Sunday, September 7, 2014

Shrike-tastic weekend

After finding yesterday's Tiger Shrike so close to home and with very little effort, I was inspired to give Suan Rot Fai a damn good kicking this morning.

Gloomy conditions at dawn with low cloud after heavy overnight rain meant that looking for warblers and flycatchers would have to wait and I headed to some more open areas to see what was happening around the lakes.  One of the first birds I heard calling was my first Brown Shrike of the autumn and as the morning progressed I picked up another five - birds are on the move!

Whilst checking the mimosa that makes up the "Rubythroat Bushes" I flushed a shrike, which I assumed would be another Brown, but when I got the binoculars on it I could see it had a grey cap and my thoughts immediately turned to a picture I'd seen on Facebook a couple days previously of a Burmese Shrike at Khon Kaen University. The bird flew around for a minute or so and it was obvious from the flight pattern that this was not a Brown Shrike, being much less direct or purposeful.  More time getting views of the bird perched confirmed that it was indeed a juvenile Burmese Shrike, and only my second patch tick of the year!

Burmese Shrike is resident in easternmost India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Vietnam and southern China, with some short-range  migration into Thailand and Cambodia outside the breeding season.

Burmese Shrike

Other migrants were a bit thin on the ground, with just one Arctic Warbler and two Eastern Crowned Warblers, a Blue-tailed Bee-eater heard overhead and a single Barn Swallow seen.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A tiger in paradise

One hour in the grounds of the Ministry of Public Relations this morning in bright, sunny conditions produced quality but not much quantity, with the only migrants seen being a juv Tiger Shrike and a male Asian Paradise Flycatcher (without tail streamers).

These are both regular but relatively scarce migrants in Bangkok - the Tiger Shrike was my fourth since starting to work a local patch in 2008, whilst I might run into a maximum of five Paradise Flycatchers in autumn.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Migration momentum building

male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher

Suan Rot Fai 6am - 9am with Graham Gordon produced somewhere between three and six Yellow-rumped Flycatchers (at least two males) and three Arctic Warblers.  After I left, Graham also saw two Forest Wagtails and an unidentified Raptor.

Resident species seen included a Stork-billed Kingfisher and Green-billed Malkhoa.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Another Eastern Crowned

Zero birding done during the last week, with the work schedule from Hell keeping me welded to my desk for nearly every waking hour.

It was a blessed relief to get to the weekend, and I made (all too) short sorties to the grounds of the Ministry of Public Relations to soak up a few moments of green space on both mornings of this weekend.  Yesterday's highlight was a bit of a false start, with the best bird being left unidentified - it was a small bittern spp. (presumably either Yellow or Cinnamon) seen only with the naked eye  as a silhouette. Frustrating, but nice to have either spp. just 5 minutes walk from home! This morning's foray was slightly more successful with an Eastern Crowned Warbler seen briefly. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

News from the East...

The news that there had been a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher seen in eastern Thailand a few days ago (on 13th Aug, infact) signaled that passerine migrants are now arriving in Thailand.  As such I made a short trip to investigate the nearest substantial patch of trees to my house (at the Ministry of Public Relations) and after a little time and a bit of pishing an Eastern Crowned Warbler appeared in front of me - what a sight for sore eyes! This was a very bright bird - with a lovely yellow suffusion on the vent and a well-marked central crown stripe.  Adults undergo a complete post-nuptial moult on the breeding grounds, so arrive here in fresh plumage (Round, 2008).

And so, it begins - the months of birdless Bangkok summer are over and the joy of  a long drawn out autumn passage (from now until early December) has begun. My earliest migrant passerine in previous years was a Dark-sided Flycatcher on 20th August, and I think my earliest ECW has been on about 21st August, so today's  bird was something of a "personal best"!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Asian waders on passage

I visited Khok Kham this morning to see what waders I could find.

Visiting the mangrove research station/visitor's centre first I found that there was still enough exposed mud, ahead of the rising tide, to offer the birds some foraging opportunities. However most of them moved off before I maanged to count them, leaving a group of 36 Whimbrel as the main attraction.

Heading back to the saltpans I failed to find any really significant concentrations of birds, but stuck around for a few hours after high tide and ended up with a reasonable tally:

Great Knot 93 (only one in breeding pluamge)
Red Knot 3 (all in adults in worn breeding plumage)
Broad-billed Sand 4
(all in adults in worn breeding plumage)
Whimbrel 36
Wood Sand 1

Little Stint 1 (adult in worn breeding plumage) 
Long-toed Stint 1 (adult in worn breeding plumage)  
RN Stint 50+
Greater Sandplover 1
Lesser Sandplover 200-300
Black-tailed Godwit 30+
Redshank 100+
Greenshank 10

Adult Little Stint

I spent a long time watching this rather worn adult Little Stint, as much as anything trying to convince myself it wasn't one, but as the pictures demonstrate, it obviously is!  Curiously it was the only summer plumaged stint that I saw today.  

male Lesser Sandplover

moulting adult Broad-billed Sandpiper

Red Knot

moulting adult Curlew Sandpiper
Red-necked Stint

Red-necked Stint (1st summer?)

I was struck by the difference in ground colour between the two Red-necked Stints above, with the first bird being a classic winter plumaged grey, whilst the second bird is much browner (the difference was apparent in the field when watching the two of them feeding in close proximity to one another).  The second bird is also portrayed in the two images below. My suspicion is that this second bird is a 1st summer (2nd calendar year) because the plumage looks a bit worn - if it was an adult RnS it would probably show some rufous in the neck, or on the upperparts, but if it had moulted to winter plumage it would look greyer and fresher, furthermore the breast appears more streaked that in the first bird (making me wonder if this could actually be a Little Stint, but the exposed tibia looks rather short, like a RnS). I've not found much literature describing what a 2nd calendar year RnS looks like in mid-late summer, Beaman and Madge (1998) remark of 1st summer Red-necked Stint: "rather variable, with some resembling adult winter and others adult summer. A few look similar to adult summer Semipalmated [Sandpiper], but show little or no dark streaking on lower face, neck and upper breast, and often have some rufous on head and scapulars".   

Monday, July 28, 2014

Suan Rot Fai in late July

I did the patch yesterday morning (Sunday, 27th) for the first time in a month.  The park is not exactly inspiring in mid summer, but there was enough to justify the trip with the first birds encountered being a pair of Stork-billed Kingfishers calling loudly and flying around the park at considerable altitude.  This behaviour made me wonder if I was seeing an adult and newly fledged chick - perhaps they have bred in the park?!

city centre Stork-billed Kingfisher

Other notable birds were TWO Chinese Pond Herons - very surprising to see here in mid-summer.  They were a breeding plumaged bird (presumed to be the same individual seen in late June) plus a second bird in almost full non-breeding plumage, with a few vestiges of maroon on the neck and head.  A juvenile Shikra was chased across the park by a murder of Large-billed Crows, and I had a brief encounter with a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (without rackets) which might be either a post-breeding dispersant or an an escapee  from the weekend market.

Javan Pond Heron

Chinese Pond Heron

Chinese Pond Heron

CPH - note maroon tones in neck & head feathers