to 12th of May : Some
last-minute shopping, and basically just relaxing.
of May : Pha's girlfriend picked us up to take us to the
airport for the one-hour flight to Hat Yai, where we arrived at
around noon. A quick stop at the local Tesco's for provisions, and
we were off to Hala Bala, a three-hour drive. Not many birds on
the way, and it really started pouring later in the afternoon. However,
outside a heavily fortified and sandbagged police station, we did
see Grey-rumped Treeswift and Asian
Glossy Starling. The only other highlight was good views
of a Brahminy Kite.
We arrived at
the Research Station just as it was getting dark, so checked in,
had dinner, and talked to a visiting Japanese researcher. He had
set up a photo trap, and had, amongst others, pictures of Tapir
Not much competition
for bird of the day, so I chose Grey-rumped
Treeswift, whilst Ha went for the Asian Glossy Starling.
of May : Up early for the first day of "real"
birding. We decided to confine our birding to around the station,
in particular to not have to deal with the leeches just yet. First
goal was the nest of Bat Hawks visible
from the station. Both birds were very obliging, and I finally came
to grips with a real bogey bird for me.
our room, two Black-thighed Falconets
perched in a dead tree, we would see them all following mornings.
A Plaintive Cuckoo called from far,
much noisier were the Agile Gibbons.
up towards the road, we had our first Hornbills, a pair of Bushy-crested
Hornbills flying over low. The flowering bushes held Orange-bellied
Flowerpeckers and Grey-breasted Spiderhunters,
whilst the larger trees were full of Bulbuls, with Spectacled,
and Buff-vented Bulbuls seen well.
Malkoha was the first of four Malkoha species we would eventually
see. The single Brown Barbet paled
somewhat in comparison with the Blue-eared,
Red-throated and Gold-whiskered
Barbets also seen here. A Lesser Green
Leafbird was yet another lifer for me.
From here, we
headed to the Waterfall nearby. Tu and I headed deeper into the
forest, where he showed me a nest occupied by a female Wrinkled
Hornbill. As a matter of fact, I have to take his word on
that one, as all we could see was the tip of the bill sticking out.
As it was getting
hot, we headed back to the station for lunch, before setting out
again in the afternoon. Tu, who knows every Hornbill nest, took
us down a little used road where we first came across a pair of
Large Green Pigeons, a very uncommon
bird. However, the absolute highlight was a gorgeous male Rhinoceros
Hornbill feeding his mate on the nest. What a bird!!!!!
On the way back
to the station, we stopped at a point overlooking the valley, and
were quickly rewarded with both Great
and Rhinoceros Hornbills flying by.
Just as it got dark, a Blyth's Hawk-Eagle
settled on a tree nearby.
A very rewarding
first day, with two of our targeted Hornbills seen. The bird of
the day was a unanimous decision, with he honors going to the Rhinoceros
of May : Tu and I started off early, leaving Pha and Ha
behind, and descended into leech-hell! But first, it was an incredibly
hard hike up a hill with a local guide to look for a special bird.
Close to a heart -attack, and soaked to the bone with sweat, we
arrived in a little clearing, where the guide started with a two-tone
whistle. Soon enough, he received a response, and a couple of minutes
later, we had excellent views of Rufous-tailed
Shama. This is an uncommon Bird in Thailand, and can only
be found in Hala Bala. Whilst it sings nowhere near as well as its
White-rumped cousin, it is a stunning bird nevertheless. With a
great start like that, I was ready to descend into the forest and
face the leeches. If you do not like those critters, than this is
the wrong place for you; they were everywhere. Even covered in Deet,
and with leech-socks, I still got zapped a few times. However, the
birds made up for the discomfort.
Near the river,
prominently perched on a dead tree, we saw a female Wreathed
Hornbill. As is often the case in rainforests, there were
long periods of inactivity and then, out of nowhere, birds would
appear. We had very nice views of Chestnut-breasted
Malkoha, whilst the Rufous-crowned
and Chestnut-winged Babblers were a
lot harder to get to grips with.
After an excellent
lunch, we headed to a Pagoda near a stream, which Tu knew to be
a popular place with birds for taking a bath. The first birds to
take a dip were Buff-vented, Black-headed,
and Finsch's Bulbuls. Tu spotted a
Crested Serpent-Eagle in a tree, as
well as a beautiful Black-and-Yellow Broadbill.
