In early winter Tero Toivanen sent us an email and asked if we’d like to join him and Janne Kilpimaa and go somewhere far and warm. The first suggestion was Thailand and Phetchaburi area, where for example Mika Bruun had been a couple of years earlier and written a blog to Tarsiger. It really seemed to be an interesting area to go, so soon we were booking flights, accommodations and a car and so on.
After all our plan was to fly to Bangkok, take a taxi to Hua-Hin where we’d take a 4-wheel car and then do birding first 2 days in Laem Pak Bia and Pak Thale wader places, then continue to Kaeng Krachan National Park for 4 days, then spend 2 days around Phetchaburi fields before taking a taxi back to Bangkok.
On Saturday the 25th of February our Finnair Airbus A350 left towards Bangkok at 6:15 p.m. It was a long, almost 10 hours flight, but there were pretty new movies to watch and of course we also tried to sleep.
Finally we landed to Suvarnabhum airport at 9:15 a.m. and after we had found our luggage, we found our Thai Happytaxi driver and soon were driving towards Hua-Hin (2300 Baht). On the way we of course saw some birds but most of them were left without identification as there weren’t many species we were familiar with. Anyway Asian Spotted Dove, Red Turtle Dove, Asian Openbill and some other common species were seen. It took a bit more than 2 hours to get to Hua-Hin airport where we got our big Isuzu and soon Janne K. was practicing driving on the left side of the road. We drove a little bit back towards North and pretty soon were in Cha Am where we parked to Eurasia resort where we had booked rooms for next 2 nights.
Eurasia resort was really good looking bird wise, so we decided to start birding there as the hottest time of the day wasn’t the best time to go anywhere. We hoped to get familiar with at least some common species. Right away we found lots of Streak-eared Bulbuls, which was surprisingly the only bulbul-species we saw on the coast. On flowering bushes there were Olive-backed and Brown-throated Sunbirds and Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers. A short walk around the resort was really good as we found Oriental Magpie Robins, Pied Fantails, Zebra Doves, a couple of Freckle-breasted Woodpeckers, Indochinese Rollers, Crested Mynas, Pied Mynas, Germain’s Swiftlets (or whatever swiftlets there really are), a couple of Plain-backed Sparrows, a Plaintive Cuckoo and a couple of Ruddy-breasted Crakes that were flushed from one ditch.
In the afternoon we headed to Laem Pak Bia salt-pools and saw a couple of White-shouldered Starlings on the way. From the pools we found lots of waders and mostly they were familiar species for us, but of course it was good to see Pacific Golden Plovers, Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers too. But the best ones for us were Red-necked and Long-toed Stints and even 300 Great Knots, which was the only lifer for us all. We also found a flock of greenshanks, but too late when it was already getting dark, so we couldn’t identify them surely as Nordmann’s Greenshanks! Anyway a briefly seen Eastern Yellow Wagtail was a lifer too.
We also visited Mr. Deang and booked a boat-trip to sand-spit for the next day. On small pools around his village, we saw a Black-capped and several Collared Kingfishers and a huge Asian Monitor Lizard.
In the evening we ate in the only restaurant in the resort which was noisy, expensive and pretty bad. Anyway it was nice to see Tokee-geckos on the roof of the restaurant. It had been a long day so after we had written down the bird-log, we were ready to go to sleep.
Waders and Egrets
On Sunday the 27th of February we woke up before 6 a.m. and once we got out we heard strange calls from the woods – it was a Large-tailed Nightjar. Soon I was driving (my turn) towards Pak Thale wader place. Once we got to the pools, there were lots of people from the village. They were carrying salt from one pool that was full of big piles of salt.
We saw a couple of flocks of Painted Storks before we started to scan the pools for waders. The first pools didn’t have too many birds so we soon walked in the middle of the pools. It was allowed to walk along the bigger roads. Soon we found big flocks of waders; lots of Red-necked Stints and plovers. After some searching I found what we were looking for – a Spoon-billed Sandpiper! It was a little bit behind a sand-wall but Hanna managed to see it through my scope. But then a motorcycle drove towards it and flushed all waders. And right after that it started to rain so we had to get to shelter. The rain made the sand extremely slippery and muddy and soon we had a thick mud-layers on our shoes. Luckily the rain stopped soon and the waders had landed back to the same pool. And after some searching I found the “spoonie” again and also Janne K. and Tero managed to see this dream-bird! It had really been the target nr. 1 on our list!
We were scanning the wader-flocks for some time and Janne K. found another Spoon-billed Sandpiper which had color-rings. It was maybe from Russian breeding programs, so it had been good to see also the unringed bird. Soon after the second “spoonie” we decided to move on and continued to the shore to check some mangroves.
