Friday, September 30, 2011

A 2nd for Thailand...on my patch?

Phil Round has just published this article discussing the identification criteria of Northern Boobook, a species split by Ben King in 2002. Phil mist-netted one in March this year at Laem Pak Bia, the first confirmed for Thailand, and as a result of research off the back of that record, as described in the article, it seems that Brown Boobook (the common resident species in Thailand) can be separated from Northern Boobook  in the field  - it was previously though to be separable only on biometrics (most notably, wing length) and call.  The key in-the-field feature is the shape of the markings on the bird's lower breast and belly: Brown Boobook shows obvious heart-shaped spots, whilst Northern shows tear-drop shaped spots.

Photos illustrating Phil's article clearly demonstrate this difference, and a look at the Oriental Bird Images database show that this feature holds true (note that in the database of Brown Bookbook photos  on OBI, picture number 5 is a mis-labelled Northern, photographed in Hong Kong in April 2011).

Confirmed/suspected records of Northern Boobook in Thailand now seem to consist of two birds photographed around Bangkok (one in Oct 2008 and one in Feb 2011) and the bird that Phil trapped in March 2011.

I saw this "Brown Boobook" at Suan Rot Fai in April 2010 (see my post here), and on telling Phil of the record (quite a good local record and the only one I have seen on the patch) he mentioned the possibility of it being Northern, given the fact that it was probably a migrant, however without the bird's biometrics it was pure speculation (the underpart pattern ID feature was unknown at that stage).  However, upon reviewing the images of the bird (see below) in light of Phil's article it seems clear that this bird has only tear-drop shaped spotting and so I think it is a Northern Boobook, which based on current records would make it the 2nd record for Thailand (after the Oct 2008 bird).

Of course, given the fact that this ID feature has only just come to light it is very likely that other records of Northern Boobook will emerge, identified from photographs, so it remains to be seen what the species' true status is in Thailand. Round (2008) states that Northern Boobook breeds in China and winters in the Philippines and Indonesia, and speculated that it may occur in Thailand.

EDIT, 2nd Oct: Phil Round has commented that "assuming plumage features are reliable (and I'm pretty sure they are), I would say this is 100% a Northern Boobook."  He goes on to say "The first Thai record is presumably a bird listed in Deignan's (1963)  check-list as Ninox scutulata florensis (either a synonym of japonica or a subspecies of  japonica) from Trang Province.  I think there is another from Ko Lanta, c. 1920.  There will probably turn out to be other specimens of japonica in collections. I found one in the TISTR collection  collected from Mae Rim, Chiang Mai,  in November 1970." That would make the Suan Rot Fai bird about the 5th Thai record...for now.

Looking up

Did an early moring walk around the Ministry of Public Relations again this morning.  Passerine migrants included one Asian Brown Flycatcher, one Yellow-browed Warbler and another poorly seen phyllosc sp. (probably Arctic).  I also picked up two Peregrines sparring overhead and calling loudly - they looked fantastic in the early morning sun.

Before starting work a colleague and I went up to our office roof top to look for any evience of vizmig (hoping for some raptor action. We picked up one Crow-billed Drongo, small numbers of Barn Swallows, one or two distant raptors (probably accipiter spp.) and had a flock of 20 Great Cormorants heading due south (GC is a winter visitor to Thailand). 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Welcome to the jungle

Though the sun was shining and I expected there to have been a clearing-out of migrants, at this time of year anything can turn up - so I went to Suan Rot Fai before work today.

Things looked promising as the first two birds I saw were an adult Brown Shrike and an Asian Brown Flycatcher, followed almost immediately by my first Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn which meant new birds were in. Soon afterwards a got a fleeting glimpse of "something odd" that looked promising - a rich brown passerine that seemed to flush from very low down in a patch of gloomy palm fronds and sat up (but hidden) about five feet off the ground in some dense bamboo. I had only seen it with the naked eye, but my immediate reaction was "what the f*ck was that?" I waited for about 10 minutes but the bird didn't reappear. A bird then flew back from the same area into the palms. I scanned for several more minutes but all I could see were  Streak-eared bulbuls - perhaps that was what it was... a badly seen bulbul?

