Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Thailand pics

Pale Blue Flycatcher

White throated Rock Thrush

Temmincks Stint

Rickety Bridge at Doi Inthanon

Blue Whistling Thrush

Fire bellied Flowerpecker

Great Hornbill

Red Junglefowl

Grey Bushchat

Oriental Honey Buzzard

Pig Tailed Macaque

Monday, January 22, 2007

Thailand and a surprise Brit Tick

Thailand- an Introductory Trip

Jan 11th-21st


This trip to Thailand was a stopover on the way back to the UK after 6 months backpacking in Australia and Fiji. The aim of the trip was to take it easy and cover just a few sites thoroughly and get an introduction to Asian birding rather than tearing around the country trying to see as much as possible.



I arrived at Bangkok from Melbourne in the very early morning and crashed out in a hotel in the middle of the city somewhere. Around midday I set off from the Hotel to head towards Khao Yai National Park. This was easily done with a bus from Mor Chit bus terminal to the town of Pak Chong, and then a songthaew up to the National Park entrance. After paying the entrance fee I hitch- hiked from the gates to Pha Kluai Mai campsite, arriving in the late afternoon. After getting the tent set up I birded around the campsite. This was quite productive with several Raddes Warblers and Red- throated Flycatchers within metres of the tent. The river behind the restaurant held Slaty-backed Forktail and Grey Wagtail and a Blue-bearded Bee-eater was perched up in dead tree next to the restaurant.


A dawn start was rewarded with a Coral-billed Ground-cuckoo feeding behind the restaurant along with several Red Junglefowl and an Orange-headed Thrush. A female Blue Rock-thrush sat up on top of the toilet block as I walked past onto the Pha Kluai Mai Waterfall trail. This was a very productive trail and highlights along the trail included Red-headed Trogon, Blue Whistling Thrush, Banded Kingfisher, Siberian Blue Robin, Green-billed Malkoha, Lesser necklaced LaughingThrush, Common Green Magpie, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Scaly-breasted Partridge, Ashy Minivet, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Mugimaki Flycatcher and Blue Winged Leafbird.

The area around the Haew Suwat restaurant at the end of this trail held another Orange Headed Thrush, Asian Brown Flycatcher, White-throated Rock Thrush, and a mixed Warbler flock containing Yellow-browed, Eastern-crowned, Arctic and Grey-crowned.

In the afternoon I hitched out along the access road from Pha Kluai Mai campsite to the TAT pond. The pond held Chinese Pond Heron and a Common Kingfisher, along with a Verditer Flycatcher perched high up in a dead tree. Walking along the road through the open ground between here and Mo Sing To Reservoir produced a pair of Indian Roller, a Besra, Grey Buchchat, Brown Shrike, a flushed Lesser Coucal, Richards Pipit, a small group of Plain Prinia, Ashy Woodswallow, and a pair of Red-wattled Lapwing.


After a quick look at the Coral-billed Ground-cuckoo behind the restaurant I stood next to a large fruiting tree on the road about 100m west of the campsite entrance. Over the course of an hour the tree held Great, Oriental pied and Wreathed Hornbills, along with a pair of Vernal Hanging Parrots and a Blue-eared Barbet.

I then hitched out to the HQ and walked out along Trail 6 towards the Wildlife Watchtower. This a very long and exhausting hike but provided some good birds in the form of White-crowned Forktail, White-browed Scimitar-babbler, Hill-blue Flycatcher, Rufous-throated Partridge, Greater Yellownape, Barred Cuckoo Dove and White-crested Laughingthrush. After emerging from the rainforest near to the Watchtower a Crested Serpent Eagle soared overhead and a Greater Coucal showed well. I hitched back to the HQ where a flock of Pin-tailed Parrotfinch were feeding in the seeding Bamboo.

I walked back up the hill to Mo Sing To reservoir where I took the track across the dam and went a short way up the hill into the woods. One flowering tree held Little Spiderhunter, Fire-bellied Flowerpecker and Chestnut-flanked White-eye. The open ground next to the reservoir held a Siberian Stonechat.

As dusk approached that evening, a Great-eared Nightjar flew over the campsite several times.


I spent all day travelling. I left KhaoYai at first light and hitched back to Pak Chong, then got a bus back to Mor Chit in Bangkok, then in the evening boarded the overnight bus to Chiang Mai.


Arrived in Chiang Main before dawn, then took a songthaew out to Jorm Tong, then another songthaew up to Doi Inthanon National Park HQ. After a quick look around I decided that my best bet for accommodation would be Mr. Deangs, a few hundred metres uphill from the HQ. Mr. Deang very kindly provided a free but basic room at the back of his restaurant.

After dumping my stuff I spent the rest of the morning birding the Hmong farm and woodlands over the road from Mr. Deangs. The farm held Grey and Pied Bushchat, a few Olive-backed Pipits, a leucopsis White Wagtail, Long-tailed Shrike, and several Red-rumped Swalllows and an Oriental Honey-buzzard soared overhead.

