Monday, August 1, 2016

The End of the Ear(ed) Ache



The year long Ear(ed) Ache finally came to an end this weekend. After seeing pictures on social media last week of the first feeding Eared Pittas at Luung Sin’s, I just knew I had to drop everything and get there as soon as I could. Last year I had made the trip 5 times with no luck of any decent pictures. The first trip of 2015 only rewarded me with a beak, as the hen was tightly tucked up in her nest incubating her eggs. The following three trips looked promising, but only to be greeted with disappointment on each visit as each time the nests had been raided by natural predators and left abandoned. I got one final chance in October as a late breeding pair had been discovered and were feeding. The final visit was looking good until this trip was also dashed by an unfortunate and terrible accident involving a young lad on a motorcycle and the front of my truck. The whole day was spent at the police station whereas it should have been spent in the jungle. 2015 did not finish as a good year!!
So, after seeing these recent posts, I got my spot reserved (thanks to Ray Pearce) at Luung Sin’s. After spending the evening at a friend’s party, getting up at 3am was not an easy task, I kid you not! But nothing was going to stop me from laying this Ear(ed) Ache to rest, once and for all.
Eared Pitta
Eared Pitta
Arriving at 6:30am, I met up with sin and he showed me to the site. The fantastic Eared Pitta didn’t take long to show up with his beak full of worms. Feeding was constant with trips by the male being made every 5-10 minutes. Although I had the whole place to myself until around 9am, the light was not too good and it was proving difficult to see the bird out in the open for decent shots. Intermittent rain showers didn’t do too much to help either.


Eared Pitta
Eared Pitta
As the morning drew on, some better shots were coming my way and I was beginning to feel that I had some good shots in the bag. Suddenly I was distracted by an accipiter which landed in a nearby tree. I grabbed the camera off the tripod and rattled off a few handheld shots. Initially I thought Crested Goshawk or Crested Honey Buzzard. When I got home and checked the pictures and with a little help from Peter Ericsson, we concluded that what I had shot was actually a Jerdon’s Baza, an excellent lifer to add to an already great day for me. I stayed until midday improving on my Eared pictures (I think) until it was time to leave. Finally, the Ear(ed) ache was gone…..
  
Eared Pitta
Jerdon's Baza
Jerdon's Baza

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cinnamon Bites...




Not being able to get away to Kaeng Krachan as planned last weekend, I opted to spend a couple of hours around my local rice fields. The rice was just being harvested, so there was a fair bit of activity going on with Munias being the most in abundance. I noticed a head pop up from the threshed rice, which I immediately identified as a Cinnamon Bittern. The Cinnamon Bittern is one of those birds that I have only briefly seen before, with limited chances of getting a decent shot. I snapped off a few shots of the distant head only to then notice another and then another. Cinnamon Bitterns seemed to be popping up all across the field. It kind of reminded of the arcade game where heads pop up, which then you have to hit with a mallet……  

Up and down they bobbed until a brave one appeared in the open. The brave lad seemed to encourage the others, as within five minutes I managed to count fourteen at one time. There must have been over twenty in the one field as they kept appearing and disappearing. I am not really sure about the Cinnamon Bittern’s courtship behavior, but there did only seem to be one female that was attracting the attention of all the males. Everywhere she flew the males would follow, then luckily she landed reasonably close to me so I could get a few half decent shots. After about 30 minutes they all seemed to disappear into the rows of cut rice straw. It seemed that I had been extremely lucky and arrived at just the right time.










After the Bitterns had gone, a single male Watercock appeared followed by a pair of Black-shouldered Kites which gave a nice aerial display, hovering and diving for prey, although I didn’t see them actually catch anything. The next afternoon I return to the same spot, but nothing was about… It really must have been one of those “right place, right time days”…



Monday, January 25, 2016

Red Alert.. Strawberry Fields.


New Bird Spot......

Well, after seeing my first Red Avadavat at Pak Phli a few weeks ago, I ventured out for a bit of local birding as the end of month bank balance wouldn’t allow me to go any further afield. I headed for my usual Kingfisher site to see if much was about. The water level had really dropped, with some parts reduced to just puddles!! Not much here then. On the way back I remembered an old farm track I had visited a long time ago. The red gravel surface kind of reminded me of Pak Phli, so I got to wondering if it could produce anything similar.

In my mind were Bluethroats and Pipits, but as I parked up and had a scan around with the binoculars, the first birds I saw were two bright red spectacles… Red Avadavats!!!! I had never dreamt of seeing them here in Patthumtani especially as the one I had seen at Pak Phli had been a first for me. I managed a few terrible shots before they were gone. This track looked promising!! Throughout the morning I didn’t see them again, but there were plenty of other birds about. Munias, Stonechats, Plain Prinias, Zitting Cisticolas, Streaked Weavers, Brown Shrikes, 5 – 6 Black Shouldered Kites and a single Paddyfield Pipit completed that morning’s trip.

