The lack of tourists resulting from Covid is bad for the local economy but frankly a relief for us as there are fewer people about. Our villas is surrounded by 10 or 12 other villas but as far as we can tell ours is the only one occupied. I keep thinking a Russian Stag party is going to move in next door but so far we have been spared. I’m not sure whether it’s because of the fewer number of people or whether it’s always like this but an unexpected bonus to Phuket for me is the local wildlife and particularly the birds.
As Myanmar borders Thailand there are a lot of crossovers with the birds but as we are a lot more south than Yangon a lot of the birds are new. The birds of prey have been particularly numerous since we’ve been here and I’ve managed to get some great shots with my trusty Olympus. A side note on that is that I am doing a photography after school activity (ASA) for a few middle school kids. I always tell people to watch YouTube videos on how their particular camera works but rarely take my own advice. As I’m doing this ASA I actually took my own advice and have learnt loads about my camera and how to take better photos of birds in flight! Thanks kids! I changed my camera to the Olympus mainly because of the weight difference between that and my old camera. As my last camera was so heavy I would rarely take it while going for casual walks. My Olympus is manageable enough to take most everywhere and I was wonderfully reminded of this when we went for a walk the other day. Firstly, we walked down past the lake and Lindsey said, ‘oh, is that a duck on the water?’ Then, ‘wait, a minute, that’s not a duck, maybe a turtle?’ Then, ‘no, it’s actually a snake!’ The water level was quite low, so the snake seemed to be having trouble getting out of the lake. This afforded plenty of opportunity to watch it and take photos. Turns out it was a Reticulated Python about 5 or 6 feet long – great spot. As if that wasn’t justification enough for carrying the camera, on the way back at almost the same spot I spied some birds in a tree which turned out to be Hornbills which are some of Lindsey’s favourite birds!
October 9th was e-Bird’s big day in the autumn. e-Bird is the system I use (and almost every other birder on the planet uses) to track bird sightings. To this end I planned a morning of birding (eye rolls from Lindsey) to see what I could see. First stop was what I thought was a reservoir but turns out that it might have been a prawn farm. There were Pacific Swallows that you could have practically plucked from the air as they were so close to us and 2 types of Kites (that’s the bird kind) as well as my first Tern in Phuket. I had planned to go to a waterfall spot after that but we showed up too early so went back to a spot in one of the national parks that we’d been to before. There we were treated to Hoopoes which are actually my favourite bird and totally unexpected. Then we went back to the waterfall which had almost no birds but we did see a Giant Golden Orb Weaver Spider which is almost the size of your hand. The path had obviously been quite treacherous at one point so the solution on the way up was poured tarmac – not great for the environment but at least grippy. No such convenience was considered for the way down which involved neck breaking opportunities at every turn. Last stop was a lovely lunch at a seafood restaurant surrounded by mangroves. Lindsey’s attempts at petting some water buffalo on the way back were unsuccessful!
I’m not whether it’s because of the influence of Western people living in Phuket or if it’s a Thai thing but we have seen lots of people with dogs since arriving here. The street dogs here are much less afraid of people than they are in Myanmar so I think are probably treated better than they are in Yangon. We had one follow us home after dinner once and I thought we were going to have another Mabel situation were it not for Catface who was having none of it and literally chased it off. Nai Harn beach is a dog walking beach but the problem is how you get your dog to the beach if you don’t have a car. The solution, it seems is to either train it to balance on a moped or employ a sidecar for said transportation. This has resulted in numerous hilarious scenes of dog transportation. Don’t worry, we have no plans to run this risk with Nell, she would be a nightmare on one of our e-bikes!
Birds and dogs aren’t the only wildlife to mention of course. There are loads of creepy crawlies and wonderful butterflies and at Kata beach we have twice seen a Lion Fish in 1 foot of water. These are poisonous so quite surprising to see them casually swimming there although the ones we saw were quite small. All in all, we are enjoying the wildlife immensely.