We passed some pools that had only some waders and parked to the end of the road and walked to a shelter that was on the shore. Soon we saw lots of wader-flocks that were passing us. Tide had probably made them fly to somewhere else. We saw Curlews, Whimbrels, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers, Great Knots and even a pure Terek Sandpiper flock. Soon we saw the first Far Eastern Curlew in a flock of Curlews and later 2 more birds were seen. On the mangrove we saw some Golden-bellied Gerygones and I saw a lonely Asian House Martin flying over me.
On the hottest time of the day we stopped to eat on a small restaurant along the road. The food was really cheap and good. Soon we had to hurry to Mr. Deang to catch a boat to the Sand Spit. And soon we were sitting on a smallish motor-boat that Mr. Deang was driving along a river between mangroves towards the sea. Lyle’s Flying Dogs were hanging on the tops of trees and plenty of Asian Monitor Lizards were swimming on the river. Soon Mr. Deang showed us the first better egret – a Chinese Egret! This species is extremely rare with less than 1000 birds in the whole world!
Finally we were on the sand spit and after we had seen another Chinese Egret, we started to walk on the shore. There were immediately some Malaysian Plovers but we had to walk quite a lot before we finally found one White-faced Plover! On the rocky reef, we found a dark-morph Pacific Reed Egret and on the tern flocks there were Crested Terns, 1 Lesser Crested Tern, White-winged Terns and also a Pallas’s Gull.
After the trip we paid 1000 Bahts from the successful trip and continued to King’s Project (Environmental Research and Development Project initiated by H.M King Bhumibol), which had good pools with quite a few pond herons and finally there were a couple of birds in breeding plumage and they were easy to identify as Javan Pond Herons. Otherwise the hot afternoon wasn’t good for birding but anyway some Dusky Warblers were found. A couple of Asian Monitor Lizards were seen almost too close…
Next we continued to Laem Pak Bia again and hoped to find the flock of greenshanks again. But pools where the flock had been on the previous evening were almost empty. We had seen big flocks of waders on the way along the main road so drove back there. There were about 400 Great Knots and behind them we saw altogether 43 Nordmann’s Greenshanks! Now they were easy to identify with their short and yellow legs.
It was already dark when we drove back to Eurasia resort and stopped almost at the gate where both a Large-tailed and Indian Nightjar were calling actively. We still went to eat with Hanna and of course the log was made before we went to sleep.
On the last day of February we headed early to so-called abandoned building and we were there when the sun was rising. Right away we heard several warblers “tacking” and soon saw one and confirmed the identification as Oriental Reed Warbler. On the sky there were all the time both Little and Indian Cormorants flying over us. On the small rubbish tip we found a couple of rarities; 2 Brahminy and 2 Rosy Starlings. There were also a couple of Indochinese Bush-larks, a couple of Black-headed Munias were seen briefly and soon we continued to check the pools. There were lots of waders and better ones were 20 Red-necked Phalaropes, 80 Broad-billed Sandpipers and a flock of 35 Asian Dowitchers! And when we were already leaving I found 2 Oriental Pratincoles flying over us.
We still stopped at Wat Komnaram which had some a little bit wet fields. A couple of Oriental Skylarks were singing and there were some Oriental Pratincoles to photograph.
The next stop was made in Cha Am where we ate again while Hanna visited a pharmacy and finally managed to find fuel to his cooker. Hanna is allergic to almost everything that people eat in Thailand (or actually anywhere, but especially in Thailand), so she had planned to cook her own food. Well Hanna’s luck wasn’t too good after all; first she got Asian Openbill shit to her jacket when a flock was flying over us and when we went to get money from ATM, the machine ate her credit card! Luckily the rest of us got some money so after the card had been redeemed, we continued towards inland.
Our next target was Kaeng Krachan National Park which wasn’t as easy to find as we had expected. We found the information center easily and walked a little there and heard a Lineated Barbet and saw some Paddyfield Pipits, but almost nothing else. But when we continued towards the National Park, there were soldiers blocking the road. Of course they didn’t speak any English, but when they pointed to our targeted direction and said “shooting, shooting”, we decided to try to find another road. Luckily we found another road easily and pretty soon we parked to Ban Maka from where we had booked rooms for next 2 nights.
We carried our luggage to our rooms and changed to long shirts and trousers as there are mosquitos that carry malaria and dengue-fever in the area. Then we found familiar faces from the parking place; our very good friends Mikko Ala-Kojola and Antti Peuna, who had already been birding in Northern Thailand for more than a week. They had almost similar plans with us for the rest of their trip. They had booked rooms from Samarn Bird Camp which was closer to the National Park. And that’s where we were going to stay the last 2 nights on our stay in Kaeng Krachan.
