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Post Info TOPIC: Thailand Diary


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RE: Thailand Diary


22/03/19 Friday

We said our farewells and left Kutchum late morning for the first leg of our journey south to Bangkok.

We made a brief stop just south of  Suvarnaphum on highway 215 as we noted a promising area of muddy pools and were rewarded with a Wood Sandpiper and a Common Sandpiper with 5 Oriental Pratincoles showing well and allowing good looks at their wing tips obviously exceeding their tale tips. Also a scatter of Red-throated Pipits (about 10) were our first for Thailand.

We carried on as our first planned stop was further south at another no hunting reserve near Buri Ram which Paul had never previously visited. We arrived at 14.45 and set about with compiling a full species list which topped 50 species before we left off towards dusk. Highlights here were Eurasian Coots, a Black Kite having a tussle with 2 Brahminy Kites, Sand Martins and a long overdue Temmincks Stint for my Thai list. Full plumage eye catching Asian Golden Weavers were also appreciated.

More Pratincoles and several Greenshanks, a full complement of Herons (except for Cinnamon Bittern) and a single White-browed Crake swelled the total. Upon leaving we scoped up a huge mass of Egrets out in the middle of this huge area and we resolved to an early start here for Saturday morning. We checked in for an overnight stay at the Klim Hotel in Buri Ram.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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21/03/19 Thursday -Kutchum riverside early walk.

I headed out at 07.00 for an intended 1 hour stroll and came across a couple of wandering monks eating by Pauls fishing pond under the little bamboo shelter in the far corner of the rice fields. I greeted them respectfully in Thai and one replied in English asking where I was from so I pointed to the farm. I collected some litter (not dropped by them) and made a little stack intending to take it away later and left them in peace. A short way on I met a guy with a long bamboo with a hooped net on the end probing in the trees searching for the eggs and nests of the red ants. He showed me his meagre catch of greenish eggs which in the cooked state are white (and quite delicious); I thanked him and carried on eager to search for some Flowerpeckers in a likely spot. I detected a tickle down my shirt and then another on my neck and a nip under my trousers - ants in my pants.

I spent some minutes rather distracted as every time I removed an ant another seemed to nip in another sector of flesh. Then a nip in a private area had me dropping both trousers and underpants for a thorough clear out, fearful that if the monks happened along they would wonder what the hell was going on. Instead of attacking me en mass the ants were programmed to attack in relays as if they had all read the manual How to bugger up a birders plans.

I did little birding of any consequence collected the litter and was pleased to see that the monks had bagged up their contribution and amalgamated it with what I had collected in a large polythene bag. I went back to base and later sat in the garden compound noting the finer points of Paddyfield Pipits (as one was sheltering in the shade of an overturned urn) and I still need a proper Richards Pipit for Thailand.

I logged the Rubythroat in the afternoon as it came out to feed on the lawn between bouts of swooping up into its favoured Tamarind tree.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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20/03/19 Kutchum - catching up on garden chores.

No birding of any consequence today though pleasing to see that our Rubythroat is still pottering about the veg. patch and lawns and from time to time flitting up into the tamarind tree keeping loose company with the Tree Sparrows but generally remaining aloof from such plebs as befits its status.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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19/03/19 Tuesday. Nam Nao - bungalow accommodation.

After a good nights sleep I resolved to be out early. I awoke refreshed checked the time and decided that I had overslept- a peek at the clock indicated 07.10 so I washed and dressed cleaned my teeth and even made my bed as it was still dark outside which suddenly began to be puzzling. I checked the clock again and realised that it was actually only 01.40!

I went back to bed and finally went out at 06.15, teamed up with Paul and we hit the forest trail again and within minutes chanced upon a party of about 8/9 Collared Babblers ( in my old book White-headed Babblers). Further on peering across a gully I saw with my naked eye what seemed like a white fox sporting a huge white bushy tail some sixty yards off. Raising bins I was delight to see my first Silver Pheasant- a fine male and catch up species as I had missed one here last April.

Still elated and with Paul leading over a wooden footbridge we flushed a Striated Heron of which I barely saw the tail end.

Once we had packed and bought ice creams at the little shop a bird perched close at hand proved to be our first Large Woodshrike of the trip so we left in good spirits at noon. Five hours on we arrived back in Kutchum to a noisy welcome from the overexcited dogs. A celebratory barbecue ensued as the expedition of 2780 kms. had yielded a full complement of Thailand ticks.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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18/03/19 Monday - travelling Paul and Pen drove between them some 640 kms. from Fang for an overnight stay in the excellent Hotel Hobby in Uttaradit - double room and breakfast included in pristine accommodation for the equivalent of about a quarter of what I should have to pay at Rivington Lodge Bolton (without breakfast) - a typical example of rip off Britain!

