by Justin Jansen, Blitterswijckseweg 3, 5871 CD Broekhuizenvorst,
The Netherlands, justindba(at)cs.com
(replace at with @ when e-mailing Justin)
Our main goal was to get a first impression of Thailand and combine it with some good birds. Our top birding goals were Gurney's Pitta, Malaysian Plover, Christmas Island Frigatebird, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann's Greenshank. We scored 4 out of 5 - we missed Spoon-billed Sandpiper by a day.
Our base was a report made by Norwegians last year. We certainly didn't do so bad for not well-prepared birders without decent tapes and preparation! We recorded no less then 269 species.
We visited from 28th March to 15th April 2003.
Vaccines: There is travel advice in Holland that there is no Malaria south of Bangkok but as we heard from local people there is still Malaria found at KNC and Kan Krachang. So be prepared for it!
Thursday 28 March 2003 - After a sometimes pretty rough flight (and a nice view over the delta landscape of Bangladesh) we arrived around12:40 hours at Bangkok. We had to fill in some forms and wandered into the long line of people who all have to get thru the customs. While been thru everything our first step outside gave us the first expression what we have to go thru the next weeks; a warm and humid weather.
Now we have to figure out how we get into Samut Sakhon to give our first try for Spoon-billed Sandpiper. After Ronald negotiated well with a Taxi chauffeur we left the airport and went on our way to Samut Sakhon. The orders the driver had were to find us a motel somewhere at Samut Sakhon. And after an hour drive with our first lifers in form of Red-collared Dove* and Indian Roller* we found a motel named the Mossman Inn.
The driver was paid and went off, and we carried our stuff into the 3 person's room! Our first birding actions in Thailand around the motel brought us some nice species including; Red-whiskered Bulbul, Oriental Magpie Robin, Himalayan Swiftlet* and a Scaly-breasted Munia*.
After a quick shower and change of clothes and went to the street to hold a taxi. After a brief wait we had a taxi with a nice (not English speaking) bloke and our action to find the legendary Mr Tii's birding centre started. After a various chat's between the taxi-driver and some locals we finally located the birding centre, and during driving we saw a White-breasted Waterhen and a Collared Kingfisher. Mr Tii's place was a sort of restaurant with very heavy pictures of the Spoon-billed Sandpipers. Mr Tii walked to us and showed me his log where some people saw together with him yesterday a Spoon-billed Sandpiper, so it gave us a good spirits and together with the hired taxi driver and Mr Tii we started our first search for the holy grail of shorebird lovers!
A visit with Mr Tii in front of us we birded our way trough the extensive mudflats an that produced a good selection on waders and few other species. We recorded in short time species like Long-toed Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Red-wattled Lapwing, Caspian Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Little Egret, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Chinese Pond Heron, Little Heron, Large-billed Crow*, Common Myna, Barn Swallow and Yellow Wagtail (few identified as ssp macronyx).
The area is huge and had small ponds surrounded by small clay walls and has a fantastic pumping system with all little wooden pumps.
We searched for about 2 hours and then decided to head back as it became later on the day, and the light was fading. Mr Tii already said to us that chances in finding the sandpipers later in the day was very low, and a better chance was there in the early morning. Our chauffeur was still waiting for us and after a good handshake to Mr Tii we left back to the motel.
After a cold shower we went into the restaurant at the Mossman Inn, where we ordered some food.
Friday 29 March 2003 - The flocks of Himalayan Swifts were circling overhead and everywhere were the yelling Common Mynas we stepped to the main street in our quest to find a taxicab. After a few minutes we stopped a taxicab and soon we went on our way to Mr Tii's birding café! Mr Tii was already waiting for us and soon we were on our way. The temperature at 7:30 hours was still ok, but during our search it got hotter and hotter, and finally everything went bad because our first target bird (Spoon-billed Sandpiper) seemed to decide to leave Thailand after a stay of 4 months on the day we left home.
Birding was good despite a hard 4-hour search for the spooner! And species like Long-toed Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Red-wattled Lapwing, Brown-headed Gull*, Caspian Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Little Cormorant*, Indian Cormorant*, Little Egret, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron, Chinese Pond Heron, Javan pond Heron*, Little Heron, Large-billed Crow*, Common Koel, Common Myna, White-vented Myna*, Barn Swallow and Yellow Wagtail (few identified as ssp macronyx) were added to the still growing Thai list!
A visit after the extensive dash thru the large shrimp and salt pools, into the mangroves produced some species like Common Kingfisher, Greater Coucal, Spotted Dove, Oriental Reed Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Oriental White-eye, Common Tailorbird, Oriental Reed Warbler and Eurasian Tree Sparrow. And also some nice mudskippers could be seen here, mainly fighting with each other! Another highlight for us proved to be the little café along this dirt road where they had cold drinks!
After a cool and nice drink we stepped on a bus and went into the centre of Samut Sakhon and from there we took a cab to our hotel! A check at the hotel produced a few Fork-tailed Swifts, a single House Swift, Asian Palm Swifts* and loads of Himalayan Swifts!
