Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Day 7, First full day in Bukit Fraser...

Day 7, Bukit Fraser - 30 November, 2016

We're up at first light today and foregoing breakfast we headed straight to the Malayan Whistling Thrush site. The first bird to make an appearance was a Mountain Imperial Pigeon. It was almost dark when I took the photo so surprised anything could be salvaged from it.

Mountain Imperial Pigeon
Then a whistle from Andrew - he and Nigel were watching our target bird. Sure enough a male Malayan Whistling Thrush was feeding on the side of the road about 40 meters away, unfortunately the light was too poor to even attempt a photo so I enjoyed binocular views instead. A great start to the day! Sitting close by was this Spotted House Gecko Gekko monarchus.

Spotted House Gecko Gekko monarchus

Next it was on to the old abandoned Jalai Resort on the outskirts of town. It use to be a successful resort and popular with birders because their bright outdoor lights use to attract moths and insects, which attracted the birds each morning for a free feast.

This is how the reception looked a few years back...
The reception area now.
Unfortunately it closed some year back over a dispute between the owners of the resort and the land owners. Today it is getting overgrown but the visiting photographers still put out fruit and meal worms for the birds, so getting photos is easy. It's also supposed to be a good place for snakes, including Cave Racers inside the building, but I searched it pretty thoroughly and had no luck on that front.

First to take advantage of the food are the Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes - beautiful birds.

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush
Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush
Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush
Who are then joined by the Long-tailed Sibias.

Long-tailed Sibia
Long-tailed Sibia
Then this stunning little chap flew in to see what all the fuss was about...

Little Pied Flycatcher
This Little Pied Flycatcher was so tame, Nigel even managed a full-frame photo on his mobile!

Are you ready for your close-up?
What a bird! The Little Pied Flycatcher
Little Pied Flycatcher, male
Little Pied Flycatcher
Little Pied Flycatcher, female

And then the wonderful Fire-tufted Barbet...what a lovely bird.

Fire-tufted Barbet
Showing its 'fire-tuft', a real beauty.
Fire-tufted Barbet
Fire-tufted Barbet

As if it had all been run to a script the Siver-eared Mesias then moved in for the finale. They are just a riot of colour.

Silver-eared Mesia
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, male
Birds at the Jalai Resort, Bukit Fraser

We left the Jalai and moved on to the Hemmant Trail situated above the town's golf course (and named after the course designer, Frank Hemmant) to look for bird waves, checking a regular spot for Rufous-browed Flycatcher on route. Unfortunately the flycatcher (which always shows apparently) wasn't showing, so we continued to the trail.

The muddy trail descended through some trees and edged around a ravine. White-thighed Langaurs sat in the trees at eye level and a cracking Black and Crimson Oriole called from the trees above. Nigel turned to speak to me and just as we started to move forward again, I looked to my right and noticed a magnificent little green pitviper draped off a branch about 4 ft away. I initially thought it was a Cameron Highlands Pitviper (Trimeresurus nebularis) as it was quite bright in colour and devoid of lateral body markings, it had a bluish tinge to the skin between the scales too. 

Trimeresurus Sp - probably P. fucata
Trimeresurus Sp - probably P. fucata
Trimeresurus Sp - probably P. fucata
Trimeresurus Sp - probably P. fucata
Me with the Trim Sp.
Closer inspection, what a beaut! (the snake, not me).
Nigel Marven photographing this lovely snake
Pleased to see such a beautiful little pitviper

I've since learned that the yellow eye colour leans more towards Popeia fucata (Syn. Trimeresurus fucatus) or Siamese Peninsular Pitviper, which is the only other pitviper found in the area. This is presumably a young female without any sign of lateral lines or other markings. The Trimeresurus genus are a notoriously difficult group that have undergone many (often controversial) changes and splits over the last decade and it's always good to keep learning. What a magnificent pitviper and one of the highlights of the morning for me!

The trails are certainly well marked.
The fun was far from over. Walking in the opposite direction we picked up a small flock of Blue-winged Minlas and then a bird waved swept through depositing three stunning Sultan Tits, a Blue Nuthatch - a stunningly pretty little bird and one that Nigel had particulalrly wanted to catch up with, a pair of Grey-chinned Minivets and a Black-browed Barbet. We hardly knew where to look first!

Sultan Tit, male eating spiderlings
Grey-chinned Minivet, male - pity I didn't
get him with his head turned, in cahoots with the Sultan Tit me thinks!
A tiny Forest Cupid

We moved on again after the bird wave died away, this time heading to the Bishop Trail where we picked up a foraging party of Everett's Whiteyes and listened to the rhythmical sound of a troupe of Siamang just out of sight in the near distance. The start of their call has an almost percussive like quality to it - amazing! You may have to turn the volume up...

Heading a little way along the Bishop Trail we were surprised to see a pair of these giant weevils. They were easily the largest weevils I've ever seen - quite amazing to look at. You can get a scale of the size when seen next to Nigel.

