Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Checkpoint Cuckoos

Orange-headed Thrush
Yesterday morning I walked from Malee's to the checkpoint along the Muang Khong road, there were plenty of birds just before the checkpoint and just after. A noticeable feature of the morning was the large number of cuckoo's either seen or heard calling. Several Violet Cuckoo's flew between tall trees along the road, a couple of Plaintive Cuckoo's called near Malee's. At the checkpoint, a pair of stunning Emerald Cuckoo's showed well in a dead tree and nearby an obliging Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo showed well and was the first I have seen for sometime. Both Banded Bay and Drongo Cuckoo's were also singing at the checkpoint. Three Oriental Pied Hornbills flew high over the road as did three Pin-tailed Green Pigeons. Also along the road and around the checkpoint were a pair of Grey-capped Pygmy WoodpeckerBlue-winged and Golden-fronted Leafbirds, four Rosy Minivets, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Siberian Stonechat, Rufescent Prinia, Ruby-cheeked and Purple Sunbird and at least 20 Olive-backed Pipits.

At the checkpoint I decided to follow the gully which leads out the back of the checkpoint, though overgrown in places, the birding was excellent. Best birds along here was a surprise Dark-sided Thrush and an Orange-headed Ground Thrush, two Scaly-breasted Partridge, a small group of Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, three White-browed Piculet, four Lesser Yellownape, pair of White-crowned Forktail and an Asian Stubtail. Commoner species seen included Red Junglefowl, two Blue-bearded Bee-eater, three Emerald Ground Doves, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, three Siberian Blue Robin, Buff-breasted and Rufous-fronted Babblers, Brown-cheeked Fluvetta and three Common Rosefinch in seeding bamboo.     

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Temple and Gully Trail

Shortly after dawn yesterday morning, we headed off to the temple, several Asian-barred Owlets were calling as we left and a Grey-backed Shrike showed well on wires alongside the road. We spent an hour looking around the car park, several pairs of Scarlet Minivet were displaying and we noted at least four Violet Cuckoo's and a dozen Black-hooded Orioles. A flowering tree held at least 15 Spangled Drongos as well as Streaked Spiderhunter, Oriental and Japanese White-eyes, Striated Yuhina, Thick-billed and Yellow-vented Flowerpecker. As we walked up the steps we noted several singing Hill Blue Flycatchers, White-throated Fantail and on the limestone by the rest area, two singing Streaked Wren Babblers. The fruiting tree once again had many birds including at least eight Mountain Imperial Pigeons and a single Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, many Blue-throated and Blue-eared Barbets, at least 20 Asian Fairy Bluebirds, Black, Puff-throated, Grey-eyed and Sooty-headed Bulbuls. As we wandered back to Malee's, a Blue Whistling Thrush paused briefly on the steps and a Blue Rock Thrush sang from nearby buildings.

Over a late breakfast a Rufous-winged Buzzard was noted over the garden along with a few Brown Needletails and Striated Swallows.

Later in the afternoon I returned to the temple and headed off up the gully trail, a few meters along this trail the resident pair of White-crowned Forktails soon flew noisily away. The number of birds seen on the trail was low but did include four White-hooded Babblers, three Green Magpies, two Eye-browed Wren Babblers, Red-headed Trogon, at least four Siberian Blue Robins and several Buff-breasted Babblers

Monday, February 27, 2012

Silver Pheasant

Late yesterday afternoon we headed up to the temple to look for an apparent tame 'wild' Silver Pheasant, which appears on the steps every afternoon at around 5pm. As soon as we reached the kitchen area at the top of the steps the male Silver Pheasant was waiting, it was ridiculously tame and it was hard to believe it was a wild bird. According to monks at the temple, the bird first appeared out of the forest to feed on scraps from the kitchen around two years ago and has gradually become tamer and tamer. I have seen Silver Pheasant around half a dozen times in forest around the temple and have no reason to doubt the monk's story, but never feel happy with a bird being so tame when ones, in the jungle are far more timid.

Otherwise the temple was quiet, the only other birds of note being five Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Grey-backed Shrike, White-throated Fantail and many Black Bulbuls.

