Thailand Highlights Mar 12—31, 2016

Posted by Dion Hobcroft

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Dion Hobcroft

Dion Hobcroft has been working for VENT since 2001. He has led many tours (more than 160) to Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Bhutan, Indonesia, India, China, Southwest ...

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Muang Boran was our first official port of call on our annual Thailand tour. Like so much of the rest of the planet, Thailand was in the grip of a severe drought, and the amount of water in the fish ponds was far lower than usual. It led to the sighting of a few species I have rarely recorded here before, including a lovely pair of Greater Painted-Snipe, lots of Oriental Pratincoles, and a Chestnut Munia. More standard birds included lovely Cotton Pygmy-geese, Lesser Whistling-Duck, both Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged jacanas, Cinnamon and Yellow bitterns, excellent views of Ruddy-breasted and White-browed crakes, the ever popular Blue-tailed Bee-eater, and one of the main reasons for our visit here, glowing Asian Golden Weavers in breeding plumage. Nearby Bang Poo was also in good form, and after we had fed the hundreds of Brown-headed Gulls we explored the mangroves, sighting such lovely species as Painted Stork, Collared Kingfisher, Golden-bellied Gerygone, and more than a dozen species of shorebirds. By far the most unexpected sighting was the elusive Chestnut-winged Cuckoo that dashed past us on two occasions. We drove through to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam, with ruins of various temples and court buildings on display. We strolled around some of the ruins and observed our first Coppersmith Barbet, Small Minivet, and Plain-backed Sparrow, and enjoyed the brightly colored Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker. On the way to Wat Phra Phuttabhat Noi, we spotted four Black-eared Kites. At the spectacular Naga staircase our patience was rewarded when Margo made the breakthrough, and we found a trio of the rare calcicola subspecies of Limestone Wren-Babbler. Other birds sighted here included Lineated Barbet, a male Blue Rock-Thrush of the chestnut-bellied philippenensis subspecies, our first Long-tailed Macaques of the tour, and our first striking Variable Squirrels, here largely pure white.

Silver Pheasant

Silver Pheasant— Photo: Dion Hobcroft

 

Khao Yai National Park looked shockingly dry, and I was deeply concerned about how the birding might be affected, but it proved remarkably good. At our first stop the birds were pumping, with perched Great Hornbill leading the charge—always an astonishing sight. Sharp-eyed Rat, my driver cum bird spotter par excellence, pulled out the first of a myriad of great spots, finding a lovely dark morph White-handed Gibbon hanging from one arm, dangling in the canopy while scoffing little tiny fruits with his other arm. Every stop produced quality birds ranging from a beautiful male Blue and White Flycatcher, lovely Orange-headed Thrush, scope studies of Large Hawk, Square-tailed Drongo, and Himalayan Cuckoos, plus more traditional fare like Oriental Pied Hornbill, Moustached and Green-eared barbets, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Vernal Hanging-Parrot, Hill Myna, Radde’s Warbler et al. An unusual sighting was a roosting Gray Nightjar while a Black-eared Kite (rare in Khao Yai) made the mistake of drifting into a small flock of migrating Chinese Goshawks which promptly dive-bombed it away. The afternoon drive turned up a stunning pair of male Silver Pheasants that paraded about in front of us. Birds like these can turn anyone into a devoted birder! Red-headed Trogon also gave good views, another stunner of the Oriental bird region. There were plenty of mammal sightings including numerous Sambar, Barking Deer, and four species of squirrel including the spectacular Black Giant Squirrel, draped like a mink stole over a fruiting branch.

