Otterly brilliant! Thetford, 26 March 2013

Wow, what a morning I had in Thetford today!
Close encounters with 2 Otters which has to go down as one of the most memorable wildlife experiences I've ever had. Initially I saw one at the weir on Spring Walk and then another (thought to be a large female) on the River Thet near Nunn's Bridges. This inquisitive individual swam along the far bank to start with but then, as I stopped by a large tree, it swam across the river and right towards me. It then spent a few minutes peeping up over the bank at me at a range of about 5 feet! Utterly amazing!

After that the Black-bellied Dipper had a lot to live up to but it too showed nicely along one of the side streams as did a Grey Wagtail.



Norwich Cathedral Peregrines, 22 March 2013

Yesterday (21 March 2013) saw the first egg laid by our local pair of Peregrines on the spire of Norwich Catherdral. If 2012 is anything to go by then another couple of eggs can be expected in the next few days.
Here's to another summer of Peregrine action in our fine city!

To see the live webcam on the nest or to look at the dedicated website follow one of the following links

Norwich Peregrines Webcam

Norwich Peregrines Website

Many thanks to Jamie Skipper for allowing use of this fine photo

Reeve's Pheasant in Norfolk, 19 March 2013

Having received a tip off and some grid references I ventured out into SW Norfolk today to seek out Reeve's Pheasant. I don't care what people say about them being dodgy, I just like them! The whole pheasant family is one that does it for me, sad but true!
Anyway, after quite a bit of searching at the 1st location I'd been given I eventually tracked down 1 male but getting close to it proved impossible, even with some 'selective trespassing'! After a couple of views it melted away into a small wood and that was that.
Apparantly the site holds a few birds with 2 males and a female having been seen this past weekend.
Both these sites are close to an old site I used to have for the species many years ago so they're obviously surviving OK in this corner of the county.

I also checked another location only 2 miles away with no joy but did manage 15 (yes, fifteen!) Brown Hares in one field, a pair of displaying Common Buzzards (one intermediate bird and one pale one), Curlew, loads of Lapwings, Skylarks and Yellowhammers. It was almost like spring but without any migrants.

In the same rough area I had a flock of c90 Stock Doves, Kingfisher, Siskins, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker plus Weasel, Roe Deer and Muntjac

very poor record shot of the head of a Reeve's Pheasant!

Pair of Common Buzzards

Brown Hare looking a bit grumpy!


Garden Muntjac, 16 March 2013

With few opportunities for birding since returning from the far east this showy Muntjac in the garden in Pulham today was a welcome distraction from all the paperwork. A pair have been quite obvious in the last week, often coming quite close to the house.This photo was taken through the open lounge window!
A build up of Chaffinch numbers around the feeders in the garden hasn't yet yielded a Brambling or Siskin - not for the want of checking!
A Barn Owl was hunting at Starston a couple of days ago whilst Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpeckers are also calling and drumming locally. Not many signs of spring yet though - if you discount Snowdrops and Winter Aconite.


Thailand Day 21, 22 February 2013, Urban Bangkok

Well, we'd come full circle and were back at the Plai Garden Boutique Guesthouse close by the airport in Bangkok.
With a very small amount of daylight before our courtesy bus to the airport I managed 3 Asian Koel, several Chinese Pond Herons, Grey Heron and then a Pied Fantail right by the wall next to the hotel reception.

To sum the trip up? A steep learning curve for sure and some of the forest birding was very hard. Despite not birding all the time by any means I was delighted with a triplist of 211 which included 132 lifers. The highlights for me were undoubtedly Doi Chiang Dao and Doi Inthanon and I have to say I enjoyed the north far more than the south.    

Thailand Day 20, 21 February 2013, Khao Sok entrance area

This morning was sadly the last real piece of birding of the trip.
Our taxi back to Krabi airport wasn't picking us up until midday so with a little time to spare we walked into the village for breakfast. By now we were fed up with Our Jungle House mainly due to the American owner who was full of crap and reluctant to do anything about our macaque raids!
Along the track 3 Greater Coucals showed then a largish acciptor glided towards us and landed in a tree in view. I noted all of it's features and was able to id it as a Crested Goshawk when I got back to my book! Also along the track were both Arctic Warbler, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler and a few Black-nest Swiflets.
After pancackes for breakfast and a stroll back a stonkingly bright red Crimson Sunbird (my last lifer of the trip) showed in the garden where I also photographed Asian Brown Flycatcher and the resident Chinese Pond Heron.

