Emperor Bird-of-Paradise - Huon Peninsular, Papua New Guinea (July 2019)

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Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Newhaven Harbour & Cuckmere Haven 28/2/18

I didn't head out until the afternoon and with an icy wind blowing I thought the comfort of the car would be suitable. So Newhaven Harbour was first and the low tide was very low with most of the Gulls being very distant. However, with bins I could pick out the below Gull that looked pretty good for a Caspian Gull. Through the scope it still looked good and when in flight roughly ten minutes later it looked even better. There was no sign of anything decent so I continued to Splash Point where the Purple Sandpiper still wasn't on the eastern breakwater.

The Cuckmere was next and a bit of cold weather was enough for two drake Pintail to be present on the meanders, as well as three Shoveler; two species that don't appear too often here, especially the former, with perhaps today being only my fourth or fifth sighting in the Cuckmere.

a dinky first-winter Caspian Gull at
Newhaven Harbour
two drk Pintail at Cuckmere Haven




Sunday, 25 February 2018

Weymouth, Dorset 23/2/18

On Friday afternoon I went to see the adult Ross's Gull with Jake that had been frequenting the Weymouth area for two days. The previous afternoon it spent a bit of time at Lodmoor RSPB and so we were hoping the same routine would continue. However, for most of the afternoon there was no sign, and other then a Glaucous Gull and two Spoonbills, it wasn't looking promising. That was until a local birder re-found the Gull about 1.5 miles further east sat on the sea with a large Gull flock consisting of Mediterranean, Black-headed and Common Gulls.

We drove around there quickly and soon located the Ross's Gull sat on the sea roughly 150-200 metres out. Despite the distance, the scope views were good although these views were very disappointing considering the views people have had, and have been getting since Friday. Nonetheless, it was a superb bird and a treat to see, and if it lingers a return visit will be on the cards.

Due to the length of time to see the bird we had little time left to pop into Blashford Lakes for the Thayer's Gull on our return home. Despite making it with twenty minutes of light left, the hide was closed and therefore this led to an impossible search from the opposite side, where at least a lovely flock of 48 Goosanders were present.

Glaucous Gull at Lodmoor RPSB
Dutch-ringed Spoonbill at Lodmoor RPSB
Spoonbill at Lodmoor RPSB

Ross's Gull at Weymouth
Photo taken by Lee GR Evans
On Saturday, it was a shame to dip the Purple Sandpiper at Splash Point, more so as this would have been a patch tick, despite the regular wintering flock at Newhaven being only two miles away. A walk down the Cuckmere found nothing of interest, and a return to Splash Point I was greeted by Neil and Dick who had found a Red-throated Diver on the beach entangled in fishing line. Neil had already phoned the WRAS (Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service - East Sussex) and so I picked up the bird and wrapped it in a blanket on the back seat. It was then taken away by the WRAS where fingers crossed this very perky Diver will return back to the Channel. 

Earlier on in the week I was pleased to see a pair of displaying Goshawks, although the cold wind didn't help to the longevity of the displaying.

Red-throated Diver



Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Lower Cuckmere 20/2/18

Back to the normal winter birding routine, but with much less enthusiasm as the tropical birding is still flowing freshly through the veins. Last week a look at the Cuckmere Gull roost produced nothing of interest, but it was nice to see a large Gull. Afterwards I twitched the Bluethroat at West Rise that took all of two minutes to show itself.

Today another look at the Cuckmere Gull roost only produced an adult Mediterranean Gull. Despite plenty of Gulls 'coasting' today, the flock wasn't of any substantial size. Hoping to draw away from the Gulls as the weather slowly improves this week, allowing hopefully a few raptors and Woodpeckers to start displaying.

Bluethroat at West Rise Marsh 15/2/18


Monday, 12 February 2018

Thailand 2018 - 12th February

Khao Yai & Airport Drive

(Just a quick note that pictures will be added from today, and have already been inputted for our first day, (Spoony day) the 23rd January.
Sadly our last day in Thailand, and at last a great nights sleep was had, and if it wasn't for Ian being with me, I think I would've stayed put in bed, not that we were cuddling at any point.......I promise!! However we were at the entrance gates to the NP for 06.30 and headed straight for the Wang Jumpee trail, as this looked an excellent looking trail for Pheasants and Pittas. 

