Friday, April 25, 2014

Man Nai Island, Rayong

Man Nai Island, Rayong, Thailand
24th of April 20014

For the last two years Fairy Pitta has been photographed at this island as the birds pass through on their way to their breeding grounds in China and Taiwan, having spent the winter in tropical Borneo. (Or elsewhere?)

This year I found myself in Thailand in April, something I try to avoid due to the intense warm weather during this time.

So, I hoped for the opportunity to visit the Island and was waiting and waiting for someone to give the ‘green light’, meaning the birds were not only showing but possible to photograph.

Well, this year a banding station had been set up for the entire month of April which make access to the hill side not possible. In other words there were no regular Fairy Pittas being reported coming for worms.

In the end I decided I better go anyhow before it was too late. Seeing the island itself is a worthy experience and the possibility of various migrants is exhilarating.

I joined up with some Thai birders/photographers in the early morning and we shared two vehicles to get to Klang in the province of Rayong. A bit tricky to find the port, Makampom, but eventually we arrived to the waiting boat.

The trip to the island took around 40 minutes and went smooth.
Some Black-naped Terns were in the area. I haven’t seen them for long so that was very nice to see.

Once at the island, (Kor Man Nai in Thai) we left our food etc in a  safe area.

The island has a turtle breeding station and some marine life research going on.

It is picturesque with some lovely beaches and clear blue water. Further out at sea is Man Klahng and yet further away is Man Nok. These two islands have upscale resorts on them and I suppose must harbor the same birdlife as on Man Nai

Man Nai has a brick laid walkway that goes around the island. It doesn’t take more then 15-20 minutes to walk when walking with intention.

From the pier I walked to the left and soon came upon a very small pond/waterhole.
In here a Lanceolated Warbler hung out for a long time, drinking and feeding away. It is very ‘mouse like’ and I quite enjoyed such generous open views.

One of my target birds, Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher suddenly showed for a brief moment. My 1st lifer for the day. Nearby were male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, a Green-backed Flycatcher and Asian Brown Flycatchers.

The island had many Tiger Shrikes and Crow-billed Drongos passing through. These are birds we don’t normally see in Central Thailand except for during migration.

Several Asian Paradise Flycatchers were seen and after a long day I finally got the see the much wanted Japanase Paradise Flycatcher, howbeit without its long tail. This was my 2nd lifer and part of my 3 targeted species.

Near to the pond a Blue-winged Pitta showed pretty much all day. A group of 8 photographers from Peking got their shirts off and parked themselves in their blinds. It kept them happy for most of the day. The hoped for Hooded and Fairy Pitta never showed up at this spot.

I walked up the trail towards the hill but soon came across a sign saying ‘Entry forbidden without permission, bird banding in progress’. No choice but to back down and continue along the walkway. At the back of the island a large colony of some huge fruit bats were very noisy. I tried the Fairy Pitta call and got a single response. No birds in sight though so I kept going.

I paid a couple of visits to the ringing station to see how they process the birds. It all seemed very professional and I got to see some birds real close up.

Suddenly a Cuckoo burst out of a bush. I managed some images and later on had the ID confirmed as a Himalayan Cuckoo. Nice one!

I walked around the island 3 times sweating like a pig. Consumed loads of water and probably shredded a few pounds! Well needed!

Back to the pond.

A Tiger Shrike came to the area. Then the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher reappeared.


The Shrike pounded on the Flycatcher and within seconds had it in subjection and out of action (dead). It proceeded to try to pull the bird away but it seemed awkward so the Shrike instead started consuming its newfound meal right in front of us. I have never seen this before and can’t say it was a pleasant to view.

Time for another walk around the island. As I turned the bend a familiar sight of a hopping pitta on the walkway. Yes! Through the bins I finally got to see my Fairy Pitta!

Target bird #3 and lifer #3! Pitta # 18!

Once on the boat one of the guys showed me an image of a Fairy Pitta. He had been poking around behind some buildings in the forest nearby and come across both Blue-winged, Hooed and Fairy Pitta.

The guys who had been their previous years said it wasn’t all that birdy this time of year and that a week earlier would have been better.

So after 600 km in a day I got home to a very much appreciated cold beer and loads of impressions to live by.

I hope I can visit the island  sometime again and that I will be able to access more of the interior which seemed to be the most bird rich part.