We had some food in the restaurant and stepped in a taxi, we asked the driver to bring us to Ratchaburi railway station (70+ km). After about a 1,5 hour trip we came across the river Kwai and went to the station. We could only get here the tickets for a train to halfway and not a ticket for the night train. The half of the train was empty and brought us open windowed to Hui Hin. In the two hour trip we had a good impression of the open landscape and saw several Oriental Pratincoles, Lesser Whistling Duck, Red-wattled Lapwing, White-bellied Sea-eagle, White-breasted Waterhen, Watercock*, Blue-tailed Bee-eater*, Brahimy Kite, Black-shouldered Kite, Cattle Egrets and several other species like loads of undetermined drongo species!
We stepped out of the train at Hui Hin and tried to get some train tickets to get to the south that same night. We directly got first class tickets and we had now few hours time to arrange some stuff. So we bought some food, drinks and got some money from the machine. I was extremely lucky to step into a colonna of the Thai Monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and saw him passing by with loads of impressive cars and a huge police force!
The bed was ok but the rails were not very straight and the driving of the train was not real well, so the train ride was not very comfortable! But at last some sleep! Total distant with the train from Hui Hin to Thung Song is no less then 773 kms!
Saturday 30 March 2003 - We were woke up by an attendant around 3 o'clock well a half hour before we normally should arrive but due to a delayed leave from Hui Hin we arrived around 5 o'clock at Thungsong (just 1,5 hours too late).
When we arrived in the little station of Thungsong we had a look around in how we could get transportation to Khao Nur Chuchi reserve a 90 kilometres from here. Some people offered us to bring us with a motorbike to KNC, but it was too risky with all the equipment we were carrying. A bus was not possible and taxis where not many around here. Finally we found a sort of camouflaged taxicab that should bring us to KNC. After long negotiation by Ronald (we were already totally dead by the travelling from the last two days) we were on our way to KNC.
The trip went smooth with the old and brave taxicab, and after a wrong turn we finally ended up at our end destination Morakot Resort at the edge of KNC.
When we arrived we asked how it was with our rooms what we booked well in advance (this by a very bad telephone connection by the way)! Some general birding in the garden produced our first Crested Serpent Eagle and some Little Spiderhunters, Germain's Swiftlet, Ashy Minivet, Stripe-throated Bulbul, Olive-backed Sunbird, Spotted Dove (later seen daily) and a Arctic Warbler. And the first Chinese Pond Heron, Barn Swallow, Oriental Magpie Robin and Common Myna were seen.
Further we explored a bit around the U-trail what was happening over here, but failed to find any interesting species except for a nice Asian Paradise Flycatcher!
When we walked back from the U trail we met some good old birding pals from the Netherlands and had a good chat and few beers with them.
At dusk we decided to head out with a truckload full of birders to try to nail down a Javan Frogmouth at the coffee plantation. A rough trip followed in the back of Carl Derks his little Jeep! Arriving at the plantation Carl played the tape and we had in medially a response of the Javan Frogmouth. We tried to spotlight it somewhere but sadly our attempts failed in doing it!
We went back and had a meal and had the first cool glass of beer of many that followed. Surprisingly we were together with 8 Dutch people here and only one English birder!
Sunday 31 March 2003 - Around 6 o'clock we started our Gurney's extravaganza. We walked in early morning to the U-trail. We sat down at several places like U22 and other suitable sites. A calling bird where we thought it was Gurneys turned later out to be an alarming Banded Pitta. The long sitting produced some nice species including a superb light phase Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Eastern Crowned Warbler, White-bellied Munia and a superb male Tickell's Blue Flycatcher and few other more commoner species.
After a stay of few hours I walked back to Morakot and had a rest here during the warmest part of the day! Later a few of our Dutch friends returned from the forest and they succeeded in seeing 2 Gurneys Pittas together with Yothin!
We had some drinks and some food together and with them I drove up the coffee plantation. During our trip up we met Hans and he was just collapsed due the heat, as he was still birding in the open during the warmest part of the day, later he mentioned that he didn't believe me about birding during the warmth of the day (don't do it between 11 and 2)! Uphill we recorded some nice species including Thick-billed Pigeons, Red-throated Barbet, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Dark-throated Oriole, Black-naped Monarch (first of the daily seen), Striped Tit Babbler, Thick-billed Spiderhunter, Ashy Minivet and Orange-breasted Trogon and a few other species! We walked a part of the main track and some smaller tracks leading from the main track here! We tried to find the frogmouth but our attempts failed. Also the day before here was a Blyth's Hawk Eagle seen, but we located only few Crested Serpent Eagles here and many Germain's Swiftlets flying around above the plantage.
After the bash uphill we went straight to the spot where Spotted Wood Owl could be found few kilometres past Morakot. We searched here a while but failed to find the owl. Only recorded a Common Kingfisher, Grey-rumped Treeswift and a few Arctic Warblers.
