Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Major rarity in Bangkok...December rain

Woke early to do Suan Rot Fai, only to find when I left the house that it was about to rain (unheard of in Bkk in December, at least until it rained on Boxing Day), and so it was I did the Park in the rain - the first time ever!

Birding was slow, two YBW, two TAIGA FLY, one ABF and this THICK-BILLED WARBLER...

Bung Borophet - 28th Dec

An afternoon trip to Bund Borophet with friends Alisa, Landry and Nico was very peaceful, and prouced lots of common birds to show my non-birding mates.

We took a boat out onto the centre of the lake, which was amazingly idyllic, and gave great views of big flocks of LESSER WHISTLING DUCK as well as COTTON PYGMY GOOSE, both species of JACANA and PURPLE SWAMPHEN.

Swamp Ophelia?

Pheasant-tailess Jacana

Monday, December 28, 2009

27th December - Lam Pak Bia

A day trip to the Lam Pak Bia area produced a nice contrast to Khao Yai's forest birding on Christmas day.

I started at the Royal Project, hoping to find Manchurian Reed Warbler.  I scored ORIENTAL and BLACK-BROWED REED WARBLERS easily, and got onto an acro briefly that seemed to have a diminished dark "eye-brow" but the views were not good eough to determine if it was just a poorly marked B-BRW.  Subsequent reading makes me wonder if Lam Pak Bia is a reliable site for Manchurian (I thought I had read this somewhere?) but looking at Phil Round's "Birds of Bangkok" he suggests that the most reliable site is Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park (roughly another 100 km south).

Other goodies to be enjoyed at the Royal Project included nice views of both SLATY-BREASTED (1) and RUDDY-BREASTED (2) CRAKES, as well as a group of RACKET-TAILED TREEPIES.

After this I moved on to Lam Pak Bia sandspit, taking a boat with Mr Deng (his place is on the south side of the small harbour, about 200 meters east from the main road, and he has set up a small Birding Centre in his house). Once out on the Sandspit we quickly located the male WHITE-FACED PLOVER that is wintering here, as well as two pairs of MALAYSIAN PLOVERS and several KENTISH PLOVERS.  The White-faced is very obvious; apart from the unmarked lores, the bird's steep forehead and strangely "chisel-shaped" bill, its big-headed appearance and low gait gave the bird a very different jizz to that of Malaysian Plover.

Male Malaysian Plover (above and below)

Female Malaysian Plover

Male White-faced Plover (above and below)

We then moved over to the rocky islets off the end of the sandspit and sure enough we quickly located a CHINESE EGRET in the company of a LITTLE EGRET, a GREAT WHITE EGRET and two dark morph PACIFIC REEF EGRETS.  I was bit surprised to see that the Chinese Egret looked slightly smaller that the accompanying Little Egret (they are supposed to be the size of the biggest Little Egrets), which made me want to eliminate white phase Pacific Reefer, however the leg colour seems to be consistent with Chinese (much to my relief!).

Chinese Egret in the middle - strangely small-looking

Bare part colour looks good though...

A short journey back along the sandspit provided nice views of three PALLAS'S GULLS.

I stopped at some pools a couple of kms north of the Royal Project to check out a HUGE wader roost, which include several hundred GREAT KNOT as well as at least 10 NORDMANN'S GREENSHANK.  Another group of 10 Tringa at the very back of this massive roost was unidentifiable in the heat haze, but I suspect they were  also Nordmann's.

Poor record shot of Nordmann's Greenshanks

I had commitments to get back to in Bangkok, so didn't have time to check Pak Thale, but was told by some visiting birders that they had seen two SPOON-BILLED SANDPIPERS there earlier in the day.

Some other pix from the day:

Marsh Sandpiper

Red-necked Stint

Whiskered Tern

Richard's Pipit

...and here is a Paddyfield Pipit for comparison (taken in Suan Rot Fai)

White-throated Kingfisher

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Turning Japanese

Khao Yai on Christmas day was excellent - arrived at the park about 7am and drove in.  Stopped after about 17kms to have a look around and heard a couple of elephants roaring in the jungle a couple of hundred meters away.

