Saturday, May 5, 2018

Hala Bala with Peter Ericsson, Mark Hogarth, Paul and Dennis Farrell

 23-28 May 2018

Day. 1    We arrived at Narathatiwat airport at around midday to a wonderful welcome by airport staff and tourist police, who seemed genuinely interested by our presence. We boarded our van which had been graciously arranged by our contact Sum Nara Nara and headed to the town of Waeng. Sum Nara Nara is a volunteer for a worthy cause educating youngsters of the dangers of drugs and introducing them to the wonders of nature through his organization, "Spark U River of Life". We met up with Sum at a family restaurant and was treated to some delicious local food before heading to Hala Bala WS.

 For the first night we would be staying inside the park as the only resort in the area was fully booked, (a slight mix up in the planning) The rooms in the park were basic to say the least, just a mat and a pillow on a cement floor!! After unloading our gear we got straight out birding for a few hours along the road. Whiskered Treeswifts were my first lifers of the trip, with many other birds being present including, Red-Bearded Bee-Eaters, Babblers, Crimson-Winged Woodpecker and Long Billed Spiderhunters. A majestic Wreathed Hornbill passed overhead giving us a taster of what we would get the following day. In the evening we headed into Waeng for another great meal and then back to the park to our wonderful beds..

Whiskered Treeswift

Day. 2    Up for an early start we headed off with Sum. Our first stop was at Sirindorn Waterfall, where at the entrance we ticked off Finsch’s Bulbul, one of our main targets for the trip. Along the river gave me my first shots of a Rhinoceros Hornbill. We birded around the area of the river and waterfall until lunchtime when we returned to the truck for some great southern curry and rice. As we were eating, a small fruiting tree gave great views of Crimson-Breasted Flowerpeckers and Grey-Bellied Bulbuls. After lunch we went back to the room and moved our gear to the resort. Ohh, the luxury of a decent shower, a bed and aircon. For the afternoon we headed back in and birded along the road ending up at a river where it duly started to pour with rain. Back to the resort, out of wet clothes, shower and more great food put an end to another great days birding.

Rhinoceros Hornbill

Grey-Bellied Bulbul
Crimson-Breasted Flowerpecker
 Day. 3   Today we started off walking the road outside off the resort whilst we waited for Sum to turn up and got our first great ticks of the day, a Little-Bronzed Cuckoo and Javan Mynas. After getting into the park we birded along the road where we got great views of a Wreathed Hornbill and Dark-Throated Orioles. Eventually we ended up at a checkpoint. At the checkpoint another fruiting tree produced birds by the dozen. Scaly-Breasted Bulbuls being one of the highlights along with Barbets and a nesting Silver-Breasted Broadbill. We headed on to To-Mo Community Forest, one of the last remaining areas of lowland forest in the south. Along the stream, Black-Winged Flycatcher-shrike, Scarlet-rumped Trogon and Rufous-winged Philentoma were all seen. The drive back through the village added Asian Glossy Starlings to the list and on the drive back to base an Orange-Backed Woodpecker was heard but sadly not seen.
Wreathed Hornbill

Dark-Throated Oriole

Scaly-Breasted Bulbul

Hairy-Backed Bulbul
Day. 4   Today we planned for the Research Centre. On arrival we were greeted by an over enthusiastic Bushy-Crested Hornbill. The hornbill must have been a rescue bird as it had no fear of humans, quite the opposite really as it wanted to be part of the team!! We had planned to walk the 1500m trail, but the rangers didn’t seem to be too clued up or enthusiastic about it so I opted to stay around the ground. Peter, Paul and Mark headed off with the rangers only to return covered in leeches after only getting 300m in. Birding around another trail area, my eye caught something to my left, then it flew directly across in front of me. An all but brief, but unmistakably clear view of a Malaysian Rail Babbler. What a great start to the day.. The rest of the morning was pretty quiet with plenty of Spiderhunters seemingly to be the only birds showing well. We went back up to the entrance area where we had seen a small fruiting bush in the morning to find it producing great views of Bulbuls, Flowerpeckers and Barbets. After meeting up with Sum we headed back to the resort.