Afterwards the other Dutch people went into the forest again and I went to the plantation just before the turn to the left from the main track to Crystal pool to find some Barred Buttonquails, and I succeeded few seconds after I went down here. On the main track I recorded also Streak-throated Bulbul, Common Tailorbird and Black-capped Babbler.
Then I went back and sat down in Morakot to wait for my other Dutch companions and Hans returned quickly. We had a chat with a nice bloke from England who was obviously suffering symptoms of Malaria and during our chat we had nice views of a Green-billed Malkoha.
After sunset Peter Maaskant and me decided to have a check near the Spotted Wood Owl site to find an owl. We tried for a short time here and after short time I heard an unknown owl noise. Peter also heard it and we couldn't identify it, it sounded like a Scops Owl. And we had little hope it would be a new species for science (Otus ajaxii was the given name by us). After warning the others and some trouble to get it in the spotlight and a tape recording by Carl Derks it turned out to be a Collared Scops Owl which gave us a nice sight and called for some time to us. So after this adventure we headed back to Morakot and had a nice chat with a small group and several beers to make it a wonderful evening. This turned out to be the last evening for our Dutch friends as they today succeeded all in seeing Gurneys Pitta, Carl and Anneke Derks after a 2 week stroll through the park and, Peter Maaskant and Jan-joost Bouwman saw it well the second time they went with Yothin only after a week in the park. On their advice we booked Yothin for the morning to increase our chances to a quick success in finding Gurneys Pitta. Also we booked him to get used to the way of birding in the park.
Monday 1 April 2003 - As every morning we woke up too late again. After a short but good breakfast, we went on our way with Yothin Makeehoo. We drove in his car up to the entrance of the Crystal Pool and from there we set track to the U-trail.
Shortly after entering the U-trail we walked into the forest to set up the hide near a gully where the last few days a pair of Gurney's Pitta showed themselves after lots of waiting for the two Dutch teams. We set up the hide and sat down for 1,5 long hours, many times over thinking why we do all this for this hobby (ore shall I choose the word obsession) to sit down for hours to see a bird for few seconds, but nope things didn't work out the way it should be and the bird didn't show at all. We soon packed up our things, broke the hide down and went down to the main track where we shortly heard a calling male Gurney's Pitta. We try to chase it down, but our attempts failed although we got very close! A few calling Siberian Blue Robins didn't reveal themelves either for us.
We went then via the main track into an other track leading to the N track. Near a small stream we located a very nice pair of Black-and Yellow Broadbill and we saw a few Large Wren Babblers. While walking at the N trail Yothin spotted a female Gurney's Pitta and soon I was watching one of the jewels of the rainforest a true Gurney's Pitta, hurray! Also a male Gurney's was calling nearby and we put down the hide for another hour watch! Of course it didn't appear but what the heck we had a Gurney's under our belt, so after the long sit we did some general birding around the N-trail. Birding was good here and ticked off a few other nice species like Green-billed Malkoha, Green Broadbill, Black-hooded Oriole, Common Iora, Puff-backed Bulbul, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Abbott's Babbler, Scaly-crowned Babbler and Rufous-crowned Babbler. Also few other Large Wren Babblers around the N-trail. Also nice here but failed in seeing it was a calling male Banded Pitta!
We then walked back to the car and ended our morning with Yothin with a long chat about the protection for Gurney's Pitta's in KNC. Reconsidering a miracle happened to us, because prior to this trip I was reading many reports about people visiting KNC, and they all need a few days in locating a Gurney's Pitta, and we saw it just the second morning we were there!
The whole afternoon I relaxed a bit and saw a nice Crested Goshawk displaying at Morakot. Also a nice Common Tailorbird along the track. Further exploring the edges of Morakot and surroundings produced except for the Little Spiderhunter a Grey-breasted Spiderhunter and a Yellow-eared Spiderhunter. I further had my first beer and some good food.
At night we went out for some spotlighting. And that brought us a few calling and some seen Collared Scops Owls at the entrance of the Crystal Pool and up the road, also a possible Brown Hawk Owl was heard. Further exploring the surroundings of Morakot produced a noisy group of Slow Lori's opposite Morakot. After everything was closed down and we finished our beers, Ronald and I walked back to our house. I pulled Ronald away from stepping on a Malayan Pit Viper (just 2,5 meters long). This gave some sensation for a while when Ronald could take some pictures of it and I some video. After the daily up and down calling of Gecko to our House Gecko we went into a deep sleep about our sighting of the Gurney's Pitta!
Tuesday 2 April 2003 - Today we slept a bit longer, and after a good breakfast we went into the forest and had a trip into the B-trail.
