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Phuket & Phang Nga Province Birding Trip Report - April 2008

Phuket is still a wonderful birding destination. I don’t know if it’s because so much land is being converted into tacky shop houses or malls, but in spite of everything that’s going on, the birds are definitely still here.

Oriental Hobby by Dave WilliamsPhuket Birding

On April 8th, my guest Mark and I started off at the small park where we usually start. The first bird we saw was a Red-throated Barbet (female). An Intermediate Egret and a male Chinese Pond Heron were fishing side-by-side in the stream. A Forest Wagtail made its usual appearance.

The usual bulbuls, flowerpeckers and sunbirds came by, but the Black Bazas that have been around for the past few months were not seen.

Oriental Hobby by Dave WilliamsActually, on the way to the jungle we saw a couple of Greater Coucals. As we’d soon see, this was going to be the day of the Coucal. We lost count of exactly how many we saw.

We visited a small former rice paddy and picked up a Cinnamon Bittern. It flew around and gave us a lot of time to appreciate its color. Usually, these guys go up and down so fast that if you’re not looking at the right place you’ll miss it.

The next stop was a farm area. The first birds we saw were Grey-rumped Treeswifts and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters perched on a power line. Next, a Grey-capped Woodpecker was spotted in the top of a tree. More Greater Coucals. We saw a couple of White-throated Kingfishers. Mark loved the wing color and I’ll be honest, I never get tired of seeing these lovely birds. I’ve seen hundreds of them, but man, they are pretty.

Next, we stopped and had brunch. There’s a nice little family-own restaurant that serves traditional Thai breakfast for most of the day. It’s always a hit getting to try such interesting food.

Yellow-whiskered Barbet by Dave WilliamsOur next stop was a rice field / battlefield area near Thalang town. In addition to the usuals, we saw some Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters and a few Asian Koels. A Yellow Bittern made an appearance… well, they always do in this area. This one, however, flew around a bit so we could get a nice long look.

Mark really enjoyed seeing some Scaly-breasted Munias. They are little cuties.

We headed to the area where the Asian Openbilled Storks have been hanging out. The last time we went there we counted 82 birds. A Thai businessman was in the process of filling in the wetland. We called the cops and the land department. Neither cared and both said he could do whatever he wanted… it wasn’t recognized wetland. The birds didn’t know that. There were only two birds left.

The big wheel said he wasn’t going to fill in the very much of the wetland. He lied. He filled in twice as much as he said he planned on filling. Next, while whatever he’s going to build is being built, all of the trash will certainly end up in the water and the laborers, most of whom are Burmese these days as they work for next to no money, will likely hunt birds for food.

We did get a nice long look at a big Yellow Bittern.

Next, we headed to a freshwater pond. We saw a bunch of Pintailed Snipes, a pair of Purple Swamphens, Black-naped Orioles, Koels, Moorhens and others.

Thai Muang Birding

Thai Muang was our next stop. Right off the bat we saw Red-wattled Lapwings, more White-throated Kingfishers, Greater Coucals, a Lesser Coulcal, Oriental Pratincoles and a River Lapwing. A huge Brahminy Kite swooped down and grabbed a fish off of the water. A few Purple Swamphens were spotted. A Common Kingfisher let us watch him for a while.

We watched a White-throated Kingfisher go into a hole in a dirt mound. That was probably the nesting site. That was nice to see.

Phang Nga Province Mangrove Walkway and Park

We hopped back on the road and headed to the mangrove walkway in Phang Nga Province. The water was high and we didn’t see much… no Mangrove Pitta.

We slipped across the road to a small park and saw some Blue Whistling Thrushes. Mark had good time watching the local Longtail Macaques scramble around on the limestone rock cliffs. Dusky Crag Martins put on an aerial show as a Coppersmith Barbet ‘hooped’ in the background.

Ton Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary

On day two, we headed up to the top of Ton Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary. Initially, things started off a bit slow. The usual trees that hold so many birds were empty except for a few Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters and some Large Wood-shrikes.

Walking down the hill a bit, we started seeing lot of birds. A bit further down, Mark spotted a Brown Barbet and the resident Chestnut-breasted Malkoha. Our necks sore from looking up in the trees, we sat on the guard rail. Mark spotted a hole in a big dead tree. Suddenly, a huge green bird flew into it! Holy Cow! What was that? With scope and binoculars focused on the hole we waited. “There’s a face,” One of us said. “What is it?” It turned out to be a Yellow-whiskered Barbet. We spent the next 20 to 30 minutes of the morning trying to get a good photo. It was rather far away, but we sure enjoyed sitting there and the ever-busy parent flew back and forth from the tree and wherever the bugs were.

