B2A – Trip report
Laem Pak Bia - Pak Thale & the South
27 March – 05 April 2009
Guest ; Jean-Francois Bourhis
Friday 27 March 09
After the mid-day arrival at Suvarnabhumi airport and a smooth drive through Bangkok we’re on our way to Pak Thale to catch up with the many specialities the area has on offer. The afternoon isn’t the best time to get Spoon-billed Sandpiper so we decided on a quick visit of Mahachai Mangrove Centre en-route to try for Asian Dowitcher first. The timing should have been perfect according to the tide-tables we looked up beforehand but still it proved we got there about an half hour late with the tide too high already. Some commoner waders and other birds in the mangroves were a good start for the bird list and we enjoyed the beautiful Wat Bang Ya Praek (a temple) nearby on leaving for Pak Thale.
As expected no Spoon-bills in the area but it was good to gear up our birdwatching skills for tomorrow’s ‘big day’ to come. Best of the waders present was a lone and also the only
Red-necked Phalarope of the trip. On our drive to the hotel, we saw a Barn Owl from the car at dusk.
Saturday 28 March 09
As mentioned before, ‘big day’. Actually, we never really ‘went’ for it and it was only after our count in the evening we were surprised to have seen 116 bird species in the area. While a 100 species do get regularly recorded here in a single day by birders concentrating to get along all commoner species as well, 116 seems to be a pretty high score though. Anyway, we never focused on numbers as quality is what one should go for at Pak Thale – Laem Pak Bia and we didn’t fail. A superb male Watercock that performed well right in the open at the edge of an irrigated rice field was the perfect way to start the day. No problem this morning to find 1 or 2 Spoon-billed Sandpipers and 31 Nordmann’s Greenshank attended their stakeout area. A number of other goodies seen throughout the day included 3 Chinese Egret, 10+ Malaysian Plovers, Painted Stork, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Greater Painted Snipe,Oriental Pratincole, Heuglin’s Gull, both Great and Lesser Crested Terns, Indochinese Bushlark, Oriental Skylark and both White-shouldered and Chestnut-tailed Starlings.
Sunday 29 March 09
Another morning spent at Laem Pak Bia seeing many of the same species as yesterday as well as a few new ones of which a Wryneck was a surprise find.
Our drive to Surat Thani went quite straightforward and we arrived earlier than expected in the city. Nothing much was seen en-route but a kettle of 30 Black Bazas on northward migration was a little highlight. We choose to spend the night in Surat Thani as it’s a good way to break up the long drive and a good starting point to reach Khao Sok early the next morning.
Monday 30 March 09
Something of a big day again, yes, -on a Monday!- as we were to visit 2 superb National Parks in a single day complete with a Lapwing ‘clean up’ en-route in between and some night birding thrown in at the end!
The morning we spent in KhaoSokNational Park where we birded the HQ and campground surroundings in addition to our productive walk on the trail. It started very well, -after a little I-pod charge-session though-, with rare White-bellied Munias feeding in some seeding bamboo above the trail. Thanks to a fruiting tree, we notched up quite a few species in no time –Flowerpeckers, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Bulbuls… Next we were lucky to find Chestnut-naped Forktail by a stream and we glimpsed a calling Blue-eared Kingfisher as it shot away above the river. A Red-bearded Bee-eater called nearby but we never got onto it. Back at the campground a female Banded Kingfisher was more cooperative and showed well after some insistence. Two excellent species of raptor showed together next as we identified both a Lesser Fish Eagle and a Wallace’s Hawk Eagle soaring above.
After lunch in our favourite local restaurant we headed towards SriPhang-gnaNational Park. A stop by the bridge across Phang-nga river near TakuaPa produced 5 River Lapwings, 6 Grey-headed Lapwings and a single Red-wattled Lapwing.
I’ve seldom seen an afternoon very active with birds in southern Thailand but today it happened in the forest at SriPhang-gnaNational Park. Birds seen include another Lesser Fish Eagle, Blyth’s Hawk Eagle, a pair Great Hornbill, Black-and-Yellow Broadbills that were calling all over, Whiskered Treeswift, Lesser Green Leafbird, Asian Paradise Flycatcher and we heard both Great Argus and Helmeted Hornbill. At dusk a Rufous-collared Kingfisher started calling and was located soon after. Views were not great though with the light failing but it’s always good to get such a rare and hard to find species on your list. And that's a list to end up with 11 species of Kingfisher on it for us this trip!
