Thailand: Jewels of the South Trip Report – January 2015
This year we had two birders sign up for the South Thailand trip. For Laurel it was her first trip to Southeast Asia, so almost everything was on her target list. At the other end of the spectrum was Carole, who is on a mission to see the kingfishers of the world, and she had three targets in mind: Brown-winged Kingfisher, Blue-banded Kingfisher, and Rufous-collared Kingfisher.
As Laurel and Carole had only checked into their hotel in the early hours, we had a mid-morning pickup from a hotel near Phuket airport. We drove to our hotel in Phang Nga to drop off our bags. Golden-bellied Gerygone came in to call at the hotel. This is the only bird in the area that has adapted to rubber plantations.
Our first birding stop was at the Ao Phang Nga National Park headquarters area. Things were quiet, as it was the middle of the day, but on the short boardwalk we found Arctic Warbler and Olive-winged Bulbul. Rufous-bellied Swallows, Pacific Swallows, and Red-rumped Swallows were active at various heights above the river. A Mangrove Pitta called from across the river, and although a Brown-winged Kingfisher called nearby, we saw neither of them.
We ate our lunch at a restaurant balcony and saw Blue-tailed Bee-eater catching insects. A Yellow Bittern flew across a pond.
After lunch we visited Baan Bang Phat Mangroves. We heard another Brown-winged Kingfisher from the car park, but again it would not come in. Whimbrels, Pacific Reef Herons, and Great Egrets were feeding on the mud banks, and Brahminy Kites circled above. Collared Kingfisher and two Black-capped Kingfishers showed nicely.
The first part of the boardwalk was deadly quiet, but once we got a couple of hundred meters in, things picked up. A flock of small birds came through, giving us brief looks at Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Eastern Crowned Warbler, and Oriental White-eye. The rarely-seen Copper-throated Sunbird gave us the run-around but finally stayed still long enough to get our binoculars onto it. This bird often just looks black, but thankfully it sat in good light, so we got to appreciate its various colors.
We heard another Brown-winged Kingfisher call, and this time it came in and showed very well. One down for Carole! As we got to the end of the boardwalk, a Black-and-red Broadbill was heard. After a couple of minutes two birds came in.
A little down the road we stopped at an abandoned shrimp pond to look for crakes and rails. None were seen, but the area was jumping with birds, including Western Osprey, Black-winged Kite, Jungle Myna, White-throated Kingfisher, Large-billed Crow, Indian Roller, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Streak-eared Bulbul, Brown Shrike, Scaly-breasted Munia, and Greater Coucal.
We woke up to a wet morning and a power cut. After breakfast by candlelight we made our way up to Ton Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary. The birds were active, but anything high up had to be put in the scope, as the light was not good. At the first stop we had Dark-necked Tailorbird, Crimson Sunbird, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, and Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker. Dark-sided Flycatcher and Asian Brown Flycatcher sat together to allow comparison. A single Black-and-yellow Broadbill came through, as did a Verditer Flycatcher. We called in a female Banded Kingfisher, which we all enjoyed through the scope. A group of Everett’s White-eyes then came, followed by an Asian Fairy-bluebird.
A little later we walked the road and found a Crested Honey Buzzard on a snag. A mixed flock came through low, giving us good looks at White-bellied Erpornis and Swinhoe’s Minivet. A couple of Sooty Barbets were seen as we approached the headquarters.
Near the headquarters Games found a lar gibbon in the open, but it was rather distant.
During lunch we watched Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers feeding in a fruiting tree next to our table.
Our next stop was the beach area at Thai Muang, where we quickly found our target, two Spotted Wood Owls at their day roost. One relocated as we approached, but the other stayed and allowed us to get some photos. The one that flew soon regretted it, as the local crow gang kept giving chase. Also picked up in the area were Lineated Barbet, Vernal Hanging Parrot, and Grey-faced Buzzard.
An hour further north we stopped again, this time for shore birds at Laem Pakarang. As we arrived we noticed a few Thai photographers, who had come down from Bangkok for the Crab Plover which had been in the area for a few weeks. Bad news, though: although it had been seen in the morning, no-one had seen it since. The tide was well out, which meant the birds were well dispersed. We also failed to find the Grey-tailed Tattler, and the Malaysian Plover flew before Laurel or Carol got onto it. We did see Greater Sand Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Grey Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, and Whimbrel. We decided to try and squeeze in another visit later for the ones we had missed.