The trip produced interesting species like Green Broadbill, Wallace's Hawk Eagle (a single bird seen well perched on a branch only by me on the B-trail between P and C trail), Red-crowned Barbet, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and Brown-throated Sunbird. We tried hard to locate few commoner birds and constantly it turned out to be the same barbet etc. It was very hard birding without much good birds, we missedGiant Pitta (about 50 metres past the first turn into the c trail), Rufous-collared Kingfisher (100 metres on the P trail), Black Magpie (C trail (south entrance from the B trail just after the turn-of from the G trail) and Pin-tailed Parrot-finch (just past the V trail). When walking back I heard at B22 a Gurney's Pitta and a Banded Pitta but failed in locating them! At the trail to the Rufous-collared Kingfisher many leaches were on the paths and on our legs, and over the whole B trail many extremely beautiful butterflies were seen!
A walk at the U trail produced again a calling male Gurney's Pitta, further nothing worth mentioning.
Birding around Morakot the rest of the day produced some known species like Yellow-browed Warbler, Brown Shrike, Plaintive Cuckoo, Grey-capped Pygmy woodpecker, Common Tailorbird, Racket-tailed Treepie, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (female), White-rumped Munia (6), Dollarbird, Rufecent Prinia and a group of 6 Cattle Egrets migrating over Morakot.
At dusk the Large-tailed Nightjars gave a nice show! And the beers tasted again very well!
Wednesday 3 April 2003 - Today a slow day around Morakot and this produced just few species, mainly the whole day spent on reading a book! Seen around the resort today Asian Brown Flycatcher, Grey-capped Pygmy woodpecker, Black-capped Kingfisher (daily up to 2 also prior to this date at KNC) and Large-tailed Nightjar.
A male and two females and chicks of the Red Junglefowl were found on a short stroll to the U trail. And near the Crystal Pool I observed a nice Chestnut-bellied Malkoha and I heard a Green Broadbill. Further the more commoner species were seen today!
Further I did hardly anything on birds, just writing the notes down in the log, and drink some beer and enjoy the nice food! At dusk several Large-tailed Nightjars were observed. And like in the morning as dawn at dusk also the 2 Blue-winged Pitta's called three times, without revealing herself.
Thursday 4 April 2003 - The girls of Morakot again arranged everything well and breakfast and lunch were already there for us. Whilst having breakfast we heard again a few calling Blue-winged Pitta's opposite Morakot and a few fly-around Large-tailed Nightjars.
Then we jumped into the car of Yothin. We parked the car at a spot and then walked down to where we saw before the Gurney's Pitta. While getting to the spot we heard a few Siberian Blue Robins and White-rumped Shamas. We sat down for a time but did not succeed getting even a glimpse from a Gurney's Pitta at all. So after an hour Yothin said we have to leave and try for the other species at KNC, as we made that appointment in advance.
At the track we were on (N-track) we recorded loads of interesting species like Arctic Warbler, Green-billed Malkoha, Black-bellied Malkoha, Puff-throated Babbler, Large Wren Babbler (few birds seen), Rufous-fronted Babbler, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird and a few Green Broadbills. When at the H track we saw all the Iora's together: Common Iora, Green Iora and Great Iora. And we saw few other birds like Spectacled Bulbul, Buff-vented Bulbul, Ochraceous Bulbul and Buff-breasted Babbler.
We then ventured into the forest over a completely overgrown path into the jungle! After a few metres we heard a noise of woodpecker type of bird what turned out to be a Rufous Piculet. This bird was attacking the poor bamboo stems with his tiny bill. From here we walked a bit further and went via a very obscure path into a part with higher trees where Yothin played directly the tape for Banded Pitta, but sadly again no bird responded. But even better were 2 males and a female Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher who came a close distance to check us out. A singing male Chestnut-capped Thrush was too elusive to got a good sight. A Streak-breasted Woodpecker and a pair of Rufous-winged Philentoma were more cooperative, and this proved to be an extremely productive area.
After this zone we played again the tape in a gully for the Banded Pitta but again no response.
We soon saw for a short time a nice Chestnut-breasted Malkoha and an Indian Cuckoo was singing loudly above us! Also a Yellow-crowned Barbet was calling high up in the trees! We birded several tracks and had a nice variation on good species like Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Blue-winged Leafbird, Asian Fairy-Bluebird, Black-naped Oriole, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Ashy Drongo, Crow-billed Drongo, Red-billed Malkoha, Vernal Hanging Parrot, White-rumped Shama, Red-eyed Bulbul, Streaked Bulbul, Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Spectacled Spiderhunter and few more commoner and species we recorded before. It was all worth the time and money spent on this adventure; the quality of the birds was superb! We ended up around the Crystal Pool and walked back to the entrance where we had some drinks before getting back to Morakot to relax for the remainder of the day.
I saw later a small group of 9 White-bellied Munias. Later spotlighting on the streets around Morakot produced few Collared Scops Owls and some Large-tailed Nightjars.
Friday 5 April 2003 - Today Hans decided to sleep longer (which he probably regretted much later) and Ronald and I decided to have a morning walk on a part of the B-trail. We walked steady around, and we were in the middle of a discussion when at B 22 a wonderful female Gurneys Pitta interrupted our conversation. She was preening her feathers and fed very close on the path just a few metres in front of us, and gave a show you can only dream of. Wonderful minutes passing by while observing the female, and like usual a male was calling nearby, but sadly he didn't came into view for us, but we were already used to it. We were just stunned that this was happening to us, and after some minutes the female disappeared in the forest again!
