Friday, November 4, 2016

Northern Thailand late October 2016

Northern Thailand 25-31st October 2016

James Huntington and Keith Camburn are two high ranking birders from the ABA list.
They were on their way to Bhutan and wanted to do some birding in Thailand as well. 

Someone else had arranged a tour of Central Thailand for them but they wanted to see the North also so contacted me. I had done Central Thailand with James and some of his friends a couple of years ago so doing the North was perfect for me.

End of November is still the wet season here with potential bad weather and not all migrants have arrived yet. Still, the 8 days gave Keith over 150 lifers and James around 50. James had birded Central Thailand before as well as Bhutan but Asia was a new destination for Keith. 

Day 1. Early pick up as usual. Keith was getting lifers from the car window but it all got so much more intense once we arrived at Beung Borapet, Nakorn Sawan. We only did an hour stop here but saw plenty of good birds: Freckle-breasted Woodpecker, Eurasian Wryneck,  Black-browed Reed Warbler, Oriental Reed Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Eurasian Hoopoe,  Burmese and Brown Shrike, White-throated Kingfisher, Indian Roller, Oriental Darter, Asian Openbill, Green and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, White Wagtail, Taiga Flycatcher and Pied Fantail are some of those that come to mind.
We arrived at Klong Lan in time for lunch at the regular and only restaurant of good standard.
After that we slowly drove up to Chong Yen (1300m asl), Mae Wong National Park for the remainder of the day. 

It was gloomy and bleak and bird activity was low but the Grey Peacock Pheasant thankfully showed well at its regular stake out and other birds of higher level followed suit: Great Hornbill, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, White-throated Fantail, Marten’s Warbler, Speckled Piculet, White-browed Piculet, Blue-throated Barbet, Davison’s, Claudia’s and Sulphur-breasted Warblers, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Golden and Grey-throated Babbler, Grey Wagtail and more. 

Mae Wong is plagued with sand flies but this time we were not badly affected. 

Day 2. Back up the mountain in search of the special birds of this place but we managed to find none: Burmese Yuhina, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Rufous-necked Hornbill, White-necked Laughingthrush, Olive Bulbul i.e.   Instead we did see stuff like: Wreathed Hornbill, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great and Gold-throated Barbet, White-throated Bulbul, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Verditer Flycatcher, Maroon Oriole, Rosy Minivet, Swinhoe’s Minivet, Grey-chinned Minivet, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Mountain Bulbul, Ashy Bulbul, Buff-breasted Babbler and Verditer Flycatcher. 

After lunch we started our long drive to Mae Ping just 2 hours South of Doi Inthanon. It didn’t take long before we found a perched Rufous-winged Buzzard in a field. We also saw several Black-shouldered Kites along the way and an unidentifiable Harrier. 

Mae Ping for an hour before dusk gave us two much wanted birds: Great Slaty Woodpecker and Black-headed Woodpecker. Also Common Flameback showed well as did Rufescent Prinias in the low vegetation. 

Very nice lodging at Lee, the small town by Mae Ping National Park. A new restaurant had opened up as well so we were definitely not hurting.

Day 3. Back to MP for more of the same. The dry forest here has its own set of birds and we got on to a few new ones: Grey-headed Parakeets (many), Hainan Blue FC, Lineated Barbet, White-crested Laughingthrushes, Grey-capped Woodpeckers, Large Cuckoo Shrike, Gold-fronted Leafbirds,  Hooded Oriole, Black-naped Oriole, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Great Racket-tailed Drongo and to our surprise a female Indian Cuckoo. 

Next destination was Doi Inthanon and we headed straight up to the top where most of the goodies are. Low visibility, fog and rather cold for Thailand but still oh so lovely in spite of the many tourists around. The bog with its boardwalk was closed for repair so we missed some things but still managed to see many good birds: Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Bar-throated Minla, Dark-backed Sibia, Mrs Gould’s Sunbird, Green-tailed and Black-throated Sunbird.
A night at Mr Daeng’s place with no need for AC followed suit. Asian Barred Owlet, Collared Scops Owl and Mountain Scops Owl heard from the abode. 

Day 4. The next morning we started out around the 2nd checkpoint, visited the top, and did the jeep track, 34.5 and a little here and there. Slowly we got on to more birds. The biggest surprise was a Red-throated Pipit at the car park on the top (2565m).
We managed to pull out a White-browed Shortwing from the thicket, got stellar views of Slaty-bellied Tesia, Mountain Tailorbird, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Large Niltava, Golden Babbler, Grey-cheeked Fulvettas, Blue Whistling Thrush, Eye-browed Tit, Ashy-throated Warblers, Bianchi’s Warbler, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Short-billed Minivet, Streaked Spiderhunter and Rufous-backed Sibias.

