Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chumphon Raptor Watch, 22-27 October 2014

We had heard about the autumn Raptor Watch at Khao Dinsor, but had never planned a trip as the journey there seemed quite involved. Then in September when Jacky told us he was going in the later part of October to help with the count  we thought it was our opportunity to make the trip.
Khao Dinsor Entrance

After returning from Perth, we took off a week later to meet up with him in Chumphon.
On Wed 22nd we flew to Bangkok to connect Nok Air to Chumphon.  On our arrival in Chumphon it was already 8.30 pm and after checking into the Albatross Hotel at Thung Wua Laen and meeting up with Jacky, we quickly called Fame Tour who operated the shuttle bus from the airport for a rental car.  They offered us a van for 1000 Baht a day which we arranged to collect the next morning.  This
Kettle of Black Bazas
done, we settled down to a good night’s sleep as in the morning it was an early rise at 5am.  We were told most of the people staying at the Albatross go out around 5.45 am firstly to the Saphli market to get breakfast as well as buy packed lunch and water as there is no food available at Khao Dinsor.

Khao Dinsor is 6 km from Thung Wua Laen and the coordinates at the entrance road is 10° 38" 000' North and 99° 17' 193" East.   Vehicles can park at a lower car park that has toilet facilities or higher up at the Chumphon Raptor Research and Education Center which was only completed in late summer  of 2012.  Here there is limited parking space but most visitors would gather at the Center to watch the raptors flying over-head and coming up across the coast.
Japanese Sparrowhawk
This was where we spent our next 3 days meeting and making friends with other raptor watchers.  While exchanging stories of how we arrived, we found other visitors had taken various routes to this raptor watch.  Some drove from Bangkok while others had driven 18 hours from Kuala Lumpur.  Some flew to Surat Thani and took a 2 hour taxi ride.   Once in Chumphon the daily transport to Khao Dinsor would have been a challenge if one cannot hitch a ride, hence the need to rent the van.
Oriental Honey-buzzard

On the first morning after breakfast and getting food from the market we were at the Center at 7 am. While Jacky walked up the hill each morning to the platforms to help with the count, we stayed at the Center where some chairs were available.  At around 2pm we walked up the narrow trail that leads up to the viewing platforms. It took us almost an hour taking a short rest at the 1st platform before ascending to the 2nd platform where Jacky was based. The views from the top platform were almost unblocked and you could see some raptors from above.
Crested Serpent Eagle

On Friday, we stayed the whole day at the Center and saw many “kettles” of Black Baza thermal soaring  and accipiters flashing past.   There were quite a lot of local visitors, especially on Saturday and Sunday, when groups of school children came to participate in activities organized by the Thai Raptor groups. 
Grey-faced Buzzard

While we were at the hill every morning, we took some time on Saturday to drive to Nong Yai the King’s Project with a group we had met.

On Sunday we left Khao Dinsor at 10am to explore the villages around Saphli and drove to Chumphon town visiting some of the rice fields near the coast.
Black Baza

Our evenings were spent relaxing and enjoying the tasty local Thai cuisine at Thung Wua Laen Beach.

It was an interesting visit seeing the sheer numbers of raptors thermal soaring each morning, from the forest and the coast, ascending higher and higher. Flying on to their destination that is still a mystery.
This was our first trip, but many of the people we met have made up to 5 yearly visits.