Thursday, May 11, 2017

West Papua

So I have finalized an 18 day trip to West Papua for 9th-26th of September 2018.
The price will be hard to beat: 4 persons 5.500US/pers, 5 pers 5.000US/pers and 6 pers 4.500US/pers
This includes flight from Jakarta and back.........

I think this price is exceptional.
Itinerary is available upon request but basically to 3 main sites, Arfak mountains, Nimbokrang and Waigeo. For program email me.

First come, first get!
PS......3 people confirmed already




Saturday, May 6, 2017

Vietnam March 2017

Vietnam 14-21st of March 2017

This was a long overdue trip. For various reasons I had not visited Vietnam previously but this time everything seemed just right.

My friend Stijn de Win and I left from Bangkok to Ho Chi Min with Airasia.  Less than 2 hours away we landed in a modern airport.

Getting luggage and going through immigrations was a breeze. Our prearranged agent was waiting for us with transportation and soon we were on the roads of Ho Chi Min. Lots of both motorbikes and cars made it slow to get out of town but once out we find ourselves on a new multiple lane highway we whisked through the landscape.

Once off the highway the road was more crowded but still nicely paved and we arrived to Cat Tien National Park just after noon.

We stayed at spacious AC accommodations inside the park where there also was a restaurant with good food and plenty of cold beers.

A lot of the birds here are the same as in Thailand so I recognized a lot of the sounds. But the reason for coming here does not occur in Thailand: Bar-bellied and Blue-rumped Pittas. Both these species are pretty common around HQ. Our guide had arranged for us the use of a couple of hides for the purpose of photographing the aforementioned Pittas. This worked out wonderfully! We even had a Germain’s Peacock Pheasant,Siamese Firebacks and Slaty-legged Crake show at the hide.

Blue-rumped Pitta

Bar-bellied Pitta



Germain's Peacock Pheasant
Siamese Firback
Slaty-legged Crake



We did some conventional birding as well along the one road from our stay which took us through a variety of habitats. Indian Peafowl, Woolly-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Black-red Broadbill, Orange-necked Partridges, Violet Cuckoo and Grey-faced Tit Babbler being some of the better ones.

3 nights at Cat Tien and it was time for a drive to Dalat in the highlands. Again the roads were not at all what people had told me and we found ourselves in the highland in time for some afternoon birding inspite of leaving Cat Tien around 10:30.

From Dalat town we visited 3 or 4 different sites in search of the many special birds up here. There are many endemic and near endemic birds in the area. Dalat is at 1500m asl and had lovely temperatures ranging between 16-27C. The city has a French colonial architecture, often with wide streets in the rolling pine covered hills surrounding the city.

The food was excellent. Something in between Thai and Chinese. Lots of fresh vegetables as well as generous portions of meat. Both Stijn and myself are used to Asian dining so we had an assortment of dishes between us.

The birding was as good as hoped. My own targets were Collared and Orange-breasted Laughingthrushes and again our local guide knew exactly where we should wait for them.

An array of other great birds: White-cheeked, Black-hooded Laughingthrushes, Grey-capped Black-throated Tit, Indochinese and Necklaced Barbet, Klossi, White-spectacled and Grey-cheeked Warbler, Indochinese Wren Babbler, Grey-bellied Tesias, Grey-crowned Crocias, Dalat Shrike Babbler, Blue-winged Minla, Clicking Shrike Babbler, Lesser Shortwing, Vietnamese Cutia, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Black-headed Sibia, Green-backed Tit, Long-tailed Broadbill  to name a few.
Vietnames Red Crossbill

Vietnamese Greenfinch
Collared Laughingthrush



4 nights at Dalat and a short flight back to Ho Chi Min where I boarded a plane back to Bkk.

My 4 main targets had all been photographed. I had seen 21 new species and had a jolly good time in a birding pace of my own. The Dalat high plateau is a magnificent hot spot for birding. No where else on mainland SEA can so many endemics be found.
Orange-breasted Laughingthrush

White-throated Rock Thrush, fem

Slaty-bellied Tesia



Thanks to Stijn for being a good companion and thanks to Tim D for all the hard labour involved in making it run smooth.

Pictures of birds are  found here: http://www.pbase.com/peterericsson/birdsofvietnam

