Friday, 19 December 2014

Phuket,Thailand and some local patch birding !

If you have followed my Cruise blog from the beginning you will appreciate that this was never meant to be a birders holiday but rather a compromise with more to interest my non birding wife Claire.
Our flight to Phuket was uneventful, our pre arranged transfer was ready and waiting and we were soon on our way to our hotel in Karon Beach. We had had no influence or choice on where we were staying as it had all been part of a package. Some research on Trip Advisor suggested it would be OK but as we drove the length of Phuket Island I did wonder what we would find. To my relief it wasn't too bad at all. A birding website of Thailand suggests that there isn't any decent birding in Phuket so I wasn't expecting too much, my impressions en route were that the place was very over developed, too much building, too many people but as we approached Karon there was evidence of a lot more greenery.
Our hotel, a Best Western, was your typical 3*. Perfectly adequate, clean and with decent facilities. A bit of a concrete sprawl and quite a walk from the top floor to the ground but that would have an advantage later on ! Behind the hotel was a largely undeveloped wooded hillside.
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To the front of the hotel we overlooked an in land lagoon which had a tarmac track around it, and off there another footpath that took you alongside a stream leading down to the beach about 400 yards away. This was to be my local patch.
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We had decided we had done enough travelling and from what we had seen of Phuket Island there wasn't anywhere we wanted to go. Karon Beach would do nicely. The town centre has a good variety of restaurants to choose, a few shops selling the usual tourist stuff and a beach. That would do nicely for now and easily fill our 4 day R&R break.
Our first morning I was up and out with my camera to see what was about and I was delighted that one of the first things I spotted was a Collared Kingfisher, very much a target species. I have seen them in India but never managed a decent photo. Today would be the same and sadly over the following days I didn't manage another sighting.
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I was soon to discover what was about on a daily basis though.
Common Myna were plentiful and I noticed someone was feeding them on a regular basis too.
2014-12-0Common Myna Thailand
Along with the Mynas, Tree Sparrow were plentiful too. These were taking advantage of a Hindu shrine and an offering to the Gods I presume.
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Quite the most magnificent bird table you could imagine !
On the lagoon Chinese Pond Heron were quite numerous.
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And they were joined by a pair of Pacific Reef Egrets, a first for me.
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They seemed very reluctant to come down from their perch whenever anyone was about and despite my efforts, they remained an unsatisfactory capture !
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Another species I never got close to was the Cormorant, there was a pair regularly fishing the lake between sunning themselves on top of the trees.
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In this shot you can also see my only sighting of a White Throated Kingfisher. I'm not 100% certain about the Cormorant, it was too fine to be Great Cormorant and looked very much like an Indian one.
Another bird that gave me the run around was a Common Kingfisher. I found a favoured perch and this shot is a huge crop.
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After getting much closer I spent some time waiting for it to return on a couple of occasions but with no luck. Instead an unidentified Dragonfly to keep me occupied !
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One bird I did get lucky with was this Shrike.
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I'm pretty certain it's a Brown Shrike
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but in the same vicinity I had this one too.
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In deep shade the lighting after some Photoshop treatment might give the wrong colouring but it's either a juvenile Brown or Burmese Shrike. I'm guessing the former. Grey backed Shrike has also been suggested but I have doubts.
A single Little Egret was another permanent resident, spending time in the lagoon, stream and beach.Quite the versatile hunter.
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Also skulking around was a single Common Sandpiper 
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and a Grey Wagtail
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Back in the hotel grounds I had a Yellow Vented Bulbul sitting on the (free!) Wifi receiver.
Light Vented Bulbul,Thailand
An Olive Backed Sunbird ( or is it Purple Rumped ?) was regularly dashing from potted plant to potted plant but I got lucky when it actually stayed still for quite a while on our neighbouring balcony.
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At the top of the hotel I was closer to the overhead Swiftlets, in this instance Black Nest Swiftlet.
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Another first for my life list.
We also had Chestnut Headed Bee-eater but I didn't manage anything worth sharing on that account.
Seen many times previously but never photographed, at a distance the Geckos didn't dash for cover.
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So that was something else for my image collection too as was my first ever Pacific Swallow.
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There was more than enough to keep this wannabe wildlife photographer happy, my only frustration being that I had left my 500mm lens at home for purely practical reasons.
Never mind, I had had a lot of fun, my daily morning and afternoon walk was a welcome change from a sunbed. The challenge always there.
I almost got lucky on my last walk when the elusive Kingfisher popped up a few yards away however, surrounded by albeit bare branches it was another frustrating encounter.
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There are worse ways of spending your winter days though.
Still, it was time to go home and we looked forward to it as always. It's a long journey home via Dubai and this time there was a sting in the tail too. After travelling overnight, with a 3 hour stop over in Dubai we were welcomed home to a huge queue at immigration with only two officers to take on 500 passengers ( a wait of 30 minutes there) followed by the awful realisation that I had a flat battery waiting for me in the car park. Still, the RAC were pretty efficient and had me on the road within 90 minutes of calling them out.
On a stunning winters afternoon we also got to see our plane leave on it's return journey to Dubai too.
What a monster !
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Hope you have enjoyed the read, gleaned a few facts and given an insight in to this kind of holiday.
I hope you fulfil your own travel dreams in the not too distant future.

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