Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why so few postings!

My apologies for not posting since mid Feb. I have simply not had the time. Been out quite a bit in the field and busy while at home. Currently on a trip to the South with family for work and visiting friends.






Will try to post asap. Waders are changing into breeding plumage. Here is a Curlew Sandpiper.





Also a Long-toed Stint in breeding plumage






And here is a rare Little Stint from Thailand.




A Little Stint in full breeding plumage.





See the differences between Little Stint and this Red-necked Stint?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Northern Thailand 14-18/2







This was to be my 3rd trip to Northern Thailand with Daniel Martin. This year the target birds were obviously fewer which made it all the more exciting.

Day 1.
We met up in the early morning at Chiang Mai airport. The airport is only a few minutes from the city center and our 4WD pick-up truck from Northwheels was waiting for us. After a little discussion we decided to head strait for Doi Angkhang some 170km North of CM. The reason being a good number of rare Turdus Thrushes had taken to the backside of the main restaurant inside the Royal Project at Bahn Khom, the main village at Doi Angkhang.

We took the more direct route via Fang as opposed to the more scenic route that has a turn off to the left shortly North of Chiang Dao. The 3liter engine worked very well and scaling up the steep mountain was a breeze.
Sure enough, the Thrushes were still there and Martin was able to tick off both Grey-sided as well as Black-breasted. Quite some treat! Also Eye-browed and Scaly Thrush were present.
These birds have been photographed extensively and though still shy are quite tolerant of all the commotion that goes on around the kitchen and workers tending to the Rose Garden right next to it. Of course the birds would fly off from time to time but always returning.

We had lunch at the restaurant and were entertained by a very nice wave of birds consisting of a pair of Black-throated Laughingthrushes, big flock of Japanese White-eyes, a few Blue-winged Minlas, White-tailed Warblers, a single White-browed Scimitar-Babbler and two female Slaty-backed Flycatchers. The later had taken their respective territory and we could enjoy them at length.

With the Thrushes in hand we continued on towards Nong Bong Kai lake at Chiang Saen near to the Golden Triangle. Baer’s Pochard being the main target bird.
There are accommodations available next to the lake and though they don’t offer food the caretaker brought us food from a restaurant a few kilometers away.
Thousands upon thousands of Lesser Whistling Duck were found in the lake as well as being mixed in with the floating vegetation. We found some Pintailed Ducks and Spot-billed but no diving ducks. It soon turned dark so we had to wait till the morning.

Lots and lots of wetland birds in this area. Striated Grass Warbler is a charm with a lovely song, big groups of Purple Swamp hen at close range with their nice colors.
The area is great for Racket-tailed Treepies in the adjoining woodlands. Kingfishers are readily seen as well.
We found some diving ducks primarily Ferruginous Poachard and Tufted Duck. A few Wigeons that I tried my best to somehow turn into Common Pochards but without success. I haven’t seen this bird yet as it is very rare in Thailand.
Most disturbingly we failed to see any Baer’s Pochards in spite getting help from a local ranger. Temperatures has risen of late and he speculated that the birds had moved on.
His name is Pop and is very friendly (doesn’t speak English) but can assist in locating birds if he has time. Ask for him at the office of the Non-hunting Area Centre.
The 4WD came in good use as we drove on bumpy graveled roads all over the area.
Still, there was a reward up ahead for us. A female Mandarin Duck was seen and photographed in a more marshy area. My first life bird for the trip!

Other good birds were a rare pair of Mallards, some Coots (yes, I know what you are thinking but this is tropical Thailand!) and a pair of Chestnut-headed Babblers.

Driving through the scenic landscape with a strong car was a blessing. Then, when going down a smaller hill suddenly the breaks gave in. I lost pressure in the breaks but they were still working somewhat. Had to slow down and keep going in search of a garage.
It took at least 50 km before we found one. As it was, a bearing had busted and according to the mechanic the whole wheel could have come off or at least exploded since all the brake fluids were gone, causing extreme heat.
It took them a couple of hours to have it taken care off and we were able to reclaim the expense later on. Felt so much better to drive with good brakes again.

