Fraser’s Hill is known to be one of the best birding locations in Peninsula Malaysia. Home to more than 250 species of birds and famed for its cool climate and rustic environment, it is no wonder that birders flock there to see some of the pretty montane birds that cannot be found elsewhere.
So when the borders finally opened after the COVID-19 pandemic, we jumped at the opportunity to travel across the causeway to Fraser’s Hill for our first holiday in three years!
We set off before the sun rose and embarked eagerly on the long drive from Singapore. A 9-hour car ride and a gazillion twists and turns later, we arrived at Fraser’s Hill by mid-afternoon.
There are several hiking trails in Fraser’s Hill that wind through the jungle. But we soon learnt that in order to find the birds, we could simply walk along the paved roads without having to hike into the leech-ridden and poorly maintained forest trails.
So that was what we did – tromp up and down the network of roads winding around the hill. One of the most popular roads for birding is the Telekom Loop that winds around the telecommunications tower on the summit. It was for us a pleasant and leisurely half-day walk on this meandering road, where we encountered many of the colourful birds of Fraser’s Hill.
One of my favourite birds spotted along the Telekom Loop was the Red-headed Trogon (Harpactes erythrocephalus), an attractive but shy bird who likes to perch surreptitiously high up in the trees.
Also fond of perching at a high point is the Black-thighed Falconet (Microhierax fringillarius), whom we were very happy to meet on our first day of hiking.
While trundling along the Telekom Loop, we were suddenly greeted by this chirpy Rufous-browed Flycatcher (Anthipes solitaris). He was calling out incessantly, while flitting left and right to show us both his good sides.
One of the most abundant bird species on Fraser’s Hill is the Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush (Pterorhinus mitratus). On every one of our walks around town, we will surely see or hear them, always friendly and affable.
During our many walks over the course of three days, we encountered numerous bird waves – a mixed-species flock of birds that move together while engaged in a feeding frenzy. Each time we would be overwhelmed by the cacophony of sounds and would find it a challenge to focus on any one bird especially when they keep hopping around.
It was at these bird waves that we met many of the interesting and beautiful resident birds of Frasers, such as the Buff-breasted Babbler (Pellorneum tickelli)…
…the Mountain Fulvetta (Alcippe peracensis)…
…the Streaked Spiderhunter (Arachnothera magna)…
…the Long-tailed Sibia (Heterophasia picaoides)…
…the Mountain Bulbul (Ixos mcclellandii)…
…and the Large Niltava (Niltava grandis). The Niltavas have a very high-pitched squeaky call that we frequently hear during our hikes, but less often do we actually see them. If we do see them, they tend to be very accommodating and pose nicely for photos.
At one of the abandoned construction sites along Jalan Lady Guillemard, we noticed several Rufous-bellied Swallows (Cecropis badia) flying loops around the area, at times landing on the muddy ground. On closer look, they appeared to be collecting mud for nest building. We staked out the area for a while, observing their flight patterns and marvelling at their perseverance in collecting nesting material.
On one of our hiking expeditions, we decided to make a special trip to the now abandoned Richmond House, hoping to catch sight of the Malayan Partridge family that is known to live there. We were not actually expecting to see them, since they are said to be elusive and skittish. After exploring the area for a while, as we were about to head back, one partridge suddenly appeared from amongst the vegetation by the side of the road.
Completely taken by surprise, we stood frozen at the spot not daring to move or breathe, only to see more partridges venturing out from the forest edge – a total of 4 of them!
Just like us, the partridges stood still eyeing us cautiously for a very long time, until one by one they decided to half-run-half-fly across the road.
What could be so enticing on the other side of the road that would make these partridges abandon all caution and dash across, we wondered…
Back at the MCM Nature Discovery Villa (run by Stephen from Stephen’s Place) where we stayed, the Sky Cabin also functioned for us as a bird-watching tower, from which we could lepak and bird watch in the middle of the day.
From atop the tower, we could not only see Genting Highlands…
…but also spy on the many birds that made their rounds around the tower. During our stakeout sessions, we managed to catch the Striped-throated Bulbul (Pycnonotus finlaysoni)…
…and a couple of Orange-bellied Leafbirds (Chloropsis hardwickii) – the male…
The fruiting berry tree at the entrance of Stephen’s Place is a magnet for many wonderful birds, especially the barbets. We hence refer to it as the “barbet tree”. Every time we stop by the barbet tree, we can be sure to find the Fire-tufted Barbet (Psilopogon pyrolophus)…
…and the Black-browed Barbet (Psilopogon oorti), the two most common barbet species in Fraser’s Hill. Other than the barbet tree, they can also be heard calling all over town. We were especially amused to hear the Fire-tufted Barbet’s call, which sounds very much like a cicada.
Also frequently heard chirping in the garden of Stephen’s Place and flitting around the bougainvillea flowers is the Black-throated Sunbird (Aethopyga saturata), the most abundant sunbird species on Fraser’s Hill.
Besides the birds, we were also delighted to bump into some of the mammals that live here. Abundant and scuttling all over the place are the Western Striped Squirrels (Tamiops mcclellandii). They are small but conspicuous with their pretty stripes along their backs.
We were very happy to spy on the Dusky Langur (Trachypithecus obscurus), also known as the Dusky Leaf Monkey, munching on his favourite food – leaves – while sitting on a thin branch with legs a’dangling spying back at us with his spectacled eyes.
Another commonly seen primate species at Fraser’s Hill is the White-thighed Langur (Presbytis siamensis). During our short stay there, we managed to see several families of White-thighed Langurs, who showed us how to truly and properly lepak.
While driving down the hill along the New Road, we were greeted by a troop of Pig-tailed Macaques (Macaca nemestrina). As we slowed down to say hello, the alpha male came right up beside us, stuck out his chest and flexed his muscles – perhaps it was his way of saying goodbye and wishing us a safe journey home.
For a list of all the birds that we saw during our trip to Fraser’s Hill, check out our ebird checklists:
There are many trails and roads on Fraser’s Hill that we have yet to explore during our short trip, so we will definitely be back soon and hopefully get acquainted with more of the wonderful wildlife there.