Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fraser's Hill Even Though A Tiny Spot in the Map but is a famous gateaway

Where Is Fraser's Hill
Fraser's hill is being gazetted as protected area. It is also known as one of the renown spot for bird-watching in Malaysia. This hill stations is about 105km north of Kuala Lumpur. It is about 2 hours car drive from Kuala Lumpur.

How to reach Fraser's Hill
This holiday hill station used to be easy accessible by public transport which is the economical mode of travelling preferably by foreign visitors are no longer available. The local bus that ply from the nearest town Kuala Kubu Bahru have cease their operations more than 6 yrs ago.
Today this hill station can be reach by either of the following routes.
a) to avoid paying toll from Kuala Lumpur city centre use the trunk road (Jalan Kuching) drive towards the signage Rawang and then turn right at Kuala Kubu Baru junction. Then follow the signboard Fraser’s Hill to reach the destination.
b) From North-South Highway exit at Kuala Kubu Baru the nearest town follow the signboard Fraser’s Hill to reach the destination.
c) If prefer a more scenic road from Middle Ring Road II pass by Genting Highland follow the signage to Bentong and then continue the journey follow the signboard to Fraser’s Hill.
It is essential to fill up the car petrol tank at Kuala Kubu Baru, the nearest town as there are no petrol station at Fraser’s Hill.
For those who wish to travel in the economical mode need to take the train or public transport to Kuala Kubu Baru. Continue the journey by charter taxi. Do make the necessary arrangement on when you require the taxi transfer service back to Kuala Kubu Baru as taxi service is unavailable n Fraser’s Hill.

What is the expected temperature
All year round Fraser’s Hill temperature are in the range of 15 Celsius to 25 Celsius.

What is your preconception of Fraser’s Hill?
a) Clock Tower
For a normal holiday makers who wish to have a weekend gateway from the busy hassle of their daily routine, would vote the Clock Tower. This clock tower is in the town it also serve as roundabout the first thing you meet as you make your way into Fraser’s Hill. This is classic and a must to be photograph. My mother has hers taken when she make her first visit with her bunch of friends many decades ago. That was before she got to know my father.

b) The Gap rest house
For a bird-watcher the Gap rest house a British colonial bungalow located at the foothill of Fraser’s Hill. This is a perfect choice of accommodation. Staying in Gap rest house will allow a bird-watcher as they walk 8km up to Fraser’s Hill to experience a wider range of habitat of birds. They could have varieties of lowland forest, sub-montane forest and montane forest birds.

In additional to the spacious rooms at Gap rest house , the room rates also would not financially burden a foreign birdwatcher who prefer to stay for at least 1 week.
For a weekend holiday maker a brief stopover at the Gap rest house for a cup of English Tea with freshly baked scones and homemade marmalade is a good relief for those who wish to stretch their legs before continue the journey. Beside English Tea, scones the Gap rest house restaurant also serves noodles cooked in different varieties and western food. My birders friends mentioned that in the good old days the Gap’s restaurant even included roast turkey in their menu during Christmas time.
Due to it’s strategic location the Gap rest house is also able to provide a warm bed to break a tired journey for a night to those who use this path for travel to Kuala Lipis.
It is such a shame that today the Gap rest house is not able to function and provide as stated as above. Few years ago this place is left to ruined and not able to continue “to shine it’s glory’ as it has mismanaged by the new management. The Gap rest house located at foothill of Fraser’s Hill is widely known to foreign birders as there are many field trips report sightings has being shared in the internet for this small spot in Malaysia. I’m sure many of them would ask why the Gap Rest house is yet to restore back to it’s formal stage?

My field trip
This trip was planned a year ago to meet the request of my Thai birder friends. Even though where they are based montane forest is easy accessible, there are still a number of birds species are confine to Malaysia montane forest only.

Unknown to them, their visit to Fraser’s Hill happen to coincide with the march short school holiday. Due to this Fraser’s Hill is crowded with weekend holiday maker and the accommodation are based on peak rates. Therefore suggest that in order to have a more fruitful birding trip it is best to avoid weekends, public holiday and school holidays as the accessibility to this hill station has improved.
Ever since the new road being repaired the last 8km drive of narrow road do not required the 1 hour interval control of traffic of upper gate and lower gate . The old road is now use for up traffic and the new road is for down traffic. This has drawn more tourist especially weekend holiday maker.
For this birding trip we had our stayed at Jelai resort that usually have a good morning bird waves. It was shocking experience for one of our foreign guest cause the rooms and beddings conditions did not match with the rates. Anyhow this place is due for renovations before it hand over to manage by another new management. Hope that there will be improvement later.
Walking around Fraser's Hill on the nicely pave tarmac road can be fruitful for bird-watching if your expectation is not aim for tick secluded species.
There are also many jungle trails to explore for those who wish to have a taste of montane forest. This will enable a wider window chance for encountering those species that prefer secluded area for habitat eg Malaysian Peacock Pheasant, Hill Patridge, Rusty-Naped Pitta, Large Scimittar Babbler, Marbled Wren Babbler, Ferruginous Partridge.