Red-Throated Barbet
Blue-Eared Barbet
Day. 5   Sadly, today was our last day birding and our last day at the resort, tonight would be spent back in the park. We headed off early into the park set for a full day at To-Mo. We stopped and birded around the to the third bridge area where we had more good views of a Rhinoceros Hornbill. At the checkpoint area we stopped again at the fruiting tree and also picked up a male Banded Kingfisher behind one of the buildings. A walk along another track here also added Sultan Tits and Sooty Barbets amongst others. At To-Mo, birding started a little slowly, but we soon latched onto a fantastic Green Broadbill. Taking a breather for a few minutes, we were suddenly alerted to the call of a Diard’s Trogan not too far away. After a little searching we got a brief view of this fantastic bird before it was gone out of site. As we walked back to the truck another great tick was added to my list in a Rufous-tailed Tailorbird. After a bite to eat and a little more birding we headed back out of the park to Waeng for some more great local food. Back at the HQ we got cleaned up, packed and a few cold ones downed before crashing out for the last night.
Diard’s Trogan

Green Broadbill

Day. 6   The final morning, up and ready to go we had a couple of hours before Sum arrived. So a couple of hours birding was had around the HQ area. One final lifer of the trip for me was a female Blue and White Flycatcher. Around 8am Sum arrived and headed to his house for a great Masaman Curry breakfast.

Overall, a fantastic weeks birding with great company. I am so thankful to have been part of this trip with Peter, Mark, Paul and Dennis. Well over 100 birds logged and over 30 lifers for me. Hala Bala is definitely a great place to bird and one which I hope to return to again very soon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pak Thale & Kaeng Krachan NP with Matt Twiggs 17-19 March 2018

Day 1. Our first stop was at the Pak Thale Shorebird Site for some of Matt’s special targets.  We arrived at first light and began our birding on the track leading to the old pump shed. Many species were present as usual, including; a good size flock of Caspian Terns, Curlews and Whimbrels, Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers, Pacific Golden Plovers and Long Toed Stints among many others. We scoped the flocks left and right up and down the track in search of the Spoon-Billed Sandpipers, but none were present among the Curlew, Broad-Billed, Long-Toed and Red Necked Stints.
We headed to the concrete road up to the view point next to try our luck. In the first salt pan, amongst nice group of feeding Spotted and Common Redshanks and Common Greenshanks was a lone Nordmann’s Greenshank.  The Nordmann’s Greenshank was one of Matt’s big targets, so as expected he was over the moon…
In the next salt pan up there was a growing flock of Stints, mainly Red-Necked. As we scoped, more and more birds arrived, but still no sign of the Spoonie. Then I got one, straight on staring straight at me. I called to Matt quickly to look through my scope, but just as he began to move the whole flock was spooked by something and took flight. As the morning wore on, we continued racking up the numbers. The flocks returned, but we didn’t manage any more views of the Spoonie that morning.
At lunch time we decided to call it a day and headed off for Kaeng Krachan NP. We arrived at Samarn Birdcamp at around 1pm, checked in, grabbed some lunch and headed straight to Luung Sin’s Pond.
The afternoon session proved really fruitful with some great birds dropping in to bathe and drink. Some of the highlights included Large and White-Browed Scimitar Babblers, Banded Bay Cuckoo, White-bellied Erpornis, Brown-Cheeked Fulvettas, Racket-Tailed Treepies and Tickells’ Blue Flycatcher. Although they were seen that morning, no Siberian Blue Robins showed up.
We headed back to the resort around 5:30 for some great food and refreshments and a well-deserved rest.
Banded Bay Cuckoo
Black-Naped Monarch
Large Scimitar Babbler
White-Browed Scimitar Babbler
Tickells’ Blue Flycatcher
Day 2. The next morning after breakfast we headed straight into the park for what turned out to be another great day’s birding. First stop at around Km 9, Black-Thighed Falconets perched high up on a dead tree, Common Flamebacks, Dollarbirds and Green-Billed Malkoha all showed nicely. We birded along the access road getting more and more species including a Crested-Serpent Eagle posing nicely on a tree before arriving at Ban Krang Campsite.