My birdlist:
1.      Pacific Reef Egret
2.      Black-naped Tern
3.      Eastern Jungle Crow
4.      Slaty-breasted Rail
5.      Common Myna
6.      Crow-billed Drongo
7.      Ashy Drongo
8.      Zebra Dove
9.      Magpie Robin
10.  Siberian Blue Robin
11.  Himalayan Cuckoo
12.  Indian Cuckoo
13.  Ruddy Kingfisher
14.  Blue-winged Pitta
15.  Fairy Pitta
16.  Tiger Shrike
17.  Streak-eared Bulbul
18.  Yellow-rumped Flycatcher
19.  Green-backed Flycatcher
20.  Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher
21.  Asian Brown Flycatcher
22.  Dark-sided Flycatcher
23.  Asian Paradise Flycatcher
24.  Japanese Paradise Flycatcher
25.  Mangrove Whistler
26.  Forest Wagtail
27.  Lanceolated Warbler
28.  Arctic Warbler
29.  Dusky Warbler
30.  Pacific Swallow
31.  Olive-backed Sunbird

Thursday, April 17, 2014

White's Thrush

I don't know what it takes to readily ID any of the many variations of White's Thrush there are. 
This individual showed up at the King's Park in Greater Bangkok area. It has stockier bill then the Scaly Thrush (Zoothera dauma) and instead of 12 tail feathers it has 14. It is also said to be more pale in the plumage but apparently that is not a reliable feature. So  here is the Zoothera auera aka White's Thrush.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sri Nakorn Keuan Khan

I went to visit the park together with Ike Suriwong. Nick Upton had reported a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler singing in the park last weekend and that is something I haven't experienced. 

We ended up seeing two Pale-legged/Sakhalin's Leaf Warblers. None of them were calling but one was singing, clearly revealing its identity. The two species have very different songs and can only be separated safely by song or in the hand. 

There were other migrants in the area. 1 Yellow-browed Warbler, 1 Arctic Warbler, 1 male Green-backed Flycatcher seen by Ike and sadly not by me, 1 female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and a very active flock of 40 Ashy Minivets. Also two cute Forest Wagtails on the floor added to the migratory bird list.




Thursday, April 10, 2014

Supsadao, Khao Yai, Watprabhutabahtnoi, Don Muang

Supsadao, Khao Yai, Watprabhutabahtnoi, Don Muang

8-10th of April 2014

I have wanted to visit the Sapsadao substation of Taplan National Park for a long time but never got around doing so.

When Ike Suriwong came for a visit we both thought it to be a good idea to give the place a try.
The area is primarily a dry dipterocarp covered forest with several species not found in more wet deciduous forest on higher levels of nearby Khao Yai National Park.

It was tricky to get information of how to get to the place and as it turned out the reported kilometer markings were all changed and of no help. Instead we had to stop frequently and ask the locals for directions.

Basically we drove from Bangkok passed Nakorn Nayok and kept going towards Kabinburi where we turned left onto highway number 304. This is a major road connecting the Northeast with the Southeast and has a lot of traffic on an at times narrow road crossing the mountains on its way to the plateau of the Northeast.

We had a nice late breakfast in an area called Wang NamKaew. This is a well known recreational area for Thai people with many orchards, resorts and eateries .

After our meal we came upon the entrance to Sakerat wildlife sanctuary. This area is famous for Siamese Firebacks being easy along the narrow road passed headquarters. It was after 9 am but we still saw 3 birds displaying and feeding along the road. This would serve as a good back up place if failing to see them at Khao Yai some 80 kilometers away.

Once on the other side of the mountain passage the challenge of finding our way began in earnest. In the end we found Supsadao about 27 km away from road 304 after having done a number of turns into the interior.

The graveled road took us through a landscape full of plantations, cassava, rubber, sugar and corn being the main crops.

Some good birds seen along this road were Crested Honey Buzzard, Rufus-winged Buzzard,
Indo-Chinese Bushlark, Hoopoe and Green Bee-eaters.

The access road to the forest reserve was very birdy inspite of our late arrival at noon.
Almost immediately we got on to several Blossom-headed Parakeets including young ones.
Grey-breasted Prinias were very vocal. Common Iora likewise. A couple of Velvet-fronted Nuthatches brightened up the show. A pair of Small Minivets added more color. Rufous Treepies were obvious. Vinous-breasted Starlings rather common. A Black-headed Woodpecker came to feed on something on the road.
Loads of White-vented Mynas around and a few Hill Mynas as well.
Lineated Barbets kept singing. Olive-backed Sunbirds were common.
Closer to headquarters Red-breasted Parakeets took over from the Blossom-headed.
Once passed the head quarters the forest became taller and fewer smaller birds were seen.

Good birds seen in here were: Red-billed Blue Magpie, Lesser Yellownape, Comon Flameback,
Large Cuckoo Shrike, Black Baza, Rufescent Prinia, Eurasian Jay and Shikra.

Our main target bird: White-browed Fantail eluded us during our afternoon visit and continued to do so on the following morning. Perhaps it is more scarce then reported or it was breeding?

