Thailand Travel Diary NOTE:   Images for this diary were prepared using screen settings of 1024 x 768, and are best viewed with those settings.  As usual, the name of the bird in the photo can be seen by placing the cursor over the photo.

28 March 2007Long-tail boats at Ao Nang
When you visit countries around the world to photograph birds, it follows perforce that some country will have bird life that is the most scarce and most difficult to photograph.  For me that country is Thailand.  We've come to Ao Nang beach near Phuket for Charlotte's scuba diving; Ao Nang is definitely not a birding hotspot.  Few birds can be enticed into the viewfinder.
    What southern Thailand lacks in bird life it makes up for with breathtaking heat and humidity.  And what's with these hard beds?  They're like Western beds except that instead of a mattress one sleeps on a stiff pad above wooden planks:  every bit as comfortable as it sounds.  I am getting crotchety in my old age...

 

 

 

Brown-winged Kingfisher

 

 

30 March 2007
A trip to the mangroves at Phang Nga turns up a nice Brown-winged Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, a Mangrove Pitta in flight, and not much else.
   Part of the problem is that I'm out looking for birds in late morning and afternoon.  A dawn stroll along a side road near our hotel yields Common Kingfisher, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Chinese Pond Heron, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Bronzed Drongo, and the ubiquitous Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gurney's Pitta3 April 2007
I'm at the delightful Morakot Resort now, an hour southeast of Ao Nang near Khao Nor Chuchi Reserve.  The people as usual are very friendly, and the Thai food is excellent.  At 4 a.m. the legendary Mr. Yothin meets me in his pickup.  We drive through oil palm plantations and deep forest, eventually walking trails to a portable blind that he has set up.  Below us is a dry ravine.  Watch that area, he instructs.  After about 30 minutes, as dawn is breaking, out steps a beautiful bird, one of the rarest in the world:  Gurney's Pitta.  Pittas are found from Africa to Australia, but their stronghold is tropical Asia.  In contrast to most ground-dwelling birds, almost all pittas are remarkably colorful, and Gurney's is no exception.
  The forest here is as dense as any I've ever seen; conditions for photography are taxing.  I must use ISO 800, and even then my shutter speed with fill flash is a very slow 1/20th of a second. 
   The population of Gurney's Pitta at Khao Nor Chuchi is only about 30 birds; at one time it was thought to be the only place in the world to harbor Gurney's.  Another population has since been found in Myanmar, but the future survival of this bird is very much in doubt.  Will our grandchildren be able to see Gurney's Pitta in the wild?
 


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