Chinese Francolin
Francolinus pintadeanus
Rufous-throated Partridge
Arborophila rufogularis
Orange-necked Partridge
Arborophila davidi
Green-legged Partridge
Arborophila chloropus
Red Junglefowl
Gallus gallus
Siamese Fireback
Lophura diardi
Germain's Peacock-Pheasant
Polyplectron germaini
Green Peafowl
Pavo muticus
Little Grebe
Tachybaptus ruficollis
Woolly-necked Stork
Ciconia episcopus
Lesser Adjutant
Leptoptilos javanicus
Cinnamon Bittern
Ixobrychus cinnamomeus
Striated Heron
Butorides striata
Chinese Pond Heron
Ardeola bacchus
Eastern Cattle Egret
Bubulcus coromandus
Great Egret
Ardea alba
Little Egret
Egretta garzetta
Oriental Darter
Anhinga melanogaster
Crested Honey Buzzard
Pernis ptilorhynchus
Crested Serpent Eagle
Spilornis cheela
Black Eagle
Ictinaetus malaiensis
Crested Goshawk
Accipiter trivirgatus
White-bellied Sea Eagle
Haliaeetus leucogaster
Slaty-legged Crake
Rallina eurizonoides
White-breasted Waterhen
Amaurornis phoenicurus
Red-wattled Lapwing
Vanellus indicus
Rock Dove
Columba livia
Spotted Dove
Spilopelia chinensis
Common Emerald Dove
Chalcophaps indica
Zebra Dove
Geopelia striata
Orange-breasted Green Pigeon
Treron bicinctus
Green Imperial Pigeon
Ducula aenea
Mountain Imperial Pigeon
Ducula badia
Greater Coucal
Centropus sinensis
Lesser Coucal
Centropus bengalensis
Green-billed Malkoha
Phaenicophaeus tristis
Violet Cuckoo
Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus
Banded Bay Cuckoo
Cacomantis sonneratii
Plaintive Cuckoo
Cacomantis merulinus
Fork-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo
Surniculus dicruroides
Asian Barred Owlet
Glaucidium cuculoides
Brown Hawk-Owl
Ninox scutulata
Great Eared Nightjar
Lyncornis macrotis
Germain's Swiftlet
Aerodramus germani
Silver-backed Needletail
Hirundapus cochinchinensis
House Swift
Apus nipalensis
Orange-breasted Trogon
Harpactes oreskios
Red-headed Trogon
Harpactes erythrocephalus
Oriental Dollarbird
Eurystomus orientalis
Banded Kingfisher
Lacedo pulchella
White-throated Kingfisher
Halcyon smyrnensis
Common Kingfisher
Alcedo atthis
Blue-bearded Bee-eater
Nyctyornis athertoni
Oriental Pied Hornbill
Anthracoceros albirostris
Lineated Barbet
Psilopogon lineatus
Green-eared Barbet
Psilopogon faiostrictus
Necklaced Barbet
Psilopogon auricularis
Indochinese Barbet
Psilopogon annamensis
Blue-eared Barbet
Psilopogon duvaucelii
Coppersmith Barbet
Psilopogon haemacephalus
Heart-spotted Woodpecker
Hemicircus canente
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
Yungipicus canicapillus
Greater Yellownape
Chrysophlegma flavinucha
Common Flameback
Dinopium javanense
Bay Woodpecker
Blythipicus pyrrhotis
Rufous Woodpecker
Micropternus brachyurus
Great Slaty Woodpecker
Mulleripicus pulverulentus
Red-breasted Parakeet
Psittacula alexandri
Vernal Hanging Parrot
Loriculus vernalis
Black-and-red Broadbill
Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos
Long-tailed Broadbill
Psarisomus dalhousiae
Blue-rumped Pitta
Hydrornis soror
Bar-bellied Pitta
Hydrornis elliotii
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
Hemipus picatus
Large Woodshrike
Tephrodornis virgatus
Ashy Woodswallow
Artamus fuscus
Common Iora
Aegithina tiphia
Great Iora
Aegithina lafresnayei
Black-winged Cuckooshrike
Coracina melaschistos
Swinhoe's Minivet
Pericrocotus cantonensis
Grey-chinned Minivet
Pericrocotus solaris
Long-tailed Minivet
Pericrocotus ethologus
Scarlet Minivet
Pericrocotus speciosus
Brown Shrike
Lanius cristatus
Burmese Shrike
Lanius collurioides
White-bellied Erpornis
Erpornis zantholeuca
Dalat Shrike-Babbler
Pteruthius annamensis
Clicking Shrike-Babbler
Pteruthius intermedius
Black-naped Oriole
Oriolus chinensis
Black-hooded Oriole
Oriolus xanthornus
Maroon Oriole
Oriolus traillii
Ashy Drongo
Dicrurus leucophaeus
Bronzed Drongo
Dicrurus aeneus
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
Dicrurus remifer
Hair-crested Drongo
Dicrurus hottentottus
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Dicrurus paradiseus
White-throated Fantail
Rhipidura albicollis
Black-naped Monarch
Hypothymis azurea
Oriental Paradise Flycatcher
Terpsiphone affinis
Eurasian Jay
Garrulus glandarius
Common Green Magpie
Cissa chinensis
Racket-tailed Treepie
Crypsirina temia
Large-billed Crow
Corvus macrorhynchos
Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher
Culicicapa ceylonensis
Green-backed Tit
Parus monticolus
Black-headed Bulbul
Pycnonotus atriceps
Sooty-headed Bulbul
Pycnonotus aurigaster
Stripe-throated Bulbul
Pycnonotus finlaysoni
Flavescent Bulbul
Pycnonotus flavescens
Streak-eared Bulbul
Pycnonotus conradi
Puff-throated Bulbul
Alophoixus pallidus
Grey-eyed Bulbul
Iole propinqua
Mountain Bulbul
Ixos mcclellandii
Black Bulbul
Hypsipetes leucocephalus
Barn Swallow
Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow
Cecropis daurica
Mountain Tailorbird
Phyllergates cuculatus
Grey-bellied Tesia
Tesia cyaniventer
Black-throated Bushtit
Aegithalos concinnus
Yellow-browed Warbler
Phylloscopus inornatus
Two-barred Warbler
Phylloscopus plumbeitarsus
Pale-legged Leaf Warbler
Phylloscopus tenellipes
Sakhalin Leaf Warbler
Phylloscopus borealoides
Kloss's Leaf Warbler
Phylloscopus ogilviegranti
White-spectacled Warbler
Seicercus affinis
Hill Prinia
Prinia superciliaris
Rufescent Prinia
Prinia rufescens
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Prinia flaviventris
Dark-necked Tailorbird
Orthotomus atrogularis
White-browed Scimitar Babbler
Pomatorhinus schisticeps
Grey-throated Babbler
Stachyris nigriceps
Rufous-capped Babbler
Stachyridopsis ruficeps
Pin-striped Tit-Babbler
Macronus gularis
Grey-faced Tit-Babbler
Macronus kelleyi
Mountain Fulvetta
Alcippe peracensis
Short-tailed Scimitar Babbler
Jabouilleia danjoui
Abbott's Babbler
Malacocincla abbotti
Puff-throated Babbler
Pellorneum ruficeps
Buff-breasted Babbler
Pellorneum tickelli
White-crested Laughingthrush
Garrulax leucolophus
Black-hooded Laughingthrush
Garrulax milleti
White-cheeked Laughingthrush
Garrulax vassali
Orange-breasted Laughingthrush
Garrulax annamensis
Collared Laughingthrush
Trochalopteron yersini
Vietnamese Cutia
Cutia legalleni
Silver-eared Mesia
Leiothrix argentauris
Grey-crowned Crocias
Crocias langbianis
Rufous-backed Sibia
Heterophasia annectans
Black-headed Sibia
Heterophasia desgodinsi
Black-headed Parrotbill
Psittiparus margaritae
Asian Fairy-bluebird
Irena puella
Chestnut-vented Nuthatch
Sitta nagaensis
Yellow-billed Nuthatch
Sitta solangiae
Golden-crested Myna
Ampeliceps coronatus
Common Hill Myna
Gracula religiosa
Vinous-breasted Starling
Acridotheres burmannicus
Black-collared Starling
Gracupica nigricollis
Chestnut-tailed Starling
Sturnia malabarica
Green Cochoa
Cochoa viridis
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Copsychus saularis
White-rumped Shama
Copsychus malabaricus
Dark-sided Flycatcher
Muscicapa sibirica
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Muscicapa dauurica
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher
Cyornis tickelliae
Large Niltava
Niltava grandis
Blue-and-white Flycatcher
Cyanoptila cyanomelana
Verditer Flycatcher
Eumyias thalassinus
Lesser Shortwing
Brachypteryx leucophris
Siberian Rubythroat
Calliope calliope
White-tailed Robin
Myiomela leucura
Blue Whistling Thrush
Myophonus caeruleus
Taiga Flycatcher
Ficedula albicilla
Snowy-browed Flycatcher
Ficedula hyperythra
Blue Rock Thrush
Monticola solitarius
White-throated Rock Thrush
Monticola gularis
Stejneger's Stonechat
Saxicola stejnegeri
Grey Bush Chat
Saxicola ferreus
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
Dicaeum ignipectus
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
Dicaeum cruentatum
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird
Chalcoparia singalensis
Brown-throated Sunbird
Anthreptes malacensis
Van Hasselt's Sunbird
Leptocoma brasiliana
Olive-backed Sunbird
Cinnyris jugularis
Mrs. Gould's Sunbird
Aethopyga gouldiae
Little Spiderhunter
Arachnothera longirostra
Streaked Spiderhunter
Arachnothera magna
House Sparrow
Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Passer montanus
White-rumped Munia
Lonchura striata
Grey Wagtail
Motacilla cinerea
Richard's Pipit
Anthus richardi
Olive-backed Pipit
Anthus hodgsoni
Vietnamese Greenfinch
Chloris monguilloti
Red Crossbill
Loxia curvirostra