It did shut down our afternoon plans of going up Doi Lang, instead we took to some rural areas looking in vain for Siberian Ruby Throat.

At Tah Torn we stayed at the very nice but inexpensive Garden Home resort, and treated ourselves to some good food.

Day 3.

Up early for the 45 minutes drive up Doi Lang. This time we didn’t need to look for Jerdon’s Bushchat as we saw that one last year.
The ridge on the top is at 2000m level with rather thick forest on both sides interspersed with grass and scrub. Many an exciting bird has been seen here and we were hoping for something rare to show up. Crested Finchbills were common this morning. A few Whiskered Yuhinnas a plus. More regular montane birds such as Spectacled Barwing, Rufous-backed and Dark-backed Sibias were around as was Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird.
Then a woodpecker came in full view. We both hoped for Crimson-breasted but alas it was a Stripe-breasted. A White-tailed Robin crossed the road, a Northern Goshawk came in for a quick perch. We kept driving the road back and forth till we decided to go on.
That is when the BIRD OF THE TRIP gave a brief performance. A bright male Golden Bush Robin was flushed from the roadside giving brief but clear views as it crossed the road to disappear into the vegetation! We were both delighted but also found ourselves wishing it would have lasted longer.

Doi Angkhang is not very far from Doi Lang. On the way to Angkhang we dropped into the office of Mae Fang National Park. I wanted to enquire if the regular Spot-winged Grosbeaks were showing. Found out that they had stopped coming in a couple of weeks earlier. A bonus was a juvenile Grey-faced Buzzard munching on a lizard some 30 meters away.

Mae Fang National Park has natural hot springs with massage facilities. Tents and cabins are available and a nice destination for some relaxation if need be. River Chat is usually in the stream. This is also where permission to go up Doi Pahompok is obtained.

We made it to Angkhang in the early afternoon. Decided to check out the Thrushes again.
Some workmen were there installing an exhaustion system to the kitchen making a lot of racket. Very noisy! We were told they were expecting a Royalty for dinner and had to install the system quickly. Also, the Minister of Environment was around. He apparently has an interest in birds as well. Looking good for birds in Thailand for the present with the present Prime Minister also being a birdwatcher!

Angkhang also frequently has rarities showing up. Bramblings were seen and photographed earlier on in the season and a flock of up to 20 Black-headed Greenfinches were supposed to be around as well. We bumped into Wings tours with Philip Round who told us he had just seen the Finches. Off we went but couldn’t find them at the spot given.
Up a hill right before the village of Nor Lae there is some kind of governmental radio station. The man in charge told us that he had seen the birds daily for a month now and insisted that they would come around if we just waited. That’s just what we did. Sure enough, a flock of 10 birds came to perch in a barren tree defying the strong winds sweeping the mountain. My 3rd life bird! Now 713 for Thailand and hoping for more!





Bahn Luang resort where we found out that the Minister was staying.
Still, we got rooms and ended the day with good looks at River Chat, Plembous Redstart, and a male Black-breasted Thrush in the little waterfall.
The owner of the resort, Mr. Tawatchai, enjoys bird watching and is a good host.

He told us that he had heard of a villager with 2 Hume’s Pheasants in his possession. He quickly tried to buy the birds from the man but the man said: ‘sorry, you are too late, we just ate one for dinner’…..

Day 4.

Next day we woke up to 4 degrees Celsius. A male Hume’s Pheasant had been showing at km 34 about a week earlier at 7:30 and we got to the spot by 7:15…….no birds showed! (I later found out that Wings had the birds the day following at 6:30)
Our biggest blooper for the trip!

We did some general birding at various spots and got to see quite a few things. Rufous-bellied and Large Niltava, Red-faced Liochicla, Eye-browed Laughingthrushes, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Mountain Bamboo Partridge and Slaty Blue Flycatcher were some of them.

