SOUTHERN THAILAND, MARCH 2013

I planned this travel for a long time.I wanted to visit Ao Phang Nga, Si Phang Nga, Khao Sok and Similan Islands National Parks.Banded Pitta and Nicobar Pigeon were the main targets to spot.

Firstly I get into a bus to Phang Nga.After 10 hours, i arrived in the town and i slept in one of the few guesthouses that are available. I woke up as always,at 6 am and i went to find the mangrove patch that is opposite Pra Srinakarin Park,near the junction to Krabi. Indeed it was quite easy to find it and there is a walkway to walk in this rectangle of mangrove patch,behind the boat restaurant and surrounded by buildings.

As soon as i started to walk silently i was surprised by the sight of a Mangrove Pitta moving quitely between the roots of a mangrove. Afterwards i found Ashy Tailorbird many times along the way.Brown-winged Kingfisher flew and perched on a branch around 7 am.I could only see the back side of this superb bird.It remained there for a while and flew away.I was not lucky enough to spot Black and Red Broadbill,and this place is famous as one of the most likely places in Thailand to see this stunning bird.Maybe this was a few years ago.Anyway i was quite pleased with my sightings and i decided to check to park that is opposite this mangrove trail.The only remarkable bird that i get was a Blue Whistling Thrush near the rocky hills.

I didn’t visit the national park headquarters as i heard that birding around there was quite poor and i didn’t have my own transportation to get there.

After spending the morning there,i headed to Sri Phang Nga.It took me around 2 hours going  by an old thai bus.The bus driver dropped me in the main junction and after get into a bike finally i arrived in the national park.The campsite was excellent,nice landscape,not many people and i could manage to rent a tent there.

An afternoon birding along the main trail until the weir didn’t produce any remarkable bird so i went back to the tent to take a rest.

Night came, and i went around to find the Javan Frogmouth but i didn’t hear any call.

Next day was somehow different.I woke up around 6:30 am and i checked around the campsite.Great Hornbill was frequently calling and this gave me some kind of hope to get something exciting.In the first few meters along the road,around 7 am, i could spot a magnificent bird, a Green Broadbill,perching just a few meters from the road.I could take a picture but as it was quite early and there was not enough light, so this is all i could get.

Green Broadbill 2

I continue walking along the trail and after walking for a while along a stream i could see a Chestnut headed Forktail moving nervously among the rocks.I went back to the main trail and after walking for a short period of time i spotted a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha feeding and moving among the leaves of a fruiting tree.Once arrived at the weir,i decided to continue along the trail that brings you to the second waterfall.Along the stream i stopped many times and i wait to try to get a glimpse of my main goal, Banded Pitta. I hide myself on the back of some rocks waiting for my precious rewarding.Around 10 am,i spot clearly a Chestnut Headed Forktail moving around the stream.It last enough to talk a quite decent picture.

P1080016

Time was passing by, and my hope to see this gorgeous pitta started to vanish.But my luck changed around 10:30 am,when i saw a yellowish head on the other side of the stream.Afterwards this little creature showed up in all its splendor. It was a Banded Pitta !! She appeared and moved slowly and went back to the forest.10 minutes later came back to the stream and at that time moved forward across the stream showing all its beauty.I cannot describe my feeling of seeing this superb bird for around 15 minutes wandering around this area.It seemed a living thing from another planet, a mixture of orange,yellow,dark blue and brown back in a perfect combination.I still remember this special moment as it was now.I could take this superb pictures that i hope you ll enjoy it.

P1080033

P1080049

Banded Pitta Front

Banded Pitta

Around 10:45 the Pitta has already gone,so i decided to came back to the weir.When I almost arrived there a Great Hornbill stood in a tree eating fruits in front of me,just a few meters, and i could take this nice pictures.

P1080071

P1080072

I was so amused and happy that i decided to spent the rest of the morning around the campsite, relaxed and enjoying the landscape.