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Flycatcher mix up



Here are two birds often mixed up.

1st is a Pale Blue Flycatcher.....this bird prefers to perch inside the shades of the forest and I have not seen it on an open exposed branch.......
http://www.xeno-canto.org/213578

2nd is Verditer Flycatcher which is a much more commonly seen bird as it is often seen perched in the open.
http://www.xeno-canto.org/255731

Both birds are widely distributed in SEA and South Asia.
They dont belong to the same genus. Pale Blue being a cyornis and Verditer part of the much smaller group of Eumyias..













Both pix from Bhutan

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Banded Kingfisher


 Banded Kingfisher is one of those 'must see' birds in the forests of tropical SEA. It likes to sit motionless in upper or mid story level and is most frequently detected by its diagnostic call.

The male is lovely blue, brown, white and adorned with a strikingly red bill.

The birds like to raise its crown though I have no idea as to why except for the obvious beautifying aspect.






The female is all brown making it look like a different species.

These birds do not feed on fish but lizzards, frogs, scorpions, chicadas etc etc.

This pair was nesting and so I was able to get some shots at a decent range.

The nest was inside of an abandoned ball shaped ant nest.

Friday, March 31, 2017

New wader for me!

At around 11:10 am 29th of March, 2017,  Nick Upton graciously posted a finding of Oriental Plover on a secluded beach 3 hours drive  from my home. Now this is a top top bird and very difficult to see in Thailand. I thought of my options and by 11:30 had decided to go…..at 11:45 it unexpectedly started to rain hard with strong winds. Having had weird weather for a few days it served as a damper on my enthusiasm.

Then after lunch my wife reminded me I had to take our youngest son to the  Embassy the following morning. Ouch, what to do but to take it on the chin!

I kept thinking of the bird throughout the day and kept getting,  ‘who is kept by the Word of God and prayer’. Now that is a Scripture which might not be specific about a bird but it kept coming to me and I started to think I should give it a go after the Embassy visit.  As usual  God speaks in a still small voice, an inner conviction or a hint. Rarely is the voice yelling nor is he bashing me on the head unless I am really in need of it. Ha!

The last Oriental Plover I knew of in Thailand only stayed for a morning. What about this one?

After the morning business I started driving reminding myself of this encouraging passage. I still had to battle the many ifs and but’s but I felt pretty assured. 

I also did however recall there was one Oriental Plover a couple of years back hanging on for longer near Changi Airport in Singapore which was encouraging.

