pictures are not of Malayan, but the poorly known 'dicrorhynchus' race of Blue Whistling Thrush. These pictures eventually led to the launching of the Whistling Thrush Project, which aimed to clarify identification criteria and field identification characteristics of the whistling-thrush taxa in Peninsular Malaysia.