Back to the Thrushes for a last view and lunch before we started our journey to Doi Inthanon.

Day 5.

Doi Inthanon Highland Resort is where most birders stay. The grounds are great for easy birding, the food is exceptional and not far to the park gate.

We visited the dry area at km 13 before dusk but as expected very quiet. A Collared Falconet being the most noteworthy.

Right at dusk a Spotted Owlet started calling and came to perch on a roof on resort grounds. I called for Martin who was showering. Once out the bird was gone.

Very good food again and some cold refreshing drinks.

We only had a few realistic target birds for DI and set out for the first one in the early morning. Speckled Wood Pigeons do come out to sun themselves a bit above the pagodas at higher ground. No sooner had we gotten out of the car when a flock of 20 birds showed. With that in hand we went on for Rufous-throated Partridges at the summit.
The birds often show at the ranger’s kitchen but hadn’t been seen for a while.
At 7:40 we had a pair feeding some 5 meters from us. Excellent views!

After that we relaxed and did some general birding at the summit. Common Rosefinches were up here as were the mandatory Chestnut-tailed Minlas, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, Blue Whistling Thrushes, Ashy-throated Warblers and Rufous-winged Fulvettas, not to speak of Green-tailed Sunbirds.

Then back at km 31 to look for Fire-capped Tit in the plum orchard. No birds here yet this season the owner told us. Instead a nice Yellow-eyed Babbler popped up from the roadside grasses.

Lunch at Mr. Daeng’s restaurant. A tame Siberian Blue Robin hopped around the restaurant. Down below in the leaf litter a single Dark-sided Thrush poked around for food. Lifer for Martin. Good views of Asian Stubtailed as it feed alongside the Thrush.

Jeep track after lunch gave us Vivid Niltava and a pair of Brown-throated Treecreepers but not much else to speak of.

Instead we settled for a visit to Mae Hia agricultural research station outside of Chiang Mai. We were trying to find the Rubythroat again but to no avail. Instead Martin got his Spotted Owlet as a pair were roaming about. Not an uncommon bird but one I don’t see very often.

The evening was spent at the Irish Pub located by the Anusarn food market. Great food at low cost and friendly atmosphere. It was a nice way of ending our time together. Martin ended up with 15 lifers and me with 3.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Kaengkrachan and Lampakbia 31-2/2











<
Douglas Witt with wife and friends had toured Thailand and asked me to help them to get to Kaengkrachan. It worked out with my schedule and so off we went.
Got to Lampakbia in the late afternoon, low tide and hardly any waders around.
As usual though, the mangrove research station had good birds. The 20 some Ruffs seen here seem to not bother feeding at the mudflats and are ever present. Lovely birds with great variety in plumage between the sexes.

Kaengkrachan was a bit on the quiet side but a morning on the upper parts is always impressive. Dough was interested in details in all that he saw but the others had a more leisurely approach. In other words, there was something for everyone.
We did see two species of Hornbills, one Trogon, Necklaced Laughingthrushes, White-hooded Babblers a party of 4 Great Slaty Woodpeckers (quite some sight all working on the same branch) plus a lot of common birds.

On the way home I dropped by Lampakbia again and this time it was high tide with resultant gatherings of waders. Again, the research station proved excellent.

Pictures show Temminck's Stint, Ruff, Common KF, Chinese Pond-Heron, White-throated KF, Fairy bluebird,
Pied Hornbill, Sultan's Tit, Large Wood-Shrike and Pain-tailed Snipe.
I am not proficient in the layout of this blog so things are being displayed by the default of the program.

The North 25-29/1





border="0" alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5029793468829871906" />






I had a fun time in the North with Peter Stahl and spouse who came in from cold Canada for sometime in the sun. Peter is a keen photographer with a wealth of high quality photographs at his webpages http://www.pbase.com/decor

We set out to visit nearby fields on our first day. Seeing the sun rise over the paddies and hearing all the birds come alive was an uplifting event. Some neat looking Wire-tailed Swallows were the best attraction.
Then we proceeded to drive along the scenic route to Doi Angkhang.
Once there we were able to visit River Chat, Plembous Redstart and a male Black-breasted Thrush at Bahn Luang resort. The latter was a lifer for me.
A Streaked Wren Babbler also showed at the resort's pitoresque waterfall.