Birding In The Smoke

Smoky views at the reservoir
These photos were taken at around 10am and give an idea
 how bad the air quality, currently is in Northern Thailand

Yesterday morning I was joined by Uthai Cheummarang from Chiang Mai Birding, rather than head for the temple we decided to visit a small reservoir which is surrounded by forest around 15km outside of Chiang Dao. However the area was pretty quiet, large areas of the forest had been recently burnt and the rest was dry and fairly leafless. Visability was also very poor due to the numerous forest fires which currently plague Northern Thailand. However we did manage some birds, best was an Asian Stubtail feeding just off the path, we also saw several White-browed Piculets, Siberian Blue Robins, Eurasian Jay, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Rufous-fronted Babbler, White-crested Laughingthrush, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, many Lineated Barbets, Puff-throated Babblers and a Crested Serpent Eagle. Scrub around the reservoir held several Thick-billed Warblers and along the shore single Green Sandpiper and Little Heron were noted.
Somewhere in this photo are two Pin-tailed Parrotfinch

On the way back we stopped off at the hot springs in Chiang Dao, as soon as we got out of the car we could see a large flock of White-rumped Munias drinking and bathing on a nearby marsh, amongst these we were surprised to see two female Pin-tailed Parrotfinch. Also in the area were a dozen Cattle Egrets amongst the grazing water buffalo, at least four Grey Wagtail and 35 Chestnut-tailed Starlings in nearby flowering trees.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Temple Birding

I spent the first four hours of the morning birding around Wat Tham Pha Plong Chiang Dao and saw an excellent selection of species. Feeding in the many flowering trees in forest along the approach road were dozens Spangled and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos and a small flock of Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush.

Numerous Blue-throated and Blue-eared Barbets, Black-hooded Orioles and Black Bulbuls called from tall trees around the car park and several White-rumped Shama sang from scrub near the temple gates. At the start of the temple steps two Streaked Wren Babblers showed well on limestone outcrops and the deep booming call of several Mountain Imperial Pigeon and the more subtle calls of Emerald Ground Doves could be heard. Further along the steps a restless party of around 30 Striated Yuhina quickly moved through, whilst from within the forest the first of several Drongo Cuckoo's sang and in trees just above the steps a stunning Red-headed Trogon sat motionless.

Just behind the main accommodation block in the temple a huge fruiting tree saw an endless succession of birds flying in and out to feed, amongst these were nine Mountain Imperial, four Pin-tailed and three Wedge-tailed Green Pigeons, many Great, Blue-throated and Blue-eared Barbets, Asian Fairy Bluebirds and at least five species of Bulbul. In a smaller flowering tree nearby a male and female Black-throated Sunbird fed amongst the flowers along with several Oriental White-eyes, Yellow-browed and Two-barred Greenish Warblers and at least 40 Chestnut-tailed Starlings.

After an hour watching the fruiting tree I slowly wandered back down the steps, adding Banded Bay Cuckoo, Scarlet Minivet and Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike to the morning list. Once again I walked around the temple car park, a Shikra displayed overhead, a Violet Cuckoo called as it flew between trees and a Grey-backed Shrike caught a large beetle nearby. Nearly back at the resort a Bay Woodpecker flew across the road and a pair of Verditers Flycatchers were in trees in the garden.

Also noted this morning were several vocal Scaly-breasted Partridge, Red Junglefowl, a drumming Rufous Woodpecker, a calling Collared Owlet, many Crested Treeswifts, White-throated FantailVelvet-fronted Nuthatch, Buff-breasted Babbler, Streaked and Little Spiderhunter. 


Yesterday needing to obtain a new 90 day visa, I left Thailand at Mae Sai and entered Burma, for a total of around 10 minutes! five of which I stood on the bridge which forms the boarder, adding Yellow-browed Warbler, Eurasian Swallow and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker to my Burma list.