Black Shouldered Kite
Black Shouldered Kite

Plain Prinia
Plain Prinia
























I decided to make the trip again the following day, but this time to arrive just before sun rise. Sunday morning, I parked up in the darkness just before sun-up. As soon as the sun broke, those little red sights started to appear. It really was difficult to keep count with them as they flitted to and fro in the scrub field. There were definitely over a dozen of them, but still too far to get any decent shots. It was only when I drove a little further along the track, I found the perfect spot where they seemed to congregate.


Red Avadavat
Red Avadavat

Red Avadavat
Red Avadavat



Red Avadavat
Red Avadavat

Red Avadavat
Red Avadavat

 In an instant, everything seemed to up and fly in a panic, which was when I saw it!!

As I looked up I was suddenly aware of a female Pied Harrier no more than 10 metres from me. “Damn! Damn!! Focus will you!!” The camera (or me) seemed to freeze and focusing seemed to take an absolute age!! I did manage to get off a few half decent shots, though. The Reds didn’t hang around after this and I didn’t see them again. Mostly the same birds were seen again after that with the addition of a snipe bobbing his head up and down in the rice field. 



Pied Harrier
Pied Harrier

Pied Harrier
Pied Harrier

Pied Harrier
Pied Harrier

I will take another look in again next week to see if I can get some better shots of the Reds and hopefully the male Pied Harrier will put in an appearance….

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Got the Blues....

Pak Phli

As my last trip to Pak Phli failed to turn up any Bluethroats, one more trip was in order before going back to work on Monday.  I actually planned for Wednesday, but Tuesday night was too long so didn’t make it….. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday… same same… Saturday morning I woke up at 4:30, gotta go gotta go…..
 I arrived at just after 7 am. As I drove along the approach road, the first bird sighted was a Black-capped Kingfisher. A striking bird and one of my favourite kingfishers. As usual, hundreds of Black Kites lined the road roosting in the Eucalyptus trees.

Black-capped Kingfisher






Long-tailed Shrike






















I drove down past the second bridge towards where I had seen the Bluethroats before, a single Long-tailed Shrike posed nicely, soaking up the morning sun. I chose my spot and went about setting up the hide.. Well, I hadn’t even taken the rest of the gear out when the first female Bluethroat flew down, right in front of me, almost with a look on her face of “Ok so I’m here, where are my worms!!!”

Bluethroat

Bluethroat

Rosy Pipit
Stonechat

Bluethroats, Stonechats, Plain Prinias and Rosy Pipits showed really well and it was interesting to note the pecking order… It seemed the Stonechats would warn off the Bluethroats, the Bluethroats chased away the Rosy Pipits and when a Prinia arrived, all dashed for cover….
A brief visit by a Chestnut-eared Bunting was the first lifer of 2016 for me, and it also put on a great display of mobbing a Bluethroat..

Chestnut-eared Bunting mobbing a Bluethroat

Chestnut-eared Bunting

 The second lifer of the day for me came in the form of a bright red flash passing to my left, as I peered out of the side flap of the hide, there it was, a Red Avadavat!!! A fantastic little bird with its striking red plumage.. It stayed around for such a short time I only managed 3 quick shots. Next time, I will remember to take some finch seed with me.


Red Avadavat


With the sun getting higher now and the birds becoming less frequent, I decided to have a drive around the perimeter road before heading back.The first bird I came across was the Plain-backed sparrow, with such a striking mix of colours to its plumage, why on Earth is it called “Plain”??? A Striated Grassbird was delightfully emptying its lungs a little further along the road, and then a Purple Heron just about rounded off my morning. 


Plain-backed Sparrow

Purple Heron

Striated Grassbird

Pak Phli is a wonderful place for birding at the moment, and being only a couple of hours from Bangkok it’s well worth a vist… 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Woodpeckers Galore...



Woodpeckers Galore...


This was my first trip to Huai Kha Khang as from what I had read previously, special permission was needed to enter this wildlife reserve. I was told this was not really the case now and that you can just turn up and pay at the gate. Finally we got there after making a few wrong turns, paid the fees and entered the sanctuary. The 10km entrance road is mainly dry dipterocarp forest with a few areas of grassland and bamboo forest at the lower levels. Towards the end of the road the forest was literally alive with woodpeckers…  Groups of 6-8 Black Headed Woodpeckers seemed to be everywhere we looked. Also a good number of Common Flamebacks were seen here too.


