Saturday, 20 February 2016

Day's 6 - 8

Day 6

We started the day at Khao Luk Chang, a remnant area of dry Dictocarpus forest south of Petchaburi. A calling Lineated Barbet was picked up as soon as we exited the minibus. As we walked over to the trail entering the forest a singing Hoopoe was noted.  Not far into the forest, a Spotted Owlett called but could not be located even though we must have been almost directly beneath it.  A pair of Rufous Treepies worked through just below the canopy and made its way onto our trip list.

Black Baza was a raptor we all hoped to see, but we knew that it was unlikely as they are mainly a passage migrant and it was too early for any northward migration, so we knew our chances were slim. So when Mr Bell picked up the rear view of a black and white raptor sitting in the tree tops he hardly dared believed it was a Baza. However, it was and it gave great views.  Shortly after, a Spotted Owlett gave itself up.

One of the main species birders visit this forest for is the Black-headed Woodpecker. And it wasn’t long before we were chasing a pair through the forest before they gave great scope views. An open area near a dry stream provided a numerous Red-wattled Lapwings, several Green Bee-eaters and a Taiga Flycatcher. However it was an over wintering Forest Wagtail that was our quarry and it wasn’t long before one was scoped, feeding around the bases of the scrub. A second Black Baza was then found - this giving front on views. The only downer for this site was that no Red-breasted Parakeets were found, or even heard.

From Khao Luk Chang, we headed back up to Petchaburi  and out to the rice fields and salt pans to try to track down our missing target waders- Asian Dowitcher and Oriental Pratincole. After a few ponds and pans, we hit the jackpot. Pulling over next to a pool teeming with waders, we piled out and, unbelievably the group nearest to us appeared to be almost all Asian Dowitchers. &3 were counted – one of Nick’s highest counts ever in Thailand. But it didn’t end there, immediately behind us another 30 odd Asian Dowitchers were counted, before another 15 or so dropped in. Were these from the first group? A quick recount showed they weren’t as this group had grown to over 100. Wow, about 150 Asian Dowitchers and definitely Nick’s highest count in Thailand and one of the highest he was aware of.  However it didn’t end there, as it became clear that many of the more distant waders were also Dowitchers.  In total Nick counted 453 Dowitchers, but we all agreed that this was a conservative number with many distant groups, almost certainly mainly Dowitchers but too distant to count/separate. In all the actual number was probably close to 700, if not exceeding that.

A couple of enormous Spot-billed Pelicans dropped in – the first of those returning from their breeding grounds in Cambodia. Bell had previously seen the species at Mai Po in the early 90’s when this was a critically endangered species (probably more endangered than Spoon-billed Sandpiper at that time). But the political changes, particularly in Cambodia, has allowed the species to recover to the extent that flock of over 1000 can regularly be found. Again highlighting that giving wildlife the chance, and space, to recover and they will.

Flushed with our success, we returned to a fish pond we visited on day 2, this time looking for a species close to extinction in this part of Thailand – the Long-tailed Shrike. It didn’t take long before we were enjoying wonderful views of this colourful shrike.  A little further along we stopped to try our luck with Pallas Grasshopper Warbler. Almost immediately, one responded, but typically remained firmly hidden at the base of reeds and bushes. While waiting for the PG tips to show, a Bluethroat hopped onto the path. Eventually the PG tip showed briefly but only Bell got satisfactory views. We all, however, managed our best views yet of Black-browed Reed Warbler – a bird we heard in many places but had struggled to actually see.

It was then on the hunt for Oriental Pratincole. Nick tried a couple of sites he knew were regularly used by the Prat’s but none could be found. We did, however, pick up Oriental Skylark, Plain-backed Sparrow, Lesser Whistling Ducks and Speckled-breasted Woodpecker.

We finished the day at the Kings Project, where White-winged Black Terns were quickly added to the list. Any thoughts of staking out the regular ditch for Ruddy-breasted Crake and Slaty-breasted Rail were scuppered as the guide for a tour party was walking through the ditch – we later noted that it was almost completely dried out, so was unlikely to have held either species. Driving round the ponds, Rob spotted a close Snipe which allowed close scrutiny. Square head, relatively short bill. Looking good for a Pintail. It flew a short distance, but crucially didn’t allow sight of its underwing, though it didn’t appear to show much of a white trailing edge to the secondaries. In trying to relocate the snipe a male Greater Painted Snipe was found, showing well. The Snipe was relocated and whilst showing well didn’t give us the key features until it took off to show a very white underwing and a prominent white trailing edge – a Common after all, and showing exactly why it’s difficult to separate the species on the ground. 

We pulled up awaiting the starling roost – hoping for White-shouldered Starling – and the flight of Lyle’s Flying Foxes from their roost in the mangroves. A chance glance down a ditch provided extended views of up to two Ruddy-breasted Crakes. As it was getting dark, a small group of White-shouldered Starlings arrived, perching up in a nearby bush, before flying off to roost. More groups flew straight into the roost, before the Flying Foxes emerged. There massive bulk being obvious when they flew directly overhead. Finally several Indian Nightjars were spotlighted before we returned to our accommodation.

Day 7

Our last day with Nick. We decided at one more try for Oriental Pratincole before we headed back to Bangkok. As with the previous day, no sign of the Pratincoles but we did add Indochinese Bushlark, Yellow-bellied Pirina and Peregrine to the trip list as well as another Ruddy-breasted Crake, Greater Painted Snipe and 2 more Baillion’s Crakes. We obtained better views of Speckled-breasted Woodpecker.

Cutting our losses Nick suggested trying a site he’s rarely visited, a reservoir near Ratchiburi. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so we were happy to go along with the suggestion, but asked for one more shot at PG Tips. After a couple of goes we struck gold with a Pallas Grasshopper Warbler showing well to all.

Arriving at the reservoir, it was clear that drought was having a major impact with the water levels very low. Our first stop produced our first Paddyfield Pipit of the trip. We made our way round to the back end of the reservoir and immediately hit the birds. Several hirundines includes a Striated Swallow, a distant Pied kingfisher was noted, we were to get good views of a pair soon afterwards. Pratincoles could be heard, but not seen so we headed out looking for them. Amongst the plentiful Paddyfield Pipits we found several Red-throated Pipits. Over a small ridge we found around 100 Small Pratincoles and we spent ages enjoying these. A further, unsuccessful, stop to try for Buttonquails and Rain Quails added our last species with Nick – Grey-breasted Pirina, before we headed back to Bangkok.

Day 8

Our final day certainly had that feel of “after the Lord Mayors show” as we all slept late even though we were not flying out till almost midnight. A mid morning walk following a similar route to that we took on our first afternoon produced low numbers of birds, with only Greater Coucal being added to the trip list.

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