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Old Monday 12th March 2018, 11:19   #51
Lerxst
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Happy Monday from Bangkok.

Week # 11 featured a weekend trip up to the Chiang Mai province of Thailand, which is a lovely place with outstanding birding. Here there are mountains and cooler temperatures and lots of wintering birds.

Photos are here: https://legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy-2/

Working Days: 5

New species identified: 45

Total to date: 583

23.3 % of goal, 21.1 % of year used

Sites visited: Doi Ang Khang & Doi Lang. These are great areas to find a number of birds that are not widely distributed in Thailand - we picked up quite a few that are not found (or at least are not common) in Doi Inthanon, which is the national park closest to the city and which gets considerable birding attention. Himalayan Cutia, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Hume's Pheasant, Giant Nuthatch, Hodgson's Frogmouth, Vivid Niltava, Spectacled Barwing, and Crested Finchbill are a few of the standouts.

I suppose I should be ranking all these sites in terms of their overall quality of birds and birding experience offered. This one would have to be in the top three so far this year.

Next weekend, another Friday night - Sunday night pair of flights, this time to Manila and Subic Bay, Philippines.

Thanks for reading!
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Old Monday 12th March 2018, 12:34   #52
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Good stuff. My first full day's birding in South-east Asia was at Doi Lang; 48 lifers that day! Like a kid at Christmas I was, a fabulous day in a fabulous place. Glad to see you're still going strong, hopefully Philippines will give you a nice boost.
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Old Monday 19th March 2018, 12:00   #53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JWN Andrewes View Post
Good stuff. My first full day's birding in South-east Asia was at Doi Lang; 48 lifers that day! Like a kid at Christmas I was, a fabulous day in a fabulous place. Glad to see you're still going strong, hopefully Philippines will give you a nice boost.
The Philippines provided some great additions; though we seem to have chosen a less than optimal spot.

And here is the update, then:

Week 12

Working Days: 5

New species identified: 38

Total to date: 621

24.8 % of goal, 23.1 % of year used

Sites visited: Subic Bay & Manila, Philippines

Very brief post here: https://legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy-2/

As we only had about 1.5 days to bird due to flight schedules, we visited only a tiny fraction of what this country has to offer. Our guide suggested Subic Bay as an ideal weekend location from Manila, so that is where we set up shop. Saturday morning was quite good and we rapidly ticked many lifers without even moving. A pair of Plain Bush-hens even came out on the road for us, between looks at Green Racquet-tails and Guaiaberos. Then it got very hot and that was it. We did not see much until evening when we picked up Great Eared-Nightjar and Chocolate and Luzon Boobooks.

Sunday morning was quite slow. Our guide wanted to wait out the eventual arrival of interesting species at what he said was a productive spot... we waited, and nothing came. A rather expensive and frustrating waste of time.

Perhaps in November we will head back and try a different area; the difficulty of weekend trips is becoming more and more apparent... while the Philippines is a prime example of a nearby, species-rich area with many birds we need, the time needed to access the most productive areas is prohibitive. This leaves us with the environs of large cities, which can often be quite good, but just as often, not.

This coming weekend we head up to Yunnan, China.
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Old Monday 26th March 2018, 07:43   #54
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Update time...

Week 13: March 20 – March 26, Yunnan, China

Working Days: 5

New species identified: 13

Total to date: 634

25.4 % of goal, 25.0 % of year used

https://legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy-2/

Our first trip to China was to the city of Kunming, in the Yunnan province in the south. This is only about two hours from Bangkok. As it sits in the mountains, the climate of the city is said to be always spring-like, and indeed it extremely pleasant there.

On Saturday morning we arrived at dawn at Mt. Xishan, to the west of the city. This is a lovely spot with a long road that gently climbs up through the forest. There are some trails, too, and at least one restroom along the way; at the entrance there are a variety of food options. Per the eBird hotspot map it is the best area in the city, and I can imagine that a weekday visit here could be very productive indeed.

Key word: Weekday.

But on a weekend? Don't bother. Or at least, arrive very early and don't walk too far up the road.. after about 8:30 AM, it is almost impossible to bird here. Both sides of the road were filled with droves of people moving along as if on conveyor belts, as everyone is forced to hug the roadsides in dense lines because the center is occupied by an endless current of tour buses and other vehicles. Fast-moving, horn-blaring vehicles. Not a scenario amenable to scanning the trees, repositioning your person to get a better angle, or listening for calls.