We arrived at Nam Nao Nat. Park at approx. 13.30 but by the time we were settled in the skies opened and a thunderstorm with heavy rain persisted for a couple of hours. Afterwards Paul and I ventured out and found a Black- throated Laughingthrush in its regular patch behind the little shop near the park HQ. and the common but spectacular White-Crested Laughingthrushes were bombing around as list boosters. We ventured down one of the trails and despite the dripping trees found a pair of White-crowned Forktails just about where we saw them last April on our first visit. We were ever hopeful of Blue Pitta and for me in particular Silver Pheasant but only managed Crested Treeswifts as new trip birds. 

As there was a power cut around 19.00 we all retired early.

 

 



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17/03/19 Sunday West side 5.00 start.

The three of us were very early at the first feeding station with Barb able to catch up with a female Humes Pheasant and Great Tit (!) though en route we again failed to find on the road any Mountain Bamboo Partridge or Nightjars though Large-tailed and Grey get reported from here. Hoopoe and Jay were logged for the growing park list and more importantly we saw our first Spectacled Barwing of the trip and through persistence and patience really good looks at Aberrant Bush Warbler and best of all the range restricted Crimson-breasted Woodpecker. We had enjoyed a good morning with too many repeat species to mention and were heading back intending an early finish in view of a long drive through the afternoon ahead going south east.

We had only gone a couple of kms. when we passed a solitary figure - another birder. I recognised Pete Hines so Paul reversed the vehicle and we introduced ourselves. Pete (a veteran of thirty years birding here) was newly arrived and covering what was familiar ground from past exploits but anxious to enjoy some videoing of quality species so we turned around and he followed us back to the stake out for the Cutias. We bade him good luck and left him in peace to get on with things.

Paul drove us some 380 kms. as far as Uttaredit where we checked in at the excellent Hobby Hotel - superb good value for a quarter of what we should pay in the UK!

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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16/03/19 Same area as yesterday but via the eastern approach - still in the National Park.

Pen had admin work to catch up on so the three of us left her to it in our hotel with a 05.15 coffee start.

The rough east approach road up the mountain is only accessed by four wheel drive and goes up to almost 2200 metres.After a bumpy journey on the bad road of well over an hour and a half we exited the vehicle at 08.00 and immediately were struck by a different mix of species at the army checkpoint- Red-flanked Bluetails, showy Yellow- bellied Fantails, Several gaudy Red-faced Liocichlas, and a stunning male White-tailed Robin visiting the feeding area. On the ascent we had seen four Oriental Turtle Doves and a scatter of Red Jungle Fowl which we logged as wild ones as there where no obvious signs of human habitation. We brought some assorted fruit for the soldiers and strolled on past the checkpoint finding a Large Niltava, a party of Rufous-winged Fulvettas Yellow-cheeked Tits and plenty of assorted Phylloscopus most of which were Claudias (presumably the resident split from Blyths Leaf Warbler but this I need to research back home).

At the high point nearly 7000ft three Crested Serpent Eagles passed calling overhead and a pair of Stonechats (which in U.K. would pass for Siberian) were noted. The common and vocal Barbet up here is Golden-throated and once familiar with its calls we were hearing them everywhere. Paul some way back along the trail found a nice male Slaty-backed Flycatcher which vanished into cover before Barb and I had a sniff of it.

Strolling back down we saw our first Whiskered Yuhinas a Golden Babbler and a fine Mountain Imperial Pigeon and I found a Brown- throated Treecreeper which annoyingly crept up a trunk and out of sight as I was trying to get the others onto it.

In summary the day had been well worth the effort - I added 12 more species to my Thai list but we abandoned our plan to take the same route the following day due to the state of the road. Instead an easy morning back on the west side was the preferred option.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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15/03/19 Friday - still Doi Pha Hom Pok Nat. Pk.

We decided to repeat yesterdays sites to enable the girls to do some catching up, also we still had many good target species awaiting us. We had an excellent hotel breakfast which meant that we didnt arrive at the Pheasant stake out until 9.00. and accordingly had no expectation of seeing it. The girls did however see the Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers and the Ultramarine Flycatcher along with close views again of a Chestnut-vented Nuthatch foraging on the road and nearby low tree trunks. Paul noticed a Nuthatch some 80 metres further down the road ahead edging up and down a roadside conifer - it looked big!

We glassed it critically and agreed that it looked big but it moved into the trees and out of sight. As a contingency Paul had downloaded the calls of several species the previous night so played the calls for Giant Nuthatch. Nothing happened but after what seemed to be a long minute we all heard an answering call close by in a large pine. The tension rose - the worlds biggest Nuthatch was close at hand!