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Chinese Pond Heron

Thailand Day 19, 20 February 2013, Khao Sok NP

Khao Sok NP was eagerly anticipated and this morning we walked to the park entrance from Our Jungle Home.
A Blue-banded Kingfisher on the river while still within 100 meters of our room was an excellent start to proceedings and along the entrance track c10 Black-naped Orioles were the most obvious species but 2 Acrtic Warblers also showed nicely and 4 Large-billed Crows were followed up with a White-breasted Kingfisher perched up before we got to the checkpoint to pay our 200 baht entrance fees.
Once inside we opted for a walk along the 'wide trail' which runs roughly westward and parallel with the river on the north side.
Initially things were pretty quiet with just a male White-rumped Shama, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler and Little Spiderhunter. Overhead I then scored with my very first needletail ever in the form of a hurtling Brown-backed Needletail and scrutinisation of the swiftlets here had them nailed as Black-nest Swiftlets. A detour down a side path towards the river revealed 3 Ochraceous Bulbuls but views of the river or anything other than thick forest were few and far between. An open area held 2 Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrikes, the only Black-naped Monarch of the whole trip, Common Tailorbird and Black-headed Bulbul.
Depite seeing some good birds the growing sense of frustration and ever-steepening paths encouraged us to turn around the retrace our steps. On the way back I found a nice male Slaty-backed Flycatcher as we headed back to the carpark/HQ area and some much needed late breakfast.

Opting against a very steep and hot walk up the 'narrow trail' we hung around the carpark area and found the birds here rather more showy and photographable. Orange-bellied and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker showed beautifully and then a male sunbird popped up in a bush and was id'd as a Ruby-cheeked Sunbird and another lifer! Black-headed Bulbuls and Olive-backed Sunbirds were obvious here too and a Grey Wagtail was on the river by the bridge.

Olive-backed Sunbird

Black-headed Bulbul

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird

Around the cafes in the lane a couple more Olive-backed Sunbirds performed and then along the track heading back a family party of Striped Tit Babblers entertained. Back at Our Jungle House we found our room had been raided by macaques for the 2nd day running but at least a pair of Red-eyed Bulbuls there were some recompense!

Olive-backed Sunbird

Striped Tit Babbler


Thailand Day 18, 19 February 2013, Krabi Mangroves and Khao Sok

The main aim of today was to travel north to our final main destination of the trip - the Khao Sok NP. This is about 3 hours drive north of Krabi.
I'd arranged for our transport to pick us up at 10.30 so we had plenty of time to check out Krabi Mangroves before we left.
Belinda and I made the walk to the start of the boardwalk in distinctly cooler and nicer conditions than the previous day noting Asian Glossy Starling and Red-rumped Swallow on the way.
This time the mangroves did the business, even though there weren't exactly loads of birds there my main target Mangrove Pitta was duly bagged with a calling male sitting still for a few minutes and allowing me to get some sort of photo in the very dark conditions. A pair of Greater Racket-tailed Drongos flew through the bushes and 2 Common Kingfishers were seen at the end of the boardwalk which is the only place you can get a view of open water. It seems that the boardwalk was once more extensive with side paths but these are now just rotting wood with the main having been replaced with a concrete walkway. Back out in daylight a look skyward revealed a flock of c20 Germain's Swiftlets which were rather educational. A male Brown-throated Sunbird was in the roadside sapplings on the walk back and the ever present Pacific Swallows were over the river.

Mangrove Pitta

Germain's Swiftlet

Asian Glossy Starling
After a couple of coffees in a nice muslim run coffee shop and some breakfast we ambled back to our guesthouse where we eventually picked up and driven north to Khao Sok through some spectacular limestone scenery.
After checking in to 'Our Jungle House' we had a short stroll along the entrance track towards the park HQ to get our bearings. I clocked up Black-headed and Stripe-throated Bulbul, Large-billed Crow and then a new bird - Spectacled Bulbul right by the park entrance. We adjourned to a cafe for a coffee where a male Orange-bellied Flowerpecker performed right next to us. Tomorrow we were going to enter the park itself and explore what it has to offer.
Spectacled Bulbul

