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.

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