After a local meal of fresh veggies it was time to visit the Royal agricultural project. Behind the restaurant's kitchen quite a number of Thrushes had gathered to feed in the well nourished soil. Several Black-breasted, Scaly, Eye-browed and even a Grey-winged Thrush were seen. In addition a female White-tailed Robin was showing real well.

The next couple of days we shifted to Doi Inthanon. Never have I seen the summit so crowded with people. Felt like downtown Bangkok. Did see many birds at all but atleast got shots of Chestnut-tailed Minlas and Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes.
Weather was cold so the excellent coffee available up here was much appreciated.
We proceeded to look for birds a little here and there. Best birds photographed were a female Daurian Redstart and Long-tailed Broadbills.

At the resort outside the park we had fun shooting a Warbler which was either Radde's or Streak-throated. It didn't call so couldn't tell.

Mae Hia outside of Bangkok produced a lot of open woodland and field birds. Getting the Green-billed Malkoha still for some shots was a treat as it usually never is still.

Then we tried Huay Teung Tao which wasn't that good but gave an Asian Barred Owlet much to Peter's joy.

Peter showed me some things about Photoshop and I enjoyed seeing him in action with his big 'bazooka'...Pictures displayed here are with my 'small gun' the 400m F5.6 and Canon 350Rebel.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Kaengkrachan










Kaengkrachan 14-15/1

It finally worked out for me to bring my wife, kids and fellow co-worker to Panernthung, Kaenkrachan National Park for an overnight stay. The cooler weather and promised sea of cloud formed in the early morning enveloping the forest and surrounding peaks was what determined this trip.

First stop after a rather lengthy drive was the 2nd stream at km 16.

It isn't really butterfly season yet but there were enough dancing flowers around to excite little eyes!

The transparent fish in the stream were very happy for a handout of bread crumps.
Kids asked: 'How did the fish get up here?' 'They stayed on the mountain after Noah's ark was stranded in the Flood and the waters receded, is what the Bible teaches us' was my reply.


Seeing it was Sunday the campground at Panernthung was not crowded. We chose our spot
with some great views overlooking the rolling mountains leading into Myanmar.
Up here one can sense the vastness of Creation and how it was meant to be 'once upon a time' before man started messing it up.

The afternoon was spent playing, birding, eating, relaxing, talking and enjoying our wonderful setting. The only thing that spoiled our total peace was a gang of young men camping out near to us. They had been told not to sing, play guitar or tape players by the rangers. Instead they resorted to talking, giggling and insane laughther througout the night. A real 'Devil's pest' in the middle of God's Garden.

Some of the birds seen in the area were Wreathed and Great Hornbill. Great and Blue-throated Barbets (see pic), Radde's Warbler,White-browed Scimitar Babbler (see pic), White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Cheastnut-headed Bee-eater (see pic), Oriental Honey Buzzard etc.


The Mountain Scops Owl kept calling for hours but inspite of repeated playback wouldn't come in for a show. Still need to see this bird.

The next morning we drove down the bumby and dusty road with our van. No other vans up here, only 4 WD's. On the way out we bumbed into Pinit and Nang leading a group of foreign birders.

Back at the Dam we stopped for a picknick lunch and headed to Chaosumran beach at Petburi. Kids got to play in the ocean, walk in the sand and smell the sea. Me? Had a cold drink and enjoyed the Common Terns feeding nearby.

Then we drove to Lampakbia Mangrove reserach station. Lots of birds in here as they don't use pesticides. These good sized birds caught everyone's attention.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Year!




