Friday, April 15, 2011

Eye-browed Thrush

Another new bird for the patch today in the form of  Eye-browed Thrush.  However I didn't see one bird, I saw at least seven in a total of four locations, and suspect there were perhaps 10-20 present overall as I kept picking up their thin alarm calls, and got the impression I was hearing more than I was seeing.  

Eye-browed Thrush is a common wintering bird in Thailand's forests (I saw a flock of 50+ at Kaeng Krachan NP last weekend) but according to Round (2008) it is an uncommon passage migrant around Bangkok and the Central Plains, with most records being of single birds.  My suspicion is that the birds I saw today are a migrating flock that has dispersed through the park to feed up before continuing northwards.

Other interest today came in the form of late winterers which must be due for departure soon, including two Thick-billed Warblers, and two Black-naped Orioles as well as a single Taiga Flycatcher.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hodgson's Hawk-cuckoo

A bash around Suan Rot Fai early this morning produced this Hodgson's Hawk-cuckoo, which is a very scarce bird around Bangkok. Hodgson's is much smaller than Large Hawk-cuckoo (the commoner Hierococcyx here), with the heavily streaked throat and warm buff terminal band to the tail being diagnostic. The other highlight of the morning was my second ever Greater Racket-tailed Drongo for the patch.

There seemed to be few other passage migrants, but wintering birds were apparent in reasonable numbers - perhaps the best being three Brown Shrikes on one branch, with a fourth below them.  One bird seemed to be displaying to another, whilst the other looked on.  Love is in the air!  There were also quite a few Black-naped Orioles around, plus two Thick-billed Warblers, two or three Black-capped Kingfishers and a leucogenis Ashy Drongo.

 Shrike trio

 Black-naped Oriole

Ashy Drongo

Also in the last few days I've been able to get nice images of breeding plumaged Pond Herons, for comparison purposes...

Chinese - a winter visitor due for departure

Javan - resident around Bangkok

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

9th & 10th April

Excellent weekend birding in Petchaburi province with my friend Chris who was back from a week birding lowland Sabah with Robert Chong, and on his way to lead the Western Pacific Odyssy tour.

Our first stop on Saturday was Pak Thale to get Chris his first Spoon-billed Sandpipers of the year (he's also organising this tour later this year to search for Spooner breeding areas). On arrival at Pak Thale we met Mr Daeng, the boatman from Laem Pak Bia, who already had two birds on a pool beside the track. One of these was in partial breeding plumage, but was less co-operative than the other, winter plum, bird. Whilst checking for more Spooners amongst the Red-necked Stints I picked up an adult Little Stint which was well advanced in attaining summer plumage.

 The way we all want to see a Spooner

But they are pretty good even when they look like this!

After admiring the Spooners for a hour we headed down to the Kings Project where we picked up Ruddy-breasted Crake and two male Painted Snipe (as well as Common and Pin-tailed Snipe), Oriental Reed Warbler and the usual waders.

 Pacific Goldie

 Long -toed Stint

We departed late morning for Kaeng Krachan National Park, and after checking in at Samarn Bird Camp (which is just 1 km from the park gate) we headed into the Park.  Birding was somewhat hampered by heavy rain, but we managed to pick up one key target, Ratchet-tailed Treepie (this is the only place in Thailand for the species). We also had nice views of Long-tailed Broadbill and Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrush, brief views of White-browed Scimitar-babbler and a troupe of Banded Langurs crossed the trail we walked during a brief let up in the rain. Traveling out of the Park after dark provided some spotlighting interest, with a couple of Common Palm Civets on the road and a pair of civety-types who decided to hide around the back of a tree as soon as the spotlight was put on them - we couldn't even sort them out with the scope.