I notice movement high up - and Paul and I got onto the bird. Barb got naked eye views only and Pen (suffering with a cough and streaming eyes) inexplicably was looking in a totally different direction. The beast flew off right past us and there was a sense largely of relief on my part to have caught up with such a special bird.

We moved on to the next feeding stops and were a little disappointed to find a coachload of birding tour participants all at the best stakeout hoping for the male White-bellied Redstart and Cutia which sometimes appears on a large old tree festooned with bromeliads. We moved on and played the calls for the Spot-breasted Parrotbill which to the girls astonishment shot straight in to within 10 feet perching boldly and for minutes right in front of us - truly the lead character of the day so far. Walking on Barb alerted us to a bird high up at 10 oclock on a ridge top leafy tree -our first Burmese Shrike for Thailand obvious from its chocolate coloured mantle and dark grey head and altogether a much more compact beast than the paler Long-tailed Shrike.

Back-tracking we arrived in time for the tour groups departure and took their place at the stakeout where we spent the next 40 minutes standing quietly. Here were views of the nesting Black-throated Tits regularly bring in food items, another immature male Siberian Rubythroat and a new female Flycatcher which we studied very thoroughly and identified it independently afterwards as a Slaty Blue Flycatcher. The male White-bellied Redstart had not been seen by anyone this morning but the female was very obliging, as was a White-gorgetted Flycatcher; all new for the girls.

The highlight event followed - four handsome Himalayan Cutias cavorting in the mature bromeliad tree. These then flew right into the red flowering otherwise leafless tree to join in with foraging Black-headed Sibias and Scimitar Babblers.

We exited the feeding station and moved on to another where previously on the Thursday we had the spectacular Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes performing but today due to the time of day it was a no show from them. As some consolation we watched the comings and goings of a Hill Prinia, and a fine Blue Whistlingthrush fanning its tail and feeding on a horizontal log  and on the ground only 20 feet away.

Despite Pen being somewhat under the weather she rather sprang into action and in typical fashion alerted me to a bird. Dad! I see a jumper! (Any small bird flitting in and out of foliage or darting about like a Flycatcher she refers to as a Jumper).

I saw her bird immediately (which was a relief as she struggles of course in English with giving directions). I was very pleased to see a male Little Pied Flycatcher the first of our trip, and praised her accordingly. Crested Finchbill are a common bird in this general location and consort here with Flavescent Bulbuls in the scrubby roadside margins. We chatted with the soldiers at the border post and Barb and Pen ticked off the Burmese flag flying in the pines by an army post on the Myanmar side of a shallow valley some 200 yards away and as it was now 12.30 we strolled back (dipping again on Spectacled Barwing which feed on a particular favoured tree with little orange berries) and drove off back to Fang and to enjoy an excellent lunch in rather dude like fashion and a lazy afternoon. We were well pleased with the morning with the Cutias winning our bird of the day vote.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 



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14/03/19 Thursday based now at Fang - gateway to Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park.

With the girls opting for a well earned break from birding with massages and manicures Paul and I teamed up with Brian and Paul for a 05.15 start for the 50 min. drive up into the park to some staked out sites for key species. As our companions had photographic priorities for Cutia and a couple of Parrotbills we took two vehicles.

Arriving at the first stop there was already a Singapore team with cameras set up and a fine male Humes Pheasant strutting its stuff. Other species were Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers and the local washed out looking form of Great Tit which apparently now is known as Japanese (Great) Tit. A Chestnut-vented Nuthatch and a Siberian Rubythroat were also coming in to feed on mealworms. This latter bird had a trace of red on the throat which I assumed made it a first winter (second cal. year male).

White- browed Laughingthrushes came out foraging, also an Olive-backed Pipit and a pair of Grey Bushchats, but all were totally outshone by a stunning male Ultramarine Flycatcher perched on a horizontal bamboo only inches from the ground.

Our companions drove on while we stayed hoping that the Mountain Bamboo-Partridges would put in an appearance but after a further 30 minutes with no sign we moved on as well.

Other species around were the usual culprits but we were now seeing and hearing lots of Black-headed Sibias.

At the next stop several kms. further we came across another roadside feeding station with several of the superb Chestnut-headed Laughingthrushes (these renamed in later field guides now as Silver-eared I think). We suddenly wished that the girls were with us for this ridiculously easy but odd birding method after the hard find it yourself slogging we normally inflict upon them. Other birds coming into several stations dotted along the road were White-gorgettedFlycatchers, a pair of White-bellied Redstarts (we only saw the female) a nesting pair of Black-throated Tits and best of all a bold singing Spot-breasted Parrotbill on territory some 100 metres along the road.

