Thailand - The ‘Spoon-billed Pitta’ Tours
AT A GLANCE
Birding Tour: birds and photography
Bangkok (Thailand) - optional extensions to Khao Yai and south to the Krabi area
Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann’s Greenshank, White-faced and Malaysian Plovers, Asian Dowitcher, and many other shorebird species, a fair percentage of the world’s wading birds plus gulls and terns. Banded, Mangrove, and a good chance of other pittas together with many other forest birds including owls and frogmouths. Mammals.
Very warm to hot.
Comfortable hotels and lodges, all rooms with private facilities.
Most birders will have done a double-take when they saw their first plate or photograph of a Spoon-billed Sandpiper. This enigmatic little shorebird is one of most highly desired species for many people because of its unique spatulate shaped bill. That it breeds in the far east of Siberia only adds to its mystique (see the In search of Spoon-billed Sandpipers voyage for probably the last chance to see them on their breeding grounds). It has been long known to winter in various locations in SE Asia but always in low numbers, thinly spread and with no easily accessible hotspots.
The best chance for many years was to see one on spring migration in Hong Kong, but even there, sightings were very hit and miss and have become more so in recent times. Then about 10 years ago small numbers were discovered wintering within a few hours drive of Bangkok, in a vast area of coastal salt workings. Birdlife International are now surveying these birds, and in 2007 up to 14 birds were then present in the area. Sadly, there are now thought to be less than 200-300 pairs left in the world, and numbers are still declining. In February 2007, WildWings conducted a recce crewed by Mark Andrews, John Brodie-Good and Angus Wilson. We enjoyed prolonged close views of up to seven different Spoon-billed Sands in superb light over two days, although not at the main ‘published’ site in the area. The birds offered excellent photographic opportunities, but note D-SLR users should plan on using a tripod. The first proper tour in 2008 enjoyed daily multiple close views of up to eight individuals, along with a large supporting cast of other Asian waders totalling 43 species, which is approximately 25% of the world’s total! All our trips have scored since, plus we also see the ‘new’ wader species, White-faced or Swinhoe’s Plover. We also expect to see the declining Nordmann’s Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher and the regionally endemic Malaysian Plover, Great Knots and Far-eastern Curlew. Other waders seen include Marsh, Terek and Broad-billed Sandpipers, Red-necked, Long-toed and Temminck’s Stints, Pacific Golden Plover and both Greater and Lesser Sandplovers plus Painted, Pintail and occasionally Swinhoe’s Snipes to name afew!
The supporting cast included Pallas’s, Brown-headed and Heuglin’s Gulls, terns, assorted birds of prey, cormorants, herons and egrets including wintering rarities such as Chinese Egrets most years, (Black-faced Spoonbill is also possible), Ruddy-breasted Crake, Slaty- breasted Rail, Indian Nightjar, Collared Scops Owl plus bee-eaters, kingfishers and a nice variety ofpasserines.
After your time on the coast, we will spend the last two nights near the fabulous forest reserve of Kaeng Krachen and the last two days birding inside the park. This will add a nice selection of species that are unlikely to be seen in the south and should include the magnificent Great, Oriental Pied, Wreathed and Rusty-cheeked Hornbills, Long-tailed and Silver-breasted Broadbills perhaps with a chance of Pitta’s, with both Blue and Eared possible but difficult. The Park itself has an impressive mammal list including Tiger
though it is extremely unlikely that we should ‘bump’ into one. We should however see the gorgeous Dusky and Banded Langurs, White-handed Gibbon and the impressive Black Giant Squirrel and a fair chance of Asian Elephant. Kaeng Krachan is also one of the best places in Southeast Asia to see Leopard with fairly frequent sightings, it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time!
Our small group tour will travel in an air-conditioned minibus and explore the network of salt pools and marshy areas along this pancake flat coastline. Expect temperatures of about 90 degrees F and baking sun, but we will retire to local cafes during the worst heat of the day. One morning/evening we will enjoy a leisurely cruise through some mangroves out to Laem Pak Bia sandspit, an excellent site for gulls and waders with kingfishers. We will stay in a new hotel, all rooms with private facilities and air- conditioning and will use our visit to enjoy the superb cuisine Thailand is famous for. For the last two nights we will stay just outside Kaeng Krachen National Park.
Join Mark for one of these unique short birding trips for two and more of Thailand’s best birds, he will go out ahead of the groups, to recce the area again, fresh before your arrival. This short, but intensive birding trip serves as an excellent introduction to south- east Asia’s birds, with approx. 250 species to be expected on the main tour, and an additional 60 or so in the south. 15 or so species of mammal may also be seen.
