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!


  1. Wow what a holiday you must of had mate. Great post with some stunning images, top stuff!!!

  2. Great post Col. Fab photos. Love the accommodation. Is that your canoe?

  3. I was trying to flog them some rafts Andy haha!!

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