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Southern Thailand Birding Trip Report - January 2007

Trip organized by Olga Clarke, Travel Director for the Los Angeles Audubon Society. Story by Dave Williams

Thai Muang – January 27th

Our journey started with a visit to a marsh and secondary growth area called Thai Muang. We didn’t get to started until after lunch as the Los Angeles Audubon Society group didn’t arrive until midday.

Oriental PratincoleThis area is beside a golf course. Some littoral zone plant life is being mowed over in the area and there have been mist nets in the region lately too. Still, this is a great place for spotting species that aren’t easily seen elsewhere.

We got out of the van and immediately spotted Black Drongos, Little Egrets, a Great Egret, Intermediate Egrets and a flock of Oriental Pratincoles. A Black-shouldered Kite flew down to the ground very near to where we were standing. Its wings were held almost vertically and it swooped down on some probably unsuspecting prey. We couldn’t see where it landed.

Shortly after that, we spotted some Red-wattled Lapwings. They are always in this area, as are Grey-headed and River Lapwings. We strolled over to a lagoon that’s just inside the sea shore. A pair of River Lapwings were standing in the shade of some trees. A Common Sandpiper was spotted across the water. Pacific Swallows zipped by from time to time.

We walked back to the marsh area and spent quite some time trying to determine whether we were looking at a couple of Paddyfield Pipets or a Richard’s Pipets. We voted for Paddyfield Pipets. Birders can practice democracy too.

Red-wattled LapwingBefore we moved on, we saw quite a few other birds; all in all, we spotted 32 species. A couple of them were life birds for some of these seasoned birders.

1. Little Heron (Butorides striatus)
2. Great Egret (Egretta albus)
3. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
4. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
5. Brahmiy Kite (Haliastur Indus)
6. Black-Shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
7. Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela)
8. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
9. Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio)
10. Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
11. River Lapwing (Vanellus duvaucelii) photo of
12. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
13. Oriental Pratincole (Glareola maldivarum)
Crested Serpent Eagle14. Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)
15. Plaintive Cuckoo (Cacomantis merulinus)
16. Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis)
17. Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
18. White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
19. Black-capped Kingfisher (Halcyon pileata)
20. Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus)
21. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti)
22. Asian Palm Swift (Cypsiurus balasiensis)
23. Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica)
24. Paddyfield Pipit (Anthus rufulus)
25. Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus)
26. Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)
27. Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus)
28. Bronzed Drongo (Dicrurus aeneus)
29. Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)
30. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
31. Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis)
32. Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)

We drove over to the mangrove walkway near Phang Nga Town. This place can be absolutely magical or completely dead. Unfortunately, this time it was almost dead. A Forest Wagtail was spotted, but that was it as far as birds go. This was, however, a life bird for some of these birders. Not everyone saw it though. They would later in Khao Nor Chuchi.

We checked in to the Phang Nga Inn, one of the nicer places to stay in the region. Dinner was at a riverside restaurant. The food was incredible of course. It was then that I revealed the truth about this trip. “This is an eating tour! We only go birding to kill time between meals!” Heads nodded.

Whiskered TreeswiftTon Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary – January 28th

We parked the van and walked less than 100 meters to one of my favorite birding spots. It’s dead easy to spot birds from this location. There are a couple of dead trees in the area that provide great perching opportunities for many species.

The little Dark-sided Flycatcher sentry was right where he is normally located. The first tick of the morning. Also as usual, some Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers showed up.

Vernal Hanging Parrots are common here and we saw several go by from time to time. Swifts and swallows are always present. Silver-rumped Swifts are almost always seen. We saw them.

A lone Buff-rumped Woodpecker made a appearance. It was out in the open for a few seconds; just enough time to make a positive ID.

A bird landed in a tree very near to all of us. We all looked at it for a long time. The bird was very helpful. It turned a couple of times. Thumbing through both Robson’s book and Round’s, we voted on it being a Little Niltava, but as this is most likely not possibly in this area, it was probably a Hainan Blue Flycatcher. There wasn’t anything else it could be really.

A Mugimaki Flycatcher came by and stopped long enough for us all to enjoy it.

Ton Pariwat Wildlife Sanctuary is a great place for bulbuls. We saw several Black-headed Bulbuls, Black-crested Bulbuls, a couple of Scaly-breasted Bulbuls, many Stripe-throated Bulbuls and a noisy Ochraceous Bulbul.

This place is also wonderful for minivets. This time we saw three species, the Ashy Minivet, Scarlet Minivet (male only) and a male Fiery Minivet.

In the afternoon, we headed to Krabi. I don’t like Krabi as I lived there in the early 90s and it saddens me to see that it turned out to be just another over-developed mess with nothing unique to add to the traveler’s experience. Still, there are birds there.