We drove off to undertake some more normal birding and with reference to song recordings I managed to ascertain that a song I was constantly hearing and tracing back to a small phylloscopus was that of Davisons Leaf Warbler (in my fieldguide White-tailed Leaf Warbler). Other good birds were Oriental Turtle Dove Blue-bearded Bee-Eater, as well as Crested Finchbills seemingly abundant here. Paul caught up with good views of Grey Treepie and I caught up on Verditer Flycatcher.

We heard but failed to see calling Long-tailed Broadbills noted a pair of overhead Black Bazas and numerous other birds recorded previously too numerous to itemise again here. In summary a superb day with much credit due to our companions for their information and knowledge who also obtained their photographic targets.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 

 



-- Edited by Mike Passant on Friday 15th of March 2019 12:30:19 AM

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13/03/19 Kings Project site

We awoke early and brewed warming coffee before any serious thoughts of birding but did note a Long- tailed Shrike on a fence post dislodged by our first Blue Whistling Thrush of the trip. Soon into birding mode we drove a short way and commenced some roadside birding adding our first Fulvettas for Thailand - a party of Grey-cheeked Fulvettas and followed these with a superb Silver-eared Mesia - a species which Barb and I had last encountered some 19 years ago in the forests of the eastern Himalayas- how time flies!

New trip birds were White-browed Shrike Babblers (now split as Blyths Shrike Babbler).The Rusty-naped Pitta was again heard and seen foraging in the trailside leaf litter on the Firebreak Trail barely 15 feet from us and promptly hopped out ahead of us and hopped along the trail as if to show what a fine fellow he was.

Shortly after this we met a couple of birding expat Brits (Brian and Paul- the latter originally from Denton!) and mentioned the Pitta which they subsequently photographed. Later back in the gardens they met up with us and showed us where they had been throwing out mealworms behind the kitchens. Here thanks to them we saw our first turdus genus of the trip a Black- breasted Thrush with another Olive-backed Pipit for good measure. Later after coffee we fanned out and logged our first Chestnut-vented Nuthatch but missed a Daurian Redstart which the other duo had seen in the gardens. Apparently also we should have searched more diligently for Goulds Sunbird which is also readily available here. Later exploring another trail we found a pair of Blue-winged Minlas.

Later in the afternoon we set off for our next destination Fang in the far north but were turned back at the army checkpoint as the road which runs right alongside the Myanmar border is now only open to the locals. Nevertheless whilst Paul and Pen were trying to charm the solder into allowing us through Barb pointed out some birds hopping about the short grassy field some 30 metres off the road- another new species - White-browed Laughingthrushes which were gratefully admired and eventually seen by us all. We turned around and eventually arrived in Fang by the southerly route and secured accommodation at the Lumanee Lahu Home Hotel where Brian and Paul were staying and with whom we made plans for an early start for the following day as they had a number of target species staked out.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Tuesday 12/03/19

Road to Doi Ang Khang and the Kings Project

We left Malees after breakfast heading for road 107 north. En route we found the first of several fine looking Long-tailed Shrikes and a pair of Little Grebe on a marshy roadside pond- the first of the present trip.

We noted a few repeat species as we gained height but did little birding until we reached the conifer zone where we stopped to briefly explore a cart track up into a mix of deciduous and conifer trees, noting new trip birds - a Hill Blue Flycatcher and then several of the range restricted Brown-breasted Bulbuls. There was a brief flurry of excitement and an exclamation from Paul - The Nuthatch! Barb and I raised our bins only to see two vanishing birds - up and away around the back of the trees- gone! Two Giant Nuthatches - so near yet so far. We returned back to the car. At least we know its here was a positive of sorts.

We arrived at the Kings Project complex a superb celebration of ornamental plants, Bonsai gardens flower beds but mainly a project initiated by the old king to cultivate a huge assortment of vegetable strains for scientific and agricultural advancement.

Until recently many leaseholders on government land in this border area had infringed planning laws and the army has closed down all the guest houses as the indigenous Mhong people who live here were not benefitting at all from the excessive commercialism around them. The roads hugging the Myanmar border are now closed and as a result only passable by the indigenous people at the whim of the army.

Thanks to Pen we managed to secure accommodation for the night in the hospital annex.

In terms of the birding here we added Chestnut- bellied Nuthatch Blue Rockthrush a Crested Honey Buzzard soaring overhead and then sharp-eyed Pen (the youngest of us) an ace spotter found a major lifer for all of us. Paul keeps telling her to ignore Bulbuls but she insisted that she had something different. We rather condescendingly looked at her bird -not a Bulbul but far far better- a Crested Finchbill!