The cicada buzzing call of Fire-Tufted Barbet being the residence bird would not be miss for any fruiting trees like above.

The pair of Little Pied Flycatcher reduce it's comfort range with human as It sense no danger as Fraser's Hill is a protected area.
The bottle bush could not resist Leafbird, Spiderhunter and Sunbird.
The bird waves at Jelai resort in the morning would enable ones to tick a few species such as what I had photograph.

A abandon garage at Telekom loop would be a mesmerizing experience to withhold as many swiflet darting in and out from one spot.
This high level of biodiversity pristine forest provide a safe home ground for the residence montane forest birds it also able to support winter migrants. During birds migrations period Oriental Honey Buzzard can be seeing as passage migrants or use Fraser’s Hill for their short wintering grounds. Beside Oriental Honey Buzzard others migrants to name a few such as Siberian Thrush, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher can be sighted at Fraser’s Hill.

This Siberian Thrush breeds in Taiga, Siberia. It is a very secretive bird, they moves to southeast asia during winter.
White Thighed Surili is endemic to the Thai-Malay Penisula, the Riau Archipelago and Sumatra. Found in sub-montane forest, their diets are young leaves shoots, seeds and forest fruits.

Fraser's Hill this tiny spot in Malaysia beside attracted the birdwatchers it also a haven among entomologist.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Raptor Census at Tanjung Tuan, Malaysia

The company that I work required us to utilise our previous year carried forward leave before 31st of March. It has being a few years already I use a big portion of my carried forward leave as field trips to participate in conservation of raptors through monitoring.

Raptor comes from a Latin word rapere that means to seize, to grap by force. Raptor is a term use for birds that have good eyesight for accurate judgement of distance for landing and hunting. They also have strong talons, strong curved beak, strong legs for catching, holding food and to tear flesh.

The purpose of research on migrating raptors through monitoring this long term migratory raptor census project is collate information on migratory raptor populations, species, it's flight strategies on weather conditions. Over the years of data information collated will then able to make a better analysis does it's flight patterns behaviour, populations are affected by the environmental factors. The intresting part is others countries who are in the migratory raptors flyway are also doing this type of survey and monitoring. The data collated by each country will then be combine and compile for a better information and knowledge necessary for conservation of raptors and their habitats.

Raptors migratory patterns and it's populations is a good yardstick of the health of our ecosystem environment. A healthy ecosystem is a good indicator availabilities of adequate food source and fresh water for all.

Where is the best site for Raptor migratory monitoring in Malaysia for spring migration?
At present we able to indentify that Tg Tuan or formally known as Cape Rachado.

The meaning of Spring migration.
Spring migration is bird in big population migrate long distance flying north bound in the spring to breed. Food source is the primary motivation for migration. The longer days of the northen hemispher sumner provide extended time for breeding birds to feed their young.

As migration is energy intensive the fly route are normally shaped by geographical, ecological, and even meteorological factors. Flyways normally is along mountain ranges or coastlines this is due the birds could have the advantage of updrafts and other wind patterns. If possible they will avoid large stretches of open water (sea).

What is the Best time to watch the raptors at Tanjung Tuan.
In order to conserve energy to cross the open sea the raptors will use the fly path of Pulau Rupat, Indonesia that is about 38km distance from Tg Tuan. As raptors are large they require thermals to assist them to glide without using much energy to continous flapping their wings, the timeframe windows on a good condusive weather for migration is between 11am till 4pm.

The waiting time for migratory raptors, you could observe the others residence birds and wildlife that residece in that small green lung.

This year the 42 days counting starts from Feb bring a final score of 57,128 raptors fly past Tg Tuan.

Oriental Honey Buzzard- 53,040
Black Baza - 2,818
Chinese Goshawk - 824
Japanese Sparrowhawk - 152
Grey-faced Buzzard - 118

Does the raptors migratory patterns and it's population impacted by the changes on global weather conditions and natural dissaster? If you are a birder based in Malaysia do spare some days as a volunteering basis to assist Raptor Census at Tg Tuan.

Your small contribution and effort will leads us the answers for the above. The census are carry out yearly from Mid February till April.