Afternoon Birding – Tan’s Camellia Garden, Cameron Highlands

After settling in to Gerard’s Place, I asked Jay the owner who is also a keen birder to recommend a place for me to spend an afternoon birding.  She recommended Tan’s Camellia Garden which is off the main road just near the road leading up to Gerard’s Place.  Entrance is free and it’s a nice, quiet place to enjoy the beautiful flowers and look for some typical highland bird species.

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The first bird we saw upon entering was a Streaked Spiderhunter.  I took this as a good omen – gotta love any bird who helps rid the world of spiders!  I’m fond of Serpent Eagles for the same reason!  Go birds!

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Jay left to go about her errands and I wandered around.  There were some stunning flowers and butterflies so I tried some macro photography, not that I am any good at it!

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I think this is a female Black-throated Sunbird.

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Random birds as I walked through the garden.

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If you are walking from town, look for these two strange “Christmas trees”, the entrance to Tan’s is next door.

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Lodge Review: Gerard’s Place, Tanah Rata – Cameron Highlands

I must have some kind of radar.  For our one night in Tanah Rata, after going through all the choices on Hotels.com (I was working towards a free night) and reading some reviews on Trip Advisor, I chose Gerard’s Place based on the value it represented and the views in the photos that looked “birdy”.  I had yet to learn that the warm, friendly and cheerful owner – Jay was also a birder!

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As you enter, there is a map of the surrounding area with places to go hiking marked out.

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The gardens surrounding the property are very birdy as I suspected.

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Here’s a Verditer Flycatcher on the roof of a neighbor’s apartment.

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The entrance to Gerard’s Place actually says “Carnation” on the front with a smaller Gerard’s Place sign below.  This is why I suggest going to Father’s Guesthouse when you first arrive and letting Jay pick you up as it could be confusing when you don’t know your way around town.  It’s on top of a hill and a 10 ringgit taxi ride if you are down town for dinner and need a ride back.

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The guesthouse has several rooms, some with private bath and some with shared bath.  We had a shared bathroom (G1) since it was only 1 night, otherwise I’d go for the ensuite.

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The common room opens onto a patio with a nice view of the garden so you can sit here and watch birds.  There is free wifi only accessible in the common room.  We left very early on the Taman Negara shuttle, but Jay left some toast, butter, jam and coffee for our breakfast.

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Beautiful flowers in the garden.

IMG_1328 IMG_1329I highly recommend Gerard’s Place especially for birders.  Jay will happily point out the best spots and even drop you there if she is heading into town.  She is in the local bird club and has a nice book about the local birds you can buy to help you identify what you saw and keep as a souvenir.  If you are headed to Taman Negara, ask Jay to book you on the shuttle, it will pick you up at the front door early in the morning.

Tanah Rata Village

The town of Tanah Rata is so small you can easily walk anywhere you need to get to.  We left the bus station and were pretty hungry so first order was to find food.  It was around 2:30 so at that awkward time between normal lunch and dinner.  The town is very attractive and has lots of tour operators.

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These food stalls seem to be always open.

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The hotel across the street also has a restaurant and a very pretty garden but the restaurant was closed.

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So back to the stalls.  I don’t remember what we ate but it was definitely cheap and cheerful!

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Next step was to get to Father’s Guest House.  We had actually booked at their sister property, Gerard’s Guest House but Gerard’s is more difficult to find the first time so the best idea is to go to Father’s and have them call Jay, the owner of Gerard’s to come and pick you up.

IMG_1320 After birding in Tan’s Camellia Garden (separate post), I walked through the town again.

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The most popular dish is “Steamboat” but I don’t eat seafood so I can’t really report on it.

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Instead, I settled for afternoon tea (at 5:30pm) with scones, cream and jam – yummy!  The cafe had free wifi so I caught up on emails.  I got some takeaway chicken to bring back to Gerard’s as my husband didn’t come with me and preferred to relax a bit.

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Bus From Taiping To Cameron Highlands

After a successful birding trip to Taiping Lake Gardens, I was looking forward to our next main birding stop in Taman Negara but first we would spend a night in Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands.  This hill resort has completely different birds to the rainforests.

I had Sentosa Villa call the taxi driver from yesterday and he showed up in 10 minutes.  IMG_1230

I sat in the front seat knowing that as we came down the hill we would pass the trees where we had seen the Long-tailed Parakeets the day before.  I was not disappointed.  One parakeet was sitting in the tree eating.  The driver stopped while I jumped out and grabbed some photos.  A 2nd bird flew by and this bird flew off with the other one.   A nice but brief sighting!

