Tuesday, 4 April 2017

WilowTree Fen Bluethroat

Just before I went into hospital for my ankle operation, my mate Dave Gray asked if I was interested in going to have look at a small chat in the shape of a Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica), which had been at Willow Tree Fen LWT, just south west of Spalding in Lincolnshire for several weeks, so, on Thursday 23rd of March, Dave and I made the one hour and twenty five minutes drive towards Spalding. After parking up at the small car park, we made our way down the track for about 4 or 5 hundred metres to where the bird had been showing. There was just one other birder pacing up and down as we approached the area. The first question from any birder is 'has the bird been showing?' His reply was that he'd had a brief glimpse of it before it had disappeared back into the reeds; that was good news - at least the bird was still there, so it was just a matter of time before it would reappear. We didn't have to wait long as within 10 minutes of us arriving - and  just  a few yards away  - this jewel of a bird was on show for a good 10 minutes, giving me plenty of time for a few images, then it was off to Macky D's for a coffee! We had a good mornings' birding, and although I have seen quite few Bluethroats over the years, it's always nice to bump into another of these great little birds.
Below are a few images of the Bluethroat

As always, thanks for stopping by and hopefully I'll be back in action before too long!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Thailand part 2

So, after spending the morning of the 12th of Feb birding Khao Sok Lake, we then headed for Krung Ching,where we would be staying for a couple of days, birding around this area; again it was long drive to this birding destination near Krung Ching. We parked at a fairly open area within the forest to view Whiskered Treeswift. We stayed in the vicinity of the vehicle for a good hour, seeing Lesser Cuckooshrike, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Grey-rumped Treeswift and Common Iora. From here, we moved on to our accommodation, where we stayed for two nights. After sorting our rooms out, we headed back out late afternoon to a site Games knew of where we hoped for Blyth's Frogmouth; how on earth Games ever found this site is beyond me!  We parked up on a track and Games proceeded to try and find the bird for us; within 10 minutes, she had found it some 40 metres down the track, but the light was already fading fast, so I was lucky to grab a decent image of the bird. What a brilliant end to day 4!

Blyth's Frogmouth

Day 5 dawned bright and early (as usual) and after breakfast, we headed off to bird Krung Ching NP. This was going to be a long and hard day! The terrain was really hard going, with some areas being very steep to the extent that, had it been in the UK, it would have had to have been stepped with a rail - but what a place, and well worth the effort! I won't give you the full list of the birds we saw, but the highlights for me were Grey-headed Babbler, Scarlet-rumped Trogan, Chestnut-winged Babbler, Raffle's Malkoa - and all of these before lunch! Games could hear a Black-capped Babbler, so we waited on the track for a good while, but sadly we were out of luck, as the bird stopped calling. It wasn't until we'd walked 50 yards down the track, when the bird started calling again so we decided to go back for another try - and to our amazement, this previously elusive bird walked by us only 8 feet away! ........  Unbelievable!
We had taken a packed lunch with us, so after a short walk, we decided to have our break - but not before we managed to see Banded Broadbill, Black-throated and Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler. After our lunch we went off again, ticking Moustached Babbler, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird and Rufous Piculet. Having reached the end of our walk, Games did try to call in Rail Babbler, even though there hasn't been one seen there for the last two years; we didn't have any luck - but - you never know if you don't try, do you? On our return journey back to the car, we did also see Yellow-eared Spiderhunter, Brown Shrike, Blue-winged Leafbird and Lesser-green Leafbird. As I've already said, it was a really hard day, especially at our ages - but very well worth it!  We returned to this park again later that evening to look for owls, but to no avail - although we did get a bonus in the shape of a Grey Nightjar.

Black-capped Babbler

Banded Broadbill

The morning of day 6 found us back at Krung Ching NP for a look around the vicinity of the car park which was quite productive, highlights of which were Swinhoe's Minivet, Blue-eared Barbet, Vernal Hanging-parrot, Green-billed Malkoa and Dark-throated Oriole. Sadly, however I've no images to show you, as the birds were all feeding in the top of the canopy. Another image I missed was a Cape Razorsnake which was crossing the road as we drove out of the park. We went back to our accommodation where we had some lunch before setting off to our next destination, Thale Noi. On reaching the accommodation at Thale Noi, we spent the afternoon birding some brilliant wetlands only a 10 minute drive away, where we saw (new to the list) Bronze-winged Jacana, Intermediate Egret, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Grey-headed Swamphen and lots of Water Buffalo. What we did see here, that I've never seen in the UK, were large groups of Little Grebe! Again - a brilliant area for birdwatching!

