Banded Pitta in southern Thailand

BlauschwanzpittaA lunch and a nap after an adventurous morning. In the afternoon Yotin is waiting for me with his heavy 4X4 pick-up truck from Ford and we drive back to the park. The entry ticket for 200 baht is still valid and I can go straight through. His co-worker, a real mine dog, has now found a surefire job. At least that’s what Yotin assures me. The is supposed tob e even closer to the way and I doubt whether that can be true. When we arrive after a short walk, the terrain looks very dense on both sides of the slope. Otherwise, the thorns of the palm trees do not allow many intruders in. We squeeze through a hole in the green wall. Me and Yotin quickly sit in the new hide and lo and behold – the pitta is coming. However, it is the Banded Pitta (Pitta guajana). A beautiful male is busy with the leaves in front of us. Yotin had impressed on me not to move and make noises. The Pitta is very attentive and shy. There is nothing to be noticed. I can shoot through almost 16 gigabytes of photo files and I expose down to 1/8 sec. Absolutely great. After at least an hour – I wasn’t looking closely – I leave the tented hide again. Yotin is already devoting himself to other birds. He briefly saw the Dark-necked Tailorbird (Orthotomus atrogularis) and heard the Thick-billed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum agile).

The reason to come to Khao Pra Bang Khram Park is the opportunity to discover the very rare Gurney’s Pitta (Pitta gurneyi). Otherwise this bird occurs only in a few lowland rainforests in Myanmar and Thailand. The early morning of this day was reserved to this rare Pitta species. As promised, Yotin, my guide, stands right in front of the open dining room of a small guesthouse, the Morakot Resort, at 6:30 am. With his pick-up, we will also be able to master difficult routes as well. Just before Yotin arrives, it starts raining heavily. In the distance, however, a bright band of sun is announcing itself. So it doesn’t have to be that bad. We are on our way soon. There is a dirt road right through rubber tree and palm oil plantations to an even smaller dirt road where a moped is already waiting. That belongs to his partner, who does the basic work for him, that is, sets up the hiding places, looks for the “right” birds and (pre-) observes the birds so that the client really doesn’t have to bother. Hats off. For a fee of 150 € I really get the most professional guiding of my life so far. Yotin is perfectly equipped. He has a walky-talky with his coworker. He records all the voices professionally with a Sony recorder. The specific birds calls can be played really well. He also knows a lot about the voices and the sometimes elusive birds. We walk along a narrow path and finally end up in front of a tented hide. A few wooden poles are put together and a gray cover hangs over them. Inside, plastic bags serve as seat cushions. A small stream flows through just below the hide. A lane in the dense undergrowth was cut about 3 meters to a knoll without clearing the canopy. This is where the really good birds should come along. The first thing I see is a pair of Puff-throated Babbler (Pellorneum ruficeps), which I initially misidentify. Yotin keeps leaving me to drive the birds to me. But apart from the calls of the Black-throated Babbler (Stachyris nigricollis) and a beautiful Orange-headed Thrush (Zoothera citrina), unfortunately, nothing can be seen. No trace of the Gurney’s Pitta anywhere. When we entered the forest we at least heard the very loud call of a Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra). In the hide itself, however, nothing happens – despite a certain noise level of the bird calls in the canopy of the trees. So after a good 2 hours I leave the hide a bit desillusionated. I couldn’t have endured sitting on the plastic bags either.

Then we drive to the fenced-off park itself, the Khao Pra Bang Khram Park (also known as KNC) in order to look for the other Pitta species as described in the first section of the blog. For most people, Gurney’s Pitta is the number one reason to visit KNC, and most people end up getting good sightings on one of the trails after getting familiar with the call of the Pitta. The Banded Pitta is often seen by bird watchers looking for Gurney’s pitta as well.

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