Friday, March 30, 2012

A bit Narc'd off

Did an early morning walk at the Ministry of Public Relations this morning which started pretty uneventfully but that changed when I picked up what can only have been a male Narcissus Flycatcher (which has been recorded in Thailand perhaps ten times).  The bird was a seen for about a minute, from behind in poor light (somewhat against the rising sun), and though I would have liked to have got better views I don't think there can be much doubt about the ID as I saw the bird's orange-coloured supercilium (the main confusion spp, Yellow-rumped Fly, has a white super).  The rump was hidden by the closed wings most of the time, but was glimpsed on a couple of occasions and was obviously a bright orange-yellow.  The only thing that nagged me at the time was that the colour of the super could have been a trick of the light,  but I realised sometime afterwards that the bird's scapulars, which were gleaming white, would probably also have shown some warm tones if indeed the super colour had been an optical illusion.

Armed with my camera, I went back a little later in the morning and spent over an hour searching for it without success, however there was a lot of other activity, with at least 6 Yellow-browed Warblers, a Thick-billed Warbler, two Black-naped Orioles and best of all, a Hodgeson's Hawk-cuckoo which is rather a rare bird in Bangkok.

28th March - Night Heron on the patch

After work session at Suan Rot Fai produced little apart from a juvenile Night Heron, only the second one I have seen in the park - surprising given there general presence in the central plains, though I rarely see them around the city.  This one looked like it was quite newly fledged, given the ungainly manner is was adopting as it flew around Lilly Lake and the trouble it had landing in a tree.

Migrants were thin on the ground, with a Spangled Drongo, two Brown Shrikes, a single Taiga Fly and a single Black-naped Oriole.

Doi Inthanon - Sunday 25th March

Our last morning on Doi Intahnon had us again on the summit (Chris still needed both Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush and Buff-barred Warbler).  We picked up both these species pretty easily, with the Rocker singing from the tops of several tall trees, as if holding territory (Doi Inthanon is apparently the only place in Thailand where the species is resident, elsewhere it is a winter visitor only), and a couple of Buff-barred Warblers picked up by song (reminiscent of Wood Warbler) and seen well.

Rocker on patrol

We had several more Ashy Woodpigeons just below the summit, and more surprisingly, a female Silver Pheasant flew low over the road here.  Whilst waiting for some more thrush action we were joined by another birder who we'd talked with at Mr Daeng's the previous day.  On his way up the mountain he'd come across a group of 6-7 Speckled Pigeons basking atop a tree in the early morning sun, and he'd managed to photograph them. Taking this as our cue, we headed further down the mountain to see if we could find these birds - we never did, but we did have another Speckled Woodpigeon fly up the road towards us and then pass the car at close range. Tick.

We stopped  couple of times as we headed further down the mountain, picking up a couple of Hill Prinias, a small party of  Yellow-bellied Flowerpeckers and the only Mrs Gould's Sunbird of the trip.

Our last couple of hours birding were spent on the Mae Pan Waterfall road (within the first kilometer after leaving the KM 37 checkpoint) where we flushed a partridge (probably Mountain Bamboo) and had several Large Niltavas, and a female Vivid Niltava (which was the only bird to come in to playback of Asian Barred Owlet).

(not very) Vivid Niltava

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Doi Inthanon - Saturday 24th March

Early morning saw us again at the summit, with the focus today being on clinching the two species of Woodpigeon that occur on the mountain.  Dave Sargeant had suggested to me that it's worth looking from the viewpoint about 300 meters back down the road from the summit car park, so we stationed ourselves there and did indeed get good views of several Ashy Woodpigeons.  Although this was my fourth trip to Doi Inthanon it was the first time I had managed to get tickable views of the 'pigs, having always previously had frustratingly brief glimpses of silhouettes at sunrise when the birds leave their roosts around the summit.  We failed to connect with any Speckled Woodpigeons, which are also supposed to be resident, but Dave had told me that thy were much more difficult, so our expectations had been lowered on this front.

