Thursday, October 21, 2010

Get your boots on!

I made a few stops on the drive back from Mae Sot yesterday, these included an hour looking for migrating raptors in the range of hills between Mae Sot and Tak, in the extreme west of Thailand.  Since the weather was less than perfect (lots of cloud, threatening rain and only a few patches of sun) there wasn't too much action, but what there was was quite interesting, with two separate ORIENTAL HONEY-BUZZARDS, one of which was behaving rather strangely as it seemed to be displaying whilst migrating: it would pick up a thermal and start circling, then would break into  series of strong, very labour-intensive wing beats (so intensive infact that it would trail its legs downwards) to gain altitude and would then drop on semi-closed wings in an undulting fashion at a 45 degree angle, ending in an upwards peak where it would close it's wings fully and stoop and high speed, then it would start flapping again until it picked up a thermal to circle on.  It did this four or five times over the course of 10 minutes, even continuing to do so whilst being mobbed by an accipiter spp.

The other interesting raptor I saw was much closer (see photos below). It looked to me like a Black Kite on structure (note the long tail and angular wings)  but seemed to have some plumage anomalies (relatively uniform dark brown underparts, reduced whitish patches on the inner primaries (not extending to outher primaries).  The tail was splayed as the bird was circling, and the tail appears to be heavily worn, so no fork is evident.  This bird had me confused for a while  - after initially thinking Black Kite I started to wonder if it was actually an Aquila eagle, but the tail is clearly too long and the bird too "dainty",  the carpel bars on the upperparts (see the poor quality pic below) are also consistent with Black Kite, however, in the same picture note the white "landing lights" on the shoulders and the narrow white rump. This bird is actually a dark phase BOOTED EAGLE, a species I have very little experience of, and only ever in light phase.  Interesting bird...ok, let's be honest..."confusing bird", but a good lesson learned!  I have to thank Sacha Barbato for inadvertently alerting me to the possibility of this bird being a booted eagle - I had forgotten that Booted occurs in Thailand,  Robson (2008) considers it to be a vagrant or rare passage migrant in much of Thailand, though Robert Candido  reports it as regular at raptor watchpoints on the Thai-Malay peninsular (eg Chumphon). Thanks also to Phil Round who has confirmed the ID.

Dark phase Booted Eagle

Further along on my journey back I stopped briefly at Bung Boropet, which was heaving with birdlife including BRONZE-WINGED JACANA, PURPLE SWAMPHEN, and STRIATED GRASSBIRD, LONG-TAILED SHRIKE, ORIENTAL PRATINCOLE, and a few YELLOW BITTERNS.

female Yellow Bittern

Whilst driving further south it was evident that migrating hirundines (especially RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS) and BLACK DRONGOS were being forced down by the frequent heavy rain showers.  The icing on the cake at sunset was a Harrier spp (probably Pied) quartering a field about 30kms north of Bangkok, but I was charging down the dual carriageway, looking into the sun so couldn't clinch it.


Medical Tourism Thailand said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nick Upton said...

I have been seeing 1s and 2s of Booted Eagle regularly in Thailand over the last few years. At least 2 birds around Petchaburi last winter and I saw one at Beung Boraphet on 10th November this year.