Star bird of the day was the 1st winter male JAPANESE THRUSH, frequenting the wetpatch at one of the camp sites that s favoured by bird photographers - it showed well and had a lovely supporting cast of HAINAN BLUE FLYCATCHER, ORANGE-HEADED THRUSH and SIBERIAN BLUE ROBIN.

Japanese Thrush is a rare vagrant to Thailand

Orange-headed Thrush

1st winter male Siberian Blue Robin

Hainan Blue Flycatcher

Trail B was productive with a nice mixed flock that contained GREEN MAGPIE, LONG-TAILED BROADBILL, WHITE CRESTED and LESSER NECKLACED LAUGHINGTHRUSHES, ABBOT'S BABBLER and BLYTH'S LEAF WARBLER. The Radar road was quiet but did provide a group of 5+ EYE-BROWED THRUSHES flying over and a female BLUE ROCK THRUSH.

female Blue Rock Thrush

On the 23rd I did Suan Rot Fai, where the highlight was two THICK-BILLED WARBLERS.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Christmas list

Spending Xmas and New Year in Bangkok, with various day trips lined up, intermingled with festivities.  New Year is the best time to be in the "Big Mango" because everybody else leaves and the weather is nice and cool (or at least it should be...)

I've got a few target species that I'm aiming to catch up with - some REALLY embarrassing gaps in my list, which most visiting birders will have seen.  I think I've become a bit complacent  about seeing a lot of things that occur in Thailand because I know I'm here for the long haul.

So below I present my Christmas list, with prospective locations, and justification (to myself!) for having never seen them...

Manchurian Reed Warbler - Royal Project @ Lam Pak Bia - I dipped them in Cambodia and have never looked for them n Thailand

Chinese Egret - LPB - I was a lazy sod when I lived in Krabi (spent all my time diving), and have never looked for them

White-faced Plover - LPB - Never looked for them.  There is one bird wintering at LPB, so hoping this should be pretty straight forward...

Rachet-tailed Treepie - Kaeng Krachan National Park- a rare bird in Thailand, and I've never connected at KK, which is the only site.  Finger's crossed...

White-fronted Scops Owl - KKNP - another  very rare bird (at least few staked out birds are known), which I have dipped twice, so fingers double-crossed...

Leopard -KKNP - OK, not a bird, but I know at least three people who have managed to see Leopard on the road in KKNP, so I have to hope!

Gaur - KKNP - another mammal, there is a regular stake out in Kaeng Krachan, where i have dipped in the past...

Limestone Wren Babbler - Wat Praput Tsa Noi - again, never looked for it...

Baer's Pochard - Bung Borophet - a real outside chance this one, but seen last winter at this site.  This duck appears to be in serious decline.

Austen's Brown Hornbill - Khao Yai NP - split from Rusty-cheeked Hornbill a few years back.  One of the Khao Yai birds I've always missed...

Siamese Fireback - Khao Yai NP - my most embarrassing omission as it is the national bird of Thailand and I've been to Khao Yai loads of times.  Not sure how I have missed it, but I have...

Japanese Thrush - KYNP - a rarity in Thailand, but a male has been seen ay KYNP in the last couple of weeks.

Mountain Scops Owl - KYNP - slippery customers often heard, seldom seen...never by me...hope I can change that!

I'm also going to be doing my patch a lot, so hoping to pull together a reasonable total of species seen...

Friday, December 11, 2009

10th Dec - Khao Yai National Park

After a BIG office party held just outside Khao Yai National park I spent the day recovering by wondering around the park, enjoying the fabulously cool weather.

Birding highlight of the day was a SILVER-RUMPED NEEDLETAIL (a world tick no less) that did a couple of sorties overhead.  Birding was rather quite otherwise, with  SCALY-BREASTED PARTRIDGE (heard only), a fruiting tree that was frequented by MOUSTACHED and GREEN-EASRED BARBETS and a female POMPADOUR GREEN PIGEON, CHESTNUT-HEADED BEE-EATERS feeding by diving into one of the small reservoirs (?!), MOUNTAIN IMPERIAL PIGEON, and ASHY MINIVET.