No such luck with these today although a Blue Pitta was heard distantly. In fact the trail for the first hour was very quiet, and yielded only a Black-and-Buff Woodpecker and a couple of other nice bits. A Barred Cuckoo Dove was calling but remained in situ. 

It wasn't until our last ditch attempt at a Banded Kingfisher that things hotted up. Near to the stream close to the car after a long walk with little success, I gave the recording a quick blast, and straight away a superb Banded Kingfisher flew in and perched near to us. It seemed oblivious to our shuffling around and sudden panic, which was just as well as we made a bit of noise trying to negotiate vines and the crunchiest of leaves. It did however eventually fly off, leaving us to find a pair of Slaty-backed Forktails on the river, but what a way to end our time at Khao Yai NP. Our list of goodies here was very impressive.

We made our way back to the hotel where our last lifer of the trip was seen from our room balcony, a small flock of Rose-breasted Parakeets. We made the most of the luxurious hotel and wished we had stayed here for the three nights. We left late morning bound for the airport, finding a perched Rufous-winged Buzzard along the way. After a monstrous KFC we still had a few hours spare, and with neither of us too fussed about heading for the Limestone Wren-babblers (seen previously in 2013) we opted for a tour through the countryside which proved to be very good. Our first pull in put us onto a superb breeding-plumaged Asian Golden Weaver (plus a few more seen elsewhere), and several fields held many Waders, Egrets, Wagtails and much more, so all in all a fitting end to a bird filled trip.

Highlights for the day are as follows:

Banded Kingfisher (L) - 1
Alstrom's Warbler - 1
Slaty-backed Forktail - 2
Asian Golden Weaver - 5
Long-toed Stint - 1
Little Ringed Plover - 3
Pin-tailed Snipe - 1
Common Snipe - 3
Eastern Yellow Wagtail - 20
Red-throated Pipit - 1
Rose-breasted Parakeet (L) - 3
Black-and-Buff Woodpecker - 1
Greater Flameback - 3
Blue-winged Leafbird - 2
Rufous-winged Buzzard - 1
Eastern Marsh Harrier - 1

We dropped the car off having clocked 2579 miles and having seen a respectable 439 species of bird, plus six heard only, and 156 lifers.

The trip had been a complete success, not one thing went wrong, most of our targets were seen and on the mammal front, it couldn't have got much better, although the elusive Clouded Leopard stayed that way, but who could forget the King Cobra that partially made up for this. A huge thanks to Ian (and Jake for the first 8 days) for a very enjoyable and successful trip, and no doubt the trio will be out in full swing in the near future.

Black-and-Buff Woodpecker at Khao Yai NP

Banded Kingfisher at Khao Yai NP

Slaty-backed Forktail at Khao Yai NP


Sunday, 11 February 2018

Thailand 2018 - 11th February

Khao Yai NP

We were pleased to leave the snoring behind as we left the campsite aiming to walk trail B. Frustratingly we couldn't find the trail at all so therefore walked the trail that leads up from the reservoir, and joins onto the Wang Jumpee trail forming a very nice circuit of forest birding.

All the way up the trail there was constant bird activity with Siamese Firebacks on the deck, and several Woodpeckers, Barbets and a couple of Long-tailed Broadbills. We both weren't expecting the next piece of good fortune. We had both stopped when I noticed some shuffling on the ground and what I assumed was some leaf tossing, which in the past few days has led to a Partridge or Fireback, however on this occasion, without even looking through my bins, I could see the distinct shape and features of an Eared Pitta. In shock, I whispered to Ian and he got onto it more or less straight away. It seemed to ignore us and carried on foraging around and at times even hopping into full view. An incredible moment that lasted around twenty minutes.

A short while later Ian discovered he had lost his bum bag and so it was a brisk and sweaty walk down to where he thought he had lost it, and mercifully it was there, which was almost more of a relief then the Pitta.

We chilled out for a bit and rehydrated and had lunch, whilst checking the Ground Cuckoo site again where this time we only heard it. A Yellow-vented Flowerpecker was found in the camp grounds which was another addition onto our slowly increasing list.