Wat BangriangOur next destination was lunch… followed by another crack at the Mangrove Pitta. This time, we saw one! We also heard a Ruddy Kingfisher, but didn’t get a look. A family of Ashy Tailorbirds entertained us for a bit.

Wat Bangriang

Our next birding destination was Wat Bangriang, a delightful mountain-top temple. We were in search of the Giant Black Squirrel. We saw it. This squirrel is over a meter long! We also saw a Common Iora and a few Thick-billed Pigeons.

The Cave Temple

cave templeOur final destination was a cave temple in Phang Nga Province. We were hoping to see an owl that we’ve seen there before. It wasn’t around. What was there was an Oriental Hobby. It flew to a tree at about eye-level and posed for us. Then, it flew over to a cliff face and posed some more. I’ve seen plenty of Oriental Hobbies in my days, but this was the best sighting ever.

Click here to see a Phang Nga photo gallery courtest of Mr. Mark Gutchen.

Bird list:

1. Little Cormorant
2. Purple Heron
3. Little Heron
4. Great Egret
5. Intermediate Egret
6. Cattle Egret
7. Yellow Bittern
8. Cinnamon Bittern
9. Asian Openbilled Stork
10. Lesser Whistling Duck
Jungle Myna by Mark Gutchen11. Brahminy Kite
12. Crested Serpent-Eagle
13. Oriental Hobby
14. Purple Swamphen
15. Common Moorhen
16. Red-wattled Lapwing
17. River Lapwing
18. Kentish Plover
19. Pintailed Snipe
20. Oriental Pratincole
21. Thick-billed Pigeon
22. Spotted Dove
23. Vernal Hanging Parrot
Oriental Hobby by Mark Gutchen24. Greater Coucal
25. Lesser Coucal
26. Asian Koel
27. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha
28. Common Kingfisher
29. White-throated Kingfisher
30. Blue-tailed Bee-eater
31. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
32. Golden-whiskered Barbet
33. Red-throated Barbet
34. Coppersmith Barbet
35. Brown Barbet
36. Grey-capped Woodpecker
37. Mangrove Pitta
Striped-throated Bulbul by Mark Gutchen38. Germain’s Swiftlet
39. Silver-rumped Needletail
40. Asian Palm Swift
41. Grey-rumped Treeswift
42. Whiskered Treeswift
43. Paddyfield Pipit
44. Yellow Wagtail
45. Forest Wagtail
46. Large Wood-shrike
47. Common Iora
48. Black-headed Bulbul
49. Black-crested Bulbul
50. Stripe-throated Bulbul
51. Olive-winged Bulbul
Yellow Bittern by Mark Gutchen52. Steak-eared Bulbul
53. Red-eyed Bulbul
54. Buff-vented Bulbul
55. Ashy Drongo
56. Black-naped Oriole
57. Asian Fairy-bluebird
58. Large-billed Crow
59. Striped Tit-babbler
60. Yellow-bellied Prinia
61. Dark-necked Tailorbird
62. Ashy Tailorbird
63. Oriental Magpie-Robin
64. Blue Rock Thrush
65. Blue Whistling Thrush
Scaly-breasted Munia by Mark Gutchen66. Dark-sided Flycatcher
67. Asian Brown Flycatcher
68. Pied Fantail
69. Brown Shrike
70. Philippine Glossy Starling
71. Common Myna
72. Jungle Myna
73. Brown-throated Sunbird
74. Olive-backed Sunbird
75. Little Spiderhunter
76. Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker
77. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
78. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
79. Scaly-breasted Munia
80. Dusky Crag Martins

Parting note...

Thousands of dogs and cats are thrown away at temples each year. Many live of a life of pain and misery with no one to love them.

This little guy has the beginnings of mange, a very curable disease. He will likely not have a very happy life, but we will supply him with the needed medicine to at least make his suffering a little bit bare. I wish we could take all of them home, but alas, we've got four doggies already and our place isn't big enough for more.

"We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form." William Ralph Inge, Outspoken Essays, 1922