Great Myna

Water Buffalo

This is only 7 of a group numbering 18 Little Grebe

On day 7, we were due to go on a boat trip at Thale Noi, but when Games had showed us the boats the previous afternoon, we decided they'd be too uncomfortable for us, so chose instead to return to the wetlands which we'd been to the previous afternoon. We were birding from the road, which was in the form of a bridge of about 2 miles long, across the wetlands, with pull-ins every so often.  Baya Weaver, Lesser Whistling-duck, Indian Roller and White-throated Kingfisher were seen, We also had more Tree Sparrow (they seem really prolific in Thailand), Red-wattled Lapwing, Little Cormorant, Purple Heron and Plain-backed Sparrow and a large flock of Black-winged Stilt (circa 300?) along with Brown-backed Needletail, Oriental Reed-warbler, Shikra and Brahminy Kite. All of these were seen in spite of the weather - it was absolutely throwing it down on and off all morning - still very very humid though! Even so, I'd have been very happy staying here all day if I could- a great habitat with easy viewing of the birds. We left the area in the early afternoon to travel quite a distance to our final accommodation at Phang Nga Town.

Grey-headed Swamphen

Pheasant-tailed Jacana 

Some fishing huts which are on the wetland

 Brahminy Kite

Pond Heron species

Black-winged Stilt

Part of the Black-winged Stilt flock

 Plain-backed Sparrow

Oriental Reed Warbler

Our final mornings' birding was to be at Phang Nga mangroves, where we managed to see Olive-winged Bulbul, Dark-naped Tailorbird, Streak-breasted Woodpecker, Mangrove Whistler and Oriental White-eye. Once again, Games' fantastic hearing detected a Black-and-red Broadbill calling, and it didn't take her long to pinpoint the call! To our surprise, there were a pair of them - what stunning birds these are - my image doesn't do justice to them! Once again - a great habitat for birding!  Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Brown-throated Sunbird and Black-naped Monarch were also seen here. Another great morning spent birding this area, then, on our way back to the airport, Games was going to stop off again at a small woodland we had previously visited to see if we could get Spotted Wood Owl, as we'd missed them on our first visit here. Her perseverance paid off, as this time paid off, giving us not one - but a pair - of these magnificent owls!

Olive-winged Bulbul

Dark-naped Tailorbird

Black-naped Monarch

Black-and-red Broadbill

 Pair of Spotted Wood Owl

Spotted Wood Owl

What a great 8 days birding in Southern Thailand, made even better by great company in Christine and Bob, and a really good guide in the shape of Games! 
I hope you've enjoyed reading this snapshot of my trip to Southern Thailand, and, as always, thanks for stopping by.
This will probably be my last blog for a while now, as I'm going to be incapacitated for a few weeks due to imminent foot surgery! 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Southern Thailand Part 1

Our Southern Thailand tour started at 06.30 on the morning of the 9th of February with our guide, Miss Punjapa Phetsri aka 'Games'. We set off for our first site, the Thai Muang Marshes, which was approximately two hours away by car. First birds of note were Pacific Swallow, Germain's Swiftlet, Yellow Bittern and Oriental Reed Warbler. We also saw Chinese Pond Heron, Eastern Cattle Egret, Great White Egret and Little Egret but these birds were to become a common sighting throughout the trip. This site was really beautiful and peaceful - we didn't see anybody except a local tending his cattle all morning! Brahminy Kite soared overhead, Cinnamon Bittern were flying over the grassland while White-breasted Waterhen and Watercock were moving about in the long grass. Games also picked out Pintailed Snipe and an Oriental Reed Warbler. A more familiar bird for us was the Wood Sandpiper which were in abundance. Walking back to our vehicle, Lesser and Greater Coucal were added to our list, along with Chestnut-headed Bee Eater. Having spent a couple of hours with our guide Games, it was apparent that she was not only birding with her eyes, she was also picking up birds from calls and finding them; Yellow-bellied Prinia and Yellow-vented Bulbul were found on calls. This is just the highlights of our sightings at this marshland. What a great start to the trip!

