Thursday, 31 January 2013

Khao Yai to Bangkok

We left the lodge full of optimism at 6am and headed to our breakfast stop, but upon arrival we could see the same thick mist covering the hills of Khao Yai and our hearts sank. However, as we drove up higher it was apparent that the road was quite dry and there was seemingly no chance of rain. We drove straight to our favoured road, only stopping to scope a few Barred Cuckoo-doves along the way, and did one pass along it and there right in front of us was a couple of male Siamese Firebacks feeding in the leaf litter. 

Siamese Fireback

So we pulled up and watched them for a few minutes and really soaked up the sighting after yesterday’s endeavours – ignoring the female Red Junglefowl nearby. We drove on some way and checked out another patch of forest where a pair of Black-and-buff Woodpeckers showed well and we also heard several Scaly-breasted Partridges calling.  We then turned around and had a few more firebacks on the road before pulling over and walking a short distance. Amazingly we managed to ignore the calling Blue Pittas all around and found a superb male Red-headed Trogon which came in quite close. And as we watched this cracker a Banded Kingfisher called and we spent several minutes locating a female perched unobtrusively amidst a tangle of vines high up in the canopy. 

So with this big result under our belts we drove to the nearby campsite and saw a few things but nothing much of interest and then headed down to another site where we scoped a Van Hasselt’s Sunbird singing from the top of a tree. Scanning of the river produced White-throated, Common and Black-capped Kingfishers, whilst a Chestnut-headed Bee-eater was also present. Then a Heart-spotted Woodpecker was found poking its head out of its nesting hole, a Little Spiderhunter showed briefly, and a Collared Owlet was found being mobbed by some Stripe-throated Bulbuls. So that was it and after lunch we drove back to Bangkok and an overnight stop en-route to Petchaburi – a much safer way of doing things rather than driving it all in one long 6+ hour drive.  

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Khao Yai in the Rain

Well what a day! It began with thick mist, low cloud and heavy rain which ran right through the morning and only stopped a couple of times before mid-afternoon. We cruised the roads for Siamese Fireback without any luck at all and when we got bored with this we drove up higher and amazingly had a male Silver Pheasant feeding quietly beside the road. I managed to get rubbish photos in the mist but what a moment – a lifer! It seems to me that every Tom, Dick and Bob comes here and ticks this bird and I’ve been the mug who always dips. Well no more my friends!!  

Silver Pheasant - record shot!!

Moving back down the hill, we had Lesser Coucal, a flyover Large Hawk-cuckoo and a few White-crested Laughingthrushes, Blue-winged Leafbird, and in the forest a couple of Pin-striped Tit-babblers. Dodging the extremely heavy showers we set about finding a Blue Pitta and sure enough there were a couple calling. So knowing how difficult this species is for a group to see, even one as small as mine, we waited quietly at the edge of the forest. Playing the call a couple of times and waiting, then repeating the process a few more times….. Nothing. One more try and it called off to our right, skittling across the forest floor at a rate of knots. We moved position, then manoeuvred again to somewhere else, going deeper into the forest but only David and I got onto it. Having pushed our luck too far, the heavens opened again and it was time to retreat.

After lunch at the Park HQ the weather appeared to be clearing up so we returned to our favourite stretch of road, stopping along the way to get cracking views of Bright-capped Cisticola. Another brief stop gave us more White-crested Laughingthruhes, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, and a distant Thick-billed Green-pigeon perched on a dead snag. The pitta was again our main focus and this time success for everyone! We had an awesome male walking back and forth right in front of us across a relatively open patch of forest right beside the road. After this morning’s efforts this was remarkable. We also got onto a Banded Broadbill as well, whilst an Orange-breasted Trogon also put in an appearance in the afternoon sunshine. Feeling buoyed by our success we walked further along the road and bumped into a flock with Ashy, Grey-eyed and Puff-throated Bulbuls, Radde’s and Two-barred Warbler, White-bellied Erpornis,  and Dark-necked Tailorbird. From here we drove to a nearby campsite and walked down the road to view a clearing where Gold-crested Mynas have been coming to roost, but all we had were Common Hill-mynas, although Crimson Sunbird and a flyover Wreathed Hornbill was also nice. I also heard a Coral-billed Ground-cuckoo in the distance but the presence of an Elephant moving up the slope towards us prompted a hasty retreat and when it came onto the road and began to follow us, the adrenalin kicked in and we were out of there. Driving out of the park at dusk we had to brake sharply when a herd of Elephants crashed out of the jungle right in front of us and crossed the road some 30 yards ahead. Ok well that was enough excitement for one day!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Khao Yai

We left Bangkok early doors and rather bleary-eyed, stopping at the nearest ‘7 and 11’ for coffee and toasted sandwiches, before setting out on the hour or so drive to the limestone cliffs and the search for our next target species. It didn’t take too long to locate a pair of Limestone Wren-babblers clambering around the rockface, and we watched them come lower and lower until they were only 20 feet away from us. What views we had and were able to study them in some detail for a good ten minutes before they moved off. With Long-tailed Macaque and numerous white Variable Squirrels, David was in his element but not me! 