Things started slowly on Sunday, with a few woodpeckers being picked up including Rufous 'pecker and Common Flameback, I also picked up a calling Sultan Tit which proceeded to show well, and a single Black Baza perched up for a short while. We had a distantly calling Blue Pitta, and several vocal Grey Peacock-pheasants but nothing close enough to offer views. A stop at a couple of view points rewarded us with five Wreathed and a couple of Great Hornbills, and a pair of Silver-breasted Broadbills nearby, carrying nesting material. The highlight of the day came when we checked a nice shady area of forest at km 24.5 where Chris found a pair of Bar-backed Partridges foraging quietly in the slope forest leaf litter, we followed them for about 15 minutes, getting excellent views.


 White-handed Gibbons come in two flavours

Lunch at the upper camp site was not exactly a culinary highlight, but troupes of White-handed Gibbons and Dusky Langurs crossing paths beside the restaurant gave us some nice photographic opportunities.  This was followed by some ridge top birding on the road past the campsite which gives stunning views of the forest and provided us with an adult Rufous-bellied Eagle. We also picked up a strange, apparently all-dark swift with a forked tail, which might have been Dark-rumped Swift, but is more likely to be  a cooki Pacific Swift, this resident race has much reduced white on the rump which can be difficult to see.  Driving back down the mountain in the late afternoon gave us a couple of Red-headed Trogans from the car, and Chris a very brief glimpse of a cat spp, probably a Leopard Cat. We picked up another couple of Common Palm Civets as well as Great Eared and Large-tailed Nightjars just before dusk.

 Dusky Langurs

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sounds good...

Click here for an article by David Sibley regarding the proper use of playback in birding. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Astonishingly good patchwork!

Not quite sure what has happened this week - perhaps it is a hangover from the strange, lethally stormy weather that Thailand experienced last week, perhaps I just have not done my patch hard enough in Aprils past (certainly true), but this morning I had FOUR patch ticks, and all of them pretty uncommon passage migrants.

I know it's a good day on the patch 
when it starts with these two!

Firstly I went to look for the Narcissus Flycatcher but drew a blank, however in the same trees where I had seen it were a cracking male Mugimaki Flycatcher (patch tick no. 1) and two luminous male Yellow-rumped Flycatchers.  Close by I found a Forest Wagtail feeding on the ground. Whilst still looking for the Narcissus I noticed two "raptor-like" birds distantly, and flying away from the Ramble...last night I read that yesterday had seem a massive northward movement of Black Bazas near Hua Hin, and as I scuttled out of the woodland I found that these birds were indeed Black Bazas (patch tick no. 2), in fact there were four birds, and they were circling low over the Park and started to climb - amazing to see my favourite raptor with the Ericsson Building in the background!   Later on I walked back to my usual entry/exit point when I realised my attention has slipped due to the increasing heat.  I mentally berated myself for not checking a patch of trees that have been productive in the past and walked back a few meters to view them, sure enough patch tick no. 3 appeared in front of me: a stunning male Blue-and-white Flycatcher! After admiring him for a while I moved on, only to flush a large, rufous cuckoo - it perched up long enough for me to see it through my bins and get some record shots - a female Oriental Cuckoo (patch tick no. 4).

 Didn't we just meet in Sabah?!

Oriental Cuckoo

In addition to that lot I picked up a very smart Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, a couple of Asian Brown Flycatchers and a single Taiga Flycatcher, plus I found well behaved Yellow Bittern and Black-capped Kingfisher for photo love-in sessions.

Yellow Bittern

Black-capped Kingfisher (apparently dancing)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Narcissus Flycatcher still present

The Narcissus Flycatcher was still present today, it was photographed by one of the local bird photographers...pix here

Monday, April 4, 2011

A major national rarity on the patch

I made a late afternoon visit to Suan Rot Fai today with visiting English birder, and Scilly resident Graham Gordon who was keen to find some migrant action.  After picking up a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and a very well-behaved Forest Wagtail we went into "The Ramble" to see what it had to offer, and this time it did me really proud, with us simultaneously getting onto a stunning male NARCISSUS FLYCATCHER, a species which has been recorded no more than ten times in Thailand!!!