Yellow Bittern

Pacific Swallow

Chestnut-headed Bee Eater

Our next site was at Laem Pakarang Beach, where we saw a variety of shorebirds, including Greater Sand Plover, Red-necked Stint - and more common to us - Whimbrel, Curlew, Turnstone and Black-tailed Godwit, along with lots of Terek Sandpiper ( I just wish one would turn up on my local patch!)

Terek Sandpiper

We continued on, heading to Sri Phang Nga National Park which was close to our first night's accommodation.  We were able to squeeze in a few hours at the park before dusk; our quarry here was the Banded Pitta and Chestnut-naped Forktail.  Whilst walking up into the woodland towards the Pittas 'Stake-out', Brown-throated Sunbird and Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker were noted. Although Games heard the Forktail calling, we couldn't locate it - but there was always tomorrow!!
On reaching the 'stake-out' for the Pitta, Games produced three fold-up stools for us, as we were likely to be there for a while - but not so! Within 20 minutes, this jewel of a bird put in an appearance, and performed for about 10 minutes.  I'm sorry about the image - it really doesn't do the bird justice as the light in the forest is terrible. As I've said before - I'm not a photographer - just a birder with a camera! - even so, though, I think you'll get the gist of the bird. On my return walk to the car, I definitely had a spring in my step! Our last bird of the day was a Silver-rumped Spinetail which was flying over the treetops in the car-park. What a great first day!

Banded Pitta

After an early breakfast on our second day, we returned to our rooms to collect our bins etc when Games drew our attention to Scaly-breasted Munia and Stripe-throated Bulbul - the latter of which was actually nesting in the car-park, in a small tree no bigger than a standard rose tree! Apparently, she had nested in this same tree the previous year, and managed to fledge two chicks. Amazing!

Strip-throated Bulbul sitting on her nest

We set off again for the Sri Phang Nga National Park, arriving really early - before anybody else was about. Out target bird for today was the Forktail we'd dipped on the previous day. As we walked towards the viewing area again, Games heard the bird calling, and this time we did manage to locate it as it was feeding on the river. We had great views of it, but always a bit distant. We then walked a couple of trails in the park, spotting, amongst other things, Abbot's Babbler, Hairy-backed Bukbul, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher and Red-throated Sunbird as we went. We also had decent views of a fly-over of a Grey-headed Fisheagle, and added Greenish and Eastern-crowned Warbler to the list. Another good morning of birding, so off for a great lunch in the park, where I had chicken fried rice. Delish!

Chestnut-naped Forktail

Forest Crested Lizard

Spiny Lizard

Long Tailed Macaque

After lunch, we had a long drive to our next hotel which was near Kai Sok National Park, stopping on the way close to a bridge where Games knew of a site for River Lapwing; as we looked over the bridge, the first birds we saw were a pair if River Lapwing! Other birds of note here were Red-wattled Lapwing, Paddyfield Pipit and again ones we're more used to - Common Kingfisher, Little Ringed Plover and Marsh Sandpiper. We also saw Ochraceous Bulbul and House Swift from this bridge. We then continued to our overnight accommodation near Kao Sok, tired but happy.

 River Lapwing

Day three was another early start to bird the Kao Sok HQ where we had the following birds of note - Buff-vented, Asian Redeyed, Spectacled, and Black-crested Bulbul. Again, there was nobody about so the birds were more easily found in the quiet. Scarlet-backed and Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker were seen too, along with Yellow-bellied Warbler and Chinese Blue Flycatcher - but the bird of the morning for me was a Banded Kingfisher. It is strange, seeing these jewels of birds in a forest habitat!
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any images of the above birds.
We then had another long drive for our afternoon birding which was to be at Khao Sok Lake, and we would be spending the night on a floating bungalow on the lake.
After arriving at the lake, we boarded a private boat for our 40 minute transfer to our home for the night, birding along the way. Osprey, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle and Rufous-bellied Swallow were see on the way. 