Very happy we walked a bit further to try at the clearing for Pin-tailed Parrotfinch, but sadly failed in our attempts to find it. While standing here we could hear a male Banded Pitta calling once in a while. I walked a bit back and found a small track of the main track and took this one, I sat down at some cover (on the edge of the gully) not far from the calling pitta, and finally I saw for a short while a hopping Banded Pitta, although the sighting was very brief I had at least seen the female (I guess this as the male was still calling nearby).
After the rainforest I walked a bit around Morakot and went into several places here and saw along the way to the Crystal pool and on some fields Plaintive Cuckoo, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Rufecent Prinia, Black-headed Bulbul, Black-crested Bulbul and Scaly-backed Flowerpecker.
The whole afternoon I tried to get a glimpse of the Blue-winged Pittas that were calling at dusk and dawn opposite the resort. Finally I succeeded in a short sighting of the pitta, which immediately flew into a tree.
When we came back at Morakot George Wagner was waiting there to tell us that he just saw with Richard Hopf a nice Spotted Wood Owl at the spot what we already visit twice before. So we were soon on our way and when we came to the right tree we saw a Spotted Wood Owl very nicely perched in a tree.
Saturday 6 April 2003 - We left Morakot for a piece of rainforest near Krabi. As soon as we came into the small town of Klong Thom we saw our first Asian Glossy Starlings.
The drive up to the rainforest went well but not many birds showed. A Coppersmith Barbet was almost the only bird we saw.
Into Krabi we had a brief visit to the Maritime hotel and we saw here in short time Drongo Cuckoo, Pacific Swallow and Yellow-bellied Prinia.
An internet location was for a short time my home after arriving at Krabi and checking in at a rather poor hotel. While I was internetting Hans and Ronald went to the Maritime Hotel and did some birding here. Later I had a snack down the street, in the afternoon we met each other again and we went out with a boatmen to try to find the Nordmann's Greenshank (because the tide was getting up).
We went by several spots around and tried hard to find the greenshank. Only Common Greenshanks,Mongolian Plovers, Lesser Crested Tern, Great Crested tern, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Brahminy Kite and some commoner birds could be found despite hours of searching.
On our way back I spotted a distant Frigatebird and we asked the boatman to stop to try to identify it on species level. We watched it for about a 10 minutes but this second year bird could simply not be identified! Later Hans and I went into an Irish pub and had loads of beers as usual!
Sunday 7 April 2003 - We went out in the early morning and hired a boatman and his son for our attempt in locating Masked Finfoot (sad news came from the boatman that a dead bird was found few days prior to our visit), Ruddy Kingfisher and Mangrove Pitta and Nordmann's Greenshank on the mudflats. It later turned out, a 6 hour bash for 1000 bhat!
When we left the pier we set course for the mangroves and almost directly we saw a Collared Kingfisher, and soon afterwards the boatman located a Brown-winged Kingfisher (the first of about 5 birds we saw). Soon we heard a Mangrove Pitta and we played the tape and got a direct response. We saw a bird well high up the treetops directly at the flood line. During the trip into the mangrove's we saw about 3 Mangrove Pitta's including one superb sighting of a completely crazy male, open and free in a tree! Further we recorded White-breasted Waterhen, Arctic Warbler, Striated Swallows, Pacific Swallows, a few unidentifiable flowerpeckers and a Streak-breasted Woodpecker!
After this successful trip where we only missed Ruddy Kingfisher (seen few days prior to our visit). After the mangroves we went out on the rising water and had a look at the mud banks! During our ride we saw a few White-bellied Sea-eagles and Brahimny Kites.
The first sand bank where we tried was where the mangroves stop. Here we lay down in the boat and recorded a few Terek Sandpipers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Pacific Golden Plovers and loads of terns like Lesser Crested Tern, Great Crested tern, Common Tern and an absolute highlight a summer plumaged Black-bellied Tern! I took some distant video grabs of this rarity in Thailand.
Because this sand bank almost disappeared into the water we went to the same distant sand bank where we had a look yesterday. During our trip to here we saw several Grey Herons and the same Pacific Reef Egret as yesterday and many more herons. When we entered the place it was packed by shorebirds, and we asked the boatman if we could land on the sand bank. After some trouble we came ashore and soon we where watching some large flocks of shorebirds. A few Oriental Pratincoles were hunting nearby, and I could study their plumage very well (no white trailing edge)! Between the large packs of shore birds we could identify Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed & Black-tailed Godwit, Pacific Golden Plover, Red-necked Stint, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper and a few other more common shorebirds. We had at least a stable look onto the shorebirds, as it was very frustrating looking from a shaking boat through the spotting scope.
We tried here for about an half our and despite the many Common Greenshanks we went thru and thru we could not located a single aberrant Greenshank with feature's of (Spotted) Nordmann's Greenshank.
