31st Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2018
The 31st Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race took place over the weekend of 31 March to 1 April 2018. It was flagged off at 1pm on Saturday and ended at 12pm on Sunday.
After a two-year absence (we last participated in the 28th Fraser’s Hill Bird Race in 2015 where we came in tops with 75 species then), my “Piculets” team-mates, Kim Keang and Ju Lin suggested we take part again this year. My wife, Bee Lan, came along as a supporting cast.
We left on 29 March and flew AirAsia into Kuala Lumpur International Airport where we picked up our rental car from Galaxy Cars – a quite new 2-litre Toyota Innova. After a good lunch break at Kuala Kubu Baru, we arrived at Silverpark in Fraser’s Hill at about 2pm. This was our Airbnb accommodation for the duration of our stay until Sunday – a clean and nicely furnished 3-bedroom apartment with a living room, kitchen and a balcony that overlooked a valley.
Over the remainder of the afternoon and the whole of Friday, we did our recce and birded the hill station, explored Hemmant Trail and parts of Bishop’s Trail, spending about an hour here observing a nesting Long-tailed Broadbill, which was still bringing in nesting material to her almost-completed nest that hung from the end of a spiky rattan vine. In close attendance were also a pair of the diminutive Little Pied Flycatchers bringing their own nesting material into the broadbill’s nest! This however will be the subject of another write-up that I will be writing in due course.
After a short opening ceremony on Saturday, the 54 teams from three categories, namely Student, Novice and Advanced, were flagged off. This year’s race came with a cardinal change in the rules – no form of motorised vehicles were allowed. Each team will have to bird from Point A to Point B on foot! If you are familiar with this hill station, this essentially means that planning is of utmost importance. Many places will have to be missed due to their distance from Fraser’s Hill. It will not be practical to bird at the bottom part of the Gap Road or the “New Road”. Walking the entire loop of Telecom Loop may not be advisable while walking all the way to Jeriau Waterfall may not be a good option either. Time is of the essence and returns are important for the effort that is to be expended.
The Piculets took the decision after the flag-off to walk Hemmant Trail in its entirety from its trail-head near the mosque. This was a good decision as we emerged at the other end of the trail near Lady Maxwell Road with 10 species. Lady Maxwell Road itself was also birdy and we came off with another six species within 15 minutes.
Our plan was to head towards the “New Road” quickly and start birding downwards to as far as time and light allowed. The “New Road” is lower in elevation and a different set of birds can be expected. We turned in a respectable 27 species from here. Some special birds that were seen along this road but not easily found up in Fraser’s Hill were Blue-eared and Brown Barbets, Blue-winged and Lesser Green Leafbirds, Little and Grey-breasted Spiderhunters, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, White-bellied Erpornis, White-rumped Shama, Sultan Tit, Black-and-yellow and Silver-breasted Broadbills, Asian Fairy Bluebird and Grey-throated Babbler. Migrants like Mugimaki and Asian Brown Flycatchers as well as Yellow-browed Warbler were also encountered. By the time we reached Silver Park, it was already 7.15pm and dark. Our Day One score of 61 species was good and although tired, we were satisfied.
Day Two plan was to visit Hemmant Trail at first light to try to see the Lesser Shortwing and Orange-headed Thrush. Both were seen by Kim Keang when he visited on Saturday morning before the race proper. We reached the trail-head at Lady Maxwell Road but it was still dark and impractical to set foot on the trail. We rested opposite the trail-head and suddenly Ju Lin spotted the Orange-headed Thrush hopping just behind Kim Keang! This was Day Two first bird at 7.02am.
When the light was better, we went into the trail. Alas, the shortwing was not around and we left Hemmant Trail empty-handed.
After agreeing among ourselves that the possibility of seeing new species up at Fraser’s Hill was limited, we decided again to visit the “New Road”. In front of the Tamil school, just before the start of the road, we’d have our Yellow-vented Bulbul, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Red-rumped Swallow and White-rumped Munia too. We walked downwards for about 1.5km and returned with seven species including the Red-headed Trogon, Buff-necked and Maroon Woodpeckers, Black-thighed Falconet, Drongo Cuckoo, Streaked Wren Babbler and a Large Hawk Cuckoo being chased by a Lesser Racquet-tailed Drongo.