After a late lunch we logged Chestnut-sided White Eyes and decided to drive a couple of kilometres to explore the Firebreak Trail just off the approach road.

As we were parking Paul spotted something on the trail - a Pitta!

I was still untangling myself from the seatbelt and my double strap bins, but more or less tumbled out of the car for the other three to admonish me for being so slow. The Pitta hopped casually ahead of us - a Rusty-naped Pitta and a most unexpected bonus lifer. 

Some twenty minutes later returning to the car we met with the bird again up ahead on the track only some 20 feet off the road and enjoyed scoped views for about 5 minutes. Bird of the day by a good margin.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 



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Monday 11/03/19 Doi Chiang Dao

We got off after breakfast rather earlier than yesterday heading off to an alternative mountain road from which Paul had found Giant Nuthatch some 15 years previously. The intention was to do more birding and much less driving. The day got off to a promising start with 2 Slaty-backed Forktails along a tiny stream next to the first checkpoint where we showed our 3 day passes. At our first birding stop at around 3700 feet we found a decent mixed flock with Grey Bushchats several Grey-capped Woodpeckers and a few other species whizzing up and over the ridge upon which we were standing. Peering down the north side below us Pen found the birds of the day- a pair of Silver-breasted Broadbills a long awaited catch up species for Paul. I was seeing small birds but because of the configuration of the ridge was struggling against the glare of the sun as these birds were to the east of us. Nevertheless a pair of Velvet-fronted Nuthatches were obvious but several tiny philoscopus Warblers (either Ashy throated or Pallass) remained unidentified as my eyes were streaming with tears in the glare. I should happily have paid a pound or two to have been on the other side of the birds.

Against our better judgement we drove off seeking the high point of the road and our search for the ideal site for Giant Nuthatch proved abortive with no sign or sound. (The call of this species is transcribed as Get it up) and a google search more or less approximated to this. We spent far too much time driving and stopping and ended up squandering most of the morning. 

In new territory it is all too easy for the exploratory instinct to take over and we really should have known better.

We did log an overflying Rufus-winged Buzzard, Scarlet Minivets and another of the tiny Grey-capped Woodpeckers located by its calls being very close to those of Great Spotted.

Hot and tired we returned to our lodging for showers and refreshments and only resumed birding after 16.00. We visited the temple car park and found a calling Yellow- browed Warbler and a Grey Wagtail. Paul and I hauled ourselves up half of the 500 steps to the shrine and explored part of the gully trail where lucky birders have in the past found Blue Pitta as well as Rusty- naped. We enjoyed point blank views of the very common and confiding Puff-throated Babbler but that was all.

A day of quality which fizzled out all too soon and basically our own fault!

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 

 



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Sunday 10/03/19 Doi Chiang Dao

I had a shortish pre breakfast 40 minutes stroll which was hardly worth the effort with Blue-throated Barbets scoped up close to the foot of the temple steps and a rear view of what would be either a male Tickells Blue Flycatcher or a Hill Bue Flycatcher which refused to oblige by turning round to be conclusively identified.

We didnt leave after breakfast until about 08.10 for what turned out to be a bouncy 4 wheel drive up the mountain of over two hours (with stops en route) before we arrived at the empty campsite at 1400 metres altitude.

I noted a Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike while the other 3 were admiring some Chestnut-headed Bee-Eaters, then a new Thai tick appeared - a nice male Black- throated Sunbird, and a pair of Striated Yuhinas entertained us for several more minutes at the same stop. Further along a perched Large Hawk Cuckoo was appreciated followed by several Olive-backed Pipits which heralded our arrival at the deserted camp site and an welcome end to the tortuous drive as it was now almost 11.00 am.

This location is noted as the best local site for Humes Pheasant (best seen at around 7am!!)

Undaunted we freshened up on fresh pineapple and coffee then despite the lateness we all four set off to explore along a mountain trail in search of Giant Nuthatch. This proved in part to be a good move as we turned up an obliging pair of Grey Bushchats our first Slender-billed Orioles and Black-naped Orioles conveniently available for critical comparison.

Many birds were visiting some red flowering trees alongside a valley running to the left parallel to our route and we found some good species by scoping these as we passed - some Scarlet Minivets a Black Bulbul and our first Orange-bellied Leafbird (a fine male) and a big surprise a female Scarlet Finch a life bird for us all. Other species here comprised several Great Barbets, a scruffy Flavescent Bulbul which had us scratching our heads for a while and pleasing White-browed Scimitar Babblers with European Jays of the white headed form. Another new Thai species on the walk back was Grey Treepie - several noted.

