About a week ago I got news from Eileen Chiang, one of our keen volunteers from the Whistling-Thrush Project, that a Malaysian Whistling-Thrush was making regular dawn appearances near the top gate at Fraser's Hill. Apparently it was an unbanded bird, so not the one we caught there last October.
As it happened, I had a job in Kuantan last week, and Fraser's Hill just happens to be a convenient mid-point to break the long drive from Penang!
Having ascertained the exact spot from Durai, I set up my hide before dawn on the 19th and waited...
Pre-dawn, this Slaty-backed Forktail fed around the foot of one of the roadside lamp posts.
Several times I heard the thrush calling, but always from behind my hide! After two hours or so I gave up.
A short visit to Hemmant's Trail provided brief views of a pair of Malayan Partridges, and I heard this pair and another on Bishop's Trail duetting. No photos this time though! Leeches were out in full force after the recent wet weather - I collected 7 on one leg on a brief foray down Bishop's Tail!
I spent much of the rest of the morning on the lower parts of the road down to Jeriau Waterfall in the hope of finding Marbled Wren-babblers or Ferruginous Partridge. I found neither, and my best bird was this Speckled Piculet. Still room to improve my shots of this species!
Just over a year ago I photographed a presumed juvenile Black Eagle near High Pines. While I was birding in the garden I heard the familiar mewing call of a a juvenile and saw this bird - perhaps one from this year's brood?
Unfortunately , though the bird was flying low overhead, the clouds were also low and the light was awful!
The light got worse. This Silver-eared Mesia shot was taken just before the rain started!
And this one was during the rain - while I was sheltering under a convenient roof!
Eventually the sun broke through again over the stunning forested valley below High Pines.
As usual, Pine Tree trail was quiet, though I did see a pair of Chestnut-crowned (aka Malayan) Laughingthrushes feeding a fledged juvenile. This parent was wearing a Wildlife Department ring.
A night drive round Telekom Loop after dinner yielded no close calling Mountain Scops-owls, but this obliging Brown Wood-owl and a Common Palm Civet.
The following morning I was again at the top gate with my hide, but this time with a Cunning and Sophisticated Plan. This time I rotated my hide 180 degrees to face the other way!
As it got brighter and brighter I wondered whether I would be frustrated again, when suddenly, just before 7am, I heard the thrush call, and very soon it alighted on the road. I was treated to a full half an hour (on and off) of the bird feeding on the road in front of me, sometimes just a few meters away! Here is a selection of photos.
Here's a short video of the bird.
Sobering to think that this site is currently the only one in the world where this species can be reliably seen.
Once the thrush show was over for the morning, I hit the trails again, and almost immediately disturbed a male Mountain Peacock-pheasant which had been feeding on the trail. I left the place alone for about an hour, then revisited it, this time flushing a female from beside the trail, and finally, managing to spot the male back in the same place as before long enough to grab a few shots.
The second shot gives a more accurate impression of the tail length. Sadly he turned his head away at that moment!
A short visit to High Pines garden in the hope of a repeat of yesterday's performance in better weather provided some consolation for the absence of the eagle in the form of a Grey-bellied Squirrel...
... and an obliging singing male Little Cuckoo-dove.
Not a bad morning's birding, all before 9.30am. Now it was time to hit the road and start the long drive to Kuantan. However, I already had plans for the return leg of the journey, to try to get better shots of the obliging pheasants.
Shrinking forest. This scene was just a few kilometers beyond Fraser's Hill on the road toward Bentong - hill forest being cleared to make way for oil palm - it's still happening...