Sunday, 27 September 2009

THE LAST DAY

The last day of the Bare-faced Birders epic twitching adventure to Laos and Thailand finds us predictably in Bangkok, soaking up the atmosphere of this vibrant city whilst virtually drinking in the sweltering humidity. Pod is in Lumphini Park (Black-collared Starling above) doing some last minute birding and photography (he certainly needs the practice) while Gregsy is out shopping for his Misses and buying yet more iPods. We return to pack and take a final dip in the jacuzzi on the hotels rooftop...what a view!

Its been a great trip and one we'll remember for a long time. We successfully scored on the Bare-faced Bulbul and Sooty Babbler with relative ease and thus our exploits will hopefully tempt more of you Birders out there to visit Lao (and Thailand) as theres surely more to be found.
A big thanks to Stijn whos website was a goldmine of information. Same goes for Nick and his Thailand website. The people of Lao and Thailand for being overwhelmingly friendly and good value. Etihad Airways for their superb flights, service and nice aeroplanes (just a pity they support the blue half of Manchester).
A special BIG THANKYOU to Pod's wife Debbie who made his trip possible and Gregsy's wife Jane for letting John go in the first place.
Also a special thanks to our unofficial sponsors...BeerLao, Singha, Tiger Beer and Guinness god bless you all and keep up the good work.
Party on Dudes!...all the best from team cameraman and chief beer taster Pod.

Its ON MY LIST!...cheers from team tour leader and Bridge over the River Kwai fanatic Gregsy.


Trip List 204 (Lao and Thailand)
ttfn....BFB.





Thursday, 24 September 2009

DAY 12 to DAY 14

For the remaining few days of the trip we were so close to the 'hot spot' for another of South East Asia's newest 'species' namely White-fronted Plover, we decided to give it ago even though it was a bit early in the season (they usually appear from October onwards) and you never know we might find a Spoon-billed Sand or two.
Staying at the delightful Rabiang Rua Beach Resort (yes I know we've still not unpacked the tent) the BFB birded the surrounding area which was made up of a vast labyrinth of salt pans, seashore, mangrove and endless mud.
Chinese Pond Heron (non breeding adult) and below a juvenile Yellow Bittern both very common along this coastal stretch.

For wader enthusiasts like Pod one of the big attractions is the huge numbers of 'mega' rare Stints such as this adult Long-toed Stint, a bird which Pod just happens to have on his British List as well....nice!

We were wader watching at Pak Thale when in dropped four Great Knot...what a place!
The shear variety and numbers of waders plus Egrets etc is outstanding a must stop if you're ever en route down the peninsular.
Video of the 4 Great Knot plus Red-necked Stint, Long-toed Stint, Lesser Sandplover and Curlew Sandpiper...

video

The other famous place just down the road from Pak Thale is the sand bar called Lam Pak Bia. Below a photo looking towards (west) the coastal mangroves from LPB. This place can only be reached by hiring a boat from the local dock. Checkout Nick Uptons website...http://www.thaibirding.com/ for directions etc. This is the prime site for White-fronted Plover and even the boatmen will give you a hand searching.


The Bare-faced Birders in typical pose...Gregsy doing the hard work and Pod posing for the camera and not a leech in sight...bliss!

No White-fronts for the BFB but we did find several pairs of Malaysian Plover, this one a 'flagged' male. Please excuse the crap photo but my eyes were going due to the glare of the sun on the bright white sand (honest!) take your shades and a hat.


