Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Central and North, one on one!


Oriental Hobby

Mrs Gould's Sunbird
Ultra-marine Flycatcher

Black-breasted Thrush

Daurian Redstart

Orange-bellied Leafbird

4-11th of December, Thailand

Peter Ericsson and Kerry Morris



No trip is ever the same. Now why is that? Mostly because of the people involved as we are all so different. Of course there are such things as weather, seasons and bird activity but mostly what colors or makes a good trip is decided by the contentment of the birders themselves and not necessarily what has been seen, strange as it may seem to some.

This trip was in the making for a long time. Kelly Morris from Los Angeles is a very keen botanist turned birder. She badly wanted to see Spoon-billed Sandpiper which is what spurred this 8 day long birding adventure.

Day1. Paktaley – Lung Sin hide

I picked up Kerry at her downtown hotel and we arrived at Pak Taley around 7 am. The conditions always vary at the pans and with somewhat weird weather for this time of year the pans were filled with water making it hard to find any small shorebirds. It took well over an hour to find the Spoonie and it wasn’t until the 3rd time we found it that it stayed around for prolonged views. Distance was far but it was seen well in the scope. We watched the bird for half an hour. It was preening and sleeping. Water level being too deep for any feeding.

We also took time to go through all the many other species of shorebirds  and it must have been a bit overwhelming for a birder from the US not having seen peeps outside of the Americas. A great opportunity to study and learn.

And, yes, we did get the other rarities such as Nordmann’s Greenshank and Asian Dowitchers.
Normally I would visit the sand spit for White-faced Plover, Malaysian Plover and Chinese Egret but since our schedule  looked rather compressed we choose to spend the afternoon at Lung Sin  feeding station. This proved to be a good move as we got to see 23 forest species come to bathe and drink. All new for Kerry.

When visiting Kaengkrachan I almost exclusively stay at www.baanmaka.com The resort has new ownership and some improvements as a result. The garden is as impressive as usual and Kerry with her interest in plant life thoroughly enjoyed it. Actually I didn’t hear a negative word about the birding throughout the whole trip. If there were no birds around Kerry immediately went for the plants photographing both birds and plants as we went along.

Day 2. Baan Krahng

The weather was appalling for this time of year with drizzle and dark clouds over the park. So instead of going straight in to the park we visited another feeding station to see some birds we had not seen from the day before and then we stayed outside and enjoyed the more open areas which still had birds in view. Late morning around 10 am we entered the park and though we didn’t get the early morning activity we still got to view a pair of Great Hornbills feeding in a fig tree along with many Pied Hornbills. Also an Orange-breasted Trogon was a great delight as it is a true tropical bird.

It was weekend and lots of campers. Some idiot had snuck up past the check point with his sedan and then proceeded up to the very top of Panern Thung. This resulted in a ban for sedans to drive past the campground. Normally I would drive to the streams a further 1 km away but with drizzle in the air we decided not to do the walk but to slowly go back out of the park and enjoy the garden of Baansongnok feeding station.

Day 3. Panern Thung

To get to the top I always hire a 4WD with driver. Early pick up and off we went after a breakfast of toast, eggs and fresh coffee.

It is a long drive to the top but once up it is totally worth the dramatic scenery with mountain peaks as far as the eye can see, tree covered hill sides, Gibbons singing and birds joining in.
We found a place for ourselves away from the crowds. Most locals go up to see the sun rise and then head down at 9 am leaving the place just about empty.

Birding was a bit slow but that was not felt by Kerry as she absorbed all the sights and sounds.
I like to point out the sounds I hear to help birders understand what is in the area. Hearing the birds does not mean you automatically will see them as some seem to think. It is much more to create an awareness of the richness of the surrounding and what we have a chance of seeing as we bird along.

A day at the top also gave 2 new primate species in addition to the Stump-tailed Macaques and Dusky Langurs  from the day before: Banded Langur and White-handed Gibbons! Behind the restaurant there was a Yellow-throated Marten roaming about in the food scraps.

By now, Kerry had already started to enjoy some of the spicier Thai dishes. Just lovely to eat a warm cooked meal at the top full of flavor!

Day 4 Pak Taley and Doi Inthanon

We discussed our many options for the following morning and it was decided to go back to Paktaley for the Spoonie.  A very wise choice I think as one never knows how much longer it is able to see this beauty. Flexibility in the schedule is a great with customized trips. Well, the weather had resulted in some heavy flooding with sea water levels higher then recorded in many years. We couldn’t find the Spoonie but instead got on to many other birds in the hinterlands adjacent to wetlands.

