Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taiga, Taiga, Taiga!

Late afternoon trip to Suan Rot Fai (1710 - 1805 hrs) was looking a bit birdless until I stumbled upon my first TAIGA FLYCATCHER of the autumn...then another, and another!  A little late compared to the last couple of years (first arrival dates being 25th Sept 2008 and 27th Sept 2009).

Today's three birds were all in one small area, with two birds giving strange, loud, nasal squeaking calls rather than the usual "purr" - I've looked on Xeno-canto but cannot find anything similar.  When I first heard the call I didn't even attribute it to being a Taiga (it sounded almost like it should have been coming from a squirrel!).

Other than these birds I saw no other migrants whatsoever.  There was an email posted on the Oriental Birding forum yesterday from somebody in India who was suggesting that maybe Taiga Flycatchers migrate in flocks - I thought that was rather a strange claim, but today's experience might support such a hypothesis (the two calling birds seemed to be calling to one another).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another early morning (0630-0830 hrs) bash around the patch provided a few migrants, but still only small numbers: ASIAN BROWN FLYCATCHER 1-2, EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER 1, BROWN SHRIKE 3.  This is all getting a bit repetitive - but I guess that's what patchwatching is all about and makes those special days very, um....special!  Overnight rain had again provided hopes of a fall, but failed to deliver - I'm thinking we need rain pre-dawn to force stuff down, rather than rain starting soon after dusk and going for much of the night, as has happened in the last few days. 

I dedicated a block of time to trying to detect Siberian Blue Robin (now is supposed to be peak passage for them) but drew a blank.  Two autumns ago I was practically falling over SBRs in Bangkok (two dead in the garden and at least two, possibly three on the patch), but I haven't seen one in the city since then - perhaps 2008 was an especially good year for them?

  One of a pair of Paddyfield Pipits (this Adult
and a 1st winter) encountered this morning

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SRF 0630-0815 hrs produced a few migrants, thankfully:  YELLOW-RUMPED FLYCATCHER (1 female type), ASIAN BROWN FLYCATCHER (2) and star bird of the morning was a FOREST WAGTAIL, which managed to melt into the undergrowth before my eyes!

 This Indian Roller posed, briefly...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Where is all da scarce?

Fourth day of doing the patch at dawn for bugger-all reward.  Today was especially disappointing after a huge, violent storm dropped big amounts of rain on Bangkok last night, and I was expecting at least a small fall. BLACK-CAPPED KINGFISHER was again the highlight, and only a couple of BROWN SHRIKES and a few BLUE-TAILED BEE -EATERS provided further distraction.

Taiga Flycatcher is overdue for the autumn - can I really be bothered to try again tomorrow, what with a major work deadline looming??

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quiet weekend on the patch -  early morning visits on both Saturday and Sunday failed to produce much evidence of ongoing migration, with a complete absence of warblers/flycatchers.  Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Brown Shrikes and at least 2 Black-capped Kingfishers provided the main highlights.

The best on offer for the camera were these rather juicy SMALL MINIVETS.

Friday, September 24, 2010

 Olive-backed Sunbird

Pretty quiet morning on the patch, just at a time when there should be at least a healthy sprinkling of migrants.  All I got in 2 hours before work were  BLACK-NAPED ORIOLE and ASIAN BROWN FLYCATCHER (both heard-only), at least five BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATERS, and two or three BROWN SHRIKES.  There were lots of resident birds about, but bugger all on the migrant front.  In desperation I took to photographing dross.

 Common Iora

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Return of the King

A quick bash around the patch for the last hour of daylight was made worthwhile by the presence of a BLACK-CAPPED KINGISHER, my first of the autumn.  I don't know if this is a passage migrant or one of the birds that usually winters - either way it is a stunning migrant to see.

Otherwise rather quiet, with just one EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER and three BROWN SHRIKES.

 Indian Roller

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Migrants and Malkoha

SRF  from 0730-1100 hrs was initially a bit of a wash out, with drizzly showers putting paid to my hopes of passerine activity...then the rain stopped and the sky brightened a bit - I scored ASIAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER, YELLOW-RUMPED FLYCATCHER and BLACK-NAPED ORIOLE all in one tree (!), then found another tree harbouring an ASIAN BROWN FLYCATCHER and an ARCTIC WARBLER.  Then the rain started again and the activity stopped.  I met up with Phil Round, and we glimpsed the Y-R FLY again (a female type).

Most unexpected bird of the day was a GREEN-BILLED MALKOHA, which I assumed was an escape for Chatuchak market, but which Phil advised me was probably a wild bird as there are a few spots in the inner city and greater Bangkok where they can still be found.  So I'll be taking that as a rather splendid patch tick!