On our second full day in Khao Yai the birds were a bit more subdued in the morning session compared to the previous day, but with persistence we began to kick a few goals. Both Greater Flameback and Rufous Woodpecker kick-started our woodpecker list giving good views. Red-headed Trogons would not leave us alone, and mixed flocks produced White-crested and Lesser Necklaced laughingthrushes, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, and some sneaky Common Green Magpies. Attention to smaller bird flocks produced Crimson Sunbird, a beautiful first winter male Mugimaki Flycatcher, both black and yellow-billed subspecies of Blue Whistling-Thrush, and also two subspecies of Orange-headed Thrush. Cuckoos were in good numbers, and as the day before, we found multiple Square-tailed Drongo, Large Hawk, and Himalayan cuckoos attracted to caterpillar infestations. A Mountain Hawk-Eagle gave a good view, soaring over in the late morning. After lunch and a siesta we returned to the park. We enjoyed a spectacular view of drinking Needletails, with both the scarce Silver-backed and more widely distributed Brown-backed flying in tandem, giving some decent photographic opportunities where you could even see the needles in the tail! Scope views of Wreathed Hornbill, Golden-fronted Leafbird, and a most unusual sighting of an adult Bonelli’s Eagle (photographed by a couple of the sharp-shooters in the group) kept the birding momentum humming. On dusk we enjoyed good views of Great Eared-Nightjars hawking over a forest clearing. Then we squeezed into a pick-up truck for a night drive. The best highlight was watching a Small Indian Civet attracting the ire of disgruntled Red-wattled Lapwings, a good view of this well-patterned carnivore. A Common Palm-Civet gave a good but brief view, while the strikingly quilled Malayan Porcupines paraded about unconcernedly; we even watched one sleeping! We observed several Large-tailed Nightjars, one bird being relaxed about the light and sitting on a post.

Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo

Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo— Photo: Dion Hobcroft

 

 We had a final morning in Khao Yai, and we started by enjoying the ethereal, powerful song of the White-handed Gibbon and had luck finding first a black pelage morph individual and then a beautiful blonde one. Birds started to appear, and we picked up Great Iora, beautiful Long-tailed Broadbills nest building, an Asian Emerald-Dove, an absolutely stunning Asian Emerald-Cuckoo, a lovely flock of Swinhoe’s Minivet, shy Common Green Magpie and, just as we were about to hop into the vans for the drive back to Bangkok, we scoped a lovely male Silver-breasted Broadbill. Despite being desperately dry, Khao Yai had delivered excellent birding and wildlife in general. After a superb lunch we flew on Bangkok Air to Chiang Mai. Here we were re-united with Jherd and Rat who had transported our suitcases to save us the hassle. After dinner some folks went shopping in the buzzing night market.

We watched the sunrise at Huai Hong Khrai, a Royal Project in a sprawling area of teak woodlands, bamboo gullies, orchards, and water reservoirs. The reason to be here early is to encounter the extraordinary Green Peafowl. The loud caterwauling at dawn enabled us to locate a fine roosting male who, after half-an-hour, slipped off his perch, marched down to the dam, and commenced to display. This is no ordinary species, being value added in plumage every twist and turn of the way. We located another male and a peahen, so it was a good result for this threatened species. Birds are fairly sparse here, but we found quite a few species including a Shikra building a nest, an Oriental Honey-Buzzard cruising over, Red Junglefowl, Greater Coucal, lovely Lineated Barbets, Greater Racket-tailed and displaying Hair-crested drongos, the white-faced Eurasian Jay, Olive-backed Pipit, Purple Sunbird, and Hill Blue Flycatcher. We watched a glaring Asian Barred Owlet that was noticed when it bombed a Pallas’s Squirrel. We also noted the beautiful Burmese Striped Squirrel. On the return drive to Chiang Mai, a fine Crested Serpent-Eagle was watched spiraling next to the highway. After a break and lunch we made the drive to Doi Inthanon, setting up for a three-night stay in this very well-known birding hot spot. In the late afternoon we ventured out to the nearby Blossom-headed Parakeet conservation area. As the sun slipped lower, the numbers of this species increased until we had about 30 parakeets feeding on tamarind and fig trees, allowing some excellent views. We found quite a few other birds of interest including a dapper Burmese Shrike, plenty of Plain-backed Sparrows, Green Bee-eater, and a female Freckle-breasted Woodpecker, while a Barred Buttonquail was seen in flight briefly.