The surroundings of Ban Maka were perfect for afternoon birding, so soon we were all walking around and searching for birds. We soon found some Black-crested Bulbuls, Brown-cheeked Sunbirds, an Oriental Pied Hornbill and a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler. A short walk along the road produced also a Dark-necked Tailorbird, a calling Chinese Francolin and Sooty-headed Bulbuls.
In the evening a couple of other groups of birders arrived to Ban Maka and Mikko and Antti had met them earlier in the North. We ate together in the restaurant and heard a Collared Scops Owl calling. We got plenty of good tips to the National Park. Anyway we had booked a guide for the next day so I just wrote the tips down in a hurry, but didn’t really study them as I thought our guide would know most of them anyway. I was really hoping that the next day would be my best birding day ever!
Up and down Kaeng Krahan
On the 1st of March we had breakfast at 5:30 a.m. and soon we met our guide. He didn’t speak any English but we had been warned about it. We climbed to his Hiace and were soon at the gate of the National Park. The guide collected money for the tickets and paid them and soon we were in.
Sun was rising when we parked after we had been driving about 9 kilometers. This are was exactly the are where an Elephant had killed a couple of tourists earlier. And this very same Elephant was still hanging somewhere there. We really had hoped to see an Elephant, but not necessarily this individual. But there was quite a lot of Elephant shit on the roads.
In this open area we experienced something that I hadn’t been expected – the monkeys – White-handed Gibbons were singing and loudly! We also heard Green-legged Partridges funny calls and also Greater and Common Flamebacks were noisy but also showing well. A Large Hawk-cuckoo was seen in flight briefly and with many Oriental Pied Hornbills we saw also 2 Tickell’s Brown Hornbills. Then our guide was worthy for the first time when he showed us an Asian Barred Owlet. We had hoped that he’d tell us what were all the voices, songs and calls that were coming from every direction, but after he had shown us the owl, he just concentrated to photograph it.
Well at least one of the calls was easy to identify – a Red Junglefowl, but we also identified Green-eared Barbets and found 2 tiny Black-tighted Falconets. Soon Mikko and Antti also parked there and they told that they had seen already lots of species on their many stops. With them we still saw our first Stripe-throated Bulbuls, but then our guide wanted to move.
We didn’t understand why our driver wanted to hurry as we knew that from the first camping place, Baan Krang, the road continued only one way and the direction was changing up only at 1 p.m. But anyway soon we parked to Baan Krang and our guide marched inside the restaurant to order food to himself!
So we had no idea what to do. We knew there were plenty of target-birds around and I had even got instructions how to find some nests, but I hadn’t got them with me. So we just started walking around the camp and try to find birds by ourselves. Soon we found some Thick-billed Green Pigeons, a Hainan Blue Flycatcher, a Rosy Minivet, a Two-barred Warbler and Flavescent Bulbuls.
After some walking we saw a small group that had also a local guide watching something behind a couple of tents. Surprisingly our own guide was also there and already photographing something! When he saw us coming he waved us to get there and there was an amazing looking Orange-breasted Trogon perched very close to them.
We of course started to take pictures too and while others were still photographing I found another target-bird – a Silver-breasted Broadbill! And even though there were a couple of these broadbills, they weren’t very co-operative, so we didn’t get very good pictures of them.
Then our guide started to be a guide and wanted to take us to a short forest-walk. We knew it was going to be quiet as it was the hottest time of the day, but we hoped that he had at least one good bird somewhere on the way.
Sun was shining very hot and cicadas were extremely noisy – and there were almost no birds at all! We had been walking quite a long already, when our guide asked us to get closer to him and he pointed a bird from a bush – and it was a Streak-eared Bulbul – the only bird that was common everywhere!
Luckily we soon found a Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo and when we arrived to Youth Camp, I found a Himalayan Cuckoo perched on the top of the tallest tree. Hanna almost stepped to a poisonous snake, but at least she got good snake-pictures.
Once we were back in the camp, Mikko and Antti had also arrived and they had seen so much more! They had been stopping many times on the way and really enjoyed their morning! We weren’t too happy for their success…
We still saw Grey-eyed Bulbul, Large Woodshrike and together with Hanna we saw 2 Hill Mynas flying over us. Anyway the rest of the mid-day we were sitting in the shadows and waiting for some birds to come to the only fruiting tree of the area that was in front of the restaurant. Of course we visited a river that was almost completely dry, with only some tiny pools, but there were amazing number of different kind of colorful butterflies. And we also photographed monkeys, Dusky Leaf Monkeys, that were relaxing close to the restaurant. We also saw a quite a big deer running across the camping area.
Finally it was 1 p.m. and we started driving up again. But again we were just driving! We passed the first and second river-crossings that we knew were one of the best birding places and kept on going! We started to get afraid that our driver was going to drive straight up to the second camp too, so I forced him to stop on the 3rd river-crossing. Once we had stopped, I tried to ask him to tell what were the birds that were calling around us, but only thing he could tell was that one of the calls was a barbet – luckily there were only 6 possible species… So again we started to try to find the birds by ourselves.
