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Post Info TOPIC: Thailand Diary


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RE: Thailand Diary


Monday 30/04/18

After early morning rain cleared, I had a stroll down the road from the Bangkok house, leaving the others in bed after the 440 km. drive of the previous day.

After only 150 yards I checked a residual bit of roadside marsh and noted a pair of White-breasted Waterhens with a little all black chick sticking closely to heel. Plain Prinias were singing and seemingly engaged in the occasional territorial disputes with rivals, but I was (and have been) quite concerned at not seeing any other supposedly very common Prinia species;- am I overlooking them (or simply incompetent)?

Red-Whiskered Bulbuls appeared on overhead telephone wires as welcome list padders, and also common here were Yellow-vented Bulbuls. Later at 15.00,  I walked the same section but a little further to a larger more open area, and was pleased to see Swiftlets zooming low enabling me to discern palish grey rumps, and on range these would be Edible Nest Swiftlets. a distant single perched green pigeon I left unidentified, though probably would most likely be Pink- necked which I see in nearby Suan Luang Park on every visit there.

I tried squeaking at the edge of the marshy reed beds and in front of me up popped a very obvious inquisitive Yellow- bellied Prinia, - I hadnt been overlooking them previously after all.

Later in the evening Paul and Pen dropped us at the airport and they carried on for the long (630 km.) drive north- east back to Kut Chum.

My final trip list of birds seen and identified was a modest 117, with Paul and Pen seeing 7 additional species, and with a couple of heard only we recorded 126 species between us.

We saw virtually no flycatchers, no Kingfishers, only one wader, with the focus being very much on targetting Blue Pitta, Bar-backed Partridge and Silver Pheasant, with only one of us (Paul) seeing the latter- a spanking male which for me would have been a lifer. I did however add 21 new species for my Thai list, one of which Red-billed Scimitar-Babbler was a life bird. This was when a party of 4/5 crossed the forest trail in front of Paul and me on 26th in Nam Nao.

Highlights of our visit this time were the extensive and unspoiled Nam Nao Nat Park which would have yielded many more species (and fewer leeches) had we visited 6 weeks earlier in the year; nevertheless it proved to be a real hotspot for woodpeckers in particular. It would be nice to visit again and try some night birding, but with so many good areas to visit will we find the time? Yasothon Pools (as I have named it) is only 30 mins. drive from the farm which I shall certainly focus on in the winter, as it has good potential for wintering wildfowl, in spite of the trapping situation there.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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24/04/18 Tuesday.

We left Kut Chum at around 7.45 am for the 5 hour drive nw to Nam Nao Nat Pk. With coffee stops en route it was about 14.45 when we arrived, the only new trip birds casually noted en route being the usual soaring Openbill Storks.

This park was new ground for all of us and comprises roughly 1000 sq. kilometres in north central Thailand just south of the Mekong River which here flows east/ west forming as usual the border with Laos, with the park HQ at approx 2700 ft above sea level.

We had made no prior arrangement for accommodation (their telephone was dead), and to book by e mail one had to make ridiculously complex arrangements involving registration - including job status, nationality, etc. 

Upon arrival, we paid a one off entrance fee of 200 baht per head (=£4.60) and found it easy to book a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom bungalow at 2000 baht per night, less a discount of 30% for each of Tues. Wed. Thurs. For our 4 nights stay therefore the cost per couple came out at 3500 baht (=£80 approx) - a really good deal, and free of red tape.

We knew from trip reports that no birders seem to come here in April, and apart from an American couple touring the national parks, we appeared to be the only visitors, - certainly the only birders, which was a wonderful contrast to Khao Yai, normally awash with noisy campers and traffic.

We had an initial stroll round at 15.15 and noted noisy gangs of the delightful but common White-Crested Laughing Thrushes, a superb White-bellied Woodpecker edging up a roadside conifer, and one of the Flamebacks only fleetingly noted. In the thicker deciduous foliage we logged a pair of Blue-winged Leafbirds, and for me a new Thai species a Great Barbet, whose raucous contact note I soon began to recognise in the following days. Above the nearby deserted campsite we located several Red-billed Blue Magpies, an Ashy Minivet, and Small Minivets. 

We made a short excursion onto one of the forest trails and found a pair of Slaty-backed Forktails just above the stagnant waters of a small muddy rivulet, and White-rumpled Shamas feeding fledged young. The forktails were appreciated particularly by Paul as life ticks.

 

Wednesday 25/04/18

A 5.45 am start produced a crop of the regular species with new trip birds in the shape of Hair-Crested and Bronzed Drongos, Jays, a gang of about 6 Lesser Necklaced Laughing Thrushes, a daytime perched Asian Barred Owlet, a better look at a Common Flameback, a Forest Wagtail, (swaying its tail laterally as usual), Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, several Black-napes Monarchs, and underwhelming Sooty-headed and Black-Crested Bulbuls. Paul found  pair of Red-headed Trogons which vanished as he was whistling for us to join him.

As the day wore on I realised that the Drongos I was seeing regularly with adults feeding fledged young were in fact Bronzed Drongos not Black Drongos and wondered if I had always overlooked them previously on my travels- a rather sobering thought.

At about 12 noon the heavens opened with thunder and heavy rain so we took time out. Later we ventured out again but added little that was new other than a Lesser Yellownape to boost the Woodpecker tally, Puff-throated Bulbuls, and Scarlet Minivets. Silent philoscopus Warblers caused me some frustration as I struggled to check tertials on jigsaw overhead views of either Yellow- browed or Two Barred Greenish Warblers. 

We set about keeping a Nat Pk list but found it slow going with a lack of water species and with the forest trails alive with leeches after the rain.

 

Thursday 26/04/18 6.15 am

Red Junglefowl were the first birds for the morning, followed by a late Brown Shrike, Common Ioras, and for me a fine close encounter with a Bay Woodpecker, supposedly an uncommon resident here.

We were constantly hearing a trisyllabic Barbet call and traced these to Blue-throated Barbets, (a close congener of Moustached Barbet with which we were well familiar from Khao Yai visits).

Paul and I did a slow trail walk which rewarded us with several good looks at White-crowned Forktails, a party of about 6 Red- billed Scimitar Babblers, and fleeting sightings of the common Rufous-fronted Babblers. In spite of our leech socks several had looped up our legs and underneath to mess up our clothing.

I delighted in torturing the culprits and splattering their guts and my blood accordingly. Our main target species, Blu Pitta, Bar- backed Partridge, and Silver Pheasant remained hidden.

Later with the girls we drove a short distance to an open area with a tower hide as a lookout for the elephants which come probably daily to wallow in the lakeside muddy pools. We noted fresh dung and listened out carefully, but carried on birding nevertheless.

The lake had many bare dead tree stumps scattered across and produced our only Dollarbirds of the trip, -a pair obligingly perched up giving good scope views much to Pens liking. Ashy Woodswallows, a Golden-fronted leafbird and a pair of Paddyfield Pipits were Park list additions. The drive back produced a pair of Green Magpies, to give us a clean up of the park crows.

Barb and I had a late afternoon stroll around some of the forest edge quiet spots, and met with about 5 Black-throated LaughingThrushes which entertained us for some minutes, though we still dipped on Pauls Trogons seen previously in the same shady area. Further on we found a Grey- headed Woodpecker probing in the short grass, briefly interacting with a single White-browed Scimitar Babbler, a squirrel, and a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.

 

Friday 27/04/18

A Shikra which had been noted almost daily in the same roadside forest patch was the first bird of note, soaring overhead and perching obligingly. After investing some time trying to scope up Warblers in the high pines, I at last heard Yellow-browed calls traced back to the culprits, saw a new Thai species (for me) a Black-Hooded Oriole, which Paul had noted earlier. A walk in open forest gave us Large Cuckoo Shrikes in ideal habitat for them with their familiar raucous chewee calls from the open canopy recalling previous encounters at Sab Sadao. 

Paul decide on a forest trail walk at around 13.00 whilst the rest of us opted for a nap. He met up with us some two hours later smiling and with a celebratory ice cream in hand. He had managed both Orange-headed Thrush and a fine male Silver Pheasant, scratching in the leaf litter without seeing him first. 

Despite a foray to try to pull something back, I recorded only good views of Forktails and more leeches. Later that evening we enjoyed scoped views of a pair of very confiding Hill Mynas, a Common Flameback persistently attacking its reflection in an outdoor mirror of the campsite washroom and perched views of a Lesser Yellownape. The others saw a Greater Yellownape whilst I was otherwise carefully studying a female type Flycatcher which I failed to identify satisfactorily.

Saturday 28/04/18

A very early start on the forest trails produced excellent views of stunning White-crowned Forktails but none of the star targets still remaining unseen.

After breakfast we embarked on the 400 km. drive to Bangkok in heavy rain all the way. We passed various rice paddies on the city outskirts which appeared to be crawling with waders, egrets and herons but the only stops en route were for coffee and noodles.

 

Sunday 29/04/18

I rose early and walked brusquely to Suan Luang Park in just under 20 mins to arrive at 6.45 am. Already there of course were thousands of joggers enjoying their weekend in a healthy manner. The birds here are well used to noise and people, and I headed for the reedy pools which I quite like. List padders were Yellow-vented Bulbuls and Little Egrets which I quickly noted and moved on. At the pools were several big monitor lizards which cruise the waters undaunted by anything. Three Night Herons were on show, (one a spanking immaculate adult), 6/7 Yellow Bitterns which I always relish watching as they lunge at prey with seemingly telescopic necks. I was set on checking any Chinese Pond Herons on the lookout for possible Javan Pond Herons as in summer plumage these are now readily separable/identifiable. I only saw an immature presumed Chinese PH. 

