Monday, March 29, 2010

22nd March - Unmasked!

Whilst at Fraser's Hill I made the mistake of checking my email one evening.  There waiting in my inbox was a message from Peter Ericsson with the news that a MASKED FINFOOT was at Khao Yai. Once I'd picked myself up off the floor, I resolved to go for it upon return to Thailand - these birds used to be gettable in Krabi's mangroves, but that was the best part of 15 years ago; in the seven years I have lived in Thailand I have only heard of one record, and I seriously considered twitching one in Singapore earlier this year.

After re-organising a few personal and office plans, Chris and I lept into the hire car and embarked upon my first Thai twitch: Bangkok-Khao Yai-Bangkok in eight hours, and Finfoot firmly under the belt!

A big bird - in every sense!

21st March - Khok Kham

A late afternoon visit to secure Chris a few more year ticks before heading to New Zealand was semi-successful...the waders were widely spread and we consequently failed to find the Spoon-billed sandpiper, however we did find a LITTLE STINT, which is a good local rarity, plus a small group of c.10 of ASIAN DOWITCHERS.  There was also a very impressive flock of GREAT and RED KNOT - perhap 500 birds strong, and with Red Knot accounting for approximately one third of the birds.

Many of the Waders were attaining summer plumage, so it was great to see summer plum R-n Stints and Broad-billed Sandpipers!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

14th - 20th March: Fraser's Hill, West Malaysia

My first vist to Fraser's Hill, with my old friend Chris Collins, provided me with a dose of reality and a fistfull if Sundaic lifers.  Obviously I'd been hoping for Mountain Peacock-Pheasant, Malayan Whistling-thrush, Cutia, Rusty-naped Pitta and Marbled Wren Babbler...well we scored one-and-a-half of these, getting excellent views of Marbled Wren-babbler  about 1km above The Gap, and finding a Rusty-naped Pitta on the Telekom Loop (if travelling anticlockwise around the Loop, the bird was down the slope just after the house called "Green Acre") which responded to playback on three days bet never showed itself.

 Silver-eared Mesias are very common around the town of Fraser's Hill

 White-thighed Langur - supposedly common, but we only encountered one group.

Nobody we met had seen the other targets recently, so after initial, fruitless attempts, we elected to try for some of the birds that are seldom-seen at Fraser's,  but (my) muched hoped-for lowland birds.  this meant we spent a coule of days driving Highway 55 below the Gap, stopping  where the forest looked promising and playing Collared Owlet calls to solicit  interest amongst the passerines; and scanning over vistas for raptors and hornbills.  This strategy worked very well, securing us excellent views of three Helmeted Hornbills 1 km below the Gap, as well as brief views of a group of c. 8 White-Crowned Hornbills - incredibly these two difficult species were seen from the same lay-by on the roadside (on different days, but presumably visiting the same fruiting tree), as were a total of about 15 Wreathed Hornbills.  We also picked up a number of Great Argus calling  deep in the forested valleys, a pair of Rhinocerous Hornbills,  and a Maroon-breasted Philentoma. This road also gave us excellent views of Rufous-bellied Eagle, Black Eagle and a healthy passage of Oriental Honey Buzzards (up to 25 birds visible at one time on our last day).

 We came across three different pairs of Red-bearded Bee-eaters
during the week, one pair gave exceptional views whilst food passing.

The first of these bee-eater pix was taken with my 300mm  f4 +1.4 TC, whilst the lower image was taken with a 600mm f4, lent to me by a very kind bird photographer from Hong Kong who had spent a few hours staking out this bird.  I think my little lens holds up quite well considering it cost one sixth of the price!

 Malaysian Laughingthrush is a fairly recent split from Chestnut-crowned.  They are reasonably common around the Upper Gate.

 Orange-bellied leafbird, with a problem.

Long-tailed Broadbill

Blyth's Hawk-eagle


Mountain Imperial Pigeons

Streaked Spiderhunter

Brown Needletail squadron