Monday, 22 February 2016

Khao Yai

Birding Khao Yai during a holiday weekend had the potential to be a disaster with so many people visiting the park but as it turned out we did pretty well and scored many of our major target species. It was actually the humid, overcast weather and resulting low bird activity that contributed to long periods without any birds showing. Yet how can you go wrong with a group of Silver Pheasants, a couple of views of Siamese Firebacks, a male Blue Pitta, and 2 superb Great Eared Nightjars flying over us before dusk one evening.

Fruiting trees were in abundance and allowed us to get up close and personal to numerous birds....

Black-crested Bulbul

Green-eared Barbet at a fruiting tree showed very well indeed....

A small feeding station was a bit problematic to visit due to the continuous presence of Thai bird photographers in their portable hides, so we visited when they departed frothier lunch break. Not the best time to visit but we did see 2 Orange-headed Thrushes, Abbott's and Puff-throated Babblers and Hainan Blue Flycatcher....

Abbott's Babbler

Puff-throated Babbler

Orange-headed Thrush

I'm thinking this is a female Hainan Blue Flycatcher

Other good birds seen included Sultan Tit, Banded Kingfisher, Banded Broadbill, Two-barred Warbler, Fork-tailed Swift, Silver-backed and Brown-backed Needletails, Red-headed Trogon, Great HornbillWhite-crested Laughingthrush, Radde's Warbler and Yellow-vented Flowerpecker

Non-bird highlights were this White-handed Gibbon, as well as Asian Elephant and Malaysian Porcupine...

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Doi Inthanon

The highlight of our time here was a pair of Green Cochoas sat calling back at us from a perch high up in a tree along a leafy trail. Wow! 

A poor shot of a Green Cochoa... 

We also found most of our target species such as Slaty-bellied Tesia, Pygmy Wren-Babbler, White-browed & Lesser Shortwings, Clicking Shrike-Babbler, Golden-throated Barbet, Green-tailed Sunbird, a pair of Dark-sided Thrushes, Snowy-browed Flycatcher etc

Green-tailed Sunbird

Dark-sided Thrush - not sharp but I like the  profile...

Our second full day on the mountain produced even closer views of all the target species, with Rufous-throated Partridges seen from just a couple of meters away, a mixed flock of Long-tailed and Silver-breasted Broadbills, a bold Small Niltava, and we finished off the day with a scoped Black-headed Woodpecker and 3 Collared Falconets perched together in a large, dead tree.

We had a few hours on our last morning and visited our favourite trail where we found a Vivid Niltava, along with Maroon Oriole and White-throated Fantail before heading back to Chiang Mai and our flight to Bangkok.

Other species seen included Bar-throated Minla, Buff-breasted Babbler, White-headed Bulbul, Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush, Martens’s Warbler, Claudia’s Warbler, Siberian Blue Robin, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Blyth’s Paradise-Flycatcher, Golden Babbler, and a very brief Grey-throated Babbler.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Last Day on Doi Lang

Great views of many birds at the feeding stations on Doi Lang today and we spent quite some time enjoying this amazing spectacle. I've put a few assorted photos below of some of my best shots from the day.

Hill Prinia

Himalayan Bluetail

We saw 3 different Siberian Rubythroats today

Slaty-blue Flycatcher

White-browed Scimitar-Babbler

Spot-breasted Parrotbill

General birding today was also rather productive and amongst a lot of new trip birds were Slender-billed Oriole, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Chestnut Bunting, Blyth's Shrike-Babbler, Hume's Treecreeper, Sapphire Flycatcher, Chinese Leaf-Warbler, Rufous-backed Sibia and Golden-throated Barbet. Best of all were the two male Mrs Hume's Pheasants feeding alongside the road on the way up the mountain at first light. It was a good, fun day although there were inevitably slower periods during the heat of the day and it was good to get back to the hotel a little earlier and have a nice cold beer!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Rare Buntings and Bluetails

The big news from the Zoothera Birding tour to Thailand with Nick Upton today was our discovery of 7+ Black-headed Buntings and a pair of Red-headed Buntings in Thatorn rice fields late this afternoon. There are apparently less than 10 records of both species for Thailand..... In company with them were also some Yellow-breasted Buntings as well. This was a magical couple of hours trying to get definitive views and although I have the following Black-headed Bunting photo, it was Nick Upton who managed a record shot of a Red-headed Bunting. This totally overshadowed the male Jerdon's Bushchat and Baikal Bush Warbler found a little later....!

