Saturday, 28 February 2015

Doi Lang Wrap-up..!

Headed up onto Doi Lang this morning and we were fortunate to see 6 Hume’s Pheasants and a pair of Mountain Bamboo-Partridges on the drive up. This time we drove beyond the feeding stations and walked along the road and this turned out to be a particularly productive excursion. Fine scope views of a pair of Crested Buntings and a close Giant Nuthatch was a good start, and we followed this with Crested Finchbill and repeated views of a pair of Spot-breasted Parrotbills

Giant Nuthatch showed very well today.

We even managed to tease out a male White-bellied Redstart and really enjoyed nice looks at this ace skulker. This was almost as good as the male Asian Emerald Cuckoo we scoped as it sat at the top of a tall tree. Returning to the lusher forest and this time there was a couple Grey-headed Parrotbills in a flock that also contained Grey-chinned Minivet, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo and Stripe-breasted Woodpecker

The Hodgson's Frogmouth was still there....

Record shot of Indochinese Cuckooshrike.

So by now it was late morning and we drove lower to the Ultramarine Flycatcher stake-out for our picnic lunch, and once again had point-blank views of the flycatcher. But this time several Rufescent Prinias were showing well, and then a superb male Fire-capped Tit began feeding on some flowers in a tree at eye-level and was later joined by two females. What a superb way to end our time here.

Fire-capped Tit.

Ultramarine Flycatcher.

 All that remained was to drive to Chiang Mai where we would spend the night.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Baikal Beauty...!

Headed up the Thaton side of Doi Lang and quickly got Scarlet-facd Liocichla, Whiskered Yuhina, Large Niltava, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Claudia's Warbler, Black-eared Shrike-Babbler and others. 

Whiskered Yuhina

Spectacled Barwing

In the early afternoon we returned to the hotel for a little siesta before heading out into the nearby fields. Must admit I love this sort of birding as the habitat was a mixture of river, tall grasses, fields and muddy channels where we picked up a lot of trip ticks and was very enjoyable birding. The highlight was this Baikal Bush Warbler that came out into the open - and was surprised to hear another 6 or 7 calling in the vicinity. 

Baikal Bush Warbler

On the river we saw Oriental and Small Pratincoles, whilst in a weedy field I flushed a Barred Buttonquail, and there was also 3 Eurasian Wrynecks, a brief Lanceolated Warbler, Richard's Pipit, a Bluethroat, and some Pintail Snipe and Greater Painted Snipe. At dusk a flock of Baya Weavers and a Chestnut Munia flew into the tall grass to roost, whilst overhead we saw (and heard) Paddyfield and Red-throated Pipits. This male Pied Harrier also flew by incredibly close to us as well - one of the best encounters with this species i've ever had.

Pied Harrier

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Another Thai Rarity....

Well we did it again, this time finding a Red-billed Starling (at least 2 individuals, maybe 3) a species i've seen in China a few times. There might only have been a maximum of 5 or 6 previous Thai records prior to this - thanks to Nick Upton for spotting it! I didn't manage any photos unfortunately, but there are some digiscoped pics from my group to follow. 

It was a frustrating start to the day despite this great sighting as there were less birds around at Nam Kham Nature Reserve than on my previous visit a few weeks ago. The Firethroat has unfortunately departed, but we did get Daurian Starling and a Ruddy-breasted Crake here. Moving on to the Mekong River, there were lots of Small Pratincoles and a pair of River Lapwings present. But the most exciting period of the day was reserved for the harrier roost where a cloud of Eastern Marsh and Pied Harriers flew in just before dusk. We did very well prior to this with Yellow and Eurasian Bitterns, Eastern Water Rail, White-browed Crake and even a Baikal Bush Warbler. So an interesting day sprinkled with some stardust....

Eastern Water Rail -  a recent split from the European birds.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Doi Lang Does It Again

I always look forward to birding the magical mountain of Doi Lang and despite it being rather hot and some long birdless spells, its secrets were slowly revealed. A few Spot-winged Grosbeaks got the ball rolling this morning, and then we followed this with at least 4 Little Cuckoo-Doves - a big surprise. 

Blue Rock Thrush.

Spot-winged Grosbeak feeding at the top of a huge tree.

Up on the Fang side of Doi Lang we spent the rest of the day along the stretch of road beside the feeding stations seeing Sapphire, Little Pied, Slaty-backed and Pale Blue Flycatchers, Lesser Shortwing, Golden and Rufous-fronted Babblers, a cracking male Siberian Rubythroat, Pallas's and Davison's Leaf-Warblers, Blyth's Shrike-Babbler, Golden-throated Barbet, Chestnut Bunting and a really surprising Indochinese Cuckooshrike. At the end of the day we drove slowly downhill looking for Hume's Pheasant and eventually found a fine male walking along the road and then a pair of Mountain Bamboo-Partridges sealed another fine day.