Rusty-naped Pitta

Rusty-naped Pitta— Photo: Dion Hobcroft

 

Doi Inthanon is amongst the most famous birding sites in Asia, and it did not disappoint when we found ourselves at the summit at first light the following day. While enjoying the necessary caffeine to kick-start the day, we were joined by a party of jaunty Silver-eared Laughingthrushes. At Ang Ka we had a great run with four Rufous-throated Partridges foraging next to us, preceded by a pair of Dark-sided Thrushes plowing the bog with their ridiculous bills. A male White-browed Shortwing made the most incredible display to a female—charging about, throwing out his wings, raising his tail, and flaring his eyebrows. It really was astonishing and reminiscent of a parotia, of the bird of paradise family! Pygmy Cupwings were outrageously tame, and throw into the mix Snowy-browed and Slaty-backed flycatchers, Himalayan Bluetail, Gould’s and Green-tailed sunbirds, Dark-backed Sibia, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Yellow-bellied Fairy-Fantail, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, nesting Claudia’s Leaf-Warbler, and good views of Ashy-throated and Buff-barred leaf-warblers set amidst rhododendron forest draped in mosses and epiphytic orchids, and it is easy to see why this is such an enjoyable location. Birding a bit lower down, the forests became quieter, but we still squeezed in a few more sightings ranging from Yunnan Fulvetta, Davison’s Leaf-Warbler, Slaty-bellied Tesia, and Blue-winged Minla to a lovely White-capped Water Redstart. After a siesta, we looked unsuccessfully for Black-tailed Crake, but had good success with a fine pair of Slaty-backed Forktails. It had been a great first day at Doi Inthanon.

The next morning we were birding the roadsides, and it was busy with sightings in the peak hour rush. Colorful Short-billed and Gray-chinned minivets adorned the trees, and Verditer Flycatcher, Flavescent and Mountain bulbuls, and Lesser Racket-tailed and Bronzed drongos perched conspicuously. A pair of showy Spectacled Barwings gave an excellent performance. Other birds sighted included Banded Bay, Square-tailed Drongo, and Asian Emerald cuckoos, Small Niltava, Maroon Oriole, Gray-throated Babbler, beautiful Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, and a very showy Streaked Spiderhunter. We spent a couple of hours birding in the forest interior that became quieter as the day heated up. We watched a pair of Golden-throated Barbets working on their nest hollow, tapping away like woodpeckers. Mixed flocks produced Large Niltava, Golden Babbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Chestnut-flanked White-eye, Little Pied Flycatcher, Yellow-cheeked Tit, and White-throated Fantail. A late afternoon stroll around some beautiful ricefields produced a good diversity of birds. Best of all was a stunning male Pied Harrier that put every other bird to flight. It made two excellent passes. Half a dozen Gray-headed Lapwings, ten or more Pin-tailed Snipe, a Greater Painted-Snipe in flight, an Oriental Honey-buzzard, and Common Tailorbird were amongst some of the birds on show. We waited at a stakeout for the rare Black-backed Forktail that flew upstream just before we arrived, flushed by a Shikra. The Shikra hung around, and despite waiting until it was quite late, the dreaded forktails were a no-show.

Scarlet-faced Liocichla

Scarlet-faced Liocichla— Photo: Dion Hobcroft

 