We found a simple hotel back on 304 and went back for a morning session the day after.
There were a lot of activity but not many new birds seen.

Best highlite was to get some close up images of Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker and Common Wood Shrike. We also saw a single Burmese Shrike.

Other common birds in the area: Indian Roller, Pied Fantail, Asian Palm Swift, Barnswallow, Magpie Robin, Eastern Jungle Crow, Ashy Wood Swallow, Plain-backed Sparrows, Scaly-breasted Munias, Taiga Flycatcher, Radde’s Warbler, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Barred Buttonquail, Pied Bushchat, Siberian Stonechat.

I wanted to see what the road driving from Wang Namkaew to Khao Yai was like and it turned out to be an easy drive on a good but winding road. It only took 1 hour from the turn off on 304 to get to the park entrance. Along the way we stopped to view some Crested Treeswift on wires.

The afternoon we spent inside of Khao Yai but both our target birds were not seen. White-throated Rock Thrush most likely left for its breeding grounds and the Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo no longer showing by the restaurant.  It is also breeding season for this bird.
We know it would be a bit risky to go after these birds so didn’t feel too disappointed.
Instead we found a nice European styled restaurant and treated ourselves to a nice supper.

Juladit Resort has been taken over by some developers but J2, the old part of Juladit, still offer some better priced rooms. So, good air-con, Wifi and comfortable beds was all we needed.

Next morning we got up early to make sure to be at Watpraputtabahtnoi on time.
The temple is situated 20minutes drive North of Suraburi and took us a little over an hour to get to.

In the morning the strong song of Limestone Wren Babblers dominate the area even outdoing the every so noisy dogs present.

We saw 4 different pairs of this endemic sub-species. A great wildlife encounter.

Then back to Bangkok but first a quick visit to an area of Don Muang where a feral population of Java Sparrows are known to hang out. After some search we found a pair with two juveniles by their nest on a building.

Back home again after lunch and now contemplating how to best spend the days during Songkran festival. 

Siamese  Fireback

                                                                Lesser Yellownape

                                                       Grey-capped Woodpecker

                                                  Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

                                                         Common Wood Shrike

                                                         Limestone Wren Babbler

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sri Pangnga and Krung Ching in March 2014

Sri Pangnga National Park and Krung Ching waterfall
19-26th of March 2014

For a few years I have been wanting to visit Sri Pangnga in the pre breeding season for the Malay Banded Pitta.  This year it worked out for me to do so.

Driving the 800km from Bangkok basically took all day and I arrived in the late afternoon when I briefly visited Sri Pangnga National Park. Instead of staying in park bungalows I opted for a Homestay about 6 km North of the park turn off. The Homestay had Wifi, air-con, hot showers and was cheap at 350Baht/night.

Being in the Southern forest is always refreshing.  A lot of different sounds from Central and Northern Thailand. I enjoy hearing the birds almost as much as seeing them which is good cause in this environment seeing them isn’t all that easy.

During my stay at Sri Pangnga I had several  ‘sessions’ with the Banded Pitta, both male and female.
The birds had acquired a taste for meal worms and were easily lured out in the open. Still, light conditions were poor and photography challenging. I used my pop up blind as well as a tripod to get the shoots I wanted.

I also spent a short time in my blind by the stream and got the Chestnut-naped Forktail I hoped for, as well as a surprise male Banded Pitta coming out into the stream.

There were many Spectacled Bulbuls singing in the park. Nice to have learned its song.

Great Argus were calling every morning form up the hills. That would be one awesome bird to go after at some point.

Great Hornbills seemed pretty regular as did Bushy–crested Hornbills. They sound very different from the Hornbills in Central  Thailand and I quite enjoyed hearing them ‘sing’. I didn’t get any perch views but saw several birds in flight.

Whiskered Treeswift and Silver-rumped Needletails were easy to spot. None of these are found in Central Thailand so a great opportunity to take in something different.

My time at Sri Pangnga was rather relaxed as I didn’t have many targets. I tried for Gould’s Frogmouth one evening and one morning but never connected with it though others did during the time I was there.

One day I drove to Thaimuang about 100 km South of the Park past Khao Luck.
Here in a known recreational park a pair of Spotted Wood Owls have taken up residue.
This time I was very fortunate as some folks from Had Yai were already on to the birds as I arrived midday. The birds were roosting very high and hard to detect.  So with ‘a little help from my friend’ it worked out well.  A new bird for my Thai list.

Krung Ching waterfall, Nakorn  Sritammarat

From Sri Pangnga to KC it takes about 4 hours. KC is on the Eastern side of the Peninsular and Sri Pangnga on the Western side.