What an unusual way to end the old year and to begin the new! Birding at Lampakbia and Kaengkrachan. Kim Chua, an oldtime friend from Singapore whom I initially met at the mangroves of Pasiris park, came up with his family. Both of our families agreed to let us go, God bless them!
Target bird for Kim was Nordmann’s Greenshank, Giant Pitta, Bar-backed Partridge and a few odds and ends.
Lampakbia was a delight as usual. Full of waders of all sorts as well as open country birds. In a flock of 300 Great Knots with some Red mixed in we found a few Nordmann’s. These are such neat looking birds and once learned not really to be confused with Common. After a couple of hours in the area getting our heart’s content we had a sumptuous meal by the beach.
Kaengkrachan was totally packed out with New Year’s revelers and we were denied entry to the park. Instead of giving up we went to the first checkpoint from where one can pay the entry fee as well. Same story, entry denied.
Waited awhile until the chief of the park came around, explained the situation and allowed us in to where the sealed road becomes a dirt road. Atleast we had fun looking at some more common smaller birds along the roadside.
There is a smaller resort about 1 km before the checkpoint where we camped out for the night. While dining the news of bombs going off in Bangkok came on TV. Whoever was behind it seemed to achieve their goal as most people in Bangkok went home after that.
There is a lot of power in fear something realized not only by terrorists but also big governments and used in manipulating the masses.

Following morning we were let in. Arrived at Bahnkrahng early on to see A LOT of vehicles start their drive up to Panernthung for sunrise. In Thailand people love waterfalls as well as seeing the sunrise. I guess many want to see the sun come up giving light and a new day and that would be symbolic of a New and better Year.

We quickly started our birding around km 16-17. As usual it was quiet and much more heard then seen. We used tape to see if we would get any feedback from the Giant Pitta seen around here last year. After crossing the stream and finding the trail that goes inside the forest we stayed put for awhile trying our luck. No Giant Pitta to be seen but instead a Blue Pitta came foraging for a couple of minutes to give good views.
Later, a Giant Pitta did respond once but was never to be seen. Perhaps it came to have a look at us and decided against an appearance?

Out on the road I heard something scratching the ground. Only 2 meters from me a Bar-backed Partridge suddenly froze in its tracts. This was Kim’s second lifer and he was very delighted. Other birds seen in here was Tickelli’s Hornbill (Brown), Sulphur-breasted, Plain-tailed and Pale-legged Warbler (lifer for Kim).
Around noon we headed out of the park and had another delicious meal at Gang Pet restaurant by the dam. Best food around!

Beung Borapet







9th of January

Got a call from Philip Round in the afternoon on the 8th. 7 Grey-legged Geese had been seen at Beung Borapet, Nakorn Sawan since the 6th. Obtained permission from home to go along. Got to the place in the evening and stayed at the research station for waterfowl. Simple lodging.
Up early with a couple of people from the station who took us to where the birds had been seen. Unfortunately there were quite a number of farmers in the area and no matter how hard or long we tried we failed to find the geese.
Instead we saw huge flocks of ducks in the air. About 3000. Pintailed Duck, 3000 Gargeneys, small number of Eurasian Wigeon (2), Northern Shoveler (3), Common Teal (2) and presumably 1 Ferruginous Duck.
There were literally hundreds of Grey Herons around the lake. Maybe 4-500. Purple Herons were common, Purple Swamphen (100), 20000 Lesser Whistling Ducks flew up from floating vegetation as we drove by in a boat. Quite some site. Cotton Pygmy Geese were inbetween the Whistling Ducks. A few Spot-billed Pelicans was a great site to behold. A flying female Painted Snipe gave good views. A Peregrine Falcon worked its way across the wetlands. A single Eastern Marsh Harrier sought out prey in the fields.
Striated Warblers could be seen and heard with their musical songs. The whole lake was teeming with birds. Openbills, Jacana’s, Cormorants etc, etc. I must get back up there sometime. A consolation price was that I was able to tick off Common Coot for my Thai list.
It was a great opportunity for me to learn from Philip as he helped to sort out some Reed Warbler calls I was unclear about. Thank you!