Excellent views were also had of a mother WHITE-HANDED GIBBON and her teenage offspring...

I was also told that a Binturong has been frequenting  a fruiting tree at the start of the Radar Road (behind the buildings on the left hand side of the road, opposite the small shop), so spent the last hour of day light staking it out (some colleagues of mine had seen it there the previous day).  The Binturong didn't put in an appearance, but a pair of THREE-STRIPED PALM CIVETS were excellent compensation.

The drive out of the park at night always hold the chance of seeing ASIAN ELEPHANT, and this drive out was no exception, with two encounters - the first being one adult on the road, but several others crashing about in the darkness nearby.  The second involved 4 individuals on the road (including two youngsters). Always nice to see, but they still fill me with trepidation.....

6th-7th Dec 2009 - Sukhothai

A "non-birding" trip Sukhothai Historical Park was obviously undertaken with binoculars!  Lots of YBWs all over the place, and big numbers of mynas around some of the Buddha statues included c15 CHESTNUT-TAILED STARLINGS.  Also, a high-flying female EASTERN MARSH HARRIER passed over early one morning.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

25th-26th November 2009 - Mae Sot

A work trip this week took me to Mae Sot, on the Thai-Burma border.

I had hardly any time free for birding, but a couple of early morning trips to the reservoir on the edge of town produced a THICK-BILLED WARBLER, several YBW, and couple of DUSKY WARBLERS.  The reservoir also played host to a big group of hirundines - BARN, STRIATED and RED-RUMPED  SWALLOWS, and SAND MARTINS. Common resident species included PADDYFIELD PIPIT and a female PIED BUSHCHAT.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ministry of Birdy Walks

Went for a short early morning walk around the Ministry of Public Relations buildings close to home.

The weather is gloriously "cold" at a nippy 20 celcius!  Even without binouculars I managed to pick up a local goody - a BLACK-NAPED MONARCH, plus a BLACK-CAPPED KINGFISHER, as well as BROWN SHRIKE, 2 YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS, three INDIAN ROLLERS and an ASIAN BROWN FLYCATCHER, all within 10 minutes.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nice examples of common migrants

An hour and a half on the patch before dusk produced some nice photo opportunities of some fine examples of common migrants...

lucionensis Brown Shrike (I'm guessing this is an adult female?)

moulting adult male Taiga Flycatcher

Friday, November 13, 2009

6th November 2009

Lots and lots of TAIGA FLYCATCHERS today (see above) - perhaps as many as 30, or more!  Every bit of cover seemed to hold at least one...

No sign of either of the Rock Thrushes, but the SIBERIAN STONECHAT was still present, as was  the LITTLE CORMORANT (which I am assuming is a sick bird as it seems to be feeding is pretty sub-optimal habitat).

Also a few opportunities for photographing common residents today...

 Plaintive Cuckoos

Coppersmith barbet

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Between a Rock and.....another Rock!!!

Did Suan Rot Fai again before work today.  Loads of birds active in the sunshine after yesterday's dull conditions - the trees seemed to be dripping with TAIGA FLYCATCHERS (had three together at one stage), and YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS were much in evidence.  At least 3 BROWN SHRIKES seen well, and I was graced with another new bird for my patch list in the form of a SIBERIAN STONECHAT.


I wanted to check to see if yesterday's White-throated Rock Thrush was still around, but a first wonder through "The Ramble" produced nothing apart from an ARCTIC WARBLER and nice views of a couple of yellow-brows.  I made a second pass through the woodlot and soon found the WHITE-THROATED ROCK THRUSH  in the same area I had seen it yesterday, and watched it for a few minutes before it disappeared deeper into cover.  Satisfied with this I wondered back towards my exit, but after about 10 minutes was amazed to find ANOTHER WHITE-THROATED ROCK THRUSH!!!!!  I took lots of pictures of this new bird, and as you can see from the pictures below the pattern of white on the tertial tips and primary tips is less extensive than on the first bird.

1st bird - note those crispy white primary tips,
and the extensive white fringe to each tertial.