We were back at the Black-backed Forktail site at first light, and this time they performed! These timid torrent specialists flitted back and forward through the scope until everyone had seen them well. Then we drove up the mountain to a road surrounded by high quality evergreen forest. It was to prove to be an extraordinary morning. One of the first birds we spotted was a male Zappey’s Flycatcher, a scarce winter visitor from central China. Cobalt-blue and white, it sat perched as long as we wished. A Silver-eared Mesia appeared in the same tree, a brightly colored ally of the Laughingthrush brigade. Next we watched Golden Babblers collecting nesting material, and a Striated Bulbul before a high pitched monotone whistle alerted us to the presence of the rarely sighted Green Cochoa. With strong winds pushing the trees about, I was not overly hopeful; then I spotted him, but he flew just as the scope was being set. A few minutes later I relocated the male, and this time he performed; watching him sing, opening his beak ridiculously ajar like a Three-wattled Bellbird, was really something. Cochoas are large frugivorous thrushes that keep a very low profile and are famously elusive. After this success I could hardly believe it when a male Purple Cochoa turned up, giving a good but brief view as it perched with its back towards us. Then from the same tree another pair of Green Cochoas, an aggregation of cochoas. Again, one of the Green Cochoas was cooperative and sat well for a scope view. In all my years wandering about forests in Asia, I had never experienced anything like this! After this amazing run with cochoas, a tame Hume’s Treecreeper was the next highlight, followed lower down by a male Large Niltava and then a lovely pair of Rufous-backed Sibias. At breakfast we saw the same Phayre’s Langur, a rare leaf-monkey, we had found last year. It is obviously a released confiscated animal, but it is very attractive, even if it did perform some monkey business! Lunch at the hotel was also very birdy, a female Daurian Redstart even sharing an adjoining table. We drove through to Doi Ang Khang, but made a stop at the spectacular Buddhist monastery at Doi Chiang Dao, walking up the steps and seeing a bunch of good birds. New for the list were Pin-tailed Green-Pigeon, Blue-eared and Blue-throated barbets, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, and Red-whiskered Bulbul. We had a stunning Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Black-hooded Oriole, and Golden-fronted Leafbird amongst other species.

Dawn at Doi Ang Khang was a windy affair as a jet stream whooshed through. It was deliciously cool. Once out of the wind, the birds came thick and fast. Scarlet-faced Liocichla had the crowd gasping as they gave repeat views. Crested Finchbill came to a fruiting tree, followed by Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Long-tailed Minivet, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler, and a flock of Common Rosefinches. A male Black-breasted Thrush gave a good view in another fruiting tree, while White-browed Laughingthrush was more secretive. A pair of Stripe-breasted Woodpeckers were cooperative, the male having a bright scarlet crown. Plenty of other species kept us distracted. Following breakfast we visited the nearby Royal Project where, in a secluded gully, we waited and had almost instant success with a pair of Rusty-naped Pittas that just watched us unconcernedly for as long as we wished. Occasionally they would get spooked by their own shadows and bound away before returning to observe us. This species of pitta is amongst the most elusive of them all, a very lucky break for our seemingly very lucky group. A male White-tailed Robin and a male Hill Blue Flycatcher were buzzing around, occasionally perching for a detailed study, while Silver-eared Mesias fussed around a bit. Then we took in the gardens, sighting glowing Gould’s Sunbird feeding in the Callistemon, while a perched Eastern Buzzard was quite tame. We started the afternoon session with an extraordinary Giant Nuthatch that came down to feed at eye level, accompanied by his diminutive Chestnut-vented cousin. Further stops produced a Eurasian Wryneck, Gray-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, good views of Japanese Tit, a pair of allopreening White-browed Laughingthrushes teed up in the scope, a Long-tailed Broadbill, and a flashy pair of Greater Yellownapes. What a day!

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Spoon-billed Sandpiper— Photo: Dion Hobcroft

 

The next morning we revisited our usual site, and again the birds were in full activity mode with many repeat sightings of birds like Scarlet-faced Liocichla, two species of scimitar-babbler, Crested Finchbill, Striated Bulbul, and so on. Two high quality species we enjoyed prolonged sightings of were the Spot-winged Grosbeak and a male of the very scarce Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, the latter only my second Thai sighting. We coaxed a Hill Prinia out of the grass, and a shy Bay Woodpecker flashed high overhead. A Yellow-streaked Warbler gave itself away with its sharp contact call like a bunting. We left Doi Ang Khang and took the steep road to Fang and continued on to Thaton, a small town set on the Maekhok River.  A female Bluethroat was seen strolling about on the lawns, taking advantage of the water. A visit to the rice fields was a shadow of its usual bird-rich glory. Almost all of the fields were dry so we headed off to a nearby bridge where a few good birds started to show. Chestnut-capped Babblers eventually sat still long enough for everyone to connect with the binoculars. A Ruddy-breasted Crake fed out in the open for a long time. A male Siberian Rubythroat was a big hit; after all, it is a great bird.