Birding highlights
INTERMEDIATE EGRET
STRIATED HERON
PACIFIC REEF EGRET
ASIAN OPENBILL
BLACK BITTERN
BRAHMINY KITE
WHISKERED TERN
EASTERN YELLOW WAGTAIL
FLYEATER
BAYA WEAVER
27 species of wader included:-
RED WATTLED PLOVER
GREATER SANDPLOVER
LESSER SANDPLOVER
MALAYSIAN PLOVER
GREAT KNOT
TEREK SANDPIPER
TEMMINCK'S STINT
RED-NECKED STINT
LONG-TOED STINT
LITTLE STINT
MARSH SANDPIPER
ttfn....BFB

Monday, 21 September 2009

DAY 11 PART 2

At Ban Maka watch out in the restaurant theres this over eager Oriental Pied Hornbill that swoops in off the kitchen roof just as you're tucking into your noodle soup.
Having settled in at this superb accommodation and joined the image gatherers (4 Thais) in the restaurant to watch them photograph several Orange bellied Flowerpeckers with their paparazzi like lenses. We were informed of the hide in the 'jungle' that had an evening crake show not to be missed....Crake!! oh yes a RED LEGGED CRAKE with 4 young. This we had to see. So donning our mossy/leech gear the BFB entered the hide overlooking a small puddle in the 'jungle' and waited...and waited...two hours later then a movement in the dimming light a Puff-throated Babbler came in for a bath followed by this female Sibe Blue Robin....
Then as the light really started togo an adult RED LEGGED CRAKE appeared followed by 4 young five minutes later, all took a bath together less than 4m away from us, unbelievable stuff.

Video of the adult (female?) Red legged Crake taking a bath, the flashes are from the Thai paparazzi...

video

View of the lake that Ban Maka backs onto, great place to dump the misses while you bird Kaeng Krachan N.P.(when its not closed).

Birding highlights
RED LEGGED CRAKE
COLLARED SCOPS OWL trees by the restaurant
INDIAN ROLLER en route
SIBERIAN BLUE ROBIN
PUFF-THROATED BABBLER
TICKELL'S BLUE FLYCATCHER
ttfn...BFB



Sunday, 20 September 2009

DAY 11

The BFB were certainly making an impression in Thailand and we soon had the locals turning out to try the greatest pastime/sport/hobby (call it what you will) of them all. Hopefully the 'ladys' above will be joining the Oriental Bird Club asap.
Leaving Hua Hin behind we headed North West and into the mountains adjacent to the Burmese border. After what seemed like ages via some dubious directional road signs (through a new reservoir!) we arrived at what we thought would be are next birding location namely Kaeng Krachan National Park, only to find it closed due to the 'wet' season...bu**er!!!
Fate was at hand though and a quick detour had us pulling up at the delightful birding/photographers guesthouse of Ban Maka http://www.banmaka.com/index.html

ttfn...BFB

DAY 10

Hua Hin the view from the 15th floor of The Grand Hotel our base for two nights.
An evening visit to Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park just down the road provided a welcome change to the jungle and a boost to the trip list. A plethora of waders was on view at this migration refuelling hotspot with a case of deja'vue below.
This fellow was our second 'monkey' of the trip a very obliging Dusky Langur, how he didn't get an electric shock I'll never know.

Dusky on vid...
video

As the sun went down and the mossies came out a Nightjar dropped onto the track in front of our parked 4x4, an Indian Nightjar that gave stunning close views and ended a memorable days birding.

Dusk descends over KSRY NP so as all good birders must do we make our way to Hua Hin and the best pub in Thailand namely El Murphy's for an intake of the Irish nectar....Guinness. What a delightful way to end a days birding. Even better the glorious Man Utd were on the box disposing of Spurs 3-1 en route to another 3 premiership points...sorted as we say in Manchester.
The motorbike taxi ride into Hua Hin not for the faint hearted.....

video
The El Murphy's also hosted the greatest ever tribute band The Stoned Head Band. These guys looked rougher than the Rolling Stones on a bad night out but my could they play.

After birding Nam Nao then driving 600km to Hua Hin the previous day, then birding KSRY after a serious intake of sunbathing and hotel pool swimming, then a night on the tiles watching the Reds whilst downing copious quantities of Guinness and Singha Beer the BFB were in the zone...

