Thailand calling!

Once again have been lucky enough to get to Thailand for our annual holiday. This time for 3 nights in Bangkok followed by 8 in Hua Hin which is a 3-hour drive south of the Thai capital.

I am always keen to study the many dykes that crisscross the airport and run parallel with the many runways when landing into Bangkok. First 3 species seen when landing at the massive Suvarnabhumi airport, were Asian Openbill, Black Winged Stilt and Little Egret. A few small waders were seen also but I was not able to identify them.

We were at the same Bangkok hotel that we have stayed at before which is on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. This time the birds seen in the grounds we less than previous stays there.

I saw Spicefinch (Scaly-Breasted Munia) along with a nest they were building. Little Heron was seen fishing in a Klong (canal) off the main river and the usual common species Common Myna, Tree Sparrow, Peaceful and Spotted Dove, Oriental Magpie Robin, a male Pied Fantail displayed well near the hotel spa but was not able to get the classic spread tail photo this time. Streak Eared Bulbul made the most noise high in the trees in the hotel gardens. As you would expect Little Egret were seen on a regular basis too.

Several Red Eared Slider Turtle and medium sized Water Monitor (around 1 metre in length) were seen in the water surrounding the hotel. In the air, a few Hirundine species were busy feeding but getting photos of and identifying these birds proved difficult for most of the holiday.

A half day tour of a Klong (Thai for canal) was planned and this was 1 of the 2 occasions my camera lens combo came out to play while in Bangkok. On the tour a trio of Littles’ were seen – Heron, Egret and Cormorant along with Common Myna, Spotted Dove and a lone Indian Roller and more Tree Sparrow. A pair of huge, nearly 2-metre-long Water Monitors were seen resting as we passed in the long-tailed boat.

When in Bangkok city doing the touristy things, without my camera I might add, I saw a few birds when at Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) Large Billed Crow, Olive Backed Sunbird, Black Collared Starling, Crested Myna, Ashy Woodswallow and a favourite of mine the Coppersmith Barbet.

After 3 nights we moved onto Hua Hin by car and had good views of the many birds in the Paddy fields south of Bangkok, loads of Egret and other species unable to identify.

The hotel we stayed in had acres of gardens that loads of birds around, Feral / Rock Pigeon, Tree Sparrow, White Vented Myna, Black Naped Oriole, Asian Koel was heard before seen and you really had to look for it, for a very loud and sizeable bird it is a little sculky species with a preference to hide from view when it can. A walk along the beach at low tide gave me nice views of a single Pacific Reef Egret (dark morph bird) and this was the only bird seen on the coast on this occasion.

On 1 of our walks we found a track leading from the road back towards the beach where some locals had their homes. Here we were soon on a lovely Indian Roller and even better after this bird had flown a group of 8 Hoopoe, the most I have ever seen at 1 location.

These birds came pretty close in the trees and on the wires once we stood still for a few moments enabling my best images of this wonderful species yet.

A good number of different mammals were seen around the hotel grounds but only managed a photo of a Pygmy Treeshrew below before it disappeared into the shrubs.

Another day and another walk in a different direction for me and Karen towards a small harbour area and pier lead to seeing a resting Pacific Swallow more egrets and a lone and rather distant lone Gull that was hard to identify unbeknown to me at the time another chance to see the bird would present itself, more on this later.

On the same walk, we saw an Albino Chinese Softshelled Turtle sticking its snout out in a pond at the Hua Hin train station. On the way back to the hotel I climbed a bank to look into a reservoir to see if there were any waders around, a Common Sandpiper flew away as soon as I hit the peak of the bank and then away to my right a Little Cormorant dropped in between a Little Egret and a Water Monitor and for a few seconds they all posed looking in the same direction before the monitor glided into the water.

Back at the hotel and happening most evenings I saw large groups of Hirundines, unsure of species but I am thinking Germains’ Swiftlet passed over the hotel heading inland. As night-time fell the same avian routine played as over the hotel grounds, about 10 Black Naped Oriole would appear, gather and then move to their roost inland, Asian Koel would start to call and make presence known by their loud call. White Vented Mynas would begin to group again to head to a roost which I think may well have been in the centre of Hua Hin at a major cross road where they lined up on hoardings, power cables etc. making on hell of a noise. Also at this time 2 to 4 Asian Pied Starlings would appear on the same section of hotel roof before disappearing again to roost.

