Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chestnut-capped Babbler

This morning I visited Bang Pra Non-hunting Area, rather amazingly this was my first visit to the site (the wonders of becoming a car owner!), with the hope of connecting with one of my bogey birds - Chestnut-capped Babbler.

The site seems to have a lot of potential and whilst this morning's visit produced a fairly unremarkable selection of open country birds it might well produce some interesting species during migration and the winter months. I say "unremarkable" because there was only a handful of species that I saw this morning that I have not found in Suan Rot Fai in the heart of Bangkok, and given that the drive took me an hour and a quarter (rather than the ten minutes it takes to get to my patch) it seemed like rather a lot of effort for relatively slender rewards. However it must be emphasised that a) I get to do my patch of a regular basis and could never hope to pick up as many species there in a single day as I did at Bang Pra this morning (so for birders on holiday in Thailand it would make sense to go there to pick up a good selection of open country species), and b) it's the wet season, the end of the breeding season - not the best time of year to try to get a big list!

After a fair bit of slogging around Bang Pra's grassland I eventually picked up my sought after Chestnut-capped Babbler, two birds infact that were calling from a dense patch of sedges and showed briefly a couple of times though they called constantly (I also had to threaten a rather large, aggressive dog with my tripod whilst trying to see them, which didn't really enhance the ticking experience!). The other species of note included a female Laced Woodpecker, a couple of groups of Rufous Treepies, a Racket-tailed Treepie, Lesser Coucal, several White-crested LaughingthrushesLittle and Blue-throated Bee-eaters, two Linneated Barbets,  a Shikra, about 10 Indochinese Bushlarks, Rufescent Prinia and single Bronze-winged Jacana and Cinnamon Bittern

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Asian Dowitchers and Great Knots...and a cobra!

Made a morning trip to Bang Poo which didn't yield too much as the tide had already dropped quite a way by the time I got there.  Best was a Spot-billed Pelican high overhead, and three Wood Sandpipers on the scrape.  The falling tideline held several Greater Sand Plovers, whilst the brackish lagoon had  constant stream of Barn Swallows on groups of 2-3 birds heading west along the gulf coast.

This evening I headed to the high tide roost at Khok Kham, which was much more productive.  I ran into Mt Tii and he helped me to locate the right pool, which held probably 2,000 waders.  The bulk of these were Black-tailed Godwits, but the flock also held many Asian Dowitchers, I counted 124 Dowitchers in the fading light, but there were certainly more present as I didn't have time to thoroughly check the most densely packed part of the flock. There were also smaller numbers of Great Knot, and a small party of Red Knot present, with flocks of Eurasian Curlew passing over, and groups of Red-necked Stints and the occasional Common Greenshank here and there.   It's great to see that wader passage is well under way!

Asian Dowitchers

Red-necked Stints

euhinus Common Redshank
On the way back to the car I almost stepped on a small Monocled Cobra that was lying in the path - I didn't notice it (it looked like a stick!) until it moved  when my leading foot was about 18 inches from it - at which point it reared up and hissed at me.  I must admit that the middle of the salt pans was not really the kind of place I'd expected to run into one of these things, but I felt pretty stupid for having my guard down (my mental "snake radar" is normally more engaged when birding in forest) and there was I happily wandering about in shorts and sandals!  Just goes to show that cobras are highly adaptable and should probably be regarded as being present in most habitats in Thailand.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Patch again

Did the patch again this morning, with pretty much the same selection of birds as yesterday - one Openbill and two sightings of juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons (the same bird in different locations, or two different individuals?).

Whilst watching the Openbill it crossed my mind that perhaps the reason they have taken up residence in the park is a result of the availability of food - my hypothesis being that the floods that affected Bangkok last autumn enabled snails of the genus Pila to colonise the park. Openbills primarily feed on Pila snails and as the snail has been found to expand its known range down through peninsular Thailand the storks have followed. Perhaps the same is true in Bangkok's concrete jungle?


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Inner city birding: Storks, Night Herons & Bitterns

Did the patch this morning from 0630-0800 hrs.  The things that impressed me today were i) that the Open-billed Storks that turned up in early April are still present and seem to have taken up residence, with three birds present this morning, and ii) that I saw two separate Black-crowned Night Herons - one cracking adult and a juvenile.

Until this spring I had only seen Open-bills over the park occasionally (normally quite high), and I had seen only one Black-crowned Night Heron (sometime back in 2008, I think). Since the end of March I've seen both species regularly, and whilst it may be that only two Night Herons and three Storks are involved it is nice to imagine that perhaps both species will colonise the park!

The other species that were rather conspicuous this morning were Javan Pond Heron (with two or three juvs and perhaps 15 adults spread around the park - presumably post breeding dispersees) whilst Asian Pied Starlings were also well represented (some feeding recently fledged juvs).  Lastly I saw an adult male Yellow Bittern with what appeared to be a fresh juv, suggesting that they have bred in the park this year.

Javan Pond Heron

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Eastern Inner Gulf

I spent this afternoon investigating a few sites on the coast of the eastern side of the inner Gulf of Thailand, looking for potentially interesting sites for waders later in the autumn.  Sites around Khlong Tam Ru produced a few interesting birds - three early Wood Sandpipers, a Marsh Sandpiper that probably hadn't migrated (it had a broken leg), twenty three Barn Swallows and most notably a group of ten Spot-billed Pelicans.

I also checked an area around Bang Pakong which was rather disappointing, but perhaps I just didn't find the right spot to look.  On the way back to Bangkok I stopped off at Bang Poo, which was by far the most interesting site.  Bang Poo is well known for wintering gulls (and being a natural Laraphobe I have always avoided the place!), and also has an area of mudflats at low-tide, with an area pools for roosting waders.  My visit was over the high tide period, and the roosting pools held a few waders including three Lesser Sand Plovers, a Marsh Sandpiper, three Wood Sandpipers and ten Back-tailed Godwits. The more impressive count at this site was the 40+ Painted Storks, some at reasonably close range to allow detailed study through the scope.  Bang Poo looks like a site worthy of further, and regular investigation (it is very close to Bangkok), and given that last year it held Asia's first Sooty Gull, I should probably actually look at the Larids once they arrive for the winter...