Yet another Bulbul new for this trip was Hairy-backed
Bulbul, certainly a nicer sight then the Brown
Fulvettas. Dozens of Grey-rumped Treeswifts
were overhead, making the most out of the swarming termites. Grey-throated
and Striped Tit-Babbler proved that
this part of Thailand is really Babbler-heaven.
It was getting
dark, and Ha and Pha were hungry (as usual) so we headed back just
before some serious rain started.
Bird of the
day for Ha was Finsch's Bulbul; I obviously go for the Rufous-tailed
Shama, seeing what hard work it was to nail it.
of May : Today, we were leaving the forest behind, and
headed for the Toh Daeng Swamp Forest instead, about 40 minutes
from Hala Bala. The very first bird we saw there was White-breasted
Waterhen. Of more interest to me were both the Brown-throated
and Purple-throated Sunbirds, as well
as yet another Malkoha;Black-bellied Malkoha.
This was also
the only place where we would see Woodpeckers, with the black-throated
subspecies squamigularis of Rufous
Woodpecker, Crimson-winged Woodpecker,
and a female Buff-necked Woodpecker.
Very nice birds indeed were the Fluffy-backed
Tit Babblers, the "hairs" on the back are truly
As we headed
for the exit, we finally saw the specialty species of this place;Malaysian
Blue Flycatcher, with both male and female displaying nicely.
An added bonus, as we got into the car, was a soaring Grey-headed
we headed back to the Pagoda. Regrettably, it started raining quite
early, and would not let up for the rest of the day. Thus, activity
was somewhat muted, but we still had a couple of good birds, with
Dark-throated Oriole being a real stunner!
Yet another Malkoha was added to the list, in the form of Raffle's
Malkoha. Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrikes
offered brief views, whilst Whiskered Treeswifts
joined the fray overhead. The bird zooming across the clearing turned
out to be a Gliding Lizard, first time I saw one of those.
We headed back
for dinner, and for choosing the birds of the day: Ha liked the
Fluffy-backed Tit Babblers most, I preferred the Malaysian Blue
of May : Back to the "Million-leech-walk". The
very first bird we saw looked like a red-morphed Paradise-Flycatcher,
but it was actually a Rufous-winged Philentoma
(who comes up with those names?). Today was Babbler-day, with Scaly-crowned,
and Ferruginous Babblers making an
appearance. We also had good views of a pair of Wreathed
Hornbills, whilst an Emerald Dove
almost hit me in the face.
In the afternoon,
we headed once more for the look-out point, and were rewarded with
the final Hornbill of our trip: a single, male, Helmeted
Hornbill. This is truly a bizarre bird, and also very shy.
Other Hornbills that flew by were Rhinoceros,
Wreathed, and Great
Hornbills. On the way down from our observation point, another
Blyth's Hawk-Eagle perched above us,
promptly being harassed by two Greater Racket-tailed
a single bird made the "bird-of-the-day" for both of us:
of May : Time to say goodbye to Hala Bala and head back
for our flight. Whilst stopping at a 7/11, we had Germaine's
Swiftlet amongst the House Swifts
We made one
last birding-stop on the way, at Yaring Mangrove forest. Not many
birds here, but the specialty is Mangrove Flycatcher, on which we
dipped miserably:-(. However, we did add one more Malkoha, Green-billed
Malkoha this time. We also added Black-winged
Flycatcher-Shrike to our trip list, as well as Mangrove
Whistler, whilst both Little Cormorants
and a single Pacific Reef-Egret flew
Not too much
choice, but I'll settle for the Mangrove Whistler as bird of the
day, whilst Ha takes the Pacific Reef-Egret.
And that was
that. A couple of more days of R&R in Bangkok, where a quick
spin in Lumpini Park added a few more birds, notably Coppersmith
Barbet, Asian Koel, Indian
Rollers, and Asian Pied Starling.
With a total
of a 116 birds seen, it is not the biggest of lists, but it is certainly
the case of quality, not quantity (and with 54 "lifers",
I am not complaining:-)))))) We did see 6 of the 8 Hornbills, 5
species of Malkoha, 15 species of Bulbul, and 10 species of Babbler.