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.