Giant weevil Sp.
Giant weevil - would love to find out which species this is.
It was now lunchtime and we headed back towards town, stopping off once more for the Rufous-browed Flycatcher. This time we struck gold and this pretty little bird performed well for us.

Rufous-browed Flycatcher
It was back to the Shazan for lunch, stopping on the way to see the resident Slaty-back Forktails that nest by the road.

Slaty-backed Forktail
Slaty-backed Forktail, this one a bit darker.
At the Shazan we had great views of this lovely Lesser Yellownape (rodgeri form specific to Peninsular Malaysia) and a cracking male Black-throated Sunbird.

Lesser Yellownape, Fraser's Hill
Lesser Yellownape, Fraser's Hill
Black-throated Sunbird, male
Black-throated Sunbird, male
After lunch Andrew drove us back out of town to try and see some Pitcher Plants that Nigel had seen on his last visit here in early 2015. Try as we might we couldn't locate them and it took a call from Andrew to another local guide to pinpoint them for us. But before we even had time to look at them the same guide arrived on his moped to say there was a Large Niltava perched a short distance up the road. And what a beautiful bird it was.

Large Niltava, male
Large Niltava, male

Back down the road once more and this time we found a few Pitcher Plants, though most were a little bit past their best. We also found some beautiful Bamboo Orchids growing close by.

Bamboo Orchid
Pitcher Plants, Fraser's Hill

From here we set off to drive the new road all the way down to The Gap. Until relatively recently Fraser's Hill only had a single narrow road and you could only travel up (or down) at certain times of the day. When the 'new' road opened some years ago, it became a one-way system - the old road to go up and the new road to come down. We were heading down and were joined for the afternoon by Azlina Binti Mokhtar, Director of the Town Planning Department for Hulu Selangor District Council, who was keen to meet Nigel. She was also a birder and photographer so great to have some extra eyes.

Left to right: Nigel Marvem, Andrew Sebastian (foreground)
Me (background), Azlina and Azlina's driver.
Amazing Tree Ferns tower overhead

Pristine mountain rainforest
We stopped to take a photo of the tree ferns and as chance would have it, a magnificent Black Eagle soared overhead and away out of sight.

Black Eagle
This tatty Malayan Lacewing was the only one I saw but it was still an eye-catching butterfly.

Malayan Lacewing
Further down the road we had a nice mixed flock of around a dozen Eye-browed Thrushes with the odd Golden Babbler thrown in for good measure, a Black-thighed Falconet and this little chap...what appears to be a *Grey-streaked Flycatcher (see footnote below). Hopefully we will receive confirmation on this from our Malaysian friends in the not-too-distant future.

Dark-sided Flycatcher.

Dark-sided Flycatcher

Towards the bottom of the road we stopped again and Andrew bagged 'spot of the day' when he somehow latched on to a Siamang hanging from the branches of a tree about a mile away!

Full zoom on the P900 and you can just about see it!
He deserved a medal for spotting that.

Much closer was this Crested Serpent Eagle while lower down in the canopy we saw more Asian Fairy Bluebirds.

Crested Serpent Eagle
The last leg with our bird guide Andrew was to head back up into Fraser's Hill where he would drop us off at the renown Stephen's Place, a B&B operated by expat Stephen Hogg, his wife Salmia and their two young boys. On the way up we did of course stop for a pair of flying Wreathed Hornbills and as we did another bird wave went across the road, this time containing a distant Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Everett's White-eye and Mountain Fulvetta. A Banded Kingfisher called from the trees but never emerged sadly. 

We'd had a completely amazing day and Andrew had introduced us to some of the great birding that Fraser's Hill has to offer. But for now it was time to meet Stephen Hogg and his family. Andrew would be back later that evening to take us looking for Mountain Scops Owls (which we heard but didn't see) and tomorrow, we would be on our own.

* Grey-streaked Flycatcher
I received some very helpful responses to my request for ID confirmation of what was initially thought o be a possible Grey-streaked Flycatcher. Both Brown-streaked and Dark-sided (by Wilbur Goh) were other suggestions put forward and after careful consideration I've decided to go with Dark-sided Flycatcher for the following reasons:

1. This bird shows quite cold brown tones compared to images I've studied of Brown-streaked and it also became clear that Brown-streaked has a much shorter primary projection than this bird. The additional video grabs show this feature well and the primary projection on our bird is much longer than expected on Brown-streaked.

1. Dark-sided Flycatcher
2. Dark-sided Flycatcher

Below is a Brown-streaked Flycatcher from the Internet (sorry whoever took the photo - there was no credit with it!). The primary projection is much shorter:

Brown-streaked Flycatcher  (author unknown)

Another grab from the video definitely shows hints of darker centres to the under-tail coverts too, a feature of Dark-sided Flycatcher.
3. Dark-sided Flycatcher - under-tail coverts
As such I'm happy to go with Dark-sided Flycatcher on this bird. 

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