A nine-day trip to Khao Luang Krung Ching National Park, Khao Nor Chuchi Wildlife Sanctuary, Krabi and Phang Nga mangroves, and Ton Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary with a group of birders from Singapore and Japan.
Poh Bee arranged this trip for a group of friends comprising herself, two photographers from Singapore, Jeff and Ming, and two American birders residing in Japan, Tom and Dan. We were to visit a variety of forests with bird watching and bird photography in mind.
The guests were picked up from Phuket at lunchtime and driven straight to Krung Ching. We arrived too late to do any birding.
We decided to spend our first morning at the top of the hill near the checkpoint and then move down to the HQ area. It turned out to be a good idea. We had a remarkable day’s birding with seventy five species seen.
First off we showed everyone a nesting Blyth’s Frogmouth (incredible photo at bottom of this page). The chicks had grown pretty big and struggled to stay in the nest. As we were watching them a group of Dusky Broadbills called. We’d been looking for this bird on the previous tour but had dipped so we were pleased when three or four birds flew in close by. In the next couple of hours we had bird after bird pass through, including Banded Broadbill, Black-and-Yellow Broadbill, Green Broadbill, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Streak-breasted Woodpecker, Violet Cuckoo, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Dark-throated Oriole and a variety of Bulbuls.
Down near the HQ we staked out a small fruiting tree which gave us great views of many more birds including Gold-whiskered Barbet, Brown Barbet, Red-throated Barbet, Blue-eared Barbet, Scaly-breasted Bulbul and Thick-billed Green Pigeon.
After a long lunch break we went back into the park and picked up some more species including some Northbound raptors in the form of Japanese Sparrowhawk and Oriental Honey-Buzzard. The residents were represented by Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle. We stayed on late for some owling but although we heard Brown Hawk-Owl and Sunda Scops Owl we saw nothing.
Today’s plan was to walk the first couple of kilometres of the waterfall trail to look for Babblers, Trogons and other forest birds. Both Fulvous-breasted Jungle Flycatcher and Rufous-winged Philentoma were calling as we entered the forest but neither could be found. A Yellow-bellied Bulbul showed well. Around the corner we heard the unmistakable call of a Rufous-collared Kingfisher. This was high on the list for both the bird watchers and the bird photographers so we spent a long time getting the bird into a good position. Meanwhile we heard a Banded Pitta calling from below the ridge. We also called in a Banded Kingfisher but could not get anything but brief flight views. A group of Brown Fulvettas were next up followed by three Grey-headed Babblers. The rest of the morning was quiet but we did manage to find some Fluffy-backed Tit-Babblers and a Scarlet-rumped Trogon.
Poh Bee spotted a snake’s head poking out of the end of a piece of bamboo. We managed to get the snake out and we were surprised to find it was over a metre long. It was in no hurry to depart so we all enjoyed photographing it. We later identified it as a Green Cat Snake.
The afternoon was spent back at the HQ and on the entrance road trying to improve on the previous day’s photos.
The group split up with the birders walking the forest trail again and the photographers staying out in the light. The forest was very quiet with only a few birds seen. The photographers fared a little better with Buff-rumped Woodpecker, Blyth’s Hawk-eagle, Banded Kingfisher and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch.
We had set up a hide to try and photograph a Chestnut-naped Forktail. Everyone spent some time in or near the hide and most people saw the bird.
Back in the park after lunch we staked out a fruiting tree we had heard was attracting White-crowned Hornbills. We could hear them calling in the distance and three birds did eventually fly in. A female Chinese Flycatcher passed through. Before the end of the day we had also picked up Scarlet Minivet, Verditer Flycatcher and an assortment of Malkohas.
An easy morning birding the area around our resort. The birders picked up a surprising number of lifers including Golden-bellied Gerygone, Green Iora, Plain Sunbird, Whiskered Treeswift, Rufescent Prinia and Abbott’s Babbler. The photographers did well too as the trees are small here and the birds come low. The two birds of the morning were a pair of Yellow-rumped Flycatchers and another Chinese Flycatcher.
We drove west towards Krabi and stopped for lunch at the comically named “Cabbages and Condoms” restaurant, Owned by PDA, a non-government organisation promoting family planning and health. Good people and good eating.