No Green Couchua inspite lengthy search. 

The local fresh market had strawberries and avocadoes on offer, much to my delight. 

Day 5. Up early for a drive to Doi Saket in search of Green Peafowl. We ended up with poor views of one bird in flight. Never had so few birds showing. So we promptly set off for Doi Angkhang along the scenic route. The afternoons are normally slow in the mountains but we did get on to some new stuff: Eurasian Jay, Grey Treepie, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Long-tailed Broadbill and Yellow-bellied Fairy Fantail.

Day 6. Early rise and off to Doi Lang. This time no Partridges or Pheasents along the road but a lot of fog! First bird was a cracking Ultramarine Flycatcher. So happy to see it! Soon we had stellar views of Giant Nuthatch.  Where else can you go and see this species so readily? Spot-breasted Parrotbills as well as Grey-headed Parrotbills were another set of gorgeous birds. In addition to that we had other new birds: Long-tailed and Short-billed Minivets, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Spectacled Barwing, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Crested Finchbill, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, White-browed Laughingthrushes, Little Pied Flycatcher and a very vocal but refusing to show Spot-throated Babbler.  The road at Doi Lang has Grey Bushchats all along and good numbers of Olive-backed Pipits and other more skulking birds can be heard: Buff-chested Babbler being one of them. 

A lovely day came to an end and we drove down to our hotel in Fang. 

Day 7. A full day at Doi Angkhang. Just great to be up in the cooler mountains hearing the sounds of birds, feeling the wind, smelling the vegetation and seeing a different way of life with the many local tribes still wearing their traditional clothing. 

We got on to another Emerald Cuckoo, we had one DL the previous day. 

The regular stake out for Rusty-naped Pitta was void of birds. Too early in the season. 

The White-capped Redstart, a classic bird, also gave good views in a small stream. White Wagtails were not far away and there were places with big number of Bulbuls. We had good views of White-headed, Striated, Red-whiskered and Sooty-headed! 

Big flocks of Chestnut-sided and Japanese White-eyes all over the mountain. Blue-winged Minlas also putting on a show. 

We also got on to Yellow-vented and Plain Flowerpeckers….tiny birds hard to see well at times. 

The last hour was spent trying to sort out Pacific Swifts from Cook’s Swift which revealed good numbers of both taxa. 

Day 8. Up Doi Lang for the morning. We finally got great views of a pair of Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers. These birds are seriously inquisitive and can come quite close.
Radde’s Warbler, Bay Woodpecker and Japanese Tit were the only other new birds.
Three Swallows were seen on the tour: Barn, Striated and Red-rumped. Also plenty of Ashy Woodswallows. 

Of course there were more birds seen enroute, especially in the paddies but the mountains always were our priority.

In the afternoon James and Keith left for Bangkok and an upcoming tour of Central Thailand. I decided to go back to Doi Inthanon to chill a bit. 

It had been a good trip with skilled and enthusiastic birders. If the same trip had taken place in a month from now we probably would have gotten on to a few more things but it was  well worth it!  Thank you guys! 


Monday, August 15, 2016

Fields of Petchaburi mid August

 Mid August isn't the best of months for raking up a long list of species in the field. But it is a lovely month with dramatic skies, green fields and local birds still being busy about.
The Watercock is a bird that often doesn't show well and though it was rather distant we still got good looks of a breeding bird.
 They have a booming sound and a nice contrast with their green surroundings. Still need a good image of this species.
Purple Heron

All you often see of the Purple Heron is a 'periscope' sticking out from tall rice plants. 
Streaked Weaver

There seemed to be Asian Golden Weavers just about everywhere. There breeding cycle last several months and I wonder how many sets of chicks each pair raise. Baya Weavers were also abundant but the one I enjoyed the most was Streaked Weaver. This time they seemed to 
breed mixed in with Golden. In years past I have seen them in more distinct species designated colonies but this year lots of them were mixed. Still the shape of the nests tell them apart.
Green Bee-eater

Green Bee-eater is a bird you can not miss in this area. 
Raymond Liao

I was out with Raymond Liao, a Chinese/American business man from California. Ray wanted to photograph as many birds as possible. It is always interesting to see the many approaches people have to photography, their choices of equipment, field craft, camera settings etc etc. Always something to learn and to share. 

At the King's project, Lampakbia, the Indian Cormorants were in breeding plumage.  Gone is the yellow facial skin and added is the nice white ear tuft.

