Sunday, November 30, 2014

Nam Nao National Park

15th-17th November was spent at Nam Nao National Park, which in complete contrast to Khao Yai was quiet, even at the weekend, well run, trails maintained and the staff were friendly and welcoming. We stayed in one of the national park bungalows, which unusually for Thai National Parks, were of a reasonable standard and well maintained. We did not have to go far from our bungalow for good birds with the undoubted highlight a White-bellied Woodpecker feeding in the open in adjacent trees. Great-slaty Woodpeckers were heard daily morning and evening, but we failed to track them down, good numbers of Hill Myna were also noted, as were up to half a dozen Black Baza. On our first evening and final morning a very noisy group of White-crested Laughing-thrush fed around the bungalow on some discarded papaya.

Our Bungalow and Transport at Nam Nao National Park

Much of our time was spent birding around the large and very pleasant campsite, were one of the commonest birds were  White-crested Laughing-thrush, with several large groups encountered, which unlike elsewhere were very tame and approachable. A pair of Red-headed Trogon showed down to a few feet each morning by the campsite entrance and on our first morning several very noisy Green Magpie also showed well. On the Sunday afternoon once everyone had gone home a group of up to eight Red-billed Blue Magpie were watched feeding on the ground out in the open for nearly half an hour. Other noteworthy birds seen around the campsite included Great Barbet, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Bamboo Woodpecker,  Large Woodshrike, Eurasian Jay, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Black-throated and Lesser Neck-laced Laughing-thrush, Golden-crested Myna, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Plain Flowerpecker and Ruby-cheeked Sunbird.

Red-billed Blue Magpie
by Fred Rowe
We walked the nature trail and river trails once, both were very quite part from many leeches, with the best birds being several Red-billed Scimiter Babbler and a pair of Northern White-crowned Forktail. In the evening at least two Savannah Nightjar were seen over the car park by the restuarants. Birds in the drier open forest included Blossom-headed Parakeet and Large Cuckoo-shrike.

Others species seen/heard included Bar-backed Partridge, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Green-billed Malkoha, Asian Barred Owlet, Blue-eared Barbet, Speckled Piculet, Lesser Yellownape, Ashy Minivet, Black-hooded Oriole and Sulphar-breasted Warbler.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Khao Yai National Park

Asian Elephants Khao Yai
November 11th-13th, we spent four days birding at Khao Yai National Park, we stayed outside the park at Balios Resort, there were a few birds in the resort grounds, including a singing male Pied Bushchat and good numbers of Red-breasted Parakeets flying over, with small numbers in dead trees near the hotel each day from late afternoon.  

We entered the park each day at 6am, as soon as the park gates opened, paying the very high 400 Thai Baht entrance fee each day. The first few hours were spent birding along the entrance road and various view points, by 9am the entrance road resembled a formula 1 grandprix circuit we then headed to the quieter parts of the park. The birding was hard work, made worse by the large numbers of leeches en-counted, We did however see some good birds, at our first stop on the first morning a pair of Great Hornbill flew into roadside trees and posed for photographs, a bit further along the road we found two groups of Siamese Fireback, with another group found on one of the trails the next day. Along the lower parts of the radar road we found a male Silver Pheasant, several Orange-breasted and Red-headed Trogon, a mixed group of White-crested, Black-throated Laughing-thrush and Large Scimiter Babbler. Large numbers of Hill Myna and several Golden-crested Myna were seen daily in flowering trees, along with lots of Vernal Hanging Parrot. Disappointingly very few raptors were seen with the best single Changeable Hawk Eagle and a Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle. Whilst watching birds come in and out of a fruiting tree  a smart male Siberian Thrush appeared briefly before disappearing of into the forest. 

Other species seen/heared included several Green-legged Partridge, Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Oriental Pied and Wreathed Hornbills, Laced Woodpecker, Common Flameback, Sulphar-breasted Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Golden-headed Cisticola, Dark-sided Flycatcher and Buff-bellied Flowerpecker.  

We also did reasonably well for mamals with two Yellow-throated Martin in the road early one morning, a small family party of White-handed Gibbon in trees above our head and a group of Asian Elephant crossing the road, early one afternoon on the way out of the park. 

Having not been to Khao Yai National Park for a few years, I was surprised how busy the park was, even in the week, by 9am the entrance road begins to get very busy and by late morning, there is a constant stream of cars, motorbikes, mini bus heading towards the HQ, many travelling at high speeds, resulting in several monkeys being killed by cars. It is also becoming increasingly difficult to get onto the trails, with several now closed one due to poisonous insects and those that are open are poorly maintained and for which additional permits and guides are now needed. I stood reading one of the no access signs at the start of a trail and was told very rudely by a park official not to go on the trail, not to park along the roadside, he then continued with more abuse in Thai, some of which i understood, apparently us westerners stink! he soon shut up when i called him a Water Monitor Lizard in Thai.  The park is a world heritage site, but the park officials do not seem interested in the parks wildlife or those that come to see it, with proposals to turn the entrance road into a duel carriageway to cope with the volume of traffic, the future of the parks wildlife must be in doubt. Is Khao Yai still worth visiting?, probably, but the increasing hassles make it less attractive, avoid weekends and public holidays at all costs and don't expect a friendly Thai welcome by park staff.  In contrast staff at Nam Nao and Mae Wong National Park, were helpful, friendly and seemed interested in the parks wildlife

