Saturday, January 26, 2019

Spectacled Langurs

Next stop on our SE Asian tour was Pran Buri. This is a bustling town near Hua Hin on the western seaboard of Thailand and not usually on any traveller's list of places to stop. However we were once again spending a week with the Gift Of Happiness charity as they distributed donations to schools in the hills west of the town. The schools here are run by the Thai Border Police for the Karen hilltribes as part of a long-running, successful initiative to reduce border crime in the area. In the past the area was rife with smuggling, people trafficking and related crime but with the cooperation of the Karen tribes this has been all but eliminated.

Each day we would make fairly arduous drives into the interior to reach the schools where the clothes, toys and other donations were sorted out and then a fabulous comedy show put on for the children. Read the full report here.

Time to watch for wildlife was limited but there were a few interesting things to see. Wild Elephants were around in a couple of places and although we didn't see the animals we did come across signs a few times. A troupe of Spectacled Langurs at one school showed very well and even moved into trees where they could see the show, curious about the noise coming from the outdoor hall.

Birdlife was fairly unremarkable but I did see my first Hair-crested Drongo for some time and Common Hill Mynas were plentiful at one school. Raptors were well represented with Crested Honey-buzzard, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Shikra and Oriental Hobby all showing. Thick-billed Flowerpecker was the only lifer.

At the end of the week we spent a day by the sea in Hua Hin where Whiskered & Common Terns, Little Egrets and Pacific Reef Egrets fed in the open sewer flowing into the sea.




Spectacled Langur Trachypithecus obscurus

Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus

Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus

Orange Gull Cepora judith

The Clipper Parthenos sylvia

Feral Pigeon
Red Collared Dove
Spotted Dove
Zebra Dove
Greater Coucal
Asian Koel
Himalayan Swiftlet
Red-wattled Lapwing
Whiskered Tern
Common Tern
Asian Openbill
Little Egret
Pacific Reef-Heron
Cattle Egret
Crested Honey-buzzard
Crested Serpent-Eagle
Mountain Hawk-Eagle
Eastern Marsh Harrier
Shikra
White-throated Kingfisher
Green Bee-eater
Indian Roller
Coppersmith Barbet
Oriental Hobby
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
Ashy Woodswallow
Brown Shrike
Black-naped Oriole
Black Drongo
Hair-crested Drongo
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Barn Swallow
Stripe-throated Bulbul
Streak-eared Bulbul
Yellow-browed Warbler
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Taiga Flycatcher
Common Hill Myna
Asian Pied Starling
Common Myna
Great Myna
Thick-billed Flowerpecker
Plain-throated Sunbird
Olive-backed Sunbird
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Week in Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is an ancient capital of Thailand and UNESCO World Heritage site with many old temples some in various stages of ruin and/or restoration. As a town it leaves much to be desired. The roads are very busy and the place is not well looked after in comparison to other Thai towns. There's a general air that people can't be bothered.

After the first night in the town fairly near the railway station we moved on to a quieter place on the Chao Phraya river in the SW corner of the 'island'. The Athithara Homestay suited us very nicely and was next to an excellent quiet park with many old ruins, very few people and some relatively undisturbed wilder habitat. As a result the wildlife was pretty good and we stayed all week.

Kingfishers were particularly well represented. Up to 4 Pied Kingfishers plied the river in front of the guesthouse and Common, White-throated, Black-capped and Stork-billed Kingfishers all showed well in the park. Owls were also pretty good with Asian Barred and Spotted Owlets both showing well. Small Minivets were quite common with 2 even turning up at the railway station when we left.

Yellow Bittern was quite numerous and a wintering Thick-billed Warbler was another highlight. Lineated Barbets were particularly plentiful, Plaintive cuckoos could be quite showy and Red-wattled Lapwings were everywhere. Singing Dark-necked Tailorbird seen on first day appears to be quite unusual here perhaps.