Very disappointed we left the site to get back to Krabi and saw all our hopes went down. While driving on full speed back, I located a large group of waders standing on a sand bank next to the mangroves and asked the boatman to pull down for a second to have a look. Again scanning with the spotting scope proved to be difficult but soon I located a greenshank with a Terek Sandpiper appearance. It was directly clear that we were finally looking at our first Nordmann's Greenshank! We still looked again twice and it turned out to be at least two (maybe up to 4) Nordmann's Greenshanks here. Between this large groups also some Lesser Sand Plovers, Whimbrels, few Great Knots, Bar-tailed Godwits,Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper and a single Spotted Redshank could be found.
We were now in the winning mood with a endangered species on our list! While we droved back to Krabi we checked the egrets in case of any Swinhoe's Egret amongst them! We failed of course. We had a nice show of a distant White-bellied Sea-eagle while heading back. Because we saw the greenshank we paid our boatmen a bit more than was negotiated.
Soon we were back and went back to the hotel to have some food and a cold shower!
While Hans and Ronald where arranging things I had a check on the spot where they recorded a few days before a Paddyfield Pipit. I walked from the terminal towards Krabi and at the T-junction just 100 metres from the hall I had a look. When Hans en Ronald returned with a taxi I just found a few Paddyfield Pipits and a Zitting Cisticola. And they could tick them of both.
By taxi we went back to Krabi and we stopped at the Maritime Hotel. We walked to the edge of the big pond and soon after arriving we where surprised by a Cinnamon Bittern flying past at close distant! We did not expect to see it at the pond, but other birders recorded it too here! Strange place to find one!
We walked to the a new pond where Hans and Ronald did earlier some birding and we were treated by a nice singing Coppersmith Barbet, few Blue-throated Bee-eaters, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Striated Swallows and a few Peaceful Doves.
We then had a drink in the form of a nice cold Shinga beer with ice! We then stepped into a taxicab in front of the hotel that brought us to Krabi town to our hotel (Grand Tower Hotel in downtown Krabi for 300B/night for a room with fan). We booked there a boat ticket to Kho Phi Phi Don for the next morning! After having some diner near the hotel Hans and I visit an Irish pub down the street and had loads of beers there!
Monday 8 April 2003 - Today we could sleep a bit longer as the schedule of the boat gave us that space. After having a breakfast we stepped into the boat on the way to Kho Phi Phi Don. The boat is travelling with large speed so identifying birds is a real task, and we question the ability how some people identified the several claimed Christmas Island Frigatebirds from this boat. Most Frigatebirds seen were second year birds, and real striking were reports of people only saw a Christmas Island Frigatebird and a Great Frigatebird from the boat (last one is real scarce here)!
While sitting on the boat Hans had a distant sighting of a far away flying booby, sadly he could not identify it on species level. And for the record we couldn't identify a single Frigatebird!
While entering Kho Phi Phi Don we saw a few Bridled Terns flying around and some Black-naped Terns!
When we finally arrived at the island, Ronald had a check where we could stay overnight and he negotiated price and location as Hans and I were waiting and looking around this enormous tourist place. Finally Ronald returned and our gear was carried with a hand bike to the pension where we were booked in. On our way to it (was on the edge of the village uphill) we saw how it was a pure commercial island with loads of shops.
After a quick shower we went back to the "harbour" to get a boatman to get us to the Frigatebirds. We found one for a reasonable price and he just said not come before 17:00 to get on the sea, otherwise it is a waste of time. So we ate something and did some CD shopping!
We went then back after putting down the cd's at the pension, to the "harbour" to go for our Frigatebird expedition. After getting past Kho Phi Phi Don just before Kho Phi Phi Lhe we encountered huge groups of circling Frigatebirds. Almost 180+ birds where circling above our heads and after some time we picked out our first Christmas Island Frigatebird later followed by 6 to 10 more. Every bird we could identify were adults of course and a few younger birds could be this species mainly judged on size. All the other 180+ birds where Lesser Frigatebirds. Many unidentifiable second year birds were flying between them!
It was a very quick and unexpected twitch and we were completely satisfied after half an hour and went then on our way back to the "harbour" but Ronald knows from the journey to the island a spot where we could see groups of Black-naped Terns and we went to there and saw a huge group! The boatman was supporting Ronald to put up snorkelling gear and have a look just under the water surface. He did and soon we were all snorkelling and swimming around. And when Hans and I were relaxed sitting on the boat, a huge yell came from Ronald, Shark Shark and he was completely panicking. He pushed us a side to get as quickly as possible to the boat! We were all laughing because only the very nice harmless Dark-tipped reef Shark can be found here and they are more scared of panicking people then something else! We had a good laugh about it and after some beautiful snorkelling we went back. We paid our good guide and went back to our pension!
Tuesday 9 April 2003 - We woke up early at our good hotel room. While sitting outside we saw several swifts flying overhead which we thought were all Himalayan Swiftlets but later investigation by the American birders we met at Morakot proved that all swifts were Black-nest Swiftlets (they found their breeding caves and identified them positively). Also Ronald and Hans recorded a Pied Imperial Pigeon.