To find the place I employed the services of Lady Google Map….boy did she ever take me for a ride…..backroads, small fishing villages, dead ends etc etc……annoying to say the least…
Finally at about 12:30 I arrived at Pranburi Forest Park. Never knew it existed. It looked a lot like Vanakorn beach further South and sported not only a nice beach but also shady trees and a few restaurants. Ah, well, very eager to get on to the bird (even skipped lunch, very unusual for me)….I quickly grabbed my gear without changing into more relaxed clothing.

At first I saw nothing but then scoping the beach  I got eyes on the birds  a bit of a distance down the beach, 4-500m, and it was sweltering hot. No cap, no water, dress shirt and pants, away I walked on the sandy beach. Ha!

Again using the scope I could see a bunch of waders, perhaps 50……….there, one larger one, my heart skipped a beat, oh, no, a Pacific Plover, and another and another….many Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers….and then….YES, the Oriental Plover standing graciously and seemingly oblivious to the commotion its presence was causing in my life and surely the life of many others.

First things first, got great scope views as I moved closer and closer to undo the heat waves.
What a slender and elegant looking bird. Long legs, long neck, longish pointed bill, elongated, so different and yet similar to the other plovers in many ways.

I then started to photograph it and worked my way closer. It never nudged, seemingly very comfortable with me being there as were all the other birds. I spent about 2 hours with the bird in baking midday sunlight.

It at times showed a little limp on one leg but it didn’t seem to hinder its movements.

Feeling very pleased I then made it back to my car and drove to Hoa Hin where I at 4 pm had my lunch/dinner in my favorite restaurant,  All in Hua Hin. Great western food, prepared properly and to an affordable price. Also picked up a couple of Fuller’s IPAs for later celebrations!

Thanks to Nick for sharing his finding so quickly. Much appreciated!




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Orange-breasted Laughingthrush



There are so many 'hidden' jewels inside the deep forests of the Earth. Our part is the digging, the seeking, the going, putting oneself in the situation to make things possible for the 'miracle to happen'!
I had 4 major targets for visiting Southern Vietnam and one of them was the Orange-breasted Laughingthrush, an endemic to South Annam. Having seen and photographed its closest relation, the Spot-breasted LT some years ago made this even more special.

Our local guide, Tim, had a spot where he knew the birds would frequent at times. We positioned us in a small hide and waited. Nothing showed till 8:30 so we set a 'deadline' at 9 am. At 8:55 the miracle happened! 

It was very dark so I had to shoot at ISO6400 with 1/40s shutter speed.

Orange-breasted Laughingthrush!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Petchaburi (Paktaley, Lampakbia and Kaengkrachan)



3 day trip to Petchaburi province
27-29th of Jan 2017


Every season seem to play out differently. Freelancing as a bird guide has many benefits. I get to go on all kinds of trips ranging from short day trips to 2-3 weeks long with groups of 10-12 persons.
Through all of that one has to learn to adapt to the many different styles of birding. Learn to take each person where they are at and how to add value to our time together. 

In December and January I have done several 3 days tours. One might think this is short but it is simply amazing how much can be seen and experienced in such a relative short time.
It is especially exhilarating for a 1st time visitor.

So on my last 3 day trip I went to pick up Orjan Larson, 71, and his 26 year old son, Jonatan.
Orjan was clearly excited as we met and freely shared his life with me as we drove from Bangkok towards Petchaburi. Orjan is a professional musician with a lifelong passion for birds. He had only birded once outside of Sweden prior to this but said he was highly motivated for a visit wanting to see Spoon-billed Sandpiper before it was too late. His son, Jonatan, is also a professional musician.
Jonatan had not been birding for several years but throughout our time together showed a keen interest. It was good to see father and son together in this manner.

We arrived midday to Paktaley and so decided to put our trust in the late afternoon for the Spoonie seeing it was high tide all day. Still we gave it a go and lo and behold the Spoonie gave a good appearance. During high tide the waders roost and feed on the salt pans as opposed to the mud flats during low tide. 

We kept seeing birds right and left and most were new for Orjan, thrilling his senses. As with most Swedish birders Orjan had a great appreciation for vocalizations and was often referring what he heard to similar sounds from his birding in Sweden. I was very happy to brush up on my Swedish.

Before lunch we did a brief stop to look for Asian Dowitchers and thankfully found a handful mixed in with Black-tailed Godwits.

The visit to the sandspit of Lampakbia went all well. I forget how exotic it must feel for a 1st time visitor to sail through the mangroves, watching the colorful local fishing boats and experience the tropical heat. At the spit we soon had viewed our targets: White-faced Plover, Malaysian Plover and Chinese Egret.
We got back to Paktaley around 16 pm and this time were able to spend long time in very good light with 3 different Spoonies. What a joy it was! We still managed to change location to view Nordmanns Greenshanks and these rare shorebirds also gave good views in the late afternoon light.

A good day ended with a delightful dinner at the ever so pleasant Baan Maka resort near Kaengkrachan National Park.

Day 2. There had been a slight drop in temperature and that along with clear skies invited us to a splendid morning. We simply parked ourselves at a hot spot and waited for birds to show. And show they did. Pied Hornbill, Emerald Cuckoo, Black-naped Oriole, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Black-thighed Falconets, Coppersmith Barbet, Black-crested Bulbul, White-throated Kingfisher, Grey-faced Buzzard, Thick-billed Pigeon, Chestnut-breasted and Green-billed Malkoha to name a few.

