News and Information on Birding Sites Throughout Thailand and the Andaman

– With Jarmo Komi, a visiting birder from Finland.

Jarmo and I had been in communication about a birding trip for nearly a year so when I finally met him it was like meeting an old friend. Having visited the country a few times in previous years, we opted to spend our time focusing on getting lifers rather than numbers.

We started the day at Sri Phang Nga National Park where we hit the trails shortly after the gates opened at 8 AM. We were blessed to have been one of the first people through the gates and being out there early had its advantages as we were treated to a sighting of two Chestnut naped Forktail working their way downstream. These birds are becoming increasingly difficult to spot and were pleased to have connected with them so easily.

Next we moved to the pitta stakeout where we waited for the stars of the show to appear. A pair of White rumped Shamas appeared on the scene and proceeded to engage us with their slew of domestic problems which plagued their bipolar marriage. Not long after a band of three Abbott’s Babblers passed through. High in the trees I heard a lonesome Helmeted Hornbill calling in the distance along with a trio of Banded Broadbills.

It took some time but finally a male Banded Pitta stumbled into the clearing from the right stage. While we were pleased to see this handsome bird (in fact it was the first bird we’ve encountered this year – quite late by most standards!) I was puzzled as I watched its behavior. It seemed shy, lacking confidence and deferring to the other birds – nothing like the Banded Pitta I knew from last year. My theory was soon confirmed when a second pitta appeared from left stage and proceeded to chase off every bird in the area. I was delighted and overjoyed – at last the prodigal prince had returned to retake his kingdom!

We opted to wait a little longer, hoping to see the female Banded Pitta or perhaps find the Large Blue Flycatcher but after waiting for 30 minutes we decided to throw in the towel and head on out. From there we moved on to the clearing where we hoped to find Whiskered Treeswift.

We passed a white morph Asian paradise Flycatcher on the way back, a lovely bird but one which was not a target on the lists.

Ever since a storm took down the favorite nesting tree of the Whiskered Treeswift, it’s been difficult to spot them as they tend to prefer exposed branches of tall trees. In this case, they now chose to perch on the tallest tree in the clearing. We finally connected with two, but the experience left us rubbing our necks in pain.

Next we moved on to Tung Chalee where we heard there was a fruiting tree near the ranger station. Our targets here were bulbuls and where better to find our quarry than at a fruiting tree?

The first tree we found was very tall and since it was noon, the heat was on and the birds were nowhere to be seen. Moving a little further down the trail we found another fruiting tree and this one was more active. Orange headed Thrush, Thick billed Green Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Yellow vented Flowerpecker, Orange breasted Flowerpecker, Buff vented Bulbul and Ochraceous Bulbul were present so we decided to wait a bit to see if Grey bellied Bulbul and Scaly breasted Bulbul, our two target species, would arrive to the feast.

We ended up waiting for an hour with no success so we conceded, packed the car and set our sights on our next target, Cotton Pigmy Geese.

Our destination was the Katiliya Hotel in Khao Lak, formerly known as the Le Meridian Hotel. A large pond near the hotel in times past held large numbers of waterfowl and Jarmo was interested in seeing a number of Thai waterfowl. Sadly, when we arrived we found the pond was nothing like I’d remembered from past times. The reeds and vegetation was all cut back to the banks and much of the aquaflora was dredged. Plastic waste was scattered all throughout the fringes of the pond.

A few Common Moorhen were busy picking around the edges for scraps and a couple of Little Grebes were seen in the pond. No ducks, swamphen or Cotton Pigmy Geese were around.

The only excitement of the stop came when a bird flew across the pond and we found out a little too late that it was a Chestnut winged Cuckoo, a bird which Jarmo and I both wanted to see.

On the way out we found a Large Woodshrike on a tree near the football field. –What was it doing around here?

Our last stop was in Thai Muang where we searched for the famed Spotted Wood Owl. It took some time but in the end we found one individual and thankfully it was kind enough to sit still and let us photograph it.

Despite not going for numbers, we ended the day with 42 species, more than I’d expected to find.

Categories: Field Report

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