Monday, 19 December 2016

Day 6, Leaving Taman Negara for Bukit Fraser...

Day 6, Taman Negara to Bukit Fraser - 29 November 2016

A shorter post as most of the day was spent travelling.

We got up really early this morning (4:30 am). Wilbur was keen to take us to look for Owls and Frogmouths on the trail to Lubok Simpon and I was certainly up for that too. We heard a Sunda Scops before entering an area of jungle just off the campsite but owls were otherwise thin on the ground. We stopped and turned our lights off and in the inky darkness we could hear our first Frogmouth, a Blyth's (split from Javan), calling close by. It eventually got closer and as we turned our lights on it we had great views although not particularly easy to photograph.

Blyth's Frogmouth...just
After an hour we headed for breakfast so that we had time to pack before our last attempt to see Blue-banded Kingfisher. This involved an extra boat trip back along the same stretch of river we had travelled yesterday but alas, in the drizzle that had started to descend, we saw little other than another flyby bird and a very wary Black-capped Kingfisher. We did get another male Rufous-chested Flycatcher though and this time we all had good views. Our guide Wilbur was luckier from the front of the boat with a flying Blue-winged Pitta closely followed by a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo - sadly too brief for anyone else to pick them up.

The boat trip over, we packed our gear into the ferry boat and headed back across the Tembeling River to Kuala Tahan to start the journey to Bukit Fraser. As good timing would have it, it was now raining quite steadily and continued to do so for the rest of the four-hour journey. At least we didn't feel that we were missing out on valuable birding/herping time in the car.

Bukit Fraser...

Bukit Fraser (or Fraser's Hill as it is also known - named after Scottish gold prospector Louis James Fraser), is a hill station located about 2 hours NNW of Kuala Lumpur. It's altitude makes it considerably cooler than the steamy lowland regions of Taman Negara and KL, which makes it a popular retreat with both local and international visitors. It also happens to be a great place for birding and hosts the annual Fraser's Hill International Bird Race. Indeed 298 species have been recorded in the vicinity including some very scarce endemics. Reptiles are present too with several good snakes possible.

We arrived in Bukit Fraser around 3:30pm having driven the long and tortuous road which ascends from The Gap to the small Hill Station. If this doesn't leave you feeling queasy, nothing will.

Just outside the town we met up with our new guide Andrew Sebastian from Jungelwalla and said our goodbyes to Wilbur and Azri, who'd been such great company for the last 5 days.

Bukit Fraser is a charming retreat in the central Highlands
One of the larger hotels in the town centre
Back to front: Myself, Nigel Marven and Andrew Sebastian
in front of the Fraser's Hill clock.
Our first bird - a Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo to greet us followed by a family group of six rare endemic Malayan (Campbell's Hill) Partridge.

Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
Malayan the rain
As we watched the partridges we also had Black and Crimson Oriole and the first Fire-tufted Barbet. By now the rain was coming down quite steadily, the light was fading and so we headed for the Shahzan Inn where we were spending our first night. We picked up a small troupe of White-thighed Langurs on route as they munched happily on somebody's garden hedge.

White-thighed Langur
Streaked Spiderhunters flitted noisily around the flowers in the border of our hotel as did Oriental Magie Robins and Black-throated Sunbirds gave close views too. Tomorrow we were meeting Andrew early in the hope of seeing another rare endemic.

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