As the day progressed we went for a walk in the thicker part of the tropical forest where butterflies are in abundance. Birds tend to be more scarce in here but each one is unique and so Brown Hornbill, Sultans Tit and Scarlet Minivet led the way for new exciting encounters. 

After a solid lunch inside the park we decided to leave the park for an experience at a permanent feeding station. We had booked ourselves at Baan Song Nok and found us in the blind by 2 pm.
Watching birds at close range and with prolonged views is always special. About 15 to 18  species graced us with their prescence. Barbacked and Scaly+breasted Partridges, Lesser and Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes, Black+naped Monarch, Racket+tailed Treepies etc. 

At around 5 pm we had seen the often late visitor Siberian Blue Robin so we felt we could leave the blind in favor for some birding along the road. 

It so happened that a large flock of Starlings had been seen in an area 5 minutes from where we were so we went there in hope for some good views.
A couple of hundred Chestnut-tailed Starlings was good but a handful of Spot-winged even better….however the best was a lone Chestnut-cheeked Starling which was a new bird for Thailand for me.
Another sumptuous meal with cold local beers followed. It is always fun to dine with people that appreciate the many flavors found in the Thai cuisine.

Day 3. We started out the morning birding along the access road to the entry point of the park. There are some very good scrub and open country birds here. After that we went back to bird at the grounds of our hotel which also hold a good number of birds. 

Lunch at a restaurant by Kaengkrachan dam never fails to hit the spot. 

More birding in the fields of Petchaburi where we kept seeing new species. This included Greater Spotted Eagle, Eastern Marsh Harrier and Black-shouldered Kite. 

Orjan and Jonatan were to meet up with David at Kor Chang the day after so we drove to Suwanaphum Airport where taxis are easy to get.

We recorded almost 180 species. List is available upon request. 

It had been a fun loving 3 days for all of us.



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Morning chorous

Something I wrote 16 years ago!


A Bangkok Morning Concert, March 2000


"Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day,
Oh what a beautiful feeling, everything's going God's way"
These words from the familiar song I feel are very applicable to the sounds I encounter on a daily basis around our house here in the northern outskirts of Bangkok in the middle of March. As is the case everywhere else in this buzzing city full of people and noise, the sounds of roaring engines, be they motorcyles, cars, buses or airplanes are ever present in their quest to overpower one another.

Incredibly enough so are also the natural sounds and wonders of God's little creatures. One just need to listen and tune in!

It all started this morning at 4 a.m. Pied Fantail Flycatcher is starting its song way too early. Who changed its body clock? Whatever the reason may be, this active little creature with its ever fanning tail took charge of my day. The song is very distinct and easily recognized. A musical tune that I so far haven't been able to imitate despite its constancy.

The real morning chorus didn't start until a bit later around 6 o'clock when Mr and Mrs Koel, true to their nature, started sounding off. This is one of the bigger birds around the house. I have often enjoyed seeing a pair of Common Koels dashing from tree to tree in search for food. Even though male Koel from a distance perhaps could resemble a Large-billed Crow, its slender body and aerodynamic flight tells us that this is a more delicate piece of equipment and worthy of our respect. The name Koel is a give-away of one of the bird's sounds as it has a loud ko-el, ko-el call, stressing the second syllable. As is the case of other true cuckoos, this bird is also an intruder of others' property and I have seen with my own eyes little (in comparison) Black-collared Starling frantically working to keep up with feeding an unproportionally big fledgling.

Joining in in the symphony is the master himself; Magpie Robin. Thankfully enough this beautiful songster hasn't been swallowed up by the pet trade as of yet and can most readily be seen and heard throughout the year. It has a melodius variety of tunes along with a harsh one-tonal warning sound. It often perches from tree tops or the rooftop of surrounding buildings letting the world know who the master is. As the name implies the bird does look a bit like a Magpie when it comes to color and plumage. It hops like a Magpie but will take off quickly as one approaches a little bit too close. Size-wise it is much smaller and has the habit of keeping its tail sharply cocked. When dusk has set in, it has a peculiar habit of sounding off its alarm call while hopping around the mango trees in our garden. It also has a long one-tonal call that stays with us all day long.

Here is a favorite of mine. Common Iora. Brightly yellow underparts, olive-green upper parts and two white wing bars are the colors of this smaller sized bird. Mostly occupying the upper branches feeding on insects in the leaf foliage it is not an easy bird to view with the naked eye. It loves to sing though, and my favorite tune is the birds soft ringing sound like a gentle alarmclock going off. Otherwise it more commonly gives its combination of two drawn-out whistles, the second one being slightly lower in tone then the first. I had the joy of hand raising one of these lovely creatures as one was found on the ground and evidently would have ended up in our house cat's stomach unless rescued by well meaning hands. It had an incredible appetite for worms that the local pet shop happily sold for a penny. It also let us enjoy its musical vocabulary before it was time to return it to the wild.

Then the hoot, hoot, hooting sounds of the Greater Coucal comes rolling across the marsh next to our house. This big bird is an excellent survivor. Its size is a real give-away for the common practice of slingshot shooting still going on around Thailand. Still this bird is commonly found in the whole country. Its chestnut colored wings on a large black body along with a clumsy flight tells us who is moving about.

One welcomed if even sad sounding friend is the Plaintive Cuckoo. Hard to see but well worth the effort as the mature bird is rather colorful with its belly being rufous, eye bright red, head and throat grey and rest of body brown. Its song is unmistakable. Either 3-4 monotonous tones followed by rapidly descending notes or a hurried 3-note ascending sequence repeated over again. I have yet to see its young one in a nest even though juvenile birds frequently come around. It often sits on the top of larger weed grasses in the marsh singing away.

