Friday, August 22, 2014

South to Central #5


Off to the airport and a flight to Don Muang, Bangkok.
Taxi to my house and pick up my own comfortable Toyota Camry. Drive to Kaengkrachan and discussing what strategy to adapt for the remaining birds on their respective lists. The lists did not correspond very well anymore so a logistic nightmare over again.

On the way to the park we dropped by some fields and saw many common bird which included all 3 Weavers: Streaked, Asian Golden and Baya. Two of these were on their wanted lists so reason to rejoice again.

We stayed at Baan Maka and hired the services of Piyak  as he has a sturdy off road vehicle suited for the road to higher grounds as well as being updated on the latest birding in the park.
Two main targets were soon taken care off: Red-bearded Bee-eater and Long-tailed Broadbill. Both found  at their respective nests. I had heard of a Von Schrenck’s Bittern at a pond by the Broadbill’s nest a couple of weeks earlier. I was very keen on seeing if it was still there and IT WAS! My 3rd lifer for the trip! But such a special bird it is, so cryptic, preferring murky bodies of water inside of forests. Definitely my bird of the trip!

Nesting was at full sway in Kaengrachan with some birds very quiet and others feeding young. Some other good birds during our stay there: Black-red Broadbill, Dusky Broadbill, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Silver-breasted Broadbill, a short glimpse of a Ferruginous Partridge, Great Hornbills, Speckeld and White-browed Piculet, Hooded Babbler, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler and Sultan’s Tit.

On the 10th day of our trip I drove Leonardo to the airport for his flight back to Italy. He had seen his dream bird, two new Pittas  along with a few more for his global lifelist.

Francesco asked for a day off in Bangkok and I was happy with a day at home with the family.

So after a day off I picked up Francesco downtown and we drove directly to Khao Yai. Only a couple of target birds: Silver Pheasant and Siamese Fireback along with a couple of woodpeckers.

Khao Yai was very quiet. Best happening was a sudden show of a Hooded Pitta, several encounters with calling Blue Pittas but none showing. Near the top of Khao Kaew I heard a calling Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo and managed to tape it in but it gave only brief views.

We did connect with a few different Siamese Firebacks which gave photographic views but we never saw Silver Pheasant.

For me it was a very rewarding trip where many special quality birds were encountered. April and May are definitely great months to visit the South and to get photos of difficult birds. 4 Pittas seen and 2 heard is a good record. All 7 Broadbills seen well. The Great Argus is monumental in Thailand and Gould’s Frogmouth is another ‘heavy weight’!

Anyone wanting to do a trip next year is welcome to let me know.
Peter







Monday, August 18, 2014

The South part 4


In the afternoon we revisited Sri Pangnga National Park looking for Chestnut-naped Forktail. Instead we found a Hooded Pitta that Francesco had fun photographing.

The next morning we chased Blue-winged Pittas in a palm oil plantation as it was on Leonardo’s wanted list. These birds have just arrived and were calling  so not that hard to track down.

Then back to the park and waiting for the Forktail. As Francesco sat in the hide I walked off to look for other things. A male Rufous-collared Kingfisher perched rather close to me and I got my very own images of this elusive forest Kingfisher. Meanwhile Francesco had a pair of Forktails in front of his hide. Just as he wished!

So late morning we drove off to Thaimuang about 90 km South of the park. Here is a known roost for Spooted Wood Owl. Inspite of 2 hours search we failed to find the birds. (I later was told by a local birder that the birds have not been seen for some time, at least it wasn’t us missing the bird for lack of trying).

Onward we went to the town of Krabi but along the way we stopped at 2 different mangroves in the town of Pangnga. We heard Mangrove Pitta at both places as well as Brown-winged Kingfisher. At the 2nd site we found a nesting pair of Copper-throated Sunbirds and had a pair of Streak-breasted Woodpeckers flying overhead. In vain Leonardo tried to find his Mangove Pitta.

A night in Krabi and the following morning in mangroves again. I was thinking how easy the Mangrove Pitta should be since I had very good views only a week earlier but this time we didn’t even hear it. Amazing! Then I did hear it far away and remembered a hotel in that area. We drove to the hotel and shortly the pitta was calling from nearby. After half an hour of hide and seek it decided to fly out from the forest in front of us for full views! Finally!