From the campsite we continued birding along the road between the streams getting even more great birds in the bag… Banded and Dusky Broadbills showed well, a fantastic Orange-Breasted Trogon sat a few feet away from us, 3 Black-Naped Monarchs sitting on nests and a pair of Black-Backed Kingfishers were observed starting to burrow their nest.
Black-Backed Kingfisher

After lunch we headed up to Panoen Thung to try our luck. Long-Tailed Broadbills were very briefly seen and a White-Browed Piculet and Silver-Breasted Broadbills made the drive worthwhile among others.
Back at the resort for the evening, I made a change to our plan. We had planned to hit up another water hole the next morning, but I decided to go back to Luung Sin’s in hope of seeing Siberian Blue Robins, a really big target for Matt…

Day 3. The following morning, we got there just after first light and the first bird ???  A sub-adult male Siberian Blue Robin. Well, what a start… at least 4 other Robins showed, males, a female and sub-adults putting a big smile on Matt’s face. Other birds of the morning included: Kalij Pheasant, Scaly-Breasted Partridges, Yellow -Rumped Flycatcher, a distant Bar-Backed Partridge and Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes.
Kalij Pheasant

Siberian Blue Robin (M)

Siberian Blue Robin (sub-adult M)

Yellow -Rumped Flycatcher

After a spot of lunch we headed back to Matt’s resort, where he would continue a couple of day’s solo birding before heading back to Bangkok.
A thoroughly great 3 days birding with Matt, a really great guy and a good friend. Hope to meet up again someday for the next adventure……

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Keang Krachan with Ramesh & Chalinda 2-3 March 2018

Another trip with Ramesh and his good friend Chalinda to Kaeng Krachan was on the books for the weekend.  We met up at Samarn Birdcamp at 6am on the Saturday morning and headed straight into the park. I opted to begin our morning along the access road at around the 8-9km mark. The first bird of the morning was a Common Flameback Woodpecker which is always a good omen for Ramesh. He has always told me, seeing a woodpecker as his first bird is his sign of great things to come….
We immediately latched on to great sightings of a male Banded Kingfisher along with a Black-Thighed Falconet. A little further along the road an Asian Emerald, Violet and Drongo-Cuckoo all showed well in the same tree.

Banded Kingfisher

Fork-tailed Drongo Cuckoo

Great Slaty Woodpecker
Before reaching Bang Kran campsite we had already notched up a great number of birds including 5 lifers for Ramesh. As it was Chalinda’s first birding trip to Thailand, many more were lifers for him. Other highlights along the road included Black and Red Broadbills, Black and Yellow Broadbills, Banded Broadbills, Great-Slaty Woodpeckers, Asian-Fairy Bluebird, Black-Capped Kingfisher and the majestic Great Hornbill amongst many others.

Great Hornbill.

After lunch we headed up to Panoen Thung where Long-tailed Broadbills were busy constructing their nests. At the top at the ranger station and viewpoint, things were pretty quiet given the amount of traffic as it was a weekend..   
Sunday morning we headed back into the park for a few hours and managed to notch up a fair few more birds, including; Velvet-Fronted Nuthatch, Ashy & Swinhoes Minivets, Tickell’s Brown Hornbill, Black-Naped Monarchs, Rufous-fronted Babblers and Silver-Breasted Broadbills.

Black-Naped Monarch

Silver-Breasted Broadbill

On the way out of the park one last great sighting was a Grey-Faced Buzzard perched on a post as a Crested-Serpent Eagle soared overhead
Grey-Faced Buzzard
As always a great couple of days birding with great friends, Ramesh and Shalinda… Two great guys I wish to bird with again sometime soon..

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pak Thale and Kaeng Krachan with Mario and Rhonda.. 4-5 Nov 2017

After an early start picking up Mario and Rhonda, we headed straight to Pak Thale shorebird site in hope of some good views of the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper amongst others. We arrived just after first light and immediately began our hunt. There were plenty of birds present, but as we scanned the flocks the Spoonie wasn’t to be seen. We continued the hunt farther along the road ticking off Red-necked Stints, Broad-billed and Curlew Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, a broad range of Plovers, Redshanks and Greenshanks, but still no Spoonie… At the end of the road there was a huge flock of Eurasian Curlews and Black and Brown-headed Gulls. With a closer scan of the gulls we managed to single out one Slender-billed Gull. Another nice sighting was a flock of 20+ Caspian Terns. As we walked back and neared the truck, finally one single Spoonie was sighted. We headed up toward the view point and ticked off many more birds including Collared Kingfishers, Common, Whiskered, Little, Gull-billed and a single White-winged Tern. One more look back where we had seen the Spoonie turned up a Nordman’s Greenshank among a small group of Spotted Greenshanks. We had ticked off over 40 species in a few hours when we decided to head off down to Kaeng Krachan NP.

