Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Go to Mae Wong!

I've not been myself (ever!) but it seems like now would be a good time to visit Mae Wong National Park in western Thailand, judging by these videos of a Grey Peacock Pheasant and one of four Rusty-naped Pittas coming into food!

Thanks to Mark Andrews for alerting me to this video via his Facebook page.

The worst bit for me is that I will be flying over Mae Wong NP tomorrow to get back to Bangkok.  FAIL!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mae Sot, Tak province

After a late evening return from Rangoon last night, I had to jump on a plane mid afternoon today for a meeting in Mae Sot.  The only compensation for this rather ping-pong ball-like behaviour was a stonking male Pied Harrier as we touched down on the runway at Mae Sot.

Burma Birding: 22nd-26th Feb

Amalee and I decided to take a five-day holiday to Burma last week.  We flew to Rangoon, had a day there, then flew to Bagan next morning for three days of exploring the amazing landscape that is punctuated with 2,200 temples that were part of a great city that dates back 1,500 years. Then a final day in Rangoon before returning to Bangkok.

This was our first trip to Burma, and it was full of interesting quirks to keep us entertained - eg the total absence of motorbikes on the streets on Rangoon (they are banned, following a period of gang warfare in the1980s!) and the fact that they drive on the right hand side of the road in Burma, but they have right hand drive cars.  Best of all though are the open displays of support for Aung San Suu Kyi: thwarted winner of the 1990 general election, long-time political prisoner, Nobel Peace Prize winner and now candidate for local elections.

Talking with a friend who has been resident in Rangoon for the last 18 months, it is clear that the  many positive changes coming to Burma in terms of political reform are reflected in  increasing numbers of tourists going to Burma (there is a major shortage of hotel rooms). What is driving these reforms is a good question that seems hard to answer, and they are cautiously welcomed (let's hope they continue).

Bagan has become known as a very good area for birding, and whilst this was not a birding-orientated trip, it would have been rude to not have taken my binos!  I manage to pick up a few of the target birds including White-throated Babbler and Burmese Bushlark (both endemics which were seen every day whilst looking at temples), burmannicus Vinous-breasted Starling and White-eyed Buzzard (one over the temple we were stood on whilst watching the sunset).  Other goodies included Small Pratincole, Ruddy Shelduck and Grey-throated Martin (all seen distantly from the banks of the Irrawaddy River), Yellow-streaked Warbler (easily picked up on call, and seemingly pretty common), Burmese Shrike (common), a Eurasian Wryneck and nice views of Oriental Honey Buzzard and Spotted Owlet. The key target species – Jerdon’s Minivet, Hooded Treepie - and Laggar Falcon eluded me, but they would realistically have required more time and attention than I could give them on this trip (and I had already used up all my luck in Rangoon’s domestic terminal - see below).

I left Burma  wanting more time to explore – it has huge birding potential, and if it continues to “open up” it will surely become a popular destination for birdwatchers (the people we met were fantastically friendly, the level of spoken English is way beyond that which you find in Thailand, and the country is regarded as being very safe for travellers).

Who knows what avian delights might be hiding there?  My outrageous hope are White-eyed River Martin, Pink-headed Duck, and a wintering population of Large-billed Reed Warblers!

"Auntie Suu"
Whilst sitting at Rangoon's domestic terminal waiting for our delayed flight to Bagan there was suddenly a spontaneous cheering and clapping and everybody was standing up - I guessed who might be in the building, but as I turned around I was astonished and overjoyed to see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi walk past us just five feet away! She then went into the airport lounge for a meeting.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thaksin Maharat National Park, Tak province

A short excursion to Thaksin Maharat NP on the way back from Mae Sot to Bangkok produced a nice selection of forest birds, though not the hoped for (dreamed for!) Rusty-naped Pitta, a species that has been recorded here in the past.

Today's highlights (in one hour's birding) included a male Black-throated Sunbird at least two Bianchi's Warblers,  close views of  a "Blyth's Leaf Warbler", and I managed to pull in a Hill Blue Flycatcher and several Grey-eyed Bulbuls with playback of a Collared Owlet call.  A flowering tree hosted lots of birds including an Ashy Bulbul, a Blue-winged Leafbird and a group of three Spangled Drongos.

I also picked up male Grey Bush Chat on the approach road and three Blue-throated Barbets in a fruiting tree in the carpark.

further south I got brief drive-by views of a cracking male Pied Harrier.

Part of the Blyth's complex...
...but which part?
Claudia's? Blyth's?...or Harterts? time for some DNA analysis!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mae Sot, Tak province

Early morning walk around Mae Sot reservoir this morning revealed little apart from two Radde's and three Dusky Warblers, one Yellow-browed Warbler and two White-rumped Shama.

A brief stop en route from Bangkok yesterday gave me nice views of this Chestnut-tailed Starling.

12th Feb 2012

A quiet morning on the patch with five Taiga and four Asian Brown Flycatchers, four Brown Shrikes and two Yellow-browed Warblers. The male Chinese Blue Flycatcher is apparently still present, though I did not see it myself.

Many Pond Herons are still present, and I saw the first breeding plumaged Chinese Pond Heron of the year.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Waders & Raptors

Excellent day's birding at Pak Thale and Nong Pla Lai Eagle Watchpoint.

In the morning Pak Thale produced the usual range of high quality waders, including two Spoon-billed Sandpipers, at least 25 Nordmann's Greenshank, c. 500 Great Knot, several groups of Broad-billed Sandpipers (including several birds attaining summer plumage), 20+ Long-toed Stints and a single Temminck's Stint.

Long-toed Stint

 Black-winged Stilt

During the afternoon Nong Pla Lai produced an excellent selection of raptors including Black, Brahminy and Black-shouldered Kites, Pied and Eastern Marsh Harriers, a single Booted Eagle, approximately ten Great Spotted Eagles, one Imperial Eagle and at least two Steppe Eagles including stunning views of an immature bird feeding on the ground just ten meters from our car for thirty minutes. Also at least two Black-headed Ibises feeding amongst egret flocks in this area.

Steppe Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

 Imperial Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

 Greater Spotted Eagle (same bird as above)

 Steppe Eagle

 Steppe Eagle (different from above)

Eastern Marsh Harrier (2cy?)

Saturday, February 4, 2012


In Pai, Mae Hong Son province for a few days holiday with my wife.  Some very relaxed birding this morning produced Hoopoe, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Wire-tailed Swallow, Asian House Martin, and Pied Bushchat.

This afternoon a visit to Pai Hot Springs produced a juvenile Black-hooded Oriole and  Collared Falconet.

Yesterday evening, whilst having a beer and watching the sunset we had a small group of Red-throated Pipits over our resort.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

1st Feb 2012 - Khao Yai

Great day out at Khao Yai National Park with the highlights being excellent and prolonged views of a pair of Coral-billed Ground-cuckoos displaying, a pair of Dusky Broadbills showing  at point-blank range and more interested in getting ready for some big luvvin, and brief views of a Blue Pitta.

Other goodies included a Laced Woodpecker, two Great Hornbills, and a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills. Various heard-only spp included Scaly-breasted Partridge and Long-tailed Broadbills (both heard in various parts of the Park) and a single Banded Broadbill.

Dusky Broadbill
The clues in the name!
Little tease
Great Hornbill
White-handed Gibbon