Monday, December 19, 2011

Urban birding with the Urban Birder

I took David Lindo and his partner, Penny for an early morning birding trip to Suan Rot Fai this morning.  David has done lots of birding in urban environments around the world, but I think my patch managed to hold its own!  Goodies this morning included yesterday's Black-winged Cuckooshrike and the long-staying male Chinese Blue Flycatcher, with a nice selection of "sibes" to make David's first venture in Asian avifauna somewhat overwhelming - at least six Brown Shrikes, several Yellow-brows, point-blank views of Taiga Flycatcher, two Asian Brown Flycatchers, several Blue-tailed Bee-eaters overhead, two races of Ashy Drongo, a single Black Drongo, 10+ Black-naped Orioles, prolonged views of Black-capped Kingfisher and a couple of Indian Rollers.

Brown Shrike

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cuckooshrike & Scops Owl

6.45-9.00 am at Suan Rot Fai produced two patch ticks, and a good selection of winter visitors. The two new birds were a female Black-winged Cuckooshrike (an uncommon winter visitor to the Bangkok area) feeding in the mid- and upper level foliage of a rain tree in association with a mouhoti Ashy Drongo and a small party of Black-naped Orioles.

Black-winged Cuckooshrike

The other new bird was a Collared Scops Owl that I inadvertently flushed from its roost and perched up briefly to give me an evil stare. Despite this being "one of the most ecologically tolerant owls in Thailand" (Round 2008) this is the first time I have seen one at SRF.

Other notables this morning included one Thick-billed Warbler, one Asian Brown Flycatcher, 10+ Taiga Flycatchers, three Black-capped Kingfishers,  three Brown Shrikes and a Black-naped Monarch.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

15th Dec 2011

Started and ended the day with a bit of birding; early morning gave me nice views of a Peregrine over the Ministry of Public Relations, whilst a trip to Suan Rot Fai after work provided distant views of the male Chinese Blue Flycatcher again (bribed to stay in situ by a photographer's mealworms) two or three Thick-billed Warblers,  one Brown Shrike, four Taiga and five Asian Brown Flies.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A lovely winter's day, Bangkok style

Today was probably the coldest so far this "winter" - it must have got down to about 17 celcius by dawn and so was wonderfully cool.  My early morning walk (still in shorts and T-shirt) to the Ministry of Public Relations produced some nice birding - the first Thick-billed Warbler I have seen at this site, a Black-naped Monarch, Yellow-browed Warbler and three Taiga Flys.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blue Flys and Green Pigs

A couple of hours on the patch early morning showed early promise with a pair of Radde's Warblers in "The Ramble". I picked them up on my first circuit of this part of the park, and on a second sweep picked up a female Cyornis flycatcher which eventually showed well in response to some pishing - the pale throat indicating that it was a Chinese Blue Flycatcher.

From this angle it could be one of several Cyornis spp

Rufous breast, with pale throat in a point reaching to base of bill  = CBF

A little later In the "Canal Zone" I picked up another Cyornis, this time a male, which showed well, if rather briefly, and displayed a narrow finger of red stretching up to the bill-base, confirming it as another Chinese Blue Flycatcher.

In between these two sightings I checked a fruiting tree which held a Thick-billed Green Pigeon - a species that is known to be a winter wanderer to the lower Central Plains from its forest habitats elsewhere in Thailand. Given that the bird shows no suspicious signs of wear I presume that it is a genuine vagrant.

Common migrants/winterers included 5+ Brown Flys, 10+ Taiga Flys two Yellow-browed Warblers, 10+ Black-naped Orioles, three Black-capped Kingfishers and two Thick-billed Warblers.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Inner gulf of Thailand

Waders at Pak Thale included one Spoon-billed Sandpiper. We also saw a flock of 52 Nordmann's Greenshanks with perhaps 300 Great Knot about 1km north of the Royal Project. The pools on the main road in this area were really loaded with birds today.

After lunch we went to Nong Plah Lai raptor watchpoint and were rewarded with c. 6 Greater Spotted Eagles, 1 Pied and 3 Eastern Marsh Harriers and 20+ Black Kites.

Above & below: 1cy Pied Harrier

Friday, December 2, 2011


A short visit to Suan Rot Fai before work produced two interesting birds, but alas only one turned out to be a patch tick (which brings my patch list to 110).  Bird of the day was a Watercock seen rather briefly at very close range (I came over the brow of a stream bank and the bird froze, but then legged it when I reached to switch from bins to camera).  I saw it badly a couple more times, but it was very easily spooked.  My thinking is that this bird probably followed the flood waters into the city and has stuck around since the floods have receded (I'm just hoping I can soon find a Masked Finfoot that has done the same thing!).