2nd bird - fringing on tertials less extensive,
white tips to primaries very narrow. Also the distance
between the tips of p3 and p4 seems shorter here.

Here are a few more pictures of the second bird.....just glorious!  You can also see on these pictures that the greater covert bar is less obvious on the 2nd bird, and there appears to be a more extensive pale base to the bill.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You ROCK my world!

Back in the Big Mango and life is GOOD.  A first taste of dry season cool weather came in yesterday, with lots of cloud, a north east wind and some drizzle (ok, not so dry season, but 26 celius as a day time high bloody cold by Bangkok standards!).  These conditions made me think "migrants" so I fought the lingering jetlag and headed to Suan Rot Fai before work.

Birding was a bit slow first thing, with just a couple of ASIAN BROWN and TAIGA FLYCATCHERS, but then got more interesting wen I flushed a LITTLE CORMORANT out of a tree - patch tick!  I walked around to the area where it had appeared to land and got good views (but too far away for the camera), as I got closer I flushed a YELLOW BITTERN from beneath my feet.  I also saw a cracking BLACK-CAPPED KINGFISHER.


I made the effort to visit the Park's large lakes, which I rarely get to because they are further from the entrance I use to get into the park and this area is heavily used by joggers/cyclists etc, however today this area held a lot more birds, with at least 3 YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS calling and another ASIAN BROWN FLYCATHER.  About 10 BARN SWALLOWS were feeding over the lake of which two appeared to be of the rufous-bellied form tytleri.  I then headed to a (relatively) large area of trees on the edge of one of the lakes (I nickname this area "The Ramble" because it reminds me of the area of the same name in NYC's Central Park), skirting its edge on the main path, but then for some  reason I decided to turn back and take a small side path into the trees - I don't know why I made that decision, but I'm very glad I did: a minute later I noticed a large passerine move in the trees ahead of me and with the naked eye, I knew it was something good, it just had that feeling about it - I got my bins on it and was astonished and overjoyed to be looking at a male WHITE-THROATED ROCK THRUSH!!!!!

The big one

Now I've seen this species on Doi Inthanon  and on Koh Samet, but they are really, really stonking birds and this one was on my local patch, in the middle of a city of ten million people, no more than 50 meters from a rather noisy construction site. WOW!  I grabbed the camera and took as many shots as I could on a variety of exposure settings (the woodlot was dark, the cloud was down), then after a couple of minutes I glanced down at the camera, and up again, but the beast had flown.

I moved through the rest of the woodlot, which seemed to have a few more birds, including a female hepatic phase PLANTIVE CUCKOO and a couple of BLACK-NAPED ORIOLES.

 hepatic phase Plaintive Cuckoo

Looking at Phil Round's Birds of the Bangkok Area it appears that there is only one previous record of White-throated Rock Thrush from the Central Plains, so it is a real local rarity.  One caveat to add however is that I have seen this species in capivity (in a small cage being carried down the street in Macau...accompanied by a male Siberian Rubythroat!), so there may be a chance that it is an escape from Chatuchak market.  However it is a migrant that winters in Thailand, and without any evidence to the contrary (eg suspicious feather wear) I am happy to consider it as a wild bird.

28th-29th Oct: Home Counties highlights

Tehe rest of my week in the UK had a couple of avian highlights - first being the Brown Shrike (Britain's 7th record) at Staines, just a very short distance from Heathrow Airport (which lead to an after dinner conversation hypothesizing abut if it was feasible that a bird could be "jumbo jet-assisted"!). I was interested to see the Shrike because it was a) a british tick, b)not far off my route and c) because I wanted to check out what a "western" cristatus looks like compared with the more eastern birds we get in Bkk.

The answer to this last point is "really quite different!" much more whitish underneath, and no buff-washed flanks, thus the underparts contrast much more with the upperparts. Something else I noticed was that this bird was silent when I saw it, and the few birders I have asked have said that they have not heard it call.  This is interesting as I hear Brown Shrikes all the time in Bkk and I often pick them up on call, and Phil Round's Birds of the Bangkok Area states that "newly arrived migrants are especially vocal" and that "Brown Shrikes are strongly territorial on winter quarters".  If the Staines Brown Shrike is planning to overwinter (as some birders in the UK suggest) it seems strange that it would be calling.