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pak Thale/Leam Pak Bia early November 2014

Long-toed Stint
I have just spent Nov 8th and 9th birding the coast near Petchaburi with friends Fred and Marian Rowe, as usual the birding at Pak Thale and Leam Pak Bia was excellent with many thousands of waders and terns now present in the area for the winter. We visited the salt pans at Pak Thale a couple of times at high tide, soon finding two Spoon-billed Sandpiper, one feeding with a handful of Red-necked Stint and one roosting with stints on a dry salt pan. Large numbers of Eurasian Curlew were present in the area, but too distant and the light to poor to pick out any eastern birds, but a dozen Red-necked Phalarope were closer, with another found feeding with Marsh Sandpiper right by the roadside. 

Marsh Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper and Long-toed Stint
Huge numbers of waders were roosting on the last few salt pans before the sea, at Pak Thale including 24 Asiatic Dowitcher, 3 Red Knot and several hundred Great Knot, Black-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel. A coffee break overlooking nearby mud flats, added several Terek Sandpiper and at least 200 Broad-billed Sandpiper to the trip list.     

Spotted Redshank
An additional stop at salt pans nearer Leam Pak Bia, found a flock of 42 Nordmann's Greenshank, at least 24 Pied Avocet, 8 Ruff, many thousands of terns which included huge numbers of Common, Whiskered and Little and smaller numbers of Gull-billed, Caspian and White-winged Black.  A group of four Pintail among the terns looked out of place.  
Little Ringed Plover
We made several visits to the research project at Leam Pak Bia, including one till dusk, three Spot-billed Pelican were present on the pools and at dusk many Night Heron appeared from out of the mangroves, with thousands of Black Drongo and mynas heading into them to roost. Good numbers of White-shouldered Starling were recorded heading in with at least 500 logged by dusk, many of which paused in nearby trees giving good views and allowing us to pick out several Chestnut-tailed Starling and a surprise Purple-backed Starling

Night Heron
At a freshwater area slightly inland  24 Grey-headed Lapwing were present, along with a dozen Temminck's Stint, several Red-throated and Richard's Pipit and singing Oriental Skylark.

Other species recorded over the two days included many Black-capped Kingfisher, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, hundreds of Brown-headed Gull, Osprey, 2 Peregrine, Kestrel, Oriental Darter, 4 Ashy Minivet, Oriental Reed Warbler and Eastern Yellow Wagtail.

Saturday evening several thousand Fruit Bats were seen leaving the mangroves.

Many thanks to Fred and Marian Rowe for supplying photos.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Streaked Wren Babbler

Streaked Wren Babbler
by Fred Rowe
Have just spent a couple of days at Chiang Dao, where most birding was carried out around Wat Tham Pha Plong. Despite several hefty thundery downpours a decent selection of species was seen, including some which seem much easier to see at Chiang Dao than elsewhere in Thailand. Green-legged Partridge were heard calling form at least four different localities, 2 pairs of Blue-bearded Bee-eater showed well as did two Violet Cuckoo around the car park, two Pin-tailed Green Pigeon were noted among a flock of 20 Thick-billed Green Pigeon, a very obliging Streaked Wren Babbler showed well on the temple steps as did two Purple-naped Sunbird by the bridge over the dry stream, a regular hangout for this species.

Blue-bearded Bee-eater
Other species recorded included 2 Bay Woodpecker, Great and Blue-eared Barbet, Orange-breasted Trogon, 3 Drongo Cuckoo, two Banded Bay Cuckoo, 20 Brown-backed Needletail, 50 Crested Treeswift. Collared Owlet, 8 Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Emerald Ground Dove, 2 Grey-backed Shrike, 2 Green Magpie, Great Iora, 15 Large Woodshrike, Hill Blue Flycatcher, 30 Striated Swallow, 4 Claudia's Leaf Warbler, 2 Grey-crowned Warbler, three Buff-breasted Babbler, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta and Yellow-vented Flowerpecker.

Despite spending the heat of the day gazing up at the sky, the only raptors recorded were a single Crested Goshawk and Grey-faced Buzzard. Asian Barred Owlets were heard in the evenings, along with a Collared Scops Owl and on Monday evening a Spot-bellied Eagle Owl flew across the road at dusk.

Malaysian Pied Fantail

Over the weekend we spent a couple of days visiting family at Tung Kwian north of Lampang in northern Thailand, birding opportunities were limited but I did manage to sneak in a couple of early morning walks around scrub, paddies and secondary growth at Tung Kwian. A couple of surprises, the first a Malaysian Pied Fantail which seems a long way north of ranges shown in field guides and three Wire-tailed Swallow which are towards the southern limit of their range. 

Thick-billed Warbler
Thick-billed Warbler were especially common in the area with at least 8 seen each morning and others heard, both Siberian Rubythroat and Indochinese Bushlark were also relatively common with half a dozen on each day. Others species noted included a Rufous-winged Buzzard,  many Green Bee-eaters, Pied Bushchat, 50 Baya Weaver and several thousand Eurasian Swallow gathered on overhead electric cables. 

Blue Pansy
A decent selection of common butterflies were also noted including numerous Blue Pansy.