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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Daurian Starlings from the house

After glimpsing a couple of groups of small starlings yesterday I spent the last hour of daylight watching the passage of sturnidae and corvids that commute past our house to their roost sites each evening. During that time I picked up a single, then a flock of approximately 10 Daurian Starlings whizzing past - a very nice addition to the garden list!


Early morning on the patch again today, with highlights being a Lanceolated Warbler (seen feeding in association with a 1cy male Siberian Blue Robin!) in The Ramble, and an Oriental Reed Warbler (both the Lancy and ORW being patch ticks). 


Other notable arrivals were 2-3 Siberian Stonechats and a couple of Paddyfield Pipits. Taiga Flycatchers seem to have arrived in good numbers, with perhaps 10 birds seen/heard, and similar numbers of Asian Brown Flycatchers and Arctic Warblers.  I also had two Eastern Crowned Warblers and two Pale-legged Leaf Warblers.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Arctic Warbler

Rather a frustrating morning, with overnight rain stopping when I left the house, but starting again by the time I got to the patch. Ended up sitting in a shelter staking out "the secret garden", hoping for a skulking Zoothera (who wouldn't?!) but instead just getting the bread-and-butter migrants - an Arctic Warbler showed well, whilst Yellow-rumped and Asian Brown Flies zipped about in the bamboo.

When the rain finally stopped I took a short walk and found a male Siberian Blue Robin, but I was out of time - I needed to get to the office.

As I was getting home this evening, about to dismount from my motorbike taxi I noticed a group of about 6 small greyish-looking starlings head over my house.  We live on a sturnidae flyway that the four resident species use when going to roost in the evenings.  Encouraged by this fleeting glimpse of something more interesting I spent the last 20 minutes of day light watching to see what else was going past, and briefly picked up another group of similar greyish-looking starlings, but views were not good enough to determine if they were Daurian, White-shouldered or Chestnut-tailed (though I suspect the latter)  which are all passage migrants (Chestnut-tailed also breeds in very small numbers).  Try again tomorrow...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Blue Monday version 2.0

Suan Rot Fai early morning - weather was rather dismal and the light not great, which really didn't help things when I found a skulking female Cyornis flycatcher.  It showed a couple of times really badly, and I got some photos that might help clinch the ID (it's either Hill Blue or Chinese Blue, but the taxonomy is complex (e.g. see here) and ID'ing a female  bird on migration is a headache).



More by a process of elimination than anything else, I think this bird is probably a Hill Blue Flycatcher. There is a lack of contrasting pale throat against the colour of the breast (which this bird exhibited, and which I am now confident is a "Chinese Blue", the former glaucicomans race of Blue-throated). Cyornis flycatchers are a real challenge to ID on migration, and today's little skulker was no exception.

The other main highlight of the morning was a flock of 10-15 Blue-throated Bee-eaters,  a new bird for the patch.  Blue-throated is a relatively common migrant and a bird that I've been expecting, so it was great to finally connect with a rather showy group that passed through the park, stopped to feed and then carried on south.

 A study in blue
There was a nice variety of other migrants around including the first Taiga Flycatcher and Black-capped Kingfishers (2) of the autumn, two Pale-legged Leaf Warblers, Eastern Crowned Warbler, two Plain-tailed Warblers,  five Asian Brown Flycatchers and several Brown Shrikes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

More Sibe Blue Robins

Suan Rot Fai 1645-1815hrs. Not sure I have ever been to my local patch on a Sunday afternoon before, an now I know why - The park was rammed full of loved up couples, loud and happy families and gaggles of raucous teenagers. I went into "The Ramble", which is one of the densest areas of  habitat in the park and despite the high level of disturbance I scored one, probably two Siberian Blue Robins, a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, two Arctic Warblers, one Yellow-browed Warbler, a female type Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and an Asian Barred Owlet - all of these whilst a constant stream of Thai families noisily cycled around the path that encircles The Ramble. I watched one of the Sibe Blue Robins hidden in the undergrowth a few meters in front of me whilst a small child threw a full-on tantrum at her mother a few meters behind me. The Robin seemed totally unconcerned!