We soon went on the boat and went back to Krabi. After some trouble we finally collected a hire car here and we were off to the north.
We did not see much while travelling only the well known Indian Roller, perhaps the most interesting thing was an Elephant on a truck and some monkeys!
After hours and hours of driving (420+ kms) Hans and I were that tired that we convinced Ronald to stop at Chumphon for the night. So we took the turn-off into Chumphon, a rather communistic approach into this city, real spread out small buildings and a real massive huge building that turned out to be a hotel. We booked in.
Wednesday 10 April 2003 - After a short but a good night full of sleep, we woke up around 8 o'clock and after breakfast we went back onto the highway to follow our way into Khao Sam Roi Yot (350 kms). At first we saw at the parking from the hotel a nice Blue Rock Thrush that renewed our spirits.
During driving we recorded a few small flocks of Crested Honey Buzzards and several now commoner species for us.
Finally when we turned off the highway the real birding could start on our way to Khao Sam Roi Yot. In the rice fields we saw many nice birds during a short time of birding like: Bluethroat, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Red-throated Pipit, Pied Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Little Grebe, Long-tailed Shrike, Siberian Stonechat, Asian Pied Starling, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Asian Palm Swift, Yellow Wagtail, Oriental Skylark and Black-headed Munia. Most birds were found in close vicinity of some ponds. The Yellow-breasted Buntings, a few females, adult males and few youngsters were feeding in a dried up field together with some Oriental Skylarks. This area was very productive and you could spend more then a day exploring these very bird rich fields. We finally also had some close watching on some Yellow Wagtails and they all belonged to the macronyx ssp. Also a few superb Blue-tailed Bee-eaters where hunting around here! On the pylons and wire along the road loads of Long-tailed Shrikes and a few Brown Shrikes could be found!
The bird richness was enormous and we drove to the headquarters to check in and to see if we could get some space to sleep. After some work we succeeded and we went with a warden to the house put the gear in it and soon went back on our way into the park (we have to pay of course an entrance fee).
We drove straight to the camping and beach to search for the much wanted Malaysian Plover. Did not take long before we located a pair on the beach and we were soon enjoying crippling views of one of world most rarest waders (near threatened)! After some nice views we were further enjoying the views of some Kentish Plover and Lesser Sand Plover and few other waders!
We then drove down in the direction of Pranburi and we came through several small villages and we went in a town about 40 km from the camping to the left and birded the main road here. We recorded here White-browed Crake, Purple Gallinule, Common Moorhen, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Bronze-winged Jacana, Common Snipe, Long-toed Stint and Wood Sandpiper. Also seen here Little Grebe, Bluethroat, Plain Prinia, Purple-throated Sunbird, Streaked Weaver and few more commoner species. We only had a brief description of this place and I lost the note now so I can't exactly recall this spot.
We drove back into the park and had a meal at the Camping. After that we packed our gear and did some spotlighting from the headquarters back into the direction of Highway 4 and spotlighted till the railway crossing. We recorded with ease several Spotted Owlets (even with young), Large-tailed Nightjars and a few Indian Nightjars. We then had a beer and did some spotlighting around the camp and recorded some Dusky Langur.
Thursday 11 April 2003 - At first light we woke up. I went outside where various monkeys were harassing each other very well. Also a whole party of Red Junglefowl disappeared quickly into the forest A scan around the camp in the next hour produced a nice variation on species like Mangrove Whistler, White-rumped Shama, Richard's Pipit, Paddyfield Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Forest Wagtail, Green Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Bronzed Drongo, Oriental Magpie Robin, Crested Serpent Eagle and other species. The Forest Wagtails gave a nice show as the Crab-eating Macaws and Dusky Langurs.
A check into the various ponds produced species like: Indian Cormorant, Little Egret, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret , Purple Heron, Chinese Pond Heron, Yellow Bittern, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Black winged Stilt, Oriental Pratincole, Red-wattled Lapwing, Little Tern and a few Crested Honey Buzzards.
After this round we picked up our stuff and went to the boardwalk on the other side of the park.
A walk during the heat of the day at the boardwalk produced a few Yellow Bitterns, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Pied Harrier, Little Grebe, Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Brahminy Kite and Eastern Marsh Harrier. We failed in locating Manchurian Reed Warbler!
A drive around produced White-vented Myna and a Coppersmith Barbet!
We then left for Kaen Krachang. After a 2 hour drive we arrived in a small village under the dam, where we choose a small bungalow park to stay. Before we got there we noticed several Ashy Wood Swallows. A tame and injured juvenile Brahimy Kite was present at the resort.
Friday 12 April 2003 - We spent most part of the day birding around the camp that is on the foot of the hill. On the way to the camp we found the following species: Oriental Pied Hornbill, Great Hornbill, White-throated Kingfisher, Dollarbird, Ashy Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Greater Necklaced Laughingtrush, Forest Wagtail, Red Junglefowl, Streak-breasted Woodpecker, Red-throated Barbet, White-throated Kingfisher, Black-capped Kingfisher, Greater Coucal, Drongo Cuckoo, Brown Shrike, Green-billed Malkoha and a few more common species.
