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”).

Lanjutkan membaca Malaysia and Vietnam to 2017: Fraser Hill – Telekom Loop

Malaysia and Vietnam Trip 2017 : Fraser Hill (1)

Fraser Hill is a famous birding location in a hilly areas between Pahang and Serawak. The small town was used to be a mining outpost in collonial era, but now it has been converted into a recreational zone for Malaysian who get tired by city life. Its vast forest, cold temperature and some colonial era-bungalow make it looks like Kaliurang in Yogyakarta, but with less people and more birds.

We arrived Fraser Hill late in the morning, but it seems like the birds were still quite active this time. Jens has booked a garden view room at Shahzan Inn at the eastern side of Clock Tower, which is one of the most expensive hotel here. We got a free upgrade for deluxe room since there were not many people at the time (in fact, we could be the only guess here). The hotel was good and cozy, and our room was quite large and overlooked the golf field and some patch of jungle out there.

The Clocktower of Fraser Hill

Jens’ initial plan was to stay here for 4 days and then we moved to The Gap for three days. The Gap itself is located about 8 km away from Fraser Hill, with different kind of birds on the lower altitude. It seemed like we were really lack of research for this trip, as we found out that the hotel there has been closed permanently many years ago.

I told Jens about Stephen’s Place (formerly Buena Vista) at Telekom Loop which could be a nice place to spend the extra 3 days, and he agreed to do so. This place is so famous for nature lover and birders, as it was situated right on the most productive track of the hill. The owner ifself, Stephen Hogg is a wildlife photographer and some kind of moth collector, and he designed his garden to attract birds as much as possible. I sent an email to Stephen about the possibility to stay there during the next 3 days but so far there were no response.

So just like any crazy birders out there, we started to looking for birds righr after we put down our bag in the room. We stay at the balcony for about an hour and spotted some Pacific Swallow and Barn Swallow hawking over the golf course. A small flock of Long-tailed Sibia were seen on the Pine tree next to the parking lot–I never know that they are that big! It took me a while to notice the black-nest swiflet apart from the flock of Glossy Swiflet, which lack of white color on the belly. A pair of Large-billed Crow were seen flying over the golf course.

View from our room

After resting for half an hour we decided to take some look to the trail. We asked for a map in the lobby and the lady there told us to get a guide (which off course we wouldnt do). However we met Mr Durai, the local birdwatcher and a certified guide who has a small kiosk in Shahzan Inn. Mr Durai is so famous for giving tips on how to find most of the birds here (and all of them works very well!). I felt bad to get all of this information without using his service.. so to everyone who read this post, I recomend you to have at least one day guided tour with mr Durai!Both the receptionist and mr Durai told us to go to Hemmant Trail, which is not very long and perfect for easy birding. On the way there, we saw so many Streaked Spiderhunter and Black-throated Sunbird feeding on flowers in front yf Shahzan Inn and around the clock tower. They seems to be the most common bird here and can be seen everywhere.

Black-throated Sunbird
Streaked Spiderhunter

When we arrived at the entrance of Hemmant’s Trail, we were surprised to see it closed. There is a yellow policeman I line that blocked the trail, and we were not sure if we could go in or not. Off course we could easily walk in under that “police line”, but we afraid it was against the law. At the end we decided to play safe and stay on the asphalt road for the rest of the day before we figured out what’s happen.

Just a couple hundred meters from the Mosque we found our first flock. The first bird that we saw was Mountain Fulvetta, eating some berries on the bushes. Soon enough, a huge number of birds including Ashy Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Little Pied Flycatcher, Grey-chinned Minivet and Chestnut-capped Laughingtrush showed up again and again. The flock didnt last long though, as it suddenly become dead quiet again! We didn’t see more birds until we arrived at the golf course, where we found an Oriental Magpie Robin and our only Mountain Tailorbird for the trip.

Informative Boardsign. Indonesia should have these in every national park
Poor frog. Id?

We decided to go back to the hotel for a lunch, since we didnt see anything anyway. On the way back we met with Mr Durai again and have some nice chit-chat,  just before we spotted a flock of Sultan Tit who stayed up on the higher canopy–it was such a beautiful bird! We also spotted 3 Oriental Magpie Robins and a Gray Wagtail foraging close to the playground close to the hotel. Just before the hotel, we saw a Brown Shrike perching nicely on the powerline adjacent to the golf course.

Oriental Magpie Robin

After a good lunch at Strawberry Cafe, we talked to Mr Durai about those yellow line on almost every entry in the trail. He said that the trail is in maintenance since there were some fallen trees, but we should not find any trouble getting in there. He recommended us to go to Mager Trail at the afternoon to find some more bird, but we decided to take a rest a little bit before we went birding again.