Our day at Doi Lang is one of the most interesting of the tour but requires an early departure to place ourselves in the best area at sunrise. It paid very handsome dividends. The first bird of the day was a Gray Nightjar sitting on the road. This was followed by a splendid Yellow-throated Marten, (the carnivore, not a swallow!) that bounded up and down the road and gave a cracking view. Not to be outdone, a male Hume’s Pheasant ran down the road straight towards us and then went into a brief display mode before settling to parade back and forward for us to enjoy for a very lengthy time. Then we had Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant, a female that is (Hume named the bird after his wife because it was so beautiful), that gorged itself on grit, followed by another male who did a wing-whirring display in an area of ash and raised a cloud of soot. This was an extraordinary run, but it was not over yet, as we had a singing Mountain Bamboo-Partridge. It does not get much better than this, but amazingly it did. At the photographer’s stakeouts there was good bird, after good nok! A female White-bellied Redstart, Siberian Rubythroat, and Slaty-blue and White-gorgeted flycatchers came looking for handouts. In the undergrowth crept a secretive Asian Stubtail that rewarded our patience by giving some good views. There was Rufous-fronted Babbler, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Chinese Leaf-Warbler, Bianchi’s Warbler, Gray-headed Canary Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush, another Giant Nuthatch, and a bunch more. We had, however, a surprise—and it was a very good one: a male Hodgson’s Frogmouth sitting on a nest, brooding two very tiny chicks. It was an exquisite view of a particularly difficult bird to find. This might have been the luckiest group ever following on from our earlier success with pittas, cochoas, and pheasants. We squeezed in a few last birds for the day like a Banded Bay Cuckoo, but eventually the forest went quiet and we returned to Thaton after a truly exceptional day.

Oriental Scops-Owl

Oriental Scops-Owl— Photo: Dion Hobcroft

 

With a final half-day in the far north west of Thailand, we visited first a grassland reserve near Chiang Saen Lake, but it was quiet and dry; a male Siberian Rubythroat (three days running) was the best bird, while we could hear elusive Chinese Francolins. We moved along to the lake itself and went by boat to the more remote stretches. We found a flock of Garganey, quite a few Indian Spot-billed Ducks, and probably a thousand Lesser Whistling-Ducks. Lingering winter visitors included Eurasian Coot, Great Cormorant, and a lone Osprey. There were plenty of Gray-headed Swamphens and a mixture of herons including our first Intermediate Egrets and good views of Yellow Bittern. Other surprises included a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Racket-tailed Treepie, and a Freckle-breasted Woodpecker. We visited the Mekong River, the Golden Triangle, and paid a visit to the Opium Museum. Then we were whisked back to Bangkok by plane, ready to start the third part of our tour. 

