Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Trip to Bukit Larut, 16th-18th February, 2008 by Selangor Bird Group

Bukit Larut, formerly known as Maxwell Hill, is Malaysia’s second oldest hill station. Standing at 1,389m above sea level, it was established in 1884 by William Edward Maxwell, Assistant British Resident of Perak, as a 'refuge' for colonial officials seeking to escape from the sweltering heat in the lowlands. Today, little has changed and the colonial-day bungalows still stand. This lack of development, however, allows the birds to thrive. As many as 253 species of birds have been recorded here (Birds of Perak by Bird Group, MNS Perak, 2006). It was no wonder then that the response to the trip was overwhelming and the 20 odd places were quickly snapped up.

The group met at the Jeep Station at the foot of the hill on 16th February. At noon, three jeep- loads of birders, with their luggage in tow, wound their way up the hill. After negotiating 93 torturous bends, we finally arrived at the stop by the Speedy (Gunung Hijau) Bungalow. From here, it took us another 10 minutes to trek 400m to The Nest, our accommodation for the trip.

Except for the rain in the wee hours of the second day, the weather was warm and sunny. We were split into two groups – one group took the road leading downhill towards the Cendana Hut and the other, the road leading up to Bukit Cauldfield where the Telekom Tower is located. In the final tally, a total of 79 species of birds were sighted and 8 heard.

Passage migrants such as the Arctic, Eastern-crowned and Inornate Warblers, and the Siberian Thrush were among the birds spotted. Some of the resident species sighted were the Red-headed Trogon, Speckled Piculet, Long-tailed Broadbill, Blyth’s Hawk Eagle, Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler, Pygmy Wren and Streaked Wren Babblers as well as five species of Hornbill.

Bushy-Crested Hornbill

The owls, however, were the stars. A Brown Wood Owl was sighted perched on a tree by the Speedy Bungalow on the first night. News of the sighting brought the rest of the birders, who had stayed back in The Nest, sprinting down the trail in semi-darkness, risking sprained ankles and the cold. In their haste, some came clad in their pajamas! Fortunately, the owl remained perched for some time before it flew off into the dark.

Our encounter with owls continued the following day when a Collared Owlet was sighted perched on a tree off the road leading to the Telekom Tower. It was a 'lifer' for most of us.

Collared Owlet

All too soon it was time to pack up and head for home. In the span of two days and nights, we had collected at least a 'lifer' each, and made several new friends while renewing our acquaintances with the old. We had also added inches to our waistlines from the huge meals served by the Lees and from the Chinese New Year cookies and oranges that some group members had brought along.

Text by Chin Khee Tow
Photos by John Steed
All photos are copyright property of John Steed
No unauthorised use of any kind is permitted.

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