The other interesting bird was a raptor, an juv accipiter-type that sat in a tree for 10 minutes at first light, allowing me to get some pictures of it to capture the birds heavy set bill, strong-looking legs, small crest...and jessies and leg iron! Before I noticed the damming evidence of escapism I had been leaning towards Grey-faced Buzzard (though the crest doesn't exactly fit with that), but now that I know it's a wire-hopper I guess it could be non-native. I need to re-visit Crested Goshawk ID, but in the meantime  any comments on the pictures below gratefully received! EDIT Posted this on BirdForum and it was quickly nailed as a Crested Goshawk.

Note slight crest

Appears to have a gular stripe
only two dark bars visible on tail; bill deep and heavy

More run-of the-mill offerings this morning included two Brown Shrikes, about seven Taiga Flycatchers, one Black-naped Monarch, a pair of Yellow Bitterns, a pair of Painted Storks low overhead, 15+ Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and a single Thick-billed Warbler.

Painted Storks

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Spangled Drongo

Back in Bkk and so did SRF this morning, for the first time in almost a month, due mainly to the distraction caused by the floods. I am not sure for how long SRF was flooded, but from seeing it today it is obvious that flooding was extensive and has caused a lot of damage, with many areas of grassland now dead, and a putrid smell throughout the park.  Most distressingly, one of my favourite trees in the park, a large and dense fig that has played host to many good passerine migrants (including this autumn's Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher) has succumbed to the flood, its sodden root system overwhelmed and the tree falling.  Still it's a small price to pay compared with what has happened elsewhere (the human death toll from the floods is now more than six hundred).

Birding produced a new patch bird in the shape of a Spangled Drongo, seen a couple of time perched low-down, and moving about in rather a lethargic manner, plus a Black Drongo and two Ashy Drongos.   Taiga Flies amounted to about 10 birds, Asian Brown Fly two, 1-2 Black-naped Monarch and four Yellow-browed Warblers.

Spangled Drongo - note the square tail (not forked),
with up-turned corners and long, tapering bill.

This enlargement shows the long, thin plumes that give this species
the alternative name of "Hair-crested Drongo"

West Railey Beach, Krabi, 23rd-25th Nov

A few days non-birding holiday on the beach still produced a few notable wildlife encounters - best being an unseen, but regularly heard White-crowned Forktail around our cottage, and a troupe of Dusky Languars, which included a mum with bright orange baby.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rock Chick

Walk around the Ministry of Public Relations this morning - I took my shiny new pair of Zen-Ray 8x43 ED3 binoculars with me (purchased as a 'back up bin" as my Leica's need to go to Germany for repair).  These bins cost less than GBP 300 and seem to be amazingly good value.

Highlights this morning were a group of three Ashy Woodswallows (uncommon in the city centre) and a stunning female White-throated Rock Thrush.  This is the first female that I have seen in Bangkok (after seeing four males in the last three winters), so it was good to get to grips with one - basically a brown and white shadow of the male, but with a gorgeously scalloped breast that was sharply demarcated from the creamy white belly.  A great bird, and remarkably small for a Rock Thrush.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wander around the Ministry of Public Relations this morning provided more views of the Blyth's Leaf Warbler, at least three Yellow-browed Warblers, two Taiga Flycatchers, one Brown Shrike and four Black-naped Orioles.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Blyth's" Leaf Warbler

Another early morning at the Ministry of Public Relations, and another surprise....  I got onto a Yellow-browed Warbler  and watched it for a couple of minutes, and then became aware of another phyllosc close by.  This second bird looked somewhat bigger, with less "compact" proportions that the yellow-brow - it had a longer bill and tail.  It displayed two well-defined yellow wingbars, and a strong supercilium, with the bill having a pink lower mandible with a dark tip. Given these features, I was reasonably confident that it was a Two-barred Greenish Warbler, though something seemed wrong - it appeared to have at least a hint of a central crown stripe (which 2BGW doesn't show) - was I screwing up an Eastern Crowned? Rather frustratingly  it moved deeper and higher into cover and started preening, but was helpfully flushed by a Black-naped Monarch, and dropped down to give me excellent, pointblank views  just above head height and I could now see that it did indeed have a quite well-marked central crown stripe, and two very obvious wing bars (so ruling out Eastern Crowned).  At this stage I was very confused about what it was - I see lots of Yellow-brows, Eastern Crowned and Arctic Warblers in Bangkok, plus a few 2BGWs, but this thing wasn't any of those!  I guessed it might be Blyth's Leaf Warbler, and indeed a check of the books once home, and consultation with Oriental Bird Images confirms the ID. However Blyth's has recently been split into three species including claudiae and goodsoni, and it seems pretty difficult to assign a bird in the field to one or other of these species, though it is thought that migrants in Thailand are claudiae (per Phil Round).