I realised that in the background I was hearing one of my new found pals - a Plaintive Cuckoo close by. I strolled on and nailed him for my park list then set off home to breakfast with the team, still either partly dressed or still showering.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 

 

 

 

 



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Sunday 29th of April 2018 12:03:11 PM

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Monday 23/04/18

After a scorching day on Sunday (40 degrees plus) which involved some early morning chores (pruning ornamental trees) the only birding was a token effort scoping from the shade of the kitchen canopy, not worthy of mention. Clyde the cat seems to relish hunting at night and brings little treasures back to the kitchen, presumably as treats for us?

This morning we found an impressive long limbed big eyed frog (possibly a tree frog of sorts) on the kitchen floor, previousy this week other offerings have been a gecko (minus its tail), a tiny shrew, and a largish lizard though this would be a victim of one of the dogs, who are obsessed with digging the lizards out of their burrows in a sandy section of the garden. 

Barb and I strolled along the riverside this morning -a relatively late start at 6.50 am with the sun already high and the birding accordingly less than rivetting, though we did find a trip bird an Oriental Magpie Robin, - a generally abundant species but somewhat surprisingly scarce around here. Still around are Brown Shrikes and Dusky Warblers and I do wonder just when they will head off north?

Tomorrow we leave on a birding road trip with the main venue Nam Nao Nat. Park which will be be new for all of us, and hopefully some new species may materialise.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Saturday 21/04/18 - 5.30 am

An early alarm call saw us en route for the 38 mile drive to the Pha Nam Yoi temple set atop a forested hill with some excellent old trees within the large grounds. We arrived on site at 6.45 am and soon were adding a few new trip birds - Black-naped Oriole, the very common Black-crested Bulbuls together with a few species we see around the farm fields, - Green-billed Malkohas, Common Tailorbirds, etc.

We have visited the temple once before as it is an incredible building to see quite apart from its birding potential and had noted Blue Rock Thrush then, and fittingly it was immediately seen this morning on one of the gable ends.

Four House Swifts were hawking overhead, and we enjoyed good views of a pair of common Thick-billed Green Pigeons but best of all was an adult Crested Serpent Eagle (found by Barb), perched out on a high bare tree top which we scoped for some minutes, - the best sighting of the session.

We left at 9 am (as the heat was becoming a factor), having heard more species than we saw, - typical forest birding, with a far distant large Barbet left unidentified (either Lineated or more probably Green- eared), and a very quick glimpse of a probable male Shikra belting behind a line of trees.

Back at base I heard the Plaintive Cuckoo singing as I slurped my bowl of cereal, so I checked a bare tree top some 150 yds away and noted the culprit - now no longer able to tease me, and now even on the kitchen list.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Friday morning 20/04/18

6.45 am saw Barb Paul and I back at Yasothon Pools, eager to add something new in view of this extensive areas obvious potential. A Hoopoe was heard and seen then several Chestnut Munias, (supposedly scarce here according to the book, though we have come to regard the range indications as fairly meaningless). White-browed Crakes and the Lesser Whistling Ducks were still present and a Yellow Bittern was accidentally flushed from close range. Paul scoped up his own lifer next ; - a fine distant adult Watercock strutting close to a White-breasted Waterhen on the far grassy shoreline. Further along we noted two white egret differing in size. Scoping these up and carefully checking the gape lines, we were pleased to list both Great White and Intermediate Egrets as trip ticks.

An evening stroll from 4 pm onwards around the local patch was rather frustrating initially. I have been trying to pin down a song I have come to know well- 4/5 clear spaced notes followed by a descending trickle. I know the song now from the very first note, but had not a clue as to the culprit, generally singing from thick cover or dense riverside bamboo, although it has to be a common species. A determined patient stalking resulted in a sighting at last;- a Plaintive Cuckoo, and first for the garden area/fields.

Watercock and Chestnut Munias were two Thai ticks.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Thursday morning 19/04/18

I rounded off yesterday (18th) with a few more added species to manage 44 recorded for the day, - obviously boosted by the water birds at Yasothon, - not a bad total for Isaan.

Barb came out with me for a stroll by the river this morning but an hour later than would have been ideal. I have been keeping an eye on a magnificent old tree near the edge of a neighbours rice field which is of interest to many of the resident species. Currently many Black-collared Starlings are to be seen there and three small excavated holes look intriguing, in that I have noted the Coppersmith Barbet calling from near there And showing interest.

This morning we were delighted to see the barbet emerge from the lower of the three holes. This is generally the commonest of the genus to be seen in Thailand and is both small and colourful, with a very familiar repeated monotone call (ponk - ponk- ponk etc ) which carries for some distance across the fields. There is some superb video available if one Googles the bird, - dirt common but a little cracker!

Today we and a small team demolished the old breeze block shack which had been Pauls and Pens home for some 15 months before the main accommodation was built, this has opened up the view across the garden complex considerably, but marks the end of an era.

Tomorrow we are off birding to a forest section recommended by Paul based on his previous explorations.

Cheers,

Mike P



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Wednesday 18/04/18 - 7.15 to 9.15 am

It was nice to get out again after yesterdays downpour.

We had a run over to Yasothon, the nearest largish town some 23 miles from Kutchum. I have named the complex of lakes and pools Yasothon Pools. It comprises superb wetland habitats, with extensive water lily areas, marshy fields with lots of cover and grassy dividing bunds, much like a tropical version of Wigan Flashes but about 5 times bigger and without the phragmites beds.

Sadly mist nets are strung out permanently across some sections of the water and men in boats collect birds for the pot, though we saw very few actually in the nets. One hapless Cotton Pygmy Goose was hanging in a pocket some 80 yds out, otherwise I should have rescued it. 

Nevertheless we had a good pre breakfast session, adding new trip birds with Indian Roller (1), Yellow Bittern(1), many Purple Swamphens, Moorhens, Little Grebes, a single Common Sandpiper, a dozen Cotton Pygmy-Geese, lots of Barn Swallows, several Bronze-winged Jacanas in summer plumage, showing the extensive black about head and neck, set off brilliantly by a thick white (and therefore striking) supercilium. Also present was a single Pheasant-tailed Jacana, which even in non breeding plumage looked especially handsome and quite striking with its extensive long golden nape divided by a black vertical stripe from the white of the neck front and almost wholly white wings as it took a short flight.

Barbara drew our attention to a crake, creeping across the mud close to a grassy strip, - a White-browed Crake (with which I am well familiar from previous jaunts in other parts of Asia) but a nice find which is described as an uncommon resident in Thailand and not shown as being present in Isaan;- but as we have found before this simply reflects a lack of coverage in these parts. We all enjoyed scope views as this was a Thai tick for the three of us then moved on.

A distant duck caught my eye as it looked bigger than the scatter of Lesser Whistling Ducks. Upon scoping it materialised as a female Spot-billed Duck, another new bird for our Thai lists. I thought little of it as it is common in various Asian locations, but my book (Lekagul and Round) describes it as a rare winter visitor.

All in all this was the best session so far on this visit, with some 38 species logged, topped off on the drive back by a Black-shouldered Kite hunting over a roadside field. The bird swooped onto prey of some kind then flew to the topmost branch of a tall tree to enjoy its meal.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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16/04/18 Monday 6 am to 7.45 am.

An early start along the riverside produced 18 species, including several trip additions, the best of which were excellent scoped views of only my second ever Rufous-winged Bush Lark, sharing a line of fence posts with a Pied Bushchat pair and a Brown Shrike. A Stonechat female (which is most likely a lingering Siberian stejnegeri), was working a grassy ditch between the bare ploughed fields. 

Oddly, I have still not seen any Indian Rollers or Black-shouldered Kites yet on this visit, as these are generally conspicuous hereabouts perched high on bare branches, often seen readily from the vehicle. The bird life generally is all the quieter at this time of year with most of the wintering stuff absent, though I am hoping that some surprises will materialise later in the north west.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Sunday morning 15/04/18

A working start to today planting some trees before it gets too hot.

Last evening in the final hour of daylight a pair of Common Ioras appeared in the garden and Asian Palm Swifts, overhead with a single Red-rumped Swallow.

The four of us enjoyed dinner in the garden with an added delicacy of ants eggs, mixed in with chilli, lemon grass, lime and coriander. The eggs are harvested from nests in the trees- a seasonal thing, and were quite delicious. Initially I was surprised to find something moving in my dish, - a half inch long ant with wings which I placed out of the way on the table though these are normally incidentally consumed as well.

The previous evening there had been a larger family gathering here and dinner had included a big bowl of steamed cicadas which Pens sister in law had devoured eagerly after pulling off legs and wings leaving the head and body of something resembling an inch long miniature of Darth Vader. I fingered one and it felt a bit soft rather than crispy so I denied myself the pleasure.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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Saturday 14/04/18 6.40. am.

A later start this morning after a poor nights sleep due to the heat. I headed off for the riverside walk, the start of which is only 5 minutes from base. I noted that the water levels were lower than I had ever seen before, with April being a new month for me in Isaan province, I was curious about what to expect. It was one of those mornings when any perched birds were off before ones bins could be raised, let alone focused. So I slowed my pace and just stood very still. It was noticeable that these resident birds were more wary than the Siberian stuff which winters here. Far distant birds were visible in bare treetops but I resolved to bring the scope next time along here, as X8 bins were insufficient. Nevertheless, I was hearing unfamiliar songs and decided that patience would be rewarded sooner or later. I logged a modest 15 species in 90 minutes, but this was largely taken up usefully in study. I noted a couple more Brown Shrikes still around, a Chinese Pond Heron which I tentativey aged as a likely first summer (based on its apparent summer plumage being no great shakes), 4 Pied Bushchats on the fence posts along the bare fields, where the resident Bee Eaters were hawking, a gang of White-rumped Munias, and a pair of very distant Greater Coucals. (The one I still have not found is Lesser Coucal). Ahead of me a pair of sneaky Green-billed Malkohas glided across the river into dense cover, only their very long tails showing where they were perched. I then heard a four note passerine song close by in the dense riverside saplings. A gentle low squeaking served to pull it in closer and I glimpsed a strong supercilium on a smallish warbler. From jigsaw views it did look like a Dusky Warbler, but gave no calls at all, just the repeated song as it foraged quite low down in typical Dusky Warbler habitat, and was typically confiding- so was I simply hearing a singing Dusky for the very first time? Back at base I checked Xeno- Canto, - Paul Holts recording from China, which pleasingly confirmed my i/d.

