Friday, 20 July 2012

Fraser's Hill

Well it’s been a while since my return from Malaysia, so apologies for delay in completing the story but have been tied up with office work since I got back home. But Fraser’s Hill was as good as ever with all the usual goodies like Spectacled, Malayan and Black Laughingthrushes, Malayan Whistling-thrush, Fire-tufted Barbet, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler, Blyth's Hawk-eagleRufous Piculet, lots of Red-bearded Bee-eaters, Blue Nuthatch and others.

Blyth's Hawk-eagle

Chestnut-naped Forktail - again

Fire-tufted Barbet

Red-headed Trogon

Rufous-browed Flycatcher

Rufous Piculet

Orange-breasted Trogon

My primary focus was on getting Rusty-naped Pitta and despite another bout of illness had a couple of attempts at the wee beastie. I knew it was a real toughie and had previously been subject to a few negative comments about my chances of success. Well in your face!! The first attempt saw the three of us at the spot where I’d head one back in March along the Telecom Loop and we scuttled noisily downhill about 50 metres. Sitting amongst the leaf litter I gave it a blast of call from the ipod and one responded immediately, but sounded another 50m or so away further downhill. We waited and waited and it called a few times more then fell silent. Knowing this could either mean it had got the hell out of there or was coming in we sat quietly and waited some more. It did indeed come closer but not close enough and in the end Lee left and Sophy and I made our way further down the steep slope and spent the next couple of hours watching and waiting, without any luck. So a whole morning wasted then!

Our last morning in Malaysia saw us out before first light and the others, knowing my desire to see the pitta, left me alone to try on the Bishop Trail. Thanks guys! It was dark inside the forest so I headed down to the bottom of the trail and sat down on a log and listened to the sounds of the forest coming to life. It was a really wonderful experience just sitting there, listening and waiting with Streaked Wren-babblers, Buff-breasted Babblers and Lesser Shortwings coming in real close. But no pitta calls. So I walked on a few hundred metres more and played a short burst from the ipod, and a pitta responded immediately from somewhere in the distance. I couldn’t pinpoint the direction so retraced my steps and played again, but it didn’t help as the pitta was so far away. Feeling dejected I trudged on for maybe half a kilometres and played the call again and one responded off to my right below the path – and very close. But I had dense vegetation either side of me and no view, but I squatted down and waited. Total silence enveloped the immediate area and after a long twenty minutes I tried the call again. And again the pitta responded close by from more or less the same area, so I moved slowly along the path for a few metres and could just manage a small view of the forest floor under a fallen tree. The pitta called again and I waited, staring intently at the only bit of forest floor available to me. More minutes passed and my legs were cramping and back aching – not as young as I used to be!! Then the pitta called again from a bit closer and from the direction I was hoping and then a shape hopped into the clearing under the fallen tree. My heart pounded and hands were shaking as I raised my bins slowly and in the shadows there was the pitta – undoubtedly, unequivocally a pitta but no colours or features were possible. Then it moved into the better light for a few seconds and that image was seared into my brain for all time! Yes!! I blinked and it was gone. I waited for another half an hour but that was it – my Rusty-naped Pitta. No photo, but the buzz I got and the high were unparalleled with anything else so far this week. As I walked along the path to meet the guys I walked past a gulley in the left and a pitta hopped out and flew down the slope in perfect light. Another or same Rusty-naped Pitta! Wow!! As I got up to the road and the guys were there I didn’t want to gloat or celebrate as that wouldn’t be fair, so I just walked past them without saying a word with my arms raised!! A rock sailed past my head and I jumped into the bus with a beaming smile. Our birding was over in Malaysia, I’d had more lifers than I had the right to expect, filled in quite a few gaps on my list and had a good laugh! Must have a holiday more often – next year Ethiopia…..

Sultan Tit

Streaked Wren-babbler

Streaked Wren-babbler

Spectacled Laughingthrush

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