"Blyth's" Leaf Warbler is a non-breeding visitor to the Bangkok area, seemingly in small numbers, though I suspect it is under-recorded here.

EDIT:  tried to get some photos of the  Blyth's after work - whilst I did see it, it wasn't playing ball for the camera.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo

Early morning walk at Ministry of Public Relations produced a big surprise in the shape of a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, which is only the second individual I have ever seen (the other was at Kaeng Krachan National Park a few years back).  This species is generally uncommon, and a winter/passage migrant here.  A couple of other interesting birds included a Black-naped Monarch and an Ashy Drongo.

I tried to go to Suan Rot Fai yesterday, but the deteriorating flood situation made it impossible - I suspect the park has actually been closed until the flood has passed - sadly it looks like I won't get crocodile on my patch list!

Road outside Chatuchauk weekend market, looking north

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

White-throated Rock-thrush

Early morning walk around the Ministry of Public relations gave me a very nice surprise when I glimpsed a medium sized passerine a couple of times that I couldn't get any detail on...and once it gave itself up it turned out to be a spanking male White-throated Rock-thrush.  This is the third year in a row that I have found this species in central Bangkok during the first ten days of  November, and it is obviously peak time for them to be passing through this part of Thailand.  Interestingly all the birds I have seen have been males.

Monday, October 31, 2011

easy Cyornis

Went for an early morning walk at the Ministry of Public Relations this morning and picked up a very smart male Chinese Blue Flycatcher - easily identified by the narrow streak of pale orange extending up to the chin from the upper orange breast.  A much simpler affair than dealing with the last couple of female-type Cyornis that I have encountered. Round (2008) states that Chinese Blue Flycatcher is an "uncommon or rare passage migrant and occasional winterer".

Also a couple of Asian Brown Flycatchers, two Yellow-browed Warbler and a Black-naped Oriole  in the same area.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Flycatcher number 10

Bright and sunny morning on the patch, with water levels in the lakes at the lowest I have ever seen them; strange given the current circumstances.

The highlight of the morning was a male Verditer Flycatcher, a patch tick and my 10th species of flycatcher in Suan Rot Fai. It appeared in front of me in a fruiting fig (just long enough to grab the picture below) and then promptly disappeared, never to be seen again. Round (2008) states that Verditer Fly is an uncommon winter visitor, with earliest arrival date being 23rd Oct, but the species remaining scarce until mid-Nov; he also states that adult males are rare in the Bangkok area.

Number 10

Otherwise the park was slightly quieter than of late, with only one Eastern Crowned and three Yellow-browed Warblers, though there are still lots of Taiga Flys around and a reasonable number of Asian Browns and Black-naped Orioles.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Two new herons

Bangkok is now on a five-day weekend, thanks to the flooding situation around the city (this is in addition to Monday of this week being a holiday!).  As such I did SRF first thing this morning - there were not many people using the park, with many having left the city or staying home in fear of the flood! The park itself is dry, and getting drier day-by-day, now that the rains have stopped. Our house is also totally flood free (for now).

Birding this morning was really quite productive, with me getting two patch ticks - firstly a real bogey bird in the form of a pair of Great White Egrets (amazingly common in Thailand, but seemingly not so in the inner city) - and the other being a 1cy Cinnamon Bittern that flushed from the Lilly Pond, showing well in flight a couple of times.  I have previously found a dead Cinnamon Bittern close to my house (in Nov 2008), and Graham Gordon saw one in Suan Rot Fai in April this year, so this is a species that has been "on the cards".  Other highlights this morning were a pair of Black Bazas  circling low over the park at about 7am (I presume they had roosted in the park) and a Peregrine.

1cy Cinnamon Bittern

One of two Great White Egrets

Passerine migrants were somewhat more run-of-the-mill, with one or two Eastern Crowned, one Arctic and one Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, at least five Asian Brown  and 15+ Taiga Flycatchers; a single leucogenis Ashy Drongo a showy Brown Shrike (very preoccupied with devouring a large bush cricket),  ten or so Barn Swallows and four Black-naped Orioles.  I also spent some time checking open grassland for pipits, in the hope of picking up a Richard's, but only came away with six Paddyfields.