Later with the temperature hitting 39 degrees, we went shopping to Yasothon as Paul wanted to buy some power tools, and en route we noted from the vehicle a single Lesser Whistling Duck on the large lake.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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Friday 13th April 

I was up and out at 6am to check out the local patch, mindful that the winter visitors would already have departed back north.

Upon checking out a bare tree just outside the garden compound I was pleased to note 3 Hoopoes (a local patch tick for me, though Paul has regularly noted a pair in the garden previously), these were keeping company with a Red Turtle Dove and a Black Drongo. Further on, there was a scatter of Little Green Bee-Eaters, and typical music drifting across the fields, - I suddenly felt at home again in rural Thailand, enjoying peace and quiet as I noted a Pied Fantail and an overflying Black-collared Starling. Several Streak-eared Bulbuls landed just ahead, but I largely ignored these as I focused on a song which I was hearing regularly, but didnt recall from earlier visits. The song was a buzzy imitation of our Willow Warbler, but cut off just before the end, and I traced it to a male Purple Sunbird. These appear to be common here at this time, as I was hearing renderings every few yards.

Further along the road in the section of taller trees, several Large-billed Crows were interacting overhead with a Brahminy Kite, with Asian Koels and Greater Coucals, calling as usual from deep cover. Further along, checking a ploughed field, I noted a Paddyfield Pipit, a pair of Zebra Doves, and a showy Plain Prinia, sporting its generous supercilium and reddish touch about the eye, singing its grating repetitious note. A bare tree had 6 Ashy Woodswallows huddled together on the uppermost branches.

I came across an almost dry pond surrounded on 3 sides by thick shrubbery which housed a noisy Common Tailorbird, but nothing else other than 2 Common Mynas perched high up. Heading back, the only additions were a single White-vented Myna, 3 Scaly-breasted Munias, and several Tree Sparrows. A touch of quality materialised in the form of a Brown Shrike, -a little unexpected as I had assumed that these should have all left by now, along with the excellent mix of Flycatchers and Warblers I have previously met with here in winter. All in all a modest start in the 2 hour stroll,  but I had enjoyed checking out vocalisations, and the Hoopoes were only my 3rd Thai sightings. Later on we are planning a birding road trip to the north west around several areas near Chang Mai, which will all be new territory for me.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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April 12th Thursday afternoon.

Today marked the start of a 4 day holiday, here it is year 2561, and traditionally everyone goes around throwing water over each other, so I felt it better to leave optics behind. At 1 pm we all drove over to Kam Pak Nam a village some 25 kms from Kutchum, where Pen spent 7 years of her childhood.

At the temple compound there was already a large gathering with 5 monks holding a service involving much chanting and responses from the crowd. Barbara was invited to sprinkle water on the Buddha along with the locals, following which all hell broke loose with hose pipes, water pistols and buckets of water sloshing everywhere. Old ladies were particularly lethal and intent on pouring icey water down the back of ones neck, in response to which one has to thank them. Following the departure of the monks, a 9 piece band appeared and beer began to flow.

There is presently concern across the country of an increase in rabies outbreaks, and a move is gathering momentum to vaccinate all dogs free of charge to address the problem, but there must be millions of strays about.

Pen was greeted by many old friends and a particular woman whom she didnt introduce to us, but who took a seat by herself some 15 feet from me. Pen quietly explained to us that the woman had killed several people (apparently by stabbing) and was not in prison because she had been officially certified as crazy.

Accordingly I kept a wary eye on any dogs ambling by, and on the crazy woman, noting that nobody had doused her in water.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 

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April 12th Thursday- Kutchum, Isaan province.

Awoke at 8 am after a pretty good nights sleep to the familiar sound of Asian Koel calls and those of a more distant Coppersmith Barbet.

Our outbound journey from Newcastle had involved 3 flights, 4 airports, and 33 sleepless hours.

A pre breakfast stroll round the garden compound (which now has more fruit and assorted palms planted) turned up a Purple Sunbird, Olived-backed Sunbirds, the usual Common Mynas, a Paddyfield Pipit, Pied Bushchat, and both Plain-backed and Tree Sparrows.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Thailand -postscript

Whilst idly perusing the species list for Kaeng Krachen Nat. Park I came across Blyths Shrike- Babbler something of which I have no prior knowledge. On investigation it appears that White-browed Shrike Babbler has been split into 4 species, one endemic to Java, one to the Da Lat plateau of S. Vietnam, one to the Himalayan region, and one (Blyths) to the border region of Myanmar/western Thailand. A sub species of Blyths (ricketti) is found in N.Vietnam, which my records tell me I saw at Tam Dao in 2008.

I had previously seen Himalayan, and the N.Vietnamese form, (as well as what is now Blyths, just a week ago), and in ignorance at the time simply logged them as White-browed - thus an armchair tick materialises (always welcome!).

As regards the Yellow Wagtail form seen on 28/11/17, that was what we should refer to as Grey-headed (thunbergii), though I have not been able to ascertain what is (if any) the difference between this and macronyx.

For the recent trip I ended with 12 life birds of 171 species, which wasnt bad seeing that only 8 days were dedicated to proper birding, and within that about 1000 kilometres involved driving.

Cheers,

Mike P



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Saturday 02/12/17

Just outside the national park, enterprising guest houses have set up hides and daily feeding routines to attract both birds and birders/photographers; for morning or afternoon sessions one pays 200 bahts per person (about £5 each). As we have been exploring pastures new we had been disinclined to spend up to half a day sitting in a hide. On enquiry, we found that it required more than three days notice to book a hide place anyway, as birds such as Red-legged Crake and Ferruginous Partridge were putting in appearances, and a wave of Siberian Blue Robins appeared to be arriving and passing through the area.

However as we had only half a day left and as it would cost about £28 to spend limited time in the park, we decided to try to book a hide. As luck would have it we not only managed to book a hide but had one all to ourselves.

A ten minute drive saw us in a well laid out garden (pretty birdy in its own right), and we were soon in situ in the hide in front of which were some 25 Red Jungle Fowl, and a lone Emerald Dove. These seemed to be on a regular round and more or less all departed into the cover of the forest after some 20 minutes, when a mixed flock of Laughing thrushes, comprising some 12 or more Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughing Thrushes descended, giving minimum focus views.

There followed a quiet spell which we compared to an interlude in a theatrical performance, with the next act comprising an appearance by 2 female Kalij pheasants, one of which flaunted itself to within 3 yards of its admirers, enabling us to appreciate the fine vermiculations of its tail feathers in particular. Following on, a first winter male Siberian Blue Robin appeared intermittently, shivering its tail and flitting/running about the cleared arena before us in search of insect prey.- a bird much appreciated by Paul.

We left the hide after a couple of hours; it had not been a birding extraveganza by any means but had given us a few new birds for our trip list and of course superb views of the species involved. Before we left, we enjoyed coffee and cakes provided by our host, a retired art teacher with a good eye for aesthetics and garden design with fruit set up on tree stumps attracting a mix of common Bulbul species and a few Olive-backed Sunbirds. We wandered round the complex, noting a new trip species, a male Golden-fronted Leafbird attacking its reflection in a mirror set in the garden.

Back at our lodgings it was time to pack and to leave for Bangkok for our penultimate night, with our 2 am Monday morning flight now looming large:- (Emirates flight to Newcastle via Dubai), with visions of wading through junk mail back in Wolsingham on Monday afternoon. Our final trip list provisionally coming to 171 species with some 62 species of these new for my own still modest Thailand list.

Cheers,

Mike P

 

 

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-- Edited by Mike Passant on Sunday 3rd of December 2017 12:54:25 PM



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Sunday 3rd of December 2017 01:16:04 PM

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Friday 01/12/17

After a 5 am start we headed off to the park for an early start and blitz on the lower section; this produced a commotion of Spot-necked Babblers. We seemed to have woken them at their communal roost. It seemed very quiet, producing little other than Common Flamebacks, which were at least new trip birds.

We were hearing many birds but seeing hardly anything, nor were birds flying;- we got the impression that we we just too early. Things picked up a little at one of the deserted campsites with our only Spiderhunter of the trip, - a Yellow-eared.

This day was basically very low key despite our efforts, though things did improve later with Pen finding not one but a pair of superb Black-thighed Falconets by a lakeside stop which she also photographed through the scope. Other finds here were both Black-capped and White- throated Kingfishers, Chestnut-headed Bee Eaters, and Indian Rollers, which together added a fair splash of colour at least to a quieter day.

At our lodgings, I added Pheasant-tailed Jacana to the trip list on the superb and very extensive lily pools of Baan Maka Lodge, which we had quite neglected due to the prioritising of our efforts in the National Park.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Thursday 30/11/17 Kaeng Krachen National Park.

This is the countrys largest National Park and hugs the border with, and extends into, Burma (Myanmar).

An early start saw us heading off into the park (which opens at 5.30 am), full of anticipation as this was new ground for all of us. As we left our lodgings, a Collared Scops Owl was calling directly overhead, but remained unseen.

It was noticeable that here, further west than Kut Chum, the dawn was perhaps some 12/15 minutes later. 

An early find was a Blue-bearded Bee Eater perched within the camp site complex, and exploration along the dirt road turned up a male Crimson Sunbird, Dark- necked Tailorbirds, and Rufous- fronted Babblers,- all new additions to our modest Thailand bird lists, as well as a host of other species already recorded elsewhere on our travels. Splendid Sultan Tits flitted along the forest edge, and we found a Hainan Blue Flycatcher some 20 feet into the forest. This was a good bird for me especially, as I had one of those either/or situations involving this species back in February, and had left it unidentified as I only had a back on view.

