Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Early morning visit to Suan Rot Fai in humid, very overcast weather was slow to begin with but eventually produced a selection of migrants that made me want to stay (just a shame I have to work for a living). The highlight was a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler which I heard going "tink" and managed to pish into the open a couple of times. The same area held an Arctic Warbler that was calling persistently and was also pished out. Further on, in a rather uninspiringly sparse  but surprisingly birdy strip of vegetation I picked up one or two more Arctic Warblers,  three Yellow-browed Warblers and had brief, distant and badly lit views of what I suspect was a female Verditer Flycatcher.

Other migrants this morning included one or two Brown Shrikes, two Ashy Drongos, at least seven Black-naped Orioles, two Asian Brown Flys and 10-15 Taiga Flycatchers.

I also had at least three Cattle Egrets feeding in the park (all my previous records have been flyovers).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fudgy Fly

My visit to SRF 0630-0815hrs this morning produced a lovely 1st winter Ferruginous Flycatcher - a patch tick and only the second time I have seen this species. A rather tiny flycatcher that seemed pretty unconcerned by my presence.

Oh Fudge!

The other highlight was an Ashy Minivet which was only my second record on the patch. Otherwise migrants were pretty much as you'd expect on the patch in late October - perhaps ten Taiga Flys, a couple of Asian Brown Flys and Yellow-browed Warblers, an Ashy Drongo and a few Blue-tailed Bee-eaters.  A group of Barn Swallows seemed to be feeding up before heading further south, but the hoped-for raptors didn't materialise.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Raptors on the patch

Did Suan Rot Fai after work. On my way from Mo Chit skytrain station to the park entrance I was pleasantly shocked to see a low-flying Oriental Honey Buzzard heading south west! Needless to say the camera was ripped from my back pack and the image below is the best I could get.  About 30 minutes later I picked up a second bird at much greater height.


Given that it seemed raptor movement was on (or rather I should say "visible", because raptors do go over Bangkok during passage but usually at significant height) I guessed that some migrating birds would probably drop into the park to roost, so I kept my gaze skyward and headed to an area along the "Canal Zone" which has some dense cover and large trees where I have occasionally disturbed raptors in the past.  Sure enough I had one raptor spp drop in - a weird looking thing that initially looked falcon-like, then accipiter-like, then almost harrier-like as it flew around a couple of times prospecting for a suitable roosting site.  I digi-blasted it in the hope that I could sort out the silhouette once the bird had gone to roost. My thinking is that it is a Grey-faced Buzzard, based on structure (longish tail, narrow wings) and the whitish fringing on the rump, but I'm keen to get others thoughts on this bird (see below). EDIT: feedback from Dave Sargeant and Phil Round confirms the ID as Grey-faced Buzzard - a new bird for the site.

Grey-faced Buzzard

By this time the light was really going, but I decided to hang around just in case I could pick up a migrant Grey Nightjar (something that others have seen in Suan Rot Fai but I have not), and sure enough, after 15 minutes of seeing nothing but a couple of Night Herons and lots of mosquitoes  a Nightjar spp appeared out of the gloom.  I could see white in the primaries, indicating that it was a male, but could not get good enough views of the tail to clinch the ID as Grey Nightjar.  Structurally the bird was not a Large-tailed (the species I'm most familiar with) but I'm not happy to claim it as a definite Grey Nightjar based on the views I had - Indian and Savannah Nightjars both occur in Thailand and whilst they are unlikely to occur in the centre of Bangkok the same could be said of Large-tailed, which I have in fact seen in the park.  Guess I'm trying again tomorrow...

Mae Wong Dam petition

The proposal for a dam at Mae Wong stil seems to have some life in it.

I received this email this morning with a request for signatures against the dam...


Dear Friend,

I’m writing to ask you, please, to sign this petition to stop construction of an incredibly damaging dam in west-central Thailand that will eviscerate the Mae Wong National Park, home to tigers, elephants and other increasingly rare species. Tiger cubs were recently caught on camera at the heart of the park, rare evidence of a healthy, breeding population.

This park is especially important for these species because it encompasses tropical lowland deciduous forest and savannah grassland, both highly threatened habitats in Thailand, within an arc of protective hills. This lowland basin is laced by a network of creeks that feed into the Mae Wong stream that politicians and businessmen would like to dam to reduce the threat of flooding, ignoring the fact – pointed out be several authorities on the subject - that recent floods have been most severe in areas already covered by large dams but where watershed forests have diminished in part as a result of those dams.