Black-headed Woodpecker
                                                          Black-headed Woodpecker


                                                    Common Flameback Woodpecker

After setting up camp, a good walk about was in order to explore the trails. At the carpark, a ranger pointed out a Lineated Barbet at his hole in the tree right next to the gate house.Towards the memorial area a single White-bellied Woodpecker was seen. Other birds seen in this area were Thick-billed Green Pigeons, Imperial Mountain Pigeons, Greater Racked Tailed Drongos Black-hooded Orioles, Sooty Headed Bulbuls and a White-throated Kingfisher.
 


Lineated Barbet
                                                                Lineated Barbet



Imperial Mountain Pigeon










              Imperial Mountain Pigeon                                          Thick-billed Green Pigeon                                               


                                                              Black-hooded Oriole

After a spot of lunch, we decided to bird along the road leading to the campsite. I was rewarded with some excellent views of a White-bellied Woodpecker and a large flock of Red-billed Blue Magpies.
The Red-billed Blue Magpie is a cracking bird and relatively easy to see, but I just never seem to get them out in the open for a good shot…



White-bellied Woodpecker
                                                       White-bellied Woodpecker

A fairly interrupted night ensued as the deer around the campsite were being chased and disturbed around 1am by ………?? What?? I don’t know. Could it have been the “big cat”? To be honest, I really didn’t feel brave enough to venture out for a look.
The next morning we walked the “Home of Tiger” trail. Again, plenty of Black-headed and Flameback Woodpeckers were present. A nice surprise was a pair of Rufous Treepies.


                                                               Rufous Treepie

We packed up and decided to bird the access road for a few hours before heading back.  Again the forest was brimming with woodpeckers. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to see a Great Slatey Woodpecker, but this park truly is the best place I’ve ever been to for woodpeckers. We walked the “Dry Dipterocarp Forest” trail, but not much was seen here and the blazing sun soon forced us back to the truck.
Around the “Pong Chang Puak” trail area we saw a flock of Red-breasted Parakeets, a pair of Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, another Rufous Treepie and a single Hoopoe


                                                           Red-breasted Parakeet

I highly rate this reserve and will be spending some more time here in the very near future. Unfortunately, I was very limited for time this week, so we didn’t have time for the observation towers or to bird the “Khao Hin Daeng” trail. I am thinking around Christmas/ New Year, so if anyone would like to join me get in touch or leave a comment below…….
I will be writing a new description with maps for http://www.thaibirdspot.com soon, so look out for that one coming soon….

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Finally... Pak Pli Revisited

Pak Pli



Finally, after all the hassle with my truck, it was finally great on Saturday to get it back again all fixed with the aircon now blowing nice and cold. So, where to on Sunday?? I had been chatting with Gary booth mid-week about Pak Pi as I had posted a picture of a Bluethroat for Ray Pearce’s challenge, 7 birds in 7 days. I thought “Off for the Bluethroats then”. We agreed to meet up on Sunday, promising ourselves not to get too rat-arsed on Saturday night. (Although I think I did!) I arrived at Pak Pli just after 7am and the sun was already scorching. I met up with Gary and we said our “Hello’s” then off to the birding. There must have been over 500 Black Kites at the roost site waiting for the thermals to give them their rides to the top of the sky. Up to 10 Kites in one small tree really is a sight to behold.



Black Kite


I left the kite roost for the area I had seen the Bluethroats before. Plenty of Stonechats were present, but no sign or sounds of the Blues. Along the road, 2 Common Kingfishers, a stunning Long-tailed Shrike and a solitary Wood Sandpiper were seen.
Gary rejoined me, and as he put it “The circus had just arrived!” Truckloads of happy snappers arrived for the spectacle of seeing the mass of Kites. I had noticed a lot more signs along the road that morning, it looks as if Pak Pli has become a popular tourist attraction now. (Wait for the entrance fees!!!) 

We waited and wandered around the road area for an hour or two, but still no luck. Gary went off in search of getting some better views of the Kites and I opted to go off to the right down past the ponds. Along the road were plenty of Paddyfield Pipits and Indo-Chinese Bushlarks, but I didn’t see any Rosy’s. About 20 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, 1 White-Throated and 1 Black-capped Kingfishers graced the pond, hunting for their prey.
For some reason, today the sun and the heat just seemed so intense that a lot of my birding had to be done in the aircon from the truck.


Long-tailed shrike

Indochinese Bushlark













Plain-backed Sparrow

Striated Grassbird















Just after midday, I drove around the perimeter road to meet up with Gary. He pointed out some Spot-billed Pelicans far in the distance and we noted an Oriental Darter, a Black-capped and a Common Kingfisher.