A handsome Emerald Dove gave nice looks from the car as it wandered along ahead of us on the drive higher up the winding dirt road. The system in the park is that one can only drive up to the topmost point at certain times, and down only at other preset times, 4 wheel drive being a necessity. This system seems to work quite well, and the state of the road serves to deter too many casuals from visiting this park, in contrast to Khao Yai which is both overcrowded and noisy (at weekends especially,) and where the excellent roads have encouraged too much commercialism.

At the summit we found 3 new Bulbuls to add to our Thai lists: Mountain, Ashy, and Flavescent, all foraging on the kitchen rubbish behind the restaurant where we also noted a large mustelid similar to a giant two-toned Polecat.

From a tree fringed high viewing platform we hit a purple patch at around 4 pm, with a loose flock comprising a Black- naped Oriole, 2 Velvet- fronted Nuthatches, a fine White-browed Shrike- Babbler, Blue-winged Leafbirds, a pair of Black and Buff Woodpeckers, Himalayan Swiftlets zoomed overhead, and a tiny Heart-Spotted Woodpecker completed the parade.

The drive down to the park exit took about 50 minutes, so it was almost dark by the time we reached our lodgings.

After dinner, an attempt at night birding by our host (Ian) failed to tempt out a Bay Owl; the only species heard being Collared Scops and Brown Wood Owl.

Cheers, Mike P.



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Wednesday 29/11/17

We left home at about 9.30 am heading south to the gulf coast and lunched by the sea, the few birds noted were Little Green Bee Eater, Brahminy Kite, Whiskered Terns, and two passing Grey-hooded Gulls.

On nearby salt pans we noted Black-winged Stilts, a Common Redshank, 3 Long-toed Stints, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, a Kentish Plover, and Marsh Sandpipers. On reaching Baan Maka Lodge, a brief exploration of the garden and pools turned up a Banded Bay Cuckoo and the usual water birds on the lake, including White-breasted Waterhens and Bronze-winged Jacanas.

Tomorrow we look forward to our first day in Kaeng Krachen National Park;- a 5am start.

Cheers, 

Mike P.

 



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Tuesday 28/11/17

we arrived in the park at 6.35 and got off to a fine start with trip bird additions of Verditer Flycatchers, a Plaintive Cuckoo, a small party of Chestnut- tailed Starlings, and Barb and I enjoyed a male Maroon Oriole whilst Paul was temporarily out of the game visiting the gents.

At the glade a party of White-crested Laughingthrushes passed through whilst an Oriental Pied Hornbill picked contentedly at fruits on a bush overhanging the river. Passing the reservoir, we noted an Eastern Stonechat and some 14 Red-wattled Lapwings around the margins. We saw nothing else in terms of additions for the next hour or so and resolved to head off south towards Bangkok, with stops en route.

About 60 kilometres north of Bangkok, we stopped by a promising muddy field and scoped up Blackwinged Stilts, many Wood Sandpipers, a Marsh Sandpiper, Red -wattled Plovers, and finally a single Grey-headed Lapwing. A good find for us was a Yellow Wagtail with a grey head shading to black around the ear coverts, ( I think from memory that the field guide has it as sub species macronyx, but need to research this; any help- appreciated please.

We arrived back home in Bangkok at 18.30.

Cheers,

Mike P



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I am trying to do updates but the Wi-fi here is dodgy. We are at Baan Maka Lodge close to Kaeng Krachen Nat. park, booked in for 3 nights. 

After our encounter with the Firebacks, the last birds back at the research station were Thick-billed Green Pigeons, about 15 romping around in the big fig tree.

Monday 27/11/17

We left at dawn en route for Khao Yai, but with a stop to scan a large lake where we noted Bronze- winged Jacanas, Red-wattled Lapwings, a few Moorhens, Purple Swamphens and 12 Cotton Pygmy Geese. We arrived at Khao Yai at 8.25 and a check at our favourite glade yielded 8 Long-tailed Broadbills. Shortly after, we became aware of a concentrated feeding flock behind us. Though the viewing was somewhat against the light, we identified a White-bellied Yuhina, a stunning Sulphur - bellied Warbler, a Bar- winged Flycatcher Shrike, a Grey -headed Canary Flycatcher, a skulking White-rumped Shama, at least one Two-barred Greenish Warbler, and a potential Eastern- crowned Warbler which annoyingly didnt appear to have yellow undertail coverts and so avoided positive identification. - All good fun but rather hectic.

Moving on, we noted Chestnut- headed Bee Eaters, a Blue-eared Barbet, Buff-bellied Flowerpeckers, many Ashy Woodswallows ( perhaps too many!), causing repeated distraction. Apart from the usual culprits, new trip birds included Puff-throated, Stripe-throated, and Grey-eyed Bulbuls. Several Grey Wagtails on the river were new, but we met with no Forktails. Even in the heat of midday we found within the forest edge, a Laced Woodpecker, a female Tickells Blue Flycatcher, a Blue Rock Thrush on the same roof as we noted in February ( same bird?). On the river we found a Blue-eared Kingfisher, and perhaps by a stroke of luck a pair of Scaly-breasted Partridges foraging in the leaf litter under the roadside trees.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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Sunday 26/11/17

We drove into the forested entrance of the Sakaerkat Environmental Research Station at 8 am after roadside coffee and snack breakfast following the short drive from our overnight accommodation. At the HQ the friendly staff offered more coffee and we checked a large fig tree but noted only an Asian Fairy Bluebird and glimpsed an oriole sp. left unidentified.

Along a dirt trail we found a small promising clearing and logged Black-naped Monarchs, Black-crested Bulbuls, and enjoyed scoped views of a Greater Flameback, noting in particular the diagnostic split moustachial stripe. Small Minivets boosted the trip list, while several sneaky Green-billed Malkohas flitted through deep foliage cover in typical fashion.

Paul saw a fleeting White- rumped Shama scurrying into cover, a species we had seen well many times before, though new for this trip.

At 10.50 am we arrived back at Sab Sadao, still too late to do this promising site full justice. We quickly saw again the gaudy Black- headed woodpeckers, and were enjoying great views when a flash of red and black caught my eye low down by the base of a tree. This bird hitched slightly higher and gave me a full on clear view; - at last my first ever look at a White-bellied Woodpecker. This close cousin of our familiar Black Woodpecker measures some 43 cms. and is of the same genus, and almost the last of the great surviving woodpeckers which I had not seen. (There is another big bird in Dryocopus found on the Andaman Islands, which I definitely will never see). We all drank in every detail over the following minutes, and felt very fortunate accordingly. Paul caught up with the Jays which he had missed on the previous afternoon, Barb found a Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Sooty- headed Bulbuls added to the trip list, a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo perched up whilst we were still following the antics of the Jays, and amplified Chee-wee calls seemingly all round us, were traced back to Large Cuckoo- Shrikes crisscrossing the open canopy overhead. 

We exited the site to visit a further recommended site a few kilometres away close to a dam, where Barb (now seemingly on fire) noted a grey bird on overhead wires. We found ourselves looking at a slimmer fine billed Cuckoo- Shrike, dark eyed and with wings largely concolorous with the mantle, an Indo-Chinese Cuckoo-Shrike, at Nick Uptons recommended location, far to the east of its normal range as shown in field guides, and another life bird for me.

At 15.50 we arrived back at the research station as we had arranged to sleep and eat there, but also to try for a 4pm stake-out for Siamese Firebacks, barely a kilometre up the road.

One of the staff even gave us a lift up to the site, and barely minutes after our arrival, a stunning male appeared just in the forest edge, then confidently strutted out into full view, performed a wing shivering display revealing its mustard coloured upper rump, followed by several others and a female. Within another 10 minutes, we were almost surrounded by a dozen or so birds, some walking within 8 feet, on the road right by us;- a surreal experience. The birds are not fed and apparently bath in a secluded little pool by the road at dawn and dusk, and have simply become used to close proximity of humans content to just watch and film them.

on this day I had seen two aspects of Thailand in relation to birds. Earlier near the dam, I had come across a battered 60 ft mist net strung across a clearing with a long dead smelly Owlet corpse left to rot in the mesh. The owner probably clears it of any small birds daily, intended for the pot. Had I found any live birds trapped, my inclination would have been to release them. However had I done so, and had the owner confronted me, what would the position have been? Is this activity legal here, or not? I dont know; after all this isnt Malta a member of the EU, whose population should know better, and who need to respect the law.

To a subsistence farmer here, scraping a living to feed his family, what is the distinction between putting a net into a river to catch fish, as opposed to putting one up in the air to catch birds, - his logic is the same in either scenario. That when scaled up is the dilemma facing our world.

Cheers, Mike P

 

 



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Monday 27th of November 2017 01:47:48 PM

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How nice to have some feedback; thanks David, - nice to hear from you.

Friday 24/11/17 was a busy workday, and saw us heaving 25 kilo bags of rice up into the rice store before the sun became too intimidating, we then got on with packing ahead of a week of wending our way back to Bangkok via various birding sites selected by Paul as being worthy of exploration. We did no birding and went to bed early.

Saturday, 25/11/17 saw us on the roads by 5.22 am heading south towards the Cambodian border, then veering west to our first stop, Sanam Bin Reserve (a non hunting reserve) which Paul had never before visited. This comprised many extensive pools and lakes on an impressive scale. Within a few kilometres of arrival at about 9 am we were seeing many circling parties of Openbill Storks and by the first pool we recorded Common Moorhens, a scatter of Purple Herons, a pair of Cotton Pygmy Geese, and 4/5 Bronze-winged Jacanas. Within a few hundred metres we were met by the spectacle of countless hundreds of Openbills some carrying nesting material into a huge and extensive colony of thousands of birds. In this mix were some scores of Night Herons ( adults and juveniles).  Across the marshy fields were Great, Intermediate, and Little Egrets in close association; - the Purple Herons seemed to prefer their own company, and we reckoned there were about 20, of various ages, against very few (possibly only 5/6) Grey Herons. With an earlier arrival we may well have recorded more species, and were surprised not to find any Cinnamon Bitterns, which surely must be present.