Olga was itching to see a Brown-winged Kingfisher. We went to Krabi town to visit the mangrove that’s across from the busy town. With scopes scanning the flats and the forest, we didn’t see a Brown-winged, but we did spot a Collared Kingfisher and a Black-capped Kingfisher. A Great Egret sat high up in a mangrove tree, while a Water Monitor Lizard slithered around in the mangled roots. As is typical of Krabi, two longtail touts hassled us to take a ride in their longtails and wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. All we could do was walk away.

We boarded our van, went and bought some wine, then headed to Khao Nor Chuchi. Along the way, while still in town, a pair of White-bellied Sea-Eagles were seen jousting in the air. I’ve seen hundreds of them. I didn’t really stop to think that these could be lifers for some in the group. I was soon enlightened.

We saw 36 species in total this day.

1. Grey-faced Buzzard (Butastur indicus)
2. White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)
3. Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)
4. Vernal Hanging Parrot (Loriculus vernalis)
5. Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)
6. Black-capped Kingfisher (Halcyon pileata)
7. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaultia)
8. Buff-rumped Woodpecker (Meiglyptes tristis)
9. Asian Palm Swift (Cypsiurus balasiensis)
10. Silver-rumped Swift (Rhaphidura leucopygialis)
11. Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica)
12. Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike (Hemipus picatus)
13. Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati)
14. Ashy Minivet (Pericrocotus divaricatus)
15. Fiery Minivet (Pericrocotus igneus)
16. Scarlet Minivet (Pericrocotus flammeus)
17. Black-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus atriceps)
18. Black-crested Bulbul (Pycnonotus melanicterus)
19. Scaly-breasted Bulbul (Pycnonotus squamatus)
20. Stripe-throated Bulbul (Pycnonotus finlaysoni)
21. Ochraceous Bulbul (Alophoixus ochraceus)
22. Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus)
23. Asian Fairy-Bluebird (Irena puella)
24. Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
25. Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus)
26. Dark-sided Flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica)
27. Asian Brown Flycatcher (Muscicapa dauurica)
28. Mugimaki Flycatcher (Ficedula mugimaki) (lifer for me!)
29. Small Niltava (Niltava macrogrigoriae) (another lifer for me!)
30. Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)
31. Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra)
32. Grey-breasted Spiderhunter (Arachnothera affinis)
33. Yellow-vented Flowerpecker (Dicaeum chrysorrheum)
34. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma)
35. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum)
36. Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus)

Gurney's PittaKhao Nor Chuchi - January 29th

We asked my Khao Nor Chuchi guide, Khun Yotin, to show us around. Having a guide is a wonderful experience. Yotin was born and raise and lived his entire life in this unique area. He is the master at finding birds here and targeting certain species is his forte.

Guess what we went after first? Yep, the Gurney’s Pitta. We saw a lovely male right after sunrise. An Orange-headed Thrush was also in the same area. A female Siberian Blue Robin hopped around for a bit.

A Red-bearded Bee-eater was on one side of the trail calling. It flew to another tree, called some more, then flew across the trail. We got a brief though confirming view. The call was enough, but we weren’t going to tick it unless we saw it. I got a brief look at a Black-capped Babbler. I think someone else got a brief glimpse too.

Green BroadbillYotin took us up the trail further (armed with his awesome Swarovski scope), stopping when he heard something. He spotted a male Green Broadbill. Everyone was thrilled, me too, even though I’ve seen them quite a few times. This is one of my favorite birds. I can’t get enough of that weird call.

A small flock of Ashy Minivets flew by.

Yotin took us past the Emerald Pool and into the beautiful jungle. Just before entering the high canopy jungle, he spotted a Banded Bay Cuckoo. We all got a nice view of it.

Yotin and Audubon Society groupOnce in the jungle and past the Red-necked Keelback snake with the frog in its mouth, we came upon a fig tree in fruit. There were loads of birds feeding. Uncountable numbers of Orange-headed Thrushes flying back and forth. They were coming in groups of three and four at a time. Thick-billed Green Pigeons were also feeding.

We could hear an Orange-breasted Trogon in the area too, but failed to spot it.

Night Birding at Khao Nor Chuchi

We went on an evening excursion to see the White-fronted Scops Owl and other night birds. Yotin has put a lot of time and energy into finding this place and an unscrupulous birder who went with him to find this spot has now posted a map to the place! That’s stealing in my book.

Anyway, Yotin took us to the place and had us stand around while he went out to find it. We heard a Great-eared Nightjar nearby. Yotin came back and said that it wasn’t calling so he couldn’t find it. We drove over to another area to try our luck with frogmouths and other owls.

Again, Yotin had us wait until he found it. The wait wasn’t long and what he was about to show us would have been worth a long time waiting.