Mae Wong NP is a real success story for Thai conservation. Declared a national park in 1987 after a logging concessionaire had felled the pick of its timber, it was in poor condition in 1990 (and largely devoid of large mammals) when I co-authored Thailand’s nomination to UNESCO with my late colleague Seub Nakhasathien for the adjacent wildlife sanctuaries of Thung Yui-Huai Kha Khaeng to become the country’s first natural world heritage site. In that nomination, we noted that as soon as the conservation status of Mae Wong improves, IUCN would be justified in proposing that it be incorporated into the world heritage site. In the meantime, we noted that Mae Wong was part of the world heritage site’s well-protected and well-managed northern buffer zone.

But now that Mae Wong’s ecosystem has recovered, within weeks of Thailand’s conservation community celebrating rare photos of a female tiger and two cubs, the government declared that it plans to build a dam that would damage the ecosystem once again. There are at least four good reasons to vote against this wretched dam:

    1. The dam would eviscerate the national park, inundating the whole of its core area which constitutes most, if not all, the low-lying land in the park. Mae Wong NP is ringed by mountains, giving it a distinctive horse-shoe shape. The proposed dam would be built across the narrow end of the horse-shoe.
      2. As always happens in Thailand when reservoirs extend into wild areas, whether they have protected status or not, this dam would facilitate encroachment and resource extraction inside the national park, subjecting Mae Wong’s breeding tigers and other valuable species to the depredations of hunters and poachers.

      3. The dam would badly undermine the conservation integrity and connectivity of the world heritage site by destroying the critical role of Mae Wong as the northern buffer zone. It would act like an aggressive cancer that invades from outside, spreading its life-threatening impacts into the world heritage site.
      4. This dam calls into question the Thai government’s commitment to conservation (including tiger conservation) and its willingness to recognize and respect the importance of world heritage sites and the global tiger initiative. If the government can so flagrantly disregard the impact of this dam on Mae Wong NP, it will also ignore the impact of other development proposals elsewhere in this and other world heritage sites.
I and my fellow conservationists here in Thailand would be really grateful if you could sign this petition and share it with friends by email or Facebook or whichever way you like. If we’d all been around when the Dodo was threatened, would be have tried to save it? I think we would. Please help us make sure Thailand’s tigers and other rare species don’t go the way of the dodo because politicians are more interested in money and populist policies than they are in the long-term health of the environment.

I leave you with a quote from Voltaire that seems apt in the circumstances – even if he did not entertain the possibility that women may also have a role to play! "Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do".

Thanks very much for your support.

My bestest, as ever.

Belinda Stewart-Cox

Two-barred Greenish

A quick walk around the Ministry of Public Relations this morning, after our late evening return from Bhutan last night, produced one Two-barred Greenish Warbler and several Taiga Flycatchers (whose passage should be peaking about now).


Amalee and I went on holiday to Bhutan from 20th-27th Oct.  This was our first visit to this amazing country, and our itinerary was by no means birding-focused (the one thing I did ask our guide to sort out was Ibisbill but much to my dismay we dipped), so I just picked up what I could along the way. Our itinerary took in Paro, Thimpu, Punakha and the Haa Valley. 

Bhutan is an amazingly beautiful country, with very limited infrastructural development (all our travel was on winding mountain roads), and hotels of varying quality (depending on what was available in each place we visited).

I'll write more and add photos when time allows over the next few days, but for now I include an annotated systematic list f birds and mammals we encountered...

Birds seen

Kalij Pheasant
A pair seen crossing the road at about 2,800m between Cheli La Pass and Paro.

Speckled Piculate
One seen with a mixed flock at Kichu resort, Wangdue.

One seen at Punakha and one seen at Paro.

Common Kingfisher
One seen on the river at Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Crested Kingfisher
One seen on the river at Punakha Dzong.  Two seen on the river at the Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Himalayan Swiftlet
Several seen over Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten near Punakha.

Snow Pigeon
A flock of 15-20 birds seen around the Tigers Nest. An unexpected bonus after dipping them at the Cheli La pass.

Speckled Wood Pigeon
A flock of approximately ten birds seen flying over the upper Paro Valley at Drukgyel Dzong.