We had been listening to some recordings at home and with Tero we both had lots of recordings loaded on our phones, but there were just too many different kind of unfamiliar calls everywhere all the time – it was very confusing! We did identify a Blue-throated Barbet but then we found 4 Great Slaty Woodpeckers on one dead tree and all the other voices were forgotten! These huge woodpeckers were closest to a pterosaur what we have ever seen! Then we still found 2 Dollarbirds perched on the next top of trees, so it started to feel that maybe this day wasn’t going to be that bad after all!
But soon our driver was in a hurry again and then we drove again for a long time until he stopped under a couple of huge trees and pointed up and there was a nest of a Crested Mountain Eagle and there was even one bird at home! What a nice surprise!
The next stop was made in 27 km, which we knew had plenty of target birds. It seemed that our driver (we didn’t think he was a guide anymore) knew at least one of them, as he walked straight to one pool where were 2 nests hanging over it. He even started to play the call of the bird from his phone, so again he surprised us. And right away a couple of Long-tailed Broadbills arrived to build the nest!
I remembered that I had got several other tips to this place too, but it seemed that our driver didn’t know them, so we started walking up along the road. We found some Ochraceous Bulbuls, a Vertider Flycatcher and heard Blue-eared Barbets and a Moustached Barbet, but many other calls were still not identified.
After some time we found our driver again and he had probably got some tips from other guides that had passed us and he showed us a tree with a woodpecker nest – and there was a Buff-rumped Woodpecker just visiting the nest!
We still spent some time on the area as we weren’t in a hurry to get to the next camp, where we would be stuck again before it was allowed to drive back down. We still found a Sulphure-breasted Warbler and identified some common callers, when we finally saw them, as Pin-striped Tit-babblers and Rufous-fronted Babblers. But soon our driver came with his car and asked us to get in and so we were driving up again.
We found a possible Chinese Blue Flycatcher while driving and saw a Common Emerald Dove flying across the road but soon we parked to the top to Khao Panoen Tung camp. Again our driver disappeared inside to restaurant and we had no idea what to do. So we started just behind the restaurant-building where opened a pretty good view to the hillside. Right away I found maybe the most searched species of the whole park – a Ratched-tailed Treepie! This bird really had a strange tail! On the next tree there was a Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike and soon we saw and heard a flock of small birds flying over us. I was the only one to run after them and saw to which tree they landed. But only one bird was visible on the top of the tree while all the other birds were inside the tree. This one bird was a white-eye with almost white flanks and stomach and huge ring around the eye. I thought it was an Oriental White-eye, but later I heard that there had been some Everett’s White-eyes with a flock that was mostly Chestnut-sided White-eyes. Once the flock had moved on too fast again Janne K. found a Streaked Spiderhunter which was luckily easier to identify.
But then we again had no idea where our driver was. We didn’t know if he wanted to continue further as the road still continued several kilometers to the other side of the top. Finally he came out and showed us to follow him to the next hilltop. This was the place where we should have walked already much earlier as the view was amazing! There was strange calls coming from the opposite hill and once again our driver surprised us and used Tero’s telescope to find some Great Hornbills. We were scanning the tree-tops and sky for some time and found a Black Eagle and a Rufous-bellied Eagle, also Vernal Hanging Parrots were seen briefly.
When we were walking back towards the camp-buildings, Hanna who had left a little bit earlier called us to get down quickly! She had found a flock of 3 Common Green Magpies! These birds were just amazing, but unfortunately mostly hiding well and moving too quickly. So we saw them well only for a couple of seconds before they were gone. And right away after that we found a couple of Blyth’s Shrike-babblers, which were also really nice birds.
Once we were back at our car, we probably would have left back down immediately, but I realized that I had lost my back-bag. After some searching I knew I had left it up to the top of the hill, so a couple of us climbed back there. But it was good, as once the bag had been found, we found a Velvet-fronted Nuthatch which seemed to be a new species to our driver as he started to take pictures of the bird and didn’t seem to stop photographing at all. While standing there next to our car, we saw a bird flying past us and hit straight to the window of the restaurant. With Hanna we hurried to see what had happened and there was a Common Emerald Dove on the ground. It had got some damage but we moved it to shadows to rest, so maybe it still survived?
We were already late as cars were supposed to leave from the top at 5 p.m. but our driver was still chasing the nuthatch. Finally he had got enough and we left to downhill at 5:40 p.m. We had hoped to stop in some places that we had been passing on the way up but now it was too late. It takes more than an hour to drive back to the gate and it was closing at 7 p.m. And once the gate is closed there is no way out!