Green-billed Malkoha

Friday, September 17, 2010

A new Spooner

Afternoon trip to Khok Kham with Tom Lees to seek out SPOON-BILLED SANDPIPER.

We commissioned Mr Tii's help in the task, and after much (too much!) searching Mr Tii came up trumps with just 20 minutes light left in the day.  The bird we saw appeared to be an adult in winter plumage - different from the 1st summer that has been seen on-and-off since late July - indeed this was the first time that Mr Tii had seen this bird.

Other notables today included 29 RED KNOT,  many hundreds of RED-NECKED STINTS (with one bird appearing to have retained full summer plumage), one BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, several hundred MARSH, BROAD-BILLED, and CURLEW SANDPIPERS, 3 TURNSTONE, 10+ LONG-TOED STINTS and many hundreds of LESSER SANDPLOVER (some still exhibiting faded summer plumage).  Non-waders included WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN, WHISKERED TERN, COMMON KINGFISHER and BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATER.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Suan Rot Fai 0610-0815 hrs again today.  On arrival things looked promising, with a flock of 9 BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATERS high overhead, however there was actually little other evidence of newly arrived birds.  I saw a couple of other bee-eaters (including one low overhead chasing dragonflies) and heard two BROWN SHRIKES, but saw little else.  The "starling tree" still held a few DAURIAN STALINGS and I was told by a couple of other birders that a Chestnut-tailed Starling had been photographed there yesterday afternoon - so it was actually been visited by 8 sturnidae spp yesterday.

Daurian Starling

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Seven one tree!

Patchwork again today, covering Suan Rof Fai from 0610-0815 hrs.

The fruiting Ficus that has been hosting DAURIAN STARLINGS as well as the ROSE-COLOURED STARLING was still very busy, with the latter individual, and 10 or so of the former still present, and joined by a single WHITE-SHOULDERED STARLING (kindly pointed out to me by a Thai birder who was twitching the Rosy, and a patch tick for me).  With the four resident species also feeding, I was impressed to get seven species of one family in a single tree!

This Ficus really seems to be the interest of the moment, with it also drawing in a variety of escaped frugivores including single Sooty-headed and Stripe-throated Bulbuls, as well a male Blue-eared Barbet.

Other migrants were in evidence, with a CROW-BILLED DRONGO (another patch tick!), the first ASIAN BROWN FLYCATCHER of the autumn, single FOREST WAGTAIL and BROWN SHRIKE and a couple of BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATERS.

Heavily photoshopped Crow-billed Drongo - seen briefly in terrible light and I only clinched the ID from photos (Black Drongo being the other contender).  On such views these things are a bit tricky, but consulting the OBI image library definitely helped - especially this image.

Monday, September 13, 2010

12th Sept - afternoon at Khok Kham

After the excitement of the morning I decided to go to Khok Kham for some wader action in the late afternoon.

Quite a lots of birds, especially MARSH SANDPIPERS, with good numbers of BROAD-BILLED and CURLEW SANDSRED-NECKED STINTS and LESSER SANDPLOVERS were much in evidence, plus smaller numbers of other waders: 1 GREAT KNOT, 5 RED KNOT, 1 WOOD SANDPIPER, 2 BARWIT, 1 BLACKWIT, 2 TURNSTONE and about 5 LONG-TOED STINTS.

I saw Mr Tii, who told me that the 1st summer SPOON-BILLED SANDPIPER is still around.

moulting adult Long-toed Stint

Amongst the Red-necked Stints I came across this interesting adult stint, which I immediately thought was a LITTLE STINT - mainly because of the extensive rufous in the tertials.   I posted these images on Birdforum for other opinions, where contributors agreed with my original ID as Little stint. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Stink Pink

Of all the birds that are "very rare" in Thailand, I had to find this at Suan Rot Fai...


I'd been happily minding my own business, watching and photographing the Daurian Starling flock (which seemed to have grown in size), when this thing appeared. I was perplexed by the arse-only views I got, until it starting flashing it's well-marked vent...

what the f...?!

Then I knew something interesting was happening, but the bird promptly flew off. A few minutes later it came back to the fruiting tree and started feeding in the same area where I had seen it before.  This time giving much better views:

Clearly an adult winter ROSE-COLOURED STARLING, which is a pretty rare bird in Thailand! Apparently there are one or two records annually, although last winter was exceptional with about 40 birds seen. According to Robson (2000) the closest wintering population is in Sri Lanka.

Other migrants were thin on the ground, with just one female YELLOW-RUMPED FLYCATCHER, one ARCTIC WARBLER and a couple of BROWN SHRIKES.