More and more birds are joining in the chorus. Next is the Zebra Dove or Peaceful Dove. This popular cage bird is known for its song best described as a hollow soft and high-pitched trill with a distinctive rhythm to it. It likes to feed on our playground along with Spotted Dove. Both these species will fly up and entertain from the surrounding coconut or mango trees. Spotted Dove is much larger in size and has a softer call, coo-croo-croo. It also regularly has young ones in our garden, and even the younger children can point out the two different birds by name.

Next is the loud 'tack' from Oriental Reed-Warbler, our first migrant to be heard for the day. Several warblers pass through during winter but rarely make themselves known by sound.

Then the metallic trrrrr from the Asian Brown-Flycatcher penetrates the air. One of our first visitors. In typical flycatcher manners it perches on a branch and makes sorties snatching insects in the air. Small and on the thin size but with an obtrusive eyering as a give-away trademark.

The Red-throated Flycatcher with its lower and shorter trr is another visitor. This bird likes to come down lower and is easier to see for little eyes. It likes to flick its tail and even fly down to the ground to feed on insects from the grass. Before it leaves in the spring the throat changes color to orange/red and along with its beautifully balanced shaped body it becomes as a precious jewel in our garden.
Then an explosive tic,tic,tic from the fast flying Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker sets in. This very small bird was the main spark that trigged my interest in our flying friends. Splendid bright red crown and nape stretching as a wide red band across its back with white under parts and remainder parts black. It feeds in the canopy and is a bit hard to see well. From time to time an individual will find our windows on the second floor appealing and will try to attack it with its beak. Probably interested in the prospect of a potential mate being reflected by its own image in the glass.

How many birds is that in our chorus? Wow, 12 already! Who ever said birds are hard to find in Thailand? Yes, I agree, they are not as conspicuous as garden birds in the west but nevertheless lots of them all around us.

The ever-present churring sounds from Ear-streaked Bulbul are next. Probably the most uninteresting bird in the Bulbul family. Dull and ungainly appearance. Loosely thrown together cup-shaped nest, but always having young ones. (I guess its desire to multiply is its strength). We have a rather vain individual in our garden who loves to come down to the side mirrors of our car and admire itself, leaving its gooey spill for me to wipe off.

Another Bulbul this morning is Yellow-vented Bulbul. With its more musical sounds and distinct white supercilium, contrasting with black lores and yellow rump, it makes it a more interesting bird. It seldom stays around for very long but is regular. It does respond to some delicious ripe bananas hung up for bird feed. It prefers habitat near to well-watered areas and thus is not found too far from the coast.

Slowly rising into a demonic roaring noise of chuckles is coming from inside the reed beds. It's a White-breasted Waterhen is sounding off. It feeds on aquatic creatures in the marsh and will quickly hide when being approached. Best is to use one of the little holes in our wall to peek through. This can give very close sights, and the bird will calmly keep on feeding with its tail raised. Its cinnamon colored underparts, red on bill, along with green legs and white breast makes it attractive in the binoculars.

The intense and monotonous one-tonal call of the Common Tailorbird reaches my ears. It penetrates all other sounds around as it calls for attention. This little warbler is a resident bird here and often comes down to the lower bushes in search for food. It can be approached to a very close distance as it actively moves about the tree branches. As it names indicates it is an expert tailor, and the nest is intricately woven into a cone shape.

'Tonk, tonk, tonk' echoes from a treetop. It's our friend the Coppersmith Barbet who comes to say 'hello'. Very small and often in the canopy of our Pink-trumpet Tree it is hard to see all the splendor of this bird. At closer range or through the binocs the deep colors of red, green, yellow and black are revealed thus letting us have a taste of one of the more colorful garden birds around. This small barbet successfully inhabits all of Thailand or anywhere there is a wooded area. It usually doesn't stay for long but regularly passes by. A temple or park area may be a good place to look for this bird without being disappointed. I have actually observed a parent bird feeding its young with regular flights in and out of its nesting hole in a tree right nest to a busy bus stop totally unbeknownst to all the people standing by. Barbets in general seem to overcome their fear of exposure during the nesting season as a true parent the bird is willing to risk danger in order to feed and care for its young.

From the marsh another sound sets in. It is the buzzing jirt-jirt-jirt from another warbler, the Plain Prinia. Yes, it is a plain looking bird but the sound blends nicely in to our symphony.
Then the diagnostic explosive rink-tink-tink of Black-browed Reed Warbler is being heard. Very hard to see but commonly heard during winter.

Then our two versions of sunbirds join in. Olive-backed Sunbird with its one-tone 'sweet' with rising inflection and Brown-throated Sunbird with its persistent and ongoing chiff-chiff-chiff. The latter has a bit of a misleading name. I would rather call it "Purple-shouldered Sunbird" as in the right light the iridescent purple is almost breathtaking. I could hardly believe such a thing existed when I first saw it. Definitely on par with some of the New World hummingbirds. It pierces a hole in the stalk of a flower and sticks its long tongue in to suck out the nectar. It also performs the art of hovering in the air reaching down to the nectar the conventional way even if not performing the hovering display as long as a hummingbird would. Olive-backed has raised young ones in our garden a few times, and the purse-shaped nest hangs on a thin twig swaying in the wind. A marvel of construction as it keeps its inhabitants safe and sound.
A bit later but daily Common Myna descend on our lawn in search for bugs and worms. Noisy but non-descriptive sounds easily recognized. The same goes for White-vented Myna that has a little more humble appearance than Common who likes to walk around with head held high and a fierce countenance.
Eurasian Tree-Sparrow wants its share of the orchestra, and its chirps are pretty continual throughout much of the day. Ever-present.
As is the case most days, there are always one or two more uncommon sounds joining in. Today it is the bubbling call from the Lineated Barbet. This beautiful bird does not come by very often even though it is common a bit further out of Bangkok. Easy to recognize by its big size and big bill. Closely related to woodpeckers they say.