So we were driving down pretty fast, but luckily we were the only car on the road this late and that’s why there were some birds on the road! We saw some Red Junglefowls and 1+3 beautiful Kalij Pheasants!
Once we had driven through the lover camp we found Mikko and Antti waiting for us. It came dark very quickly and soon we saw the first nightjars on the road. We had some difficulties to make our driver to understand that we wanted him to use long lights. It seemed that he wasn’t going to stop to watch any nightjars, we didn’t want to kill any of them. But them he also noticed the birds and started to stop. Unfortunately all the birds we checked were Long-tailed Nightjars.
Finally we were outside the National Park at 6:53 p.m. and drove straight to Ban Maka. There we paid our driver and luckily he wasn’t very expensive, 1200 Bahts. We wouldn’t have paid the price that we had heard was the price for real bird-guides. Anyway after all we were very happy as the afternoon had been really good! Then we of course ate together with Mikko and Antti and made the bird-log together again and changed tips with them and with other groups too. There was one new group from Hungary and they made us to stop our dinner for a good reason when they found a Collared Scops Owl perched on one tree close to the restaurant.
On the lower part of the park
On the 2nd of March we met Mikko and Antti at the National Park gate at 6 a.m. and soon continued until km 9. There were already lots of birds awake, but mostly the same species as on the previous morning. A couple of Great Hornbills were seen and a Collared Owlet was heard. We walked in the area for some time and still found a couple of Crimson Sunbirds that were seen briefly. A White-bellied Erpornis was heard in a flock of many other birds that were at least mostly bulbuls.
The next stop was made when we heard a woodpecker calling. When we got out, there were several woodpeckers around us and soon we found a Streak-breasted Woodpecker and also a Grey-headed Woodpecker. We also saw a Green-billed Malkoha and again 2 Great Slaty Woodpeckers.
Then we had to hurry so we could pass the first camping site before the gate was closed at 9 a.m. It was really annoying that the road was changing the direction all the time. We were all the time in a hurry!
Finally we stopped at the 1st river-crossing and there Antti found an amazing looking Black-and-yellow Broadbill! It was seen only pretty briefly but luckily I got one pretty good picture before it disappeared. Soon we continued to the 2nd crossing and there we had good notes how to find the next broadbill as we knew the nest. We walked about 100 meters and already then heard Dusky Broadbills calling. Soon we found them and it was really another ridiculous looking bird again. While photographing Dusky Broadbills Antti was again the sharpest of us and picked up a different looking broadbill from the tops of the trees – there were also 2 Banded Broadbills! Amazing!
And it really started to feel that Antti was our guide when he still found a Raffle’s Malkoha, which disappeared too soon to get any pictures. Also Greater Yellownape was seen only briefly but it was heard very well. Also an Eastern Crowned Warbler was seen, so we had got a great start for the day!
Mikko and Antti continued until the top where they hadn’t been yet, but we had to stay lower as we had booked a hide outside the National Park, close to Ban Maka, in the afternoon. So pretty soon we had driven back down to the camping site where I noticed a Blue-bearded Bee-eater perched on one tree. While we were having cold drinks, we could again take pictures of many species that were visiting the fruiting tree. The best bird there was a Blue-winged Leafbird.
Ban Son Nok hide
Once we had picked up our luggage from Ban Maka, we continued to Ban Son Nok hide. We paid 200 Bahts per person to an old lady who was owner of this place and were soon sitting inside the hide. There were already Streak-eared, Stripe-throated and Black-crested Bulbuls, an Asian Spotted Dove and a White-rumped Shama visiting small pools.
And after some waiting we heard something walking in the bushes and a few Bar-backed Partridgs came to drink. Soon after that we heard a noisy flock of birds coming and 7 Greater and 2 Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes came to feed right in front of us. These birds were really funny but they disappeared quite soon.
Next visitor was a single Green-legged Partridge and also a Black-naped Monarch and a Common Emerald Dove were showing very picturesquely!
A Pale-legged Leaf Warbler was showing pretty well soon and then after some waiting a female Siberian Blue Robin arrived, and a male soon after that and still a young male. They weren’t showing too well, but they were just stunning birds with short tale and long pale feet. It was already getting dark when babblers started to make visits. We saw some Brown-cheeked Fulvettas, Puff-throated and Rufous-fronted Babblers and also one Abbott’s Babbler but also a couple of Indochinese Blue Flycatchers.
When it was too dark, we said thank you to the owner and drove to Samarn Bird Camp where we had rooms for next 2 nights. We ate again with Mikko and Antti who had stayed inside the park until the last minutes. We changed the tips and made the log again.
To the top again
On the 3rd of March we had breakfast at 6 a.m. and after that Mikko and Antti headed to another hide, Lung Sin Waterhole, but we were soon buying the tickets to National Park again (1000 Bahts for 4 person + 30 Bahts car).