Our full day in the Gulf of Siam is without doubt one of the best birding days on the planet. Tens of thousands of East Asian shorebirds are molting into full breeding plumage, ready for migration to Russia and China. We started at the commercial salt fields at Khok Kham. Here we met Mr. Tee, a fantastic local shorebird enthusiast, who directed us straight to a Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Three of these critically endangered sandpipers had wintered at this site this year. We were lucky in that the single bird we located moved quite close to us, and the photographers amongst the group were able to get some quite good photos. The bird was easily lost at it was foraging actively through a bunch of Red-necked Stints, Broad-billed Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers, and a multitude of Kentish, Lesser, and Greater sand-plovers.  Having had early success with the “Spoony,” we motored further south to Laem Pak Bia. Here we had luck with the Easter tides, and the main shorebird roost was in when we arrived. This included a flock of Nordmann’s Greenshank, another East Asian special, a breeding endemic of Sakhalin. Another rarity was Asian Dowitcher that breeds in northern China, Mongolia, and eastern Russia. Hundreds of Great Knots looked fantastic in breeding plumage; we found a Terek Sandpiper, a Spotted Redshank, plenty of Marsh Sandpipers, and many more shorebirds. With the tide receding we took the boat trip to a remote coastal sandy point, teaming up with Mr. Daeng. On the way we found two Chinese Egrets. On arrival we scoped Malaysian and a single White-faced Plover, and amongst hundreds of Common Terns picked up both Greater and Lesser crested terns, White-winged Black Tern and, best of all, two Pallas’s Gulls. A migrant Pacific Swift stood out from the Germain’s Swiftlets. After lunch in a refrigerated glass room at a seafood restaurant, we visited some freshwater ponds. The lucky strike was a trio of Spot-billed Pelicans (that followed on from a pair of Black-headed Ibis). These birds are expanding back into their historic range following better protection on their nesting grounds in Cambodia. The views of Temminck’s Stint side by side with Long-toed Stint (making it 30 species of shorebirds for the day) were remarkably close. We also saw some truly giant Water Monitors. Our last major scoop of the day was a Black-capped Kingfisher. We drove south to Hua Hin where the Italian elements of the buffet received a workout.

Banded Broadbill

Banded Broadbill— Photo: Dion Hobcroft

 

Dawn found those not having a lie-in at Khao Sam Roi Yot, a RAMSAR listed wetland of freshwater marshes at the base of a spectacular uplifted massif of limestone karst. We birded along the boardwalks adding a few birds to the list amongst the numbers of bitterns, crakes, swamphens, and whistling-ducks. These included-great views of several Black-browed Reed-Warblers, a magnificent fly-over of a pair of White-bellied Sea-Eagles, an Eastern Marsh-Harrier, quite a few Chestnut Munias, and at least two female plumaged Watercocks, a species that is becoming difficult to see in Thailand in the modern era. Following lunch at a popular beachside local restaurant we drove to Kaeng Krachan. We spent the afternoon visiting two areas with small ponds of water, sitting concealed from view in a hide. Plenty of thirsty birds and small mammals were attracted including both Scaly-breasted and Bar-backed partridges, a female Siberian Blue Robin, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Abbott’s Babbler and, best of all, right on dusk an Oriental Scops-Owl!

We had two-and-a-half days to explore Kaeng Krachan, the largest protected forest in Southeast Asia. Here we bird from pickup trucks that enable us to drive to the higher reaches of the park on a fairly steep gradient road. Right from sunrise the day was a rush of exciting birds. First up a mating pair of Great Slaty Woodpeckers set the tone, followed by Common Flameback, Greater Flameback, and a pair of Heart-spotted Woodpeckers. At breakfast we enjoyed the performance of the ultra-cute Black-and-yellow Broadbills. A Banded Broadbill took longer to locate, but when we did locate it the views were excellent. Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, the scarce Crow-billed Drongo, and the Streak-breasted Woodpecker were all well seen. The park, like elsewhere in Thailand, was desperately dry; all of the usually flowing streams were reduced to a small concentration of puddles. We were in luck though, as a roosting family of the rare White-fronted Scops-Owl had been discovered a couple of days before our visit, and they showed beautifully. We found a roosting Brown Boobook shortly after. In between were an array of smaller passerines including Eastern Crowned and Pale-legged warblers, Ferruginous Flycatcher, a female Asian Paradise Flycatcher, and a White’s Thrush. An Orange-breasted Trogon showed briefly. Driving uphill, three people were very fortunate to see a Gray Peacock-Pheasant skulking past. Once up the hill in the assigned place we searched for the localized outlying population of Ratchet-tailed Treepie. It took a while, but eventually a single Treepie came right down to the group and played hide and seek in thick vine tangles, eventually giving good views for all. A Rufous-browed Flycatcher was tempted to the edge of thick bamboo. With thunder rumbling we made the decision to head down hill, but we got caught by the storm, and those who stayed in the back of the trucks (voluntarily) were quite drenched by the time we reached the park gate. The rain was very welcome and apparently the result of cloud-seeding programs being operated by the government.