We walked trail A to the waterfall but were slightly underwhelmed by the falls, and the birding was ok but nothing new really.

Approaching mid to late afternoon we arrived at the TAT pond to scan for Needletails. Initially there wasn't any, and out of nowhere some local started yelling at us as in the distance a herd of Elephants had emerged from the depths of the forest. We jumped back into the car and ragged it up to the viewing area joining several others. For the next half hour we admired this lovely herd. Another smaller group joined them almost crashing through the vehicles to rejoin with the others. They hung around for a while before slowly disappearing into the forest.

We then drove back to the TAT pond and enjoyed some brilliant encounters with some Brown backed Needletails. It was time to leave the NP l, and soon come to a halt again. Ian on the way down was saying how gripped he was by DC’s King Cobra from many years ago on one of the trails, well just as we left the park, a King Cobra was spotted in the road. A local managed to move it off the road and then left it alone once in the roadside field. We wasted no time in jumping out and managed a few photos of this very deadly snake. The day couldn’t have gone much better. We would come back in again tomorrrow, though a decent nights sleep and some organisation was needed for our last day, and so we stayed at the rather plush Le Monte Hotel where we enjoyed a bit of luxury for a change.

Highlights for an exceptional day are as follows.

Red Junglefowl - 3
Siamese Fireback - 2
Thick-billed Green Pigeon - 5
Asian Emerald Cuckoo - 1
Brown-backed Needletail - 10
Orange-breasted Trogon - 2
Red-headed Trogon - 1
House Swift - 2
Dollarbird - 2
Wreathed Hornbill - 1
Greater Yellownape - 2
Laced Woodpecker - 1
Heart-spotted Woodpecker - 1
Great Slaty Woodpecker - 1
Eared Pitta (L) - 1
Long-tailed Broadbill - 3
Hill Myna - 4
Pale-legged Leaf Warbler - 1
Eastern Crowned Warbler - 2
Alstrom's Warbler - 1
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker (L) - 1
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker - 2
Ashy Bulbul - 1

Eared Pitta at Khao Yai NP -
what we thought was another Bulbul or
Laughingthrush rummaging around was thankfully
our biggest prize of all!!
Alstrom's Warbler at Khao Yai NP
Pig-tailed Macaque - these guys are
wherever the humans are.
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker at Khao Yai NP
Asian Elephants at Khao Yai NP
Brown-backed Needletail - click on image to
see the needles.
King Cobra!!

















Saturday, 10 February 2018

Thailand 2018 - 10th February

Khao Yao NP

A poor nights kip due to mainly camping, but with the addition of no pillow and it being colder then expected. We arrived at the KM 33 trail just after first light, and within the first few stretches it was apparent that trouble lay ahead in the form of a herd of Elephants. We glimpsed one which was great, but over the next hour we couldn't progress forwards as firstly, they were on either side of the trail, and very close to the trail. We kept our distance but close enough to have a real adrenaline rush when they made all their noises etc. Despite wanting to get to the Eared Pitta sight, we had to wait a long time for he Elephants to move off, and thankfully they did just that, but leaving a massive trail of destruction in their wake, including at the Pitta spot. All was not lost though, a surprise find were two Banded Broadbills, plus lots of other nice bits. Obviously no sign of any Pittas, including going down presumed Elephant tracks to search elsewhere, although a Siamese Fireback showed nicely where the Elephants had been. 

This took most of the morning and after having lunch back at the campsite (via another look at a Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo) we went to search along the first km of the Khao Khieo Road. Walking along the road produced a stunningly tame Orange-breasted Trogon, plus a decent mixed species flock. We eventually found a trail into the forest, but surprisingly this led to a blind with an obvious feeding station. Knowing Blue Pittas had been seen along this stretch recently, it was likely this would be the spot, so we sat it out. Half way through our ordeal a Thai photographer came in and very kindly gave us his mealworms and went to photograph something else. This persuaded a few birds to come in, including a Siberian Blue Robin, White-rumped Shama, and after three hours of a numb bum and aching backs, our target bird emerged from the shadows of the dense undergrowth, a stunning Blue Pitta. It still proved elusive but finally perched on the exposed log where we both managed some pics. This was our main target at Khao Yai having heard them here in 2013, and to get views like this was superb. 