We stopped again at 9 km but had nothing new there, a couple of Dollarbirds which we had seen quite a few already. Hanna managed to find a Porcupine that we saw running to the bushes, it was surprisingly big.
Then we walked a couple of hundred meters to a small pool where we knew people had seen the last broadbills that we still hadn’t seen. Mikko and Antti had tried to see them for a couple of times but only heard some calls, so it wasn’t easy. Anyway I walked closer to the bushes and played the tape and soon had an answer from the bushes behind me. I kept on playing and finally one bird flew cross the road while another one started calling too. After some searching we finally found a Black-and-red Broadbill visible and altogether there were 3 birds. It was already the 6th broadbill-species for us – and maybe the most beautiful!
Tero got an inspiration from my tape-luring and played Sultan Tit from his phone and right away a Sultan Tit came to see us! We also saw a Great Iora passing the road and from the tops of some dead trees we found 4 Golden-crested Mynas.
Soon several big cars parked next to us and it was Kontiki group with our good friend Tero Linjama as their leader! There were a few familiar faces on the group and together we saw a strange raptor flying over us, and later it was identified from the pictures as a Jerdon’s Baza! We gave plenty of tips to Tero before we decided to keep on going as the group was far too noisy.
After a short drive we saw a Blue-bearded Bee-eater perched on a tree and we had just started to use our walkie-talkies so we could possibly contact to this Finnish group and so they managed to see it too. Then we drove again a little and decided to walk along the road for some time. We saw briefly a Grey-rumped Treeswift and then alarming Oriental Pied Hornbills showed us a Crested Mountain Eagle that showed extremely well! Janne K. managed to see a couple of new Black-and-red Broadbills too.
The place where we had got several woodpeckers on the previous morning was quiet, but after a short drive we found once again a calling Great Slaty Woodpecker which we also managed to tell to the group.
Once on the lower camp, we bought cold drinks and surprisingly Mikko and Antti came there already. They had driven straight to there after the morning on the hide. Soon we continued together higher and on the first river-crossing we saw a Greater Yellownape.
We did some stops on the way but finally stopped to 27 km. We had got instructions to Black-and-buff Woodpecker and after we had found the nest, it didn’t take long to see the bird coming out from the hole. Unfortunately it flew straight down to the forest.
We walked in the area for some time and heard some Mountain Bulbuls and wondered what the bird that was singing almost like a Greenish Warbler was? Later we managed to find out that they were Claudia’s Leaf Warbler.
Soon we continued higher and twitched a couple of Dark-sided Flycatchers that Mikko and Antti had seen on the previous day. They were both on the same branches again! And again after a short drive Tero found a Pale Blue Flycatcher from a moving car.
We didn’t stop at all on the top but continued along the road than continued after the camp. The road was very narrow and curvy and after one curve there was the Hungarian group in the middle of the road. They had just experienced a big wave of birds and luckily we managed to see part of the wave. There were a few Ratched-tailed Treepies, a Collared Babbler, a White-browed Scimitar-babbler and a Yellow-bellied Warbler.
After a few kilometers we found a couple of places where was a good view to the hillside-forests and we tried to scan the treetops for Wreathed Hornbills, but we weren’t lucky. We saw a Rufous-bellied Eagle carrying a prey. And soon we were in a hurry again to drive down.
But short stops on the way towards km 27 were good as we found a Golden Babbler, heard a Brown-browed Flycatcher singing and saw a female Oriental Paradise-flycatcher briefly.
Finally we were on the lower camp and Hanna had booked a tent for us two for the next night. We said goodbyes to Mikko and Antti who were going to continue to see Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other waders on the next morning and then we planned the next morning with Tero and Kilpimaa before they continued downwards. Our tent had been put up already so we still had a little bit time for birding and surprisingly I saw a Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon on a top of one tree. But soon it started to get dark.
The Hungarian group was also tenting on the camp and they had been there also on the previous night, so we joined them when they left to listen to some owls. The leader of the group was surprisingly our old friend Istvan Katona, whom we had met in Madeira almost 10 years earlier. We walked behind the camp and soon heard a Brown Hawk Owl calling. And it didn’t take long when they found it perched on one tree. Soon we heard also a couple of Mountain Scops Owls but they were a bit too distant to try to find visible.
We did the log with Hungarians but both groups in our own languages. But then I gave them quite a few tips how to find broadbills. They had also some tips for us but we had only 1 morning left in the National Park, so none of the tips were on our way.
Behind the restaurant there was a feeder where were several Porcupines and a Rhesus Macaque eating whole evening. We also heard a Brown Wood Owl calling distant and later when we were already in our tent, we heard a Collared Scops Owl too. We hoped to hear some mammals like Elephants, but heard only one call that was like a huge cat, maybe a Leopard or some other big cat? There are several big cats in the park.
