Monday, 11 February 2013

Thailand - The Fat Lady Has Sung!

We left Kaeng Krachen after a late breakfast and did a last bit of birding around the marshes near Bangkok, which gave us 3 new trip birds: Striated Grassbird, White-browed Crake and best of all, Asian Golden Weaver. Our last trip bird turned out to be a Black-headed Gull and was number 450 that were seen by our group. What a tour we had experienced, with so many top quality birds and amazing views proving Thailand is not just about the Spoonie!

And that got me thinking about the best birds of the tour. So often people ask what was the Top 10 highlights but for this one i'm struggling to keep it below a Top 30..... So here goes:

1.  Rusty-naped Pitta
2.  Spot-breasted Laughingthrush
3.  Japanese Thrush
4.  Silver Pheasant
5.  Scarlet-faced Liocichla
6.  Spot-necked Babbler
7.  Black-throated Laughingthrush
8.  Blue Pitta
9.  Spoon-billed Sandpiper
10. Asiatic Dowitcher
11. White-fronted Scops-owl

Oh I seem to have forgotten Jerdon's Bushchat, Black-and-red Broadbill, Long-tailed Broadbill, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Banded Broadbill, Dusky Broadbill, Chinese Egret, Nordmann's Greenshank, Malaysian Plover, White-faced Plover, Slaty-legged Crake, Wreathed Hornbill, Banded Kingfisher, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Black-and-buff Woodpecker, Black-headed Woodpecker, Rufous-throated Partridge, Bar-backed Partridge, Scaly-breasted Partridge, Siamese Fireback, Himalayan Bluetail.......

Man I love birding in Thailand...! Looking forward to 3 tours there next year already.......

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Kaeng Krachen Hides - for small groups only!!!

This is one of the major reasons why I only take small groups to Thailand, but read on........

Spent the first few hours of daylight on the approach road to the first campsite this morning and picked up a few good birds, beginning with several Southern Brown Hornbills picking their way around some leafless trees in the valley below. There was also a Greater Yellownape, Common and Greater Flamebacks, Golden-crested Myna at last, Asian Drongo-cuckoo, another Black-and-red Broadbill, Orange-breasted Trogon, Large Woodshrike, Great Iora but no falconets… 

Orange-breasted Trogon

During our lunch break back at the lodge a White-shouldered Starling was spotted in a flowering tree and equally unexpected was an Orange-headed Thrush that flew in next to us whilst we were drinking coffee in the dining area! 

So back to the reason for small groups....... In the afternoon we visited one of the hides near Kaeng Krachen which overlooks a small drinking pool, arriving around 2.30pm and settled in for a long wait. We expected to wait in a hot hide, getting bitten by mosquitos and only seeing the odd bird every so often. In reality the time flew by and there was always activity, not only from a procession of great birds but by a variety of squirrels as well – which pleased some of us more than others! Oh and no biting insects! 

Lesser Mouse Deer

Upon arrival we were amazed to see the first of 3 Lesser Mouse Deers coming in to some fruit put out by the owners and what a little darling it was too! Inside the first twenty minutes a group of 4 Bar-backed Partridges appeared and quietly fed in the leaf litter off to our right, but they didn’t hang around too long – and didn’t return at all. So a great start indeed. 

Bar-backed Partridge - note the red throat that this race shows

Several Black-naped Monarchs came in for a bathe and, like everything else, perched up nicely for photographs.  When a few Greater-necklaced Laughingthrushes flew in, they brought with them a pair of White-browed Scimitar-babblers and we really enjoyed studying these and all of the other birds, ‘up close and personal’. 

White-browed Scimitar-babbler

As well as the monarchs, a trickle of other ‘blue flycatchers’ were eventually drawn in with Chinese Blue Flycatcher, a few Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers, and a female Blue-throated Flycatcher. At times there was a riot of activity with numerous species all arriving simultaneously and then a short lull of a few minutes before the next burst. 

Chinese Blue Flycatcher

When 3 Scaly-breasted Partridges quietly crept in I was so pleased and relieved at the same time – a huge result. 

Scaly-breasted Partridges

Another sprinkling of stardust came when a Large Scimitar-babbler appeared but it only stayed for a few moments, as it is one of the shyest denizens of the forest and a truly tough bird to get a decent view of under normal circumstances. 

Large Scimitar-babbler

Next up were a group of Brown-cheeked Fulvettas coming in for a bathe, followed by several Pin-striped Tit-babblers and later on a pair of Abbott’s Babblers as well. 

Abbott's babbler

Abbott's Babbler

Abbott's and Puff-throated Babblers

Brown-cheeked Fulvetta

Pin-striped Tit-babbler

A Pied Fantail chose to fly through the hide we were sat in on several occasions, whilst Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush joined a party of greaters towards the end of the day. 

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush

Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush

But the final piece de resistance came when a stunning Slaty-legged Crake appeared, not once but twice, to bathe in the pool. 

Slaty-legged Crake - stunning isn't it...?