1cy cristatus Brown Shrike

Asian Barred Owlet

Asian Openbill

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Taiga takeover

SRF 0815-1000hrs, with very good numbers of Taiga Flycatchers throughout the park - I must have seen/heard at least 30.  Other species included three Pale-legged Leaf Warblers, one Eastern Crowned Warbler, five Black-naped Orioles, six Asian Brown Flycatchers, 10 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and 4 Yellow-browed Warblers.  I finally got decent views of an Accipiter, which turned out to be a female Shikra.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bazas over Bangkok

SRF 0600-0930 hrs produced a good selection of migrants, with the highlight being a Hoopoe, which is a patch tick. I think it was probably of the migratory race saturata, given that the body was a relatively pale pink.  Other notables were two Dusky,  one Pale-legged, two Eastern Crowned,  four Arctic and two Thick-billed Warblers; three Brown Shrikes, perhaps 15 Taiga Flycatchers, 10+ Blue-tailed Bee-eaters,  four Black-naped Orioles and two Ashy Drongos.

I tried viz-migging from SRF but only picked up 10+ Stork spp and one Accipiter sp.  I had brief views of one other Accipiter perched (probably a Shikra).

Once back at home I tried viz-migging from our balcony from 1030-1100 hrs and did a bit better, scoring 3 Great Cormorants going east very high, and a flock of c. 15 Black Baza going WSW.

Thick-billed Warbler in the early morning gloom

The open face and beady-eye always
makes T-b W's look "surprised to be alive"!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Raptors from the house

After scoring the parakeet shots detailed below, I decided to have a go at looking for migrant raptors (they are now expecting massive Black Baza passage down at Chumphon - massive being like 50,000 birds in a single day!).  So I did a watch between 09.20 and 10.10 hours (peak daily passage at Chumphon is usually 9am - 11am).  Within a couple of minutes of starting I was elated to pick up a large group of raptors (at least 20 birds) circling over the city, but they were distant and I managed to totally lose them whilst switching from bins to 'scope!  I suspect they were Black Bazas, but can't be sure.  Otherwise I picked up two separate Accipiters, both heading SE  - one looked longer winged than the other, but views were brief so again I'm uncertain on species.  I got better views of a Peregrine that was buzzing around at lower altitude - probably one of the local birds that I see around our neighbourhood occasionally.

EDIT: There were 20,808 Black Baza seen in Chumphon today!

Parakeets from the guest bedroom

A group of Red-breasted Parakeets have been hanging around for the last few days, frequenting a couple of flowering trees just outside our house.  I got these shots this morning.



Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday in Paradise

Walked around the Ministry of Public Relations early morning and was rewarded with a reasonable number of migrants including a 1cy Asian Paradise Flycatcher of the migrant race incei, which is rather surprisingly the first one I have seen this autumn. Others migrants included at least three Yellow-browed Warblers, one Arctic Warbler, one Taiga Flycatcher, a Brown Shrike (heard only), and a Black-naped Oriole.

I also saw a couple of Asian Brown Flycatchers, one of which confused me because it was giving a high-pitched, drawn out single note contact call that I had not heard before. I checked the call against a MP3 of what Xeno-Canto has down as a Dark-sided Flycatcher.  The call my bird was giving and the MP3 were almost inseparable, so this contact call would not be very useful for separating these two species in the field (a quick check of X-C shows that it has a couple of examples of ABF giving this contact call).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


No real birding today, just a walk around the Ministry of Public Relations early morning which produced five Yellow-browed Warblers (obvious passage), plus single Asian Brown Fly and Brown Shrike.

Everybody at my office was freaking out this afternoon because the flood waters around the city seem to be breaking through the last line of defenses - I left the office early as a result and managed to score a Common Kestrel over the office (uncommon winter visitor here).

I *think* our house and my office should be unaffected by the floods, but Amalee's office is definitely at risk.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Green-billed Malkhoa

Last hour of daylight spent on the patch again, with a reasonable selection of typical migrants.  Whilst pishing I pulled in two Yellow-browed and an Eastern Crowned Warbler, two Taiga Flycatchers, a Black-naped Oriole, and Ashy Drongo.  In addition to these I pulled in a Green-billed Malkhoa (a rare resident in downtown Bangkok).

Elsewhere in the park birding was a bit slower, with one Arctic Warbler, one Black-capped Kingfisher and a couple of Asian Brown Flycatchers. I glimpsed another Accipiter spp as it shot through the canopy, then it was gone.

