Day 1 (Thursday, 23rd March)
After what amounted to a possible record time from alighting from the aeroplane at about 7:10am and climbing into the driving seat of the hire car at 8:20am, we made good headway up the motorways past Kuala Lumpur and found our route fairly easily. There wasn't much of interest during the journey, apart from assorted mynas which were passed in good numbers, a few crows, and various hirundines which looked to be mainly Barn Swallows. As soon as we left the motorway and joined the smaller roads, the habitat became much more interesting, consisting of smaller winding roads through the hills, and we quickly noted Hill Myna at a reservoir only 3-4km from the initial turn off. The ascent was slow but surrounded by lush hillsides, until we reached the first of the Holy Grails in the shape of The Gap Resthouse, which we were surprised to find open once more.
The birding around the rest house started off very well, with a pair of Black-crested Bulbuls playing in bushes across the road, and Oriental Magpie-robin singing just above. Pacific Swallows were constantly in and out of the eaves of the Resthouse, with one or two perched just above us. House Swifts were amongst the more numerous hirundines overhead. We didn't have much luck on a brief sortie to the rear of the building, so the decision was made to begin a trek up the Old Road towards Fraser's Hill. However, this move was greeted by the beginnings of what was to be torrential rain, leaving us with the decision to return to the shelter of the rest house terrace, watching anything that may pop up from there while waiting for the weather to improve.
We watched the rain fall with some venom for around 45 minutes, and despite there being very little avian activity during this time, it was a pleasure to be in such lush equatorial surroundings. We did spot Streaked Spiderhunter, which returned once or twice to an adjacent flowering tree. When the rain had subsided to a drizzle, we made our way down the main road for about half a kilometre, which was very quiet apart from some workmen at the base of the New Road. The only bird added here was Common Tailorbird. The decision was therefore made to head up the Old Road, which is now the one way descent from Fraser's Hill. This was again very quiet for the first kilometre, after which the bird life erupted in the form of a large bird wave. Copious Large Woodshrikes began the melee, then a couple of species of Drongo (Bronzed & Greater Racket-tailed), interspersed with views of Fiery Minivets, Sultan Tit, Chestnut-capped Laughing-thrush, and Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike. The rain began to fall more heavily again, but this did not dissipate the birds. The drongos hung around for some time, with the Large Woodshrikes being a constant feature, and then some of the Bulbuls started to appear, with Ochraceous at first, followed by the initially confusing local race of Ashy, and White-headed putting in an appearance a little later. We ventured further afield (ie another 20 metres up the track) to find another wave of new species. This included Blue-winged Leafbird to add to an earlier Greater Leafbird, some White-bellied Yuhinas, a very confiding Sultan Tit, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrikes above, and a brief Lesser Cuckoo-shrike. More Chestnut-capped Laughing-thrushes and Common Tailorbird preceded Red-bearded Bee-eater and Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, with an impressive sunning action in the descending mist. By now the rain had started to subside again, leaving the air warm, humid, and totally overcast, with the mist gradually creeping in. We had now been in the same spot for over an hour.
Just when we had decided that the mist was getting the better of the birding, up sprung a treeful of Black-browed Barbet, Ashy Bulbul, and White-bellied Yuhina. This sparked off another half an hour in one spot. We tried unsuccessfully for better views of the trio through the mist, but calls from either side of the road and some patience found a couple of skulking Marbled Wren-babblers. This topped off an eventful half a kilometre of the Old Road, and even then we had subsequent views of Chestnut-breasted Malkoha and a few minivets.