News from Hor Kee that he had seen and photographed the endemic form of Grey-headed Woodpecker at Gunung Brinchang, and that he had seen the Eurasian Sparrowhawk wintering near Tanah Rata sent me on my first real twitch of the year.
Last year, when news of the sparrowhawk broke in December, I had decided against making the trip. It’s still incredibly rare (this is the 3rd record I know of in Peninsular Malaysia), and records have always been of a single observer sighting, but this bird was evidently hanging around the same area, making it somewhat tempting. The real prize though, was the woodpecker. Surely an endemic species in its own right, it has been seen rarely at just two sites – Gunung Tahan in Taman Negara (a three day hike in the jungle) and Gunung Brinchang at Cameron Highlands. The last sighting prior to this was in 1999 I believe.
Gunung Brinchang, home of Grey-headed Woodpeckers, site of Malaysia’s first Rufous-headed Robin record, and who knows what else!
Mossy forest gems!
So after a late night drive to Brinchang, I spent the next two mornings at the summit of the mountain seeing…very little!
Yellow-browed Warblers were vocal and active.
As were Mountain Warblers, singing away in the early morning mist.
I was glad to get great views of a Golden-throated Barbet feasting on fruits. This barbet isn’t seen at Fraser’s Hill, which is too low.
I spent the afternoon hanging around the valley where the sparrowhawk had been seen, and was genuinely puzzled by this bird foraging high in the canopy for a while. I worked it out eventually – it’s the first time I’ve seen Yellow-vented Flowerpecker at 1550m asl!
My plan was to sit at Strawberry Park and hope that the sparrowhawk would fly by on its way to roost. I got chatting to one of the chefs, who invited me to sit on the balcony of the restaurant. So I sat with coffee in hand and waited…!
Bingo! At about 5.30pm she came sweeping up the valley and then wheeled around several times to get some height.
Not the best lighting, as I was looking into the sun, but I wasn’t complaining!
This was one BIG accipiter! The prominent hooded effect is something I have not noticed on Eurasian Sparrowhawk before. I have seen nisosimillis before, but it’s been a long time! It would be easy to mistake something as big and bulky as this as a Northern Goshawk. However, the obviously square-ended, narrow-based tail and relatively straight trailing edge to the wing identify it as Eurasian.
It certainly doesn’t look anything like any of our regular accipiters!
A great bird, and one that made the trip worthwhile, despite the disappointment of failing with the woodie!
There were a few Cook’s Swifts about, with their narrow rump band distinctive even at great distance.
On my homeward trip I popped in at Kek Lok Tong temple in Ipoh hoping to tick off the trio of Blue Rock Thrush, Java Sparrow and Blue Whistling-Thrush. The latter eluded me, but the other two were easily seen.