Other wildlife included several Water Monitors, a few common Treeshrews and at one of the outer temples (Wat Chai Watthanaram) a colony of Free-tailed Bats.
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis
Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata

Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis


Spotted Owlet Athene brama


Small Minivet Pericrocotus cinnamomeus



Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus

Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus

Oriental Magpie-robin Copsychus saularis

Little Cormorant Microcarbo niger

Lineated Barbet Megalaima lineata

Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis



Free-tail Bats Molossidae

Giant Crab Spider Sparassidae

Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus

Blue Glassy Tiger Ideopsis vulgaris

Kapok Bug Probergrothius nigricornis



Rock Dove
Red Collared Dove
Spotted Dove
Zebra Dove
Greater Coucal
Green-billed Malkoha
Asian Koel
Plaintive Cuckoo
Germain's Swiftlet
Asian Palm-Swift
White-breasted Waterhen
Red-wattled Lapwing
Whiskered Tern
Asian Openbill
Little Cormorant
Yellow Bittern
Great White Egret
Little Egret
Cattle Egret
Chinese Pond Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Shikra
Brahminy Kite
Asian Barred Owlet
Spotted Owlet
Eurasian Hoopoe
Common Kingfisher
Stork-billed Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher
Black-capped Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Indian Roller
Coppersmith Barbet
Lineated Barbet
Ashy Woodswallow
Common Iora
Small Minivet
Black-naped Oriole
Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo
Malaysian Pied-Fantail
Black-naped Monarch
Large-billed Crow
Barn Swallow
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Streak-eared Bulbul
Yellow-browed Warbler
Thick-billed Warbler
Common Tailorbird
Dark-necked Tailorbird
Plain Prinia
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Taiga Flycatcher
Common Myna
Great Myna
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
Paddyfield Pipit
House Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Friday, January 11, 2019

King Rama IX Park, Suan Luang, Bangkok

For reasons too convoluted to go into here we ended up returning to Bangkok staying fairly close to King Rama IX park in the Suan Luang district in the east of the city. Spent a very pleasant day wandering around the grounds of this extensive and quite varied municipal park.

Compared to Lumphini Park, which I know very well, it is much quieter, more formal in places and with possibly a greater variety of wildlife. Certainly there are some birds here that I've not seen in Lumphini. For a map of the park and plenty of information check out Nick Upton's superb website: https://www.thaibirding.com/locations/central/sluang.htm

Most productive areas were the trees and ponds at the very southern end, the boardwalk across the swamp south of the main lake (marked as Night Heron colony on Nick's map) and the more densely vegetated areas of the northern edge. A list of the birds seen follows the photos but also notable were many Common Treeshrews - a species we've only encountered a couple of times before in Thailand. Water Monitors, Variable Squirrels, Flat-tailed Geckos and Malayan Snail-eating Turtles were also easy to see. A Tokay Gecko also showed well.

Pink-necked Pigeons and Plain Prinias were particularly numerous.

Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris

Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus

Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis

Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis

Common Palmfly Elymnias hypermnestra

Flat-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus platyurus

Pond Heron (probably Javan)

Olive-backed Sunbird nest with young Cinnyris jugularis 

Pink-necked Green Pigeon Treron vernans

Plain Prinia Prinia inornata

Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus

Tokay Gecko Gekko gecko

Variable Squirrel Callosciurus finlaysonii


Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
Feral Pigeon
Red Collared Dove
Spotted Dove
Zebra Dove
Pink-necked Pigeon
Asian Koel
Plaintive Cuckoo
Germain's Swiftlet
House Swift
Asian Palm-Swift
White-breasted Waterhen
Asian Openbill
Yellow Bittern
Intermediate Egret
Little Egret
pond heron sp.
Common Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Indian Roller
Coppersmith Barbet
Common Iora
Brown Shrike
Black-naped Oriole
Black Drongo
Malaysian Pied-Fantail
Large-billed Crow
Yellow-vented Bulbul
Streak-eared Bulbul
Yellow-browed Warbler
Common Tailorbird
Plain Prinia
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Asian Pied Starling
Common Myna
Great Myna
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
Brown-throated Sunbird
Olive-backed Sunbird
Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Paddyfield Pipit
House Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Scaly-breasted Munia

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

After a few days in Bangkok we needed to get out of the city but with friends arriving midweek and a charity event next Saturday it wasn't worth going too far so on a recommendation we headed for Kanchanaburi. A good decision as the strip of the town with tourist accommodation and eateries along the river south of the bridge suited us very nicely. Good wildlife and cheap places to eat good local food and plenty of bars to choose from if that's your thing.

A good tip for birders is to stay in one of the raft rooms here. We chose the Tamarind Guesthouse which was reasonably priced for a raft room with a/c and en suite. These are next to rafts of lilies on the river so we were treated to close views of Cotton Pygmy Geese, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, White-throated Kingfisher, Pond Herons, Black Drongo and Little Cormorant. You can also get close to Water Monitors.