...its a tough job but hey someones got to do it.
Birding highlights (Khao Sam Roi Yod)
PURPLE HERON
STRIATED HERON
YELLOW BITTERN
WHITE-BELLIED SEA EAGLE
RED WATTLED LAPWING
LESSER SANDPLOVER
GREATER SANDPLOVER
RED-NECKED STINT
LONG-TOED STINT
MALAYSIAN PLOVER
INDIAN NIGHTJAR
WHITE-THROATED KINGFISHER
COLLARED KINGFISHER
GREEN BEE-EATER
BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATER
FLYEATER
BROWN SHRIKE
ttfn...BFB

Sunday, 13 September 2009

DAY 6 TO DAY 9

From the birding delights of Lao we moved once again back over the Friendship Bridge and into Thailand for a three night stay at Nam Nao National Park. Being the wet season and midweek we arrived to find the park all to ourselves which meant first on the trails each morning...great!
There was a campsite and we did bring a tent but seeing as we're both celebrating our 50th's this year we settled for some dude accommodation instead...
Bare-faced Birders extreme Asia birding.....

We also hired a small tuk-tuk from Avis...

Both being dedicated jungleites we split up and did our own thing each day only meeting up for lunch at the restaurant by the HQ...I recommend the 'khao phat gai' washed down with a cool Singha Beer...nice!

Habitat shot showing the huge stands of bamboo that dominate the forest interior plus the very full 'stream' after yet more over night rain.


A male Bamboo Woodpecker goes to work on its favoured bit of timber.
Day 7 found us out of the forest and into the African Savannah like grassland habitat across the highway from the park HQ. We were searching for a Prinia (well a ticks a tick) and this one had eluded both of us on our previous visits to this ace birding Country. It prefers the long grassland habitat with scattered trees thats also home to the parks healthy population of Asian Elephants. Thus late this evening the BFB are 300m off the track, 4km from our vehicle wading through waist high grass in search of Brown Prinia!!....the conversation went like this...
Pod ''theres a lot of flattened trees around here John''
Gregsy ''and theres some big round footprints over here''
Pod ''is that a pile of steaming Elephant pooh''
Gregsy ''OH SH*T!!''
Pod ''yeah thats what I meant''.
We survived the evening and bagged the Prinia as well phew!
Day 8
Gregsy grips one back on me today as we locate a pair of Bar-backed Partridge on Trail 1, they'd been feeding on the local rubbish tip behind the park restaurants!
Video tour of our palatial Bungalow...its tough out there. video
Day 9
After a morning birding the trails where I grip one back on Gregsy (which we won't mention cos its a tarts tick) we pack and head 600km south to Hua Hin on the peninsular coast for a two night stay and a bit of R&R.
Birding highlights from Nam Nao
BAR-BACKED PARTRIDGE
MOUNTAIN IMPERIAL PIGEON
ASIAN BARRED OWLET
BROWN HORNBILL
GREAT BARBET
BAMBOO WOODPECKER
HEART SPOTTED WOODPECKER
SILVER BREASTED BROADBILL
BLUE PITTA only heard
INDOCHINESE CUCKOOSHRIKE
GOLDEN-FRONTED LEAFBIRD
ORANGE-BELLIED LEAFBIRD
BROWN PRINIA
GOLDEN SPECTACLED WARBLER sp.
HAINAN BLUE FLYCATCHER
TICKELL'S BLUE FLYCATCHER
WHITE CROWNED FORKTAIL
LESSER NECKLACED LAUGHINGTHRUSH
BLACK THROATED LAUGHINGTHRUSH
EYE-BROWED WREN-BABBLER
WHITE HOODED BABBLER
BROWN CHEEKED FULVETTA
BLACK HOODED ORIOLE
GREEN MAGPIE
GRAY TREEPIE
ttfn...BFB

Friday, 11 September 2009

DAY 5


Its the Bare-faced Birders last day in Lao so what better way to end our brief visit than to pay homage to the Bulbul that started this adventure in the first place. At 5.30am we arrive with Tong our trusty chauffeur at the km32.8 viewpoint, he's all excited because he will be the 9th person to ever see the Bare-faced Bulbul (and know what it is).