Afternoon drove to Chiang Dao, noting a couple of Racket-tailed Treepies across the road and just outside Thaton a Rufous-winged Buzzard. Arrived at Chiang Dao late afternoon, and opted for a cold beer after a long drive, rather than going birding. Several night birds calling in the evening with Asian-barred Owlet, Collared and Mountain Scops Owl and Large-tailed Nightjar noted.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chiang Dao

Doi Chiang Dao
As I am currently on the way north to Chiang Dao, thought I would post this summary of birds and birding around the area which I wrote a little while ago. Doi Chiang Dao is Thailand’s third highest mountain and a total of at least 450 species have been identified in the area, with new species being  added annually and others no doubt waiting to be discovered. Chiang Dao is now a well established stop on most bird watching trips around the north and over two or three days it is possible to see 150 species or more, including some, which are difficult to see elsewhere in Thailand.

View at DYK
Most birders soon head for the higher areas around the DYK sub-station, where multiple sightings of the localized and threatened Giant Nuthatch can be almost guaranteed and with a little luck Hume’s Pheasant. Other rarer species which can be seen here include Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Black-tailed Crake, Rusty-naped Pitta, Sapphire Flycatcher and Scarlet Finch, but luck and patience would be needed to see any of these. The area is also excellent for many other species including Silver Pheasant, several species of woodpecker, Great and Blue-throated Barbet, Grey-headed Parakeet, Wedge and Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Long-tailed Broadbill, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Grey Treepie, Slender-billed and Maroon Oriole, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Slaty-backed and Little Pied Flycatcher, Yellow-cheeked Tit, many species of Bulbul, half a dozen species of Phylloscopus warblers, Bianchi’s Warbler, White-necked Laughingthrush, Rusty-cheeked Scimiter Babbler, Silver-eared Mesia, White-browed and Chestnut-fronted Shrike Babbler, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Mr’s Gould’s Sunbird, Spot-winged Grosbeak and Chestnut Bunting. This may also be the best area to look for Deignan’s Babbler one of only two endemic Thai species, though the taxon of this species is unclear and it maybe conspecfic with the common Rufous-fronted Babbler.

The higher areas above DYK to the summit are hardly ever visited by birders, species know to be present here include White-browed and Chestnut-crowned Laughthrush, Crested Finchbill, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Spectacled Barwing and probably others that are only seen at higher altitudes.
Wat Tham Pha Plong
Much lower down the mountain the forest trails around Wat Tham Pha Plong, also offers some great bird watching. Due to the protection offered by the monastery and wildlife sanctuary Scaly-breasted Partridge and Red Junglefowl are common and Silver Pheasants are also occasionally seen. Now rare in the north Oriental Pied Hornbills can be seen most days from the temple steps early in the morning and again in the evening. Other noteworthy species seen in this area include both species of piculet, Bay, Bamboo and Rufous Woodpecker, Great Barbet, Orange-breasted and Red-headed Trogon, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo, Violet and Emerald Cuckoo, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Mountain Imperial, Wedge-tailed and Pintail Green Pigeon, Rusty-naped and Blue Pitta, Silver-breasted and Long-tailed Broadbill, Green Magpie, Maroon Oriole, Large Woodshrike, Orange-headed Thrush, three species of Forktail (though Black-backed rare), White-tailed Robin, Sultan Tit, White-headed Bulbul, Asian Stubtail, Greater and Lesser necklaced Laughingthrush, Striped, Eye-browed and Pygmy Wren Babblers and White-hooded Babbler.  Species which have also been noted very occasionally in the area include Great Slaty Woodpecker, Banded Kingfisher, Collared Falconet, Hooded Pitta,  Dark-sided Thrush, Green Cochoa, Golden-crested Myna, Grey-bellied Tesia and Pin-tailed Parrotfinch.

Night birding can also be excellent around the temple where species present include Oriental Bay Owl, Mountain, Oriental and Collared Scops Owl, Brown Hawk Owl, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Javan Frogmouth, Great-eared, Large–tailed and Grey Nightjar.  

Though the list of raptors recorded in the area is relatively large, densities are low and it is possible to go throughout the day without seeing any. Species most regualarly recorded include Oriental Honey Buzzard, Shikra, Crested Goshawk, Crested Serpent Eagle and Common Buzzard. In the autumn (Sept-mid Nov) an overhead passage of raptors is also noted which includes northerly movements of Amur Falcon with a Thai record 1700 30th October 2010 and southerly movements of Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black Baza, Grey-faced Buzzard and Chinese Sparrowhawk. Other species also recorded some on only a handful of occasions include Jerdon’s Baza, Black Eagle, Black Kite, Himalayan Griffon Vulture (two October 2010), Pied Harrier, Rufous-winged Buzzard, Greater Spotted and Imperial Eagle, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Changeable and Mountain Hawk Eagle, Eurasian and Oriental Hobby.    