Oriental Turtle Dove
Common and seen at all sites we visited below 3,000 metres


Common Sandpiper
One seen on the river at Punakha Dzong.

River Lapwing
Three seen on the river at Punakha Dzong.

Black-eared Kite
One hunting over the riverside at Punakha Dzong.

Northern Goshawk
One seen well overhead as we trekked up to the Tigers Nest.  An apparently large accipiter seen over the Paro river next day seems likely to have been this species.

Himalayan Buzzard (ssp. refectus)
Two seen over pasture near Chimi Lhakhang (the temple of the Divine Madman) and one seen at Paro.

Rufous-bellied Eagle
One juv seen over forest at about 2,800 m, below Dochu La Pass.

Mountain Hawk-Eagle
Two seen at Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten near Punakha

Eurasian Hobby
One juv seen over Punakha Dzong

Eurasian Kestrel
Widespread, seen in many locations.

Peregrine (ssp. calidus)
One seen over the Tiger’s Nest

Great Cormorant
Three seen fishing on the river at Punaka

Long-tailed Shrike
One near Punakha Dzong

Grey-backed Shrike
One at Punakha and several around Paro.

Yellow-billed Blue-magpie
Widespread and regular in forest up to 3,100m

Spotted Nutcracker
Common around Thimpu (where I saw about 20 from our hotel balcony, whilst they fed on walnuts in a neighbouring garden), also seen in the Haa Valley and around Paro.

Red-billed Chough
Seen in the Haa Valley and around Paro Dzong

House Crow
Seen in Thimpu

Large-billed Crow
Seen at several sites

Common Raven
One group of four birds seen in the Paro Valley

Long-billed Minivet
One male seen on the trek up to the Tiger’s Nest

Scarlet Minivet
Seen at the Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Brown Dipper
Seen on all fast flower rivers visited during the trip – seemingly very common.

Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher
One seen on the trek up to the Tiger’s Nest.

Rufous-breasted Bush Robin
One female seen in the Haa Valley.

Oriental Magpie Robin
Seen in the garden of the Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Hodgson’s Redstart
Commonly seen at many sites.

Blue-fronted Redstart
Several seen in the Haa Valley, including three splendid males.

White-capped Water Redstart
Seen all fast flower rivers visited during the trip – seemingly very common.

Plumbeous Water Redstart
Seen all fast flower rivers visited during the trip – seemingly very common.

Little Forktail
Seen on the river at Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Slaty-backed Forktail
Seen on the river at Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Siberian Stonechat
One seen near Chimi Lhakhang (the temple of the Divine Madman).

Common Myna
Several seen near Chimi Lhakhang (the temple of the Divine Madman).

White-tailed Nuthatch
Seen in forest below Cheri Goemba, Thimpu.

One flew thought by field of view whilst watching Snow Pigeons at the Tiger’s Nest!  It showed for a couple of minutes of pure ecstasy.

Rusty-flanked Treecreeper
One seen in a mixed flock in forest below Cheri Goemba, Thimpu

Rufous-vented Tit
One seen in a mixed flock at Dochu La Pass

Coal Tit
Several seen below the Tiger’s Nest.

Grey-crested Tit
One seen below the Tiger’s Nest.

Green-backed Tit
Seen at most sites visited.

Yellow-browed Tit
Three seen in a mixed flock in forest below Cheri Goemba, Thimpu.

Red-vented Bulbul
Seen at the Kichu resort, Wangdue and other nearby sites at the same altitude.

Black Bulbul
Seen at the Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Oriental White-eye
Seen at the Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Grey-sided Bush-warbler
Two birds seen – One in the Haa Valley and one in the Paro Valley.  Thanks to James Eaton for confirming the ID via BirdForum.

Tickell’s Leaf Warbler
Seemingly common in suitable scrub in the Haa Valley and Paro Valley.  In both locations I found flocks of this species at dawn, perhaps suggesting communal roosting?

Hume’s Leaf Warbler
Seen in forest below Cheri Goemba, Thimpu.

Whistler’s Warbler
One seen below the Tiger’s Nest.

Grey-hooded Warbler
Several seen at the Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler
One seen at the Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Red-billed Leiothrix
Seen in forest below Cheri Goemba, Thimpu.

White-browed Fulvetta
Two seen in a mixed flock at Dochu La Pass.

Stripe-throated Yuhina
Several seen in a mixed flock at Dochu La Pass.