Limestone Wren-babbler

 The next stop was on the way to Khao Yai NP and a few Red-breasted Parakeets made their way onto our lists before entering the park. We headed up to one of the campsites where a Mugimaki Flycatcher had returned for its 3rd consecutive winter and sure enough we spotted him straight away. The White-throated Rock-thrush took a bit longer  to come in, so we walked down the road a short distance to scan the forest edge.

Mugimaki Flycatcher

White-throated Rock-thrush
A good move as it turned out as a flock of Brown-rumped Minivets were present and we then had a superb Asian Emerald Cuckoo, along with Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Sultan Tit and a few other things. So we walked back up the hill and got the rock-thrush before driving to the campsite where the usual photo stake-out produced male Siberian Blue Robin, Puff-throated Babbler, Olive-backed Sunbird, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, White-rumped Shama and Black-naped Monarch.

Green-billed Malkoha

We also had a fine Asian Paradise-flycatcher coming into the owlet call, along with Green-billed Malkoha, and both Puff-throated and Grey-eyed Bulbuls. Lunch was taken at the small restaurant here and was rather timely considering the heavy shower that had been threatening for some time suddenly materialised. But with a scope we enjoyed terrific views of a Moustached Barbet chasing a Blue-eared Barbet, and a Green-eared Barbet was seen as well, plus a pair of Greater Flamebacks and Red Junglefowl. When the rain stopped and the sun came out it became rather steamy but the heat encouraged an Oriental Pied Hornbill to perch out in the open and sun itself.

Oriental Pied Hornbill

Then a Heart-spotted Woodpecker appeared and a couple of Mountain Imperial-pigeons flew over. Leaving here we drove to one of our favourite trails and stumbled across a huge Asian Elephant that crossed the road in front of us, threatening at one point to turn and charge our vehicle!

Asian Elephant

But once safely on the trail we spent a good hour and managed to locate a flock of around 30 Long-tailed Broadbills and a group of 6+ Dusky Broadbills as well but only managed some poor record shots, plus several Asian Fairy-Bluebirds.

Long-tailed Broadbill

Dusky Broadbill

So by late afternoon we returned to the minibus and drove back down the road to a good spot for Great Eared Nightjar, and sure enough a pair appeared at dusk and hawked for insects nearby to round off a successful day.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Heading Back to Bangkok

We had one last morning on Doi Inthanon, so returned to our favourite trail just after first light and spent the next few hours having a very enjoyable time amidst some very nice forest. We hit a flock almost immediately with all the usual suspects present and also added a female Vivid Niltava to the list as well. We messed around with a group of White-necked Laughingthrushes that called back to the ipod a little bit but didn’t want to show themselves and also saw a few previously seen species as well. We moved up to an area of pine trees and here we spotted a Silver-eared Mesia feeding in a tree at eye-level and it turned out to be the leader of a flock of maybe 7 or 8 birds. 

Nice scenery on Doi Inthanon

Then we walked out above the treeline and checked the scrub where we had a flyby Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler, female Siberian Rubythroat, a Streaked Spiderhunter and also managed to call in a Banded Bay Cuckoo from about a mile away. 

Banded Bay Cuckoo

So we walked back down to the minibus and returned to the lodge, where after loading the luggage aboard managed to finally see the reported Lesser Shortwing – yayyyy! All that was left was to have lunch, drive back to Chiang Mai airport and fly to Bangkok for the night.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Doi Inthanon

It sure was freezing up at the summit of Doi Inthanon this morning, although our sighting of 10+ Speckled Woodpigeons and a Striated Bulbul on some sunlit trees on the way up kept us going! As the sun slowly crept over the trees at the edge of the summit car park, a few common birds began to appear although not the hoped for Grey-sided Thrush. So we headed down the road a bit and struck gold when a Rufous-throated Hill-partridge began calling and when it ran down the slope towards us and perched on a log, giving its haunting call we knew we were on a roll. 

Rufous-throated Hill-partridge

Well a few cups of reviving, hot coffee later and we were watching one of the very few records of Brambling for Thailand along the boardwalk - only a shame I didn't get a pic. A White-browed Shortwing, Dark-sided Thrush, Green-tailed Sunbird and hordes of tourists later and we were back up on the main road. This time enjoying Ashy Woodpigeons in the morning sunshine and a little later enjoyed even more the close views of a Pygmy Wren-babbler singing from a horizontal branch right in front of us. 

Pygmy Wren-babbler

We then drove down the mountain and checked out a trail which was very quiet in the late morning heat, so drove down to our lunch stop. Still nothing coming to Mr Deang’s feeding station so after a short rest we staked out the Black-tailed Crake site without any joy, and continued our dismal run of failures today with a complete blank. And even extended this run to some night-birding to draw the day to a close. Funny how birding is a great leveller and from a great morning the day petered out into a damp squib, but fortunately everyone was in good humour and we still enjoyed our day.