For those who want a break from forest birding a visit to rice paddies south of Chiang Dao town provides a good chance to catch up with some open country birds with Grey-headed Lapwing, Wire-tailed Swallow and Oriental Skylark almost guaranteed. 

Most visiting birders stay at Malee Nature Lovers Bungalows Wat Tham Pha Plong, where there are maps of trails in the area and several log books are available with both recent and historic sightings

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Garganey and Sand Martins

A wander around the patch this morning produced little of note apart from a single Garganey amongst several hundred Lesser Whislting Duck and an increase in the number of Sand Martins with at least 200 present, a significant increase on the usual ten or twenty usually recorded and perhaps indication of some passage through the site. Also noted were two Black and a single Bhraminy Kite,  6 Common and three Black-capped Kingfisher, 18 Blue-tailed Bee-eater, two Green-billed Malkoha, 150 Black-winged Stilts, 19 Wood Sandpipers, 7 Little-ringed Plovers, 5 Common Sandpipers, 8 Whiskered Terns, 2 Siberian Rubythroats, 8 Red-throated, 5 Richard's and 4 Paddyfield Pipits.

Flying Fox's

On Monday afternoon we visited Wat Phrao, a nearby temple at Pho Praya, roosting in trees here were several hundred spectacular Andersen's Flying Fox's.  

The temple looks like it could be worth a visit during migration times, species noted on this visit included several Spotted Owlets, half a dozen Lineated Barbets and single Greater Racket-Tailed and Ashy Drongo.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Same, Same but not the Same

Lesser Whistling Duck
As they say in Thailand, same, same but not the same on the local patch yesterday morning, with a similar selection of species as recent days but with some change in numbers. Oriental Pratincoles had increased to at least 75 birds, whilst others waders included 450 Black-winged Stilts, 33 Wood Sandpipers, 22 Little Ringed Plovers, 12 Common Snipe, 7 Pintail Snipe, 6 Common Sandpiper, 2 Greenshank and a Green SandpiperWatercock numbers had increased to three and other counts included 8 Yellow and 5 Cinnamon Bittern, 4 Ruddy-breasted Crakes, 5 Bronze-winged and 9 Pheasant-tailed Jacana, 4 Cotton Pygmy Geese, 30 Red-throated Pipits and once again a single Red Avadavat.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Returning Oriental Pratincoles and Weaving Weavers

As soon as I arrived on the patch this morning it was evident there had been an arrival of Oriental Pratincoles with at least 30 feeding high over the paddies. Most if not all Oriental Pratincoles leave Thailand during the winter months, I usually recorded the last birds during the first week of November, all probably head south to spend the winter months in Australia where in February 2004 a staggering 2.88 million birds were counted at Eight Mile Beach in north west Australia and must have included most of the worlds population. Birds return locally from mid February and apparently occupy breeding grounds from March.

Baya Weaver Nests
Also noticeable this morning was an increase in weaver activity with a small group of around 30 Baya Weavers busy weaving new nests. Small numbers of Golden Weavers were also noted around the site, the first time for several weeks, one or two were showing the first signs of coming into breeding plumage.

Black-winged Stilts

There was also an increase in wader numbers in response to several freshly flooded paddies, with 280 Black-winged Stilts, 33 Marsh Sandpipers, 18 Wood Sandpipers, 12 Little Ringed Plovers, 6 Common Sandpipers and 4 Painted Snipe including a very confiding female which was trying it's hardest to hide in the growing rice. Also noted this morning was the same Watercock as yesterday, six Purple Herons and 11 Grey Herons the highest site count for this species so far.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Thai National Bird List

The Bird Conservation Society of Thailand has just released it's latest revised national bird list, which includes several new additions as well as changes to English names and many recent splits. Good luck working out which leaf warblers you have seen!