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker


Thailand Day 17, 18 February 2013, Ko Phi Phi Don to Krabi Ferry

By now I was anxious to get off the Phi Phi islands and back onto the mainland - mainly due to the lack of birds!
The morning was spent firstly on a longtail boat taking us round the coast back to Tonsai where we picked up the ferry to take us onto the mainland at Krabi.
A Greater Racket-tailed Drongo bade us farewell and then the ferry journey yielded Pacific Reef Egret, 2 Great White Egrets, a Black-naped Tern (finally nailed!) and as we began the approch into Krabi a large group of 25+ Lesser Crested Terns and 15+ Common Terns followed us in. The sandbanks at the mouth of the Krabi River had just Curlew and Common Sandpipers plus Cattle Egrets, Chinese Pond Herons and several Pacific Swallows around the harbour. One of these posed nicely for me.

Lesser Crested Tern

Common Tern

Pacific Swallow

A walk along the Krabi River in the swelteringly hot afternoon gave some good views of
Black-headed Kingfisher to add to the trip list but Krabi Mangroves were very disappointing at this time of day so I vowed to return early the following day.   

Thailand Day 16, 17 February 2013, Ko Phi Phi Don and Leh

Belinda was particularly keen on visting the uninhabted island of Ko Phi Phi Leh (famous for the film The Beach having been filmed there) so doing my best Leonardo Di Caprio impersonation that's where we headed for the morning.
On the beach before we left was a very obliging Pacific Reef Egret. The boat trip itself was rubbish for birding with not a single frigatebird seen when I was hoping for loads! The scenery was spectacular though even with the hoards of other visitors. The only birds seen were another Collared Kingfisher and a tern sp that was either Roseate or Black-naped.

Pacific Reef Egret

Pacific Reef Egret
Back on Ko Phi Phi Don in the afternoon we chilled out and I managed to get close enough to some Pied Imperial Pigeons to get some pics. At least 100 were seen gathering to roost. Also photographed was a nice White-bellied Sea Eagle and several Pacific Swallows were around the beach and boats.
Pied Imperial Pigeon

Pied Imperial Pigeon

White-bellied Sea Eagle

Thailand Day 15, 16 February 2013, Ao Nang to Ko Phi Phi Don

Our courtesy minibus eventually turned up at the Mountain Paradise to take us down to the pier. We were to catch the 9am ferry to the island of Ko Phi Phi Don where we'd booked 2 nights accommodation. A nice male Brown-throated Sunbird obligingly popped up in the tree opposite our room so the wait wasn't in vain!
On board the ferry and once again hanging around for it to get going at least alIowed me a little more birding time - a Collared Kingfisher sat on the sand, a couple of Brahminy Kites circled and several Pacific Swallows swooped around the boat and harbour. 2 chunky Blue-rumped Parrots flew over the boat and as we finally departed c300 Lesser Sandplovers and 2 Common Sandpipers were on the sandy shore.
The ferry journey itself was quite disappointing from a birding aspect apart from a small group of c15 Great Frigatebirds feeding around a distant fishing boat, 4 Brown-headed Gulls loafing around an islet and White-bellied Sea Eagle over. Nearing our desination 2 white pigeons flew around the wooded canopy of a low island we passed - Pied Imperial Pigeons, a species that turned out to be quite numerous on these islands.

Around our accommodation, the Phi Phi Relax Beach Resort on the quiet east side of Ko Phi Phi Don I had 4+ Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers, 3 Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Greater Coucal and 2 Pacific Swallows and on a hike up to the viewpoint on the top of the island in the late afternoon 4 perched Pied Imperial Pigeons.


Thailand Day 14, 15 February 2013, Ao Nang

As we'd arrived in the south after dark the previous night my first look at the area was this morning and the gardens and trees around our accommodation - The Mountain Paradise at Ao Nang. The resort of Ao Nang isn't really my cup of tea as it's very touristy and busy. Luckily our abode was tucked away off the main street down a quiet side road and overlooked by a massive limestone cliff.
We had just a day in Ao Nang before catching a ferry to Phi Phi Don the following day so the only actual birding was around the Mountain Paradise and the beach area.
Even being restricted I managed a couple of new birds in the form of Asian Glossy Starling and Pacific Swallow. I'd noticed  a couple of strange swallows around our accommodation looking superficially like Barn Swallows without tail streamers and they turned out to be this species that I later went on to discover is quite numerous in these coastal ares. I also managed to see 2 Coppersmith Barbets, Greater Coucal, 2+ Peaceful Doves, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Black Drongo, Black-headed, Red-whiskered and Streak-eared Bulbuls, a single Brahminy Kite and Taiga Flycatcher.

