Brainchild of the Selangor Bird Group of the Malaysia Nature Society and the Fraser’s Hill Development Corporation and inaugurated in 1988 with only five teams of three birdwatchers, the Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race has become an important annual get-together amongst bird watchers and nature lovers worldwide. It has been featured in the bird watchers’ maps all over the world. The untiring efforts by the Malaysian Nature Society and the Fraser’s Hill Development Corporation has made Fraser’s Hill a premier bird watching spot in the country.
Fraser’s Hill is often been referred to as a first-class bird watching destination in this region, since this highland paradise is home to more than 250 species of wild birds. Come November and December each year, the virtually untouched mountainous forests of Fraser’s Hill will receive many species of newcomers, that is the migratory species that fly across from places as far as northern Siberia of Russia and islands north of Japan and neighbouring land mass, to seek new feeding grounds as well as to escape the freezing winter up north. The sightings of Siberian thrush from Siberia are often reported and they are truly a rare treat to ardent bird watchers. Normally these migratory species stay around in Fraser’s Hill for couple of months before migrating southwards to Australia and New Zealand. They will fly back home to the north in March and April when the sun is getting sunnier.
It is known fact that many rare and endangered species are often sighted in Fraser’s Hill. Endangered local species such as the wreathed
hornbills and rhinoceros hornbills can be spotted at times. At certain times, rare endemic species too often make their presence felt.
Bird watching is fast catching up especially in Fraser’s Hill. You need not be an expert to do bird watching. A bird book preferably with illustrations, a pair of binoculars and a torchlight are all what you need and save for occasional tropical showers, you will have a whale of a time watching exotic birds in their natural habitat. A few years back, when development works in the likes of building of new bungalows and constructing a new alternative road to this resort were at their height, the number of resident birds not to mention the migratory species, were noticeably diminishing. However, of late, the bird population is significantly growing back, thanks to the aggressive `preserve-nature’ campaigns by the local authorities and environ-mentalists. This year’s bird race, the organisers are very optimistic that more species will be sighted including species unheard of before.
Bird watching is non–spectator activity. Many people have the impression that a bird race is an event where birds actually race or being raced against each other. Actually, a bird race is a ‘fun race‘ where teams of three birdwatchers compete against each other in sighting, identifying and recording the most number of species (not birds!) within the boundaries of Fraser’s Hill which cover an area of 2,804 hectares of lush, virtually untouched tropical jungles, and subjected to stipulated ground rules set by the organizers. Throughout the race, participants are repeatedly forewarned that the welfare of the birds must come first. Trapped or injured birds or birds considered by the arbitrators or field judges as escapees are not counted. In order not to disturb the birds, participants are strictly prohibited from using audio equipment. Participants are also not allowed to communicate with other competitors regarding the whereabouts of the birds except members of his own team. Failure to comply with the rules will result in the forfeiture of species that have been recorded in their team logs or even disqualification.
Similar to the game of golf and any other non–spectator game, the bird race is based on sincerity and honesty of the participants. However, in questionable cases (which is very rare), the arbitrators may ask the participants the whereabouts of the birds sighted and recorded and even request the full descriptions of the birds. The arbitrators are very qualified birdwatchers and environmentalists who enjoy years of bird watching in Fraser’s Hill and know the birds and their whereabouts like the palms of their hands.
This year, the competition will be divided into two distinctive categories – the advanced category for the serious and experienced bird watchers who habitually return to Fraser’s Hill at the slightest opportunity to do trial field runs, the novice category for those who just take up bird watching out of curiosity or treat bird watching as an academic hobby.
Surprisingly, from the past events, cash money is not the main attraction of the participants. They seemed to prefer prizes in kinds such as bird books, binoculars, digital cameras, bush gears, field tents etc. Nevertheless, this year there will be attractive prizes for the grabs. This year’s rules will be slightly stricter with the inclusion of checkpoints at various strategic spots where participants will have to register in order to maintain their eligibility.
In the previous years, side events were held to draw crowds to this cool and quiet highland retreat. This year too, despite the limited funding, the organisers have decided to retain a few similar side events, although not on a large scale. Exhibitions relating to nature and birds will be held, and at the same time, seminars and workshops on bird life and nature will be conducted to instill awareness to the general public that it is important to preserve nature for the enjoyment of future generations. Plus, the karaoke competition, cultural performance, the treasure hunt competition and colouring contest will be held too.
Bird watching is a healthy and academic outdoor sport. The objectives of the Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race are to preserve nature and simultaneously to promote Fraser’s Hill as a bird sanctuary. Even though there are other bird watching destinations in the country, Fraser’s Hill is still a preferred destination because large species of mountain birds thrive comfortably in the most conducive habitats here, and at certain times of the year, migratory birds make their presence felt, although briefly.
As long as there are bird watchers and birds to watch, bird watching in Fraser’s Hill will go on and the organisers hope that one day bird watching will be a favourite academic hobby of the population.
For More Details Contact;
RRASER’S HILL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
JKR.300, JALAN MASJID, 25000 KUANTAN,
TEL: 609 – 517 1623, 517 1624 FAX: 609 – 517 1626
-Tourism Malaysia Pahang.