Lesser Whistling Ducks numbered hundreds but despite diligent scanning, we could find no other duck species. Little Cormorants were well represented, and some 4/5 Eastern Marsh Harriers quartered much of the area. The roadside pools held some 30 or so Purple Swamphens along a kilometre stretch.

A tower hide afforded superb views across the reserve and beyond, though a slight rocking in the breeze made one feel slightly drunk when scoping at x60. The best find of the day was Pauls Chestnut - winged Cuckoo, (a handsome congener of our familiar Great Spotted Cuckoo) being mobbed by Weavers in non- breeding plumage which we provisionally took to be Baya Weavers, though a little more research needs to be done on these.

Other nice finds were great views of a Black-capped Kingfisher, a Hoopoe, and a Black- browed Reed Warbler which responded nicely to my squeaking. Alongside these were other species which we had been recording daily in Kut Chum.

in summary, this is not a hot site for a big day list, but as a spectacle, in the context of sheer numbers, it is very impressive.

Our next site which we reached at 3 pm, was Sab Sadao, a tract of Dyptocarp forest (assuming that Ive named that correctly)

As recommended by Nick Upton. this is one of those sites seldom visited by birders as it is rather off the beaten track, and four wheel drive is essential. In spite of our late arrival we recorded some new birds : Large Cuckoo- Shrikes, the fine gaudy Black-headed Woodpeckers flaunted themselves, while Paul and Barb noted a flyover White-bellied Woodpecker which I missed, (ouch!).

Other birds here were Eurasian Jay (here the white-headed form), Chestnut- capped Babblers, a Hair-crested Drongo, a Thick-billed Flowerpecker, and Rufescent Prinias; as dusk loomed, we had to leave to seek food and beds for the night. In summary, a day of quality, but with much expectation for the following day, as our plan was to explore another new site,- the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station, as well as a morning visit back to Sab Sadao, where we felt we had unfinished business!

Cheers, Mike P.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

entirely (ouch!) I in turn found an elusive pair of Chestnut - capped Babblers. The local white-headed form of Eurasian Jay is common here and calls exactly like ours, and a noisy procession of these ensued towards dusk.

 

 



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keep posting your interesting accounts of birdlife in Thailand Mike, someone back here is reading them.biggrin



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22/11/17 Wednesday

A morning of raking and stacking hay was the forerunner to a well earned siesta, after which we drove the 30 plus kilometres to Phu Mu Forest Park, a well wooded hilltop site which we had visited previously in the dry season last February; our rationale being that it had to be better than last time, - when we arguably should have stayed in bed.

We had a Yellow-browed Warbler, followed by another one, followed by bad jigsaw views of a Black-headed or Black crested  Bulbul...... followed by nothing. Never have we birdied an area so promising yet so devoid of birds. To be honest we did hear stuff, but not much, and nothing within decent viewing range of the road, which lacked anywhere to pull off safely in order to duck into the forest.

We drove off downhill to the extensive lake at the foot of the park. This lake in India would have been teeming with stuff; here frolicked barely a few common hirundines, Chinese Pond Herons, a few Little Egrets, and a single wader, - a very distant likely Marsh Sandpiper, which we sensibly left unidentified. Even on full scope magnification we could barely make out the details, and we struggled in the face of a fresh breeze; - dead horses and floggings came to mind.

Phu Mu Forest Park will not see our like again; - in the unlikely event of any reader visiting these parts, give the place a wide berth.

23/11/17 Thursday

I chose the riverside walk and set off at 6.30. Immediately I encountered 4 yapping dogs from an adjacent farm which seemed determined to follow and distract me, so I picked up a length of bamboo and snarled back. Paul was bitten several weeks ago whilst out on his bike and underwent the full course of rabies injections, finishing these only on Tuesday, so one cannot be too careful. As a further precaution, Pen has resolved to lock him up at the next full moon.

A selection of the usual species going about their business was soothing after yesterday at Phu Mu, and pleasingly a new local patch species put in a long overdue appearance, a White-breasted Kingfisher, (the only resident Halcyon in these parts) barely 40 yards from the boundary of Pauls fields. Our own Kingfisher is often around, but is overwhelmingly a winter/none breeding visitor here.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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- A two day break from birding over 19/20th, involving harvest work and some early morning cycling was refreshing.

21/11/17 - Tuesday morning 7 am -

Barb found a new local patch bird perched up with two Green Bee Eaters - a Rufous- winged Bush lark. Red - rumped Swallows performed nicely overhead with good views of Ashy Minivets on the forest edge; otherwise it was rather a low key start to the day. Mid morning, we went off by car to Yasothon the nearest large town some 30 kilometres distant. Here are some sizeable lakes, the largest of which is flanked by the worlds biggest Toad, an amazing structure with an interior elevator which takes you up 4 floors and you can view the lake from a balcony inside the toads mouth. A nearby Naga (a kind of sea serpent) is even bigger. We noted 9/10 Purple Swamhens (of the grey headed form) around the vegetated margins of the lake, and along a more secluded arm, 6 Cotton Pygmy - Geese, a pleasing addition to my Thai bird list.

My evening stroll by the river proved a nice way to end the day, Ashy Woodswallows glided overhead, the Bee Eaters skimmed low over the rice fields, alighting from time to time in twos or threes on the line of fence posts, and I peered into the riverside bushes beneath my path to glimpse the Dusky Warblers flitting every few yards calling frequently. A louder deeper Chac grabbed my attention and in the same binocular view as a Dusky loomed the unmistakeable Thick- billed Warbler; - what a hullabaloo that would cause on the Durham coast!

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Wednesday 22nd of November 2017 03:51:00 AM

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17/11/17 - Friday

An early riverside walk with Barb produced an Arctic Warbler, several Yellow- browed, and the usual Dusky Warblers, with a fine perched Black - shouldered Kite, a pair of high soaring Shikras, and a handsome male Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker which Barb found high above us in a section often frequented by this species.

Later with Paul driving we explored a promising looking area of scattered lakes which failed to produce more than a few trip birds, a single Grey Heron, a few Asian Palm Swifts, Two leucopsis Wagtails in a muddy corner and a Common Kingfisher; - a poor return which caused us to comment that in India, such a habitat would be teeming with birds!

House Sparrows at a Kutchum filling station complex almost qualified as birds of the morning!

18/11/17 - Saturday

Paul, Barb and I hit the road east at 5.40 a m. for the 80 kilometre drive to the Mekong River, where the first birds encountered were Brown Shrikes, Yellow - vented Bulbuls, a female Blue Rock Thrush, and unexpected numbers of Wire-tailed Swallows.

Some 40 of these handsome hirundines were counted at several stops where we scanned looking for rocky islets in the river, noting a Great Egret, a Common Sandpiper, several Kentish Plovers, the inevitable leucopsis Wagtails, and several Brahminy Kites gliding overhead. A great find was Pauls Small Pratincole settled on a minute islet, and a pair of River Lapwings within a hundred metres or so of where we had seen a pair in February, - these birds many hundreds of kilometres from their indicated range in the field guides, obviously very much at home on the same river island sandbar.

Our final stop (overlooking some really promising rocky islets) looked more attractive than any site we had checked in our two previous visits, and we were now wishing that we had discovered this site earlier. Here was a Little Ringed Plover, another leucopsis Wagtail, and birds were taking the shelter of rocky overhangs as the sun was now quite ferocious.

A Wagtail which I briefly saw through binoculars showed the familiar blank face of leucopsis but as it disappeared among the rocks so readily, I was encouraged to keep scanning for something better. We stuck it out a little longer. I did note a rocky ledge about 6 feet long barely a yard from the river edge which formed a deep overhang and afforded about a foot of shade.

Through bins, I noted a whitish blob which I scoped up, expecting it to be an item of litter, (polythene bag?).

It was a Wagtail, front on facing me, its black breastplate resting on white underparts, but the head showed black ear coverts, tapering sharply towards the bill, and sporting a white supercilium to be proud of! 

I checked it again, eyes popping by now. Ive got the Wagtail! Get over here quick!

The bird walked out of the shade and we took repeat turns at the scope, black crown, white super, black ear coverts; after hundreds of kilometres, buckets of sweat, lots of exploration down dirt roads off the main highway (which runs parallel to the winding river) often struggling to even get a view of the river, we were watching our first Mekong Wagtail, and it was all smiles.

Cheers, Mike P.

 

 

 

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Arrived back in Kut Chum Sunday evening, and started exploring the local patch Monday morning (ie 13th Nov.)

There are many Dusky Warblers calling and flitting along the riverside where they like the bushy scrub of the waters edge beneath overhanging larger trees, often in loose company with Pied Fantails and Taiga Flycatchers (these latter like to come into Pauls garden in the final hours before dusk). This morning (16th) I was really pleased to encounter a hulking Thick-billed Warbler which briefly alighted on a strand of barbed wire as Barb and I were stood quietly enjoying the assorted butterflies on the rough  overgrown path. The bird was silent and flew on into dense cover; - all within 50 yds of where I had located Februarys bird which had initially alerted me with its repeated Chac calls, much louder than those of Dusky Warbler. -A case of being in the right place at the right time. 

My riverside walk on 15th produced a local tick. I heard a Flowerpeckers thin notes directly above me and identified the culprit as Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, certainly a Thailand first for me (possibly something even better;- I wont know until I get back home).

 

Several Brown Shrikes are surveying the rice fields from fence posts and making sallies for insects, though I wonder if they also predate the assorted Munías (both Scaly-breasted and White-rumped are the local species); these, as may be expected, enjoy the ears of rice prior to cutting. 