At midnight we woke up to horrifying shouts – I had never heard anything like that! We could hear that people had awakened in every other tent too and I am sure a couple of trousers were changed. It must have been some big deer – there are at least Gauris in the park.
And to 27km again
On the 4th of March when we woke up Brown Hawk Owl and Collared Scops Owl were still calling. We ate warm breakfast that Hanna prepared and soon Tero and Kilpimaa arrived. It was again my turn to drive, so I let Kilpimaa to the backseat and soon we started driving up. We stopped on the first river-crossing where we soon heard a Grey Peacock Pheasant.
We continued up to a dam where we found a couple of Scarlet Minivets. We also photographed again butterflies. There was again lots of different kind of butterflies around the small pools. Once continued up again, we saw a Hill Blue Flycatcher that was singing also very nicely. Kilpimaa also found a Wild Boar while we were driving up, but it disappeared to the shadows before we managed to get any pictures.
At 27 km there was again a hide in the same place where we had seen it before. Now we knew people were photographing Red-breasted Trogons from the hide. The birds were shy and moving only very low so they were difficult to see without the hide. We let the photographers alone and went to check if there was something around the pool. Kilpimaa found a Speckled Piculet which was interesting species for the photographers too so they came to twitch it. We also saw a flock of White-browed Scimitar-babblers and Hanna managed to photograph a Mountain Imperial Pigeon too, which came to drink.
We climbed back to trogon place with these 2 Thai-looking photographer women and they were just explaining how the trogons were impossible to see without the hide, when I found it – a bright red Red-breasted Trogon was perched openly on a branch not far from us. But somehow all of us didn’t see it before it dropped down to the bushes. These women were kind and offered those of us who had missed the bird to get into their hides, but after all Hanna who had already seen the bird went to another hide. But soon the bird was seen again and after all both male and female were seen outside the hides. Now we had seen all the birds I had hoped to see in this trip! Only must-species had been Spoon-billed Sandpiper, but I had dreamed of seeing 6 broadbills and both trogons, which I knew had all been seen pretty recently. But I really didn’t expect us to see all of them! And maybe the 10th target-species had been Great Slaty Woodpecker…
We still climbed a bit higher and managed to find a couple of calling Ahlström’s Warblers, but only I managed to see one bird very briefly. There was also a big flock of Sulphur-breasted Warblers and also a couple of the most beautiful bulbuls, Ashy Bulbuls, were seen.
But after all we had to start driving down as we had to empty our rooms at 2 p.m. While driving down we saw a couple of Shrikras or Beshras or whatever too briefly and finally saw also a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo crossing the road right in front of us. Then on one stop we still saw a few Swinhoe’s Minivets later we were still once lucky when there was a Grey Peacock Pheasant on the road.
Finally we were back in Samarn Bird Camp where we just relaxed a little bit and also ate, before left driving towards Phetchaburi fields.
Evening trip to Phetchaburi fields
After about one hour driving we arrived to the field-area. Along the canal-road we found both Asian Golden Weavers and Baya Weavers and after a short driving around, we stopped to check one good-looking pool. Kilpimaa went to walk along the pool and flushed immediately several Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns and a Watercock, which everyone else missed. Luckily he stopped and waited for us to follow him and we still found a Black-browed Warbler, a Yellow-bellied Prinia and more bitterns. An Asian Pygmy Goose and both Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas were swimming on the pool and a flock of Garganeys flew over us. Several Pink-necked Green Pigeons were also seen and one male Eastern Marsh Harrier was seen quite distant. Once we walked back to our car, we still found a flock of Yellow-vented Bulbuls.
We still drove a little bit around and tried to get familiar with the area. We still found several Stejneger’s Stonechats, but soon it started to get dark again. So we drove to Phetchaburi city to our Sun hotel where we had booked rooms for 2 nights. We still went to shopping and eat before we were ready to go to sleep.
Phetchaburi fields again
On the 5th of March we had breakfast at 6 a.m. and it was very strange to eat Thai-food as breakfast. Most of the food was far too spicy too.
Soon we were driving towards the fields again and on the way we finally saw a breeding-plumaged Chinese Pond Heron. We stopped again a couple of times along the canal ad found a couple of Bluethroats, again Asian Golden and Baya Weavers but also Streaked Weavers. And once we reached the field area a female Pied Harrier flew straight over our car.
We went to walk around the same pool as on the previous evening and luckily saw the Watercock again. A flock of Red Avadavats and flying flock of Lesser Whistling Ducks were also seen. From the pool on the other side of the road I found a White-browed Crake with a tiny chick.