In the afternoon,i headed to Khao Sok National Park, expecting the get more nice views of birds that it actually happened.I got into a bus to Takua Pa,and after that another bus to Surat Thani,where i told the bus driver to stop at the junction of the national park.From there, a lot of thais offered me to sleep in their lodge but i decided to continue and i get into a sangthaew.When i arrived just a few meters from the park gate,there were plenty options were to sleep and tourist were walking around.In my opinion, too much crowded.After checking some lodges,i decided to sleep inside the national park.Tents were not available surprisingly so i managed to sleep in one of their bungalows.Price was reasonable, 600 baths per night.

Around 4:30 pm, i went for my first birding on the main trail but i get poor results.Many tourists were found everywhere and being quite noisy.I only could see some bulbuls.

At night i went around the headquarters but no sign of frogmouths,  nightjars, owls or any other nocturnal species.Even mammals were not spotted around the headquarters.

Next day i woke up early and started to walk around the main trail.Even early in the morning the trail seemed surprisingly quiet and the birds that i heard were hard to spot.Around the headquarters, i saw an Orange-bellied flowerpecker and Olive backed Sunbirds.I got tired and felt really upset so i spend the rest of the day sleeping in the bungalow.

At night i went for a night safari with a guide, expecting to find some interesting mammals.I walked for almost 4 hours along the main trail until the old campsite but i only could see some Asian Palm Civet poop,a Mouse Deer running in the forest and some interesting insects but no sign of  most of the mammals,where in other national parks are more likely seen.

Next morning i went along the main trail again and i could see a Raffle’s Malkoha,feeding on a tree,a Little Spiderhunter and some bulbuls. Afterwards i went through one of the marked trails and i stopped at Sok River when a Black-capped Kingfisher flew along the river.

At noon i left Khao Sok and i continue my trip to Khao Lak.It took me around 2 hours to get there.Khao Lak was one of the towns most affected by the tsunami in 2004 ( you should watch the movie ” The impossible” ).There is a national park at 3 km from town but i didn t heared good reviews about it so i didn’t explore it.I booked a tour to Similan Islands to do some good snorkeling and to try to find one of the most beautiful pigeons in the world : Nicobar pigeon.This is an endangered species of birds that can be found in these islands.

So at 7: 30 am i woke up,the van picked me up and we went to the pier.In one hour and 15 minutes we arrived in the first island,Kho 9 and afterwards we stopped in Kho 8 to take lunch.Around the campsite area and the restaurant i spotted many Pied Imperial Pigeons flying around, a White-bellied Sea Eagle and a Green Imperial Pigeon, but no signs of Nicobar Pigeon.After snorkeling in Kho 7 we went to kho 4 or Kho Miang,where i heard that Nicobar Pigeons were frequently seen.I was quite skeptic  to find it because it was almost 2 o’clock and it was very hot so i thought that these birds were hidden inside the jungle at that time.When i arrived there i asked the rangers where can i find these gorgeous pigeons,the ranger was not sure what i was talking about but after some misunderstandings he told me that the birds were inside the jungle.I decided to explore the trail that leads to the other campsite and i heard the song of these pigeons but i could see them clearly.When i was coming back to the main campsite i saw the shape of a pigeon landing on the sand.My dream came true.It was a Nicobar Pigeon feeding in a piece of carrot left ! After walking around the campsite,another Nicobar Pigeon,a splendorous male,appeared and chased the other pigeon and the last one escaped and flew away.I follow it for 10 minutes trying to get the best picture showing the iridescent green and blue colour of its feathers.Finally i took some nice shots that i post here for your delight.

P1080304

P1080330

P1080342

P1080346

I hope you enjoy my posts and pictures !

My next trip is to Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary ! See you soon !!

KAENG KRACHAN, A TASTE OF NATURE.FEBRUARY 2013

Hello again to all my guests.First of all, I would like to apologize for my delay posting new posts.I was busy at work and i didn t have too much time to explore nature.