I was to be waken up each morning between 5.40am and 5.45am by an Asian Koel calling incredibly loud from the same tree outside our hotel room door.

I had seen at a previous stay at the hotel in 2009 a single Spotted Owlet in the gardens at night time and was hoping to see this lovely little species once again and was not disappointed when coming back to the room early 1 night; as we had an early start the next day on a tour; I saw a bird on a lantern in the hotel grounds that illuminated the paths.

I headed straight back to the room set up the camera and flash and off out again I went and got a few pleasing images in the 8 minutes I had with the obliging bird before it headed to another part of the grounds to feed.

The next day was a ¾ day tour of Phetchaburi area with the family and friends we were on holiday with and this time me camera & lens combo was with me, good job too because at one temple I saw a pair of Red Collared Dove were nesting in an ornate chandelier at the entrance to the temple and I got a couple of shots of one of the birds when I was on the ground looking for nesting materials.

Didn’t get to snap any more birds on the day but saw a few Crested Treeswift on top of a hill where the royal palace of King Mongkut of Siam of ‘King and I’ fame (the Yul Brynner film) once resided. We then went onto the Khao Luang Cave temple complex and saw little birds but plenty of macaque monkeys, they were all after food and we were told not even to look at them as they took this as a threat and could attack!

Next real birding day was a day out with friend Neil to Sam Roi Yod National Park about an hour from Hua Hin where we were stopping. First port of call was the Bueng Bua visitior centre where there is a large boardwalk over the reed beds to enable better views of the birds in this environment, sadly when we got there only about a ¼ of the boardwalk was open for some reason but this did not stop us seeing a few birds and lifers in the 90 minutes we had there.

Lovely place this that I can imagine throws a lot of birds up at different times of the year, we saw a few lifers Western (Purple) Swamphen, Bronze Winged Jacana and Plain Prinia. Also seeing Lesser Whistling Duck, Little Cormorant, Greater Coucal (I think!), Blue Tailed Bee-Eater and few Purple Heron were about in the reeds, with 1 bird allowing me to get pretty close.

We then moved onto the southern HQ of the national park and met a local guide Lamai to take us on a walk to the nearest beach. Sadly the tide was such a long way out that the hope we had in seeing Malaysian and possibly Kentish Plover up close was dashed. I managed a few images of some Plovers but at the time of writing I am not confident enough to say with species the birds were, more research needed, Redshank and Black Winged Stilt and Curlew were seen.

Me with Lamai, looks like he has been around a bit judging by his birding book below!

Walking back from the beach we had encounters with Chestnut Headed Bee-Eater, Spicefinch and saw a Common Kingfisher for a few seconds as a Great White Egret took off from a small pool.

The rest of the holiday was in Hua Hin and just revisiting the hotel grounds, and previous sites mentioned to see if anything different was around.

I went back to the area I had seen the only Gull species during my holiday and luckly the bird was closer than before it was in with a few Little and Pacific Reef Egrets feeding, also seeing close up a lone Pacific Swallow. I now think this is another lifer for me a Caspian Gull.

I have said earlier that I got my best ever Hoopoe photos but on a walk around the hotel I got down to about 12 feet from a Hoopoe that was happily feeding on what it could find, you tell me which Hoopoe photo’s are the best.

As good as all this was in my time in Thailand the best for me was to come on the last night when due to having an early start to head home, up at 5.30am, this meant an early night and gave me the chance to see if the Spotted Owlet could be seen again, the kids and some adults went to bed at about 10.30pm, others went to the hotel bar, me I went to fetch my camera and flash unit!

I walked around for about 35 minutes seeing nothing and was about to head home when a bird appeared from the thick vegetation surrounding the edge of the hotel grounds, “brill!” I said to myself and then had about 30 minutes with not 1 but 2 Spotted Owlets and even managed a shot or 2 in the dark of them perched closely together.

All in all 61 species seen, at least 12 seen but unable to ID and also ending up with 6 lifers, if you think any species incorrectly named please let me know.

So overall not a bad time in Thailand once again – here’s to the next time best get saving!

Same words with many different images can be found here >> stevenesbitt.co.uk