Then the harsh 'kyak' causes me to lift my eyes upward. Sparkling blue wings are in the sunlight as the Indian Roller is flying by. It prefers more open areas but is readily seen in the outskirts of Bangkok.
Added to the scenario is a Chinese Pond-Heron taking off with a croaking sound from the marsh. Not a very vocal bird but definitely very common.

Then as an added surprise comes the loud laughter of the handsome Black-naped Kingfisher loudly proclaiming its existence. It doesn't usually stay around here but can be seen from time to time. Too much construction work going on for its likening.

So as you can tell from the descriptions above there are quite a number of participants in the concert performed around our house. Added to that there are of course a number of birds who are seen but remain on the more quiet side such as Barn Swallow, Asian Palm-Swift, Cormorant, Openbills, Arctic Warbler, Common Moorhen, Black-shouldered Kite etc.

Someone wisely said: "So much of what we see depends on what we are looking at!" To that I would like to add: "And so much of what we hear depends on what we are listening to!"
Return to trip reports.

This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser; ugeiser@xnet.com; May 30, 2000

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Northern Thailand



Northern Thailand 25th Dec-2nd of Jan 2017
Tour leader and guide: Peter Ericsson
Participants: Steve, Peilin and Sierra Glassman from California

I was very pleased that the Glassman’s wanted to do another trip in Thailand after last year’s trip in the central parts.  See http://www.pbase.com/peterericsson/centralthailand201526
Their daughter, Sierra, now 11, is a sharp and keen young girl with an aptitude for learning and just great to be in the field with.
Both parents enjoy seeing natural wonders as well as taking pictures howbeit without the pressure of long lists etc. Sierra however keeps record of sightings and had an amazing memory for all the things we saw or heard throughout the trip. She often taking charge doing the checklist.
The timing of the trip was probably worst possible in terms of encountering crowds on some popular destinations. Still, there was plenty for us to enjoy and that kept our attention.
Both Steve and Peilin enjoy spicy Thai food very much so it was a real pleasure to serve sumptuous meals though in the end the result showed when I stood on the weight scale once back home.

Day 1. Early pick up in Chiang Mai. I had flown up the night before and picked up a large spacious Toyota Commuter van. We drove straight to the summit of  Doi Inthanon  where most of the ‘good birds are’. Well, as you can imagine there were hundreds and hundreds of people doing the same. Finding a parking lot was no small feature. 

The mountain is a bit of a Mecca for the Thai people as it is not only scenic and tall but also plays historical role in the Kingdom. Either way, we spent the better part of the morning at the summit though some birds didn’t show as usual  we did see some real good ones with Green-tailed and Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird leading the way in terms of color. Bar-throated Minlas in small busy flocks as well as Buff-barred, Ashy-throated and Blyth’s Leaf Warblers kept us entertained. Silver-eared Laughingthrushes were as obvious as usual and Dark-backed Sibias similarly so. 



Sierra
Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker














Some of the more cryptic birds simply didn’t show. I think they were intimidated by the cheer volume of people with accompanied noise. The bog never the less gave good views of some things and Rufous-winged Fulvettas did their best to charm keen observers.

We managed to get a table at an eatery by the trail head to Kiew Maephan. The food is so delicious in this cool setting and everyone enjoyed the sticky rice, barbecued chicken and the papaya salad.
Wherever we had a chance we took a little time for ‘cultural visits’. The local fresh market run by the hill tribes had a lot of produce for sale. Some locally produced and other things from China.
I picked up some  avocadoes which is becoming more popular here now though not available year around. 

We did a little birding here and there and added some more regular things. To my great surprise we were not able to get on to Slaty-bellied Tesias as they were simply not vocalizing. That was a bit of a disappointment for me. 

The night was spent at Mr. Doings Homestay since we didn’t want to do the long drive down and then back up again the next day. 

Day 2. Up early and starting all over at the top again. The hot coffee at the summit is probably the best in the country so we headed for the coffee shop right away.
It was a bit colder this morning and we found some frost that thrilled the hearts of many locals plus Sierra. 

The main highlight was a striking Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker feeding in a flowering tree. This is a rather rare bird and often difficult to find. So half a minute of show time was good and gave us great opportunity for picture taking.

In the bog we also had great views of Rufous-throated Partridges and brief views of a male White-browed Shortwing but most of the morning was repeats from the day before. 

After lunch we descended Doi Inthanon and set our sails towards Doi Chiang Dao about an hour or so North of Chiang Mai  city. A total drive of 3 hours. We stopped at some fields along the way where many common lowland birds were present. 

Dinner was at a restaurant that had IPAs (craft beer) on the menu. Big surprise and oh so nice! 

Day 3. After a night at a rather plush resort we quickly went to the temple area of Doi Chiang Dao. Some nice birds around but generally not as birdy as I had hoped. We did walk all the way up to take in the view from the temple looking down into the gulley. There are good numbers of tourists in this area as it is scenic and nestled with picturesque settings. A good place for anyone interested in a few days of chilling out. 

We then set out towards Doi Angkhang, choosing the scenic route that gently takes one along a mountain ridge. Best bird along the way was an obliging Rufous-winged Buzzard perched on a pole. 

