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
From Khao Luk Chang, we headed back up to
Petchaburiand 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.
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.
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.