 







Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A short twitch!


Ever since I heard of a Pied Cuckoo (Jacobin Cuckoo) being seen at Phuket I always wanted to see one. Then a couple of years later a pair showed up at Chiang Rai by the Mae Kong River but I didn't fancy a 1000 km drive. Thridly, last year another was spotted at Beung Borapet when I was in Europe. So when I saw a posting of this bird by Thanarot I knew I had my chance. 
Thanarok kindly invited me to his home and we enjoyed a true Thai meal at a restaurant by the river.
                                                     Thank you Thanarot! Very yummie! In the morning we did general birding in the wetlands surrounding Beung Borapet (240km North of Bangkok) and saw a lot of birds including a roosting Savanna Nightjar, Glossy Ibises and plenty of Streaked Weavers.......We then sat down to view the trees he had seen the Cuckoos in. After 2 and a half hours and no bird I thought; 'better pack up, bet that will bring it in, a bit sarcastically'. Before we got our stuff together in the car I gave a last scan and my eyes fell on the Cuckoo. They had finally arrived. A wonderful lifer and classy bird. It might be easy in Africa and India but over here it is a mega rarity.
(never mind I had to endure a 6 hour drive (240km) back to Bangkok in insane traffic)


 



Sunday, August 3, 2014

South, part 3

I had heard of a stake out for Great Argus but during my research found  that it was being sold by a resort for a rather handsome amount of money. I kept digging and finally found the direct connection with the villager that initially set up the stationary hide by the bird’s lek. And that at a lot cheaper price then the upscale resort.

Well, it wasn’t all that easy to get the communications right and even harder to find the villager  at his appointed spot. We drove to the km mark we were told only to find out that the road department had changed all the road markers. Through a set of nothing but small miracles we finally met up with the man deep inside the jungle only to find out that he meant for us to come a day later. Ha!

Well, we found a very nice resort in the area some 20 km East of the entrance to Khao Sok National Park. Again, good food, warm showers, big bed and air-con for weary souls.

The next morning we drove off to Sri Pangnga National Park about an hour’s drive further West.
1st target bird was Banded Pitta and we headed straight for it. Thankfully the birds had not started to lay on eggs and were still coming to worms. The male was seen carrying nesting materials and then calling for  his mate.

After the Pitta we went to a stake out for a Rufous-backed Dwarf Kingfisher. The tiny bird with all its colour posed very nicely next to the road  and the portable blinds I had brought came in handy again.

A friendly ranger asked me if I wanted to ‘see a Gould’s Frogmouth on a day roost’? Ha! Manna from Heaven! We didn’t stay long as to not disturb the bird too much.

Back to the lodge from previous night and an early wake up for our Great Argus adventure.
We met the man at 4 am and together with his nephew we walked 3 km in the very hot and humid tropical rain forest to get to our spot. We were continuously told to  be quiet and how extremely leery this bird is. Believe me, it was a difficult walk over several steep hill tops. I didn’t know I could sweat so profusely until that night.

So at the lek we were given 3 small holes to view through. Basically he said to stick our cameras through the hole but that the camera had to be on a tripod so as to not case motion in the canvas. I didn’t bring a tripod so my hole was reduced to the size of a silver dollar. Leonardo stuck his bins in the hole and Francesco fitted his 300mm lens with tripod.

Long story made short, the bird came and performed for an hour before disappearing. I managed to view the birds a couple of minutes but the other guys had great views for most of the time. Needless to say a lifer for all of us.

Back to the resort for a rest, lunch and drive back to Sri Pangnga where we checked in at a local hotel.



South, part 2

At noon I went to pick up Francesco and Leonardo at the airport. Francesco had graciously brought some Italian salami which I cherished throughout the trip. Thank you!

The drive to Krung Ching took most of the afternoon. A better option is to fly to Nakorn Sritamaraht with Airasia. Hertz allow for free drop off of their vehicle if hired more then 5 days.

We were greeted at a nice Homestay by the park and a sumptuous meal was waiting for us as well.
The ranger Daang and his family has set up a little homestay with 4 rooms available. They are air-conned with hot water and a big blessing as opposed to using the park bungalows with all their ‘wildlife’ in the room, no warm water and no air-con. At the homestay you can also have 3 meals that are wonderfully cooked by the Grandmother of the house.

