Day 314: Fraser’s Hill: A World Apart

In search of something more precious than gold.

November 10, 2015: Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia — In the late 1800s, a Scotsman named Louis Fraser was exploring central Malaysia in search of gold and decided to mount an expedition into the Titiwangsa Range. At the top, he found a thick cloud forest full of tree ferns and vines. Fraser didn’t find any gold there, but he did discover some tin deposits which he spent the following years mining with local help. He eventually vanished without a trace, and the area is now called Fraser’s Hill in his honor.

Chun and I ascended Fraser’s Hill this morning in search of something more precious than gold: New birds! This place is now one of peninsular Malaysia’s best known birding sites because of its easy access to highland cloud forest.

The jungle here feels different than any I’ve seen in Malaysia so far. It’s a primeval, wet, cool, misty sort of place, with palms, ferns, and various other exotic-looking leaves in a thick explosion of greens. The top of the hill is above 4,000 feet elevation and a world apart from the lowlands where Chun and I sweated for our sightings yesterday.

Some of the highlights today included Black-and-crimson Oriole, Lesser Shortwing, Silver-rumped Needletail, and Red-headed Trogon; and, at dusk, a pair of Malaysian Nightjars emerged to catch insects on the wing. Chun and I were waiting for the nightjars along a forest road below Fraser’s Hill when a man suddenly walked up to us and said, “Hey, I know you!” He was a keen birder from Finland and has been following this blog. Funny to be recognized on the side of a mountain in Malaysia! Thanks, Andreas, for the hornbills!

New birds today: 15

Year list: 5201

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