The star of the show once again performs well for the tape and Tong is over the moon. We spot more Bare-faced Bulbuls whilst scanning the tops of the nearby Karst Limestone formations. This locates the other blocker of the region (no not the Sooty Babbler) but a lone male LAO LANGUR sat atop a rather pointy bit of limestone. Instantly all cameras and videos are aimed in his direction...what a find...its more high fives for the Bare-faced Birders.


Excuse the quality but he was over 500m away and I was shaking with excitement.


This is a taster I will down load more piccies and hopefully some cracking video once we're back in the UK.
Like this one...
video

Birding highlights

BARE-FACED BULBUL 10+

SOOTY BABBLER 6

BLUE WHISTLING THRUSH

VELVET-FRONTED NUTHATCH

Total number of species seen in Lao - 84

Trip Report on Surfbirds...http://www.surfbirds.com/trip_report.php?id=1694


ttfn...BFB



Tuesday, 8 September 2009

DAY 4


As the sun rises the BFB are once again up and running but still there's no sign of the Red collared Woodpecker does it really exist?. The primary forest was more alive as we pioneered a new woodcutter's trail. Ace Asia Birding with lots of tantalising glimpses of skulkers as we off-roaded down a ravine. Highlight being a superb male White-tailed Robin and a couple of woodpecker holes......

Downside - chainsaws competing with cicadas in the most 'unwanted noise competition.'

The Sooty Babbler climbing wall stakeout at km.36

A late afternoon ramble round the local paddie fields adds a few ticks to the trip list including a short tailed version of Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius scach scach???) but yet again its a blank day.

Birding highlights
Black shouldered Kite
Chinese Goshawk
Indian Cuckoo
Large tailed Nightjar
Indian Roller
White-tailed Robin
Spot necked Babbler
Rufous throated Fulvetta
White browed Piculet
Chesnut bellied Nuthatch
Southern/Eastern Jungle Crow?
ttfn...BFB

DAY 3

Its 3.30am and the Bare-faced Birders are up and out in the field once again. There's no stopping us now as we walk up trail 3 (see Stijn's map) in search of night birds. A distant Mountain Scops Owl is calling and we tempt it closer with the tape. These little fellas have led me (Pod) a merry dance all over Asia and I've yet to set my eyes on one. We blasted the tape once again and in it came calling within metres of us...on went the torch...and there right infront of us one spanking gingery MOUNTAIN SCOPS OWL...bingo what a result. Gregsy has some jaw dropping video so checkout the IBC-LYNX website once we're back. The team cameraman left his camera in the minibus...doh!! What a plonker! well someone had to hold the torch.


Dawn finds us once again up the Weather Station Trail in search of that elusive Woodpecker but to no avail it's cicada city and a bird free zone.Pod coincidently felt at home in this pristine forest and climbed several trees in search of Woody.

The BFB live in action, video showing the trail in the forest beyond the Weather Staion Trail...

video

After some well earned chillout time we once again went birding Gregsy did the Temple Trail and Pod the Waterfall Trail. Late afternoon though was not the best time to be out as the temperature was touching 85'f and the humidity 90% (well it felt that way) not a new bird was added to the trip list and Pod couldn't even find the Waterfall...time for a BeerLao me thinks.

Birding highlights

Mountain Hawk Eagle

Mountain Scops Owl

Red headed Trogon

Orange-breasted Trogon

Speckled Piculet

Rufous Woodpecker

Orange-bellied Leafbird

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Yellow bellied Warbler

White crested Laughingthrush

ttfn...BFB

Monday, 7 September 2009

Day 2 the late afternoon bit

With the adrenalin still flowing we went for broke and attempted to see the third mega of this outstanding area; namely the Red collared Woodpecker - a difficult bird to see anywhere in SE Asia. Tong dropped us off at km 48.5 and we hiked up the Weather Station Trail, Gregsy in the lead flushed a possible Pitta sp. that disappeared never to be seen again (Eared?). After what seemed like ages but was only a birding hour we located the trail to the ancient forest that Stijn De Win had found, what a surreal place it was, no birds at all just a deafening whine from the humungus cicadas.