We also now offer a pre-tour extension to Khao Yai National Park, for Blue and Eared Pittas, Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, more hornbills and mammals to name a few. This would depart the UK on 21st January and is for a maximum of three participants only! Mark will drive a 4x4 and you will stay inside the park itself, with full access at all times, night as well as day, offering a rare opportunity to intimately explore this fantastic site!
Our optional post-tour to the South has now been changed after our original Thai guide’s sad sudden death in summer 2018 (Yotin Meehaw – RIP). We will now fly south to Krabi and after overnighting will spend a day birding Ao Phang National Park followed by two and a half days birding Sri Phang Nga NP. Specialties we shall seek include Banded Pitta, Chestnut-naped Forktail, Gould’s & Blyth’s Frogmouth, Helmeted & Bushy-crested Hornbill, Green Broadbill, and hopefully owls.
Selected target species:
Khao Yai - Blue Pitta, Eared Pitta, Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, Silver Pheasant, Siamese Fireback, Austen’s Brown Hornbill, Banded, Silver-breasted and Long-tailed Broadbills. Elephant, White-handed and Pileated Gibbon, Malaysian Porcupine. Night drives.
Pak Thale/Laem Pak Bia - Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann’s Greenshank, White- faced and Malaysian Plovers, Asian Dowitcher, and many other shorebird species, a fair percentage of the world’s wading birds plus gulls and terns.
Kaeng Krachan - Blue Pitta, Black & Red, Black & Yellow, Banded, Silver-breasted and Long-tailed Broadbills, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Kalij and Grey Peacock Pheasant, Black- thighed Falconet, Hornbills, Barbets, the list is endless. Elephant, Dusky and Banded Langur, White-handed Gibbon.
Krabi/Ao Phang Na- Mangrove specialities including Mangrove Pitta, Brown-winged and Ruddy Kingfisher.
Sri Phang Na - Banded Pitta, Chestnut-naped Forktail, Gould’s & Blyth’s Frogmouth, Helmeted & Bushy-crested Hornbill, Green Broadbill, Owls.
Optional Khao Yai pre-tour
Day 1: Depart UK for Bangkok at approx. 1100 (25th January).
Day 2: Arrive Bangkok early morning, drive to the coast and birding for the rest of the day.
Day 3: A full day’s birding in the saltpans area including one boat trip to the sandspit.
Day 4: We will spend whatever time we need to mop up in the saltpans before moving towards KK. Rest of the day at KK. Overnights outside the park.
Days 5 & 6: A very early morning drive to arrive in Kaeng Krachen for park opening. A full days forest birding with a picnic lunch.
Day 7: Morning and early afternoon birding at Kaeng Krachen. Afternoon drive back to Bangkok airport for flights home or south to Krabi.
Day 8: Arrive back UK approx. 0600 (1st February)
Optional Southern Extension
Day 7: Evening flight down to Krabi. Overnight. (31st January)
Day 8: Birding Ao Phang National Park. Overnight Phang Nga Bay.
Days 9 & 10: Birding Sri Phang Nga National Park, Overnights Kuraburi.
Day 11: Morning – final birding Sri Phang Nga NP, return to Krabi in the afternoon for flights home via Bangkok.
Day 12: Arrive back Heathrow approx. 0600.(5th February)
Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.
25th January – 1st February (25th January – 5th February with Krabi extension)
Leader: Mark Andrews assisted by Pipith Kaewta.
£2185 per person sharing a twin room
£159 single supplement - Main Tour, N/A Pre-tour (included), £65 Post-tour.
£850 per person deposit
Group size: Maximum 6 plus the leader and local guides.
Khao Yai (pre-tour) Extension £575pp (Depart 21st January, note 3 participants max!)
Krabi (post-tour) Extension £629pp twin share (based on 6 participants, £729pp if 4-5 only).
Price includes: Return economy class non-stop flights London to Bangkok including pre-paid taxes, ground transport by a/c minibus, boat trip, accommodation in a/c rooms with private facilities with breakfast and lunches, water and soft drinks in the field, bird checklist and services of leader/s. Pre-tour Extension – ground transportation by 4x4, accommodation within the National Park (bathrooms may be shared), guiding services including night birding, meals and soft drinks, overnight hotel at Bangkok Airport, a/c rooms with private facilities. Post-Tour Extension – return air travel from Bangkok to Krabi, ground transportation, accommodation with private facilities and a/c, guiding services including night birding, park admissions, water, coffee, fruit in the field and most meals. The exact extension price may vary with party size (see above).
Price excludes: Insurance, dinners for the main tour, other drinks, tips to local drivers and guides and other items of a personal nature. Extensions - alcoholic drinks.
Currently no visas or compulsory vaccinations are required for UK passport holders.
The 2008 to 2019 species lists are on our website or available from us on request.
25th January – 1st February 2020 (25th January – 5th February with Krabi extension)