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  • Blyth's Paradise-flycatcher

    Birding at Cat Tien National Park – Vietnam Birding

    Out of the car, across the river, into the forest and within moments a stunning Bar-bellied Pitta emerges from the vegetation of the tropical forest floor; this is how birding should be every time one visits a new location with one of the target species showing itself well for full appreciation within minutes of arrival.

    Sometimes there are places that are not far away that I always mean to visit but somehow never get around to; Cat Tien National Park in southern Vietnam is one of these. Spending much of my time in Bangkok, the flight to Ho Chi Minh City is a short one with the addition of only a four-hour drive to the national park itself but with the vast majority of species that occur there being the same as ones I frequently see in Thailand I have always put off visiting this famous birding location until another day. However, in June 2022 I found myself with the opportunity to spend a few days at Cat Tien to look for a few of its specialities and generally check out the birding.
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    Malabar Trogon

    Forest Birding at Kitulgala – Sri Lanka Birding

    If you want superb views across a forest-lined river, steamy mist forming over the forest, a fantastic morning chorus and lots of birds then Kitulgala is the perfect place. The location that was famously used for filming of the movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai” does not disappoint visually and with three nights here it did not disappoint ornithologically either. Staying at Kitulgala Resthouse my room had a superb view across the river to the forest and village groves where most birders head but even around the guesthouse grounds birds were abundant, particularly in the early morning. Over the course of my stay birds were abundant in the orchards and gardens around the village and forest patches, making seeing a good number of Sri Lanka’s key species fairly easy, although birding the forest itself was quite difficult and slow, typical of tropical forest birding in Asia. Some of the best birds I saw at Kitulgala included Malabar Trogon, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Layard’s Parakeet, Legge’s Hawk Eagle, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot and a wonderful encounter with a pair of Sri Lanka Spurfowl.

    Kitulgala will feature on all my birding tours to Sri Lanka. If you would like to join one check out the details here -?Sri Lanka Birding Tour.

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    Red-backed Flameback

    Back of an Airport Hotel Birds – Sri Lanka Birding

    I recently had the opportunity to visit Sri Lanka, a little over three hours from Bangkok by plane, and I booked a hotel close to the airport for my first night as I arrived at around 4pm and did not want to start travelling overland through the evening. Looking online there were lots of hotels in the area and with a quick look at Google maps I located King’s Gate Airport Transit Hotel which was a very short walk from a Buddhist temple on the edge of a fairly large greenspace which would give me the chance for an hour or so of birding before dark and a little time the next morning before getting some transport to my first proper birding site of Kitulgala. Sri Lanka is a very birdy country so it turned out that the spot I chose served up a good number of interesting species in the very short time that I spent there including several with ranges either restricted to only Sri Lanka or Southern India and Sri Lanka.

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    Black-naped Oriole

    Birding at Benjakitti Park | Thailand Birding

    Most people who have visited Thailand will not be familiar with Benjakitti Park in Bangkok. Lumphini Park is well-known and well-visited by birders and over recent years Rot Fai Park and the adjacent Queen Sirikit Park have become favourites with birdwatchers in Bangkok. However, Benjakitti Park may well become a regular in the Bangkok birding scene in years to come with the large extension that is in the process of being opened up to the public.

    Until recently Benjakitti Park offered a fairly limited plot of land to walk around on despite occupying a large area; most of the site being a sterile lake. It wasn’t always this way though, I remember ending up here in the late 1990s when the whole plot of land was an overgrown area of wetland with Asian Golden Weavers, Bronze-winged Jacanas and other wetland birds apparent even though I was not actually visiting for birding nor using binoculars. However, in more recent years it has been converted to a public access area with a good number of mature trees down one side. But now, there is a huge extension to the park with some ambitious habitat creation and an incredible network of elevated walkways. I was in the area so decided to check it out and got some nice photos of some common garden/parkland birds.

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    Oriental Scops Owl

    Birding Phuttamonthon Park | Thailand Birding

    When I first came to Thailand one of the first birds I saw was Oriental Scops Owl. I was walking around in a seldom-visited part of Khao Yai national park and a park ranger called me over and pointed out a pair of these tiny owls roosting, just a few feet off of the ground. Little did I know that this would be a bird I would see very few times over the next 25 years, just a couple of times in fact. So, having seen lots of photos of several Oriental Scops Owls roosting in bamboo at Phuttamonthon Park, in Nakhon Pathom province I decided to visit for myself and try to find them. Although I had some directions for where to look for them I knew there were lots of clumps of bamboo in the area and so it would not be easy to track them down, and so it proved, but of course I saw plenty of other interesting birds along the way. Read more »

    Barn Owls

    A Morning Birding at Pathum Thani Rice Research Centre

    The Central Plains of Thailand are full of rice fields, indeed Thailand is consistently the biggest exporter of rice in the world, but access to many of them can be difficult, requiring walking in hot weather. However, the rice research project in Pathum Thani, on the outskirts of Bangkok, is a perfect place to see and photograph birds of this habitat as it is criss-crossed by a series of tracks that allow birdwatchers to access the whole site. Pathum Thani rice research centre always makes for a nice variety of farmland and wetlands birds and it provides a perfect location to introduce birders to Thailand’s species which is what I found myself doing yesterday morning.

    As this location is devoted to rice research, the plots are fairly small and there is almost always a rotation of crops from freshly ploughed and flooded plots through to rice crops ready to be harvested, which means that there is usually a wide variety of birds to be found here. This proved to be the case on this visit and I was able to get a nice set of photographs which I have published here, particularly of a family of Barn Owls. Read more »

    Ring-necked Parakeet

    Ring-necked Parakeets Sunflower Feast | British Birding

    One day in October 2021 I made a visit to a local woodland, Farningham Woods, but was distracted before I got there by large numbers of Ring-necked Parakeets feeding on sunflower heads along the entrance road to the woods. The sunflowers were grown as a wildlife boundary crop in a strip a few metres wide but stretching for about half a mile alongside the country lane leading to the woods. Seemingly every sunflower head had its own Ring-necked Parakeet in attendance, plucking the seeds out to enjoy a feast.

    When I was birding as a youngster Ring-necked Parakeets were seldom seen in the area I grew up in near Dartford, Kent. Instead if I wanted to see them I had to make a short journey into the London borough of Bexley where there were colonies that never seemed to spread. However, in the late 1990s they started to spread into our area of Kent and now they are a common sight but I have never seen them in the numbers that were buzzing around these sunflowers, swooping in from nearby trees in squadrons of 20-30 birds with a flock of about 500+ birds in total.

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