The woods at the back of the farm were alive with birds and I saw Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Eye-browed Thrush and Little Pied Flycatcher.

After lunch at Mr. Deangs I hitched up to the summit. By this time of the day the summit march walk was very crowded and birding wasn’t easy but I still saw the site specialities: Chestnut-tailed Minla, Dark-backed Sibia, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush and Mrs Goulds and Green-tailed Sunbirds.

Walking and hitching back down the mountain I saw Scarlet Minivet, Grey-throated Babbler, Flavescent Bulbul and Rufous bellied Niltava.


I managed to hitch an early morning lift to the summit with a pick-up truck full of Buddhist monks in the hope of avoiding the midday crowds. An Ashy Woodpigeon flew over the road next to the marsh, and the marsh itself held all the birds seen the day before along with several Common Rosefinch, Ashy-throated Warbler, White-browed Shortwing and Black-throated Sunbird. Whilst at the Summit I met Doug and Donna Witt and their friends Cathy and Larry, from California. They offered to provide my Accommodation and food, plus use of their car in exchange for guiding them over the next few days, an offer that I gratefully accepted. As the marsh walk was getting busy, we headed down the mountain to the 34.5km Jeep Track. It was getting hot so birding was difficult but we still got saw Chestnut-fronted Shrike-babbler, White-browed Fantail, Black-throated Sunbird and a fleeting glimpse of a Chestnut-vented Nuthatch.

A quick stop at Vatcharitan Falls on the way down the mountain failed to add White-capped Water-redstart but Plumbeous Water-redstart was nice.

A walk around the farmland near the Inthanon Highland Resort that evening was quite productive with Green Bee-eater, Rufous Treepie, Hill Prinia, Striated Swallow, Great Tit, Bronzed Drongo and Pied Bushchat.


This was one of the best days of the trip. We started off at the 37.5km Jeep Track. At first we really struggled and hardly sae any birds. A confiding Dark-sided Thrush and a small flock of Eye-browed Thrush kept the interest going until we finally bumped into a spectacular feeding wave that included Black-eared and White-browed Shrike-babblers, Yellow Cheeked Tit, White-browed and Yellow-bellied Fantails, Maroon Oriole and Slaty-bellied Tesia. I got a quick look at what was most probably a Brown-throated Treecreeper but it eluded the rest of the group.

After this we headed out along the road to Mae Chaem. A quick stop in the coniferous woodland produced a Grey-backed Shrike, Chinese Leaf-warbler and Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher. Once we got out into the dry woodland further down the mountain a short walk found a small group of leucotis Eurasian Jays and a scanning from a convenient high point produced a pair Rufous-winged Buzzard.

We then headed back towards Doi Inthanon and went back downhill to the Dry woodland at the 13km. It was unbelievably hot, but a Coppersmith Barbet was still belting its heart out in the car park and a Black-hooded Oriole showed briefly just across the river from the car park. Walking up the hill onto the ridge trail Doug expertly picked out a tiny Collared Falconet perched up on the tip of dead tree. We were really struggling in the heat but carried on and soon enough were rewarded with a superb group of 3 Black-headed Woodpeckers.

We drove back up the hill for an evening at the HQ campsite, unfortunately the vegetation by the ponds had encroached to such a level that there was no sign of the Black-tailed Crake but we did see a Snowy-browed Flycatcher and an Asian Barred Owlet. I said my goodbyes to my American friends as they were leaving to Doi Angkang the next day and I returned to my room at Mr.Deang’s for the night.


After a little lie in I started walking up the mountain with no particular plan in mind. On the way up I saw Dusky and Hume’s Yellow-browed Warblers, White-headed Bulbul and White-browed Shrike-babbler next to the road. A short walk down the 34.5km track gave a pair of Rufous-backed Sibia, the 700th bird of the trip since leaving home in June 2006, and Short-billed Minivet. I hitched up to the 37.5km trail, which produced Eye-browed Wren-babbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler and another look at the Dark-sided Thrush.

After hitching back down to the HQ, an evening walk around Siriphum Waterfalls was excellent, as it was very quiet as the workers had finished for the day. Highlight was a stunning White-capped Water-redstart, along with Slaty-backed Forktail and Plumbeous Water-redstart. Walking back along the ‘nature trail’ added a pair of Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and an Orange-bellied Leafbird.


I managed a quick morning trip up to the 34.5km track before leaving. This was well worthwhile as I finally managed to pick out a Golden-throated Barbet for good views having been frustrated by their calls all week. Also seen were a Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Striated Bulbul and an Asian Emerald Cuckoo.

I was very lucky as I got a lift back to Chiang Mai with Mr. Deang who was going in anyway and caught the overnight bus back to Bangkok.


After arriving in Bangkok and finding a hotel, I took a taxi out to Muang Boran fishponds to the South-east of the city in the afternoon. By the time I arrived I didn’t have much time before the light started to go so concentrated on the first of the big ponds. This was very birdy and I wished I had more time to explore the site properly. Several Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and a pair of Sand Martins were hawking over the ponds, which held Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, White-browed Crake, Javan Pond-heron, Black-crowned Night Heron and a pair of Cinnamon Bitterns.