Caspian Terns

We arrived at the park at around lunchtime, so we headed straight up to Ban Krang for a spot of lunch. After lunch we began birding along the road between the campsite and stream three. It was pretty tough going, maybe because the weather had recently changed and there was now quite a chill in the air or just that nobody had told the birds that the park had re-opened on 1st Nov. We really didn’t get too much, so we decided to bird the access road for the last couple of hours on the way out. As it turned out it was a good move as the numbers started climbing again. A fruiting tree was full of Thick-billed Green Pigeons, Asian Fairy Bluebirds and Black-naped Orioles.  We also sighted Black-thighed Falconets, Red and Blue-throated Barbets, Pied Hornbills, Dollarbirds, Drongos and a nice Black-capped Kingfisher. We arrived back at the resort just after six for a great meal and a few cold beers.
Thick-billed Green Pigeon

Sunday morning, up for breakfast at 5:30 and then off to Luung Sin’s waterhole. There really was a chill in the air and very overcast. The birding started a little slow but soon picked up with Chinese-blue Flycatcher, Siberian Blue-Robin, Emerald Doves and Stripe-throated Bulbuls putting in the first show. Soon the Scaly-breasted Partriges and Kalij Pheasants put in an appearance. A really nice surprise was the appearance of a Bay-banded Cuckoo. Either a Pale-legged or Sakhalin leaf Warbler called by, but with no sound it will have to remain unknown. 

Kalij Pheasant

Pale-legged or Sakhalin leaf Warbler

Emerald Dove

Scaly-breasted Partrige

Siberian Blue-Robin

Stripe-throated Bulbul

Bay-banded Cuckoo
After lunch back at our resort we headed back to Bangkok, but not before taking a slow drive through the Phetchaburi rice fields. 

Overall a pretty successful trip considering the conditions. Over 100 birds seen and about 20 lifers for Mario. Thanks again to Mario and Rhonda, really pleasant people and a great couple to bird with. I hope to meet them again someday…

Mario and Rhonda

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ratchaburi Rapture.

First Trip.

After spending many hours exploring at my little known National Park in Ratchaburi for the last year or two, things took a dramatic turn recently. I was contacted by a friend regarding another entrance into the park. We met up to try to find the Rusty-naped Pitta which had been spotted in recent weeks. This area, “the other side” of the park looked really promising. We set up hides and waited….. White-rumped Shamas were first to show, followed by Abbot’s, Buff- breasted and Puff-throated Babblers and a pair of Scaley-Breasted Partridges. Then the first Blue Pitta turned up. After getting a few shots, the Rusty-naped Pitta began calling. We waited for a while getting more shots of the Blue but the Rusty didn’t show this time. 

Blue Pitta

Buff- breasted Babbler

Puff-throated Babbler

Scaley-Breasted Partridge

An interesting lizard showed for a while giving us an amazing insight into its camouflage and colour changing abilities. I think I am right in saying it was a “Boulenger's Pricklenape”.

Boulenger's Pricklenape

Boulenger's Pricklenape
We stayed around the area for a few more hours, meeting up with some interesting guys that gave us more information on exciting sightings of this area. The weather was now closing in, so we made the drive back down the mountain vowing to return for further explorations.

 Second Trip.

The following weekend we planned to meet up again. I left the house at 3:45 am, driving for about 2 hours in the pouring rain. Arriving at the park area the rain had stopped and it was looking good. As I arrived at the top of the mountain, the rain began again. It didn’t last too long and I was soon in the hide hoping for some Rusty action….. Blue Pittas seemed to be everywhere, but Rusty was silent. All the previous week’s birds showed plus a Banded Broadbill was seen and a Silver-breasted Broadbill was heard. Some Hornbills flew overhead but were not seen. From the sound, I would say more than likely Great Hornbills. Walking around the area turned up more Blue Pittas, Asian Fairy Bluebirds, various Bulbuls, Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrushes and Oriental Honey Buzzard. 

Blue Pitta

The drive back down the mountain also turned up many more birds including: Blue-bearded Bee-Eaters, Yellow Vented Flowerpeckers, Olive-Backed Sunbird and of course another Lizard.

Blue-bearded Bee-Eater

Yellow Vented Flowerpecker

Olive-Backed Sunbird

 I will definitely be back in there soon. Anyone interested in finding out more about this place, drop me a line at