He motioned for us to come over. To our amazement, there was a Javan Frogmouth (male) perched on a wire within about 15 or so meters from us. We even got to see it in the scope! What an incredible bird. I’ve had them on my life list for a long time as I used to see them when I lived in Krabi. But back then all I was going on was hearing the call and seeing the dark object fly by. Sure, it was a sighting, but this was a viewing of a whole other level.

We also heard a Bay Owl, but couldn’t see it.

Yotin got a call. The White-fronted Scops Owl was calling where we were before. Yotin includes some of the locals in his business. One of them was asked to keep him informed about the owl. We headed back.

We parked the van and headed off across a recently plowed field. The going was tough. We came to the thick jungle and carefully walked in. We could hear a Large-tailed Nightjar as we approached.

We could hear the owl from far away even though the call was soft and light. Yotin broke out the scope. This was it! We were about to see a White-fronted Scops Owl! There it was, sitting in the ‘V’ of a tree and calling. It wasn’t easy to spot. Some of us didn’t see it right away. The owl was gorgeous. Its hooked predatory bill, its big round eyes gathering all of the ambient light. I could stand there and watch it forever.

We headed back to the Morakot Resort for a well-earned night’s sleep.

Khao Nor Chuchi - January 30th

This day started off with a walk down a trail where Yotin had spotted a Rufous-collared Kingfisher a couple days earlier. We didn’t see the kingfisher unfortunately, but we did manage to see a Moustache Hawk-Cuckoo. Though not a wonderful consolation prize, it was sure nice getting to see one fairly close up. We also got to see a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha.

We saw a few other birds, but it was fairly slow. We came across a Swedish couple (birders) who asked us if we’d see the Gurney’s. We said yes. Then they asked Yotin if he’d ever seen one. He smiled and nodded… we giggled.

On our afternoon journey, Yotin took us to a watering hole where he said birds would come to drink and bathe. I thought to myself that this sounds a bit strange. There’s plenty of water in the area. Why would this place be anything special? Wow, was I in for a surprise. Make that ‘we’ were in for a surprise.

We came to a creek and Yotin told us to all sit down. Well, we looked at each other and followed orders. Hmm, this is interesting.

Within minutes, birds started arriving… and not just easy-to-see birds, but some really nice one. A Grey-bellied Bulbul was one of the first to arrive. We couldn’t have been more than 5 to 8 meters from the water. We witnessed several bulbuls drinking and bathing, including Puff-backed Bulbuls, Stripe-throated Bulbuls, Olive-winged Bulbuls, Streak-eared Bulbuls, Red-eyed Bulbuls and Streaked Bulbuls. Add Black-naped Monarchs, Puff-throated Babblers, Abbott’s Babblers, Chestnut-rumped Babblers, Striped Tit-babblers and some others and you’ve got one awesome way to spend an afternoon! I think I’ll bring my video camera next time.

Here’s a list of everything we saw on our two days in Khao Nor Chuchi:

1. Chinese Goshawk (Accipiter soloensis)
2. Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela)
3. Thick-billed Green Pigeon (Treron curvirostra)
4. Vernal Hanging Parrot (Loriculus vernalis)
5. Moustache Hawk-Cuckoo (Cuculus vegans)
6. Banded Bay Cuckoo (Cacomantis sonneratii)
7. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus curvirostris)
8. White-fronted Scops-Owl (Otus sagittatus) (Lifer!)
9. Javan Frogmouth (Batrachostomus javensis)
10. Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis)
11. Black-and-Yellow Broadbill (Eurylaimus ochromalus) (male and female together)
12. Green Broadbill (Calyptomena viridis)
13. Gurney's Pitta (Pitta gurneyi)
14. Germain’s Swiftlet (Edible Nest) (Collacalis germani)
15. Brown-backed Needletail (Hirundapus giganteus)
16. Grey-rumped Treeswift (Hemiprocne longipennis) (male incubating egg on nest)
17. Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus)
18. Green Iora (Aegithina viridissima)
Buff-rumped Woodpecker19. Black-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus atriceps)
20. Grey-bellied Bulbul (Pycnonotus cyaniventris)
21. Puff-backed Bulbul (Pycnonotus eutilotus)
22. Stripe-throated Bulbul (Pycnonotus finlaysoni)
23. Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)
24. Olive-winged Bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus)
25. Streak-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus blanfordi)
26. Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus)
27. Streaked Bulbul (Ixos malaccensis)
28. Ochraceous Bulbul (Alophoixus ochraceus)
29. Puff-throated Babbler (Pellorneum ruficeps)
30. Black-capped Babbler (Pellorneum capistatum)
31. Abbott’s Babbler (Trichastoma abbotti)
32. Rufous-crowned Babbler (Malacopteron magnum)
33. Chestnut-rumped Babbler (Stachyris maculata)
34. Chestnut-winged Babbler (Stachyris erythroptera)
35. Striped Tit Babbler (Macronous gularis)
36. Pale-legged Leaf-Warbler (Phylloscopus tenellipes)
37. Arctic Warbler (Phylloscopus borealis)
38. Inornate Warbler (yellow-browed) (Phylloscopus inornatus)
39. Ashy Tailorbird (Orthotomus ruficeps)
40. Siberian Blue Robin (Luscinia cyane)
41. Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis)
42. Orange-headed Thrush (Zoothera citrine)
43. Asian Brown Flycatcher (Muscicapa dauurica)
44. Brown-streaked Flycatcher (Musicapa williamsoni)
45. Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis)
46. Purple-throated Sunbird (Nectarinia sperata)
47. Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra)
48. Thick-billed Spiderhunter (Arachnothera crassirostris)
49. Grey-breasted Spiderhunter (Arachnothera affinis)
50. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma)
51. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum)
52. White-rumped Munia (Lonchura striata)
53. Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata)

