Malaysia and Vietnam Trip 2017: Fraser Hill – Bishop’s Trail

8 years ago, Jens came alone to Malaysia with high expectation to sweep out the entire endemic bird species under his belt. Well, every birder know that this was an impossible mission. There would always one or two species that slipped out of your list, no matter how hard you tried to find it. Most of the time it would be one of the rarest bird in that area, one that no bird guide will ever dare to put it under “guaranteed” list. However in some cases, it could be one common species that almost every birder has seen in that area, but strangely you can’t find it for the whole trip. Jens has the second case, and his “boogey bird” is the Black Laughingthrush.

Jens told me that he was staying in Fraser Hill for a week, trying to find as much bird as possible. He did a good job though, even finding the Mountain Peacock Pheasant–a very rare bird that is deemed impossible to see in this area! However he failed to see Black Laughingthrush, which is not so common but still easy to see, based on some bird trip report that I’ve read. So when he came to Fraser Hill again, he put this bird as the main target for the trip.

The day before, we consulted mr Durai about where to find Black Laughingthrush in this area. He mentioned some places, but noted that the most probable spot to find it would be around The Lodge, close to the nothern end of Bishop Trail/beginning of Maxwell trail. He told us to download some recording of Black Laughing thrush to call them out, as well as some rarer bird like Rusty-naped Pitta and many more. Lanjutkan membaca Malaysia and Vietnam Trip 2017: Fraser Hill – Bishop’s Trail

Malaysia and Vietnam to 2017: Fraser Hill – Telekom Loop

Telekom Loop is a famous birding spot in Fraser’s Hill–probably the most productive trail in this area. It is located at the eastern side of Fraser’s Hill, making a loop around a telecommunication tower that belongs to Telekom company (hence the name “Telekom Loop”). As I read from many reports in the internet, the loop is the longest single trail that we can reach in Fraser Hill, requires a half-day to sweep, and held some of the most special bird in this area.

We started the day early, waking up at 6 AM after not a really good night from me (I knew shouldn’t read any ghost stories from this area before!). We went down for a breakfast at 7, which is quite early for hotel standard as the sun rises at 7.15. The breakfast would be OK if only I didn’t take too much pickles for my anchovy porridge–something that left a weird taste in my mouth throughout the day.

As the sun started to rise, several bird songs were heard outside of the hotel. We were surprised by a bunch of Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush hanging around the hotel’s yard in large number, I counted up to 20 of them all together! A streaked Spiderhunter also came up early that day, drinking nectar without minding us that stood less than a meter from it (later, we agreed to call them “our little friend”).

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Malaysia-Vietnam Trip 2017: Kuala Lumpur

So in the beginning of this year, I got invited by my friend Jens from Denmark to a birding trip in Malaysia and Vietnam. Some of you may have know who he is: a facebook friend who suddenly become my best buddy in birding. He is the one who invited me to a birding trip to his country 4 years ago, and that was also the last time we met each other.

Some months ago, he suddenly told me that he need a buddy for a birding trip aboard–an offer that I cant resist. We actually planned to go to Cambodia, but we found out that independent birders would not be accepted there. Since the guided tour seems to be too expensive for two, we decided to change the plan and go to this two country instead. This will be Jens’ second time in both country, while for me that it will be the first. We narrowed down the trip to four main sites: Fraser Hill, Taman Negara, Cat Tien National Park and Da Lat mountain area. Those sites are quiet famous for its birdlife, and we are hoping to find some endemics there.

So, to make things short I would start this story straight from the Kuala Lumpur Internatonal Airport. I was using AirAsia from Yogyakarta to KLIA2, which took about 2 hours. There, I took KL Transit to KLIA1 to meet Jens. As soon as I step off the plane, I spotted my first bird: House Crows, which were perching on the lamp posts. There were also some Barn Swallow and Glossy Swiflet flying over the airports. On the 5 minutes trav with the train, I saw more birds in airport area such as Common Myna and Cattle Egret. I was surprised to see the Milky Stork on some grassy waterhole next to the airport building.

Arrived at KLIA2
Station at KLIA2

It took me a while to find Jens in KLIA1. We ordered a taxi to Hotel Geo in Chinatown, when we have booked a room for a night. We used airport taxi which is a little bit expensive, but Jens said it is OK since he is too tired to use bus or train. It took us almost 2 hour to get in the town, and we didnt see many birds apart that Myna and Egret due to rain.When we arrived in the hotel lobby, I heard an Asian Koel singing but I couldnt find where it was.

From the hotel room, we could see a bunch of House Crow were roosting on the top of some building adjacent to the hotel, getting ready to sleep. As soon as its getting darker a group of swift were seen flying into the top of an old building. I was able to pick up some House Swift on it, but the others should be Glossy Swiflet.