Pale Blue Flycatcher.

Same bird as above, but different light conditions...
Under normal circumstances this is a great view of Siberian Rubythroat.
But you get spoilt at Doi Lang.......!
This is the way to see Lesser Shortwing.
Just can't get a decent photo of Hume's Pheasant.
Mountain Bamboo-Partridge was the last bird of the day.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Boys are back in Northern Thailand....!

Thought i'd just post a few photos from our first full day in northern Thailand, from the fabulous mountains of Doi Ang Khang and Doi Lang. It was a really good day for some quality birds such as repeated sightings of Giant Nuthatch, 13 Black-headed Greenfinches, a pair of Pale Blue Flycatchers, male Ultramarine Flycatcher, Hodgson's Frogmouth and others. But i'm still trying to forget the pair of Rusty-naped Pittas that only myself and Nick Upton managed to see - didn't even take a photo! 

So here's a selection of the best pics from today...

Hill Blue Flycatcher

Siberian Blue Robin

A large flock of Silver-eared Mesias came in to the feeding station.

Streaked Wren-Babbler

Really loved these Black-headed Greenfinches
Himalayan Bluetail

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher

Ultramarine Flycatcher
Hodgson's Frogmouth - LIFER..!!

Monday, 16 February 2015

New Thailand Tour - Pitta Special...!

Have just posted a brand new tour to Thailand arriving in Bangkok on 28th June and departing 6th July. The emphasis of this short tour is on seeing Eared, Blue-winged, Hooded and Blue Pittas, which during this wet season period are rather vocal and dare I say it, slightly easier to locate. My current group with Nick Upton leading, has just seen an Eared Pitta at Khao Yai on 15th February 2015 - so it is possible!

Eared Pitta

Also at this time of year up to 6 species of broadbill are usually quite confiding and often nesting close or even over the roads at Khao yai and Kaeng Krachen. Other species such as Banded Kingfisher, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher and Asiatic Golden Weaver are also very confiding and offer great photo opportunities. In fact the nesting colonies of weavers (Asiatic Golden, Streaked and Baya) are quite spectacular. 

Banded Broadbill

Black-and-red Broadbill

Black-and-yellow Broadbill

Dusky Broadbill

Long-tailed Broadbill

One of the things about visiting Thailand at this time of the year is that usually the local Thai birding community has most of these species 'staked out' either at a nesting site, or a special feeding station. Last year a Giant Pitta was performing to mealworms in southern Thailand and Hodgson's Frogmouth was pinned down at a day roost in the north - so you never know.... 

For me this is all very exciting and the possibility of not just seeing a select bunch of mouth-watering birds, but seeing them extremely well is what this tour is all about. Yes it is the wet season and we expect some rain, usually in the afternoons and a few leeches, but this is THE time to go and see pittas.... Our itinerary will remain flexible and we can act on current information to make the most of our time in this fabulous country.

Just follow this link for the tour itinerary:

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Eight Go Mad at the Seaside...

Left early and headed to the Phetchaburi area and staked out a small marshy area where we saw some Greater Painted Snipes, along with Chestnut Munia, Brown Shrike, and many Germain’s Swiftlets overhead, whilst some Plain-backed Sparrows and Chestnut-tailed Starlings were inspecting holes in bamboo poles. Across the road we had a Plaintive Cuckoo, Black-headed Ibis, and a frantic pair of Freckle-breasted Woodpeckers that were partaking in some courtship display.

Freckle-breasted Woodpecker - now split from Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker

Our next stop was near the abandoned building in the salt pans where an odd reed warbler type got our pulses racing and it certainly sounded and looked to me like Blyth’s Reed Warbler – one of less than ten records for Thailand. From the photos below you can see the supercilium is short and narrow behind the eye, the primary projection rules out Blunt-winged Warbler, the crown is plain, and there's an all pale lower mandible. I would welcome any comments on this bird please..............

A motley selection of poor photos of poss Blyth's Reed Warbler

Moving on to another set of salt pans we spent some time with the waders again and as well as getting more close-ups of Broad-billed and Marsh Sandpipers, both Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Long-toed Stints, Pied Avocet and Pacific Golden Plovers, we also found 3 Asiatic Dowitchers and 14 Nordmann’s Greenshanks

Nice selection of waders - Asiatic Dowitcher in the foreground.
Checkout the short-billed Curlew Sandpiper - different race maybe..?

We ended with a Ruddy Shelduck, Oriental Skylark and flyby Black-eared Kite to bring our trip list up to 461 species seen in wonderful Thailand. What a great time we had here thanks to Nick Upton and for me, the close Spoonies we had a few days ago was one of the major highlights. So here's one final photo of a very busy salt pan....

Happy memories of Spoon-billed Sandpiper...

Can’t wait to return soon.......