Glossy Ibis

After a long day in Bangkok yesterday, I was glad to get out for an early morning wander around the patch. As usual large numbers of birds were flying over having departed various roosts, amongst these were two Glossy Ibis, this is second time I have recorded this species here, the previous record being one on 8th March 2007. Glossy Ibis used to be a rare bird in Thailand, but the last few years has seen a surge in numbers, especially at Bueng Boraphet were a reasonable flock is now present most winters.

Large numbers of Open-billed Storks were present around the site with 1500 estimated to be mostly feeding amongst growing rice. Also noted was a tight flock of 33 Whiskered Terns flying through north, whether these were migrants already moving north or local birds I am not sure. Also present this morning was a single Watercock, two Black Kites, four White-shouldered Starlings and a single Red Avadavat.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thailand Moths - Part Three, Footman

Members of the footman family are usually well represented in the moth catches and come in many sizes and colours.

Argina argus

Barsine defecta

Barsine gratiosa

Barsine sp

Cyana bianca

Cyana coccinea

Eilema sp

Miltochrista miniata

Lemyra maculifascia

Lyclene sp

Lyclene conjunctana

Macotasa costalis

Nyctemera adversata

Tigriodes euchana

Spilosoma multiguttata

Thysanoptyx sordida

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

All Things Common

The patch was fairly quiet this morning, so decided to try and count a selection of the common resident and migrant species present and managed the following totals:

Coppersmith Barbet 9
Common Kingfisher 11
Blue-tailed Bee-eater 13
Greater Coucal 9
Plaintive Cuckoo 14
Asian Koel 15
White-breasted Waterhen 9
Moorhen 7
Ruddy-breasted Crake 13
Red-wattled Lapwing 32
Whiskered Tern  21
Little Cormorant 43
Little Egret 103
Great Egret 19
Cattle Egret 57
Pond Heron sp 43
Open-billed Stork 375
Brown Shrike 13
Pied Fantail 15
Taiga Flycatcher 7
Siberian Stonechat 9
Zitting Cisticola 35
Plain Prinia 42
Black-browed Reed Warbler 32
Oriental Reed Warbler 39
Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler 11
Dusky Warbler 27
Yellow-browed Warbler 16

Additional noteworthy species seen included five Painted Snipe, adult Bhraminy Kite, Siberian Rubythroat and a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bueng Boraphet

View to the north across Bueng Boraphet
Monday afternoon returning home from visiting family in Phitsanulok we decided to visit the waterbird park on the southern shore of Bueng Bhoraphet, Nakhon Sawan, the largest natural freshwater lake in Thailand. It was mid afternoon by the time we arrived and in bright sunny conditions and temperatures pushing 35 degrees Celsius I wasn't expecting to see a great deal, however over the next couple of hours I saw a fantastic selection of species.

I followed the naturetrail, which traces the path of a raised bund through areas of flooded and dry scrub, reeds, lotus, open water and has several vantage points overlooking the main lake. One of the first species I saw was a stunning male Siberian Rubythroat feeding along the side of an overgrown ditch, this was to be the first of at least eight seen over the next few hours, hearing at least another five the numbers wintering here must be high. All the while during the walk Black-browed, Oriental Reed, Pallas's Grasshopper and Dusky Warblers were everywhere, with singing Striated Grassbirds and Yellow-bellied Prinia also very much in evidence.

An area of wet and dry overgrown marsh, which was fall of warblers
Good numbers of herons,egrets and bitterns where noted in the wetter areas including an unseasonable Black Bittern, as well as a dozen Yellow and five Cinnamon Bitterns. Several groups of noisy and squabbling Purple Gallinules were also present and out on the main lake small numbers of Cotton Pygmy Geese and a lone Oriental Darter were also noted.
Great Egret
Many Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and my first returning Oriental Pratincoles of the year fed overhead and many thousands of thermalling Open-billed Storks filled the sky. Amongst the common munias I found four stunning Black-headed Munias and a restless group of nine Red Avadavat. There was a surprising number of northern wintering species which included 19 White-shouldered Starlings, 13 Ashy Minivets, five Black-naped Monarch, single Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, male Paradise Flycatcher and best off all two Forest Wagtails feeding under trees on the path in front of me. The only waders noted were 30 Black-winged Stilts, 6 Grey-headed Lapwing, two Pintail Snipe and many noisy and displaying Red-wattled Lapwing. As I returned to the car six Black Bazas were perched in trees nearby.