A midday flight to Chiang Mai went well where we picked up a rented vehicle and headed to Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s tallest mountain.

We headed strait for Daeng’s Homestay, halfway up the mountain after we had our supper at the dining area by headquarters.

Day 5. Doi Inthanon

First thing in the morning we headed up to the Summit. Oodles of people and cars. Birds are still present but not immediately seen. They prefer some light and warmth. Still, the area is great for people watching, plant watching and a cup of coffee.

We spend a few hours in the area and got on to many of the birds found there. Doi Inthanon is still a must on a Northern Thailand itinerary but I am cutting back on time spent on the mountain as it simply has way too many tourists in the dry season.

We visited 2 waterfalls on our way out of the park and did the rather long drive to Fang, North of Chiang Mai.

Day 6. Doi Lang

As it was Saturday we settled for Doi Lang. Doi Lang is simply the best place for birds in the North and still without too many people around. However it was misty and hard to see birds. We fortunately got on to a birdy area around the 2nd checkpoint and there the birding started in all earnest. Ultramarine, Slaty Blue, Slaty-backed, Sapphire Flycatcher, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Siberian Rubythroat, Spot-breasted Parrotbill, Giant Nuthatch, Spectacled Barwing, Crested Finchbill, Oriental Hobby, Mountain Bamboo Partridge, White-bellied Redstart and Gold-throated Barbet was some of the birds seen.

Day 7. Thatorn - Doi Angkhang

 We know it would be crowded at Doi Angkhang in the early morning so instead we set out for the fields of Thatorn. This was a smart move as we added about 20 new species for the trip and the fields kept us busy with our bins.

After that we drove up to Doi Angkhang where people were still about but many getting ready to head back home. At the feeding station birds were waiting. Instead of the lone White-tailed Robin from the week before we now also got to see Black-breasted Thrush, Rufous-bellied Niltava and Hill Blue Flycatcher. All these birds at close range.

At the border point of Nor Lae village Kerry got to shop strait from the hill tribe community as she wanted to bring stuff back home for some charity work she supports. We did support the shopping with excellent views of a stunning male Daurian Redstart.

Lunch in the village and then a scenic drive along the spectacular mountain range that separates Thailand from Myanmar.

In the late afternoon we spend an hour eagerly waiting for the renowned Spotted Eagle Owl that supposedly shows at Doi Chiangdao. But, nix, only an Asian Barred Owlet for us. Grr!

Day 8. Doi Chiang Dao

A lovely breakfast with homemade bread and jam plus fresh coffee at Malee’s Resort. Her garden is simply full of plants and even host a collection of 900 orchids. An amazing plant paradise!

The morning hours were spent in the tranquil surroundings at the temple that nestles itself in a ravine…..the steps up to the temple are adjoined by wonderful rocks and vegetation.
Some new birds for the trip and then off to Chiang Mai airport.

I was very happy that Kerry took to the Thai food (I love making sure the trip is a culinary one as well), loved the plant life, showed interest in people and culture and was very keen to get on to the birds.

We departed ways at Don Muang airport in Bangkok.

It was a great trip!

PS. Kerry wrote me a nice note:

"Peter, Thank you for making my dream a reality by helping me see the amazing Spoon-billed Sandpiper! You have been a wonderful, patient and often hilarious guide! Your knowledge has enabled me to see so many amazing birds, and such beautiful parts of Thailand. The whole trip has been fantastic!
I look forward to the list you've created to see just how many things we saw and heard [ I know it is a lot!
I have so many beautiful memories of birds, plants, places, views, food, people and drives. Thank you so much!"
Kerry Morris