Grey-headed Fish Eagle

White-bellied Sea Eagle

After dropping our belongings in our rooms, we went back out in our boat to see what else we could find. We had a fly-over of a Pied Hornbill, Stork-billed and Black-capped Kingfisher were also noted, along with White-crowned Hornbill. Looking forward to our evening meal, and what tomorrow would bring.....

The floating bungalows

Our home for the night

Day 4, and following a good nights sleep, we awoke to see a beautiful sunrise as we breakfasted, where Christine picked up on a Striated Heron at the waters edge - along with a wild pig! After breakfast, set off in our boat for more birding. It wasn't long before Games had spotted Lesser Fish Eagle and Wallace's Hawk Eagle in close proximity to each other. Our boatman also had really good eyes, as he pointed out a Great Hornbill feeding in a fruit tree, along with Thick-billed Green Pigeon, and later, he spotted a fly-over Helmeted Hornbill.  It was then back to our floating bungalow to collect our belongings before heading back on the boat to our car - but not before the boatman picked up an Oriental Hobby for us! It was great to see so many Osprey and White-bellied Sea Eagles on the lake. 
Sunrise over the lake as we had our breakfast

Great Hornbill

Wallace's Hawk-eagle

 Wild pig

After reaching the car, we drove off towards our next overnight stop, which was to be at Krung Ching where we were birding that afternoon and again, the next day .... But I'll be posting that in part two of my Southern Thailand Tour Blog.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you've enjoyed reading part one!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Thailand (Bangkok)

Back in October 2016, my good friend Andy Howes asked if I was interested in a birding trip to Southern Thailand; having already been to Northern Thailand, I at to weigh up if it was going to be worth it!  Andy sent me a tick list for the 8 day tour, and after perusing the list I found that there were over 100 possible new species to be seen, so my answer was 'yes' to the trip. It was going to be a group of  just 3 of us, going with a company who's name is 'Southern Thailand Birding' -  the third person in our group was Christine Lynn, who I have been on a few trips with before,  and coincidentally, was on the same trip to Northern Thailand, again arranged by Andy, back in 2007! Unfortunately, having made all the arrangements, Andy caught a virus that really knocked him about, and felt he would not be up to birding for the eight days and so had to pull out. One of Christines' birding friends came to the rescue in the form of Bob Foskett (great bloke) who joined the group, so on the 6th of Feb the 3 of us boarded a Thai Air flight for our ten and a half hour flight to Bangkok. (Andy was going to Thailand anyway,and went a few days prior to our departure, as he as a son living there, and he also owns a condo in Bangkok) Arrangements were made to fly to Bangkok, meet with Andy for an evening meal, and then the following day go for few hours birding around Suan Rot Fai (also known as Wachirabenchathat Park), in Bangkok. Later in the day we were then flying down to Phuket on a teatime flight, ready to start our tour of Southern Thailand the following day, which would be the 9th of February. A few images below of some of the birds we saw in the park.
 Our first birds in the park were quite a large flock of Tree Sparrows, and during our few hours in the park they were quite numerous - wish they were so common in the UK!

The Black collared Myna above is another quite common bird on the lawns of the park.

 A good flock of about 40 Scaly-breasted Munia were also feeding on the seeds  from the lawn

                    The above bird is everywhere and has the appropriate name of Common Myna

                                                                     Pied Fantail

   Oriental Magpie Robin - I took this image for my birding buddy Pete Asher - just a little private joke between us!

                                                                          Zebra Dove

 The above bird is again quite common - it's Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus) - a split, I think.
                                                                    Asian Openbill

 Another common species in the park was Chinese Pond Heron; these are all over the place - on the lawns, and also around the water courses - or any where there are insects!
So, that was our few hours in the park - and well worth it, just to get your eye in on some common birds, ready for our trip south. Over the next couple of weeks I will be doing a post on our tour in the South of Thailand - it will be in a couple of parts though.
So, as always, thanks for stopping by and watch this space!