I wondered back in the direction where I had seen the bird, more to follow another path than to look for it, when it flushed from a low branch over the path, and back into the palm fronds.  I had again only seen it with the naked eye, and I had no idea what it was, other than the fact that it wasn't a bulbul!  Moving to the farthest part of the palms so as to not disturb the bird I was astonished to see it flycatch and then drop to the ground - my view was obscured by vegetation so that all I could see was a warmish brown tail and pinkish legs - it then flicked around to show me its head and I suddenly felt very lost for an ID.  The bird was acting chat-like on the ground, I could see a pale throat, dusky sides to the head extending in a diffuse band across the chest and the bill was dark but appeared to have a pale yellow base.  It then disappeared and I was left trying to work out if I had seen a chat/robin or a flycatcher.  Two birds entered my mind - Rufous-tailed Robin and Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher; the breast seemed wrong for the robin, and the bird looked quite large, so I started thinking more about the Jungle Fly - this was after all the exact same area of the park where I had found  a Brown-chested Jungle Fly on 21st Sept 2008.

I went back to my original position and decided to wait it out.  After about 15 minutes the bird reappeared in the palm fronds, giving an intensely harsh "tac" call several times in quick succession, and I saw it in flight, and perched, but obscured a couple of times - it was a skulking flycatcher, tending to keep low down in dense undergrowth, and sitting still for long periods.  I also got to see that it had an obvious diffuse breast band and by this stage I was  100% certain that it was indeed a BROWN-CHESTED JUNGLE FLYCATCHER - a species listed as globally threatened, and one of the species that had inspired me to keep plugging away at Suan Rot Fai after my find in 2008.

I then moved postion, and found the bird perched in the open, and sitting very still:

Note the hooked tip of the bill, which can just be seen here.

For the benefit of birders in Bangkok, look at the google map here and look for the marker that says "Canal Zone" which marks the place where I saw the bird.

Whilst trying to clinch the ID on the bird I also managed to photograph another Pale-legged Leaf Warbler and an Arctic Warbler. I also saw a single Eastern Crowned Warbler, a single Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and another couple of Asian Brown Flys.

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler

 Arctic Warbler

Arctic Warbler

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wishing I was on the patch...

No free time to do Suan Rot Fai today and that seems like bad news as my early morning walk at the Ministry of Public Relations was awash with migrants: 1 female-type Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, low down in open bushes at close range, 1 Eastern Crowned Warbler (plus fleeting glimpses of two other unidentified phylloscs), 2 Brown Shrikes, 1-2 Asian Brown Flycatchers and a single Black-naped Oriole - not bad for 20 minutes birding!

EDIT, 4th Oct:  Mark Pearson did Suan Rot Fai on 28th September and found this Grey Nightjar.  This is a species that has been on my list of predictions for SRF (it's a migrant), but is something that I have not yet seen (so a great find for Mark!)

Grey Nightjar (Mark Pearson) 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday Blues

SRF 0745-0935. Heavy overnight showers caused some new birds to drop in; during my short stint I managed to find three Siberian Blue Robins (two 1cy birds together and a separate  cracking adult male), two Pale-legged Leaf Warblers, and a Forest Wagtail (that's three new species for this autumn's passage), two Plain-tailed Warblers, 5+ Asian Brown Flycatchers, 4+ Brown Shrikes, an a single Eastern Crowned Warbler.

As ever, no matter how hard I work the site I still feel that there must be loads of other birds lurking - (eg today I met a Thai birder who had just seen a male Hill Blue Flycatcher). The site has massive potential, and this is the time of year to realise it.

 Plain-tailed Warbler

 Pale-legged Leaf Warbler

Here's a chart of SE Asia's weather at 0100hrs this morning -  tropical storm "Haitang" over Vietnam  producing an easterly airflow. Winds here in Bangkok remain light, and have a west/SW bias, but I suspect birds are being pushed in from Vietnam/Cambodia. Note also typhoon Nesat over the Philippines.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blue Monday

Did the Ministry of Public Relations walk this morning and picked up 1-2 Eastern Crowned Warblers, plus two Asian Brown Flycatchers with little effort - migrants were obviously still in evidence. 