The Bare-faced Birders living upto their name....Mr Universe watchout!!!

Jungle birding does have its down side and the enemy lay in wait at every corner...

Gregsy got a sock full....nice!


We retraced our steps and after a well earned shower hit the town! for a noodle soup and Lao Beer...we slept well that night, having just successfully twitched two of the most rarest birds on the planet...it doesn't get much better than this, roll on tomorrow.
Birding highlights
BARE-FACED BULBUL 12+ (further individuals seen along the road down to km.35)
SOOTY BABBLER 4

Banded Bay Cuckoo
Collared Owlet
Orange Breasted Trogon
Grey-capped Woodpecker
Great Iora
Buff-breasted Babbler
Green backed Tit
and theres more to come so ttfn...BFB

DAY 2

Its our first day in the field and we're at the km32.8 viewpoint, Gregsy is prepping the video ready for the big moment.


Hiding up in the rafters of the pagoda-like viewpoint was this foot long Gecko; what a stunning creature...we kept our distance.



First to show at 'the' stakeout was this obliging Moustached Barbet which was followed by a Blue eared and then a Lineated. Minutes later a Green-billed Malkoha and several Blue-winged Leafbirds joined the throng; reason being the tree next to the viewpoint was in fruit...things were looking good. Bulbuls did show such as Black-crested and Stripe-throated but not the biggy. So having downloaded the required call from the Xeno-Canto website we gave it a blast. Within minutes not one but four BARE-FACED BULBULS made a swift appearance and performed brilliantly for over half an hour right in front of us, it was high fives for the Bare-faced Birders.




One of the first photos I took of this bizarre looking Bulbul and as the light improved I managed to take some better shots(see below). Gregsy has some awesome video that will be published on the IBC.LYNX website as soon as we return. We reckon that we're only the 7th and 8th Birders to ever see this bird....what a tick.




The day though had only just begun and so we headed down the road (towards Na Hin) on foot in search of another blocker the Sooty Babbler.



On reaching km35 we encountered (ie. got close to) the amazing limestone rock formations that this area is famous for (and the Chinese want to quarry!!!) and began our second search of the day and it was still only 9.00am but the temperature was already 80'f. No stopping the Bare-faced Birders though as four SOOTY BABBLERS showed well but briefly on the limestone cliffs right by the roadside. Annoyingly we were unable to get any piccies as the group moved through quickly in the shadows of the overhanging trees. Then shortly afterwards this Green-backed Tit looked strangely out of place as it pecked at insects on the weird looking Karst formation.


Below video showing the km.32.8 viewpoint and the BFB in action...
video

FIRST EVER VIDEO ON THE WEB OF BARE-FACED BULBUL...

video

ttfn...BFB

DAY 1

Hi there folks we finally made it to Lao. Set off from Manchester on the 3rd Sept flying with Etihad (MCFC Airways) arriving Bangkok early on the 4th and took an internal flight to Udon Thani in NE Thailand and crossed the border into Lao via the Friendship Bridge on a shuttle bus hence the naff photo below (Thailand on the right, Lao on the left) and met up with our hired 9 seater mini bus and driver named Tong. Having made astonishingly fast progress we cancelled our hotel in the capital Vientiane the cultural delights of which could wait till another day cos we're Birders and we're on a mission.
At the border we exchanged some sterling into Lao Kips £1=14,000kps...loadsamoney.

We arrived late evening at Na Hin - our base for the next four days and booked into the brand new Phamaanview Guesthouse (superbly clean and efficient). En route Pod had his first taste of Lao beer (quality) and we both sampled the local cuisine...fried fish with extra chilli and rice...sorted!
Birding highlights
Asian Openbill(2) on the runway!! at Bangkok Airport.


 
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