IMG_1234 IMG_1243 IMG_1246 IMG_1254We continued on to the bus station and bought tickets for the first leg of the trip to Ipoh.  We didn’t have long to wait as a bus was already parked there and boarding.  Fares were pretty cheap, less than $5 and this was a simple bus, not the deluxe bus we were in before.

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Here’s a few shots out the window between Taiping and Ipoh.  The bus only had a few passengers.

IMG_1269 IMG_1270 IMG_1271 IMG_1272 IMG_1273 IMG_1274 IMG_1275 IMG_1277 IMG_1279 IMG_1282 IMG_1285In Ipoh, we changed to a different bus for the longer trip to Tanah Rata, the main town in the Cameron Highlands.

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Was this Kingfisher lost?

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Now entering the Cameron Highlands.

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Tanah Rata bus station – end of the road.

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Aussies Can Earn Airline Points For Everyday Spend

Maybe a few of you saw the Ben Schlappig interview on Sunrise over the last 2 days and are enviously sizing up the opportunities Americans have to earn easy airline miles and points.  It’s true, Americans do have better credit card deals with lower (or waived) annual fees and easier-to-get cards while the Aussie cards do occasionally have good sign up bonuses but they are not easy to get.  The real value for Americans over the past few years has been churning these cards – that is applying, getting the bonus, canceling the card, then doing it again in a few months although US banks have been recently cracking down on churners.

It’s not easy getting miles in the more lucrative USA programs such as AA and UA unless you are a business traveller with company paid travel that you can credit to these programs.  Amex Membership Reward members can transfer MR points to SPG at a rate of 1000 MR = 500 SPG and certain cards have up to 3 points per $ based on categories  so you may be able to get a reasonable amount of AA miles using the 20k SPG = 25k AA but unfortunately United’s ratio for SPG transfers is half of American’s so it’s not a good option.

So what CAN the average Aussie with a modest income and no employer-paid travel do?  One of the easiest ways is to join Woolworth’s Everyday Rewards in any of their supermarkets for free and scan the card when you pay for your groceries.  The 1 point per $ after $30 spend is nothing to get excited about but they do start sending you targeted promos by email.  Last week, I had one where I got  a 1000 bonus QF points if I spent $120 on groceries that week.  This week I have an ever better promo – 5000 QF points if I make an online order for delivery of at least $50!

EDR1When shopping online with Woolworths you get the same great prices and specials as in store delivered right to your door. With this Member exclusive offer, if you order today, you’ll receive 5000 bonus points and free delivery. Simply select a delivery window between 23rd July and 2nd August and spend $50 or more on your first online shop.

 

T&Cs:  This offer has been selected especially for you and can be redeemed once. Make sure you enter your Everyday Rewards card number when you register with Woolworths Online to qualify for your reward. The qualifying amount must be spent in one transaction and cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers. You’ll find your reward in your Everyday Rewards account up to 7 days after the offer end date.

Offer valid for orders delivered from 00:01 23rd July 2015 to 23:59 AEST 2nd August 2015 when you spend $50 or more. Minimum spend of $50 excludes any other coupons/discounts and delivery charges. $50 or more must be spent in a single transaction. Free delivery will apply automatically at the checkout. Orders must be placed by 15:00 AEST 1st August 2015. Offer valid only once per shopper during the offer period. Order cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Orders may be cancelled by us without notice to you if the above terms and conditions are not adhered to. Excludes Delivery Saver, flowers, liquor, tobacco items, gift cards and selected services. Offer can only be redeemed at Woolworths online. Available delivery times will vary between areas.

Now I usually prefer to do my own shopping and grab anything that’s been marked down but for this promo I will find some non-perishable staples to fill the order.  Not gonna pass up 5000 free QF points!

I may even up the ante and order $100 of groceries as I have a $10 off $100 voucher from the petrol station!  Yes, you can stack these kinds of promos and also earn credit card points when you pay so that would be a nice triple-dip!

Always check the Velocity and Qantas pages for deals on electricity, phone, utility, dining and shopping before you buy anything, you never know what you may find!  Velocity has a good deal for car servicing as well!

While we don’t have the super deals Americans have, there are a few ways to get easy, free points if you stay alert and are willing to redirect your normal spend from one company to another!