This was confirmed to me by Mark Pearson who sent me a gripping email whilst I was welded to my desk urgently re-arranging a US$6 million budget (so I couldn't exactly skive off early). He had picked up a male Siberian Blue Robin in Suan Rot Fai, plus good numbers common migrants (even more than yesterday).  I saw three Sibe Blue Robins in the park in autumn 2008, but strangely have not seen one since; we also had two dead in our garden that autumn (the only dead birds I have ever found in our garden!), which makes me think that year was exceptional for them.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Mark Pearson's photos of the Accipiter that we had hunting over Suan Rot Fai this morning show it to have reddish underparts, very pale underwings with some barring on the secondaries, and dark tips to the underside of the primaries - a 1cy Chinese Sparrowhawk, perhaps not surprising since there were more than 2,500 Chinese Sprawks seen heading south over Chumphon yesterday (the heaviest passage of this species so far this autumn).

This is my 100th species in Suan Rot Fai, and amazingly a massive world tart's tick for me!

Hats off to Mark's sharp shooting with the camera.  I owe that man a beer!

Eastern Crowned Warbler deluge

0645-1030 hrs at Suan Rot Fai with visiting birder Mark Pearson.  We trawled the southern sector of the park and did pretty well, finding good numbers of common migrants including at least 8 Eastern Crowned Warblers (by far the highest count that I have had in a single day), this included a single tree which held four individuals! We also had  6+ Arctic Warblers, 3 female-type Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, 9 Asian Brown Flycatchers, 3 Crow-billed Drongos, 6+ Brown Shrikes, 2 Black-naped Orioles and another Plain-tailed Warbler (my fourth in a week of this species that I had never seen in SRF before  this time last week - there must be some interesting movement of this species going on at the moment).

Arctic Warbler

Crow-billed Drongo - 1cy (compare with the photo of an adult in my previous post)

 Crow-billed Drongo - Adult

We also had brief views of a hunting Accipiter which Mark got  some record shots of and will need some examination to determine what it was - the impression I got of it was that it might best fit 1cy Japanese Sparrowhawk but the views were very brief and so it will only be clinched if the photos are good enough (no pressure, Mark!)

Friday, September 23, 2011

 Corvid-beaked Drongo

Last hour of daylight spent at SRF. There were obviously good numbers of migrants around, but the diminishing light was against me, though I managed a reasonable haul with only the second Crow-billed Drongo that I have seen in the park, plus 2 Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, 4+ Asian Brown Flycatchers, 2 Brown Shrikes and single Arctic & Eastern Crowned Warblers. The ECW was so luminous in the dull conditions that it appeared to have its own light source.


Highlights this morning at Min of Public Relations were a pair of Two-barred Greenish Warblers, three Arctic Warblers, an adult Brown Shrike and a Common Kingfisher.  The weather has been overcast and drizzly (now drying out) since yesterday, and the wind has switched from points west to points east and this seems to have grounded a migrants.  Must get to the patch this afternoon!

I am not really sure how to interpret pressure charts in SE Asia, but the current high pressure over China and low pressure over Vietnam  (which is presumably responsible for the current E/NE/SE breeze) can only be a good thing for producing migrants...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Early morning walk at the Ministry of Public Relations produced a light sprinkling of migrants, with single Eastern Crowned Warbler, Arctic Warbler and Asian Brown Flycatcher.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Plain-tailed buses

SRF for an hour and a half before work produced 2-3 Asian Brown Flycatchers, a Brown Shrike, 5+ Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and rather surprisingly (given my first site record was only on Sunday) two Plain-tailed Warblers; one in stream-side bamboo and the other in a dense clump of vegetation in the Park's ornamental gardens.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Japanese breakfast

My early morning walk in the grounds of the Ministry of Public Relations produced no migrant warblers/flycatchers, but I was stunned to see a female Japanese Sparrowhawk take a Tree Sparrow right in front of me!  It perched up, allowing me to get point blank views whilst she devoured her kill. Of course this happens when the camera is at home.

There are increasing numbers of Japanese Sprawks heading south at the moment, with 224 seen yesterday from the watchpoint of Khao Dinsor, near Chumphon.

On the way back through the grounds of the MPR I had a Grey Wagtail pass over - the first of the winter, and I picked up Brown Shrike near home.