We arrived at the TAT pond half hour before dark where only a single Brown-backed Needletail was present, and in the gloom, two huge Great Eared Nightjars flew low over us. 

There was no need for a night drive tonight after last nights successes. Another poor nights sleep in a now overcrowded campsite was had, even all the insects couldn't cover the surrounding snoring. 

Highlights for the day are as follows:

Siamese Fireback - 1
Thick-billed Green Pigeon - 1
Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo - 1
Brown-backed Needletail - 1
Great Eared Nightjar - 2
Orange-breasted Trogon - 2
Dollarbird - 1
Wreathed Hornbill - 6
Blue Pitta (L) - 1
Banded Broadbill (L) - 2
Siberian Blue Robin - 1
Everett's White-Eye (L) - 2
Arctic Warbler - 1
Alstrom's Warbler - 1

Banded Broadbill at Khao Yai NP - awful pic 
taken through a light ray with the bird being high
up.
Puff-throated Bulbul at Khao Yai NP
Great Hornbill at Khao Yai NP - the start to the KM 33 trail
holds a few fruiting trees, much to the like of these giants.
Orange-breasted Trogon at Khao Yai NP
White-crested Laughingthrush - as attractive as these are,
they did keep eating all of the Pitta's mealworms.
Blue Pitta at Khao Yai NP









Friday, 9 February 2018

Thailand 2018 - 9th February

Lam Takhong Reservoir & Khao Yai NP

We were up at 3.30am yet again and drove the 2 hours south to Pak Chong to try for some Rain Quail at Lam Takhong reservoir. We arrived bang on first light and headed to the short grass areas. From a few steps out of the car we flushed our first Barred Buttonquails, as well as many common birds also found in this habitat. As dawn rose many Egrets and a few raptors started to surface, and then master flusher Ian came across a series of Rain Quails, totalling six birds. With this in the bag nice and early we quickly stocked up on supplies for our time in Khao Yai NP.

We entered early morning and headed straight for the KM 33 trail where the previous couple of days had seen frequent sightings of Eared Pittas. Although we didn’t know exactly where the spot was, we figured out it couldn’t have been too far along. To cut a long story short, it wasn’t until it nearly got dark that we heard two Eared Pittas very near to us, but due to the gloom they remained invisible. The first two kilometres of the track had obviously been a Elephant playground as there was destruction in most directions.

At midday we left the trail and got our tent set up for two nights at the campsite. Before setting the tent up we quickly made our way to the rear of the toilet block. This wasn’t by choice, but there was one of our top targets hopefully here, and so this was the case, all three Coral-billed Ground Cuckoos seen together at a known feeding station. Absolutely brilliant!!

After a lengthy lunch we again set out on KM 33 trail where it was very quiet, though eventually a good bird flock moved through that held a Long-tailed Broadbill, Laced Woodpecker, Black-and-Buff Woodpeckers and a few other bits. The end result were the heard only Eared Pittas.

In all a mixed day but the highlight was now to come. Last time in Thailand we failed miserably to find an Elephant, and so this time we had to find one. So we did a night drive (getting told off in the process for using spot lights again) and after only twenty minutes a superb bull Elephant emerged from the darkness, into the full beam of the car’s lights and slowly walked towards us. I slowly retreated but I wanted a video and some pics so I stopped and watched the superb beast amble past. An absolute huge adrenaline rush being so close to a very dangerous creature, which thankfully was used to the cars.

We carried on again and came across another Elephant. There were two guiding vehicles in front who were flashing at us to move back as the big Nelly had started to walk towards the on-lookers. However, no way was I budging and they nervously sped past the bull as it made a direct line for us. Still not budging, the Elephant came even closer to us and tilted its head as to provoke us somewhat. It worked and we carried on past it. Yet another mammoth encounter. We saw another one and a couple of Civet species before calling it a night. We kind of fell asleep listening to a Collared Scops Owl and a couple of Great Eared Nightjars.