I couldn't leave Bung Bhoraphet without getting a photo of a couple of White-eyed River Martins resting nearby.

White-eyed River Martin were first discovered at Bueng Boraphet in 1968, all records were between November and February and they have never been anywherere else in the world. Last sighted in 1980 it is feared that this unique species is now extinct, perhaps there is some hope, that some may survive somewhere in a remote part of China, Burma or Cambodia.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Starling Roost

Sunday evening on the patch, arrived a little late so decided to hang around and count the drongo and starling roost, totals by dusk were 533 Black Drongos, 1685 White-vented Myna, 712 Asian Pied, 13 White-shouldered, 9 Vinous-breasted and two Chestnut-tailed Starlings. A roost of 1500 Swallows was also noted nearby and as I returned home a flock of 37 Grey-headed Lapwings went over in the failing light.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thailand Moths - Part Two

Samia canningii a member of the Saturniidae family, found in South-East Asia and China
Another batch of moth photos, the number of moths caught over one night can number several hundred, I am bound to have misidentified some, if anyone can identify unlabeled photos already posted or any incorrectly identified ones please let me know.

Amplypterus panopus
A widespread species found over most of South-East Asia, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia  and The Philippines 

Pygosphila tyres
Probable Trabala vishnous

Heterostegane subtesellata

Hypochrosis flavitusuta

Zitting Cisticola, Plaintive Cuckoo and Asian Koel

Another weekend of very intermittent Internet connections, combined with several power cuts at  home, resulted in no posts yesterday.

A pleasant Saturday morning walk around the patch in overcast conditions produced a respectable 79 species, the main area of fish ponds held at least 3000 Lesser Whistling Ducks and amongst them a dozen Cotton Pygmy Geese and 15 Little Grebes. It has become evident over the last week, several species which had previously been silent are now beginning to sing, at the back end of last year I was only noting small numbers of Zitting Cisticola, this morning birds were singing everywhere and I estimated 70 zitting birds. On most visits I usually record small numbers of Plaintive Cuckoo's, these are usually found feeding low down amongst the lotus and reeds, now like the previous species birds are singing from every area of scrub around the site and all over the city. Asian Koels started singing once again before christmas, now incessant singing birds can be heard from well before dawn on until dusk. 

Since my last visit a few days ago, the numbers of waders have dropped dramatically as water levels fall in the ever increasing heat, though the presence of a male and female Eastern Marsh Harrier throughout my visit didn't help, continuously flushing the few remaining waders. Species and totals today included 24 Common Snipe, 9 Pintail Snipe, 8 Wood Sandpiper and a single Common Sandpiper. It was a reasonable morning for bitterns and herons with 14 Yellow and 8 Cinnamon Bitterns flushed as I wandered around and 65 Night Herons over at dawn, had probably been disturbed from a nearby roost. Other noteworthy counts/species included 20 Pallas's Grasshopper and 30 Dusky Warblers, 11 Pheasant-tailed and 9 Bronze-winged Jacana, eight Paddyfield Pipits including two singing males and single Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker and Black-naped Monarch

Friday, February 10, 2012

Day in Bangkok

Day spent in Bangkok, on the drive down good numbers of Whiskered Terns were noted feeding over the still flooded rice fields, two Eastern Marsh Harrier and a cracker adult male Pied Harrier also noted. As we approached the outskirts of Bangkok, four Painted Storks flew over the road near Bang Bua Tong.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Painted Storks and Black Drongos

Painted Storks
by Gary Hibberd

Arrived on the patch by dawn, lots of birds were leaving various roosts around or nearby the site with Egrets and Little Cormorants flying in all directions, a flock of 30 Indian Cormorants was especially noteworthy. I made an effort to count the Black Drongos leaving their roost from a large area of scrub and within half an hour at least 475 had left. Further on 850 Open-billed Storks were feeding on a couple of flooded rice paddies and amongst these were two, much taller Painted Storks, a species recorded only half a dozen times on the site. Reasonable numbers of waders were also in the area, including 32 Grey-headed Lapwing, 450 Black-winged Stilts, 40 Marsh Sandpipers, 31 Little Ringed Plovers, 25 Pacific Golden Plovers, 11 Temminck's Stint and single Greenshank, Green Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank. Acrocephalus and loucestella warblers were especially evident today with estimates of 50 Oriental Reed and 20 Black-browed Reed Warblers, at least 15 Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers and two or three Lanceolated Warblers. Also present around the site were two over wintering Black-naped Monarchs, a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and a couple of Fulvous-breasted Woodpeckers.

