Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mae Sot paddies

I'm in Mae Sot for the last couple of working days of 2014.  This morning  I took my usual route into the rice paddies and mixed cultivation close to Mae Tao village, a few hundred metres from the border with Myanmar.

I drove out to my favoured area pre-dawn, flushing a Buttonquail spp. off the road. The weather was pleasingly cool and the birding produced some nice Sibe action, with a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler calling from a thicket in the twilight whilst the first of the morning's four Thick-billed Warblers appeared soon after. I searched the area which is reliable for Red Avadavat, picking up two individuals but my hopes of finding a Yellow-breasted Bunting in this area were (as ever) not realised.  However this area did hold several Dusky Warblers and Zitting Cisticolas

Chats were well represented this morning with two Bluethroats seen, three Siberian Rubythroats (one male seen, the others heard only), at least ten Siberian Stonechats and at three Pied Stonechats.

Raptors seen comprised three Black-winged Kites roosting together, a female Pied Harrier and a Common Kestrel

Monday, December 8, 2014

Getting the Nod

A couple of days ago I heard that a Brown Noddy had been seen off Laem Pak Bia sandspit (that's the site for White-faced Plover and Chinese Egret, about 13 km south of Pak Thale). Brown Noddy is a mega rarity here, and a bird I had not seen anywhere in the world, but as a bit of a (passive) anti-twitcher these days who's more interested in finding my own stuff I didn't really pay much attention to this news.

That was until I got a call from Gerry Brett who was putting a boatload together to go an look for the Noddy, which seemed to be hanging around the rich fishing grounds about 8km offshore.  It seemed like a bit of a long shot, but given that I was already planning a full day's birding and that I had been meaning to get myself on a boat in the Inner Gulf to look for seabirds, this seemed like a good excuse for a day out.

Saturday morning (6th Dec) saw our group (Gerry, Deang Manit, Jens Tøttrup, Tom Backlund, Peter Ericsson and myself) heading out on a relatively small fishing boat which bounced around a fare bit in the moderate sea conditions and once we got out to the the first of the buoys that the Noddy had been seen on, Tom Bucklund picked up the bird on another distance buoy, and once we had made our way over to it, a serious photo session ensued.

Brown Noddy

Brown-headed Gull, Noddy, WWBT, Whiskered Tern

Having never previously seen either Noddy spp. I was impressed by this bird's considerable size (somewhat larger than common tern, with considerably broader, blunt-tipped wings and with a big wedge-shaped tail), and its direct flight of low arching tracks reminded me of a skua. I also thought the bill was also remarkably long.

After we had had out fill of the Noddy we headed back to shore, picking up a superb immature Purple Heron and Chinese Egret on the way.

I spent the afternoon exploring the area around the abandoned buildings (with the hightlight being a flock of 21 Asian Dowitchers), and the Royal Project, which held a lone Spot-billed Pelican and good numbers of co-operative terns for photography.

Chinese Egret

Spot-billed Pelican
Asian Dowitcher

Friday, December 5, 2014

Monarch's Day

Today was a public holiday in Thailand as it is the King's birthday.  As such it was rather fitting that Black-naped Monarchs were a feature of my walk around Suan Rot Fai, with at least three individuals seen, as well as three Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers.

Black-naped Monarch

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher

 I had been hoping that the unseasonal, heavy overnight rain might produce something interesting, but alas it was all a bit run-of-the-mill, with a single Dusky Warbler, three Thick-billed Warblers, two Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warblers and two Brown Shrikes the passerine highlights.  There may have been an increase in Yellow-browed Warblers, with about 10 seen/heard.

The Cinnamon Bittern, first seen about 10 days ago ws also still present this morning.

Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler

the largely pale lower mandible may suggest PLLW

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Large Hawk-cuckoo

I did a couple of hours in Suan Rot Fai before work, prompted just a little bit by news that a female Siberian Thrush had been photographed there on Monday.

Whilst I didn't run into the Thrush (it was looked for but not seen yesterday), I managed to find a Large Hawk-cuckoo, which is only my second patch record. This bird was being harassed by a Large-billed Crow, which seemed to have fallen for the pseudo-accipiter-esque features of this bird (which indeed I also did on first seeing it).  The bird was pretty flighty and when perched was seen only in gloomy early morning light under the canopy of a large tree, so no photos. All the other Hawk-cuckoo species could be eliminated on size alone.

Other highlights this morning included a stunning male Black-naped Monarch, the first Dusky Warbler of the winter, two Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers,  2-3 Thick-billed Warblers and a Stork-billed Kingfisher.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sunday 30th November

A walk around Suan Rot Fai early in the morning produced a couple of surprises -  an Ashy Minivet picked up on call and located high in a conifer looked very strongly marked on the underparts (so strongly marked in fact that it looked like Ryukyu Minivet). Discussion with Phil Round suggests that 1st winter Ashy Minivet can be quite variable in the degree of markings on the breast, so I guess this is at the dark end of the spectrum.

very well-marked 1st winter Ashy Minivet

The other notable bird seen this morning was a 1st winter Orange-headed Ground Thrush.  This is the fifth individual I have seen in the park in the last two years, with four in late November/early December and one in spring this year.  This morning's bird was not very co-operative, choosing to lurk in a dark corner of the park.