A pair of Stonechats also frequent the bunds within Pauls rice fields. He feels that these are resident here which would make them of the form przewalskii (see Craig Robson- Birds of Thailand); despite having whitish/ pale buff rumps I accordingly refer to them now simply as Eastern Stonechats.

Paddyfield Pipits are completely at home in the garden on the cropped grassy expanse (it would be flattering to call it a lawn). The calls of these birds are nothing like those of Richards Pipits, and these are paler sleeker creatures, though they have a similar haughty carriage and very long pinkish legs.

There are hundreds of tiny blue butterflies seemingly even smaller than our smallest species of blue in the U.K., these also like the short cropped grass and minute yellow flowers carpeting extensive sections in the garden.

The rice harvest is generally in full swing, the smaller field by the house has been hand cut, and processed with the threshing machine after drying. The big fields will be tackled by combined harvester quite soon.

Cheers, Mike P



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Thursday 16th of November 2017 05:08:02 AM

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Arrived in Bangkok mid day (Friday 10/11/17) from Newcastle via Dubai. We managed to stay awake a further 8 hours then flopped into bed for 14 hours, waking up to several hours of torrential rain on Saturday.

Paul and I had a nice stroll round Suan Luang Park, (just a 3 minute drive from the house) to enjoy some initial birding, as there was plenty of activity once the rain had stopped.

This park is very extensive with both formal areas and excellent secluded pools and good birdlife, despite hordes of people out strolling. We headed for the boardwalk across our favourite pool, the stomping ground of several big monitor lizards, - the likely top predators here.

Species noted were more or less the common regulars here:-

Night Herons - min 12 in a communal roost; a Yellow Bittern; sev, Chinese Pond Herons; 6/7 Little Egrets scattered further across the lawns, a perched gang of at least 25 Pink-necked Pigeons was pleasing and of higher quality than the abundant Feral Pigeons, Zebra Doves, and several Spotted Doves, (these latter quite handsome but introduced into so many parts of the world as to be regarded generally as little more than a stocking filler).

On the large boating lake (circular and about the same size as Pennington Flash but lacking the western extension) the only species of note were 3 winter plumaged Whiskered Terns, one of which gave several close flyby opportunities to appreciate its textbook head pattern to the full. How I wished that this could suddenly be Pennington Flash!

Other species included Coppersmith Barbets (6/7), Pied Fantails, abundant and confidingly showy Oriental Magpie Robins, (-yes they are everywhere and dirt common, but really great birds to see nevertheless). Comon Ioras, a Black-naped Oriole, Asian Koels, Common Tailorbirds, a pair of Streak-Eared Bulbuls, sev. plain Prinias, Common and White-vented Mynas, and 2 Olive-backed Sunbirds.

From a European perspective, Asian Brown and Taiga Flycatchers, and Barn Swallows were of interest and present;- the latter looking a bit scruffy and showing white patches around the rear of the lower scapulars/mantle area, which I took to be indicative of moult.

Sunday (12th) was spent entirely on the drive north-east; - 630 kilometres to Kut-Chum, with no birding other than incidental sightings along the highways of Openbill Storks and Cattle Egrets, and a single Black-shouldered Kite noted by Paul during his driving stint.

Cheers, Mike P.



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Postscript:

Wed. March 1st. - back in the frosty N/E of England.

After scrubbing our earlier record of Chinese Goshawk (on the basis of insufficient black in the under-primaries) the final trip list has come out at 147, adding 98 species to my Thailand list, boosted by our last two days birding Khao Yai Nat. Park in terms of quality and nos.

I ended up with 6 lifers; pick of the bunch of course being self found Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Tak Thale, followed by Rufous-winged Buzzard in Pha Taem Nat. Park, and Black-throated Laughingthrush in Khao Yai. Perhaps the most ridiculous "tart's tick" would be Plain-backed Sparrows building a nest in a shrubby ornamental potted tree just outside the bedroom at Paul and Pen's. -It matters not; they all count.

Cheers,

Mike P



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Wednesday 1st of March 2017 08:27:09 AM

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Thursday Feb 23rd:

The morning saw us catching up with work about the farm until 10am when the sun became oppressive. I had a last stroll round my adopted local patch for the final hour of daylight  at 17.00, but saw very little, other than a Magpie Robin and a White-rumpled Shama;- it all seemed rather anticlimactic.

Friday (24th) saw us rising early and on the road by 5.20 heading south. At 10.30 we reached Phi Mai for one of the cultural highlights of the trip where I found the only Hoopoe of our travels calling from a large tree. Phi Mai is an ancient centre/ temple dating from around 1080 and was a major centre of the old Khmer empire, and architecturally is smaller but identical to the great complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which Phi Mai predates.

By mid afternoon we arrived at Khao Yai National Park, where we booked in for two nights. We decided to keep a separate list for the park species, and set about exploring the superb forest at various elevations. New species here were Red Junglefowl (i.e. hens! - but real wild ones - honestly); 20 plus Red-wattled Lapwings, Vernal Hanging Parrots, point blank views of a male Emerald Cuckoo, - a favourite of the girls, 2 Great Hornbills, tracked down from their calls, a Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Verditer Flycatchers, and an underwhelming Thick-billed Flowerpecker.

We rose early on Saturday 25th, entering the park at 6.30 and quickly launched into ticking mode with a couple of flyover Oriental Pied Hornbills, Grey-eyed Bulbuls, several Hair-crested Drongos, then on a side trail, a pair of Red-headed Trogons, a very obliging female Banded Kingfisher perched up in the forest, Scarlet Minivets on the forest edge, and a flyover Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo. Asian Fairy Bluebirds vied with Blue-winged Leafbirds, Black-winged Cuckoo-Shrikes and calling Moustached Barbets for our attention.

A walk out to a tower hide gave us the only Bright-capped Cisticola of the trip and a family party of Grey-breasted Prinias with point blank looks at Ashy Woodswallows.

In the afternoon session after a brief 30 minute break for lunch, we took to a forest trail leading to a superb overlook over miles of inviting forest; down below Paul picked out two Hornbills which turned out to be yet a third species: - Wreathed Hornbills, sharing a tree with some 15 /20 black birds which looked good for Racket-tailed Treepies, but with our inexperience and the huge distance involved even at x 60mag. we still couldn't be certain of the i/d.

A river close to one of the minor campsites lured me away from the birds for some twenty minutes as an impressive gathering of butterflies were tasting the salts on the sandy rocks; I was just tempted to go back for the iPad with photography in mind when the skies opened for the first rain of our visit.

The afternoon ended on a high note with a Black-throated Laughingthrush, a female Blue Rockthrush catching butterflies, and at the park exit a pre roost gathering of Red -breasted Parakeets. In addition we had many more species already seen earlier. 

It was immediately obvious that the birds in the park were far less wary than those up in the north-east (Isaan), and it was good to see considerable numbers of young Thai birders with bins and scopes/ cameras, anxious to exchange information.

Sunday dawned rather cloudy, and we made another early start to maximise our birding time as we had to leave by 11.15 for our return to Bangkok. Out of the morning mist at a good roadside overlook, we enjoyed a spectacular flyby procession of Hornbills leaving their roosts: some 25 Oriental Pied Hornbills, and a single Great; this latter's wingbeats sounding like those of a Mute Swan.

An open lakeside section produced our first Black-naped Orioles for Thailand, a White-throated (Smyrna) Kingfisher, then later behind the restaurant at park HQ several White-crested Laughingthrushes, a gathering of Green Magpies, and some annoyingly high (and tiny) White-eyes, which we then ignored as better fare was on offer. A perched Mountain Imperial Pigeon, competed with two Thick-billed Green Pigeons, raising the standard of recorded doves and pigeons considerably.

As our time came to an end, we recorded our only Crested Serpent Eagle of the trip, soaring high above.

En route to Bangkok, at a roadside vantage point over some flooded rice fields, we found our only Wood Sandpipers of the trip keeping company with more numerous Black-winged Stilts.

- Journeys End!

Best Wishes,

Mike P.

 

 



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Sunday 26th of February 2017 02:04:08 PM



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Sunday 26th of February 2017 02:33:51 PM

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Four of us rose from our tents at 5.30 (rather stiff) and ambled sleepily towards the cliff edge a kilometre or so to the east.

Waiting for the sun to rise over the misty hills of Laos, we inadvertently disturbed a large raptor which glided off to the south and was left unidentified.

The sun rose, and we commented that of Thailand's 62 million people, we were the first to see it on this day, being the easternmost, and positioned on a high cliff edge.

A Pied Bushchat pair were first on our "park list" followed by Eurasian Jay, Lineated Barbet, Large-billed Crows, Raddes Warbler (h), silent wing-barred philloscopus Warblers, (probably Two-barred Greenish) but which we still didn't clinch, as we just failed to see the tertials (yet again!), a Rufescent Prinia was a new "trip" bird, as was an excellent party of between 15 and 18 Hill Mynas which the girls enjoyed through the scope. The Bee-eaters here we found to be Chestnut -headed, and an excellent section of forest offered up a Puff-throated (i.e. Spotted) Babbler, and a family party of White-bellied Yuhinas, - common birds, but the first of the genus for us in Thailand.

From a clearing, we noted above, a soaring accipiter showing solid black primary tips: - a Chinese Goshawk, interacting with a pair of  Shikras. A new trip bird here was Black-headed Bulbul, several of which showed briefly but well, up in the canopy.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongos were picked out flying between some skyline bare branches. The temperature was slowly becoming a problem and so we decamped and began the tricky drive out, the only other species added being a perched Indian Roller, and a couple of Blue Magpies flushed by the vehicle.