The next morning we set out with our target in mind. We were accompanied by ‘R’, Daang’s nephew. It was his job to locate the Babbler and bring it to us.

After about an hour of searching along the trail R heard the bird in the far distance. He started taping it in. We set up a couple of blinds and myself and R retreated out of view. After an hour or more the bird still hadn’t shown so we had to start looking for it again. Again it was located, hides moved and another wait. This time we were not to be disappointed. The remarkable creature came and stuck around for several minutes as it gobbled up the meal worms put out for him. Big thumbs up and joy for a bird that had been on their minds for years! Mainly relief for myself!

Leonardo offered me his hide and I waited awhile until the bird came back. For some reason my camera simply couldn’t focus. So frustrating! Then as the bird left I discovered a large leaf stuck on the lens thus causing the focus not to work. Grrr!

Light is very difficult for photography inside this rain forest. Loads of intriguing sounds can be heard but seeing the birds is another story. Francesco carries a 500mm lens mounted on a light weight tripod. He is very quick on the birds but even he struggled with stuff like Green Broadbills and Cinnamon-rumped Trogons that we saw well but only briefly. He did get Buff-rumped and Buff-necked Woodpeckers rather impromptu.

In the afternoon we tried for a known nesting site for Rufous-collared Kingfisher but no signs of the birds.

Owling is normally good at KC but this time it also produced nothing but it mattered little after such superb views of the Rail Babbler.

The next day Daang came with us for the 1st part of the morning. He knows his birds very well and took us directly to some spots where he called out target birds. Thus we had great views of male and female Rufous-collared Kingfisher, Rufous Piculet, Banded Broadbill and  Black-throated Babbler, all photographed well.

Some other birds seen and heard: Dark-throated Oriole, Raffles Malkoha, Black-yellow Broadbill, Scaly-crowned Babbler, Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Chestnut-winged Babber, White-crowned Hornbill, Silver-rumped Spinetail, Red-throated Barbet, Brown Barbet, Red-billed Malhoha
.



Friday, August 1, 2014

A few from the South in May 2014

Francesco Veronesi  and his birding friend Leonardo Beghellini had been asking me to see the Malaysian Rail Babbler for a long time. So when I got news of one showing at Krung Ching in Southern Thailand they immediately wanted to visit. Francesco is a dedicated photographer with over 3200 species in his portfolie as well as a lister and Leonardo is a global lister with over 6000 birds seen.

Along with the Babbler they gave me a list with rather difficult birds and so I was faced with both a logistic challenge as well as finding the birds. I couldn’t set a fixed itinerary since we didn’t know how long it would take to nail down the Babbler.

I flew down to Krabi in advance as I wanted to visit Satun some 4 hours drive to the South of Krabi.
I used a Honda City from Hertz which turned out to be a reliable vehicle for the entire trip.


It was interesting to see the landscape and the make up of this area as I drove through the western part of the very South. Satun has not had any influence of the violence found in the bordering provinces of Naratiwat, Yala and Pattalung and the people seemed rather relaxed.

I visited the mangrove forest as I was targeting Cinerous Tit. I have only seen Cinerous Tit on Komodo Island but that is a different subspecies. It was quite strait forward to see it inside of the grounds of the mangrove research and learning center. The birds also sang away with songs reminding me of Great Tit from my home country.

I also recorded Mangrove PItta, photographed Brown-winged Kingfisher and noted Mangrove Whistler, Golden-bellied Gerygone and Common Flameback in the mangroves.

Unfortunately I didn’t see the Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker and the Pied Triller and it wasn’t until a couple of weeks later I found out there is a boardwalk near the port itself and that is the place for these birds. Ouch! Next time!

Lodging was easy and these days most accommodation in Thailand has free WiFi, air-con and hot showers as well.

I spent one night in Krabi. Loads of Guest House style of lodging right in town. Had a simple meal at the market by the river and prepared for the days to come.




I


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.

Bang!

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.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_Shrike

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.



                                                                      Female


                                                                      Male


                                                                      Male


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