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

Kencan Pelu Bersama Yu Sritanjung

Hari ini saya kembali berkencan bersamanya, namun tanpa obrolan. Kami hanya melihat ke luar jendela, mendengar hentakan rel yang bersahut-sahutan, lalu tenggelam dalam memori masing-masing.

Sritanjung kini berwarna kelabu, memendam sejarah yang lalu menuju cerita nan baru
Sritanjung kini berwarna kelabu, memendam sejarah yang lalu menuju cerita nan baru

Beberapa minggu nan lalu, saya mengikuti Bali Bird Race (BBR) 2016 yang diselenggarakan oleh Himabio Universitas Udayana. Alasan saya mengikuti birdrace ini cuman satu: ingin berlibur sejenak dari hiruk-pikuk dunia orang dewasa nan rumit, sekaligus menikmati suasana Bali yang sudah lama tidak saya kunjungi. Bersama Abid dan Hasbi yang saya culik dari kewajiban skripsi mereka (huahahaha *tawa jahat*), saya pun berangkat menggunakan Sritanjung—kereta api ekonomi legendaris yang selalu sukses membuat baper setiap kali saya menumpang di gerbongnya.

Bagi pengamat burung Jogja yang sering mengikuti birdrace di Baluran tahun 2010-2014 lalu, nama Sritanjung ini akan selalu tersimpan di hati. Kereta ekonomi jurusan Lempuyangan-Banyuwangi Baru ini menjadi satu-satunya moda transportasi murah dan cepat yang bisa mengantarkan kita ke ujung timur Pulau Jawa. Di sini, kita pun akan terjebak dalam love-hate relationship nan rumit dengan besi-besinya yang berkarat—karena mau tidak mau, kita harus duduk terdiam di dalam gerbongnya selama belasan jam ke depan; menyebrangi setengah panjang Pulau Jawa dengan berbagai bentang alamnya yang serba ajaib.

Lanjutkan membaca Kencan Pelu Bersama Yu Sritanjung

Menapaki Jejak Junghuhn, Menikmati Gelora Samudra

Ngongap, 5 Mei 2016

Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn menarik nafas panjang begitu mendengar gemuruh ombak lautan. Selama berminggu-minggu, ia sudah menjelajahi berbagai wilayah terpencil di tengah Pulau Jawa, berusaha menyebranginya secara vertikal dari Pantai Utara hingga ke Pantai Selatan. Setelah beberapa kali singgah di berbagai desa dan melukis beberapa pemandangan indah di kawasan tersebut, akhirnya ia pun sampai di Desa Rongkop nan terpencil. Tepat di sisi selatan desa ini, terbentang sebuah pantai karang tersembunyi tempat sang naturalis menemukan tujuan utamanya: Samudra Hindia.

Sudkuste Bei Rongkop, lukisan hasil karya Franz W. Junghuhn yang mengabadikan pemandangan Pantai Ngongap satu setengah abad yang lalu. Saat ini, beberapa fitur bentuk karang di lukisan masih bisa kita kenali di Pantai Ngongap.

Junghuhn memang berhasil sampai di Pantai Ngongap, sebuah pantai karang di selatan Desa Rongkop, Gunungkidul. Pantai ini memang tidak begitu tenar dibandingkan dengan pantai-pantai lain, namun namanya sudah tidak asing di kalangan pengamat burung Jogja—meskipun jarang dikunjungi karena lokasinya nan jauh. Di pantai inilah kita bisa melihat puluhan ekor burung Buntut-sate putih (Phaeton lepturus), sejenis burung laut (seabird) yang jarang terlihat di pesisir pantai. Bahkan menurut mas Kukuh, mungkin pantai Ngongap adalah satu-satunya tempat daratan Indonesia di mana kita bisa melihat Buntut-sate Putih secara dekat, tanpa harus berlayar di perahu.

Pertama kali saya mendengar tentang pantai ini dari cerita Bintang saat dia mengikuti JBW belasan tahun yang lalu, saat dia masih SD. Saya pun baru bisa mengunjungi pantai ini sekitar 2 tahun yang lalu, bersama kawan saya Khaleb Yordan yang ngebet ingin memotret si Buntut-sate Putih (lagi). Di kunjungan ini, saya pun mendengar kisah dari mas Kukuh tentang sang naturalis Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn yang pernah singgah di pantai ini di tahun 1856. Di sini, ia pun mengabadikan pemandangan sang pantai karang dalam sebuah lukisan–sama seperti beberapa destinasi lain yang sempat ia kunjungi, seperti Merapi, Dieng, serta Candi Sewu.