1.    Green-legged Partridge
2.    Rufous-throated Partridge – heard
3.    Mountain Bamboo Partridge
4.    Red Junglefowl
5.    Kalij Pheasant
6.    Lesser Whistling Duck
7.    Little Grebe
8.    Painted Stork
9.    Asian Openbill
10.    Black-crowned Night Heron
11.    Javan Pond Heron
12.    Chinese Pond Heron
13.    Eastern Cattle Egret
14.    Grey Heron
15.    Great Egret
16.    Intermediate Egret
17.    Little Egret
18.    Little Cormorant
19.    Indian Cormorant
20.    Brahimy Kite
21.    Rufous-winged Buzzard
22.    Common Kestrel
23.    Oriental Hobby
24.    White-breasted Waterhen
25.    Ruddy-breasted Crake
26.    Black-winged Stilt
27.    Grey-headed Lapwing
28.    Red-wattled Lapwing
29.    Pacific Golden Plover
30.    Grey Plover
31.    Little Ringed Plover
32.    Kentish Plover
33.    Lesser Sand Plover
34.    Greater Sand Plover
35.    Asian Dowitcher
36.    Black-tailed Godwit
37.    Bar-tailed Godwit
38.    Eastern Curlew
39.    Spotted Redshank
40.    Common Redshank
41.    Marsh Sandpiper
42.    Common Greenshank
43.    Nordmann’s Greenshank
44.    Green Sandpiper
45.    Wood Sandpiper
46.    Common Sandpiper
47.    Ruddy Turnstone
48.    Great Knot
49.    Red Knot
50.    Sanderling
51.    Red-necked Stint
52.    Long-toed Stint
53.    Curlew Sandpiper
54.    Spoon-billed Sandpiper
55.    Broad-billed Sandpiper
56.    Brown-headed Gull
57.    Gull-billed Tern
58.    Caspian Tern
59.    Little Tern
60.    Common Tern
61.    Whiskered Tern
62.    White-winged Tern
63.    Rock Dove
64.    Red Turtle Dove
65.    Spotted Dove
66.    Zebra Dove
67.    Common Emerald Dove
68.    Thick-billed Green Pigeon
69.    Mountain Imperial Pigeon
70.    Vernal Hanging Parakeet
71.    Grey-headed Parakeet
72.    Greater Coucal
73.    Green-billed Malkoha
74.    Asian Koel – heard
75.    Banded Bay Cuckoo – heard
76.    Collared Scops Owl – heard
77.    Asian Barred Owlet
78.    Large-tailed Nightjar – heard
79.    Germain’s Swiftlet
80.    Asian Palm Swift
81.    Cook’s Swift
82.    Orange-breasted Trogon
83.    Red-headed Trogon
84.    Indian Roller
85.    Oriental Dollarbird
86.    White-throated Kingfisher
87.    Black-capped Kingfisher
88.    Collared Kingfisher
89.    Common Kingfisher
90.    Blue-bearded Bee-eater
91.    Green Bee-eater
92.    Blue-tailed Bee-eater
93.    Eurasian Hoopoe
94.    Oriental Pied Hornbill
95.    Great Hornbill
96.    Wreathed Hornbill
97.    Great Barbet – heard
98.    Lineated Barbet – heard
99.    Green-eared Barbet
100.    Golden-throated Barbet
101.    Blue-throated Barbet
102.    Blue-eared Barbet
103.    Coppersmith Barbet
104.    Eurasian Wryneck
105.    Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
106.    Stripe-breasted Woodpecker
107.    Common Flameback – heard
108.    Greater Flameback
109.    Bay Woodpecker - heard
110.    Black-buff Woodpecker
111.    Long-tailed Broadbill
112.    Ashy Woodswallow
113.    Common Iora
114.    Large Cuckooshrike
115.    Black-winged Cuckooshrike
116.    Rosy Minivet
117.    Swinhoe’s Minivet
118.    Short-billed Minivet
119.    Scarlet Minivet
120.    Brown Shrike
121.    Long-tailed Shrike
122.    Grey-backed Shrike
123.    Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler
124.    Black-naped Oriole
125.    Black-hooded Oriole
126.    Maroon Oriole – heard
127.    Black Drongo
128.    Ashy Drongo
129.    Bronzed Drongo
130.    Hair-crested Drongo
131.    Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
132.    Pied Fantail
133.    White-throated Fantail
134.    Black-naped Monarch
135.    Eurasian Jay – heard
136.    Grey Treepie
137.    Racket-tailed Treepie
138.    Ratchet-tailed Treepie – heard
139.    Eastern Jungle Crow
140.    Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher
141.    Yellow-browed Tit
142.    Crested Finchbill
143.    Striated Bulbul
144.    Black-headed Bulbul – heard
145.    Black-crested Bulbul
146.    Red-whiskered Bulbul
147.    Sooty-headed Bulbul
148.    Stripe-throated Bulbul
149.    Flavescent Bulbul
150.    Streak-eared Bulbul
151.    Yellow-vented Bulbul
152.    Puff-throated Bulbul – heard
153.    Ochraceous Bulbul
154.    Grey-eyed Bulbul – heard
155.    Olive Bulbul (Baker’s)
156.    Mountain Bulbul – heard
157.    Ashy Bulbul
158.    Black Bulbul
159.    Barn Swallow
160.    Wire-tailed Swallow
161.    Pygmy Wren Babbler – heard
162.    Yellow-bellied Warbler
163.    Mountain Tailorbird – heard
164.    Aberrant Bush Warbler
165.    Slaty-bellied Tesia – heard
166.    Dusky Warbler
167.    Ashy-throated Warbler
168.    Yellow-browed Warbler
169.    Hume’s Warbler
170.    Two-barred Warbler
171.    Pale-legged Warbler
172.    Sakhalin’s Leaf Warbler
173.    Claudia’s Leaf Warbler
174.    Davison’s Leaf Warbler
175.    Marten’s Warbler
176.    Chestnut-crowned Warbler
177.    Oriental Reed Warbler – heard
178.    Black-browed Reed Warbler – heard
179.    Hill Prinia – heard
180.    Grey-breasted Prinia
181.    Rufescent Prinia
182.    Yellow-breasted Prinia – heard
183.    Plain Prinia
184.    Common Tailorbird
185.    Dark-necked Tailorbird
186.    Large Scimitar Babbler
187.    White-browed Scimitar Babbler
188.    Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler
189.    Buff-chested Babbler – heard
190.    Pin-striped Tit-babbler
191.    Rufous-winged Fulvetta
192.    Brown-cheeked Fulvetta
193.    Southern Grey-cheeked Fulvetta
194.    Collared Babbler
195.    Golden Babbler
196.    Puff-throated Babbler
197.    Buff-breasted Babbler – heard
198.    Bar-throated Minla
199.    Spectacled Barwing
200.    Silver-eared Mesia
201.    White-browed Laughingthrush
202.    Silver-eared Laughingthrush
203.    Rufous-backed Sibia
204.    Dark-backed Sibia
205.    Spot-breasted Parrotbill
206.    Chestnut-flanked White-eye
207.    Japanese White-eye
208.    Asian Fairy-bluebird
209.    Giant Nuthatch
210.    Great Myna
211.    Common Myna
212.    Vinous-breasted Starling
213.    Asian Pied Starling
214.    Black-collared Starling
215.    Blue Whistling Thrush
216.    Orange-headed Thrush
217.    Black-breasted Thrush
218.    White-browed Shortwing – heard
219.    Siberian Rubythroat
220.    Siberian Blue Robin
221.    Oriental Magpie-Robin
222.    White-rumped Shama
223.    Daurian Redstart
224.    White-bellied Redstart
225.    Plumbeous Water Redstart
226.    White-tailed Robin
227.    Stejneger’s Stonechat
228.    Pied Bush Chat
229.    Grey Bush Chat
230.    Asian Brown Flycatcher
231.    Slaty-backed Flycatcher
232.    Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher
233.    Taiga Flycatcher
234.    Ultramarine Flycatcher
235.    Slaty-blue Flycatcher
236.    Sapphire Flycatcher
237.    Verditer Flycatcher
238.    Hill Blue Flycatcher
239.    Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher
240.    Chinese Blue Flycatcher
241.    White-gorgeted Flycatcher
242.    Rufous-browed Flycatcher – heard
243.    Rufous-bellied Niltava
244.    Blue-winged Leabird
245.    Golden-fronted Leafbird
246.    Orange-bellied Leafbird
247.    Fire-breasted Flowerpecker – heard
248.    Olive-backed Sunbird
249.    Mrs Gould’s Sunbird
250.    Green-tailed Sunbird
251.    Black-throated Sunbird
252.    Little Spiderhunter
253.    Streaked Spiderhunter
254.    House Sparrow
255.    Eurasian Tree Sparrow
256.    Asian Golden Weaver
257.    Scaly-breasted Munia
258.    Grey Wagtail
259.    White Wagtail
260.    Richard’s Pipit
261.    Paddyfield Pipit
262.    Olive-backed Pipit
263.    Common Rosefinch
264.    Yellow-breasted Bunting
265.    Pink-necked Pigeon