There was also a lot of thrush activity around this viewpoint, with a steady steam of thrushes flying towards the summit (presumably from their roosts in the valley below) and they would stop to perch up on some of the highest trees before flying over the road  into denser cover.  Grilling these birds was  quite frustrating as the light was very strong, making some birds entirely  silhouetted.  However we got excellent views of at least 2 Grey-sided Thrushes and reasonable views on a couple of occasions of at least one Chestnut Thrush, whilst we clinched a  Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush from photos (using a lot of compensation and imagination, but they confirmed with the use of  Adobe Lightroom!). Everything else seemed to be Eye-browed Thrushes, but many birds were perching for very short periods of time in bad light and so the potential for us having missed something else was definitely there.

Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush - clinched from photos that I took
just on the off-chance that they might show some detail!

Our next stop was the KM 34.5 "jeep track" which gave us a few moments of interest with a couple of Large Niltavas, a Bay-banded Cuckoo, Verditer Flycatcher and a Bronzed Drongo but not much else.
Roadside forest later in the day gave us nice views of a Slaty-bellied Tesia (having heard but not seen several others).

During the afternoon we visited Mae Pan Waterfall.  The road there from KM 37 looks fantastic and seems to be very underwatched (I could happily spend a whole day working certain parts of it, thought there is a steady flow of traffic on the section that heads to Mae Hong Son, which is a bit off-putting).  The trail from the car park to Mae Pan waterfall gave us a rather different set of birds to those we'd seen elsewhere on the mountain, including a pair of Silver-breasted Broadbills, and Large Woodshrike, with the waterfall itself holding a splendid White-capped Water Redstart.

The first one of these I'd seen in 17 years!

We had dinner at Mr Daeng's and, encouraged by hearing a Collared Scops Owl from our dining table, headed up the mountain toward the KM 37 checkpoint to search for nightbirds.  Using my iPod we managed to get a distant response from a Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, but actually saw sweet FA.  The road up to KM 37 was quite busy with local traffic, making this a less than ideal location for "owling".

Doi Inthanon - Friday 23rd March

Our first day on Doi Inthanon started with us heading to the summit for dawn.  On our way up we chanced upon three Mountain Bamboo Partridge in the parking lot (!) just above the Chedi. The first bird I picked up at the summit, as we got out of the car, was a Buff-barred Warbler. Given that both of these birds were lifers for me I was very happy!

We did two circuits of the summit boardwalk, the first picking up at least three White-browed Shortwings at point-blank range, a pair of Snowy-browed Flycatchers, several Ashy-throated Warblers and a Yellow-bellied Fantail.

The second lap produced more quality with excellent views of a pair of Pygmy Wren-babblers circumnavigating a tree trunk, a skulking Himalayan Bluetail, and a pair of Dark-sided Thrushes in the gloom at close range.

We birded various points lower down the road, including the KM 37 trail, but as the day got hotter the activity dropped off markedly and as such a long and lazy lunch at Mr Daeng's was in order!  We did a bit more birding along the road, which gave me brief views of a male Slaty-backed Flycatcher, and after this we headed on to clean up on a couple of my other "Doi Intahnon tart's ticks" - Black-tailed Crake at the Campsite (scored within ten minutes) and Black-backed Forktail at KM 13 (seen on arrival, looking upstream from the bridge).  Not a bad first day...

Dark sided Thrush

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mae Wong - Tuesday 20th March

Our final morning at Mae Wong saw us birding along the Umphang trail again, and produced a good selection of forest birds including three Spot-necked Babblers and two Coral-billed Scimitar Babblers, along with a female Small Niltava and a male White-tailed Robin.

The feeding station in the campsite gave us excellent views of Buff-breasted Babbler, Blue Whistling-thrush and Silver-eared Mesia.

In the afternoon we drove to Mae Sot in Tak province, stopping at Thaksin Maharat National Park on the way.  This gave us a few new species to the trip list, including White-throated Bulbul and Grey Treepie, plus rather poor views of an Iola bulbul (possibly Olive).