But wait, there's more. Some of the other visitors had the curious habit of bringing their music along for their nature walk, kindly sharing it with everyone by eschewing earbuds and opting instead for a nice, low-fidelity, bluetooth speaker. Because nothing adds to the experience of a morning walk through the forest like loud, distorted, mono recordings of your favorite music to mask out those objectionable natural sounds. (I will never, ever understand this.)

Adding to this atmosphere, our local 'guide' did very little to help us find birds. Every other time I looked over at him, he was looking at his smartphone. And not in order to pull up recordings or do anything related to birding. I guess he was checking his email or the news. Of the birds we did see, my wife found most of them, because the 'guide' usually walked right past them. When he did stop and scan, it was almost always at a spot where there were no birds. I have never seen a more disengaged and oblivious birder, much less 'guide'.

To his credit, he did figure out that a different, less busy spot might be preferable for the afternoon. So we birded some roadsides in the foothills and picked up a few more species, but eventually this too became an exercise in vehicle avoidance first and birding second. Then at about 5:00 PM, several hours before sunset, he announced that we were done birding for the day. Given that he seemed to have no clue about where else to go, we didn't bother arguing with him about this. There seemed to be a language barrier problem here as
well. Just another part of the international birding adventure!

On Sunday we spent the morning at the Kunming Botanic Gardens, which was far less noisy and free of the roaring buses. It is a nice park and the birding was fine. Happily our 'guide' did manage to find us a Scaly Thrush, which was a splendid bird. All the more impressive given that he spent even more time reading his emails that morning than on the previous day, when he was too distracted by all the traffic and crowds, I suppose.

So I'm going to have a conversation with the company that set us up with this individual. Meanwhile, if you plan to go birding in Kunming and are looking for a guide, I can tell you who NOT to contact.

Also the Field Guide to the Birds of China by John MacKinnon and Karen Phillipps is simply not a good book; it gets at least one species, Spectacled Fulvetta, completely wrong. Imperfect bird books are a fact of life, but this one is particularly obnoxious in that it cost upwards of $50.

We are only a couple weeks away from our only extended trip (10 days) of this effort: to Ethiopia and South Africa; that will push the species count back up nicely. And get us away from the crowds. Yay.
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Old Monday 26th March 2018, 18:23   #55
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Good luck - those percentage figures have got worryingly close!
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Old Thursday 29th March 2018, 12:59   #56
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Sorry to hear about your poor experience at Xishan, and what sounds like a truly awful guide - I'd be demanding a refund!

Please be assured there is some great birding in China - even close to cities at weekends - and there are also some very good guides. Some cities in Yunnan you might try hopping to from Kunming include Ruili, Tenchong, Baoshan, Dali and Lijiang - there may even be direct flights.

Cheers
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Old Thursday 29th March 2018, 13:17   #57
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Hi Michael,

an interesting update.

I presume you have sought opinion/advice on the pages of this forum: - https://www.birdforum.net/forumdisplay.php?f=258

Good Luck in South Africa, it's a fabulous country
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Old Friday 30th March 2018, 02:11   #58
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Thanks for the suggestions, MKinHK an Mike C.

We are headed back to Yunnan tonight. This time we are going to go to Mt. Zixishan, about 3 hours west of Kunming, with a different guide. Should be better, but I think we will fall well short of the weekly goal, and the relative % is going to go from the black to the red for the first time.

Well at least there will be more drama in this pursuit, when we have to come back from behind... could be pretty boring otherwise.

Some of the places that I am now making plans for during the second half of the year include Bali, Sulawesi, Cairns, southern India, northern Vietnam, and UAE.
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Old Sunday 1st April 2018, 13:30   #59
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It is Sunday night in Bangkok, and time for an update for Week 14.

We just did another weekend jaunt up to Yunnan, China. Specifically we visited Zixishan, which is a mountain area about three hours west of Kunming. Or I should say three hours from the airport which is east of the city. One of those three hours is spent mostly crossing the city itself.