Black-headed Bunting
Also liked the views of this Pintail Snipe today
Earlier in the day we had birded Doi Lang from the Thatorn side and may well have found one of the few records of Northern Red-flanked Bluetail for Thailand. Although a female and pretty much unidentifiable in this plumage, the call was totally different from the several Himalayan Bluetails in the same area....

female Northern Red-flanked Bluetail

male Himalayan Bluetail

We saw all the usual suspects at the feeding stations and thoroughly enjoyed the mind-blowing views you get here. It really has to be seen to be believed, so here's a few of the best photos from today...

female Large Niltava

male Large Niltava

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher

Scarlet-faced Liocichla

Davison's Leaf Warbler

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Baer's Pochard

For a break from forest birding we drove to Chiang Saen today and birding close to the Laos border and the mighty Mekong River. Stand out finds today were the superb drake Baer’s Pochard (the 3rd time we’ve seen it on this tour over the years) and a drake Falcated Duck. Views were good through the scope but too far for photos.

Birding was typically slow throughout the day but we did find many top birds and amongst other species around the lake were Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Garganey, Pintail Snipe, Grey-headed Lapwings and Plaintive Cuckoo. Along the Mekong was a flock of Small Pratincoles, with Citrine Wagtail, Kentish Plover and Temminck’s Stints. We also had close Red Avadavat, Bronze-winged Jacana, Striated Grassbird and Slaty-breasted Rail

Eastern Marsh Harriers

Ending the day watching 200+ Eastern Marsh and Pied Harriers flying in to roost was awesome, and we even had better than usual looks at Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler. The male Western Marsh Harrier we saw at the roost was also a special bird as there are less than 10 Thai records. So a good haul and our perseverance was rewarded with plenty of quality sightings despite the heat today.    

Friday, 12 February 2016

Grey-sided Thrush at Doi Ang Khang

A rather successful day today as we birded Doi Ang Khang in the morning and then Doi Lang in the late afternoon, with the highlight for me being a couple of Grey-sided Thrushes (see photo below). Now this is not a bird I have seen very often at all and this was only my 3rd or 4th decent sighting ever, but this pair showed well if a little distantly this morning in company with a single Eye-browed Thrush. It wasn't a great day for sharp photo's for some reason but here goes...

We birded a nice sunlit slope and had a great time nailing a whole bunch of goodies such as Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Spectacled Barwing, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Buff-throated Warbler and others. 

Moving on to Doi Lang in the afternoon I was particularly pleased to get this male White-bellied Redstart  at one of the feeding stations. This is a really tough bird to see under normal field conditions but this just proves how amazing these sites are in Thailand. 

A female Slaty-blue Flycatcher was also at the same spot.

After finding a few Crested Buntings we retuned to the same area and got this obliging Spot-breasted Parrotbill....

We ended the day watching an Ultramarine Flycatcher and enjoying fantastic views of a big flock of Cook's Swifts flying low overhead. I did try to get a few pics but they aren't great although you can see the thin rump band and scaly underparts...

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Back in Thailand....

As there are numerous Thailand posts from the past few years I thought that this time i'd do a summary of events as we go along and put a few decent photos here, just to give you a flavour of what birding in Thailand is all about. As you know, we do quite a few Thai tours each year and i really love the birding here.

So today was our first day here in the north and we have reached the forested slopes of Doi Ang Khang where we went straight to one of the feeding stations and totally nailed Rusty-naped Pitta. I mean NAILED IT!! Point-blank views down to 4 metres of this male feeding right out in the open, and a female skulking in the shadows behind.

Rusty-naped Pitta

There was also a flock of Silver-eared Mesias, Black-breasted ThrushWhite-tailed Robin, Hill Blue Flycatcher and Large Niltava at the same spot. So not a bad start right...?

Black-breasted Thrush

Silver-eared Mesia

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

South India Wrap-up

Well i'm on my way to Thailand and some great birding in the dry season (it's definitely not the wet season as some people have suggested!!) & really should wrap-up the end of this tour. We finished our stay at Nagarahole National Park with 2 more jeep safaris and a boat ride. No Tigers this time, although we came pretty close and I feel that if you do maybe 6 jeep safaris then a Tiger sighting is pretty much guaranteed here. It would be a far more 'personal' experience than at one of the busier Tiger reserves in central India, where you might have to share your sighting with upwards of 30 or 40 other jeeps. Here at Nagarahole there are much fewer jeeps in the park and we had only 5 other jeeps at the Leopard we saw. 

Anyway, the boat ride along the Kabini River was very rewarding for sightings of Gaur, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Asian Elephants, Grey-headed Fish-Eagle, Western Osprey, Red-naped Ibis, Red-headed Vulture, and a flock of 250+ Small Pratincoles wheeling overhead at dusk. My particular favourite was the repeated views of a family of Smooth-coated Otters.

Smooth-coated Otter

Woolly-necked Stork

We moved on to Mysore and Ranginathittu Bird Sanctuary where a short boat ride got us up close and personal with Great Thick-knees, Eurasian Spoonbills and Spot-billed Pelicans

A real surprise was the nesting colony of Streak-throated Swallows that we sailed right beside and was a totally mesmerising experience.

Several Asian Openbills were also present and i enjoyed trying to get some action shots of this individual drinking the water and some fine breeding plumaged Little Egrets almost floated my boat....!