KC is a lush sub-station  and part of Khao Luang National Park.  Here many good Southern birds can be found, both along the access road and the trail that leads to the waterfall.

This time I stayed at a new Homestay about 1 km before the park checkpoint. It has clean rooms, air-con, Wifi and excellent hospitality and food.

A fruiting tree gave good sights of feeding Barbets and Bulbuls plus an Orange-headed Thrush.

A resident Blue-winged Pitta lurked in the vegetation by the tree to come out and snatch some fallen fruit at times.

Black-Yellow Broadbills were abundant.

Javan Frogmouth  was breeding and easy to approach.

Many Raffles Malkohas seen.

Green Broadbills were not that active but I connected well with a pair along the trail.

Scarlet Trogon showed well along the trail.

A pair of Red-bearded Bee-eaters were very accommodating.

I got my much wanted Fluffy-backed Tit Babblers along the trail. They sound much like Chestnut-winged Babblers, a much more common bird, so watch out.

Cool Bulbuls were Grey-cheeked, Spectacled, Hairy-backed and Yellow-bellied. None found in Central Thailand. Of course the best one was the Scaly-breasted found feeding in the fig tree.

Daang, the ranger, helped me to get on to the Brown Wood Owl well one evening. My only lifer for the trip. We also heard Barred Eagle Owls, another owl I need to return for.

A Ruddy Kingfisher along the trail was my only 2nd sighting of this bird in Thailand.

Many birds were nesting and not yet feeding young so I think in a month it will be more active.

I did see a bunch of other stuff but didn’t keep a list. I was hoping for Fiery Minivet and Black Hornbills but dipped on both. 

All in all a pleasant trip that I’d gladly do again.

                                                      Great Hornbill


                                                    Malay Banded Pitta, female

                                                      Malay Banded Pitta, male

                                                     Chestnut-capped Forktail

                                                         White-rumped Needletail

                                                             Spotted Wood Owl

                                                             Blue-eared Kingfisher

                                                       Red-bearded Bee-eater

                                                      Dark-throated Oriole

                                                         Gold-whiskered Barbet

                                                        Scaly-breasted Bulbul

                                                                Javan Frogmouth, female

                                                          Brown Wood Owl

                                                        Bushy-crested Hornbill

                                                          Green Broadbill

                                                           Blue-winged Pitta

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Back to Bahkplee, Nakorn Nayok

It had been a month and a half since I last visited this great site. Helge Sorensen from Denmark, a dedicated photographer from Denmark happily agreed to give the site a try. I had seen a number of good species at the site already and was curious how things had developed. 

On this morning the weather was rather odd. Gloomy and a drop in temperature. It is very warm in Bangkok now so to sit in the blind at 21C was quite pleasant. Some of the birds I had seen before never showed up: Bluethroat, Red-throated Pipit, Zitting Cisticola and Oriental Skylark to be precise. Instead there were 2 new ones and the 1st one was a surprise: Long-tailed Shrike.

This Paddyfield Pipit stayed with us during the entire 2 and half hours in the hide.

Happily the Rosy Pipit still showed well though not more then 3 times in the time we were there. The malars are now gone and some of the streaking on the flanks and breast have disappeared. I hope it stays another month.

Last month I finally after so many years of birding in Thailand saw my 1st Horsfield's Bushlark at this site.
Since then I have seen it at Thatorn as well.
Today I heard it sing and used a short burst of playback to draw it in. It never came to feed but was curious enough to briefly drop by twice. It is a lot paler then Indo-chinese Bushlark, the rufous in the wing is weaker and the white in the tail is prominent in flight. The song is also very different from Indo-chinese. Very happy to have seen and photographed it!

                                      Stejnegeri's Stonechat performed nicely.

                                                   Here is the female.

Lastly the Eastern Yellow Wagtail. I think this is a 1st year old male of the race M.f. thunbergi

                                After that all that remained was a drive to the airport.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Part 2

We spent a few days in wooded areas of Kaengkrachan and Khao Yai. We did not see any Pittas of Broadbills but many other nice forest dwelling birds. 

Orange-headed Trogon

                                            Bar-backed Partridge

                                             White-browed Scimitar Babbler

           While en route to Khao Yai we saw a resident form of Black Baza over open fields.

Khao Yai is the place you need to visit for Siamese Firebacks and they did deliver as they fed on fallen blossoms.

Silver Pheasent is a lot harder to find but the early morning gave us views of 9 birds in two groups.

The Barred Cuckoo Dove is ridiculously shy so it was a surprise that this one would post long enough for fairly close views.

                                                       Hainan Blue Flycatcher

                                               Siberian Blue Robin

                                     Ever so attractive: Orange-headed Thrush

                            And our annual little friend Mugimaki Flycatcher showed well.