Outside Krabi we visited the Tiger Temple. Here you can walk around the inside of a hollow limestone karst among soaring cliffs and huge trees. There are not many birds here but there are a few good species and they are not shy as the area has been used as a retreat by monks for centuries. We easily found a Fulous-chested Jungle Flycatcher to admire but could not find any Streaked Wren-Babblers. A Banded Kingfisher called but could not be found. Both Blue Whistling Thrush and Blue Rock Thrush showed well.
From there we went down to the Krabi Mangroves for the last light of the day. After an hour we were hit by a heavy downpour so not much was seen. We did however see a Eurasian Osprey and a pair of White-bellied Sea-Eagles. Rufous-bellied Swallows were feeding over the mangroves.
The storm turned out to be the start of a very wet week for South Thailand with some areas getting over one metre of rain and many areas suffering with severe flooding.
We failed to get to our usual stake out for Gurney’s Pitta due to the standing water on the dirt road. It was still raining so we sheltered at the Morakot Resort. By the time it had stopped raining it was too late to go into the park so instead we went to the main dirt track that splits the trails area. We had only seen a Puff-backed Bulbul and a Purple-naped Sunbird before it started raining again. The guests had said that they wanted to do a little shopping so we decided to head into Krabi to make use of the time.
After lunch the sky brightened a little so we headed down to the Krabi Mangroves again. This time we had more luck. Dan found a Mangrove Pitta calling from high in a tree and a Ruddy Kingfisher showed up.
Top of Ming’s wish list was the Brown-winged Kingfisher which we had heard but not seen. Games decided to call the local boat-man who we have used before. He came down the river to pick us up and we had an excellent end to the day. We got very close to some Brown-winged Kingfishers so Ming was very happy. A pair of Chestnut-bellied Malkoha showed well. We had two bonus birds we really weren’t expecting, first off Games found a Spotted Wood-Owl perching near the edge of the forest and some lovely pictures were taken. As we were coming in to moor, Jeff found a Grey Nightjar sitting in a mangrove tree. More great pictures. Games and I were gutted as we hadn’t brought our camera due to the frequent showers.
Today we went into the park and birded trails “A” and “B”. Trail “A” is wide and fairly good for photography. We found a white long-tailed Asian Paradise Flycatcher, top of the wish list for Jeffrey so he stayed with the bird and got some good shots. Also found in the area were Ferruginous Babbler, Black-capped Babbler, Green Broadbill and a pair of Black-naped Monarchs. Poh Bee was very happy to finally see a Rufous Piculet.
Trail “B” was harder going with little found. We heard Banded Pitta again but it would not come in. We did get Chestnut-rumped Babbler and Games found a Brown Wood-Owl.
After lunch we returned to a tree which was in flower and bringing in a variety of Sunbirds, the pick of which was Van Hasselt’s Sunbird.
More miserable weather ended the day’s birding.
This started out as a repeat of the previous day as trail “B” is the best trail to look for Gurney’s Pitta at the moment. We had no luck. The forest was very quiet with the only birds of interest seen being three Jerdon’s Bazas and a group of Scaly-crowned Babblers.
We were flushed out of the forest by 9 am by more rain. We managed a 30 minute walk in an open area and picked up Yellow-bellied Prinia, Thick-billed Warbler and Green-billed Malkoha.
We went back to the resort and packed up before heading north to the Phang Nga mangroves. First we went to Bang Phat were we found Mangrove Whistler, White-chested Babbler, Oriental White-eye and a Javan Pond Heron coming into breeding plumage. Ming saw a Small Minivet, a rare bird in South Thailand. We had planned to go to Phang Nga Mangrove Park and Queen’s Park too but the weather had other ideas.
The Singapore crowd had an early flight so we said goodbye to them. The boys from Japan had time for a full morning’s birding so we took them up to Ton Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary. It was overcast and quieter than usual. A few new birds for the trip were found including Grey-throated Babbler, Black Eagle, Large Woodshrike, Everett’s White-eye and Ashy Minivet.
On the road out of the park we stopped at our Flowerpecker stake out and picked up Yellow-vented Flowerpecker. Also found were Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters and a few Red-rumped Swallows.
We now had time and suitable weather to visit the Mangrove Park where two Black-and-Red Broadbills came in close by. Also here was a resident dark morph Ashy Drongo and an Ashy Tailorbird.
Across the road in Queen’s Park we found some Jungle Mynas nesting on the cliffs. A large group of House Swifts were hunting very low.
The birders were all very happy with the number of lifers they had seen on the trip but the photographers would have benefitted from better weather and more light. It could have been worse though. It rained solidly for the next four days. We usually get great weather in March but that’s the tropics for you.