I moved on again, taking the loop back to our original starting point. More Bee-eaters and Stonechats were ever present, with a pair of Bronze-winged Jacanas with a juvenile and Purple Herons gracing the fields. A single Striated Grassbird was pumping his lungs out atop a eucalyptus tree. A little further along I stopped at a small fish rearing lake which held 40+ Spot-billed Pelicans and a single Grey Heron. Due to the terrible stench from the lake I opted to not venture any further there!!  

Juvenile Bronze-winged Jacana

Spot-billed Pelican


As I was heading back, I stopped to chat with a Thai birder who was waiting it out for the Booted Eagle that had been seen the previous day, he informed me of a usual perching spot for an Osprey. I decided to wait with him for a while. Sure enough the Osprey returned with a freshly caught fish in its talons, it perched and began its feast, ripping the fish apart. Unfortunately, it was so far off, my 300mm lens had no chance of getting me a decent picture. Gary had turned up and thankfully with the aid of his scope we manage a few pictures with our mobile phones.

Osprey

With the time getting on now, I really wanted to spend a little more time to see if the Bluethroat would make an appearance, so I drove back to the site. As I arrived I met a young Thai lady taking pictures of a distant tree in the field. She pointed out the bird and I guessed it could be another Osprey, It was only when Gary came to the rescue again with his scope we could confirm it was a Marsh Harrier.


Marsh Harrier

Purple Heron


One more quick drive to the end of the road nicely turned up another Purple Heron (5) and Yellow Bittern (3)
Overall a good days birding with a few lifers for me and great to meet up with yet another Facebook friend. Many thanks and a pleasure to meet you Gary Booth. Hopefully the Bluethroats will be making an appearance soon so I can get back there and get a few more shots of this cracking little bird.

If anyone is interested in making this trip, please let me know at bootly661@ gmail.com or through Thaibirdsot

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Out and about at last...

Finally got the truck back at the weekend, so I was itching to get out and about again (6 weeks no transport was a real bind) Well, as it turned out I didn't get very far but a trip around my local patch did turn up a few birds. Kingfisher Lane turned up 4 White-throated and 2 Common, but still no Black-capped. A Black Eagle was a nice surprise appearing low out of the rice field and disappearing into a distant palm. Other sightings included ; 6 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, 2 Indian Rollers, 4 Black Drongoes, 1 Black-shouldered Kite, 1 Black Bittern, 2 small flocks of Scaly-breasted and Chestnut-headed Munias. As always, vast numbers of Asian Openbills, Egrets and Pond Herons adorned the rice paddies. Hopefully this weekend, I may have time to venture a bit further afield..

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Snipe's Return

The Snipes are back in town!!

Snipe...

Pintail or Common????

Well, I can safely report from yesterday afternoon's drive around my local area that the Snipes are back... At least a dozen were spotted (thaibirdspotted) around the perimeter of four rice fields. (Does anyone know why they prefer the edges as I never see them deeper in the fields)





So it's coming up to that time of year again for my local patch. Blue-tailed and Green Bee-Eaters a plenty, Common, White-throated, Stork-billed, Pied and Black-capped can usually all be seen along a 2 km  lane running parallel to a little canal, Brown, Burmese and Tiger Shrikes line the farm fences in the sunny morns with the sounds of Zitting Cistoculas and Prinias somehow bringing back memories of balmy sunny days back home. Baya, Streaked and Asian-golden Weavers go about their weaving.



Plaintive Cuckoo


 A great place for Plaintive Cuckoos is a little pond full of Lotus flowers next to a small local restaurant where the cuckoos feast on caterpillars in the evening as I finish my day with a cold beer....










Sunday, July 5, 2015

Chaloem Phrakiat NP

Continuing my quest to explore this park and to take a break from http://www.thaibirdspot.com/ ,
I was back there again this week for another forage around.
Today was the best birding I've had there so far with some new ticks for this little known park.
The highlights for me had to be White-browed Piculets in two different locations and a Rufous-bellied Niltava (a lifer for me). Blue-winged Pittas were out in abundance with one pair feeding chicks. I got a good idea of the nest location, but didn't venture any further so not to disturb them too much.


Drongo ???

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker

Green-eared Barbet














Other sightings included Spangled and Greater Racket-tailed Drongoes, Green-eared Barbets, Yellow-vented and Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers, Abbot's and Puff-throated Babblers, Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrushes, a Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Mugimaki Flycatchers, Hill and Golden-crested Mynas and a single Hooded Pitta was heard.



White-browed Piculet
White-browed Piculet











Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker




Puff-throated Babbler





















Rufous-bellied Niltava
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker














 To my mind this place just keeps getting better with every visit. Although I have seen most of these species many times before, it's been a real buzz finding them again without KNOWING exactly which spot to head for as with KK. I will return there again next Saturday and hopefully the young Pittas will be out and about.