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Fraser's Hill, nature's aviary in Malaysia

By Arthur Edward

KUALA LUMPUR, July 13 (Bernama) -- As for those in the Klang Valley keen in birding, Fraser's Hill located 130 kilometres from the capital city is the nearest and the best bird watching spot.

A natural aviary with 260 endemic and migratory species of birds, Fraser's Hill highland is a transient home, a stopover for the winged beauties as they migrate to the southern hemisphere.

Thus, it is not surprising to note that this highland was recognised as one of the best bird watching sites in Malaysia by the Tourism Ministry in 2009.

Fraser's Hill, located on the Titiwangsa range in Pahang, at 1,524 meters above sea level, has a pleasant atmosphere with temperatures that range from 17 to 24 degrees Celsius.

Known for its unique flora and fauna, Fraser's Hill was at one time the primary hill station and one of Malaysia's few pristine forest areas where Britons sought out cool air, bird-watching and golf. It still carries an old world charm.

Getting to know bird species

Fraser's Hill is the only place in Malaysia that has been organising the annual International Bird Race since 1988.

The 25th edition of the race, held recently from June 22 to 23, was well received by local and foreign participants, with 49 teams participating in the competition compared to three in the inaugural event in 1988. Clearly, the initiative has grown over the years, and attracts much more interest now.

The event is organised by the Fraser's Hill Development Corporation, with the cooperation of government agencies, private organisations, and non-governmental organisations (NGO). The Malaysian Nature Society provides ample assistance too. The event has been listed on the Pahang tourism calendar.

In the event, participants have to identify as many birds as possible within the stipulated route and time.

One should pay attention to birds that come in various shapes, sizes, and colours. The chirping of the birds, their squeals, clucks, hoots, tweets, shrieks and squawks amidst the tranquil settings sooth the mind and leave the heart gladdened.

Bird species

Some species of birds are easy to spot, including the Rhinoceros Hornbill, Mountain Tailorbird, Silver Eared Mesia, Chestnut Capped Thrush, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, and the Long Tailed Sibia.

About 20 species of birds that migrate from Siberia, Japan and China to the southern hemisphere halt in Malaysia, giving people a rare opportunity to acquaint themselves with these guests.

One of the species is the very rare Blue Winged Pitta, a rather shy and ground-dwelling bird that is elusive like the pheasant fowl, letting itself be glimpsed only by those who are willing to wait patiently, camera at the ready, prayer on the lips and love for those born with wings.

Winners of the race

This year's winner was 'Aquilas,' a team from Penang which bagged the competition in the Advance category. James Ooi, Tan Choo Eng, and Choy Wai Mun, who were part of the team, won the honours by identifying 68 species of birds.

Norhayani Jalaweh, Mohd Asrul Abdullah, and Qaleed al-Amin Mustareem from the 'Qaleed' team won in the Novice category, identifying 51 species of birds.

According to Fraser's Hill Development Corporation's General Manager Datuk Md Hanafiah Abdul Talib, this competition helps to increase public awareness about the natural environment and preserve the natural heritage for future generations.

"We don't allow much development to take place here because we accord prime importance to the natural environment. The natural landscape will be ruined if there is any over-development," he said.

"The competition could help to attract more local and international tourists by promoting Fraser's Hill as one of the ideal green highland resorts in Malaysia.

"The race is organised every year to protect and preserve the natural heritage in Fraser's Hill, which is rich in flora and fauna and also acts as a bird sanctuary," he told Bernama after the race.

"Visitors to Fraser's Hill attain peace of mind in the fresh, cool, and quiet surroundings," he added.

Every year, approximately 100,000 people visit Fraser's Hill, a premier exotic tropical destination for bird watching.

And no matter how many times you visit, and how much time you spend, there will always be a few species that will elude you, forcing you to think that perhaps it is the secret strategy of these winged beauties to make you plan yet another visit.

Is that what the songbirds were discussing with the warblers when another cute one was chirping by the side, trying to eavesdrop? Well, you'll never know, unless you visit Fraser's Hill next time.



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