Highlights for the day are as follows:

Siamese Fireback - 1
Rain Quail (L) - 4
Barred Buttonquail - 3
Eastern Marsh Harrier - 1
Plaintive Cuckoo - 1
Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo (L) - 3
Indian Nightjar - 1
Great Hornbill - 4
Wreathed Hornbill - 2
Greater Yellownape - 1
Laced Woodpecker - 1
Black-and-Buff Woodpecker - 1
Long-tailed Broadbill - 1
Black-winged Cuckooshrike - 2
Hainan Blue Flycatcher - 1
Black-throated Laughingthrush - 1
Abbott’s Babbler - 1
Eastern Yellow Wagtail - 2

Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo at Khao Yai NP - 
on our previous visit in 2013 we didn't even hear 
this species. This time a feeding station had been 
set up behind a toilet block where three birds were 
seen together. Another two birds were heard at Wang
Jumpee a few days later.
Oriental Pied Hornbill at Khao Yai NP








Thursday, 8 February 2018

Thailand 2018 - 8th February

Nam Nao NP

After yesterday’s driving we were up at 3.30am to continue the same theme with a two hour drive to Nam Nao NP arriving there at first light.

We walked the longest trail (roughly 5km) and it took nearly seven hours. This wasn’t due to the sheer numbers of birds, it was just that the habitat looked brilliant for all the ground dwelling species. The stream alongside the trail held at least six Forktails, whilst various mixed species flocks moved through. Despite a very cautious amble, no Pittas or Pheasants were found.

Once on the upper section of the trail, by far the highlight of the last few days was found, this being a flock of six Long-tailed Broadbills, one of the funkiest looking birds out there. A pair of Sultan Tits gave then a close run however. A pair of White-bellied Woodpeckers performed well once in the ‘English’ looking Pine forest, whilst a calling Drongo-Cuckoo couldn’t be persuaded to show itself.

When we finally completed the walk we decided to pay for an overnight stay in a bungalow. Once done this the guard then told us that no food was available and we would have to do a 140km round trip to get some. This soon resulted in getting my money back and instead of staying in this highly-anticipated Park, we forced ourselves away after 5pm to stay south of Phetchabun to reduce the drive to Khao Yai tomorrow.

Before all this though we walked along the stream again and a random blasting of the speaker of Blue Pitta initiated an instant response. It was so immediate and not that distant I was unsure what to do next. The Pitta remained hidden despite responding 90% of the time and finally resulted in us trying to enter the area to find it, which obviously resulted in no more calling, but with time becoming an issue we had to try something. Hopefully three whole days at Khao Yai will be enough to sort this long standing (4 years+) dip.

The drive to our overnight stay roughly 40km south of Phetchabun was very smooth and hassle free. An extremely long day all to be repeated tomorrow, though this will be the last long drive as the end is approaching.

Highlights for today are as follows:

Crested Goshawk - 1
Vernal Hanging Parrot - 2
Blossom-headed Parakeet - 2
Asian Barred Owlet - 1
Red-headed Trogon - 2
Great Barbet - 1
White-browed Piculet - 1
White-bellied Woodpecker - 2
Bay Woodpexker - 1
Black and Buff Woodpecker - 2
Long-tailed Broadbill (L) - 6
Common Green Magpie - 1
Rosy Minivet - 2
Large Woodshrike (L) - 4
White’s Thrush - 1
Siberian Blue Robin - 1
White-crowned Forktail - 4
Slaty-backed Forktail - 3
Sultan Tit - 2
Puff-throated Bulbul - 2
Dark-necked Tailorbird (L) - 2
Plain-tailed Warbler - 2
Yellow-bellied Warbler - 2
Eastern Crowned Warbler - 3
Collared Babbler - 10
Plain Flowerpecker - 1

Slaty-backed Forktail at Nam Nao NP
White-crowned Forktail at Nam Nao NP
Crested Goshawk at Nam Nao NP
Sultan Tit at Nam Nao NP
Great Barbet at Nam Nao NP
Nam Nao NP has supposedly the largest
number of Elephants, but this was still
all we could manage. Thankfully Khao Yai
saved us!!
Nam Nao NP