WBCP President Willem van de Ven writes about the recently concluded Bird Race in Fraser’s Hill in Malaysia.
By Willem van de Ven
The Malaysian Nature Society hosted their annual bird race for the 30th time at Fraser’s Hill, Pahang province, Peninsular Malaysia. The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines was invited and attended by Tinggay Cinco, Nikdye Realubit, and Willem van de Ven.
After getting up reeaaaaally early on Friday 24th, it still took until 6pm in the evening to arrive at the site, around 1500 meters above sea level. On the way we had already encountered two other delegates from the Philippines (from Haribon) and fellow WBCP member Gawin, representing Thailand all by himself. Oh, and also an Olive-backed Sunbird, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, and several Large-billed Crows along the way at a rest stop. Clearly this was not yet prime birding habitat, but we were all getting excited.
The weather was not great. In fact, it was drizzling when we arrived on top of the mountain. We were informed that it had been foggy and raining for days already and the outlook for the weekend was unclear. But the weather gods looked favorably upon us and on Saturday morning the skies were clear and a sunny morning found us looking everywhere for a (huge) Streaked Spiderhunter, Greater Yellownape (woodpecker), and breakfast. Eventually all were found and the WBCP team hooked up with Gawin, Dr. Yuji Arakaki from Japan, and two representatives from Taiwan (Mark Wilky and Ian Steedman) exploring the area around the clock tower for birds to get acquainted with the birds and warm up for the race which would start at 1pm.
Lifers were everywhere! Well, at least for the WBCP team, who apart from Tinggay who birded in Langkawi before, never even set binoculars on Peninsular Malaysian soil. A mixed flock of Mountain Fulvettas, Blue Nuthatch, Mountain Tailorbird, Everett’s White-Eye, Silver-eared Mesias and several other species passed right in front of us. We marked this spot to come back to that afternoon hoping the birds would stick around.
A bit of a disadvantage for the actual race was that the local/Malaysian participants all had cars! And none was given to us… so we had to walk all the way. I think we made around 15km throughout the race. As the area is quite huge, we spent the afternoon trekking to distant areas along roads and trails, discussing about what this little brown babbler could be, taking photos of a Mountain Bulbul up close, and jumping up again just when we sat down when Gawin spotted ‘something bright orange’ in the forest. It turned out to be a Red-headed Trogon! By 7pm and sundown, we were all completely exhausted and ready for a meal and a bed, and thus left the WBCP presentation to Tinggay, who had saved up some energy for this earlier in the day.
Sunday morning found us again traipsing through the forest looking for new birds and some that we saw before the race, but couldn’t find when it counted. For a few more hours we were astonished by Red-bearded Bee-eaters, a Collared Owlet (perching on an exposed branch in broad daylight), and Little Cuckoo Doves. We even saw a couple of wild Eurasian Wild Pigs charging through the forest in front of us!
The total score for the WBCP team was 41 species listed, out of a total of around 45 seen during the trip, whereby only one or two species were seen but not identified, and around 35 lifers for me personally, plus a lot of great memories and photos.
All active WBCP members are encouraged to put their names forward next year if an invite is sent to us again, to also be able to experience such wonderful events.