We left the campsite at 16.00 after a pleasant and productive session involving a four hour trek at almost 5000 feet altitude rewarded by more coffee cake and fresh pineapple. It took almost 2 hours of focused and careful driving by Paul to get us safely back down to the main road with a couple of stops en route to add Stripe-breasted Woodpeckers a single Grey Wagtail by a little farmstead near a trickle of water but the main find here was a Grey-backed Shrike perched up on a fence post, - an uncommon winter visitor to these parts.

I added 26 trip birds to my own personal tally with 12 of these new for me in Thailand - so a really productive day involving over 40 species had we included the really common stuff we see daily and despite failing to find the elusive Giant Nuthatch (which would in truth have been against expectations) and also we were very late in the day to have any real chance of Humes Pheasant. It would necessitate camping up here ideally to maximise the chance of success on that score.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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Friday 08/03/19

We left Kutchum at 07.10 and drove all day 743 kms. to Lampang where we founding good lodgings at the Regent Hotel at about £9 per night per twin bed room leaving at 07.35 for a few hours in Doi Khun Tan Nat. Pk. 9.00 to 10.40 before continuing on to Chiang Mai.

New trip species seen were Bronzed, Hair-crested, and Ashy Drongos, Sooty-headed, Stripe-throated, and Black- Crested Bulbuls but raptors stole the show with a fine Crested Serpent Eagle being mobbed by a Shikra, a pair of Crested Goshawks, and a perched Black Baza found by Pen. Blue winged Leafbirds were also logged before we departed on another longish 200 km. drive via Chiang Mai city and its traffic to arrive at Doi Chiang Dao wildlife reserve where Paul had seen Giant Nuhatch some 15 years ago.

After securing lodgings at Malees (well known to visiting birders in the past) we had an exploratory walk up the temple steps.

Himalayan Swiftlets were zooming overhead, and we found several Asian Fairy Bluebirds and a Taiga Flycatcher with common Red Whiskered Bulbuls seemingly everywhere.

From the top of the climb we noted a family party of Green-billed Malkohas, a pair of minivets which proved too far to confidently identify with binoculars and some 20 Green Pigeons again too far off for my old eyes but which Paul felt sure were Pin-tailed.

With the light fading we set off down the steps only to happen upon a couple of furtive Babblers foraging on the ground in deep cover. They looked frustratingly featureless and we later narrowed them down to two quite common possibles which warrant further study over the coming days.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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Wednesday afternoon,

After a three hour drive south towards the border with Cambodia but still in Isaan we arrived at 15.30 at Sanambin No Hunting Reserve which Barb and I visited two years ago with Paul. We found this wetland area much drier this time but still logged 43 species in 2 hours. Notable were the reintroduced Sarus Cranes, Openbill Storks, a Forest Wagtail, Cotton Pygmy Geese, and Bronze-winged Jacanas. Pleasingly three Taiga Flycatchers,several Great Reed Warblers and a White -breasted Kingfisher moved the total along.

We found good overnight lodgings and an excellent Danish run Pizzeria. 

Thursday 07/03/19 

We rose at 05.40 and were in the reserve at 06.20. There followed a superb morning with 61 species logged in just over 3 hours, the best of which were a distant adult perched Spotted Eagle pointed out by one of the staff, several Black-browed Reed Warblers, a Brown Flycatcher, a Baillons Crake and an immature Watercock. As well as both Jacanas on show we noted our first waders of the trip- Wood Sandpipers, a single Spotted Redshank, 6 Black-tailed Godwits, Little Ringed Plovers and Black-winged Stilts, with a loose group of Garganey in mid water. Intermediate Egrets, Great Egrets, Grey and Purple Herons and a few Night Herons (leaving their roost) made quite a spectacle though we failed to find any sign of Cinnamon Bittern. We saw about 6 Snipe (either Common or Pintailed) these were scoped up but left unidentified. I also had reasonable views of a silent Warbler closest in appearance to a Cettis Warbler (which doesnt occur) possibly a bradipterus genus which I could not identify.

We arrived back in Kutchum at 15.30 and while watering the vegetable patch later (at 17.30) noticed the Rubythroat closeby.

Later at 18.30 with a family gathering of 7 people eating and enjoying a few beers by the lawns Paul pointed out the Rubythroat on the lawn edge from whence it flew into the tamarind tree. It has now completed 4 week on site and this begs the question as to where was it during November December and January?

Tomorrow we head off to the far NW where hopefully many new species await us.

Cheers

Mike P.

 



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Wednesday 06/03/19

A lie in today so didnt get up until 07.25 and set about some garden chores as we are off on a brief road trip from midday on.

I neglected to mention that on the drive into Yasothon the other day we had several sightings of Black shouldered Kites - this is always a favoured stretch of open country so we tend to rather take them for granted.

