Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thailand 2008 - a recap

For some reason i thought i had this all written down somewhere but i guess not.
Here is a condensed report from my Flickr set.

Narita, Japan, Dec 11, '08
Well, while we had hoped to one day bird Japan, we weren't expecting to do it this trip however.
our Air Canada flight out of YVR was delayed over 3 hours due to mechanical.
we missed our connnecting flight in Narita and thus were put up in a hotel overnight.
Our connecting flight was to leave in the morning but we woke up early and went out and walked the hotel grounds hoping for birdy activity.
it was too early and foggy however to really see much. a crow, a cormorant flying by, a couple of Spotted doves and this, what I believe to be hawfinch.
our first japanese bird. : )

hawfinch (coccothraustes coccothrastes)
When we finally made it to Bangkok we wasted no time getting out to the Train park we visited in '06.
It's actually called Suan Rot Fai, loads of birds to warm up with.
I was now fully set-up with a DSLR setup and didn't bring the digiscope setup.
Nikon D300 + 500mm f/4 AFS I + 1.4x tele.
 asian brown flycatcher (muscicapa dauurica)

common iora (aegithina tiphia)

 common kingfisher (alcedo atthis)

 plain prinia (prinia inornata)

 brown shrike (lanius cristatus)

 scaly-breasted munia (lonchura punctulata)

 blue-tailed bee-eater (merops philippinus)

Next we went after a real rarity at Ban Pak Thale.
The needle in the haystack.
It took 3 hours of wandering the salt pans looking through groups of birds for this endangered rarity.
i eventually teamed up with a group of euro birders and finally their guide spotted it.
They went right after that but I wanted to stay for a better shot.
Never happened as the flock flew off at that point and I was too tired to look for it again.
The rarity is the small bird near centre of pic that is looking at us : )

 spoon-billed sandpiper (eurynorhynchus pygmeus)

little-ringed plover (charadrius dubius)

intermediate egret (egretta intermedia)
spotted redshank (tringa erythropus)

little cormorant (phalacrocorax niger)

Next we checked out Lam Pak Bia, fantastic spot, all our shooting was done from car with bean-bag mount.

grey heron (ardea cinerea)

common sandpiper (actitis hypoleucos)
red-wattled lapwing (vanellus indicus)

 white-throated kingfisher (halcyon smyrnensis)

chinese pond-heron (ardeola bacchus)

little grebe (tachybaptus ruficollis)
The place is kind of a mangrove research center, a couple of great walks out into the mangrove forest for those so inclined.

Our next big trip was to Kaengkrachan NP and two nights at a bird lodge.

Our guide, a park ranger named Beir.
He tried to get us a hornbill but we saw only one, flying from a great distance.

Bird activity was pretty awesome though, i was worn out by noon.

 mountain imperial pigeon (ducula badia)

 blue-throated barbet (megalaima asiatica)

white-browed shrike-babbler (pteruthius flaviscapis)

greater green leafbird (chloropsis sonnerati)

sultan tit (melanochlora sultanea)

flavescent bulbul (pycnonotus flavescens)

black-thighed falconet (microheirax fringillarius)

vernal hanging parrot (loriculus vernalis)

orange-bellied leafbird (chloropsis hardwickii)

 violet cuckoo (chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus)

I owe the shot above to the kindness of a Thai birder couple who happened to be camping near where we decided to end our day of bird photography.
I was checking some stuff out away from the others when the man starts waving my way frantically.
I saw bins on his neck (so knew he was a birder) and went down to check it out.
they then showed me this jewel in a tree.
it was so content to just sit there for us that eventually everyone else came down and all were able to get shots. perfect end to the day : )

The lodge we stayed at was run by a well-known old school Thai wildlife photographer named Samarn, we never got a chance to bird with him as he worked as a banker in Bangkok but he told us to come visit him again in a year as he would be retired by then.
We heard a leopard outside our cabin the first night and the dogs went crazy for a while.
It was kind of scary as it sounded like it was right outside our window, Audy kept sleeping but i wanted to go out and look. It was pitch dark though and i never saw anything.
We told Samarn's wife the next morning what we had heard and she confirmed that it was likely a leopard.
Kind of cool as they are rarely seen.
streak-eared bulbul (pycnonotus blanfordi)

thick-billed flowerpecker (dicaeum agile)

oriental magpie-robin (copsychus saularis)

Next we decided to be ambitious and decided to drive 10 hours down south from Bangkok in hopes of picking up some southern specialties.
Our hope was to spend some time in Krabi and try for Gurney's Pitta.
We had no guide booked but hoped for the best anyways. We only got as far as Krung Ching NP as disaster would befall me the next morning.
The beautiful rain forest setting deep in the forest in the early morning was misty, magical, and slippery.
I slipped and fell over, dislocating my knee slightly and crunching my camera, breaking off the locking pin on body. Luckily the lens survived unscathed although the lens hood sustained some damage.
Here we were in paradise and my shooting was over.
In desperation we decided to cancel the southern leg and return to Bangkok where i could get the body repaired.
Back in Bangkok  all was not lost as i hooked up with a Thai bird photographer who was one of my contacts on Flickr.
Dr. Somchai is a great guy and took us out a couple of times during his breaks from the hospital.
 red avadavat (amandava amandava)
baya weaver (ploceus philippinus)
common stonechat (saxicola maurus)

Above shots all from Bangkaeo. 
Red Avadavat was the big draw there and i didn't quite nail the species but was lucky to see it. Many Thai bird photographers were out looking for them as well that morning.
Later we drove to Khok Kham to do some shorebirding.
long-toed stint (calidris subminuta)

wood sandpiper (tringa glareola)

greater sand-plover (charadrius leschenaultii)

Next we checked out a spot where he knew birds came to drink in the late afternoon.
Samut Sakhon is one of the spots where you can get oriental white-eye (zosterops palpebrosus) and we were lucky to see a few.