Green Magpie

Green Magpie— Photo: Dion Hobcroft

 

On our last full day of birding in Thailand, we ran a reverse of the previous day, birding higher up on the plateau first thing. On the way we found a fruiting fig tree with two pairs of Great Hornbills dining on the ripe fruit. The shy Tickell’s Brown Hornbill was calling and eventually showed, albeit briefly, as they are incredibly timid. Lots of Pin-tailed Green-Pigeons were also present, along with a very cooperative Red-throated Barbet that sat in the scope for a long time (this species is often a “heard only”). A pair of Wreathed Hornbills flew over as gibbons sang in the cool morning air. Our next stop was some seeding bamboo that was attracting a good number of the scarce, beautiful, and nomadic Pin-tailed Parrotfinch. We enjoyed watching these beauties, even if the autofocus mechanism on our various cameras did not! There were plenty of birds about including two parties of the snowy-headed Collared Babbler, a pair of elusive Buff-rumped Woodpeckers, Long-tailed and Black-and-yellow broadbills, a Red-headed Trogon, a trio of Ruby-cheeked Sunbirds, and a Plain-tailed Warbler. Dropping back down to the lower reaches, it was great to see the storm had made the streams briefly flow, and even the butterfly show was making an appearance, although in reduced numbers and diversity. The three White-fronted Scops-Owls were all perched on the same limb. A stroll about produced a male Blue Pitta that was singing from a perch quite high up and moving about, making it difficult for people to get a view, although half the group managed to connect with their binoculars. We then decided to visit a nearby waterhole with a blind. Here it was still very dry, having missed the previous day’s storm, and it was veritably humming with a dizzying array of thirsty birds and mammals. In fact, two days prior a large King Cobra had showed up for a drink, causing that group to take an early leave ticket. No such luck for us. Still we could watch Scaly-breasted and Bar-backed partridges, Red Junglefowl, Gray-headed Woodpecker, Puff-throated and Abbott’s babblers, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Lesser and Greater necklaced laughingthrushes, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Black-naped Monarch, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, White-rumped Shama, Stripe-throated and Streak-eared bulbuls, Lesser Mouse Deer, Northern Tree Shrew, and Himalayan Striped and Gray-bellied squirrels all at once! The big star was a Green Magpie that came down to drink several times. There was an audible inhalation from the group, followed by a flurry of shutter action the paparazzi would be proud of.

We made the most of our last morning and enjoyed a good run with the birds in Kaeng Krachan. Lots of migrants were moving through the park including a few Chinese Goshawks. As last year, a big flock of migrant drongos, cuckoos, and cuckoo-shrikes produced the rare Crow-billed Drongo again, a catch-up for some folks who missed the first one. A Red Barking Deer was spotted in the campground, along with Sultan Tit, three species of woodpeckers, and another lovely male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher. An interesting sighting was watching an Asian Barred Owlet delivering a large green agamid lizard (Bronchocoela) to a nest hollow. The lizard took its last gasp, literally. Silver-breasted Broadbills, stimulated by the rain, were collecting nesting material. We found a pair of Dusky Broadbills that gave an excellent view, even showing the usually concealed orange lines on the back. A White-browed Piculet was hammering away in the bamboo, keeping still long enough to be scoped. A pair of Rufous-fronted Babblers gave a very nice performance. With Velvet-fronted Nuthatches foraging overhead, it was time to leave. So ended our journey to the Kingdom of Thailand as our excellent group began winging their way home. With many thanks to those who were in our team: drivers Rat (who is now a serious and very sharp-eyed birder) and Jherd; chefs Sakhol and Chiep; and team-leader Mike; as usual an outstanding performance by all. It was a great tour and I cannot wait to return next year.