Monday, September 19, 2011

An early morning walk around the Ministry of Public Relations produced a spanking Eastern Crowned Warbler, a single Brown Shrike and Blue-tailed Bee-eater. Also a group of Cattle Egrets (joined by a single Little Egret) overhead.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Plain facts

Lots of passage migrants at Suan Rot Fai this morning, pride of place going to the first Plain-tailed Warbler that I have seen there. It was high in the canopy of The Ramble when I first got onto it, but eventually dropped low down in the undergrowth. This is a pretty good record - Round (2008) regards it as an uncommon migrant, and the earliest cited date for autumn passage is 18th Sept, so I've matched that!

Other migrants included two Eastern Crowned Warblers, at least 4 Yellow-rumped Flycatchers (including 2 adult males), 7+Arctic Warblers, 2 Asian Brown Flycatchers,  8+ Brown Shrikes, a healthy sprinkling of Blue-throated Bee-eaters, and at least 5 Barn Swallows going south.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

 Yellow-rumped Flycatcher

A fairly standard mid-September morning at Suan Rot Fai, with a total of 6 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and 6 Brown Shrikes spread across the park. A very dense clump of bushes that I have recently discovered held 2 Arctic Warblers and a female-type Yellow-rumped Flycatcher.

I also heard an Asian Brown Flycatcher calling briefly and met a Thai birder who said a Black-backed Pygmy Kingfisher had been seen yesterday - I am seriously gripped!

Edit:  even more gripped by the photo of the Black-backed Kingfisher here

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Things looked promising today when I had 2-3 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters over the house at lunchtime, but a late afternoon trip to Suan Rot Fai produced only a couple of migrants through one of them, a well-marked Two-barred Greenish Warbler was a patch tick. This is the seventh species of phyllosc that I have seen on the patch (the others being Radde's, Dusky, Yellow-browed, Arctic, Eastern-crowned and Pale-legged).

The only other notable birds at SRF were a Blue-tailed Bee-eater heard overhead and a Brown Shrike heard calling just before dusk.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Never a frown with Asian Brown

Walked around the Ministry of Public Relations this morning and picked up my first Asian Brown Flycatcher of the autumn, along with the first Arctic Warbler I've seen for a week.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Drown Shrike

Got to the Patch late afternoon just as the heavens opened. Took shelter until the rain had eased and decided to try SRF's ornamental gardens on the basis that this aea has a lot of open trees where birds might sit up to dry off.  The only bird of note was s very wet adult Brown Shrike, I have no doubt that there was a lot more around, but by the time the rain had stopped I had less than 45 minutes light, so my chances were pretty slim. Better luck tomorrow I hope.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Grilling phylloscs

Early morning had me trying to get good views of another phyllosc at the Ministry of Public Relations, but the hyperactive little bugger was really giving me a headache. Either and Arctic or a Two-barred Greenish, watching it in strong sunlight made the plumage tones look really quite yellow and green (not the subdued olives I am used to seeing in Arctics, but most of those I have seen recently have been in areas of heavy shade). With such brief views and the bird not calling I was left undecided.  2BGW passes through Bangkok in small numbers, especially in autumn, but it's not something I have seen on either in my two local birding areas, so I'm very keen to score an indisputable bird.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Eastern Crowned Warbler

A walk around the Ministry of Public Relations provided my first two Eastern Crowned Warblers of the autumn, along with a third phyllosc which wouldn't give itself up, but left me thinking it might have been a Two-barred Greenish...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A fall on the patch

Common Kingfisher, the first of the autumn

0620-0920 in Suan Rot Fai indicated that a significant fall of migrants had occured as a result of a torrential downpour overnight.  I was joined by Gerry Brett who was passing through Bangkok (see his excellent blog from western Thailand here).  I was able to show him some of the eight Yellow-rumped Flycatchers that were present, two of the three newly arrived Common Kingfishers, one of the six Brown Shrikes, and at least three of the 10 Arctic Warblers that had arrived.  I also had a group of at least three Blue-tailed Bee-eaters pass through. In terms of numbers of migrants this was my best day on the patch for a very long time - there must be other species lurking, but we didn't connect if they were.

 One of eight Yellow-rumped Flycatchers

The first Brown Shrikes of the autumn - not one, but six!

One of ten Arctic Warblers seen this morning