Of course I had left the camera at home (!), but we had wonderful views of the bird for about 20 minutes before it disappeared, presumably to roost.  What an absolute corker, my bird of the year so far!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mount Kinabalu, 28th March - 2nd April

Myself and three friends from the UK (Chris, Matt and Nicola) spent a week hunting down some of Borneo's highland endemics.

We stayed here, which served its purpose as a simple base for birders, but I wouldn't recommend it to anybody who needs more than a place to sleep in between long sessions in the field. The food however was very good and inexpensive, and the staff were very friendly and helpful. We hired a car via Hertz, and their local agent gave us a generous free upgrade from a Proton Waja to a Toyota Innova, which was great for 4 adults.

Birding was a bit slow in places, not least because we got hit by bad weather for the first three days, meaning we lost a lot of time to rain and heavy mist that reduced visibility to a few meters. This probably contributed to us missing some key target species, but we did pretty well nonetheless...

Stupendous scores:

Red-breasted Partridge - heard often on the upper part of the Power Station Road. Chris and I saw a pair as they flushed on the Bukit Ular trail.

Crimson-headed Partridge - heard multiple times daily and one bird seen crossing the road moments after scoring heavily at "Zoothera Corner" (see below).

Kinabalu Serpent Eagle - two together seen well from "Timpohon View" lookout in KNP. I was very happy to catch up with this species after seeing an unidentifiable Serpent-eagle spp at the Park HQ in 2004. That previous experience, and reading some of the text in Phillipps and Phillipps (2009) had made me keen to do some background reading on Spilornis identification as Crested Serpent Eagle is supposed to overlap in altitudinal range with KSE.  Phillipps & Phillipps rather unhelpfully states that that KSE is "best distinguished by call and habitat", and does not even depict a flying KSE on the plates. However, reading Fergusson-Lees & Christie (2001) and Myers (2009) definitely helped to clarify things - most importantly indicating that the subspecies of CSE in north Borneo (pallidus) are quite obviously pale-throated (see here), which contrasts with KSE's darker throat.  It appears that Phillipps & Phillipps' depiction of CSE actually shows the nominate cheela that occurs in the Himalayas and Assam, and does not occur in Borneo whatsoever!

Bornean Swiftlet - Matt & Nicola went up to the breeding site at Layang-Layang Shelter, where they saw at least one bird on the nest. Chris and I couldn't summon the enthusiasm.

Mountain Barbet - seemed quite common around the Rafflesia Centre, with two birds seen in the Centre's garden and 3+ birds feeding in a fruiting tree about 1.5km up hill from there.

Golden-naped Barbet - common at KNP, with at least five seen each day.

Bornean Leafbird - one seen on Kiau View Trail, KNP.

Bornean Whistler - common at KNP.

Bornean Bulbul - several seen together along road above Rafflesia Center.

Bornean Stubtail - heard very often on the trails, with at least three birds seen (only one taped in).

Kinabalu Friendly Warbler - a slog up the mountain beyond Timpohon Gate produced one bird between the 2.5 and 3km marker posts. Five others were seen/heard by Matt who went higher up to the 4km marker post. Sharing the upper trail with tourists, who were obviously suffering on the way down from doing the summit, convinced me that birding was a far more sensible past time that mountaineering.

Mountain Wren-babbler - scored immediately on our first and only attempt to tape lure this species along the Power Station Road in KNP. Another bird seen close to "Timpohon View" by Matt & Nicola.

Chestnut-headed Yuhina - very common in KNP.

Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush - very common in KNP.

Mountain Blackeye - common above Timpohon Gate

Fruit-hunter - seen twice; we saw a female at KNP about 400m down the road from Timpohon Gate, before the sharp bend which has a shelter, toilets and shower block. We found a male about 1.5km up hill from the Rafflesia Centre.

Bornean Whistling-thrush - seen daily in various parts of KNP.

