Southern Thailand Birding trip report by Mark Piazzi and Stijn De Win for November 2006
Our trip started with a quick look at the paddies and marsh area south of Thai Muang golf course. We arrived 10 am and that means it was already hot, but birds where everywhere and numerous. As usual the three Lapwing species where present with several River Lapwings and approx. 40 Grey-headed Lapwings being a high count. A few Purple-backed Starlings had perched high up a casuarinas tree and where joined by 2 Chestnut-tailed Starlings. Approx. 10 Orange-breasted Green Pigeons flew by and Ashy Minivets and Lineated Barbet showed well in the nearby woods. Loads of birds then went on the wing, probably disturbed by a passing Eastern Marsh Harrier. In the air; 100s Pacific Golden Plover, around 20 Long-toed Stints, Oriental Pratincole, Purple Heron and Wood Sandpipers. Both Cinnamon and Yellow Bittern flushed from besides the track as well as 2 Watercock. A lone Sand Martin was then seen and Black-browed Reed Warbler showed well. A quick check of the lagoon added 8 Black Bazas, Plaintive Cuckoo and Lesser Sandplovers. We opted not to go wading across the lagoon to try for the Malaysian Plovers that were present just a week earlier as the heat had become really intense by now. Instead we headed for lunch at Thai Muang beach which proved to be an excellent move as an imm. Great Frigatebird had chosen to come and fly right above our table just only a little higher than the nearby casuarinas trees.
After lunch we started our drive towards Khao Nor Chuchi. On the way near Phang Nga we stopped at the mangrove boardwalk close to the intersection for Krabi. This spot is apparently much better in the breeding season and we saw no birds in the mangrove. (But always worth checking as just only a week later Stijn got a imm. male Von Schrenk’s Bittern at the same boardwalk) However, from the parking lot both Rufous-bellied Swallow and Dusky Crag Martin were sighted high up near some limestone outcrop.
Next stop was at the Jungle Myna stake-out 6,5 kms south of Krabi airport, with the Myna’s on show as soon as we arrived. Other birds seen here include ; 2 males Eastern Marsh Harrier and 1 male Pied Harrier. Then got soaked in about 15 seconds which we needed to run to the car just only 100m away. The umbrella’s we had didn’t help at all and by the time we reached the car the deluge had stopped. Oh well, tropical birding!
Some roadside stops in the last 10 km before reaching Morakot resort produced Thick-billed Warbler and both Great-eared Nightjar and Large-tailed Nightjar. Checked in at Morakot resort and had dinner. Friendly service as ever. Had a nice chat with 2 other birders from England.
Then went spotlighting for 2 hours which produced nothing, strange enough. Made up for it with a cool beer before going to bed.
Breakfast at 5.30 am, served with a friendly smile! Very special place, this resort.
6 am saw us on trail B with the birds still sleeping it seemed. Smart they are! Except for a Banded Pitta that gave an alarm call from close to the stream crossing at the start of B trail. It wasn’t before we got to the area of B and C trails intersection that some activity had started. Stijn heard a Red-bearded Bee-eater that was spotted soon after, nicely sitting on some dead twigs in the sun. Luckily we did take the scope after all (we had questioned this earlier) and Mark got some excellent digiscoping opportunity.
While watching the Bee-eater the other birders joined us and made for pleasant company for the rest of the day and we went via trail C to trail D where we got a family of Green Broadbills and Black Giant Squirrel. Cream-vented and Streaked Bulbul were seen before reaching the Crystal Pool with some fruiting trees next to it. Lots of birds came in with the best being Red-crowned Barbet, a female Red-throated Barbet, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker and Greater Green Leafbird. The first open area before the Emerald Pool had a Black-thighed Falconet perched on top of a dead tree. After this we headed for lunch via the A-track.
Went to the Spotted Wood Owl daytime roost after lunch but this became a miserable attempt because we were chased away by some angry and drunk local even before reaching the site.
Spent the afternoon walking to the coffee plantation and back with our vehicle parked just beyond U-trail. Birding was slow but we managed to see Silver-rumped Needletail, Brown-backed Needletail, Spectacled Spiderhunter, Blue-throated Flycatcher and a male Gurney’s Pitta called on our return very close to the main track between trails E and H, not a usual location.
