Friday, December 31, 2010


Got back from 2 days at Kaengkrachan national park yesterday with Alex and had a great time working a blind setup that a local has opened to photographers on his property.
The birds were coming in fast and furious to a watering hole in two's and three's of species at a time.
Want to thank Alex Vargas for his time and hospitality during my visit. He was always willing to go out shooting and i got a lot of new birds thanks to him. Hope i can return the favour in 2012 when he visits the west coast, he wants ducks, i think i can get him a few : )

Here are the birds of the blind at KK NP, hope you enjoy them as much as i did shooting them.

 White-crested Laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolophus)

Black-crested Bulbul (Pycnonotus flaviventris)

 Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush (Garrulax pectoralis)

Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush (Garrulax monileger)

Large Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus hypoleucos)

Racket-tailed Treepie (Crypsirina temia)

Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus)

The Junglefowl is indeed the ancestor of all our domestic chickens and was neat to see in the wild.

Ochraceous Bulbul (Alophoixus ochraceus)

Was going to call this a Puff-throated Bulbul but after looking at range maps of the two species decided that the bird i got in Khao Yai was the Puff-throated (as originally labeled) as it doesn't appear down at KK and Ochraceous does but doesn't appear at Khao Yai.

 Stripe-throated Bulbul (Pycnonotus finlaysoni)

Brown-cheeked Fulvetta (Alcippe poioicephala)

White-browed Scimitar Babbler (Pomatorhinus schisticeps)

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis tickelliae) - female

Black-naped Monarch (Hypothymis azurea)

Striped Tit Babbler (Macronous gularis)

After a dip in the water : )

Kalij Pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos)

Well, i guess that about wraps up the trip as we leave for back home tomorrow.
I think it was a sucess, i got my fill of birds this past 3 weeks and it made up for a lackluster fall season of hardly shooting back in Canada due to weather and work. The best times were always when i was away from Bangkok, something about this city just doesn't work for me but my time  in natural settings more than made up for the big city mental gridlock i found myself in from time to time. 
Thai bird photogs sure work blinds a lot more than their Canadian counterparts, who i find are more willing to "do the walk" for their birds but it's all good, i don't mind sitting in a blind for hours if the birds are coming in and to be fair, many Thai birds are quite skittish and being hidden is really the only way to photograph them properly.
While in BKK i was able to get my spare D300 body fixed at Niks Thailand (the biggest Nikon dealer in Thailand). I had been having shutter stick problems for a while now and had actually retired the camera in favour of a D300s. Turns out the mirror was the problem and after having it replaced now i have another body at my disposal, always good to have two camera bodies when travelling, as i found in 2008.

Want to wish all who have followed this blog a Happy New Year and hope to see you all in the field in 2011, here's hoping the birds are plentiful!

Check my Flickr page in the first few weeks of January as i plan to re-process all shots and add a bunch of new ones including Apiradee's HDR landscape shots as well as a few shots of us with friends and guides who took us out.
anyone interested in more specific info regarding guides etc. is welcome to get in contact with me, i'll be happy to share my info. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Afternoon at the Dump

Wanted to share our exploits from the other day.
Got a call from my friend Dr. Somchai, a Thai bird photographer who's photos on Flickr always leave me drooling. We got together a few times in 2008 to shoot and i was happy to meet him again briefly this trip at Laem Pak Bia / Pak Thale, the location of a bird that is common in India, but super rare in Thailand. This bird had decided to spent some time at a rural dump in Petchaburi province and all the Bangkok birders and photographers were making a trip out to see it. I was no different in wanting to see this rarity.
Apiradee and myself drove out that way and hooked up with Dr. Somchai and his constant birding companions, his sister and brother in law, who i met last trip and we followed their car to the dump location. I had been smart and brought my blind along, good thing too as this bird was very flighty.
There must have been at least 30 birders and photographers out and at least 13 blinds set up in the small dumping ground, filled with rotting garbage, plastic bags and other things i'd rather not think about.
Some feral dump dogs would wander the grounds every now and then scattering the Pied Starlings and Common Mynas that would come in every now and then to feed.
Among them was our East Indian visitor.
i was lucky to get three brief looks at the beauty before the flies and smell got the better of me and i packed up the blind.
When i first set up my blind i noticed a small camera crew filming the goings on and noticed their lens aimed at me briefly, who knows if my lanky frame made it onto some humerous nightly news clip about some crazy birders hanging out at a dump LOL.