House Crow’s roosting site

At the night, I just realized that Malaysia has different electricity outlet than the one we have in Indonesia. I was thinking about it but didn’t really do a proper research. I tried to find some adapter at a market across the road, but couldnt find any. Since it was already late, the are no shop open, so I borrowed an adapter from the hotel. I kinda afraid I couldn’t charge my gadget tomorrow since we planned to go early to Fraser Hill.

Morning at Chinatown

Next morning, I ordered a Grab Car to Fraser Hill. For you who didnt know, Grab Car is an Uber-like app company native to Malaysia and also operates in Indonesia. They used a fixed fare per kilometer (unlike Uber ) and we could see how much will it cost before we order a driver. The apps said it costs 126 MYR from our hotel to Fraser Hill, which is very low compared to regular taxi, but we decided that we should give more to the driver since it was a long way to go (and the extra money goes straight to the poor driver, instead of their company). The driver was very kind and he drove quiet fast. At the end Jens gave him 200 MYR since it was worth for the service.

There are not so many birds to see on the trip. Some Javan Myna was seen in front of the hotel when we were going to meet the drive. On the city border we saw all the common bird and some flock of Asian Glossy Starling. Some small pigeon were seen perching on the tree-top but we weren’t sure what they are. Eurasian tree sparrow were seen on a small suburb area outside of Kuala Lumpur. I finally spotted an Asian Koel on the highway, and there were some White-throated Kingfisher too perching on the lamppost. On the hilly road to the gap I spotted a lot Crested Serpent Eagle perching very close to the road, but the car couldnt stop for me to take its picture.

It took almost 2 hour for us to get into Fraser Hill, but it was so comfortable with our good driver. I would write more about our first impression of Fraser Hill at the next post.

List of Birds seen (bold for lifer):

1. House Crow

2. Glossy Swiflet

3. Common Myna

4. Milky Stork

5. Cattle Egret

6. House Swift

7. Javan Myna

8. Asian Glossy Starling

9. Eurasian Tree Sparrow

10. Asian Koel

11. White-throated Kingfisher

12. Crested Serpent Eagle

The Law of Nature’s Uncertainity

It is not easy to work with nature, as one’s expectation rarely happens in real life. There are just too many mistery with it that our primitive brain cant predict up until now. We still cant find away to predict when an earthquake will gonna happen, where the next aurora will show up, or where does that f**** birds go when we brought an important client to see them.

I was scanning the paddyfield from the car when we spotted a bare, conspicious tree in the middle of it. It is the favorite perching spot of a Javan Kingfisher that I have been watching since the first time I came to Yogyakarta. Usually he (as i assumed it as male) will just stay there for the whole morning, sitting quietly with beak pointed down, ready to dive and catch every unfortunate small invertebrates below. However, today it wasnt there–and so does 2 other kingfishers in the area that we tried to find before. It wouldnt be a problem only if I didnt brought an important client with me, a birder and tourism scholar from Malaysia who promised to bring more friend if I managed to show him some good bird today.

With a very carefull word selection, I said to him that maybe we have a better chance to find the kingfisher in the next stop. I also explained that this is the best place to find the kingfisher and I know it very well since I live here. I know it is not a good way to say “this bird used to be here, i saw it last week” to a client, but after 30 minutes of wandering aimlessly in the paddyfield, at least I need to say something.

Luckily, he understand the problem. “I know, just like people said. Its always there, but when you brought me along it suddenly disappear!” he said with a huge smile, a very important OK sign for me to continue the trip. Lanjutkan membaca The Law of Nature’s Uncertainity

A Short Story From The Tree of Life

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I was on the second floor of Biology Lab in my university, when some strange crowd took away my attention. There, right across the lab’s corridor, stands a big fig tree with some flying shadows jumping around on its branch, screaming various calls and songs that will attract any nearby birder’s curiosity. I recognized them as a bunch of Sooty-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster) and Yellow-vented Bulbul (P. goaivier), two common urban birds frequently seen in this area. However, it was unusual that they gathered in a big number in a single tree like this.. so I expected something bigger in it.

As I took a closer look using my camera, I saw this little, squishy red ball squezzed between the bulbul’s pointy bill. It is the fig, the magic fruit that teases the desire of every hungry bird in the world. As my eyes got wider, I saw the very similar little balls hanging off on almost every branches of the tree, filling it with the cherry red dots among the bright green leaves. So my suspicion was true.. It was the time again, when the lab’s courtyard suddenly became a paradise for every birds and birdwatchers. The “Tree of Life” has released its magic to the world!

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