Chinese New Year means it's time for my wife's family to have their annual get-together at Fraser's Hill. I had nothing to do with the choice of venue, but I thoroughly approve of it! While they are busy with mahjong and numerous other games involving lots of conviviality and noise, I slip away before anyone else is awake into the quietness and beauty of the forest trails and roads!
As always, I have my 'wish-list' of target birds, top of which are the species that continue to elude me after 20 years of visits: Pin-tailed Parrotfinch, Marbled Wren-Babbler, Bamboo Woodpecker, Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Ferruginous Partridge and the mythical Rusty-naped Pitta!
On the first morning I decided to try the so-called 'New Road' - a bit of a euphemism as the road has been closed practically since it was built due to numerous landslides. It's now an expensive cul-de sac ending in an enormous landslip. It does however, get down to altitudes that allow some submontane and lowland species to put in an appearance, including most of the birds on my wish-list!
The weather was fine, and good for aerials feeders and raptors. Several hundred migrant Fork-tailed Swifts and about 50 Asian House Martins competed for airspace with the resident House Swifts and White-bellied Swiftlets. These are the best shots of the Fork-tailed Swifts I could manage.
A magnificient Black Eagle appeared in and out of a patch of low cloud.
And this Blyth's Hawk-Eagle flew in even lower to perch on a branch overhead.
A noisy flock of Black Laughingthrushes flew across a gap in the canopy.
As did a couple of pairs of Wreathed Hornbills, the yellow-pouched males being visibly larger than the females. The whoosh of their wingbeats allowed me to get the camera ready long before they appeared.
A singing blue flycatcher from within thick undergrowth surrounding a stream proved to be a Hill Blue Flycatcher.
A pair of foraging Red-billed Malkohas proved unusually obliging for malkohas, which mostly seem to stay in thick cover, eluding attempts to get a clear shot.
I was surprised how 'fluffy' they were. They seemed almost furry!
There was no sound or sight of my bogey birds, so I returned to the hilltop, where this Large Hawk-Cuckoo was the highlight of the rest of the day.
There seemed to be good numbers of Siberian Thrushes around, but getting a decent photograph was another story!
But I was pleased to get a couple of shots of a fine adult male Mugimaki Flycatcher in the late afternoon.