The visit was cut short when a dozen motorbikes arrived with workers to start spraying pesticides/herbicides on the emerging rice, the health and safety or lack of it was great, most were spraying in flip flops or bare feet, shorts and no face masks. As I approached home one of the city's wintering Peregrines shot past, chasing one of the many hundreds of feral pigeons.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Local Patch

View The Local Patch in a larger map

When at home in Supanburi, Thailand, as regularly as possible I will visit my local patch, a ten minute walk from home. To get there involves a perilous dash across a 10 lane highway and armed with several stones dodge the numerous street dogs. The patch is an area of rice paddies, fish ponds and scrub, though in recent years a lot of the later has gradually been removed. At some point during the rainy seasons the site is often flooded, sometimes completely making it difficult or impossible to get around the patch for up to several weeks at a time. To bird the area properly takes at least three hours and on a typical morning I would expect to see around 80 species and over the last six years have recorded over 170.

Streak-eared Bulbul the common bulbul of the area

Many of the species present are commonly seen throughout Thailand or any area of agriculture around Bangkok, habitat rarely explored by visiting birders. Egrets can number hundreds with Little, IntermediateGreat and Cattle Egret all feeding along side each other. Painted Storks are occasionally noted and Open-billed Stork numbers can reach over a thousand. There are usually several thousand Lesser Whistling Ducks present and smaller numbers of Cotton Pygmy Geese. Crakes and Rails are well represented with Ruddy-breasted Crake being very common and Slaty-breasted Rail, Baillion's Crake and Watercock frequently recorded. Yellow and Cinnamon Bittern are seen on most visits, with Black Bittern regular during Oct and early Nov. The number of waders present is dependent on water levels and crop rotation, if conditions are right hundreds of  Marsh and Wood SandpipersTemmink's Stints, Black-winged Stilts can be present, along with smaller numbers of Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Common and Green Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover, Long-toed Stint and Grey-headed Lapwing. Both Pintail and Common Snipe are usually always present and with a little effort small numbers of Painted Snipe can also been seen. Between Sept and early Nov Oriental Pratincoles can number the low thousands all disappearing by mid November returning during the second half of February. Up to five species of kingfisher can be seen in a single morning and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters are always present. The large numbers of warblers present during the winter is also an obvious feature, Yellow-browed Warblers call from all areas of scrub, reed and scrub alongside wet areas are full of Oriental  Reed, Black-browed, Dusky, Pallas's Grasshopper and Lanceolated Warblers. With patence I am normally luckily enough to get good views of one or more Siberian Rubythroats with Bluethroats also regularly noted. Pipits and wagtails seen on most visits include Paddyfield, Richard's and Red-throated Pipit, Eastern Yellow and White Wagtails.

Other species often encounted include Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Green-billed Malkoha, Purple, Night and Little Heron, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacana, Whiskered Tern, Eastern Marsh and Pied Harrier, Bhraminy and Black Kite, Brown Shrike, White-shouldered and Vinous-breasted Starling, Taiga Flycatcher, Plain Prinia, Red-rumped SwallowYellow-vented Bulbul, Golden Weaver, Plain-backed Sparrow and Red Avadavat.

Fish Ponds, a great area for Crakes, Bitterns and Jacanas

A number of passage migrant move through during Sept and Oct and during the winter moths there is always the odd surprise, migrants and local rarities in recent years have included Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Ruff, Small Pratincole, Greater Spotted EagleGlossy Ibis, Spot-billed Pelican, Blue-winged Pitta, Orange-headed Ground ThrushEye-browed Thrush, Pied Bushchat, Blunt-winged Warbler, Pale-legged Leaf and Arctic warbler.