My final day's birding was spent with James Lowen, freshly returned from 3 years in Argentina, and Chris Collins, freshly returned from the Philippines and who has spent much of the last year in France/Guyana/Antarctica/Spitzbergen/Arctic Russia and on a boat steaming between New Zealand and Japan. The novelty of going birding in the UK was too much for us and we managed to find nothing otherthan an odd, perhaps "eastern-type" chifchaff and dip Zitting Cisticola and Glossy Ibis during a grand tour of Kent.

EDIT - James has now posted some chiffy pix for discussion here

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

27th Oct 2009 - A severe case of Thrush

The offering of South Easterlies and early rain meant that Sacha and I were Blakeney Point bound today. Whilst having breakfast and sorting out the moth trap in the garden we had a flock of 40+ Redwing go over. Game on.

Got to Coastguards and a short seawatch releaved more thrush flocks coming in-off, low over the water, then gaining height over Cley Marsh.

Walking up the Point quickly produced a mass of newly arrived Blackbirds flushing out of the suede, with two Ring Ouzel amongst them. More thrush flocks went over continually, some mixed, others pure Blackbird/Redwing/Fieldfare, some more than 100 birds strong, and joined by others that had been decked in the suede. The scale of the movement was nicely exemplified by finding more than 50 Blackbirds in the tiny Plantation!

A Peregrine and a Merlin passed over, obviously being kept busy by the movement of thrushes, and there seemed to be good numbers of Reed Buntings around the boat between Coastguards and Halfway House.

Smaller numbers of thrushes were seen as we headed back down the Point, when a Woodcock dropped from the sky, whizzing past Sacha's head and almost impaling him.

Arrived back in Fen Drayton after dark and heard yet more Redwings passing over. A great day of vizmig.

The scale of the passage is nicely summarized by the Punks here.

26th Oct 2009 - Norfolk hopes

The first of a couple of days birding with Sacha didn't look too good - brisk WSW winds in a county that has had a poor autumn. Nonetheless Sacha's local knowledge took me to a couple of sites that I've not visited for a very long time, and to areas at those sites that I had no idea existed.

Rares of the day were second hand Gween-winged Teal and White-rumped Sandpiper at Cley (the latter we picked up immediately on getting to a full Daukes Hide...the other occupants of Daukes were grateful to us for putting them onto the closest wader, which they had completely overlooked). Much more enjoyable however were a Woodcock in-off at Muckleburgh and a photogenic Barn Owl that seemed rather exhausted and ended up roosting in the open (migrant?). Passerines at Muckleburgh included a duck & drake Blackcap, a nominate Chiff and brief views of a very pale bird that looked really similar to the first bird detailed in this thread on Birdforum.

Secondhand Sand


Got to the UK on evening of 22nd, an early-xmas trip to see the new baby in my family, and hoping to catch the tail end of autumn migration before the sun disappears below the horizon for 6 months. Four hours after landing news broke of the UK's first Eastern Crowned Warbler being found in South Shields - I momentarily considered the crazy prospect of twitching it, but jetlag, apathy and sense soon set in.

Tried for the Brown Shrike at Stains on 24th en route to more family, but was thwarted by the actions of a fieldcraftless photographer who had flushed it a hour before I got there. Did Fen Drayton RSPB (conveniently next to my sisters house) on 25th and managed a Chiff and a Goldeneye and not much else.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More of the same

Patch working again this morning - more of the same migrants - not boring, but it would be nice to get some variety (like a Sibe Blue Robin or a Paradise Fly, or...?). Anyhow, the sun was out and a few of the protagonists behaved for the camera. Totals included ABF 3+, TAIGA 5+, ARCTIC W 1-2, BLACK-NAPED ORIOLE 1, BLACK-CAPPED K'FISHER 1, COMMON K'FISHER 1

Taiga Fly (note the small amount of pink at the base of the lower mandible)

Arctic Warbler

1cy Black-naped Oriole

Asian Brown Fly