Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Whistling Thrush Project: Fraser's Hill 18th June 2009

After visits to Cameron Highlands and Ipoh, this month's field trip took us to Fraser's Hill with high hopes that we would catch a Malayan Whistling Thrush. It also happened to be the weekend of the Fraser's Hill International Bird Race, and we hoped that we would not get in the way of the participants, nor they in ours!

I set out from Penang at 4am to catch some morning's birding on the old road up from The Gap, my three bogey birds of the past 20+ years still beckoning - Pin-tailed Parrotfinch, Bamboo Woodpecker and Marbled Wren-Babbler.

My hopes increased when I noticed that several bamboo clumps were in 'flower', but the only visible activity from them at first came from numerous singing Yellow-bellied Warblers.

Bird activity was quite high along the road, with several species feeding fledged young. The highlight photographically was this Chestnut-naped Forktail about half a kilometer up the road.

It hopped out onto the road, and then, as I stood motionless, bounded up to within a few meters of me, having spied a dead cockroach on the road.

A good bout of vigorous shaking succeeded in severing the head from the body.

After which the beast was picked up and taken off to feed a hungry nestling somewhere no doubt.

On my way downhill I met up with David and Nina, who were coming to help us with ringing, and later with the Bird Race. As we were observing a clump of bamboo, I noticed a movement, got my binoculars onto it, and saw a female Pin-tailed Parrotfinch come briefly into view before dropping back into the foliage. The bird seemed to be alone unusually, and did not reappear (though it was seen two days later by some of the Bird Race participants).Only a second's worth, but enough to lay one bogey to rest! A good start.

On the hill itself we went to see the local officials to inform them of our project and that we would be trapping birds. While waiting to see them I snapped a few birds coming to feed nearby.

A Fire-tufted Barbet showing why it is so-named.

A female Grey-chinned Minivet.

And a Silver-eared Mesia - a bird which could lay a good claim to being the avian logo of Fraser's Hill.

In late afternoon we set up our nets at the top gate to the old road, a traditional 'stake-out' for Malayan Whistling Thrush. To our dismay, not only has the road been widened at the spot, but trees have been unnecessarily felled in the ravine to the left of the road, which is where the thrush usually feeds. Now it is quite open and strewn with rubble and rubbish, whereas before it was shady and thickly vegetated. Our only catch of the evening was a Rufous-browed Flycatcher.

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