Peaceful Dove

Oriental Magpie Robin

Streak-eared Bulbul

Coppersmith Barbet

Black Drongo

Coppersmith Barbet

Thailand Day 13, 14 February 2013, Urban Chiang Mai

Travelling was the name of the game today with flights from Chiang Mai to Krabi via Bangkok. What a way to treat your partner on Valentines Day!

The only opportunity for any birding was the immediate vicinity of the Grand Napat Hotel in Chiang Mai while we waited for our taxi to take us to the airport. Even then I managed a surprise new bird in the form of half a dozen Himalayan Swiftlets together with 2 Ashy Woodswallows and a few Asian Palm Swifts. I'm certainly going to be looking more intently at the skies from now on! Around the very small grounds I also had 3 Oriental Magpie Robins, Spotted Doves, Common and White-vented Mynas, Tree Sparrows, a nice Dusky Warbler, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and both Red-whiskered and Streak-eared Bulbul.

Spotted Dove

Ashy Woodswallow

Tree Sparrows

Thailand Day 12, 13 February 2013, Doi Inthanon

I dragged Belinda out of bed at the crack of dawn once more determined that we'd visit what is supposed to be one of the best sites on Doi Inthanon - km37.5
This is supposed to be a 'jeep track' but in reality it is a narrow path through dense forest with the obscured entrance being just beyond the 2nd checkpoint on the right (if going uphill).
As we were at the site so early I plumped for a walk along the road before venturing into the forest as it would have been too dark otherwise. Belinda wasn't impressed so stayed in the car while I did the business. As the rising sun started to catch the tops of the trees birds started to become active and I had a very entertaining hour or so - several Yellow-cheeked Tits, 2 Black-throated Sunbirds, Mrs Gould's Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter, 2 Ashy Drongos, 2 Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos, Black Bulbul, Short-billed Minvet and a fly-through Asian Emerald Cuckoo were followed by a Small Niltava perched on wires and a thrush perched high in a tree proved to be a male Red-throated Thrush. Better still were the prolonged views of a Large Hawk Cuckoo that flew into a high tree and sat for a while before moving on. It was time to venture down the track...

Small Niltava

And what a way to start the walk - a fantastic Silver-eared Mesia showing nicely right at the start of the track! After that the birding was pretty hard work in the very enclosed forest. A singing Blyth's Leaf Warbler showed very nicely as did a male Large Niltava in the gloom but things were exceptionally slow and we turned round after about 1km and retraced our steps. On the way I stopped for a skulking bird in the ground vegetation which turned out to be a very welcome Slaty-bellied Tesia. Eventually we happened upon a pocket of birds from which I winkled out 2 more new birds for me - Golden Babbler and Black-eared Shrike Babbler. Other birds here were several noisy Rufous-winged Fulvettas and Black-throated Sunbird.

A stop for a much needed coffee at Mr Deang's gave me some great views of a Lesser Shortwing feeding on a damp area immediately below the balcony.

Lesser Shortwing
Up the road beside the park HQ and through a Hmong village is the Royal Project (basically some rather twee landscaped woodland and gardens by the rocky river) and the walk up to the Siriphom Waterfall. Birding here was quite basic but you can't sneeze at yet another White-capped Water Redstart plus 2 Oriental Magpie Robins, Yellow-streaked Warbler, Flavescent Bulbul, Taiga Flycatcher, Grey Wagtail and Olive-backed Sunbird. A single White Wagtail was at the park HQ which is pretty awful as a place to visit with just a couple of display boards and nothing else for the visitor. A good job lunch was waiting next door at the restaurant! After another lovely late lunch we decided to cut our losses on our Doi Inthanon adventure and head back to Chiang Mai. Tomorrow we quit the north and headed south for phase 2 of the trip...
White-capped Water Redstart