In summary, the birding here has potential for some good discoveries; the drive into this part of the National Park is a major obstacle and only researchers would be inclined to spend time here. A forest ranger we met had scarcely seen Europeans here, and "birding" as such was a totally alien concept to him. We had barely scratched the surface but found several species "seemingly" out of range. The site produced for me 8 more Thailand species of the 25 we recorded here, though we heard many more vocalisations which remained a mystery to us; - realistically we'll most likely never return, as there are easier sites in the top destinations within Thailand which still await us in the future.

Cheers,

Mike P.



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Thursday 23rd of February 2017 02:35:58 AM

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Feb 21st Tuesday morning - forest and river section (7.15 -8.15)

A Common Kingfisher on the river was only my second sighting and probably the same bird (same location). In birding terms this is the least productive river I've ever come across, though the riverside cover itself is excellent for warblers.

This morning's circuit produced nothing new other than a different Brown Shrike. This a handsome male showing a neat grey crown, whitish throat and delicate peachy underparts, the tail seemed more rufous in flight than the other Brown Shrikes around here, and I studied it for ten minutes through bins and scope. The literature indicates that this is of the race lucionensis, which I'm pretty certain is new for me.

Other regulars were both Brown and Taiga Flycatchers, Raddes and Dusky Warblers plus the usual common residents.

We hit the road at 9am heading east for Pha Taem National Park in the easternmost part of Thailand, via the Mekong River which we reached at about the worst time for birding- 14.30 or so. Ashy Woodswallows, a Common Sandpiper,  8 Little Ringed Plovers, and a River Lapwing were all we saw;- this time not even a Wagtail of any kind. However our lunchtime stop at a roadside cafe had earlier produced a new (overdue) species for our Thailand lists in the form of an Intermediate Egret. The toilet block at the rear of the cafe offered a view over a field of early rice, within which strutted a solitary egret which on proportions looked a good candidate through my bins. I set up the scope whilst the others ate most of the chicken (ouch!). The bird showed a black bill tip on a shorter looking bill and the gape line ended directly under the centre of the eye, certainly not extending past the rear of the eyeline; - job done.

The final tortuous 20 kilometres of the drive saw us needing the 4 wheel drive over what we though were old lava flows, the rock appearing black, but when broken, the rock revealed itself to be a sandstone of sorts. A perched raptor superficially showing the plumage pattern of an outsized male Kestrel proved to be a Rufous-winged Buzzard, which soon flew away gliding off on level wings - far bigger than any Kestrel gave us hope of exciting discoveries to come. After we had erected our tents we walked to the Cha Na Dai cliff edge where we could look out over miles of the Mekong river perhaps 700 feet far below us, and beyond, into the hills of Laos.

Surely the morning would yield up yet more new trip birds?

Cheers,

MikeP.



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Wednesday 22nd of February 2017 10:33:54 AM



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Wednesday 22nd of February 2017 11:51:22 AM



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Wednesday 22nd of February 2017 11:49:41 PM

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It's been hotter these last few days, so I didn't go out for the afternoon session until the last hour of daylight, just covering the forest section, but I did add another 9 species for a day list of 32, which for here in the dry season isn't bad.

I was watching a Raddes Warbler foraging in long grass close to the dirt road, when I heard a disyllabic/trisyllabic repeated call from a tall tree behind me. I picked out 2 philloscopus warblers interacting which looked and sounded interesting. The problem was that they were variously either 15 or 20 feet above me in poor light and in and out of leaf cover giving only jigsaw views  and I could get no meaningful plumage details other than that they had fairly prominent supercilia and fleeting hints of at least one wing bar. They were obviously on call not Arctic Warblers, nor Yellow-browed, leaving the obvious alternative here of Two- barred Greenish which on call alone, fitted. However as this would give a total "clean up" of the philloscopus likely to be wintering in this area, I had to let this go as I should prefer to nail down the full suite of plumage characters for what would be a local patch tick.

In an attempt to get them to come lower, I resorted to squeaking, which generated an immediate response from something sounding entirely new; - a larger species going bananas and coming right in from another section of thick cover -: a fine male Black-naped Monarch, an old pal from previous adventures, but new for the local patch here, and a fitting end to the day.

Cheers,

MikeP.



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Monday Feb 20th

Yesterday's festivities mitigated against any birding. The tambun was a solemn ceremony in which 9 monks come to the farm house early, with around 80 guests turning up, these being relatives and neighbours from the village. Caterers organised the marquees, seating and food. The idea is to bless the new farm house, announce Paul and Pen's wedding to those who couldn't make it to Switzerland (where they married in Oct. 2015), and to induct us Europeans into the family and local community.

The monk's chanting of the mantras was almost hypnotic and I videoed much of it. Virtually everyone participated in the custom of tying strings round our wrists (and queuing up do do it, which took about 40 minutes keeping us from breakfast) so politeness and patience were necessary.

Later when the monks had departed, the beer and whisky came out and a noisy party resulted with karaoke booming across the fields, but at least it stopped at around 6 pm.

I'm picking up more and more of the language, and can now count. Thai is much like Mandarin, is grammatically simple, but complicated in that it has 5 tones which impart meaning and is therefore full of pitfalls. To further complicate things the local language here is Isaan which is close to Laotian.

This morning after attending to the watering chores, it was with a sense of relief that I vanished into the peace and quiet of the woods and fields.

I logged 23 species before breakfast, including a new bird for the patch, a common but welcome Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker.

This is definitely not a prime birding area, but nevertheless who can complain at wandering around lovely farm fields (almost reminiscent of Suffolk rural scenes from 200 years ago) dotted with hay ricks, and with Siberian wintering Warblers and Flycatchers easily studied and with Bee-eaters gliding around, an Indian Roller flying over, 3 species of Cuckoo (Greater Coucal, Koel, and Green-billed Malkoha) all showing well?

It seems that Tree Sparrows are now nesting under the eaves and Plain-backed Sparrows in a couple of the ornamental garden trees, with nests like grassy balls with an entrance hole at the side.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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Today saw an early 5.20 start for the 40 klms drive to Phu Mu forest park which Paul had briefly scouted a month ago.

This is an isolated forested hill rising above the plain to about 1100 ft above sea level.

At the top car park there were already hundreds of kids doing exercises and chanting in unison; a scout camp for boys and girls; - all very nice, but to birders out for some new species in a different environment about as welcome as a wasp in the underpants. 

We walked off in search of peace and quiet and found it; - the trail was birdless, and very dry due to the ongoing dry season.

undaunted, we walked back down the approach road and soon at last met with increasing numbers of birds, - all of them Black-crested Bulbuls.

We did see both Brown and Taiga Flycatchers (Paul briefly noted one with its red throat), and we heard and glimpsed a vanishing Raddes Warbler. Having taken a side track into a small clearing the habitat looked promising as the sun rose higher hitting the bushes around us, with the usual Sunbirds and Flycatchers and the ever present Bulbuls still the only species to be seen. Suddenly Barb picked out a large raptor gliding on flat wings towards us, a Changeable Hawk Eagle which passed right overhead; - bird of the morning as it turned out and a new addition to our Thai lists.

In summary, a pleasant enough outing, with spectacular views over the surrounding countryside but even in some of these relict islands of good looking habitat, birds are really very wary here, and it can be hard going compared with the riches to be found in the national parks of the south and west of Thailand.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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Friday morning, 7.05 - local forest section.

A little more activity today; - both Taiga Flycatchers, L. Green Bee-Eaters and Ashy Drongos were already hawking about in the little recessed corner of the forest which acts as an early morning sun trap. Both Greater Coucal and Common Koel were calling and I soon located and scoped them in turn; the numerous Streak-eared Bulbuls seemed disturbed at the presence of the Coucal which soon moved on. A White-rumped Shama was a local patch tick, only the second for this trip. An odd lump high on a horizontal shaded branch turned out to be another Owlet (Asian barred again) giving even better scope views than the previous bird. This one kept looking nonchalently away, and then back at me, "full on" as if rather indignant at my staring, and after a couple of minutes it moved into deeper cover. It's always great to see cryptic birds well, and Owls to my way of thinking always seem full of character.

I then noted the ongoing presence of the Pale-legged Leaf Warbler in what I think of as its usual spot, foraging amongst a spread of leafy vegetation no higher than a foot off the ground. I'm noticing distinctive behavioural patterns across the philloscopus warblers I'm seeing. This morning a Yellow-browed Warbler darted along and across fine branches of a loose open straggly tree mostly at or just above eye level and hovered briefly several times during its foraging, staying for a good ten minutes whilst I checked its finer points (inc. tertials tips). Arctic Warbler is more deliberate, whilst Raddes comes over as slightly clumsy, almost as if it's tail is a bit loose and needs to be dragged along in some of its foraging actions.

I've not yet bumped into Two-barred Greenish Warbler which winters here, nor Eastern Crowned Warbler which is a passage migrant through here, wintering further south down the peninsula, so I'm probably here too early for this latter species.

All in all, a good little session.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Thursday, Feb 16th,

The morning started at 6.15 with a 30 minute spin on the racing bikes, followed by a full session with the vegetable watering, after which Barb and I headed for the forest, which initially was pretty quiet apart from a fly-over Indian Roller. Later she did pull back Ashy Minivet and Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (in the same little corner as yesterday;- same bird?) followed by several Taiga Flycatchers, all of which showed really well, though Raddes Warbler was neither heard nor seen. Perhaps I'm expecting too much, as this morning I found nothing new, but I guess it's inevitable that new species will get harder to find. The usual support cast of Bee-Eaters and Fantails etc were present but now we seem prone to taking them for granted.

This evening we had a stroll by the riverside, setting off at 16.45 with just one pair of bins and no great expectation. Common Ioras, Streak-eared Bulbuls, Green Bee-Eaters and the inevitable Pied Fantails were buzzing around when we stopped to study a particularly close and obliging Plain Prinia. There are allegedly four Prinia species hereabouts, but search as we may, this is the only one we have found so far. Suddenly from a few feet ahead on the grassy path, a small bird flew very low ahead and landed again some 15 feet further on towards the waters edge, where it commenced a fairly rapid repeated nervous low "chacking."