Going down the “New Road”
Last ditch effort on reaching the top had us walking towards the Town Centre, where the race will end. The golf course in front of the Paddock gave us scoped views of Paddyfield Pipit while Barn Swallow and Brown Shrike also put in a late display for us. With some time left, we visited Singapore House, hoping to find the Blue Whistling Thrush. It was not around. We also heard a forktail along the stream but it refused to show itself. All was not lost however as finally, a Blue Nuthatch decided to show itself at 11.02am, followed by an easy Lesser Shortwing which decided to be very confiding by appearing very close to the road. This last species of the race, and our 81st species, made up for the missing shortwing we tried that same morning at Hemmant Trail. It needs to be put on record too that another Streaked Wren Babbler (we had that bird earlier) decided that it needs to be seen too by standing on an exposed branch and started singing for a full 3 to 4 minutes, taunting the three of us who were camera-less!
The Piculets were crowned champions in the Advanced Category when the results were announced. It would be nice to include the number of species seen by the winning teams in the announcement.
It was a short but fun few days of birding for all of us in Fraser’s Hill. Because of the new ruling, there was much, much walking done. Thoroughly good exercise and if the “Health” apps is a reliable apps that can be relied on, we walked a staggering 47,540 steps over the two race days. This is equivalent to about 36 kilometres of walking!
Thanks and appreciation are in order to the organisers, Pahang Tourism, Malaysian Nature Society, Fraser’s Hill Development Corporation and all who were involved for all the hospitality, care and friendship.
Till the next race!
4 April 2018
31st Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2018 – Team Piculets
# Species Location Remarks
1 Pacific Swallow Town Centre 31-Mar
2 White-bellied (Glossy) Swiftlet
3 Large-billed Crow Golf Course
4 Long-tailed Sibia
5 House Swift
6 Little Cuckoo Dove
7 Oriental Magpie Robin
8 Silver-eared Mesia
9 Common Tailorbird Town Centre
10 Mountain Fulvetta Golf Course
11 Lesser Racquet-tailed Drongo
12 Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush
13 Large Niltava
14 Mountain Bulbul Hemmant Trail
15 Buff-bellied Flowerpecker
16 Fire-tufted Barbet
17 Blyth’s Shrike-babbler
18 Golden Babbler
19 Streaked Spiderhunter
20 Rufous-browed Flycatcher
21 Blue-winged Minla
22 Black-throated Sunbird
23 Little Pied Flycatcher
24 Black-browed Barbet Bishop’s Trail
25 Orange-bellied Leafbird
26 Greater Yellownape Lady Maxwell Road
27 Long-tailed Broadbill
28 Buff-breasted Babbler
29 Green Magpie
30 Mountain Tailorbird
31 White-throated Fantail
32 Black-crested Bulbul Road leading to New Road
33 Yellow-vented Bulbul
34 Verditer Flycatcher New Road
35 Blue-winged Leafbird
36 Blue-eared Barbet
37 Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
38 Grey-chinned Minivet
39 Asian Brown Flycatcher
40 Mountain Imperial Pigeon
41 Little Spiderhunter
42 White-bellied Erpornis
43 Yellow-bellied Warbler
44 White-rumped Shama
45 Sultan Tit
46 Everett’s White-eye
47 Mugimaki Flycatcher
48 Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
49 Lesser Green Leafbird
50 Black-and-yellow Broadbill
51 Asian Fairy Bluebird
52 Oriental Honey Buzzard
53 Brown Barbet
54 Pin-striped Tit-babbler
55 Dark-necked Tailorbird
56 Grey-breasted Spiderhunter
57 Grey-throated Babbler
58 Ochraceous Bulbul
59 Silver-breasted Broadbill
60 Yellow-browed Warbler
61 Yellow-bellied Prinia In front of Tamil School
62 Orange-headed Thrush Lady Maxwell Road 1-Apr
63 Black-and-crimson Oriole Road to Glen Bungalow
64 Black-eared Shrike-babbler
65 Lesser Yellownape
66 Stripe-throated Bulbul Glen Bungalow
67 Red-headed Trogon New Road
68 Buff-necked Woodpecker
69 Maroon Woodpecker
70 Black-thighed Falconet
71 Asian Drongo Cuckoo
72 Streaked Wren Babbler
73 Large Hawk Cuckoo
74 Red-rumped Swallow In front of Tamil School
75 White-rumped Munia
76 Malaysian Cuckooshrike Road to Glen Bungalow
77 Barn Swallow Golf Course
78 Paddyfield Pipit
79 Brown Shrike
80 Blue Nuthatch Road to Singapore House
81 Lesser Shortwing
Birds are recorded in order of seen sequence