After dinner came the time for some real work. Our search for White-fronted Scops Owl. They are in a forest fragment about 8 kms from Morakot resort back towards Klong Thom. Arrived at 8 pm and 2 birds were heard calling soon after. It took us until 11.30 pm (3,5 hours) to see one however but then after all the work it tastes even sweeter. Our search became much more straightforward after we got to know Mr. Sompom who knows the area and owls. He’s a friendly guy and isn’t asking any money. The four of us, nevertheless, tipped him a 100 Baht each and he seemed very happy. He lives in the house exactly 700m from the intersection to Morakot. It is said that the owls can be seen sometimes (not for us) from the dirt track running alongside one end of the forest. Red-bearded Bee-eater photo
After yesterday’s heavy owling we gave ourselves half an hour more to get up with breakfast as late as ‘6am’.
Birded trail B once more until 9am with the Red-bearded Bee-eater again on post and a Black-bellied Malkoha seen high up in the trees. A male Gurney’s Pitta called 3 times from the area 100m beyond B-C intersection on B-trail and from the nearby gully that can be viewed by turning left on a small trail also 100m past B-C intersection on B. This apparently is a good spot to see Gurney’s as Stijn has seen them here in the past, not today however.
Time for us to leave the area, but not before discovering that the Morakot resort ran out of bananas (that they make those delicious shakes with). Hit the road after having a coke instead.
Our next stop was Wat Tham Seua close to Krabi town. The valley surrounded by limestone cliffs reached by climbing the second stairs is a good Streaked Wren Babbler site. They are usually easy to see but today we didn’t come closer than hearing a bird nearby in the 1 hour we had at the site. Thick-billed Pigeons and Black-naped Monarch were seen.
Time to head for Khao Sok NP and Khlong Saeng WS to go paddling on the Chieo Lan reservoir with PaddleAsia. This is a totally different approach to birding and a great way to see the Hornbills. The tours with PaddleAsia (www.paddleasia.com) are great and can be recommended.
Pick up by long-tail boat was at 2.30pm and we got to our accommodation an hour and Grey-headed Fish Eagle and Osprey later. Set off at 4pm for an easy evening paddle. First we explored the area close to the accommodation. Birding was slow but we did enjoy good views of Dusky Langur. Next we crossed the reservoir which is not broad at this point and got into birders heaven. With only a few 100 meters to paddle and into quick succession we saw ; 2 Black-thighed Falconets, Greater Flameback, Great Hornbills, 2 Wallace’s Hawk Eagle, Ashy Drongo (grey migrant race), Oriental Hobby (actually common in the reservoir area), Wreathed Hornbill, heard Rufous-collared Kingfisher and Bushy-crested Hornbills.
The paddle at dusk back to the floating huts was tranquil and relaxing. Dinner was waiting and we did some ‘fruit testing’ as a desert.
Sunrise from our accommodation looking out over the reservoir and mountains was probably the best I’ve ever seen. (I’ve not seen many though, wake up early as you know!)
A cup of coffee later saw us in the long-tail boat with toast and eggs for breakfast and the canoes in tow. Got a Stork-billed Kingfisher, Oriental Pied Hornbills and more Grey-headed Fish Eagles on the way. Destination was Khlong Mon inside Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary for the mornings paddle. The sun is blocked out here by the mountains until about 9am making for an enjoyable and cool paddle.
We had incredible close-up views of a pair of Great Hornbill feeding on fruits in a lake-side tree. Wreathed Hornbills flew over high up. Another Oriental Hobby was perched on top of a dead tree. Many birds were only heard this morning ; Banded, Black-and Yellow and Green Broadbills, Banded Kingfisher, Rufous-winged Babblers, Orange-breasted Trogon and Green Magpie (nice little range extension we got here!)
After an early lunch back at the accommodation went out again for a walk up some stream to a tiny waterfall. Apart from Ochraceous Bulbul no birds were seen but got a nice Lantern Bug. (weird and beautiful!)
Early in the afternoon it was time for Stijn to leave this peaceful place, back to the hectic outside world. On the boat-ride out a 1 meter long snake was doing a 1 kilometer swim across the reservoir….Makes you wonder really how this place must have been before it was flooded by the dam. Storm’s Stork, abundant wildlife and inaccessible…
Mark stayed another night with more paddling and birds. Additional sightings included ; Lesser Fish Eagle, Helmeted Hornbills, Pacific Swifts, Orange-breasted Trogon, Crimson Sunbird, Raffles’ Malkoha and a Great Argus was heard.