Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dusky, and Dicks?


 Dusky Warbler

I did the patch for an hour or so this morning.  Cool, dry weather and a NE breeze means that the dry season has arrived, making birding much more comfortable.  Best birds this morning were three DUSKY WARBLERS (the first I've seen this autumn) with two in The Ramble and one elsewhere in the park.  Also seen were a single ASIAN BROWN FLYCATCHER, and three or more TAIGAS, plus at least four YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS. Also seen were a pair of ASHY WOODSWALLOWS - nice to see since I only added this spp to my patch list a few weeks ago.

The same Dusky Warbler - in strong sunlight it looks completely different!

Frustration came when I found a group of PADDYFIELD PIPITS, with four visible in long grass - I started scanning through them to check for Richard's.  As I was doing so they got flushed by an Accipiter sp (probably Shikra) and at least six pipits went up, with one giving a far stronger and more strident, rasping call than the unseen RICHARD'S PIPIT, with the call matching this one on Xeno Canto, but I'm loathed to patch tick it under these circumstances.  Let's call it a "probable"...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Suan Rot Fai this morning for a couple of hours, in much more agreeable weather, with a first taste of dry season cloudless skies and fresh breeze.

Birding produced small numbers of migrants - a couple of TAIGA and ASIAN BROWN FLYCATCHERS, plus an obvious movement of BLACK-NAPED ORIOLES.  Highlights of the morning were two ASHY DRONGOS, inlcuding one leucogenis, and a late YELLOW-RUMPED  FLYCATCHER.

 Asian Brown Flycatcher

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher - the black upper-tail coverts 
mean this bird is either an adult female of a first winter male.

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.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mae Sot

A work trip to the Thai-Burma border means that I have a chance to look around Mae Sot Reservoir again (my "patch away from patch").  The last few days have been very rainy, and I made the mistake of having a go at checking some fields along a dirt track which saw me almost get the 4WD horribly stuck in a mud pit and bringing back happy (!) memories of intense panic when grounding a hire car in the Moroccon Sahara many years ago.

Having extracted myself and the car, I managed to do a bit of birding before work, with THICK-BILLED WARBLER being the highlight.  Other migrant interest included 20+ RED-RUMPED SWALLOWS, a COMMON SANDPIPER, and a SIBERIAN STONECHAT cavorting with a resident PIED BUSHCHAT.

Friday, October 15, 2010

For anybody interested, I have added some more photos to my post about visiting Fraser's Hill back in March this year.  Click here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Answering the call of nature

Just had a very bizarre, but great experience in my office toilet!

The urinals look out of over the roof tops of the nearby office buildings, and whilst standing there I picked up three large birds on a distant thermal.  Thinking they would be feral Painted Storks, but worth a check, I decided to return to my desk and grab my carry-everywhere compact binos,  running the risk of being found in the lavs with my binoculars and trying to explain that away!  On my return to the bathroom I couldn't see the three birds in the distance, so looked directly up to see if they were circling my astonishment I found a flock of approximately 30 SPOT-BILLED PELICANS (a near-threatened species) circling directly over my office!

I ran outside and found them still circling, and gaining height, then they headed SW towards Rama 6 Road, where Phil Round's office is - I made a quick call to him when I got back to my desk but the flock must have already passed over.  Phil mentioned that he sees a few feral birds around the city, but that a flock of this size would be wild birds.

Whilst watching the pelicans I also had 3 drongo spp pass over in the same direction.  Gotta love vizmig!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Phylloscopus pitfalls

Went back to "The Ramble" first thing this morning to try to clinch the ID on yesterday's tentative pale-legged leaf warbler; after spending an hour watching it, mostly in poor light with obscured views I concluded that it was actually a poorly-marked ARCTIC WARBLER, and eventually got good views of it along with a better marked Arctic.  Why it was feeding at ground level I'm not sure, but is certainly wasn't a Pale-legged - though it took me a long time to confirm the ID.  Major headache!  Not much else in "The Ramble" other than one calling ASIAN BROWN FLY.  Elesewhere in the park I picked up a SIBERIAN STONECHAT (I've only seen one on the patch before), GREATER RACKET-TAILED DRONGO (a long overdue patch tick), 1st winter BLACK DRONGO, four TAIGA FLYCATCHERS   heard single BLACK-NAPED ORIOLE and YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER, and saw BLACK-CAPPED, WHITE-THROATED and COMMON KINGFISHERS.