Everett's Thrush - one seen very well early morning on the Power Station Road in KNP. We were told about this stakeout which has been reliable for at least the last month. The bird was seen uphill from the 1.2km marker (painted in the road) which is at the top of the hairpin bends beyond the junction of Silau-Silau Trail,  Kiau View Trail and the road itself. We also saw two Orange-headed Ground-Thrushes here (downhill from the 1.2km marker), so re-named this spot "Zoothera corner". Elsewhere, a thrush spp., possibly Everett's, was flushed off the path on the Bukit Ular trail, 50m below the steps at the top end of the trail (a traditional site for the species). Another possible was seen briefly at the start of the Liwagu trail (close to the  Park HQ) - there had been a bird seen regularly in this area earlier in March.

Bornean Forktail - seen in at least four different locations along the Power Station Road in KNP.

Eyebrowed Jungle-Flycatcher - only two or three seen in KNP.

Bornean Flowerpecker - Common around KNP HQ.

Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker - one male seen from roadside in lowlands between Mount Kinabalu and the Crocker Range.

Dusky Munia - three seen from roadside in lowlands between Mount Kinabalu and the Crocker Range.

Dismal Dips

Whitehead's Trio - Trogon heard once close to Silau-Silau trail, Broadbill heard twice (Kiau View and Bukit Ular trails), but we failed to see either. When I visited in July 2004 I saw both of these species twice each (though the Trogon gave me the run around). Not a sniff of the Spiderhunter anywhere, ever.

Bornean Barbet - no luck at the Rafflesia Centre (a known site for this species).

Bornean (Black) Laughingthrush - no sign whatsoever. I found them a couple of times on my 2004 visit.

Other goodies

Non-endemic highlights included at least one White-throated Needletail  (seemingly scarce on Borneo), and several migrating flocks of Eye-browed Thrushes passing high overhead in the lowlands between Mount Kinabalu and the Crocker Range, leaving us to theorize that the birds were being funneled through a low pass between the mountains. There were lots of Mugimaki and Blue-and-white Flycatchers still hanging around before their journey northwards, and we ran into noisy groups of Sunda Laughingthrushes on several occasions.

We saw a large all-dark swift spp a couple of times, which we tentatively identified as Waterfall Swiflet. Having looked at Myers (2009) and Phillipps & Phillipps (2009) we can't really come up with a credible alternative ID, but this seems to be a poorly known bird so we feel a bit loathed to claim it based on several relatively brief, and rather distant views, though Chris, Matt and I reached this ID independently of one another.

Little Pied Flycatcher

Temminck's Sunbirds (above and below)


Eye-browed Thrush

Blue-and-white Flycatcher

Mountain Tailorbird

Little Cuckoo-dove (above and below)

Indigo Flycatcher

Mountain Leaf-warbler (kinabalensis)

We went spotlighting in KNP on three evenings, driving between KNP HQ and Timpohon Gate. This gave us nice views of a Small-toothed Palm Civet, and three Spotted Giant Flying Squirrels. We also saw various diurnal squirrels and tree shrews which I must admit paying less attention to. Chris and I heard a large mammal moving through undergrowth on the Bukit Ular trail.

Rafflesia pricei
Staff at the Rafflesia Centre took us to see a flowering plant, for a charge of course (but it was worth every Ringgit!).

Pitcher plants
I had been blissfully unaware that Mount Kinabalu is a great place for pitcher plants, but Matt and Nicola soon put me straight on that! Borneo has 20 of the world's 70 known species, with four occurring in KNP.

 Pictures of Pitchers

Because climbing from 1,800m to 3,350m isn't hard enough on its own.... I just feel sorry for the bloke who has to carry this septic tank back down.

 I lost my soul on Mount Kinabalu (in fact, I lost both of them)

The lights at our accommodation made the place into a giant moth trap
(with suitably giant moths)

Cicada spp.