Help Conservation By Joining Surveys For Regent Honeyeaters & Swift Parrots

Next weekend – August 1 & 2, Birdlife Australia is conducting surveys to locate populations of Regent Honeyeaters and Swift Parrots.  There are lots of potential survey locations on their website throughout Victoria, NSW, ACT and QLD (see the Excel spreadsheet towards the bottom – Suggested survey locations for Swift Parrot and Regent Honeyeater surveys).  There are also forms to fill out after the survey and send to Birdlife.

For more information about the surveys see our webpage or contact Dean Ingwersen (Regent Honeyeaters), Mick Roderick (Swift Parrots in NSW, ACT and Qld) or Caroline Wilson (Swift Parrots in Victoria).

I will be out there surveying in Greater Brisbane,  probably with my husband.  We didn’t have any luck in May so really hopeful for this one!  The weather reports for next week show another cold snap coming in so I hope the birds are enjoying our relatively warm winter in QLD by now!

These photos are from Wikipedia to show the birds we are looking for.

Regent Honeyeater

Survey RHE

Swift Parrot

Survey Swiftie

Earn 10,000 Bonus Velocity Points On Your July Service

Very lucrative bonus for having your car serviced!  Please note that there is a discrepancy on the end date.  Velocity website says 31 August, Midas website says 31 July.  Either some data entry clerk goofed up or they extended it but I decided with so many points at risk not to take a chance and scheduled my car for a service in July.  We’re doing a road trip in a couple months for birding Outback Queensland so we need the service anyways!

Earn 10,000 bonus Velocity Points on your July service

Kick start the New Financial Year with 10,000 bonus Velocity Points when you have your car serviced with Midas by 31 August 2015*. Plus, earn 3 Velocity Points per $1 spent on the service cost.

Midas1 Midas2 Midas3

Greater & Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus & Dicrurus remifer)

Since these two species are so similar and are found in roughly the same area, I am going to combine the profiles of the Greater & Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus & Dicrurus remifer).  You can tell them apart by the size of the bird, the crest on the Greater RTD and the shape of the tails.  The Greater has a fork shaped tail and the Lesser’s tail is more of a wedge shape.

This is a Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo from Mae Ping NP in Thailand with the smooth head and wedge-shaped tail.

IMG_0236Here is a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo with the forked tail in Taiping.

IMG_1174Both birds have a large, varied range in South-east Asia with the Greater having a larger distribution including India than the Lesser.  I saw both birds in northern Thailand, in Doi Inthanon and Mae Ping, also in Taiping and Taman Negara in Malaysia.

RTDGreater RTDLesserLEARN MORE ABOUT THESE BIRDS

Wikipedia – Greater

Wikipedia – Lesser

Birdlife – Greater

Birdlife – Lesser

Xeno-Canto

VIDEOS

A Gretaer RTD in India.

And another one singing.

See how his tail floats while in flight!

 

And here’s a Lesser from Singapore.

Braving The Rain To Bird Sentosa Villa Grounds

We knew we were on the cusp of the rainy season although we had been pretty lucky so far.  This time the luck ran out.  After a successful birding excursion to Taiping Lake Gardens and an afternoon siesta praying the rain would let up it finally did for a bit.  I grabbed my camera and a plastic bag to keep it dry and braved the grounds despite the still threatening clouds overhead.  The grounds of Sentosa Villa are quite extensive and potentially very birdy.  I had to stick near the shelters to stay as dry as possible as bursts of rain drove me undercover.  Below are the only shots I was able to get, ironically the best one is the dancing chicken!  The Racquet-tailed Drongo showed very nicely as well.  There were some monkeys running around to keep me amused while I waited under the shelters for the rain to let up so I could dash on to the next one.  I finally gave up after an hour and went back to the room.

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Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda)

The Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) is an elegant Psittacula found in South-east Asia.  My views of them in Taiping Lake Gardens were from a distance so I have to use a close-up from Wikipedia.

Lgtl PktAnd here’s some of my shots of the parakeets in flight.  I think the ones with the shorter tails are juveniles.

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IMG_0984They have a large range throughout the regions of Andaman islands, Nicobar islands, Sumatra, Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia (including Singapore).  The easiest places to find them are Taiping Lake Gardens (blue dot) and occasionally Taman Negara in Malaysia and Singapore.

LongtailPktLEARN MORE ABOUT LONG-TAILED PARAKEETS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Malaysian Birds

VIDEOS

Parakeets courting.

Eating out in Singapore.