The 33rd Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2022
By Phil Foo
Bird watching is an awesome activity to partake in. Birds comes in all types of colours, sizes, and forms. They are attractive and they add colour to our world. Bird watching also teaches us a lot about nature and why we need to have a nature conservation mindset. Birding groups around the world have been organizing bird watching activities for a long time, and so has groups in Malaysia.
Fraser’s Hill is a well-known bird watching paradise. Migratory birds from as far away as Siberia in Russia, visit Fraser’s Hill every year as they avoid the extreme winter conditions back home. This is why Fraser’s Hill is referred to as first class bird watching destination, and has been attracting birders from all over the world.
[ There were teams that actually walked the route to Jeriau Waterfalls and back to the town centre, doing a total 9.2km walk… ]
The Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race started in 1988. It has grown in the numbers of participants over the years and have been growing strong until 2019 when the world was hit by the corona virus. This year the Bird Race was given a breath of life marking its 33rd race; “33rd Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2022.”
This year’s Bird Race attracted 200 over participants in 70 teams (3 persons in a team). Other than participants from Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo), there were also participants from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, India, and the Philippines. The competition is broken into three categories. They are Student, Novice, and Advanced.
Some of the booths along the road of Fraser’s Hill town Centre.
This awesome booth was giving out free eBooks on nature in Malaysia.
Teams are allowed to walk around Fraser’s Hill all the way down to the Gap. Yes, walk. Driving is not allowed. There are 6 checkpoints at six different sections on Fraser’s Hill, and teams will have to register themselves at every checkpoint before looking for birds within a set area or boundary of each checkpoint. Teams with the most recorded birds (in a given logbook) wins.
Amongst all the teams, birders from Borneo (Sabah) made up the most teams; 6 teams. The enthusiasm from the Bornean teams are infectious too, bringing more life to the event. Birders at the event brought along a host of equipment such as cameras with very long lenses, scopes, tripods, and binoculars. Of course they don’t just bring along with them equipment, but also knowledge and information about birds that are endemic to their region.
Some of the cameras and lenses used for birding.
The 24 hours Bird Race started at about 12pm on the 23rd July 2022, and ended 12pm the next day. This allowed participants to observe and register birds that are active and can be seen during all periods of the day. I spoke to a few teams who not only went about searching for birds during the day, but also headed out at 1am in search of nocturnal birds such as owls.
There were teams that actually walked the route to Jeriau Waterfalls and back to the town centre, doing a total 9.2km walk, before continuing with an 8km (one way) walk down from Fraser’s Hill town centre to the Gap in search of birds. They then made the 8km walk back up again. They covered some 25.2km (not including walking about searching for birds at the various checkpoints). Carrying heavy bird watching equipment with them, this definitely is a challenging thing to do. But in the end, it was definitely worth the effort.
One of the expert birders from East Malaysia (Borneo) giving a speech about the birds in Borneo.
Mark from Borneo giving a talk about birding in Borneo.
Apart from watching, photographing, and reporting on the birds found up here in Fraser’s Hill, participants representing different areas in Malaysia, and also other countries gave talks about the birds that are found in their respective areas. With Borneo and Thailand for example, having such a large expense of forests; bird species are definitely a plenty.
These presentations are an awesome learning experience to me. It encourages travel which is always great for the mind, body, and soul. Personally, I have set my mind on visiting Borneo to watch and photograph not just the birds, but the other wildlife too that call this vast green lung of our planet Earth, home.
A participant from India talking about birds that are seen in India.
A participant from Thailand giving a talk on birds in Thailand.
Those taking a break from the race can visit the many stalls opened during the event. These stalls included camera equipment dealers such as YL Photography, camera and lens brands the likes of Olympus, binoculars and sporting scopes by Swarovski and Prominar, and various groups and agencies such as Malaysia Nature Society, Forest Institute of Malaysia, Nature Education Society, etc.
The 33rd Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2022 ended at 12 pm on the 24th July 2022 with participants rushing to hand in their logbooks, photographs, etc. at the counter located near the clock tower. It was indeed a “fight to the end” for many of the teams to document and log as many birds as possible with the hopes of winning the Bird Race.
Malaysia Nature Society’s booth.
A tiger in Fraser’s Hill; at the Taman Negara booth.
The prize giving and closing ceremony started at about 4pm with the arrival of the regent of Pahang, Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah ibni Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah (Royal guest of honor), who handed out prizes to the winning teams. The winners of the 33rd Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2022 are:
The winners of the Bird Photography contest
5th: Tan Gim Cheong
4th: Charith Fernando
3rd: Wong Roo Pea
2nd: Mohd Nor Hafiz Bin Nor Azemi
1st / Champion: Ng Choy Loi
The Champion of the Bird Photography Ceontest.
Student Category 2nd Runner Up: Collard Owlet – Krishnan and team .
The winners of the Students Category
7th: Team girl on fire – Alliesya and team
6th: The Dream Team – Daniel and team
5th: Teenage Dream – Qaleesya and team
4th: Red Billed Malkhoa – Punita and team
3rd: Collard Owlet – Krishnan and team
2nd: House Swiftlet – Mahadevan and team
Champion / 1st: Kea – Adam Hogg and team
The winners of the 33rd Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2022 posing with the regent of Pahang, Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah ibni Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.
The winners Novice Category
7th: PSIS Perling Dua – Nuraini and team
6th: Bornean Bended Ditta – Liew Yun Fu and team
5th: PSIS Perling Empat – Nurul and team
4th: Perling Satu – Mohd Ridzuan and team
3rd: PSIS Perling Lima – Mohd Arshad and team
2nd: Persatuan Malim Gunung – Nur Shariman and team
1st / Champion: PSIS Perling Tiga – Siti Nur and team
The winners Advanced Category
7th: Kondiu – Mark Lewis and team
6th: Kwang Cermin – Ismail and team
5th: The Shrike – Kipli and team
4th: Taman Negara Flycatcher – Ramlan and team
3rd: Timbolog – Theodore and team
2nd: MRA Birders – Alexander John and team
1st / Champion – Borneo Bristlehead – Jimmy Omar and team
A Knowledgeable Team
Not forgetting a group of people without which, there will be no Bird Race. They are the team of arbitrators whose local knowledge of the birds are more than any book one can read. They know the birds, bird species visiting seasons, locations where certain bird species go to, etc. so well that they know if any of the birds logged are true or not true. They are:
Mr Rafi Kudus
Mr Henry Goh
Mr KS Durai
Mr Kanda Kumar
En Zulkifli Razak
A pacific swallow that I shot during the event.
A streaked spiderhunter that tested my patients and arm muscles.
This is the third bird race that I have been too (second one in Fraser’s Hills). Overall the 33rd Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2022 was well organized and is an awesome education event. I made a few new friends and I learned a lot about the birds that they normally see where they are from. I also got lots of tips that has since built up my birding knowledge. I will certainly be back for the next one (God willing). If you are thinking about joining a bird race too; I highly recommend that you do.