Thailand Day 11, 12 February 2013, Doi Inthanon

Much to Belinda's annoyance we were up pre-dawn again this morning and armed with our packed breakfast from the Inthanon Highland Resort we headed right up to the summit and back to that boardwalk.
At the very start of the boardwalk I'd been tipped off about a particular berry-bearing small tree and within minutes this morning I'd scooped with both Eyebrowed Thrush and Grey-sided Thrush feeding side by side. A slow methodical anti-clockwise walk aroud the boardwalk gave me some of the same birds as yesterday (10+ Chestnut-sided White-eyes, Flavescent Bulbul and several Rufous-winged Fulvetta). The best was saved till last however because in the darkest section of the walk about 3/4 of the way around a marvellous male White-browed Shortwing showed followed quickly by one of the area specialities Pygmy Wren Babbler. I also managed to nail the other speciality here in the form of 2 Ashy-throated Warblers. Outside the marsh hollow along the side of the road walking towards the summit radar station a fantastic male Mrs Gould's Sunbird showed well in the trees and with the early morning sun catching the vegetation several Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, Chestnut-tailed Minlas and a Yellow-bellied Fantail emerged. Grabbing a coffee at the small shop by the radar station we took it out onto the small balcony to drink. From the balcony a mega male Green-tailed Sunbird showed extremely well and was very welcome bearing in mind I'd only seen females up to that point. A glance downward from the balcony upon hearing a rusting and 2 skulking Rufous-throated Partidges were feeding. Then a single Dark-backed Sibia decided to fly in and perch right in front of me by the shop enrance door!
A look at the scrubby bushes at the far end of the carpark had me photographing an immature male Mrs Gould's Sunbird and also clocking c10 Common Rosefinches, including some nice bright males.

Chestnut-tailed Minla

Chestnut-tailed Minla

Mrs Gould's Sunbird

Green-tailed Sunbird

Rufous-throated Partridge

 Dark-backed Sibia

Mrs Gould's Sunbird

Rufous-winged Fulvetta
Next we paid a quick visit to the Chedi again where Buff-throated Warbler was joined by a showy Yellow-browed Warbler, a couple of Dark-backed Sibias and a Grey Bushchat were seen and while Belinda was using the facilities a Mountain Hawk Eagle glided through.
Mountain Hawk Eagle
Yellow-browed Warbler
Dropping down from the summit area our next thought was to take the side road off just up from the 2nd checkpoint at km37.5 as this was signposted to some hot springs. These turned out to be bloody miles away so instead we visited the Mae Pan Waterfall. To reach this waterfall it's a bit of a drive followed by a 15 minute walk along a narrow path through the forest. What this means is that it's quiet and we were really glad we made the effort. The waterfall is amazing and so was the birding! On the walk 2 Black Bulbuls, 2 Mountain Bulbuls, Streaked Spiderhunter and 2 Spangled Drongos were seen and once at the water the hoped for birds appeared one after the other - White-capped Water Redstart and then 2 Plumbeous Water Redstarts - yay! On the walk back when nearly back to the car a small 'bird wave' went through. Alas most of the birds were really high in the canopy and impossible to id but birds that were loosely associated with it included a lovely White-bellied Yuhina and my first Black-throated Sunbird. The close by Huai Sai Luang Waterfall gave us another White-capped Water Redstart. On the way back up the road to rejoin the main Doi Inthanon road we stopped so I could scan some hirundines and these turned out to be c20 Asian House Martins.
White-capped Water Redstart

Plumbeous Water Redstart

Plumbeous Water Redstart
White-capped Water Redstart
Lunch called so it was back down to km31 (via a Large Niltava by the road at km32) to 'our' cafe where an Indian Roller sat high in a tree. Over lunch we decide to head further down to km13 for look at the very different forest at that elevation. And it has to be said we got it wrong because by now it was unbearably hot and a short walk by the bridge and river there yielded only 2 Golden-fronted Leafbirds, a Black-crested Bulbul and Grey Wagtail before we gave up.
After a brief siesta at our room (during which I sneaked out for a quick walk seeing 3 Chinese Water Herons, Black-crested Bulbul, Streak-eared Bulbul, 3+ Indian Rollers, Olive-backed Sunbird, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Cattle Egret and Green Bee-eater) we went in search of one of the specialities of the Inthanon Highland area - Blossom-headed Parakeet. Directed to a viewing platform by a 'sort of' warden I eventually saw one after several others he claimed but which were always behind a tree! 2 Lineated Barbets showed distantly and several Red-rumped Swallows were gathering to roost. The guy eventually decided to escort us (i.e. following him on his moped) to a spot where Blossom-headed Parakeets feed in tamarind trees and it was here we managed to see about 30 of these delightful birds as the light faded. Then we had to pose for a photograph and write a note for him to put in his scrapbook! 
Blossom-headed Parakeets