I thought this Little Egret was posing quite nicely!

This pair of Lesser Whistling Tree Ducks were unusually accommodating.
Long-toed Stint

Wood Sandpiper

Long-toed Stints are now starting to show. A very nice sign that shorebirds are on their way back.

Wood Sandpipers were also common in the project.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Eared Pitta

Everyone knows Blue Pitta is difficult. Now multiply that by 5 and you are getting towards the difficult degree of Eared Pitta.

A lot of my pictures I get while birdwatching. In other words, opportunistic photography. But when it comes to Eared Pitta, the opportunity only comes when there is a stake out and a blind set up.

 I spent 6 hours with this bird and in spite of the birds coming and going only got a handful of acceptable images. The bird showed extremely well but in difficult light and always on the move. Very challenging. Well, here is the male. His colors are a bit more intense then the female.

He also did the bulk of the job of finding worms
for the chick as the female spent time in the nest.
She did come out but only a couple of times.

Here she is on her way back into the nest.

It was amazing how quickly those worms were digested. The residue had to be removed frequently!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

3 days in July

18-20th of July 2016
With Pete Mooney from New Jersey

Pete is a herpetologist but has an interest for birds and so asked me to help out for a few days before he would join a couple of friends in Bali for some herping.
We agreed to a plan as follow.

Day 1. Fields of Petchaburi  in the morning and outskirts of Kaengkrachan National Park in the afternoon.
Day 2. All day at the lower levels of Kaengkrachan.
Day 3. Lower levels till noon and some fields on the way back to Bangkok in the afternoon

Day 1. We got to the fields around 7 am. A lot less birds then in the dry season but still birdy enough to keep the interest. The 3 species of Weavers were still at it being busy in their breeding colonies.
Asian Golden seemed to be the  most common this time.
Some fields were full of Egrets and Openbills. A nice surprise was a Stork-billed Kingfisher that flew over our heads after it sang in some nearby trees for a bit. White-throated Kingfisher wasn’t far away either so both these two colorful birds showed well.
At WatKhaotakrow there were 12 Spot-billed Pelicans. These are much easier in the wet season and often missed in the dry season.
Not many wader around but atleast we got on to some Oriental Pratincoles both in flight and on the ground.
Pulling in to Baan Maka, our resort, gave us almost instantly a Blue-winged Pitta as it hopped around on the resort grounds in search of worms for its hungry chicks. 

After a delicious dinner the night fell. Almost instantly the call of Collared Scops Owl was heard.
I got on to it quickly but it flew off just to call deeper inside the vegetation.  We followed it with our headlights on. Suddenly, I spotted a Reticulated Python in front of me. Pete got very enthusiastic as this was a new snake for him. Funny how the Almighty  seem to reward people according to their individual desires.  I normally don’t look for snakes to be honest but in this case it was high on Pete's wish list. 

Day 2. We entered the park around 6:30. Thankfully we never encountered any rain during our 3 days inspite of dark skies and lingering rain. It was a lot quieter then normal to  but enough new impressions to keep Pete happy. I mean, how can you not be anything but appreciative when you are visiting a SEA tropical forest the first time?

The best birds of the day were the Broadbills with Silver-breasted, Black-red and Banded leading the way!  A pair of Great Hornbills finally showed in the late afternoon and will not be forgotten. 

After having walked a trail in the afternoon we were back on the road walking towards the car when suddenly Pete spotted another snake. This time a Monocled Cobra.  I let Pete examine it while I kept safely away.  I do appreciate these beings but have a healthy fear of getting to close. I suppose it being the wet season had something to do with seeing two species in 2 days? Either way, it was a major highlight for this snake man who has worked with snakes on a professional level for many many years. 

Day 3. Back in the park to pick up a few more things. We finally added some woodpeckers to the list but the definite highlight was an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher next to the road. 

 Pete happily shared his experiences with herping from primarily Central and South America and time seemed to go by quickly. 

Asian Golden Weaver

Streaked Weaver

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker

Blue-winged Pitta

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher

Silver-breasted Broadbill

Here is a list of birds we encountered.
Not that long, but then again, it isn’t only about a long list, is it?

