Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pak Thale & Laem Pak Bia...again

 Painted Storks

Great day’s birding in the company of Nick Sismey, with six Spoon-billed Sandpipers at Pak Thale, (three attaining breeding plumage), two Nordmann’s Greenshanks and c.300 Great Knot at Laem Pak Bia (pools north of Royal Project), plus the usual assortment of waders including three species of stint, a few Broad-billed Sandpipers, both Sandplovers (Greater being the more numerous), and a few year ticks for me in the form of Red Knot, Sanderling and Common Redshank.
 Marsh Sandpiper
 Temminck's Stint

We joined Phil Round, Gerry Brett and a couple of other ringers at the Royal Project where we watched them processing a splendid Pale-legged Leaf Warbler as well as Dusky Warbler, Oriental Reed Warbler and Collared Kingfisher.  A wander around this area also provided nice views of Golden-bellied Gerygone and several Racket-tailed Treepies.  We also had three migranting Oriental Honey Buzzards between Pak Thale and LPB, and located a field stuffed with Oriental Pratincoles in the same area.

 Javan Pond Heron
 Collared Kingfisher

 Pale-legged Leaf Warbler

Before heading back to Bangkok we checked out Nong Pla Lai raptor watchpoint which gave us some excellent additions to the day’s list including two Greater Spotted and one Steppe Eagle, the first Grey-faced Buzzard I’ve seen in a long time, and a few Baya Weavers at their nests.

 juv Steppe Eagle

The two shots below were knocked off as a last resort when watching a high-flying raptor in very strong light - we saw the bird briefly through binoculars but were having trouble staying on it, so the camera came out.  Now from the comfort of my armchair, I can clearly see that the bird is a Grey-faced Buzzard - note the very contrasting tail banding, darker head and upper breast contrasting with a paler belly,  and dark tips to the primaries.  Structurally, the wings are too long for an Accipiter and fit Batastur much better. Digiblasting rules!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pak Thale & Laem Pak Bia

A good day's birding started this morning with the first birds I spied through my bins being a pair of  Spoon-billed Sandpipers!  The birds gave great views at close range (from the car) but the weather was terrible and the early morning light meant I could only get these record shots. We were very happy to see one of these birds starting to attain breeding plumage.

 We also ran into Nick Upton who had located a separate group of four Spooners - so there are still six birds present in the Pak Thale area.  Other interesting birds picked up in this area today included six Nordmann's Greenshanks and small numbers of Great Knot about 1km north of the King's Project, and the wintering  Long-billed Dowitcher and a showy Ruddy-breasted Crake (inside the Kings Project compound), plus a female Eastern Marsh Harrier.

We visited the raptor watch point at Nong Pla Lai (map here) which produced more than 50 Black Kites as well as a couple of Black-shouldered Kites and a single Oriental Pratincole.

 A very lost Long-billed Dowitcher

 Many waders, such as this Greater Sandplover,
are now attaining fine breeding attire

Saturday, March 5, 2011

3rd March 2011

Went to Khao Yai with my old friend Stuart Elsom today. Soon after getting through the southern gate our journey was brought to a standstill by a bull ASIAN ELEPHANT who was having a late snack before retreating into the forest for the day. I was amazed to see a motorcyclist standing on the road  as the elephant walked past him only a few meters away.  I had assumed this guy was a national park staff member who knew exactly how to handle such a close encounter with a potentially lethal pachyderm, but once the beast had passed him and we drew level with him it became apparent that he was in fact an Israeli tourist who was blissfully unaware of the potential danger!

Khao Yai rush hour

Further up the road we came across a pair of LONG-TAILED BROADBILLS nest-building.  Needless to say they received a fair bit of attention from our cameras!

The rest of the day produced some very nice birding including ORIENTAL PIED, WREATHED and GREAT HORNBILLS, a male RED-HEADED TROGON, the first RUFOUS-BELLIED EAGLE and BLUE-EARED KINGFISHER that I've seen in the park, ASHY BULBUL, a cracking male MUGIMAKI FLYCATCHER (rare as a winter visitor here), a HAINAN BLUE FLYCATCHER a very showy male SIBERIAN BLUE ROBIN, and a couple of PUFF-THROATED BABBLERS.We also heard a few of the birds that Khao Yai is best known for, with a Coral-billed Ground-cuckoo calling distantly at lunchtime, a Banded Kingfisher  heard mid-afternoon, several Banded Broadbills in different locations, and a pair of WHITE-CROWNED FORKTAILS glimpsed.   Surprisingly we  didn't hear any Blue Pittas - they must be due to start calling in the next week or so.

Oriental Pied Hornbill

Sibe Blue

The highlight of the day for me came late in the afternoon when we found a pair of male SIAMESE FIREBACKS near the start of the KM33 trail. Rather amazingly this species has eluded me during my visits to Khao Yai over the past six years, so I was very happy to lay this bogey bird to rest.  Not only was this a tick, but we saw the birds in such classic circumstances - in deep, dark forest, with their facial skin practically glowing in the dim light.