Frasers Hills Bird Race

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What is a bird Race

Avian Race - This is a competitive race that hobbyist and enthusiast got involved using birds as subject. Perhaps the most notable of Avian Race is the Pigeon Race. In this events, trained pigeons are taken far away from a common destination by their owners to a far way starting point. The Pigeon would find their way back in a form of a race to get "home". This sort of events is held in several places around the world.

The second type of "Bird Race" which is lesser known and confined to a group of enthusiast is not so much heard of. Even the term "Bird Race" is not common, as this is localized events, on the internet, sites from the Asian region is mentioned. This is an event where participants are using bird as a topic and on the contrary, the participants themselves are racing to record the highest number of birds that they have sighted within the stipulated rules.

How is it done?

Bird Race is an event when participants join the competition in teams, usually group of 3 persons, to watch and count the numbers of birds seen within a specified confine and within a stipulated person. The rules are strict but it is a fun event with the aim of stimulating interest in bird watching. For new comers and curious enthusiast, it is chance to learn about the nature existing in the region, the amount of bird life and thus gaining support for the conservation of nature and environment

The task of a Bird Race the task is simply to see as many bird species as possible within the stipulated time period. It is a race among the teams. Beside the usual crowd of bird lovers, these days there are more bird-watching done by photographers but on these occasions, they would rather not waste time capturing the birds but leave their  expensive equipment at home. They would trod along forest trails and across swamps. Then at this period, though the northern wintering period is over, there would also be another set migrant birds to be picked up.

Here are some of the arrangement for the race and also guidelines for the competition.

Each team remains as a single unit for the entire period of the "Race" and chooses a bird's name to identify themselves. The team members can be anyone with varying degree of experiences in bird watching - the committee then will vet and allocate status of competency to the team. According to experiences of the team members, the team may be categories as advance, novice & locals. Then  a group for students rode piggy back.

The Bird Race in Frasers Hills for example, starts off at 2.00pm on Saturday and ends at Noon on Sunday. The birding area is easily confined to the area of the hills resorts plus the 2 roads leading up and down to the Main Raub/Kuala Kubu Bharu Road. The cut off points would be the 2 junctions. This rules may not be followed by other organizers. In other Bird Race, there is no specific area, teams can bird anywhere but just bring in the numbers. I personally find this system with closely supervised area should bring in more consistencies and would generate comparable results. At the end chances and incidences of disputes, taken care of by the system itself.

The team all would be supplied with a Bird List of Frasers Hills as a guide. Birds sighted need not be from within the list but the adjudicators would decide that relevance of the name of any new birds, not mentioned in the list. Winning would judged by the highest numbers of birds sighted after vetting by the team of adjudicator.

Control & Rewards System

Each Team will be provided with a Bird Logbook  with appropriately marked columns for reporting observations. At strategic points around the resort area, Marshalls would be stationed at for birders to log in at the check point.
Participating team need not follow a time schedule nor following a specific route to meet "time intervals" at the Marshalling points which are set purely as another form of verification of the sightings on recorded. At the end of the Race, the Logbook is the record for deciding the winners. Information needed in the Logbook are quite basic as to the time and location where the birds are spotted. The "Dos & Don't" which can be taken as the Rules for the Bird Race could come up to 20 items, more a guidelines than rules. I have downloaded a copy from the Langkawi Bird Race as sample

Level Of Participation.

 The level of participation is measured by the numbers of teams entered for the professional segment. Made up of Birders in Malaysia to international guests. This could be any where between 25-45 teams. Then there will be another group for Novice which is smaller in numbers. Lastly, there is another segment made up of teams from the various schools. This too is a fairly large group. In total, the whole resort area would be filled with teams of 3 person in each walking around. More often than there could be a few teams gathering in a cluster if the area has active bird life at the time.

Some Scenes from the event

This is the iconic scene marking Frasers Hills, the tiny round-about at the town square and the clock tower.

For the event, on the right would be the club house for the 9-hole Golf Course and also in this year chosen as the operation center of the Bird Race. For a couple of years then, the control center was located at a Bungalow "Pahang House", a stone throw from the town center.

Scenes in Frasers Hills changed rapidly with continuous renewal and up grading of facilities. Right at the end of the picture would the new look Puncak Inn. The open space where exhibitors would put their stores and information counters
 

Some pictures of the various team working the way through the roads and forest. left would be a solitary team and right, a few teams had gathered after sighting of the rare Helmeted Hornbills.

Officials from the Bird Race were also at the sites to share this phenomenon encounter

 

The picture below left shows groups of student team following behind the more experienced team, joining them as well as picking up some clues. There are many ways of getting the birds spotted and no one can is dictating which method is acceptable or the mannerism which should not be encouraged.

On the right here was the seasoned team from Singapore. They decided that this bend at the road is a good spot to wait for the bird wave which used to be passing through.

So they sat and waited. We too, joined them and took the opportunity to recall and to catch up on old times.

Frasers hills Bird Race was started in the early 80's and had since consistently maintained that annual tradition.

In 1986, the Selangor Bird Group and MNS visualized a concept of having a sort of Bird Race to encourage the conservation for birds in this very important bird area and ran a pilot project. Of course, the idea was well received. Two years later, MNS collaborated  with the Fraserís Hill Development Corporation (FHDC)  and ran the first Fraserís Hill International Bird Race. The event had only meager 5 teams of 3 birdwatchers in each. Needless to say, it went well and the rest is history. Till now, after all these years, the events is still in the running and FHDC had collaborated with other bodies like WWF for past years Races. There are numerous blogs written about the events, giving both positive as well negative feed back. I am trying to keep mine positive but the crux of the matters is that the Bird Race main concern -  is numbers.