Taiga Flycatcher

 Coppersmith Barbet (taken at the Skytrain station!)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The dawn of the confusing Phyllosc

A delicious Brownie at breakfast time - perhaps supercilosus flavoured...

This morning SRF produced fewer birds than yesterday, but still enough to keep me busy - BLACK-NAPED ORIOLE, EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER, BROWN SHRIKE, TAIGA and ASIAN BROWN FLYS in the first 10 minutes gave me hope.  I elected to try "The Ramble" for Sibe Blue Robin, but drew a blank (again), though whilst there I flushed a phyllosc which appeared low down in the understory, exhibiting a big super and no wing bars.  My instant thought was Dusky, but something felt wrong (too whitish on the underparts and it wasn't calling incessantly, or at all actually), further views made me think it was reminiscent of a wing bar-less Arctic - now I was confused, and I lost the bird!

After some more searching I got more views and concluded that it was probably a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler. It remained low in the undergrowth and actually hopped along on the ground a couple of times, which is typical behavior for this species. I tried to get some photos but failed miserably.  I left feeling that it probably was a Pale-legged, but there was something nagging at me - it just didn't convince me.  Hhhm...

Also in the Ramble was a calling YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER, probably the same bird that I heard yesterday.

Keep looking up!

On the way back to the park entrance I had a couple of PAINTED STORKS overhead, which was another patch tick, though the provenance of this species in Bangkok is somewhat open to question as there is a feral population that draws in wild birds.

 Asian Pied Starling

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It pays to be thorough

Did Suan Rot Fai this morning for the first time since Thursday.  Lots of migrants around now with at least 8 each of ASIAN BROWN and TAIGA FLYCATCHERS and singles of YELLOW-BROWED, EASTERN CROWNED and ARCTIC WARBLERS.  There were huge numbers of POND HERONS, in excess of 100, compared with the dozen or so birds of last week - indeed I saw several flocks of 20 or more birds.

I worked the patch quite hard this morning, slowly doing several areas two or three times to feel satisfied that I'd done them thoroughly.  The second sweep of one rather birdy area produced nice views of YELLOW BITTERN, two or three BLACK-NAPED ORIOLES and then a big surprise in the shape of an adult ROSE-COLOURED STARLING (presumably the bird seen last month), feeding on grass in the company of a couple of Asian Pied Starlings.  I though to myself "it pays to be thorough"!

Just as I was leaving the park I saw a bird pass overhead, obscured by trees, and which I assumed to be a Blue-tailed Bee-eater.  As I've been looking - and failing- to add Blue-throated Bee-eater to the patch list I followed this bird and as soon as I got a clear view realised that it wasn't a Bee-eater at all, but actually an ASHY WOODSWALLOW, itself a patch tick!  Ashy Woodswallows are pretty common in rural areas, and I remember seeing one on a busy road in central Bangkok about 3 years ago, but I think they are generally pretty rare in the city, so I'm very happy to have added it to the patch list.  It pays to be thorough!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Should have done the patch this morning (overnight rain and winds have turned light NE, but busy working to a Monday deadline).  I went out for a quick walk at the Ministry of Public Relations near home, and was pleased to see a 1st winter BROWN SHRIKE, then rather shocked to find a single tree holding EASTERN CROWNED, ARCTIC and YELLOW-BROWED WARBLERS and a 1st winter female YELLOW-RUMPED FLYCATCHER.

The Yellow-brow I actually heard yesterday in the same spot, but I only had a brief snatch of call and couldn't convince myself that it wasn't a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (which has a similar call). The Eastern Crowned Warbler was amazingly showy (it must have known that my camera was safely bagged up at home).

Things are moving but I'm stuck at my desk, on a Sunday.  Ouch.