Brahminy Starling (Temenuchus pagadarum)
Up next will be my last birding expedition, I will be heading out with my friend Alex to Kaengkrachan  NP tomorrow for 2 days of blind shooting and whatever else we can muster up.
stay tuned as we could be bringing back some good birds.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Krabi (Grub-ee)

With another rest day i have time to finish up the Krabi portion of the trip.
Quite a few birds in Krabi (a major european farang/foreigner holiday destination) and for the shorebird enthuisiast, a bit of a gold mine, at least i found.
We had hoped to hook up with Mr. Tdai, a famous Thai bird guide who used to take people out to the mangroves but all the recent info i had found said that he was not as into it anymore and happy to live off past accomplishments etc.
We found out however when we dug deeper that he had suffered from kidney disease in the last few years and had actually passed away two months ago.
Perhaps this explains his lack of desire the last while. Apiradee found out that one of his sons had decided to carry on his tradition and soon we were in contact with Deow, a young man with a longboat and a keen interest in the birds.
He was proud of his fathers accomplishments and showed us a framed picture of him and numerous articles.
Mr. Tdai had been the guy to see about Masked Finfoot, a species birders from around the world came to see but as Deow told us, speculation was that some locals, worried that their plans for developing parts of the mangrove for hotels/resorts were threatened by the Finfoot (and the many who came to see it) trapped the birds and killed them in hopes that conservation efforts would end there. I don't know one way or another if that is true but one thing was for sure, the Finfoot had not been seen in years and we certainly saw none. Sad.
Deow took us out in his longboat and we explored the magroves one morning and i was quite excited to see the beautiful Brown-winged Kingfisher, a common bird in the mangroves but only found in the Krabi area.
Later he took us out to the river mouth to look for shorebirds, we wondered if the endangered Nordmann's Greenshank would be among them but i'm not sure if we got it, at least it wasn't a target bird this trip so no worries if we didn't get it.
Deow's english wasn't all that good and he said he didn't take many farang out because of it, but he did know where the birds were and i think in a few years he will be one of the top birding guides in Krabi, no doubt making his father smile from up above.

Brown-winged Kingfisher (Pelargopsis amauroptera)

 Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

 Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra)

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) / Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)

Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) / Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris)

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) / Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris)

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) / Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)

 Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

shorebirder's delight

 Great Crested Tern (Sterna bergii)

White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

The next, and last day in Krabi we decided to do some shooting at the Maritime resort and spa, a huge sprawling establishment with expansive gardens. I would never stay there as it is crazy expensive but they don't mind birders walking the grounds, and that's just what we did.

Indian Cuckoo (Cuculus micropterus)

Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus) - the much paler migrant race

Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis)

Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis)

Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma)

Common Flameback (Dinopium javanense)

Streak-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus blanfordi)

The next bird was a real bonus as it had been a target bird way back in 2006 but never seen. I have been fascinated with these birds since seeing my first picture of one and finding out they were possible in Thailand. Finally getting a shot of one in Krabi was cool even if it was too brief a look and the lighting was bad.

 Common Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis)

That about sums up our trip to the south of Thailand. loads of good birds i had never seen before, challenging conditions but worth it for sure.