Working Days: 5

New species identified: 21

Total to date: 655

26.2 % of goal, 26.9 % of year used

Well this weekend certainly went better than the previous one. We arrived around 11:30PM Friday night and immediately started the long drive out to Mt. Zixi. After a couple hours sleep we were birding at sunrise on Saturday. Sunday (today) we were limited to three hours in the morning before needing to head back to the airport.

This is a much nicer environment than what were had visited on the outskirts of Kunming; you can pull off on the roads and walk them and bird without interruption for the most part. There are visitors but not hordes; most people seemed to be visiting the temple (which was good birding in the early morning). As far as I can tell there is one hotel here and one or two restaurants.

The area is predominately pine forests that are teeming with passerines, especially leaf warblers. Those we could identify included Tickell's and Pallas's Leaf Warblers, Arctic Warbler, and the very easy and striking Black-faced Warbler. Also enjoyed Yunnan Nuthatch, Red-tailed Minla, Godlewski's Bunting, Black-browed Tit, and two Scimitar-Babblers: Streak-breasted and Black-streaked (ugh, what names). A few Hume's Pheasants were on the road this morning.

All told, in our two weekend visits to Yunnan, which amounted to about three full days to bird, we netted 75 total species, with 34 of these new for the year. In May we will head further north to Sichuan for a pair of visits; will be interesting to compare and contrast with Yunnan.

So I as expected, the percentages (species goal and weeks of year used) have crisscrossed and we are now playing from behind. This setback will be temporary, as we are headed to Ethiopia late Thursday night, to start a ten day Africa trip. I don't expect to have a report on that until about April 17, which is when we get back to Bangkok.

Thanks for reading, and the continued interest in this massive disruption to my bank account!
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Old Tuesday 17th April 2018, 17:26   #60
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Hello all:

We arrived back in Bangkok today after a ten-day excursion that included Ethiopia and South Africa. As always, pictures and other details can be found here:

https://legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy-2/

This completes Weeks 15 & 16, with the following status:

Working Days: 3

New species identified: 185 (Ethiopia) + 84 (South Africa) = 269

Total to date: 923

36.9 % of goal, 30.7 % of year used

Happily the statistics for this effort are back in the positive column; I'm trying to build up some cushion for what promises to be a tough month in June.

The Ethiopia number is more than double the other partly because we birded there first. But in terms of total species seen, we had 199 in Ethiopia and 135 in South Africa. Our guide in Ethiopia was very good and we had a strong birding focus. In South Africa, we were in and around Kruger National Park, using guides that were a bit more general (we seem to have been the first serious birders that they have worked with). So, much of the time in Kruger was spent appreciating the other wildlife and the stunning scenery. It is absolutely gorgeous and we wish we could spend a month there, in order to take it all in.

Also I did not understand just what a long drive it is from JNB airport up to Kruger - it runs up to about six hours. That chewed up a lot of time. Next time, a flight to a regional airport would be in order.

There were areas around Kruger that were strangely lacking in bird activity, though, and it really surprised us. It had been raining a lot recently to the point where the area is quite green; our guides said it was very unusual for April. Two of our days there were rainy and surprisingly cold and windy too. We did poorly for small passerines such as waxbills and the like. (The Red-billed Quelea were certainly not hard to find, though. What a sound they make when several hundred in a tight flock speed seemingly right over your head!) We were looking forward to seeing the Violet-eared Waxbill. No such luck. Not big cats either, though we did see African Wild Dogs. In any case, it was all a good reminder of why we really go birding; not for numbers, but for the resonant experience that only the natural world can supply.

This coming weekend, a quick trip to southern Vietnam.
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Old Yesterday, 03:37   #61
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Week 17 update:

Working Days: 5

New species identified: 20

Total to date: 943

37.7 % of goal, 32.7 % of year used

Sites visited: Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Another weekend with a lower count than I had hoped. This national park is well-suited for a more relaxed birding weekend; several blinds lie a short distance from accommodations. It was fairly birdy except for midday, when the sun was far too oppressive.

Some nice new birds such as Brown-backed Needletail (damn, those are fast), Tickell's Blue Flycatcher, Bar-bellied Pitta, and the dreaded Lesser Coucal.

legallyblindbirding.net/2018-gbwy-3/

Next week: our first trip to Australia
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