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News and Information on Birding Sites Throughout Thailand and the Andaman

My first birding trip for 2017 came with Gordon and Julie Mills, two visiting birders from England. Our plan was to make a two day visit to national parks and other sites throughout Phang Nga. Gordon wasn’t looking for numbers, instead preferring to spend his time capturing quality photos of the birds we encountered.

Our two day trip was not without setbacks as we had to endure some unfavorable weather which wreaked havoc on our birding plans. Many of the specials and even some common species we usually encounter were strangely absent.

Our journeys took us to Sri Phang Nga, Thai Muang and Ao Phang Nga National Parks and over 800 kilometers were driven in the two days we spent birding.

Equipment and books

We relied on Lekagul and Round’s 1991 Guide to the Birds of Thailand for identification. In the field I used a pair of Kowa 42X8 BD Prominar binoculars.

Photographic gear consisted primarily of a Canon 7D MKII paired with the “classic” 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens. Gordon used a Canon 500 f/4 IS USM MKII paired with an EOS 1DX MK II.

DAY 1: AO PHANG NGA AND THAI MUANG

Our first day out began at Ao Phang Nga where we arrived with the dawn at 6.30. Rain the night before had blanketed the area in a chilly mist and bird activity was muted. Still, we were pleased to hear Brown winged Kingfisher and Mangrove Pitta calling from across the river.

The tide was out and the Brown winged Kingfisher was sure to be at its secret hangout – or so I thought. Sadly the bird was nowhere to be found. We later learned that there was a tree monitor basking in the boughs of the tree in question. –No wonder the kingfisher chose to stay away!

A cacophony of calls alerted us to three Streak breasted Woodpeckers in a coconut tree near the restaurant. The birds were quite obliging and we were able to photograph both the male and female.

A Blue rock Thrush was found singing from the roof of the restaurant and soon its picture was added to our collection as well.

Red bellied Swallow, Ashy Tailorbird, Black naped Oriole and Streak eared Bulbuls were also encountered.

After some time the warmth of the sun began to dissipate the gloomy mist and birds began to sing. The first signs of life came from the elevated nature trail where the calls of Black and Red Broadbill were heard. As we went to investigate we stumbled upon a Mangrove Pitta feeding among the roots of the trees!

I’ve always wondered what the Mangrove Pitta likes to eat. -Was it crabs? –Or worms? I soon had my answer when the little fellow darted at a tiny mudskipper and after beating it senseless on the head, proceeded to swallow it whole. –Perhaps the Brown winged Kingfisher had once been its tutor?

The Black and Red Broadbills proceeded to put on a display for us and we spend a good 30 minutes photographing this strange but beautiful bird.

From Ao Phang Nga we headed over to the Mangrove Research Station to look for the Buffy Fish Owl. I had seen it there on two previous visits and the bird nary blinked an eye at me on both occasions. However, this time I would be bringing a camera … no wait, make that two cameras.

A trek to the stakeout brought us in contact with a cobra basking in the sunlight. No worries, the snake politely moved aside to let us pass unharmed.

Arriving at the site I was disappointed to find the bird was missing. Where could it have gone?

A melodious whistling alerted us to a party of Mangrove Whistlers in the trees. They were soon joined in by more Black and Red Broadbill as well as a single unfortunate Black bellied Malkoha. We say the fellow was unfortunate as his entire tail had gone missing.

From there we moved on to our last site of the day: Thai Muang. Here we began a careful search of all the trees in the exercise park, scanning the branches in search of the majestic Spotted Wood Owl. It took nearly 30 minutes before we finally found one bird roosting high in a tree near the middle of the park.

Having completed our quest for the day, we headed back to the hotel to rest and recuperate before beginning another day of birding, this time in the north of the province.

DAY 2: SRI PHANG NGA NATIONAL PARK

Our next adventure began at Sri Phang Nga National Park a day later. We began the morning searching for birds around the car park. Due to heavy rain the night before the grounds were soaking wet and many of the birds were feeding high in the treetops. None of the specials like Black and Yellow Broadbill, Green Broadbill, Red bearded Bee Eater or Rufous collared Kingfisher were calling.

We decided to focus our effort on finding the Banded Pitta and Chestnut naped Forktail so headed straight to the stakeouts to wait and see what we could come up with.

At the pitta stakeout we found two Abbott’s Babbler sitting around looking a little lost and lonely. Soon they were joined by a gorgeous White rumped Shama. The three battled it out for grubs and earthworms which we’d exposed by breaking open a rotting log.

Not long after a handsome Chinese Blue Flycatcher decided to get in on the action. The smallest of them all, the bird relied on lightning fast dives to snitch a few morsels before making its getaway.

While we were at the hide I heard the unmistakable shrill call of the Chestnut naped Forktail. We went to investigate and sure enough, the bird was at the stakeout! Getting into place was not as simple as we’d hoped and before we were ready the bird decided to dash off upstream in search of lunch.

While waiting the bird’s return we took the time to prepare and get everything in order and after a 20 minute wait the bird returned and spent a good portion of time hunting around the rocks, allowing Gordon to get some good photos of this splendid bird.

After lunch we decided to head north to Tung Chalee to see what was going on there.

Normally this site always has a few good birds hanging out, namely broadbills and a Red Bearded Bee Eater or two. However, on this particular day the wind was roaring through the trees with such force it was hard for us to find anything. After a quick search in all the usual spots, we called it quits and moved on to our last site.

The bridge over the Sok River at Baan Talad Yai is famous for its River Lapwing. Today the bird did not disappoint, as we found two birds seated on a small rocky island not far from the bridge. The river was higher than normal, most likely due to the influx of rain in the north, so there were fewer birds on the river than normal.

With River Lapwing in the bag, we called it a day and headed back to our respective abodes.

CONCLUSION

Despite missing out on the Banded Pitta we were pleased to have connected with Mangrove Pitta, Brown winged Kingfisher, Black and Red Broadbill and Chestnut naped Forktail. I’d say we did quite well under the conditions we faced, with overcast skies, sporadic rainfall and strong winds hampering our birding efforts.

A full list of birds seen will be posted, along with this report, under the Trip Reports tab in the near future.

Categories: Trip Report

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