At the camp we recorded while picknicking Himalayan Swiftlet, Asian Palm Swift, Fork-tailed Swift, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow and Red-rumped Swallow. Also in the park at the headquarters millions of butterflies (you should see it).
A walk around the headquarters produced Blue-winged Leafbird, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Black Drongo, Ashy Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, Greater Racked-tailed Drongo, Common Green Magpie, Black-naped Oriole, Scarlet Minivet, Common Iora, Silver-backed Needletail (2 birds) and Grey-rumped Treeswift.
Because Ronald was sick we decided to head back to the camp where we recorded a Indochinese Bushlark and Plain-backed Sparrow.
After a meal we went out with our two friends from the bungalow park and they arranged (as one of the two was also a warden of the park) that we could get into the park at night for a bottle of Whiskey! During that trip we went to the camp and we did some birding first during daylight a kilometre up, and then from dusk we walked back and then spotlighted the road down. We saw Greater Flameback, Great Barbet, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Orange-breasted Trogon, Green-eared Barbet, Black Drongo, Ashy Drongo (pale bird), Blue Pitta (calling), Greater Yellownape, Asian pied Hornbill and had an unoccupied nest of a Brown Broadbill and heard a Blue Pitta. Spotlighting all the way down produced Asian Barred Owlet, Brown Hawk Owl, Great-eared Nightjar (K15) and about 20+ Large-tailed Nightjars. We sadly missed Indian Elephants at their regular drinking pool. During spotlighting we saw a long brown snake on the trail and we filmed it nicely! Had a dinner and went to bed!
Saturday 13 April 2003 - In the early morning we woke up and saw few Large-tailed Nightjars and a Asian Barred Owlet when we had our breakfast.
We spent nearly the whole day at Kaen Krachang and we drove up to KM 33 directly after we left our bungalow. Only cars can get on set times go up and down because the roads are too narrow, so we took the first chance to get up.
When we arrived into the camp at K33 we were stunned by the orchestra of the White-handed Gibbons uphill, just beautiful. We where directly guided by a warden to a nest of a Yellow-vented Green Pigeon nesting no less then 1 metres above a tent!
Birding produced several good species around the camp like a Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Grey-backed Shrike (good record that south), Mountain Tailorbird, Flavescent Bulbul and Grey-eyed Bulbul. We went a bit up to explore the track and after a disappointing trip up we went down to bird at several spots down to the basic camp. We recorded interesting species like Wreathed Hornbill, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Brown-backed Needletail, Blue Rock Thrush, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Bronzed Drongo, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Pale-legged Leaf warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Crimson Sunbird, Forest Wagtail all down and few up to K33. The hawk-eagle was later identified on video.
Also recorded were Arctic Warbler, Greater Necklaced Laughingtrush, White-bellied Yuhina, Olive-backed Sunbird, Purple Sunbird, Black-headed Bulbul, Black-crested Bulbul and Flavescent Bulbul.
We went after the adventure straight back to our bungalow paid for everything and then packed the gear into the car, and headed for Samut Sakhon (about 200 kms).
Sunday 14 April 2003 - After waking up in the motel we went out for breakfast. After a quiet and good breakfast we went first to mr Tii's home and asked him again to join us in the search for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper. He drove in front of us, and as soon as we arrived at the mudflats Ronald and Hans decided not to search, and I was left alone with mr Tii. But shortly afterwards I was alone in checking the large wader flocks as mr Tii was gone too. Soon I located loads of species like Long-toed Stints, a single Greater Sand-plover, many Lesser Sand-plovers, Broad-billed Sandpipers and all commoner species seen on the previous visit proved to be present again. Eventually more Pacific Golden Plovers, Whiskered Terns, Gull-billed Terns and about 2,000 Brown-headed Gulls were present. But however long I searched the more I realised that the Spoon-billed Sandpiper really was gone. Peter Ericsson was also birding here but he also failed in locating the Spoon-billed Sandpipers (there were up tot 3 birds in this winter).
When I was walking around al the various mudflats I noticed a strange looking heron standing alone on a dike. Could not identify it at distance and filmed it for the form to check it at home. Later at home on video it turned out the be a still partial winter plumaged Chinese Egret.
I also recorded wandering around the shrimp ponds a few Plain Prinias, Zitting Cisticolas and a few macronyx type Yellow Wagtails.
A walk back to a small restaurant produced a few nice Brown Shrikes and the drive out of the mudflats produced a Collared Kingfisher.
We then headed back to our hotel to collect our stuff. We decided to head well on time to the airport. And less then an hour later we arrived at Bangkok airport at the car drop off (50+ kms).
Waiting produced our last species in Thailand a Pied Fantail. We waited for several hours and finally departed from Bangkok at 23:05 and vanished into the night!