The Rubythroat show continues. It has not missed a day and today it appeared just before 10 am walking across both lawns before swooping up into its favoured tamarind tree (see photos below). From reading it seems to be a very good record for these parts.

John Rayner remarks as to what a treat it would be for one to turn up at Hope Carr. Birders are typically never satisfied! Imagine the parking chaos if one were to be found there - I should be truly delighted -  (more so if I was back in England of course).

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 



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Tuesday 05/03/19

A 6.40 start this morning with a short cut over the stubble fields to the river with Brown Shrike and Dusky Warblers the first species I actually glassed. The best of the rest was a flash of irredescent blue in the form of an Indian Roller.

I am still searching here fo Zitting Cisticola which should be easy in these fields. I know the rhythm and cadence of the song so well from Murcia province and wonder if the song delivery here differs in any significant way such as to fool me? -Any suggestions gratefully accepted.

I was back at base early as Paul had ten trees to plant before it got too hot. The Rubythroat briefly popped onto the lawn at 11.15 almost alongside a recent addition to the garden list - a male House Sparrow.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 



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Monday 04/03/19

9 am saw three of us at Yasothon Pools, where the water levels were much lower than Paul had noted 12 months ago.

Accordingly we only found about 100 Lesser Whistling Ducks, 15 Purple Swamphens, 2 Moorhens and no White-browed Crakes.

9 Little Egrets and 5 Purple Herons were new trip birds as was a Cattle Egret en route. Several Eastern Marsh Harriers were quartering the site and we noted 3 Brahminy Kites. A male Brown- throated Sunbird was a site tick. 

Back at base after lunch we logged the Rubythroat in the vegetable patch at 13.15.

We had a final run out to a temple complex on a local hilly forest patch at 16.30 which produced a party of Ashy Wood-Swallows, 2 Red-rumped on roadside wires with Barn Swallows. Final species added were a Rufous-winged Bushlark, and 2 Plaintive Cuckoos.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 



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Sunday 03/03/10,

With family visitors round yesterday afternoon birding was curtailed as a garden picnic led to beer flowing and a lengthy siesta to follow.

This morning I had a lie in and was not out until 07.10. I decided on the forest section where I have previously done very well, though now there are even more aggressive dogs to contend with en route. The next door farm dogs are just little yappers  which normally quiten down once one is 100 or so yards past. Nevertheless it pays to remain alert and to carry a stick for what lies ahead. The only new birds en route were very vocal Common Tailorbirds and I got a fleeting view of what were probably three Asian Pied Starlings which would be new for the local patch but which I need to see better before they can be counted.

Several Barn Swallows were also noted before I hit the main track through the bamboo, and the next dog pack started barking and were quickly stalking me and so ruining any birding for several hundred yards. What is infuriating is that this section has been really good in previous winters. Even 300 yards beyond their territory the meanest dog sat in the road watching me and all I noted were Bulbuls which were probably the usual Streak-eared but without the scope the I/d was only tentative this morning.

On arrival in my favourite secluded corner all was quiet so I stood very still hoping for the usual Flycatchers (Taiga and Brown) but to no avail. After some long minutes I noticed a phylloscopus foraging in a sapling just above and ahead some 30 feet away, sporting a barely discernible wing bar, pale legs, strong bill and long supercilium - an Arctic Warbler and almost by default bird of the morning. One of the dogs had even followed me this far and I was aware even while birding that it might try to nip me from behind.

Heading back I was pretty annoyed as the dog pack was clearly waiting for my return so I made a show of brandishing my stick and shouting as I ran at them using some good choice British obscenities and the pack of four shot off sharpish back towards their little homestead hastened along by some clods of clay. It had not been a good start to the day.

Later back at base at 9.20 I heard the familiar vocalisation of my old pal from last April the Plaintive Cuckoo and at 10.45 the Rubythroat was seen in the vegetable patch from whence it strutted in typical fits and starts across the 80 foot length of the lawns, passing under a garden table some 6 feet from the kitchen entrance and then foraging under the 15 inch high border shrubs. This is the dry season with no appreciable rain since October so the lawns and vegetable patches are watered daily and we feel that this has created a micro habitat to its liking and it is quite used to the comings and goings of the dogs and people generally ignoring it. We have no need to stalk it. It just obligingly appears in its own time.

As we were expecting friends around this evening I had a late birding 40 minutes around 5 pm and though little was happening scoped up a distant Brown Shrike an overhead Shikra (round here the usual default accipiter) but finally just over the garden wall a Taiga Flycatcher showing well and giving its signature buzzy trill to make it as bird of the day. Around here a species count of 30 in a day is quite good going - about half of what is possible at say Elton. I normally have to work pretty hard with birding pretty pointless after 9 am and 3 showers a day is the norm due to the humidity. The fun is in the searching and sometimes the reward can be stunning.