After dusk several Javan Frogmouth started calling but somehow they failed to show, not a problem really as I was confident to get them in Trang later on this trip. A Sunda Scops Owl showed well however to mark the end of a very successful day with a very respectable 91 species recorded. Or should I make that a ‘record’ 91 species knowing we had been birding inside the forests of southern Thailand for most of the day, -notable for its “very slow” birding most of times! Good we took it a little easier on the numbers for the rest of the trip, it would not have been normal…continued on the quality though.
Tuesday 31 March 09
Our morning birding at Thai Muang marsh was marked with some exceptional finds again, with a female Siberian Thrush and a juv. Imperial Eagle being the most unexpected clients. Together with the sighting of a male Mugimaki Flycatcher did we add 3 new species to the area's bird list in a single morning!!! Purple-backed Starlings were very nice additions to our trip list and we found all three species of Lapwing again. Oriental Pratincoles and an Eastern Marsh Harrier were up in the air and Purple Swamphen favoured the marsh. We replaced the brief flight views of Vernal Hanging Parrot of yesterday with excellent perched looks. Orange-breasted Pigeon, Lesser Coucal, Blue-throated and Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, Red-throated Pipits and a single Red-whiskered Bulbul were other notable finds.
Afternoon in the mangroves at Phang-gna bay. While the mangrove forest patch near the HW intersection proved dead as for bird life, we scored on the mangrove specialities quite easily near the National Park HQ restaurant (nice lunch!). A couple Brown-winged Kingfisher we started with followed shortly by Mangrove Pitta while a Ruddy Kingfisher started calling nearby that we got superb looks of minutes later, Black-and-Red Broadbill closed the list.
Non-mangrove specialities of the area seen included Rufous-bellied Swallow and Dusky Crag Martin. A Blue Rock Thrush was another nice addition.
Wednesday 1 April 09
Tone Pariwat wildlife sanctuary in the morning was a bit quieter for birding than it usual is. Still we managed a few good species that include perched Oriental Honey Buzzard and Vernal Hanging Parrot, Silver-rumped Needletails, both Treeswifts, Fork-tailed Swift, an excellent pair Buff-rumped Woodpecker, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Puff-throated Babbler and Ruby-cheeked and Crimson Sunbird. Best find perhaps was a Yellow-eared Spiderhunter perched up for good looks.
The afternoon saw us at Wat Tham Suea where a stakeout Banded Broadbill didn’t prove easy to get into view but after quite a while of effort it showed well in the end.
After having twitched a Lineated Barbet that we still needed we got another 2 Ruddy Kingfishers from the mangrove boardwalk at Krabi river and we heard a Brown-winged Kingfisher.
Thursday 2 – Saturday 4 April 09
A full day and 2 mornings spent at Khao Nor Chuchi were we birded mostly on the badly overgrown trails in the forest. The birding was pretty ok at least in the early mornings and who can complain after we scored a male Gurney’s Pitta on our first attempt?
Other good birds recorded during our time in the forest include Orange-breasted Trogon, Gold-whiskered Barbet, Puff-backed and Cream-vented Bulbul, Green and Great Iora, Green-backed Flycatcher, Siberian Blue Robin, Black-capped and Chestnut-rumped Babbler, Long-billed, Spectacled, Grey-breasted and Yellow-eared Spiderhunters, Crow-billed Drongo and Black Magpie.
On our night session at TrangPeninsularBotanical Garden on the 3rd we did not see the 1, but 2 Javan Frogmouths at different sites in the forest, to make up for the missed ones at Sri Phang-gna mentioned earlier. Both Great-eared and Large-tailed Nightjar showed as well.
We had our return flight to Bangkok in the afternoon of the 4th.
Sunday 5 April 09
We had to catch our flight to Taiwan in the early afternoon so spent the morning in Bangkok. Lumpini park got us the Black-collared Starling we were after as we could watch them nest building here. Another few notable birds were recorded in the park and we re-found the Grey-backed Shrike that had been around since October last year in this for the species unusual wintering spot. An Indian Cuckoo and Dark-sided Flycatcher were certainly other good finds for the park.
After this, we enjoyed some sightseeing on the banks of the Chao Phraya river and we could squeeze in a visit to Wat Arun with its fabulous views over the river and city from the top. Ashy Woodswallow, Brown-headed Gull and Black-naped Oriole were notable birds for this area.
On our journey to the airport, we saw 14 Spot-billed Pelicans circling high above the city from the taxi, to mark the end of a very successful trip.
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