Tuesday, 3 May 2005

Beginner Birders at Frasers: One Course, Two Perspectives (II)

by Andy & Lai Wah

Unashamedly, it was our 2nd Basic Birding Course with the Selangor Bird Group SIG. We have been doing lowland birding for a while and jumped on this golden opportunity to seek out the montane birds with the gurus.
We have been visiting Fraser's Hill all these years for all other reasons except birding. It is strange. It never occurred to us that there were even birds around! We must have been terribly out of sync with the birding hours. One certainly does not expect to see any birds in the late afternoon for the uninitiated. A tranquil hill resort for perfect relaxation, Frase'ís Hill turned out to be a paradise for birding.

Andy & I managed to convince our daughter, Marianne, to come along on the pretext of enjoying the wonderful cool weather up in the hills. In actual fact, we were hoping to rub off some birding interests onto her. Thanks to our very patient auntie Carol and auntie Bing, Marianne had found it enjoyable to spot so many "plump and juicy" colorful birds.

Sat, 30Apr05
There was excitement in the air as the participants checked into the resort in the late afternoon. Not long after, we were nicely tucked into a serious session of how to handle and choose a pair of quality binoculars by our ardent supporter, Mr. Woo from LEICA. Immediately after, we were whisked off for an informal bird watching session around the resort and lake. We did not even have to try very hard to train our eyes on our bins. A string of lifers were waiting to be discovered; White-throated Fantails, Long-tailed Sibias, Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, Fire-tufted Barbets, Silver-eared Mesias, Streaked Spiderhunters, Mountain Fulvettas, Grey-chinned Minivets, Black and Crimson Orioles and Sunbirds.

After a sumptuous dinner, we were engaged in a session for Bird-watching for Beginners. We learned to communicate via bird talk. You refer to a bird's neck as nape, its eyebrow as supercillium, its moustache as malar stripe, its back as mantle and its rear as rump. The list goes on.

Sun, 1May05
Many of us had envisaged a slow, relaxing workshop. How wrong we were. By 7am we were all assembled at the resort's foyer, not for breakfast, but for a two hour practical session of bird-watching. There were little murmurs of "ooh where's my morning coffee" and "how can I get my engine started without any breakfast?". We were enthralled at the first sight of the green magpie followed by the Malaysian Cuckoo- Shrike, Lesser Racquet Tailed Drongo and many of the beauties we saw yesterday.

After breakfast, we followed a convoy of cars to the Telecom Loop, a highly recommended prime montane forest habitat where we spotted several bird waves (movement of many birds together in mixed species). The spectacular Long-tailed Broadbills building their nest were a sight to behold.
The afternoon found us in class again to discuss our bird sightings and attempt to identify the species. We later adjourned to the "new road" adjacent to the Corona nursery for more lifers. By dusk, we were proud to have filled our bird sighting notebook with memories to last a life time.
The evening was filled with a very informative talk on Bird Conservation by Yeap Chin Aik, our very dedicated LAMIBA Coordinator for MNS. We were pretty pleased that we are actually helping to protect birds and their habitat through regular bird watching and monitoring in local important bird areas in the country. Do you know that birds are increasingly monitored as indicators of the health of our environment? A quote from Bird Life International sums it all.
"The decline of bird population in many parts of the world is of considerable concern, indicating a fundamental flaw in the way that we treat the environment."

Mon, 2May05
On our last morning along the "new road", many of the participants were treated to a special sighting of the Wreathed Hornbills across the scenic highland forest.
The debriefing session was nostalgic. It was evident that many of us had fallen in love with the highland birds. I am sure that this had been an eye opener for many of us. Many thanks to the dedicated Bird Group facilitators who had made this a very successful and rewarding workshop by sharing their passion with us.

As we left Fraser's Hill for home, we found ourselves birding at the "new road" adjacent to the Gap for another hour under the fiery afternoon sun. We added two more prized lifers to our notebook. The Black-crested Bulbul and a pair of Sultan Tits. Gosh! we are nuts over birding!

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