Birding Fraser`s Hil

Fraser`s Hill in peninsular Malaysia is another one of these almost legendary birding locations in Southeast Asia. Birdwatching being an activity which cannot easily be shifted to air-conditioned rooms, the cooler climate compared to places such as Taman Negara is actually quite an advantage. And the birding is somewhat easier here as long as you do not make the mistake of reading some of the older bird guides. These invariably recommend walking along some of the trails here, even though local bird guides tend to ignore them – they are both difficult to walk and display a remarkable lack of birdlife. Better to stay on the roads – there is not much traffic here outside of the weekends…

A good place to stay seems to be the Shazan Inn – not because it is in any way special (it is not), but because it is the home of a very friendly cat which would like you to share your breakfast with it. Just saying.

So, in terms of birds, what is it that you might find? Is it justified to describe them (as one of my German friends did) as a bunch of a “show-offs and busybodies” (he is somewhat critical of birds he deems too colorful)?

Black-throated Sunbird, in a rare moment of standing still

Blue Nuthatch. Wikipedia grudgingly admits that the species “has dramatic coloration unlike any other member of its genus”

A juvenile Blue-throated Bee-Eater – the grown-ups are even more colorful…

A Bronzed Drongo – not every drongo needs a fancy tail

A Buff-breasted Babbler, with “buff” being the ornithologist`s polite way of saying dull-looking…

I bet they are talking about me, thought the paranoid birdwatcher (Malayan Laughingthrush)

Punk rock is alive and well. Fire-tufted Barbet

Let`s see. This bird has a spectacular-looking red eyepatch and a grey body. And a nondescript bill. What should we call it? How about Green-billed Malkoha?

Somehow this Grey-throated Babbler makes me think of John Travolta in his classical “Sunday Night Fever” pose. But I can totally understand if you do not see the connection.

Large Niltava. Something I learned while preparing this post is that Niltava is one of the few bird names derived from the Nepali language, where the local Rufous-bellied Niltava has the name “niltau”. If you like this kind of information – and who wouldn`t – I recommend the website where I found this,

To be called Lesser Racquet-tailed Drongo – what does this do to the morale of a species?

A Little Pied Flycatcher, presumably waiting to catch a fly

A Long-tailed Sibia. These are the equivalent to the local hooligans at Fraser`s Hill – if there is a gang of them around, the other birds tread carefully.

Orange-breasted Flowerpecker – colorful and almost impossible to get a decent photo of.

Orange-bellied Leafbird among leaves: somebody got it right naming this bird.

Want to see a bird shaped like an egg? Pygmy Cupwing

Meet Mr. and Ms. Red-headed Trogon

For those who like small, cute birds: Rufous-browed Flycatcher

Silver-eared Mesia, a bird that looks like it has been designed by a very talented child artist

Spectacled Laughingthrush aka Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush

A Streaked Spiderhunter, a bird that always manages to look very stylish

A Streaked Wren-Babbler – being somewhat slow in seeing birds, I can really only appreciate the beauty of this one in a still photo rather than seeing it moving around

The Verditer Flycatcher is a bird actually named after a chemical, copper sulfate (which has the same color). Vaguely interesting for chemists who are also birdwatchers, as well as for birdwatchers who are also chemists.

White-tailed Robin: yes, please name me for my least distinctive feature.

Wreathed Hornbill – here I agree with my German friend. This bird is a bit of a show-off. Less so when in flight, though.

I have been listing to a lot of The National lately, and thus was trying hard to somehow squeeze the band in this post. However, there are only two lyrical references to birds in the National song catalog, and they are both somewhat generic (“Out of my league, I have birds in my sleeves” in”Squalor Victoria” and “Bird that flys out of order underneath the sky” in “29 years” – the latter is not a bad line). And of course, the link to birding at Fraser`s Hill is even harder to make. So, I am afraid a proper The National reference has to wait for another time.

Written by Kai Pflug
Kai Pflug has been living in Shanghai for 20 years. He only became interested in birds in China – so he is much more familiar with birds in China than with those in Germany. While he will only ever be an average birder, he aims to be a good bird photographer and has created a website with bird photos as proof. He hopes not too many clients of his consulting company read this blog, as they will doubt his dedication to providing consulting services related to China`s chemical industry. Whenever he wants to shock other birders, he tells them his (indoor) cats can distinguish several warblers by taste.