Ketika saya menyambangi Pantai Ngongap untuk yang kesekian kalinya, saya masih bisa membayangkan perasaan Junghuhn sekitar satu setengah abad yang lalu. Hamparan bukit karang yang seakan tidak berujung menjadi pemandangan yang biasa, diselingi beberapa ladang kecil di lembahnya. Deretan formasi tanaman pandan, semak dan pohon kelapa terlihat di kejauhan, memberi kesan hijau di antara landscape yang serba kering ini. Bukit tinggi dan jalanan yang rusak seakan menyembunyikan Samudra Hindia di belakangnya—membuat Pantai Ngongap tetap terjaga dari infeksi turis, tidak seperti pantai-pantai lain yang mulai rusak. Hanya bagi mereka yang mau tetap berjalan hingga titik tikungan terakhir, sebuah pemandangan indah akan langsung menyapa mata.

Samudra Hindia!
“Wuah, lauuuut!!!”

“Akhirnya sampai juga..”

“Bokongku keram lek!

Berbagai kalimat lain pun terlontar dari mulut para Bionicers di hari Isra Miraj itu, ketika kami melihat pemandangan mengejutkan di hadapan kami. Bentangan biru samudra—ribuan kilometer jauhnya—menghampar luas menuju horizon lengkung bumi. Daratan yang serta-merta berujung samudra ini memberikan efek kejut bagi siapapun yang sampai di ujung jalan berbatu, tepat di halaman parkir gazebo rapuh yang menjadi ikon utama pantai ini. Mungkin, rasa terkejut ini juga dirasakan oleh Junghuhn ketika menemukan pantai ini, apalagi setelah berjalan berminggu-minggu melewati pelosok tanah Jawa yang belum dijinakan.

Untamed Java

Ngongap ternyata masih sama dengan yang dulu. Dentuman ombak terdengar bertalu-talu, menghantam gua-gua bawah air yang ada di bawah tebing. Ratusan ekor Walet sarang-hitam (Aerodramus maximus) terlihat terbang santai di pinggir karang, ditemani Dara-laut Tengkuk Hitam (Sterna sumatrana) yang sesekali menukik ke lautan. Terkadang, beberapa ekor Dederuk Jawa (Streptopelia bitorquarta) terbang dari satu sisi ke sisi lain, lalu bernyanyi di bawah naungan bersama para Pelanduk Semak (Malacocincla sepiaria) yang tak pernah diam. Mungkin satu-satunya yang berubah hanyalah gazebo yang semakin kotor—tanpa kakek-kakek tua yang dulu sempat tinggal di sini, namun sekarang menghilang entah ke mana.

“Itu, buntut sate!” ujar Mas Kir sambil menunjuk ke langit, memecah kesibukan selfie-selfie kami yang seakan tidak ada habisnya.

Bagai dikomando, kami semua pun langsung menengok ke langit. Seekor burung putih cemerlang, terbang melayang di atas Samudra dengan anggun seakan tanpa beban. Bak layangan ringan yang tertiup angin kencang, ekor panjang sang Buntut-sate Putih pun berkibar lurus di belakangnya tubuhnya. Ia pun berputar di antara ombak, melewati kami yang melongo terpana, lalu kembali menghilang di balik barisan karang di ujung sana. Luar biasa!

Sudkuste Bei Rongkop, lukisan hasil karya Franz W. Junghuhn yang mengabadikan pemandangan Pantai Ngongap satu setengah abad yang lalu. Saat ini, beberapa fitur bentuk karang di lukisan masih bisa kita kenali di Pantai Ngongap.

Entah apakah Junghuhn juga melihat burung ini di kunjungannya dulu—lagipula, dia memang bukan orang yang terobsesi pada burung. Namun, gemulai kepakan sayap sang Buntut-sate nan legendaris tetap menjadi tambahan yang istimewa bagi landscape Pantai Ngongap. Kami pun terpana dengan kehadiran burung-burung ini yang seakan tiada habisnya, terus menerus datang dengan gaya terbangnya nan halus. Saya yakin, jika Junghuhn juga melihat burung ini dulu , beliau akan semakin terpana dengan keindahan pesisir selatan Jawa yang selalu penuh dengan kejutan.

Hari itu kami hanya melihat sedikit burung di Pantai Ngongap, namun rasa puas pun tetap terasa di hati. Meskipun dataran Jawa sudah tidak seliar di tahun 1856, kami masih bisa merasakan aroma petualangan di kawasan pantai Ngongap yang seakan tidak tersentuh peradaban. Di sinilah kami menapak tilas jejak sang naturalis, merasakan kekaguman akan bentang alam Pulau Jawa yang sempat ia rasakan dulu. Semoga tempat ini tetap tersembunyi selamanya, jauh dari tangan liar manusia yang berusaha menaklukan segalanya.