I couldn't see the bird which was a little down the banking, so edged closer guided by its calls, and repeated as best I could with a quiet clicking noise with my tongue. The grass only four feet ahead was moving, as if it had come closer, but it was too tall for me to see the bird behind it, but then it moved away onto a twig just in my line of sight and below me, showing a graduated tail and a mass of streaking along head and uniform mantle and upper tail - Lanceolated Warbler, here a common winter visitor but which had eluded me for the last ten days. So a "blank" day was flukily avoided, though Barb missed this by not having bins to hand.

I only ever before saw this species in China in 2002, and as I have never been to Fair Isle, this remains one of the commoner species I "need" for Britain, though I know that a certain J W Rayner, (surely in league with Satan), has seen one at Filey.

Best Wishes,

Mike P

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Still Wednesday, - late morning,

I took a longer walk along the riverside later, (despite the hot sun) as there are intermittent shady spots from which to scan and it was nice to be able to do a full circuit joining up with the little forest section with which I'm now pretty familiar. 

From various spots along the route, among the treetops it was possible to see the 30 metre high water tower in Paul's vegetable garden as a direction aid.

Annoying small flies seemed to be competing with each other to land in my eyes, but as consolation I found a new mix of small birds just yards within the forest edge. First addition was a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, readily identified not just by its pale legs and single wing bar, but by its solid grey crown contrasting with olive green mantle. Almost next to it in the same sapling were two Ashy Minivets and nearby a Grey-headed Flycatcher, (a common Asian species) but with the previous two species all new for my Thai list, to which I've added 57 species thus far.

It's great fun doing all this in an area largely neglected by birders, and I wonder just what the potential might be once migration is underway.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Wednesday Feb 15th

The last two mornings have yielded close encounters with Raddes Warbler, easily found by listening for its gentle but persistent "tuc"calls as it forages in low vegetation. Also several Taiga Flycatchers and the Brown Flycatcher seem to haunt the little corner of forest edge which has become one of my "must check" spots from 7 am onwards.

This morning was quieter, though I did manage scope views of a skulking Greater Coucal; I'm more interested though in finding Lesser Coucal which along with many other species still eludes me. Of these latter, I'm still hopeful of bumping into Lanceolated Warbler and Two-barred Greenish, both of which should be here.

Walking home for breakfast, I met with a Flycatcher which attracted me initially with its sharp repeated "tic" calls. The bird was some 15 feet up in an open tree with its back to me. I managed to see a blue upper tail, duller bluish mantle, White vent area, and a black face before it exited stage right into the denser forest.

Studying the field guide, the commoner option is Hainan Blue Flycatcher, the less common would be the bigger Blue and White Flycatcher, both make "tic" calls, though Hainan Blue is described as a harder note. On plumage, a front on view of the breast easily splits the two, so I have to build upon what I saw before it can count.

Walking through the rice fields on the dividing bund, I checked a lump on a horizontal branch which turned out to be Asian- barred Owlet, a species which I have seen many times before, but this individual made my morning, being my first Owl of any kind in Thailand, and which obligingly stuck around in time for me to check the finer points in the scope.

My only previous birding in the country was a very successful week spent in the spring of 2001 when I came out with a pal specifically to see Gurney's and other species of Pitta down in the south, with a good sample of Trogons, Kingfishers and Woodpeckers, so my list for the country is pretty modest as we didn't bomb around chasing numbers, but quality species instead, though we still failed to find either Finfoot or the Malaysian Rail -Babbler.

Best Wishes, 

Mike P.

 



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Wednesday 15th of February 2017 09:04:41 AM

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Monday 13th Feb.

I went out at 6.30 a m alone as Barb fancied a lie in after the previous night's partying.

An hour and a half mooching quietly around the forest section some 300 metres from the farm perimeter, yielded 18 species, which is not a bad score for here; the usual regular culprits being Brown Shrike, Dusky Warbler (which showed really well), and Brown Flycatcher. A few new additions to my local list were Green-billed Malkoha, and a pair of Ashy Drongos chasing about, with 2 Black-collared Starling flying out from the farm trees.

I heard what seemed to be a Yellow-browed Warbler calling, and traced it to a small phylloscopus, sporting what appeared to be only a single wing bar; - an altogether rather dull individual, which on appearance would make a better fit for Hulme's Yellow-browed Warbler, (which shouldn't be here and which of course calls differently). I didn't get a chance to check the tertials before losing the bird altogether, which was frustrating. Two-barred Greenish and Arctic Warblers winter here, but Yellow-browed is very common in the winter and on call it probably was a dull/ worn one of these, but I should wish to see more before it makes the list. 

Later we drove the 40 Klms. to the hilltop stunning temple and forest park at Pha Nam Yoi. This is jaw droppingly impressive, (google it and you'll see what I mean) and I added at least a new trip species as well, - a male Blue Rock Thrush. I would have dearly loved to spend a few hours of early morning birding here, as much of the forest looks very tasty, like a residual island patch of primary forest. 

This evening I managed 40 minutes more in the local forest patch and found Black-crested Bulbul (common), to pad out the local list a bit more, and pleasingly a Taiga Flycatcher, which I enjoyed for 10 minutes or so.

Best Wishes,

Mike P



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Today, Sunday Feb. 12th we drove east to the Mekong River, some 80 Klms. from the farm (itself just up the road from Kut chum), our target species being Mekong Wagtail, the "new" species described relatively recently in 2001. Although we had our passports with us and should have loved to have crossed into Laos, there were no legitimate crossing points. We reckoned that the local fishermen would have taken us across for buttons, but suspected that the cost of the return trip might be much higher.

On checking the first site, I heard a wagtail call, located the bird on the muddy shoreline below our vantage point, and saw 2 birds, - both leucopsis (Amur Wagtails); - old friends to Paul and me from the famous Co. Durham bird of some years ago, but not our target on this occasion. Undaunted, we carried on scoping, finding 2 Little Ringed Plover, a single River Lapwing, and a scatter of 3/4 Common Sandpipers.

We then spent another two hours driving north along the river's western shore and finding just a few more Amur Wagtails, which seemingly winter here in considerable numbers. Barn Swallows, Little Egrets, an Ashy Woodswallow and a few noisy Yellow-vented Bulbuls made up the very modest species range. I thought that I had a Plain Martin on breast pattern but according to the field guides only Sand Martin is here, so I left this unidentified.

We took to long distance scanning of the Laos side of the very wide river as that seemed to have fewer fishermen about, and there was also a possibility of Small Pratincole and Great Thick-knee both of which would also be new birds for our Thailand lists but this added nothing. To cut a long story short, the highlight of the day was probably the Mekong River itself, with its numerous rocky and sandy islands, and though we dipped on the Mekong Wagtail we still had a good day with some spectacular temples explored en route.

Earlier in the week, we had taken to early morning rides on the racing bikes, going out into the countryside with highlights being Indian Roller, several encounters with the always impressive Black-shouldered Kites hovering close to the highway, with a few Brahminy Kites, (much scarcer here then in the areas to the south closer to the sea). My early morning (6am) riverside walk by the farm on Saturday 11th. had produced something of a thrill to encounter some 40 or so Little Green Bee Eaters leaving their communal roost. Both in the mornings and evenings, a Shikra has flown over the farm, out of and into its roost nearby. 

Tomorrow morning Barb and I shall hope to visit a small but inviting forest section only some few hundred metres from the farm which we briefly sampled a few days ago and in which found quite a selection of butterflies.

Best Wishes,

Mike P.

 

 

 



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Sunday 12th of February 2017 07:01:38 PM



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Sunday 12th of February 2017 07:04:25 PM

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we've now been here a week of what is essentially a family visit involving socialising, sight seeing, working on the farm, with some birding when the opportunity presents itself.

A few common species were frequenting the garden of the Bangkok house, with Pied Fantails zipping around in typical fashion, all but landing on me in response to my squeaks.

In the local park we found several Openbill Storks, a nice but furtive adult Yellow Bittern, numerous Common Koels, Chinese Pond Herons, and honking Large-billed Crows to kick start our listing. Copper smith Barbets, a White-breasted Waterhen, were outnumbered by the very common but showy Oriental Magpie Robins. Overhead, Swiftlets defied confident identification, but were probably of the Edible-nest species.

Friday saw us heading south out of Bangkok's nightmarish traffic congestion for a night in a beachside hotel at Cha-Am.

En route, the plan was to spend a couple of hours checking through the waders at Tak Thale salt pans for a hoped for Spoon-billed Sandpiper, likely to be knocking about with the numerous parties of Red-necked Stints.

When we finally found the correct site, we were already behind schedule, as we needed to secure beds for the night, knowing that many Thai families come down here for the weekend to escape the city. It was therefore with some relief that we finally located our target bird within minutes of having to give up.

Other species present were numerous Black-winged Stilts, Bar-tailed Godwits, Marsh Sandpipers, Kentish Plovers, Sandplovers, (we had neither time nor patience to devote to splitting Sandplovers), Greenshanks, (no Nordman's, which anyway we had seen before), a Curlew Sandpipier, a Whimbrel, a Long-toed Stint and a Spotted Redshank.

On Sunday Paul drove the 700 kilometres (11 hours) north-east to Isaan, where they have the farm.

En route, we took in the temple at Wat Phra Phutabath Noi for the Limestone Wren-Babbler, this being an easy site for this species.

I have now started a new list for the farm area. This is not prime birding country, as the land is given over to rice farming, and birds have traditionally been seen as a food source, and are quite wary accordingly.

Nevertheless, sandwiched between farming chores (i.e. helping to install an improved irrigation system for the vegetable garden) I have so far managed several quality species from a European perspective: Brown Shrike, Brown Flycatcher, Thick-billed Warbler, Dusky Warbler in addition to more exotic but common resident species.

More to follow,

Best Wishes,

Mike P.

 

 



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