1.       Little Grebe
2.       Little Cormorant
3.       Indian Shag
4.       Grey Heron
5.       Purple Heron
6.       Javan Pond Heron
7.       Black-crowned Night-Heron
8.       Cattle Egret
9.       Great Egret
10.   Yellow Bittern
11.   Black Bittern
12.   Asian Openbill
13.   Painted Stork
14.   Spot-billed Pelican – a dozen
15.   Lesser Whistling Duck
16.   Brahimy Kite
17.   Black-shouldered Kite
18.   Crested Goshawk
19.   Crested Serpent Eagle – heard
20.   Red Junglefowl
21.   Ferruginous Partridge – heard
22.   Green-legged Partridge – heard
23.   White-breasted Waterhen
24.   Bronze-winged Jacana
25.   Red-wattled Lapwing
26.   Little Ringed Plover
27.   Wood Sandpiper
28.   Oriental Pratincole
29.   Black-winged Stilt
30.   Rock Pigeon
31.   Spotted Dove
32.   Peaceful Dove
33.   Red Collared Dove
34.   Emerald Dove
35.   Drongo Cuckoo – heard
36.   Plaintive Cuckoo – heard
37.   Banded Bay Cuckoo – heard
38.   Greater Coucal
39.   Asian Koel
40.   Chestnut-breasted Malkoha – a pair
41.   Collared Scops Owl
42.   Collared Owlet – heard
43.   Orange-breasted Trogon – heard at least half a dozen but couldn’t get on to them
44.   Stork-billed Kingfisher – 1 seen well
45.   White-throated Kingfisher
46.   Collared Kingfisher
47.   Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher  (back-backed kf)
48.   Banded Kingfisher – heard
49.   Green Bee-eater
50.   Blue-throated Bee-eater
51.   Blue-bearded Bee-eater
52.   Indian Roller
53.   Asian Pied Hornbill
54.   Great Hornbill
55.   Blue-eared Barbet – heard
56.   Common Flameback
57.   Greater Yellownape
58.   Streak-breasted Woodpecker
59.   Silver-breasted Broadbill
60.   Banded Broadbill
61.   Black-red Broadbill
62.   Black-yellow Broadbill
63.   Blue-winged Pitta
64.   Blue Pitta – heard
65.   Germain’s Swiftlet
66.   Asian Palm Swift
67.   House Swift
68.   Grey-rumped Treeswift
69.   Barnswallow
70.   Rufous-winged Bushlark – very showy this time of year
71.   Grey Wagtail
72.   Scarlet Minivet – heard
73.   Common Iora
74.   Gold-fronted Leafbird
75.   Black-crested Bulbul
76.   Black-headed Bulbul
77.   Buff-vented Bulbul
78.   Ochraceous Bulbul
79.   Sooty-headed Bulbul
80.   Streak-eared Bulbul
81.   Stripe-throated Bulbul
82.   Yellow-vented Bulbul
83.   Black Drongo
84.   Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
85.   Hooded Oriole – heard
86.   Asian Fairy Bluebird
87.   Crested Jay – several heard
88.   Eastern Jungle Crow
89.   Sultan’s Tit
90.   Puff-throated Babbler - heard
91.   Striped Tit Babbler - heard
92.   Rufous-fronted Babbler
93.   Large Scimitar Babbler – heard
94.   Brown-cheeked Fulvetta – heard
95.   Chestnut-capped Babbler – a pair
96.   Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush – heard
97.   Zitting Cisticola – heard
98.   Yellow-bellied Prinia
99.   Plain Prinia
100.                        Grey-breasted Prinia – heard
101.                        Common Tailorbird
102.                        Dark-necked Tailorbird – heard
103.                        Oriental Magpie Robin
104.                        White-rumped Shama
105.                        Slaty-backed Forktail – 1 seen
106.                        Pied Fantail
107.                        Ashy Woodswallow
108.                        White-vented Myna
109.                        Common Myna
110.                        Hill Myna
111.                        Olive-backed  Sunbird
112.                        Brown-throated Sunbird
113.                        Ruby-cheeked Sunbird
114.                        Little Spiderhunter – heard
115.                        Orange-bellied  Flowerpecker
116.                        Eurasian Tree Sparrow
117.                        Asian Golden Weaver
118.                        Streaked Weaver
119.                        Baya Weaver
120.                        Scaly-breasted Munia
121.                        White-rumped Munia

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Kaengkrachan part 2

White-browed Piculet
 We also did some walkabout photography inside of Kaengkrachan National Park.

Walking with camera gear give less opportunity but produces images that are not 'look alike' as the shots from feeding stations often are.

I use Canon 7D coupled with 100-400Mark2

Ideally I should upgrade to the 7D2
Long-tailed Broadbills

Banded Kingfisher, female

Banded Kingfisher, male

Common Flameback, female

Dusky Broadbill

Silver-breasted Broadbill

Hooded Pitta

Grey Peacock Pheasant

Hair-crested Drongo