Finally I have noticed that of the Mynas, the White-vented Myna is often seen on the backs of both cows and buffaloes, mirroring the activities of the Oxpeckers of Africa.

Cheers

Mike P.

 

 



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Saturday 02/03/19

I was out at 6.15 am set on a slow walk along the riverside section with scope and tripod to hand.

Early additions to the trip list were Asian Palm Swift, 3 Black-Collared Starlings, Black Drongos, a Brown Shrike (just outside the garden compound but still on the farm fields) and a White-rumped Munía. What I provisionally took to be Oriental White-Eyes were darting in and out of close foliage above me but perhaps Japanese White Eyes (which winter in Thailand) could be fooling me?

A roughly one km. stretch of the river walk yielded about 20 calling Dusky Warblers, several of which offered up good views, but best was an obliging Raddes Warbler beneath me in a corner of a stubble field, giving almost continuous throaty Tuk calls and showing off well its strong supercilium and ochre toned under tail coverts.

Back at breakfast around 9 am the Rubythroat appeared on the lawn for the others as I was washing out my coffee cup.

At around 10am Paul, Barb and I went into town shopping but took in the temple complex as well. Within its grounds is what seems to be a relict area of good forest which possibly could harbour a few additional species. We saw Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, and more Purple Sunbirds, and a male Olive-backed Sunbird. There were plenty of genetically fine Red Jungle Fowl clawing in the leave litter but were these truly wild or introduced by the monks? - hard to decide.

At around mid-day we were sitting in the lounge section when I noticed the Rubythroat sitting facing us at eye level barely 15 feet away so we obtained a few record shots on my little Lumex camera at x 20 zoom.

With Rubythroat, Brown Shrike, Dusky and Raddes Warblers- that possibly equates with a decent morning on Fair Isle, though never having been there myself who knows??

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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Late afternoon still 01/03/19

We undertook a late afternoon circuit of the rice fields and riverside habitats and added quite a few common species;- Paddyfield Pipit, Black Bushchats, Indian Roller, a Common Iora, a female Ruby-throated Sunbird, White-vented Mynas, Dusky and Raddes Warblers, an Oriental Magpie Robin, sneaky Common Koels, Eastern Stonechats (that I need to study closer), Scaly-breasted Munías, a couple of Pied Fantails, a Plain Prinia, a male Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker in its usual favoured patch, and a Chinese Pond Heron flying down river. A scatter of Little Green Bee Eaters seemed to be active around the whole circuit.

No prizes though for guessing which ended up as my bird of the day, as we sit back with a few beers.

Cheers,

Mike P.



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Friday March 1st,

A lazy start to our first morning after 31 hours on the go and three flights to get here last night.

While sipping coffee in the kitchen (which has one side open to the garden) at 9.45 am, amid the gangs of Tree Sparrows Barb noticed a tallish chat on the lawn edge some 35 feet away, - the wintering male Siberian Rubythroat. Also foraging along the edge of the garden compound; - earlier there had been a Hoopoe which Paul had seen coming in to land beyond the vegetable plot.

I last saw a Rubythroat some 11 years ago and its a nice start to get one now on my Thailand list. Its really nice to watch its circuit around the closest section of the garden. Id forgotten just how leggy they are, with an upright carriage (as Paul describes) rather Pitta like in its moves as it makes little runs out of and back into the cover of the little border hedge.

Durham birders ruefully still ponder on the Sunderland bird in a Roker garden some ten years ago which was only ever seen by three out of county birders before the news finally broke after its departure.

Cheers,

Mike P.

 

 



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Paul advises me that the Siberian Rubythroat was again present on the front lawn a few minutes ago so it seems to be a wintering bird rather than an early migrant passing through. 

According to the indicated range maps in my field guide the species shouldnt be here, but this may simply be down to a general lack of coverage in the past in this overwhelmingly agricultural region. 

Cheers,

Mike P.

 



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Thursday, Feb 7th

No, we are not back in Thailand just yet, (only just back home from Hope Carr last night of course).

We go off in a few weeks time hoping for some new adventures. In the meantime we have news from our older son Paul.

Today he was watering trees and plants around the garden complex when he noticed a passerine on the lawn which on jizz appeared to be something new.

He shouted for Pen to bring his bins, and on glassing the bird realised instantly that he was looking at a lifer; - a male Siberian Rubythroat.... a self-found stunner in the garden; does it get any better?

Looking forward to going!

Cheers,

Mike P.



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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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