Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fraser's Hill - Merapoh: Day 5

The morning of March 16 saw us packing our bags, getting ready to say goodbye to Jelai Hotel and Fraser's Hill. It was another misty morning and there were not as many birds in front of the hotel as the previous days because the lights in front of the hotel were not turned on during the night before. We slowly transferred our luggage to the cars. After finishing all my stuff, I walked around the hotel taking photos of birds for the last time before leaving. We had to leave Fraser's Hill before 11 o'clock, in order to reach Merapoh before sunset. While taking photos of birds in front of the hotel, Mam came and told us that there's a male Lesser Yellownape (Picus chlorolophus) sleeping on a tree trunk just behind the hotel, so we all went to watch it. It turned out that there's another female sleeping in the same tree as well. Both of them were perching motionlessly for so many minutes, before waking up as we seemed to be moving around too much. On a large tree behind the hotel, there was also a big group of sleeping White-thighed Surilis. I counted 11 but there could be more. Apart from the yellownapes and surilis, there was also a Mountain Imperial-Pigeon (Ducula badia) calling its loud mournful call from the top of an exposed branch behind the surilis' tree. We finally said goodbye to Jelai Hotel around 10 and went downhill to the clock tower, where we had a brief stop to take photos with it. It's such a beautiful landmark that everyone who visits Fraser's Hill has to take photos with. Around the clock tower, we also found a pair of Javan Cuckooshrikes and many Silver-eared Mesias that came to pick up moths and insects which were attracted by street lights at night. Just before leaving, I also got some better shots of the exotic Fire-tufted Barbet which generously came down to a lower branch for a few seconds before returning to the treetop.
The famous Fraser's Hill's clock tower
White-thighed Surilis (Presbytis siamensis)
Male Lesser Yellownape (Picus chlorolophus)
And the female

The Bird Interpretive Centre (left) and the feeding area in front of Jelai Hotel (right)
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus remifer peracensis)
Male Javan Cuckooshrike (Coracina javensis)
Fire-tufted Barbet (Psilopogon pyrolophus)
We decided to go down by using the New Road, so we can also bird along the way. There were House Swallows and Glossy Swiftlets flying almost everywhere. We found a female dark morph Oriental Honey-Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus) perching on a distant bare tree, as well as a scarce and huge male Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) flying by while we briefly stopped at the fruiting fig tree where we saw a pair of Rhinoceros Hornbills the other day. We came across a flock of more than 10 Dusky Langurs (Trachypithecus obscurus) sitting altogether on a single branch, but as soon as we stopped to grab some pictures, most of them quickly fled away leaving only 2 of them sitting dizzily on the branch. A pair of Blyth's Hawk-Eagles (Spizaetus alboniger) was also seen soaring in circles far down the hill below, and a pair of Bronzed Drongos (Dicrurus aeneus) was seen carrying nesting materials. We then left the cool montane weather of Fraser's Hill and returned to the hot and sunny and humid weather of lowlands again around half past 11. Our next destination, Raub.
Dusky Langurs (Trachypithecus obscurus)

Male Whiskered Treeswift (Hemiprocne comata)

Raub is a small city on the way from Fraser's Hill to Merapoh. We stopped there for a quick lunch in an Indian restaurant. The food tasted really good. After lunch we went to a supermarket to buy some more instant food, water and snacks 'cause in Merapoh we wouldn't get the same comfort as in Fraser's Hill. Along the way before reaching Raub, we also had a brief stop for a pair of Grey-rumped Treeswifts (Hemiprocne longipennis) and a beautiful male Whiskered Treeswift (Hemiprocne comata) which were perching just by the roadside. There was also a distant Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) and a small flock of Jungle Mynas (Acridotheres fuscus torquatus). A worker who was cutting grasses on the roadside approached us and told us that there's a hornbill's nest which can be viewed from the roadside about 1-2 kilometres back. Even though how much we wanted to go back and see the nest, we just had to move on otherwise we wouldn't be able to make it in time.

The entrance to our birding paradise in Merapoh
Sungai Relau (Sungai means river)
Variant male Black Hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus)
Adult Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis)
Prevost's Squirrel (Callosciurus prevostii)

Male Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) with a juvenile male
Female bill kissing with the male and the juvenile male observing
We finally arrived at Merapoh around 4pm and were welcomed by the heavy rain. Luckily, the rain stopped shortly after we finished moving our luggage into the house. Here we were joined by even more Malaysian birders including Dr Chan Kai Soon and his wife, Mr Ooi Beng Yean, Dr Neoh and Siew Peng his daughter and Mr Lean Yeng Loon. As soon as the rain stopped, I grabbed my camera and went out with my father. Birding in Merapoh is easy, as there is only one main road for birding. The road is normally prohibited from cars, so it becomes very convenient for birders to walk along the road. However, it was already dark inside the jungle, so I walked out to the campground. As I was walking out, I heard the extremely loud call of the Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros), the call which I haven't heard for almost a decade since my last trip to Hala Bala in southern Thailand. I then spotted 3 of them moving in the large fig tree just near the entrance. I found out that the tree was fruiting and there's also another variant male Black Hornbill feeding inside. The Black Hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus) is one of the rarest hornbills in Thailand and I've only seen it once in Borneo. Here in Merapoh, it seems to be the most numerous one! I was so excited to find that there were about 3 Prevost's Squirrels (Callosciurus prevostii) visiting the fruiting tree as well. This beautiful squirrel is extremely rare in Thailand and I missed it while visiting the Phru Toh Daeng swamp forest in Narathiwat Province almost 10 years ago. I saw a high water tower just behind the fruiting tree, so I went up there and found it amazing to take photos of birds and animals just at the eye level! However, no one allowed me to go up there again since there were several huge bee hives on that tower. After coming down, the Rhinoceros Hornbill family revisited the fruiting tree and stayed there until dark. It was just amazing to be able to watch and photograph these large and iconic birds at close range. The male shows crimson red iris, while the female has white iris. I had a really good time taking photos of them until I couldn't press the shutter release button anymore as it was almost completely dark. It was such a memorable first day for the second half of the trip!


Stu said...

Absolutely superb Hornbills..........

Hor Kee said...

Lovely shots as always. Do you notice the Dusky Langur on the left is up to something? :-P

Kah-Wai Lin said...

Nice series of images! I hope to be there next year!

Russell said...

Wow! Such a huge post. Love the hornbills and that georgeous squirrel and not to mention the Langurs and the yellownape. Fantastic.

Peng said...

The photo of the 3 hornbills is so cute! ;D
Merapoh really is a birding paradise...