Monday, June 4, 2012
Gurney's Pitta Update - Hurry if you want to see one.
I have just returned from birding for 13 days in southern Thailand, with some hard birding, due to it seems climate change according to the guides, rain cycles totally out of sync for last year and this year affecting many rainforest birds. 250 bird species were seen, including 6 pitta species, so I’m happy.
The info about Gurney’s Pitta at Khao Nor Chi Chi is pretty bad, so if you want to see one you better hurry (maybe ~ 6 pittas left?). Climate change and disturbance in the park are affecting the pitta in a bad way, photographers are the main culprits with numerous photographers and videographers setting up hides and playing Gurney’s Pitta calls all day long. It seems they only care about getting the perfect photo, not the bird’s welfare! Most (not all) of the recent photos and Youtube videos have been obtained this way. We saw one of these guys in a hide at another park trying to get Blue Pitta photos, playing the call for hours!
We spent two days looking for the pittas with local bird guide Yotin, finally got great views of a male and female Gurney’s for about 2 minutes, male and female in the same view. Yotin is the pitta expert, but even he had trouble finding any Gurney’s in the last 6 months, a number of international birding companies missed out on seeing them! I would recommend hiring Yotin, as he has assistants out with radios to find the pittas, otherwise you could spend a whole week walking the overgrown and poorly signposted trails and not see one. This was a common statement in the bird log book at the Morakot Resort!
The situation with the 2 Gurney’s Pittas we saw is not very good, as it seems the male has paired with his daughter! The ‘official pitta rescue project’ also hasn’t helped, by ‘illegally’ taking wild Gurney’s for breeding, which resulted in the pittas not breeding but dying, a lot of it due to lack of experience of the ‘researchers’. Maybe they should have tried breeding some more common pitta species first! The Gurney’s Pitta will probably disappear from Thailand shortly and the population found in Burma are in hard to get to locations, so it’s best to hurry if you want to see one.
As for the birding situation in the far south near the Malaysian border, DON’T GO. Extremists are killing people on a daily basis, with guys riding motorbikes along forest tracks with machine guns and killing whoever they find! Beware, there is at least one southern Thailand birding company that doesn’t even mention the trouble down there, some just say that no tourist has been hurt! Possibly because no tourist go there and the rebels haven’t been able to find one to gun down or keep as a hostage?
This is not my video, but I think it may be the last views of an another truly beautiful bird that humanity will send into extinction. The lack of sound in the video is appropriate as the forest will no longer echo with the pitta's calls.