This was an interesting day exploring the public Transport of Bangkok, starting out with a Tuk-tuk to the southern train station, taking the train out to Samut Sakhorn and then a motorbike taxi out to Khok Kham Saltpans. Unfortunately, the legendary Mr. Tii was away for the day so my chances of connecting without transport and a scope were always going to be slim and unsurprisingly I failed. However a superb selection of commoner waders out on the pans was almost compensation. Star bird was a single Nordmanns Greenshank in a mixed flock of Greenshanks, Redshank and Marsh Sandpipers. Other good birds were Temminck’s and Long-toed Stint, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Brown-headed Gull, Yellow Wagtail and Little Ringed Plover.

I just had enough time to dash back to Bangkok, grab my stuff from the hotel and make the final call to board my flight back to the UK after almost 7 months abroad, of which these 11 days in Thailand were a big highlight, that has definitely whetted my appetite for the region.

And thats just about it, oh yeah, the surprise lifer back in England, a flock of Ring Necked Parakeets at the entrance to Heathrow, a very tartish tick but i've never been bothered to look for them before.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Pictures from Tasmania

Black Currawong

Black Headed Honeyeater

Cape Barren goose

Forester Kangaroo

Tasmanian Native Hen

Cleaning up in Tasmania

No, not like picking up rubbish (it's actually a pretty tidy state), or even vigilante killings of unscrupulous land developers, i mean cleaning up on all the tasmaina endemics. after a good start on Bruny i went camping on scenic Maria Island for 2 days where i picked up the remaining endemic, forty spotted pardalote, as well as loads of cape barren geese. One thing that quite literally put a dampener onthe trip was really heavy rain on my final night camping in australia, i woke at about 2am to find water properly pissing through the seama of my faithful $15 (that should be a pound sign, not dollar, gay aussie keyboards) tent from argos, still it did well to last 6 months. Maria, (pronounced Mariah,as in Carey) is alovely scenic island, and like most island in austrlaia claims to be one of the first convict colonies (Sydney is the current one). The birding was pretty good with the beach holding nesting hooded plover and Pied Oystercatcher. The grassland are heavily grazed by bennets wallabies and forester kangaroos and are ideal feeding areas for Cape Barren Geese and Tasmanian Native Hen. The woodlands held Scarlet Robin and black headed honeyeater along with the Pardalote and there was constantly Pacific Gulls and Black faced cormorant offshore, generally a nice place.

I fly out of hobart to bangkok tomorrow morning via melbourne so theres no more birding in oz, finishing on a respectable 462 species for the oz list and on 561 for the whole trip which will hopefully get a good boost in thailand, maybe even taking my world list to 1000, whoopee doo.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Ta Ta Tasmania

Contrary to popular belief, the island of Tasmania does actually exist and is not simply of product of the Warner Brothers overfertile imagination. However it seems like the tasmanian devil may well be, having just spent 2 days looking for it on Bruny island before being told that actually they dont get them there, doh.
Really the main purpose of the visit to Bruy was to look for the 12 tasmanian endemic bird species. Tasmanian native hen was seen from the bus running around the roadside fields like big demented chickens and then again in the campsite at Adventure bay as I arrived. Then followed a superb bit of birding by myself, using all my pateince and fieldcraft. After getting the tent set up i lay down for a bit of rest and over the course of about an hour had seen green rosella, black headed and yellow throated honeyeater, yellow wattlebird and brown scrubwren from the tent without even standing up, skills! I had obviously chosen a good corner of the cmapsite as it turned out that the elderly couple in the neighbouring tent were also english birders, and then after going down the shope to buy some food, i returned to see fellow brit birder Graham Etherington setting up camp as well, and he had some more birding friends arriving the next day, we were taking over the place! Over the rest of the first day, birding around adventure bay added Swift parrot and pink and scarlet robins.
The next morning Graham and I headed off to Cape Bruny lighthouse, at the far south of the isalnd. The drive out through the forest produced Olive Whistler, Black Currawong and Tasmanian thornbill. The garden/horse paddocks at the Lighthouse was an excellent spot, holding several Dusky Robins, Tawny Crowned Honeyeater, Beautiful Firetail, Brown Quail. White fronted chat and black headed honeyeater. a quick seawatch off the cape was rewarded with a few Shy Albatross, several Short tailed shearwaters and a White bellied Sea Eagle and 3 Sooty Oystercatchers on the rocks.
On the way back to the campsite, a stop off at Mavista nature walk in the failing light gave good views of Scrubtit and more fleeting views of Bassian Thrush and Pink Robin.

Overall an excellent few days on the island with all the endemics apart from Forty Spotted Pardalote seen (this was always going to be difficult for me as the best sites are a bit out of the way).
Just a few days left on australia now, and the stopover in Thailand on the way back is looking a bit worrying thanks to dickhead terrorsits having fun with bombs in Bangkok.