Klong Thom, Krabi Mangrove, and Secret Places - January 31st

Audubon Society of Los AngelesWe spent the night in a small hotel in Klong Thom. We woke late… after the sun had risen. Yes, no need to say it, I know, but we were a bit tired. Besides being able to sleep in a bit, we were treated to a very nice variety of birds right beside our hotel. Let’s start with some Orange-breasted Green-Pigeons, a Lesser Coucal out in the open for a long time, a couple of Coppersmith Barbets, Banded Woodpecker, some Zebra Doves (Peaceful Dove) and some Black-naped Orioles.

We were told that there were Jungle Mynas in the area. Dexter saw one, but no one else did. We trust him. We saw a few more birds, then headed to Krabi to check out a new mangrove walkway.

Wow, some nice work went into this new attraction. I sure hope it doesn’t fall apart anytime soon. We were after a Brown-winged Kingfisher for Olga. But first, I spotted a Slaty-breasted Rail. Unfortunately, no one else had the pleasure. As usual, it was creeping around in the undergrowth and it disappeared within seconds. I got a wonderful look before it left the scene.

Khao Nor ChuchiWe started seeing lot of Pied Fantails… lot of ‘em. Then, out of nowhere, a Brown-winged Kingfisher zipped by. “Olga!’ I said, “Did you see that?” “No… where?” she replied. Crickey! She missed it. I felt bad for her. She was disappointed. Suddenly, “come here… quick”, I said to the group. There it was, a beautiful Brown-winged Kingfisher sitting in a tree. It stayed there long enough to get the scope on it. Everyone, including Olga, got a eye-full of this gorgeous creature.

But wait, it gets better. Not a minute later I spotted a Black-and-red Broadbill. Most saw it, but some didn’t… right away at least. The bird moved around a bit, making it difficult to see. But by the time it left the area we all got a decent look. Ah, the wonders of looking for birds in the mangrove forest.

Our last stop was a place that Yotin recommended we visit to see the Spectacled Spiderhunter. We arrived, stepped out of the van, looked up and there it was.

My van driver told me to follow him. He pointed up in a very tall tree. To my delight, there was a Coluga! I’ve only seen this crepuscular animal a few times. This was the best sighting I ever had. Everyone got to see this lovely doe-eyed gliding animal from the order - Dermoptera. This order contains the Coluga and flying lemurs. Lemurs are only in Madagascar. The coluga is not a lemur.

Black-naped OriolesHere’s what we saw on our last day:

1. Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus)
2. Little Heron (Butorides striatus)
3. Great Egret (Egretta albus)
4. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
5. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
6. Brahmiy Kite (Haliastur Indus)
7. Slaty-breasted Rail (Gallirallus striatus)
8. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
9. Orange-breasted Green-Pigeon (Treron bicincta)
10. Zebra Dove (Peaceful) (Geopelia striata)
11. Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis)
12. Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea)
13. Brown-winged Kingfisher (Halcyon amauroptera)
14. White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
15. Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis)
16. Coppersmith Barbet (Megalaima haemacephala)
17. Banded Woodpecker (Picus mineaceus)
18. Black-and-Red Broadbill (Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos)
19. Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica)
Coppersmith Barbet photo20. Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia)
21. Black-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus atriceps)
22. Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)
23. Olive-winged Bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus)
24. Streak-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus blanfordi)
25. Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis)
26. Arctic Warbler (Phylloscopus borealis)
27. Dark-necked Tailorbird (Orthotomus atrogularis)
28. Ashy Tailorbird (Orthotomus ruficeps)
29. Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis)
30. Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica)
31. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
32. White-vented Myna (Acridotheres grandis)
33. Jungle Myna (Acridotheres fuscus)
34. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird (Anthreptes singalensis)
35. Olive-backed sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis)
36. Spectacled Spiderhunter (Arachnothera flavigaster)
37. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum)

Although not everyone in the group got to see every bird, they did see the majority of them. My bird count was 143 species.