Updated: Jan 19
My third special was a bit of a last minute decision. I had been umming and ahhing whether to head south to Ao Phang Nga for a few more specials. So, it was the last week of school holidays and the prospect of going back to work in a week helped to make it a goer....
My first stop off was Hat Wanakorn where Blue-Throated Bee-Eaters had been showing well. Almost immediately as I arrived there were 4-5 swooping and darting overhead picking off their breakfast. I set up my pop-up hide and placed a few branches around makeshift perches. I only had about an hour or so as I still had an 8-9 hour drive ahead of me. I waited and watched the birds excavating their burrowed out nests, but sadly none came to perch
After a long, but enjoyable drive, I arrived at Ao Phang Nga National Park. I thought I would start with a quick look around down by the pier. Stupidly, I left the camera on the tripod at the beginning of the pier and took about ten steps forward.. I looked to my left and there it was, 2-3 metres away!!! My main target, the Brown-Winged Kingfisher. It saw me and turned, facing me full on... I froze, taking in the glory of another awesome bird for about a minute and then slowly edged back along the pier, got the camera and crept back, but alas, he had decided he didn't want to hang around for a photo shoot... Damnnn, I could have kicked myself. I searched around the park for about another hour or so, a few kingfishers were calling from afar but not responding or showing. The light was fading and the rain was getting heavier so I grabbed one shot of a Pacific Swallow and headed out of the park to my resort for the night.
After a spot of food and a couple of beers, it was time to call it a day.
Up at 5 am and ready to go, Brown-Winged Kingfisher and Mangrove Pitta firmly etched in my mind. Now for the real stuff, .....Click, Click, Ding Dong, Ding Dong,, all sorts of flashing, warning lights from airbag, to brake failure were appearing in from of my eyes.... Damnnn, Not Now!!! This looked like a serious fault in the electrical system. I had to wait until after 8 am for the resort owner to appear. We tried a jump start from his car to no avail, so he called a friend that seemed to be clueless. I got a better set of jump leads, tried again and got started. I was really pissed by now and had to head into Phang Nga town to get a new battery. The first quickfit type of place fitted a new battery. Luckily, I just stopped the re@#%ds before they shut the bonnet.... The new battery was over 3 inches taller than the original... That would have clearly hit the bonnet and probably shorted everything out.... So, really pissed off now, I had to find another battery place. Finally, got it all sorted, but now it was about 11 am and 40 km from the park. Just as I got back the rain started to fall.... Shit !! anything else?? I decided that I had had enough and was going to drive back home. Then the rain stopped, the sun came out, and kingfishers and pittas were calling all around. The next couple of hours got me on to Mangrove Pittas, Ashy Tailorbird, Asian Glossy Starling, Grey-Capped Pygmy-Woodpecker, Streak-Breasted Woodpecker, Rufous-bellied Swallows and a Ruddy Kingfisher, but sadly I just couldn't get that Brown-Winged to play ball
The rain was getting heavier and heavier by now and although the kingfishers were still very vocal and close by, they were just not insight. I made a recording of the calling bird and tried a little playback, still nothing moved. Soaked from head to toe, I rashly decided to call it a day and head home. After such a long drive, I really should have stayed another night and given the kingfishers another go the next day, but it was what it was and at least I had had the pleasure of seeing. The drive home was staggered with an overnight stop in Prajuap Kiri Kan, with a bit of field birding in the morning. The last and best bird of the morning was a glorious little Grey-Breasted Prinia
Overall, I was happy with my, all but too short trip, but with the budget blown on the car and the crappy weather, I had still managed to rack up 6 more lifers. Ao Phang Nga is a fantastic place with great birding and awesome scenery, I will definitely be returning in the future.