Kaeng Krachang is a national park that doesn’t upset any birdwatcher.With more than 260 species of birds and a remarkable variety of mammals,it s one of the most interesting national parks to explore.Access to the park is not as easy as it should be.You need your own vehicle.First I took a van until Petchaburi ( or “Petbuli”,as thais call it ).From there,I rent a motorbike at a guesthouse and i rode for 50 km until the national park headquarters.Once there, i slept one night out of the park and i had to pay for a 4 wheels  cars with other people to get inside the park.Motorbikes are not allowed to go inside the park.The entrance fee is 200 baths and 1200 baths for the car.I shared my expenses with other people so i only payed 150 baths for transportation.I was lucky enough that they wanted to get to both campsites.So it was really a very good deal.

In the morning i woke up 6 o’clock am,ready to explore the guts of this amazing national park.We arrived at Panoeng Tung campsIte at around 8 o’clock due to the road was quite rough.I start to explore the surrounding where i could see  some remarkable birds.One of the most interesting birds i could hear very often was Great Barbet, but as the day was cloudy i couldn’t get an excellent view of these stunning bird with its full array of colours.Around the campsite i could see an Orange-bellied Leafbird,an excellent bird with a gorgeous orange breast and belly and a dark blue throat that makes it a must to see.I could spot a couple of Thick billed Pigeons on the right side of the road.The only problem i found there was that was overcrowded with thais wandering around.It was a national holiday, so i had to stand with that.

Around 9 o clock we went back to Bang Krang campsite, where i stopped at 10:30 am between the 3rd and 2nd stream, willing to explore this area.The first gift was given almost instantaneously,when a flock of Silver-breasted Broadbills appeared just a few meters in front of me.I was very delighted with these sightings for a long time.Among this flock of birds,it seems to appear a male white morph of an Asian Paradise Flycatcher but i cannot confirm it 100% as i got a glimpse for a brief period of time.Around this area some birdwatchers ( see picture ) were waiting in front of a nest of a Brown Hornbill for its appearance.A few meters after,a pair of Sultan Tits were seen on the left side of the road.White-rumped Shama is another beautiful bird, with its beautiful and varied song, that was moving along the road.Black-crested Bulbul,Ochraceous Bulbul and other species of bulbuls are easily seen along the road.After crossing the first stream ,on the left side, the noisy Green Magpie was wandering around.After getting into the bamboo i could get a perfect view of this stunning bird,with its conspicuous red bill and green feathers.Blue-naped Monarch was another excellent bird that i could spot on this part of the road.It s a bird that is always moving quite fast among the branches.On the last part of the road to Bang Krang i saw a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher standing in a branch on a forest located on the left side and a Great Hornbill flying across the road.A Yellow-throated Martin crossed the road unexpectedly when i was close to the campsite.

P1070655

In the afternoon i tried to find another bird highlight, the White-fronted Scops Owl, that i found it around 3 pm just after the first stream,on the forest that was on the left side of the road,perching quietly on a branch, with its unmistakable facial shape and  white ” brows “.

At night time, i went around the campsite to find some nocturnal birds and mammals.Behind the restaurant, i could see a Porcupine several times and a Palm Civet only once, wandering around the garbage.The unmistakable sound of a Long-tailed Nightjar brought me to the parking lot of the campsite, where i could see it standing motionless on the road.After taking a picture it flew away.

P1070667

Next morning i woke up around 6 am,excited to get another drop of this superb beauty of  nature.After taking breakfast,around 8 o clock, an Oriental Pied Hornbill landed on a fruiting tree, next to the main office.It spent around 10 minutes eating the red fruits and after flew away.Fortunately i could take this picture that i post below.

OPHornbill4

Around 8:30 am i continue along the road until the first stream.I saw again a Great Hornbill flying very near the road.After 100 meters from the campsite I spotted a Crimson Sunbird,an amazing sunbird with its unmistakable red head,breast and mantle and grey belly. Three Spangled Drongos and afterwards a Bronzed Drongo were another nice addition to my list. A Great Slaty Woodpecker was behind a dead tree,beside its nest.The male was calling the female while she was on the back of  the tree.On the middle way of the road to the first stream i could spot an Orange-breasted Trogon remaining motionless on a branch near the road.I spent around 5 minutes enjoying my sight with this five stars bird.

Time was running out and i had to come back to Petchaburi.I was so delightful with this amazing piece of nature !!!