Then we headed to big open fields and stopped when there were some Black-eared Kites flying. We found soon some Greater Spotted Eagles perched on the palm-trees and pretty soon they were all flying. We saw also several harriers, which one of them looked like a Pied Harrier, but then a couple of birds were very weird-looking. They must have been Eastern Marsh Harrier but they had pretty clear white patch on their rumps. A couple of easier Eastern Marsh Harriers were also seen.
With Black-eared Kites and Greater Spotted Eagles saw also a couple of Eastern Imperial Eagles and a Booted Eagle. We also met a Finnish birder who had been living in Thailand for 17 years. He was now trying to find a Steppe Eagle that had been seen on the area as he really wanted to get pictures of it. He told us that female Pied Harrier was easy to identify from white rump, but we didn’t buy that explanation.
When it started to get too hot and quiet, we continued to some bigger pool nearby. The road was too narrow, so we couldn’t stop to several places where we’d have wanted but finally on the best looking place the road was a little bit wider.
There were lots of egrets and heron, also Painted Storks, about 10 Black-headed Ibises, lots of waders which included 5 Asian Dowitchers and a couple of big flocks of Caspian Terns and so on.
Pretty soon we drove back to the fields and almost immediately found the Steppe Eagle. Luckily the Finnish guy came soon too and after some searching we found the eagle again and even got it photographed pretty well. Then we continued to a place where were signs Nong Pla Lai Raptor Watch Point. There were plenty of local photographers with huge objectives, but none had binoculars or telescopes. From the field we found several Black-shouldered Kites and later harriers started to arrive to their roost. But even though we saw quite a few of them, they were all Eastern Marsh Harriers.
The long evening in the hot weather was very tiring and as we didn’t see anything new, we were a little bit disappointed for the whole day in Phetchaburi fields.
One more forest
The 6th of March was our last birding day. We had already in the previous afternoon started to think that we should do something else than go to the fields again. So Tero had told us about one forest that he had read from some trip-reports. So after the breakfast we headed to Wat Khao Luk Chang forest which we found easily but then we had no idea how to do birding there as it seemed to be some kind of place for priest. Anyway we just parked our car and started walking around the place where still were quite a lot of buildings with priests with their orange clothes on the gardens.
There weren’t many birds around but the selection of species was good. We had walked only a little when we found a Racquet-tailed Treepie and a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher.
We kept on walking along one small road and headed to some kind of meditation area where one woman came to ask us to leave. She didn’t speak any English but was very kind and when we didn’t understand her, she asked Hanna to follow her and showed her a monk or a priest meditating. So we quietly walked back to our car.
But there we decided to follow another road which headed to a huge statue of laying priest, but there weren’t any people. And soon we saw lots of raptors flying over us. They had been roosting somewhere in the forest and now continuing their migration. We saw altogether 20 Grey-faced Buzzards, 4 Black Bazas and a couple of Oriental Honey Buzzards. Also a couple of Shikras were seen. We also found a Lineated Barbet that was showing well and 3 Red-breasted Parakeets flew over us. We still found a couple of Purple Sunbirds and 3 Rufous Treepies before walking back to our car again.
We still drove along one road a couple of kilometers inside the forest but headed to some kind of zoo. There were too many people, so we decided to start driving back towards Hua-Hin where we were supposed to leave our car before 1 p.m.
After filling the tank in Hua-Hin we parked to the airport and soon got rid of our car. Then we asked the car-rental officer to call us a big taxi. It took quite long before the taxi arrived and it was quite expensive, but maybe it was just because of we hadn’t booked it earlier.
The taxi-driver was watching music and playing with his phone and talking to another phone all the time while driving. But anyway some of us managed to get some sleep. We were back in Bangkok after more than a couple of hours driving and found our hotel which was very close to the airport.
In the afternoon we relaxed and visited a shop before climbing up to the roof of the hotel to see the airport marshes. Also Kontiki group was there and together with them we still saw some House Swits, 2 Eastern Marsh Harriers, a Plaintive Cuckoo and a Red-whiskered Bulbul. In the evening we had the most expensive dinner of the trip and finally got to bed early enough as the next day would be long.
Back to home
On the 7th of March we had breakfast at 5:30 and it was very expensive. At 6 a.m. we packed our luggage to a bus with many other Finnish birders. And after 15 minutes driving we were in the airport.
At the airport we were shopping and spending the rest of our Bahts. The flight was again long, more than 10 hours, but again I watched a couple of movies and even managed to sleep a little even though it was difficult in day-flight.
Finally we landed to Helsinki-Vantaa at 15:05 p.m. (local time) and after we had found our luggage, we went to have pizza to a restaurant. Kilpimaa had to leave almost immediately to catch his bus and after we had eaten Tero had to hurry too. We sent an SMS and soon Lentopysäköinti-bus came to get us to our car. We were back at home early in the evening.