One of the pleasures of photographing Malaysian highland birds is their variety of colors. Compared to lowland jungle birds we find the highland birds to be generally more attractive. As everyone knows one of the best birding locations in Peninsula Malaysiais the carpark of the Jelai Resort (it’s not really a resort, rather a run down local hotel) up at Frasers Hill.
It’s not easy dragging yourself out of bed at four o’clock in the morning and driving two hours along dark winding roads to arrive at the Jelai at sunrise. Some days it’s worth it, some days it’s not. But yesterday was a good day with volumes of the usual suspects happily posing for hours. Usually the birds that visit the Jelai disappear after about an hour but for some reason this trip they hung around until about 10.30am which was very unusual.
The day was also great for the appearance of an Arctic Warbler no doubt on his way back north for the summer. This guy deserves a special feature all to himself so I’m not posting him here.
Top spot today goes to the resident pair of Grey Chinned Minivets which regularly stop by for a quick insect or two. It does not matter how many shots you have of these birds it’s just not possible not to photograph them when they appear. The male (at the top of the post) with his stunning red and charcoal plumage is the first to catch your eye. The female with her yellow feathers is equally striking. In a world of birds where the female is more often less colorful than the males Minivets are a rare pair of beauties.
Another common Frasers bird wave participant are the Silver Eared Mesias. I must have about five hundred good shots of this bird on file, but still can’t resist another well posed one.
I don’t know what it is about Bottlebrush Bushes but they are bird magnets. It does not matter whether it is Malaysia, Australia or South Africa, the red flowers of these trees attract birds like no other. The Bottlebrush bushes at the Jelai are no different and at any one time you can easily find three or four species in a single bush. This time this Orange Bellied Leafbird spent at least an hour in a single bush providing a great opportunity to photograph it as it went about its business looking for nectar in the red flowers.
Pictures of Fire Tufted Barbets are always used to advertise Frasers Hill as a birding location. Known as the “Princes of Frasers” these barbets are usually found gorging in fruits along the Telecom Loop a circuit road that winds its way round a tall peak atop which sits some huge Telecom towers. For some strange reason a pair of these birds hung around the Jelai all morning yesterday. So, as usual, being a sucker like all the other birders we had to photograph it.
The challenge for any bird photographer is to get the difficult birds. In a Malaysian context, not counting the rare birds, it is the small low level feeders like Babblers and Tailorbirds that are the most difficult to shoot because they are extremely restless feeders never sitting still in a single position for more than a second or two. Add the complication of low light and it’s very seldom you come away with nice crisp shots of these types of birds.
Today was an exception. What I think (has to be confirmed) was a Buff Breasted Babbler feeding two young regularly foraged the edge of the tree line and sometimes came into the open allowing some great shots of it.
Racquet Tailed Drongos are difficult to shoot well. More often than not they are perched in ways that do not allow you to get the full tail feathers in the shot. Their coloring is also difficult to expose for, especially in low light conditions. There are a pair that always make an appearance in the Jelai car park early in the morning and fortunately one decided to perch on a young fern stem in the open allowing a few shots that show off the feathered elegance of this very nice bird.
As usual, the Flycatchers that make the trees and bushes of the Jelai home are just great to photograph especially when they pose on an open branch in good light like this female Verditer. I just love these little birds and this shot has to be one of my better ones.
Another fantastic little gem that posed for a few shots was what we think is a female Mugimaki Flycatcher. If we are right and it is a Mugimaki then we were lucky as it will probably be the last time we see it this season as it is about time it starts to migrate back north.
If you troll the shopping centers it seems that deep blue is in fashion at the moment. So it also was up at Frasers Hill when the Large Niltavas showed their face. The male is an absolutely stunning bird with deep purplish blue plumage that is rich in the sun. The juvenile below him with his mottled feathers is equally a nice fellow .
No blog about birding up at Frasers Hill would be complete without a picture of a Frasers institution, the Chestnut Headed or Spectacled Laughingthrush as it is a bird that is always good for a photo or two. After you have a thousand or so shots of this bird on file it’s easy to ignore it. But when it poses like this, the sucker in me just has to press the shutter a few more times.
For sheer volume of shots this trip up to Frasers Hill was worth losing the last 3 hours of sleep. As a plus we managed to get an Arctic Warbler and the Buff Breasted Babbler, both for the first time. So it was what we would consider a good day!