The well-known film unfortunately got the name of the river wrong (The original River Kwai flows into this river a little way downstream). So the simple solution was to rename this river the Kwai Yai and the original the Kwai Noi. Hey presto the bridge is now on the River Kwai (or at least one of them!). A visit to the beautifully tended war cemetery here is essential to pay respects to the thousands who were worked and beaten to death building the railway through to Burma during the war. It's sobering to contemplate what they went through. The bridge itself was bombed and rebuilt many times despite the Japanese marching hordes of prisoners of war onto the bridge in an attempt to deter the bombing!

While there we took the train up to Nam Tok (but unfortunately didn't have the time or money to continue up to any of the national parks). If staying at Nam Tok for a couple of hours between trains either take a songthaew to the waterfall (which we should have done but didn't) or kick around the station area for a bit. There is a pond and gully a short way up the road beyond the station which added a bit of avian variety: Verditer Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Grey WagtailBlack-crested and Black-headed Bulbuls. Worth keeping an eye open from the train on the way there and back as well. It tends to go slowly and there are plenty of White-throated Kingfishers, Blue-tailed and Green Bee-eaters, Indian Rollers, etc. I was treated to an unexpected close view of a Bronzed Drongo while stopped at the station near some caves.

Sooty-headed Bulbul is worth a short mention. I saw two birds. One close to the accommodation had a yellowish vent - possibly with an orange tinge. The other was from the train to Nam Tok and had a red vent. I'm guessing there is a boundary or intergrade between the forms around here.

Final tip for birders here is to visit the quirky "Jeath War Museum" close to the bridge. This haphazard, eclectic collection of war-related memorabilia is cheap to visit and interesting enough but on the lower level at the back is an extremely quiet area overlooking a reedy overgrown edge of the river. A while spent here could prove productive. I picked up Black-browed Reed Warbler, Dusky and Yellow-browed Warblers, Yellow Bittern and White-breasted Waterhen plus close views of Water Monitor and Common Treeshrew in the trees.

A few extra species were seen from the dusty train journey back to Thonburi station in Bangkok including Lesser Whistling Duck, Great Egret and a Whiskered Tern. Although the train is cheap and offers good views of the countryside, arriving at Thonburi station is an inconvenience. The taxis, etc here know they can charge more or less what they like and refuse to use a meter. Best way to avoid being ripped off is to walk 1km east to the river where you can get an orange flag boat for 15 baht to Sathorn BTS station or anywhere else along the river. Anyone will point the way for you. Alternatively walk well away from the station to where you can flag down a taxi with its meter on but that can be a bit of a lottery.

Cotton Pygmy Goose Nettapus coromandelianus

Oriental Garden Lizard 

Little Cormorant Microcarbo niger

Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus

Red-spot Jezebel Delias descombesi

Apple Snail Pomacea sp.

White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis

Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
Lesser Whistling-Duck (from train to Bangkok)
Cotton Pygmy-Goose
Rock Dove
Red Collared Dove
Spotted Dove
Zebra Dove
Greater Coucal
Asian Koel
Asian Palm-Swift
White-breasted Waterhen
Black-winged Stilt
Red-wattled Lapwing
Pheasant-tailed Jacana
Bronze-winged Jacana
Common Sandpiper
Whiskered Tern (from train to Bangkok)
Asian Openbill
Little Cormorant
Indian Cormorant (from train to Bangkok)
Yellow Bittern
Purple Heron
Great White Egret (from train to Bangkok)
Little Egret
Cattle Egret
Striated Heron
Black-winged Kite
Eurasian Hoopoe
White-throated Kingfisher
Green Bee-eater (from trains)
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Indian Roller
Coppersmith Barbet
Ashy Woodswallow
Brown Shrike
Black-naped Oriole
Black Drongo
Ashy Drongo
Bronzed Drongo (Kra Sae cave station)
Malaysian Pied-Fantail
Black-naped Monarch (Nam Tok)
Large-billed Crow
Indochinese Bushlark (from train to Nam Tok)
Barn Swallow
Black-headed Bulbul (Nam Tok)
Black-crested Bulbul (Nam Tok)
Sooty-headed Bulbul
Yellow-vented Bulbul
Streak-eared Bulbul
Yellow-browed Warbler
Dusky Warbler
Black-browed Reed Warbler
Common Tailorbird
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Verditer Flycatcher (Nam Tok)
Black-collared Starling
Asian Pied Starling
Common Myna
Great Myna
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
Olive-backed Sunbird
Grey Wagtail
Paddyfield Pipit
Eurasian Tree Sparrow