The Bird List for Frasers Hills is 250 species. Within the time frame of 22 hours, a 3-birders team should be able to spot 65 birds species. With this number, your team's chance of becoming the champion is more than good. Only in odd years that 75 birds were submitted and accepted. In reality, most teams should easily encounter 35 species. The question of sentiments lies in the disparity of being unable to spot that additional 30 birds.

Why don't you all join in the fun to test your skills and find the answer yourself.

For the purposes of freeing yourself and scheduling your own timing, the dates of holding the Bird Race is very consistent. For example over the last 6 years, the Bird Race was always held in the 3rd week of June. 2012 -23/24th June, 2011 -25/26th June, 2010-19/20th June, 2009- 20/21st June, 2008- 21/22nd June and 2007- 23/24th June.

Now some scenes on the opening and closing ceremony of the event. It was conducted by different members of the birding community and graced by a host of dignitaries in giving out the prizes from year to years.

In this year, the Pekan Bungalow was used as the control center. The VIP invited for the closing ceremony was the consort of the Sultan of Pahang.

The participants for the welcoming ceremony was ready and waiting for the VIP arrival. That year the ceremony was rather unusually grand. Elaborate with cultural and dance group in attendance.
 

 

The attendees were seated in tents. The on-lookers and participants present exceeded the seating capacity within the shaded tent. Many were seated  in th openWeather at the resort was always cool and the open air ambience relaxing, so it was enjoyable to attend the ceremony. So far, over the years, the timing of the ceremony went off perfectly without any rain.

 

Here is a view of the stalls and information counters. There would be the usual Tourism, Wildlife and Forestry  Department.

From the private sectors companies handling Optics and photography would be promoting their products. The Malaysian Nature Society who had being organizer for some years and other time advisor would also be present to promote the society's activities.

 

At last the VIP arrived and the ceremony started. There would be speeches by the State Secretary for Tourism of the Pahang Government to have her say about the importance of this event.

Followed by the wise words of the VIP on the good practices of conservation and how the Bird Race was a platform to bring about that awareness.

 

Finally, the Officials of the organizing committee giving a briefing on the results of the results of the events.

Before giving out the prizes, experts who had helped preparing and supervising the events were given token of appreciation .e.g. here is one example of  Morten Strange, author of the highly successful bird guide book receiving his token.

 

Then come the announcement of the results. Starting from the winners of the school children category and ending up with the top champion in the season birders group.

For Many years Uncle Foo had taken part regularly bringing with him new birders each year. Had stayed in the top position, most years, he was well known among the organizer.

 

From my personal record, I have posted here, the overall winners from a couple of years.

Picture on the left a team from UK took the title and in another year, members from the Wong family [very seasoned birders themselves] were successful in leading.

 

For a change in the year 2012, we saw new comers to the game. Here is thi group of young talents, all employees in Frasers hills and had taken interest in Bird watching. In the first Genting Highlands Bird Race, they were among the top winning team.

At this Bird Race, in their home ground, they joined as pitched their skills among the best coming for the challenge. Here I have shown example of the type of competition that you are up against, when you decide to participate in future competition.

Who should join

 For urban folks whop hardly can find time to leave the office during working days and need catching up on housework during weekend, this is a rather inexpensive break. Do something out of the ordinary. Walk the Hills, talk about a strange subject and learn new things. Most important, be informed about a topic that you have little interest on and find out how important nature is to us and how interesting this could be. It is easy to decide on a hobby that you like and sustainable. Well, this would be one that has never cross your mind before as possible.

For those who are already into watching birds, this would be the time to meet up with people who share interest, open up a new horizon. Would be a time to review your own standard in watching birds, in more than one way.

Preparation Needed

 Some basic knowledge about bird is essential. For example- the names of birds and how to differentiate one species from another. All that is needed is read up on the internet about birds in your garden. Then get a Photographic Guide Book to expand your knowledge as to what else existed beside the birds seen in your garden. Most important for the Bird Race, get someone who has experiences in birding to join as a member of your team.

Of course, your basic need of proper drab colored clothing, walking shoes and bird watching equipment, primarily the binoculars must be at hand. If there is time, get hold of a bird List, in this case, that for Frasers Hills and get acquainted with the batch on new birds that you are unfamiliar with. Simple - Just matched the names on the list, with the birds photos that you can lay your hands on. A sketch map of Frasers Hills would be useful to map out the route you would be venturing out during the "Race" and the hot spots that you are likely to stop and wait.

Advices

 If you are reading this page, I assume that the skills that existed within your group may not be able to compete for the top 3 places in the category for experienced birders. I would advice that you confine your birding activities within the complexes of roads within the complex. Need not venture out to the two roads that leads up and down the hills. Most birds would appear around the area of the resort and only those seeking for rare birds search the unlikely places. Within less roaming and not wasting time in traveling, there would be more time to wait for the birds to roam into the area of your routes.

Though the climate in the resort is cool the whole day, the weather has the tendency to change cloudy around noon and may not change for the better for the rest of the day. Maximize your efforts in the morning session. Bird life is particularly active around 7.45am till 9.00am with lots of calls but few sightings, there after the calls abated and sighting depending fully on seeing movements. There are many species of birds coming out around 7.15 am to capitalized and the fallen moth collected over the night and they come very close to the ground level when the lighting is poor. This style of foraging would diminished when the amount of feeds available for the day get depleted with good sunlight at about 8.15 am. Do not miss this opportunity as well.