The Commuter is amazingly strong and scaling the hilly terrain was a breeze. Some stops for coffee and roadside birds added to a pleasant journey. 

Doi Angkhang is another flagship of Thai mountains. Years back some of Chiangkaicheck’s generals fled Mao Tse Tung and ended up here. When the Thai King found out about their opium crops fruit and vegetable orchards along with flower plantations were introduced instead. The Royal Project at DAK is simply a must as it shows off its many yields. The restaurant is also another must with many authentic local dishes on the menu. Just be mindful that the restaurant is only open 10am-1 pm and then again at 5 pm during this busy time of year. 



Buff-barred Warbler





Hume's Treecreeper










I didn’t really mind that too much as I knew a great place in the village. 

We checked out the regular stake out and did see White-tailed Robin, Black-breasted Thrush, Rufous-bellied Niltava and Hill Blue Flycatcher but it was definitely on the quiet side. 

DAK is a magnet for flocks of Bulbuls and we did see loads of Red-whiskered, Brown-breasted, Sooty-headed and White-headed Bulbuls, the favorite. Also Mountain, Black and Black-crested.
Loads of Chestnut-flanked and Japanese White-eyes were all over the place.
An obliging Siberian Rubythroat put on a show next to a pair of Hill Prinias.
The road down from DAK towards Fang is perhaps the steepest in Thailand. With lots of traffic one had to be extra cautious. I mean the many camping areas were jam packed with season revelers.
In Fang we stayed at a quaint resort adequate for our needs. 

Day 4. Up to DAK again to greet the morning. Just lovely to hear the sound of birds, feel the breeze and though it was misty get that feeling of pristine wilderness. 

 We checked out the border station to Myanmar which is open to tourists. Here there are bunkers and great views of the Burmese army outpost on the other side. To get there we passed through some hill tribe villages where people still dress in traditional clothing. 

With all the people around and the weather being misty birding was a bit slow going but as usual there are always a few things here and there. Daurian Redstart being the best.

This time we didn’t miss the opening hours of the restaurant but promptly parked ourselves in the best possible place with views of the adjacent trees. Quite nice to dine while viewing Blue-winged Minlas, Bulbuls and White-eyes all over the place.
 
Day 5. Two days were set  aside 2  for Doi Lang. Doi Lang is proving to be a precious pearl in Northern Thailand birding. The road is still not open for a full loop drive (which prevents tourists going through, on the flipside of things) and besides a few locals, army and bird photographers not many people are around. 

The mountain has a lot of attractive target birds. Sierra and her mom enjoyed photography a lot so we spent a fair amount of time at a number of stake outs. The beauty of tailored tours is that the clients can have a say so in the daily activities and as for me I am happy as long as they are happy! 


Spot-breasted Parrotbill


                                      
Ultramarine Flycatcher


Some great birds photographed: Spot-breasted Parrotbill, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher, Eye-browed Laughingthrushes, Ultra-marine Flycatcher,  Rusty-naped Scimitar Babblers, Siberian Rubythroat, Yellow-bellied Leafbird, Spectacled Barwing, Crested Buntings and more.
A pair of Hume’s Pheasants was being photographed extensively in the early morning but no spot for us available so we carried on. We did spend 2 hours waiting for them to show in the afternoon but to no avail. We did see our only Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher while waiting which was nice.

Day 6. Best bird for the morning undoubtedly was Giant Nuthatch. A must see bird! Mountain Bamboo Partridges also showed on the road and we picked up things like Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Long-tailed Minivets, Mountain Tailorbird, Crested Finchbill, Rufous-backed Sibia and Grey-backed Shrike. Some other good ones seen: Bay Woodpecker, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker and Grey-capped Woodpecker. 


White-headed Bulbul





Crested Finchbill




 





Day 7. Today we set out to visit the lowlands of Tha Torn. These fields are just lovely in the early morning and in spite of being very misty we had good views of Yellow-breasted Buntings, a bird in rapid decline. 

Some culture was on the schedule and after we arrived in Mae Sai the Glassman’s crossed the bridge into Myanmar where they spend a few hours looking around and shopping. I stayed back looking after the vehicle and our belongings. 

We stayed the night in a nice resort at Mae Chan close to the Golden Triangle.

Day 8. Greeting the morning at Chiang Saan lake is something I always enjoy. The air fills with calling Whistling Ducks, while Moorhens, Swamphens, Egrets and Herons let themselves known in the lakeside vegetation. Reed warblers chuck in the reedbeds and sunbirds are heard from the trees.
Best birds were a lone Ferruginous Duck, Spot-billed Ducks, Gray-headed Lapwings, Pin-tailed Snipe and many Chestnut-tailed Starlings. 

A sumptuous lunch smack in the middle of the Golden Triangle followed and the afternoon held another Glassman visit across the border. 

The night spent back in Fang.

Day 9. The last day was to be decided and the vote fell for another try at the stakeout at Doi Angkhang. Everyone really wanted to see Rusty-naped Pitta but , alas, it was not to be! Birds will be birds and often if they show or not is entirely in their own making. 

Lunch back down in Fang at my favorite Issarn restaurant (Northeastern food)……Everyone that has been with me here knows what I am talking about! 

Afternoon followed with a long drive to the airport in Chiang Mai where I boarded my plane to Bangkok and Steve, Peilin and Sierra theirs to Beijing and on to California. 

It had been a great trip somewhat hindered by the huge crowds and the rather unusual change in weather. But it never affected the mood of the Glassman’s who enjoyed every bit of it. 

Hopefully we will meet again somewhere. Time will tell!

Sierra and Peter