Monday, 14 February 2011

Homeward bound

This magnificent White-bellied Sea Eagle gave fantastic views over the boat as we drifted into the mangroves ...
... performing several circuits before undertaking a final fly-past back towards its favoured lookout perch.
Time for one last morning in the field before our late afternoon flight from Krabi to Bangkok, and then the final non-stop flight back home to London. We headed out by boat into the mangroves with one main target in mind, Mangrove Pitta - potentially our fifth pitta species of the trip - and several ancillary hopes.

Not to be outdone, a Brahminy Kite gets in on the raptor action.
Good news and bad on the pitta front. A calling bird finally showed well to two of us, including me, but flew into dense cover before the others could get onto it. After much peering into a thick tangle of mangroves with no further success, we cut our losses and departed to bird elsewhere, seeing Black-and-red Broadbill, Dollarbird, Common Flameback, Brown-winged Kingfisher, Black-hooded Oriole, Chinese Egret, Great Knot, several raptors including the tiny but impressive Black-thighed Falconet, and numerous other species along the way.

The mangroves at Krabi provide excellent close-up birding from the boat, but Mangrove Pitta is not guaranteed.
Among the other species seen was the only Black-hooded Oriole of the trip.
In the afternoon, there was time for one last quick stop on the way to the airport - and bingo! Yotin did a great job of calling in a more obliging Mangrove Pitta at Ao Phang Nga National Park, and after sufficient views of this to satisfy everyone, plus Ashy Tailorbird, several Pacific Swallows and an overflying Oriental Honey-buzzard, we were off to the airport. Finally, the birding had to come to an end.

A good day for swifts and hirundines included excellent looks at Pacific Swallow.

The verdict? Overall, a fantastic trip. My own prime targets had been the two headline birds, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Gurney's Pitta, and I could not have asked for more. We spent just the right amount of time with each, ample enough for careful observation and prolonged photography, and those memories will last a very long time. Banded Pitta was up there with them, but there were so many other highlights too, and the combined skills of Mark Andrews and Yotin Meekaeo added hugely to the experience.

WildWings has run the tour enough times to be able to squeeze the best out of the itinerary, and with a combined group total which must have been some way over 250 species, it certainly exceeded expectations. I look forward to returning some day, maybe next time to the north.

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