 There seemed to be  quite a few more Daurian Starlings today than yesterday.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Pictures of Daurian Grey

Excellent morning's birding at Suan Rot Fai from 7-10am, with significant numbers of migrants seen, best of all being a flock of up to 40 DAURIAN STARLINGS feeding in a fruiting tree in the company of the common resident starling/myna species.

There was also a strong showing from other migrants, including 4 or 5 YELLOW-RUMPED FLYCATCHERS (including two adult males), 4 BROWN SHRIKES, one EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER, one ARCTIC WARBLER and one FOREST WAGTAIL.

 Nice bum!

...and the less sexy side.

A couple of more routine species also gave themselves up for the camera today...

Coppersmith Barbet

Scaly-breasted Munia

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Awaiting the deluge (or trickle) - 7th Sept

Back in Bangkok now and ready to embrace all those lovely migrants which are about to come my way (!).  However one problem I face is that my Leica binoculars have seemingly been taken hostage by Leica in Germany, who I sent them to for cleaning: they were meant to be back in late July but now it seems I may have to wait anything from 2-5 weeks...and Leica's agent here in Thailand have so far refused to loan me a "courtesy" pair (you can follow this saga here).

I visited Suan Rot Fai for an hour this evening, and it seems that migrants have indeed started to arrive (after drawing a complete blank on 2nd Sept), with three BROWN SHRIKES heard (only one seen) and two COMMON KINGFISHERS.  I was birding around dusk, which gave me a chance to get reasonable views (and blurred photos) of a couple of ASIAN BARRED OWLETS.

Before seeing all these however I came across a BLACK-CRESTED BULBUL which has presumably liberated itself from Chatuchak Market.

Crap photo, but it's the first migrant of the autumn, so I don't care!

Blurred ASBO (gotta love autofocus in low light)

Enjoying its freedom

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cambridgeshire & Norfolk - 18th-31st August

Visiting my family in the UK has been transformed now that they have moved from Bath city centre to Fen Drayton in Cambridgeshire - they now have an excellent nature reserve  their doorstep!  As a result, during my trip I made a few visits to Fen Drayton Lakes RSPB reserve, as well as Kingfishers Bridge.

I also made a four day trip to Norfolk to see my good friend Sacha Barbato, who moved from London to Norfolk five years ago. Fortunately my trip coincided with some promising weather over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Highlights during my trip included: two Wood Sandpipers (Kingfisher Bridge),  good numbers of Arctic Skuas and Bonxies on a couple of Norfolk seawatches, plus a possible Long-tailed Skua (in the company of a Bonxie, and dwarfed by it) seen flying down Blakeney Point at 3.30pm on 27th Aug, a total of 19 SPOONBILLS at Cley and Burnham Overy, two Whinchats, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper (Cley) Sooty and Manx Shearwaters off Sheringham, and (re-)finding a STORM PETREL at Sheringham which I got lots of people onto after it or another had been glimpsed by a single observer some twenty minutes earlier.

I finished of my UK tour with a pub lunch in the Surrey sunshine, whilst enjoying a Common Buzzard over Reigate Heath.  Every time I go back to the UK nowadays I'm astonished at how easy it is to see Buzzards in SE England and East Anglia.

Whilst in the UK I also went to the Birdfair at Rutland Water, which provided excellent opportunities to catch up with  many old friends.  Perhaps I should go every year!

Washington DC, Ohio and Pennsylvania - 11th-17th August

 American Goldfinch

Summer holidays started with a week in the US visiting Amalee's family in DC and Akron, Ohio (with a drive one-way through Pennsylvania).  Birding was very limited, but provided huge novelty value for me, having previously spent only two weeks in North America, and having seem more American birds in Cornwall than in the US! Actually I've seen far more in Latin America.

Scored AMERICAN ROBIN on the lawn of the White House (how better to start?), and was reminded of just how much wildlife is on the door step on many Americans when I saw three OSPREYS circling the Lincoln Memorial. Ohio birding was limited to garden and "from the car" but who can complain at CEDAR WAXWINGS?! On the way back to DC we stopped briefly at Shawnee State Park, Pennsylvania, where an all-to-brief foray int the forest yielded cracking views of an OVENBIRD (the first I'd seen for more than a decade).

The birding got much more serious on my last morning, when Gary Allport took me out to DC's Rockcreek Park for a pre-work bash which produced migrant BLACK-AND-WHITE and CANADA WARBLERS amongst others.

I thought DC seemed like a very liveable city, especially with Rockcreek as a local patch.

 Eastern Kingbird