Rufous-vented Yuhina
seen in a mixed flock at Dochu La Pass

Rufous Sibia
Seen at several sites between 2,000 and 3,000 meters altitude

Brown Parrotbill
One flock encountered in the Haa Valley gave excellent view just before dusk.

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
Several seen at the Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Russet Sparrow
Seen well several times around Paro

Rufous-breasted Accentor
This attractive accentor seemed common in scrub between 2,000 and 3,000 meters.

White Wagtail
Seemingly common around Paro and Thimpu

White-browed Wagtail
One pair seen on the Paro River at about 2,300 meters. This is rather intriguing because Inskipp, Inskipp and Grimmett give the altitudinal range as being below 350 meters.  These birds were seen well but rather briefly, but I am certain of the ID (potentially confusable races of White Wag were considered but quickly discounted).  HBW gives the altitudinal range as up to 2,200 m in southern India, and 915m in the north.

Olive-backed Pipit
Seen and heard around Paro several times

Scaly-breasted Munia
Seen at the Kichu resort, Wangdue.

Yellow-breasted Greenfinch
Seen around Paro twice.

Red Crossbill
Several seen overhead and calling, on the way to Cheli La Pass from the Haa Valley.

Brown Bullfinch
One or two seen in in a mixed flock in forest below Cheri Goemba, near Thimpu.

Red-headed Bullfinch
A stonking male seen on the way to Cheli La Pass from the Haa Valley.

Mammals seen

Otter spp. – one seen eating a fish in the river at Punakha Dzong. It appeared quite large (even at considerable distance) so I assume this was a Eurasian Otter.

Brown Goral – many seen at close range at Cheri Goemba, Thimpu.  They have become habituated to the monks, who feed them.

Grey Langur – seen at several sites

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lots of evidence of birds on the move this morning in the grounds of the Ministry of Public Relations, with a group of 8 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters overhead at dawn moving purposefully (but going northwest?!).  Multiple Black-naped Orioles in small groups, perhaps five Yellow-browed Warblers, and a couple of Drongo spp (probably Black) seen very briefly.  Also present two Brown Shrikes, one Taiga and one Asian Brown Fly, plus a Common Kingfisher heard calling.

Wish I had time to do Suan Rot Fai today, but lots of work deadlines to sort out before next week when I'll be somewhere much more interesting!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Quiet morning at the Ministry of Public Relations this morning with a single Arctic Warbler, three Yellow-broweds, one Black-naped Oriole, one Taiga and one Asian Brown Flycatcher.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Claudia's Leaf Warbler

An hour spent grilling phylloscs in the grounds of the Ministry of Public Relations this morning resulted in a tally of four Yellow-broweds, three Eastern Crowneds and one Claudia's Leaf Warbler.

This is the second Claudia's I have seen in Bangkok, the other being at the same location in Nov 2011. Today's bird was very bright indeed, in fact the wing bars were almost golden. One thing that I noted with both this year's and last year's birds was that they were both quite confiding - feeding in the lower branches of the canopy (less than 20 ft off the ground) and not being concerned by my presence.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lots of birds, but no time...

We had very heavy overnight rain, followed by clear sky at dawn. A short walk at the Ministry of Public Relations produced several phylloscs but I only had enough time to nail a few of them - the best being a Two-barred Greenish Warbler, plus one Arctic and at least two Yellow-brows.  There were also at least two Asian Brown Flycatchers, one or more Taiga Flycatchers, and three Black-naped Orioles present and I heard a Black-capped Kingfisher.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Another Tiger

An hour and a half at Suan Rot Fai this morning produced my second record of Tiger Shrike for the site - the only other bird I have encountered there was back in 2008.  This juv eventually showed well in dim light after initially being high in the canopy.

Other migrants included four Brown Shrikes, two Taiga and two Asian Brown Flycatchers, four Eastern Crowned Warblers, one Blue-tailed Bee-eater, one Black-capped Kingfisher, two Common Kingfishers and two Black-naped Orioles.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Back in Bangkok

Got back to Bkk on Tuesday and now playing catchup with work, so very little chance to get out birding.  However an early morning walk at the Ministry of Public Relations was a nice reminder of what I have been missing, with single Taiga and Asian Brown Flycatchers, a couple of Brown Shrikes, and two Black-naped Orioles.  Meanwhile three Yellow-browed Warblers brought back happy memories of Minsmere sluice!