Up next, i plan to share with you all a day at the dump and the bird that has been bringing all the birders and photogs in Bangkok out in droves. 
plug your noses cause it stinks a bit. ; )

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Khao Nor Chuchi

Well, with a break in the action i have a bit of time to "quick and dirty" process a few select shots for those following my blog.
The flight down to Krabi from bangkok was only an hour and painless. We fly with AirAsia and i recommend them, cheap and effective.
After arriving in the evening we headed to the Morokot resort near the entrance to the park. Nothing to write home about but it is well known among birders as the place to stay while at KNC.
There were two birders  staying there when we arrived, a swedish birder and a scottish birder by the name of Illiyad who mentioned that a birder friend of his had moved to Vancouver recently (sorry i totally forgot what his name was but if i ever remember i'll be sure to say hi for him).
Both were of course after the elusive Gurney's Pitta and as far as i know neither got it unfortunately.
Our chances were better since we had booked the services of Yothin, a well-known thai guide who was the guy to see if one wanted the pitta, especially in December when it was much harder to see.
We met Yothin at 6:30am the next morning and he drove us to one of his secret spots, but first a long distance look at a bird i had hoped to see in Red-bearded Bee-eater. Even Yothin was surprised to see one at this time of year as it was not usually seen. maybe the bird gods would smile upon us this trip.

 Red-bearded Bee-eater (Nyctyornis amictus)

Next we bush-whacked into a muddy trail that lead to a blind/hide setup over-looking a gully.
It was hot and humid in the morning and entering the blind it felt like a sauna. Sweat was pouring down my face and we waited for something to happen. the humidity wreaked havok with my camera and within minutes of the bird appearing the camera was rendered almost useless! I could see virtually nothing through the viewfinder but knew the bird was right in front of me. Somehow i was able to squeeze off a few shots before the camera died and after switching to the spare D300 was able to get a few more shots before it too died.
In all i got two postable shots, two was more than enough though as i found out later that cameras die all the time when shooting this bird from a blind at that location, the humidity is that extreme.
Luckily both camera bodies came back to life after being aired out in the afternoon, thankfully!

 Gurney's Pitta (Pitta gurneyi)

This species was considered extinct in Thailand before Phillip Round re-discovered it in the 90's and the latest estimate is that only 15 pair exist although populations have recently been discovered in Myanmar. This is one of the species birders from around the world come in hopes of seeing but it is never easy as it is a secretive ground-dwelling bird, often heard but rarely seen, especially in December. Apparantly Late April is a much better time to look for this bird. we were lucky as Yothin told us it was never a sure bet, even with him.
he told us that some birders never get it and some have to go out 4 mornings in a row before getting it.
We got it within half an hour but just barely thanks to camera failure.

In the afternoon we went out again with Yothin and he drove us around in his 4x4 up some really muddy jeep trails to a few spots and picked up a few more species. 
Photographing birds at KNC is extremely difficult as we had to deal with frequent rain down-pours and almost all the birds were long-range and up in the canopy.
Still, the chance of getting some hard to get birds made it worthwhile.

 Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus percussus)

Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus maculatus) - possible
Black-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus diardi)
Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus)
 Raffle's Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus chlorophaeus)
 Orange-backed Woodpecker (Reinwardtipicus validus)
The Orange-backed woodpecker was our first woodpecker ever in Thailand and a bit of a rarity at that.

Brown-streaked Flycatcher (Muscicapa williamsoni) - possibly

Black-and-yellow Broadbill (Eurylaimus ochromalus)

Black-and-red Broadbill (Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos)
Green Broadbill (Calyptomena viridis)

Hairy-backed Bulbul (Tricholestes criniger)

Streaked Bulbul (Ixos malaccensis) - possibly
Cream-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus simplex)

Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela)

Banded Pitta (Pitta guajana)

We had better luck camera-wise with the banded Pitta on our second and last day at KNC.
The blind was a bit more open and air-flowed much better than at the Gurney's Pitta set-up. Was able to get quite a few shots of this beautiful gem.
Up next is a couple of days in Krabi, we had originally thought that Krabi would be our rest-time but of course birds came first. Will post the birds of Krabi next, when i have a moment that is ; )
hope you enjoyed KNC.

The Waiting Area

The Waiting Area