Blue Whistling-thrush of the black-billed
migratory race caeruleus (a possible future split)

Buff-breasted Babbler

Silver-eared Mesia

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mae Wong - Monday 19th March

An early start had us following the Ranger at Chong Yen to the special stake out for a pair of RUSTY-NAPED PITTAS.

We set up my (rarely used) portable hide and the ranger put some meal worms out in the birds' favourite spot, then he left.  less than five minutes later, whilst Chris and I were still getting comfortable in the hide, the female appeared about ten meters away and started feeding!  A few moments later the male came in, at about three meters range and the two birds continued to perform for the next 20 minutes or so.


I don't really like using bait for birds, but occasions like this make me think I need to get over my purist instincts!  You could never get better views of a pitta than we had with these very special birds.

After this amazing encounter, the quality remained pretty high with the hide providing close encounters with a group of three Streaked Wren Babblers, a Rufous-browed Flycatcher, and a female White-tailed Robin.  Birding along the road saw us picking up some good forest species including both White-bowed and Speckled  Piculates, Stripe-breased Woodpecker, and Hainan Blue Flycatcher.

During the afternoon the ranger took us to another spot, on the Umphang trail.  On our way there we flushed a pair of Scaly-breasted Partridge from the adjacent slope. We set up our hide at a feeding station and a short wait was rewarded with stunning, prolonged views of a pair of Rufous-throated Partridge as well as White-necked, Black-throated and Silver-eared Laughingthrushes.

Rufous-throated Partridge

White-throated Laughingthrush
Later in the afternoon we walked part of the Umphang trail again and picked up a pair of White-browed Scimitar Babblers, whilst the road produced a Dark-sided Flycatcher.

A session of spotlighting along the road after dark again produced a Slow Loris but nothing else, and the Leopard Cat was feeding in the campsite when we returned.

Dark-sided Flycatcher

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mae Wong

Traveled to Mae Wong National Park on Sunday afternoon and even though our arrival was rather late in the day, the quality of wildlife encounters was high with male Kalij Pheasant displaying to his mate on the road!  Once settled in to our (rather basic, but perfectly comfortable) accommodation at Chong Yen campsite we were treated to excellent views of a Leopard Cat and Large Indian Civet that the park rangers feed each evening, with a backdrop of an amazing starlit night and the distant calls of Mountain Scops Owls.

We did some spotlighting along the road later on, which produced a single Slow Loris.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

How the camera can lie

Did SRF this morning with my friend Chris who is visiting on his way to lead the WPO expedition for WildWings. Things were pretty uneventful until we chanced upon a cracking male Blue-and-white Flycatcher in the Canal Zone.  It looked quite different from the bird I saw in April last year, so some consultation of my photos with Phil Round revealed that there are three sub-species, all of which have occurred in Thailand, and are candidates for splitting.

This first photo of today's bird shows the throat to be more-or-less concolorous with the mantle, which looks very different from last year's bird...

April 2011

However Phil wondered if today's photo was a true representation of the bird in the field.  I had though it looked a bit darker and a check of another photo (a blurred shot taken on the wrong settings!) showed  that it was actually markedly different when seen from a different angle in different lighting....

Today's blurd

In conclusion today's bird was cumatilis and last years bird was nominate cyanomelana.  Other notables today included three Taiga Flys, five Asian Brown Flys, two Brown Shrikes and an obvious increase in the number of Black-naped Orioles (20+ seen).

EDIT  August 2012: a paper has now been published in Forktail demonstrating that cumatilis is indeed a full species ("Zappey's Flycatcher").  Details can be found here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quiet morning on the patch  with only a few winter visitors in evidence: two Taiga and two Asian Brown Flies, one Brown Shrike, two Black-naped Orioles and a single Radde's Warbler. Of the five or so Pond Herons seen all were Chinese in varying degrees of summer dress. The only other notables were a couple of Asian Barred Owlets and brief views of a Yellow Bittern.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

5th March 2012

Short visit to the patch this afternoon produced a few notables - a singing male Brown Shrike being the highlight, with a single Thick-billed Warbler, four Taiga and three Asian Brown Flycatchers. There were also at least two Asian Barred Owlets calling as dusk approached.

Friday, March 2, 2012