The wind has now turned E/NE and so it felt much drier today, which will be much appreciated by everybody in flood-threatened Bangkok.  Now we have to see what it will do for the birding...

Eastern Crowned (note contrasting vent against whitish underparts)
Eastern Crowned (same bird as above)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Black-naped Monarch

Did the patch 0620-0915 hrs. This morning's highlight was an Black-naped Monarch  - a species that is common in much of Thailand, but is an uncommon non-breeding visitor around Bangkok (I normally see them in Nov/Dec).

Otherwise there was a nice selection of migrants included one Pale-legged, one Eastern Crowned three Arctic, and four Yellow-browed Warblers, also at least five Brown Shrikes, five Black-naped Orioles, five Asian Brown and ten Taiga Flycatchers. I also had an unidentified Accipiter carrying prey in The Ramble.

Black-naped Oriole
Asian Brown Flycatcher (different bird from those images below)

ECW v Odanata

Saturday, October 15, 2011

More phyllosc action

Highlights at Suan Rot Fai between 0615- 0815 hrs  included at least seven Eastern Crowned Warblers, (including six together!) and the first Dusky Warbler of the autumn.

A couple of ECWs finally giving themselves up for the camera...

Friday, October 14, 2011

103 Spoon-billed Sandpipers in China

Meniux Tong has just posted the following messages on Oriental Birding

"On October 12th, more than 5 flocks and up to 103 spoon-billed sandpiper
were recorded in the high tide. That is clearly the highest number for over
20 years and probably half of the global breeding population.!!"

The site is loacted "in Xiao Yangkou, Rudong, and north of Yangtze River
estuary, one of the important staging sites for migrating shorebirds along
the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. A maximum of 24 SBS was counted during
autumn 2010."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Composite warbler

Late afternoon at Suan Rot Fai again.  Not too much of note - five or so Asian Brown Flies, a few more Taigas, nice views of an Asian Barred Owlet. There were more Black-naped Orioles around (one pair and a group of three) indicating some passage,  a single Ashy Drongo and two Yellow-browed Warblers.

Black-naped Oriole

 The highlight was this Two-barred Greenish Warbler that was moving around very fast and not really offering much for the camera, but these shots show some of the key features...

 Well-marked, broad double wing bar - 
much stronger than on Arctic Warbler

 Dark legs, markedly darker than the vast majority of Arctic W.

 Lower mandible pale, with only a hint of a dark tip.
 Annoyingly out of focus, but note strong wingbars 
and the supercilium apparently bulging behind the eye.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Tried looking for signs of viz-mig from the office roof again this morning - was a bit disappointing on the raptor front (one accipiter spp was all I got).  Other notables were a single Painted Stork, two drongo spp, and a few Barn Swallows.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Twighlight Zone

Did Suan Rot Fai late afternoon but heavily moisture-laden clouds made everything very dim well before sunset.  Kept getting fleeting glimpses of interesting-looking birds that never reappeared with the only thing nailed of any real interest being a Siberian Blue Robin tic'ing away in a dense bamboo clump and then showing briefly.  Also a couple of Asian Brown Flies seen, and a Taiga heard. One other notable record - a group of three Cattle Egrets (not so common on the patch) over at dusk.

Red-breasted Parakeet

Not much free time in the last few days to get out, and the rains have been on-and-off making it difficult to go out when I am free.  I was supposed to go to NW Thailand this week but the extreme flooding across the Central Plains forced me to abandon that plan.

This morning I was at home when I lifted the bedroom blind to see two  Red-breasted Parakeets perched up, but by the time I got the camera one had departed. Red-breatsed Parakeets seem to appear in my neighbourhood during the wet season, but I have never seen them at Suan Rot Fai.  Pretty good as garden birds go I suppose...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thick-billed Warbler

This morning's offerings from Suan Rot Fai included a beady-eyed Thick-billed Warbler and a couple of Ashy Drongos - the first of both species this autumn.  Other migrants included four Pale-legged Leaf Warblers, two Eastern Crowned Warblers,  one Arctic Warbler,  two Black-capped Kingfishers and about five each of Taiga and Asian Brown Flycatcher.

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler

 Indian Roller

Regarding Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, in recent years it has been split from Sakhalin Leaf Warbler.  The suspicion exists that Sakhalin LW may occur in Thailand, but the only reliable way to separate the two  species seems to be on song (not much good on migration!).  There is an interesting discussion here on the subject.