After we had had our fill of them Dr. Somchai got a phone call from a friend who told them of a bird that was just found in a run-down part of town and we drove out to see, even though the sun was starting to set.
Chinakhet village, Bangkok.
This was our last stop that day and a real inner city gem.
it was starting to get dark and we pulled into this side road and saw a few other birders all gathered around watching a small blue bird as it sat very still in front of them.
I was thinking of using flash but Somchai suggested I try using mirror up position on my camera and a remote shutter release instead of flash.
I shot this at ISO 200 and was amazed at the result.

hill blue flycatcher (cyornis banyumas)

We made plans to head up to Khao Yai NP as there had been reports of good bird activity at a blind setup some Thai bird photographers were working.
Got some close looks from the blind.
the surroundings left much to be desired however.
the setup was right by the restrooms and the muddy ground smelled not too good.
the birds loved it however.

siberian blue robin (luscinia cyane)

white-rumped shama (copsychus malabaricus)

orange-headed thrush (zoothera citrina)

white-throated rock thrush (monticola gularis)

puff-throated babbler (pellorneum ruficeps)

The above shot actually made it into Birder's World magazine in 2009. It was an honour to be featured in a Field Craft article, kind of cool.
Had to check out one of the best spots in bangkok for gulls, Bangpu.
Had fun shooting the turns and gulls, even got a harder to find gull in the Hueglin's.
 heuglin's gull (larus heuglini)
 common black-headed gull (larus ridibundus)
 common tern (sterna hirundo)
brown-headed gull (larus brunnicephalus) 

eastern marsh-harrier (circus spilonotus)

pacific golden plover (pluvialis fulva)

As our trip was was winding down we stayed closer to Bangkok but did re-visit Puttamonthon to see if the Spotted owlets were still there.
They were and we picked up a few other birds there that morning.
 coppersmith barbet (megalaima haemacephala)
black-naped oriole (oriolus chinensis)
sooty-headed bulbul (pycnontus aurigaster)

greater racket-tailed drongo (dicrurus paradiseus)

white-vented myna (acridotheres javanicus)

indian roller (coracias benghalensis)

spotted owlet (athene brama)

We did actually get out to one more location out of town, now that i think about it.
Bungporaphet is a huge lake and one of the best places to see waterfowl in Thailand.
I was disappointed by the lack of decent looks at any of the ducks we saw, they all seen quite gun-shy.
Anyways, we had hoped to see about getting a well-known guide by the name of Lum Phanom to take us out to a reliable (for him) location for Siberian Ruby-throat but we drove to the wrong side of the lake and got a boat operator who did trips for non-birding tourists.
he did his best to get us out to the birds though and we did get some waterfowl although most all were long-range.
 arctic warbler (phylloscopus borealis)
 bronze-winged jacana - juvenile (metopidius indicus)
purple swamphen (porphyrio porphyrio)

oriental darter (anhinga melanogaster)

cotton pygmy-goose (nettapus coromandelianus)

 lesser whistling-duck (dendrocygna javanica)
yellow bittern - juvenile (ixobrychus sinensis)

Later as our guided trip was ending we met Lum Phanom out on the water, he was guiding an american photographer and he told me happily how he had gotten the Gurney's Pitta earlier with Yothin and had just gotten the Siberian Ruby-throat, both species i had been aiming for this trip.
I was happy for him and started thinking how i would do things differently next trip as a southern re-match was a given.

We drove out to the Open-bill colony we checked out in '06 but were shocked to find the colony gone.
The wat (where the colony had been) somehow got rid of them after fears of bird flu, all that was left was a big statue of a Open-bill and an empty lookout tower.
We found the colony again during our drive back to Bangkok in a place called Chiang Rak so at least they were still around.

 bronze-winged jacana (metopidius indicus)

asian openbill (anastomus oscitans)

Dr. Somchai gave us a call one day to tell us of a reliable place to see Emerald Cuckoo. Since the location was close by we decided to go see if we could get a shot or two.
We arrived and Somchai and a few other bird photographers were milling about, waiting for another appearance of the jewels with wings.
We had missed them earlier but it was possible that they would come back to the trees again at some point in the day.
The question was when?
Audy and I decided to explore the park a bit and later Somchai phoned us to tell us to get back as the birds were there now.
He had stayed and waited and his patience payed off with great shots.
I got a Life record shot and am happy to have it. : )

brown-throated sunbird (anthreptes malacensis)

olive-backed sunbird (nectarinia jugularis)

plaintive cuckoo (cacomantis merulinus)

asian emerald cuckoo (chrysococcyx maculatus)

On our last full day we got another phone call from Dr. Somchai with great news - a location for java sparrow (padda oryzivora) had been found again.
for some reason the species had become a target bird for me and I had really wanted to get some shots.
I found out when I arrived that the traditional location for seeing this species hadn't been productive for a while.
no one knew where they were.
Turns out they were hanging out on the Pumipol hospital grounds in Bangkok.
We were lucky then to see them finally, on our last day. 
A great way to end a productive and eventful trip. : )

Our flight back to Vancouver was uneventful, best thing was missing the terrible snowfalls the lower mainland suffered from while we were sweating from the heat. :)

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The Waiting Area

The Waiting Area