I was totally stunned to be honest and never have I seen this shy, retiring, exceptionally skulking species out in the open. What a day and if only the Eared Pitta had come in instead of calling from some distance away, well that would have been cool too! And as you can see there's far too many photographs from this posting, but I wanted to convey just how busy the drinking pool was and how good the views were. 

Feel sorry for the 'big' groups that don't get to experience this..... Lol

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Kaeng Krachen (again)

It was one of those mornings where everything falls into place and I can look back on our visit to Kaeng Krachen today with very fond memories. It did start quietly as the weather was cooler than usual and heavily overcast and dull, so the forest took a while to liven up – apart from Kalij Pheasant, a couple of obliging Common Green Magpies, Wedge-tailed Green-pigeon and a Grey-headed Woodpecker

Silver-breasted Broadbill

But once we reached the first campsite and heard the distinctive call of Silver-breasted Broadbill then I knew things would getter better soon! Sure enough within the foliage of a large, leafy tree we found maybe a dozen of these stunning broadbills and spent some time watching  them in action. Next up was a pair of Black-and-red Broadbills that gave repeated views and the stunning crimson really shone in the dark area of forest they were inhabiting. 

Black-and-red Broadbill - why did it turn away..?

A Chinese Blue Flycatcher, Sultan Tit and Rosy Minivet all played second fiddle to this vision of black and red loveliness! But as we walked around the campsite a Blue-bearded Bee-eater kept up the quality of sightings and his beard shone electric blue as the sun tried to peek through the murky day.

Rosy Minivet

Moving on and we nailed our third broadbill of the day when a Black-and-yellow Broadbill was called in and landed high overhead in a leafless tree. Through the scope we studied its beautiful plumage and wondered if the day could get any better. 

Black-and-yellow Broadbill

So when a Spot-necked Babbler began calling and showed quite quickly we knew the answer and what a little cracker this is, with a bright white throat, rufous underparts, white-flecked super and sexy neck spotting – this isn’t your ordinary babbler at all! To cap it all a Southern Brown Hornbill began calling and we tracked it down and scoped it in a bare tree. What a morning! 

Lunch was taken at the campsite before driving up to the top of the mountain for a short raptor watch…. Well, in fact just the one raptor, a Mountain Hawk-eagle and maybe we should call it a barbet watch with Great, Blue-throated and Blue-eared all giving cracking views in the few rays of sunshine to hit us today. A Streaked Spiderhunter, Dark-sided Flycatcher and Grey Treepie later and we were driving back down to the Ratchet-tailed Treepie stake-out but found it Treepie-less, although the usual gang of Collared Babblers showed well, a White-browed Scimitar-babbler performed admirably, and we managed to locate just the one Black-throated Laughingthrush. We’d also had a few noteworthy ‘heard onlys’ today with Ferruginous Partridge and Great Slaty Woodpecker….. So what a day, great birds but not-so-hot photos...... 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Kaeng Krachen

Our first port of call this morning was a dry dipterocarp forest on the way to Kaeng Krachen where we picked up a few absolutely fabulous Black-headed Woodpeckers that were associating with a flock of Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes. We had quite nice views of these stunning peckers feeding low down on the trunk of a tree and once they had disappeared set about searching for Rufous Woodpecker but this bird remained elusive. We found a number of other birds here such as Spotted and Asian Barred Owlets, Rufous Treepie, Red-breasted Parakeet and numerous Lineated Barbets. Leaving here we drove to our lodge near Kaeng Krachen and had a quick walk around the extensive gardens seeing Olive-backed Sunbird, Common Flameback and Little Spiderhunter. The open air restaurant had a banana feeder where Oriental Pied Hornbill, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, White-rumped Shama and a variety of squirrels were coming down to feed, whilst a Stripe-throated Bulbul was sitting on a nest nearby. 

White-fronted Scops-owls

The afternoon was spent ‘up the hill’ inside the National Park in search of some very special birds and we got the ball rolling with a Dollarbird and better still, a mind-blowing views of a pair of day roosting White-fronted Scops-owls. Man, I’ve waited years to see this species and here we were with a pair about 20 feet above our heads. Wow! 

Collared Babbler

Back up the hill we quickly nailed Collared Babbler and had repeated views, although the other ‘biggie’ Ratchet-tailed Treepie would keep us waiting until late in the day. During our walk we also had Great Hornbill, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Ochraceous Bulbul, a pair of Bamboo Woodpeckers which rather frustratingly  didn’t show well to everyone, Rosy Minivet, Sulphur-breasted Warbler, a few Yellow-bellied Warblers, Red-headed TrogonLesser Racket-tailed Drongos, and a few flocks of regular species.

Red-headed Trogon

A little flock of babblers appeared which held Grey-throated, Rufous-fronted and Golden Babblers as we walked back down to the minibus at the end of the day. On the drive out we pulled up alongside a Large-tailed Nightjar that refused to budge from the roadside. Must admit I did toast the owls with a nice cold bottle of Chang tonight!!