Orange-headed Ground Thrush at high ISO

Monday, December 1, 2014

Saturday 29th November

On Friday evening I drove to Kaeng Krachan NP, so was in situ first thing Saturday morning, though Khum Saram at Samarn Bird camo told me vert clearly that currently the the park is "no good for birds" to due some late rains delaying the onset of the dry season..  The forest between the three streams was indeed very quiet, with two Banded Kingfishers heard, female Hainan Blue Flycatcher and a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills being about the best I could find.  The main highlight was a mammal tick, in the form of a large troupe of Stump-tailed Macaques as I drove out of the park.

Stump-tailed Macaques

I spent the afternoon around Leam Pak Bia and Pak Thale, picking up a good selection of waders including two c. 20 Nordmann's Greenshanks amongst a flock of 500-600 Great Knot (themselves only a fraction of a much larger flock of Great Knot) near the Royal Project, two Small Pratincoles at Wat Komnaram, whilst Pak Thale held two Spoon-billed Sandpipers, two Far Eastern Curlew and two Dunlin.

Nordmann's Greenshank (taken with DSLR)

Nordmann's Greenshank (digiscoped)

Spoon-billed Sandpiper (digiscoped)

Temminck's Stint

Marsh Sandpiper

the out-of-sync Curlew Sand is back on the same pool as last winter

White-shouldered Starling

Eastern Yellow Wagtail

Intermediate Egret

Cattle Egret

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Cinnamon Bittern

A walk around Suan Rot Fai this morning produced a few notable birds including a Peregrine, four Night Herons, three  Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warblers, two Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers, a Black-naped Monarch and two species of Bittern on the same pool - a juv Cinnamon and two adult male Yellows.

Most bizarre to see was a Chinese Pond Heron in full breeding plumage - presumably the same bird that I saw in late October, featured on Birding Frontiers and which I had assumed would transition to non-breeding plumage, but actually seems to be more pristine now that it was a month ago. 

Chinese Pond Heron

Monday, November 24, 2014

22nd & 23rd Nov 2014

A rather busy weekend, but managed to get some birding in on both days.

Saturday morning found me checking out Muang Boran Fish Ponds and Bang Poo, with the Fish Ponds produsing  lots of Black-browed Reed Warblers (but not the hoped for Manchurian RW) as well as four Chestnut Munias, three Chestnut-tailed Starlings and several Pheasant-tailed Jacana.

Black-browed Reed Warbler

Bang Poo was a Gull-fest, with the seemingly homogenous flock of Brown-headed Gulls harbouring at least two Black-headed Gulls and a rather confusion selection of moult stages for a laraphobe like me (the last time I looked at gulls was here, two years ago!).

adult Brown-headed Gull

adult Black-headed Gull

adult Brown-headed Gull

adult Black-headed Gull

1 CY Brown-headed Gull

1 CY Brown-headed Gull

1CY Black-headed Gull

1CY Black-headed Gull

Sunday morning was spent taking some visitors to Khok Kham, and with the help of Mr Tii seeing a single Spoon-billed Sandpiper amongst a huge number of waders.  Broad-billed Sandpipers seemed to be especially well represented, with small numbers of Great and Red Knot, a couple of Turnstones and a single Dunlin in the mix.  Remarkably one of the flocks of grey-and -white winter plumaged red-necked stints held a breeding plumaged bird, looking very out of place.

very late "red" Red-necked Stint

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Luscinia on the path

This morning was the first, after ten days of being laid up with flu that I actually felt like getting out of bed, so I went to Suan Rot Fai for a couple of hours.

There has been a big drop off in the number of Phylloscs passing through the park, with just a single PLLW/Sakhalin and three Yellow-browed Warblers heard, but a few late autumn migrants have turned up including 2-3 Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers, single Hair-crested Drongo and Black-naped Monarch.

The highlight of the morning however was the vision of a "robin" on the path that leads to a private area of woodland. As soon as I saw it my brain said (european) Robin as as I raised my bins my brain actually engaged and thought "wrong continent...whatever this is it's going to be good!" and then the binos finally met my eyes they were filled with a Bluethroat -  a new bird for the patch.

Bluethroats are reasonably common in arable land elsewhere in Thailand, but I've never seen one in the city, though it has been on my list of candidate species that could turn up in the Park.  This one sat in the open for about 20 seconds, but as I attempted to switch from bins to camera it flicked out of view and didn't reappear despite me putting in considerable effort to re-find it. Those Luscinia are sneaky little buggers!

Monday, October 27, 2014

First Spooner back in Thailand

The first Spoon-billed Sandpiper  to return to Thailand for the 2014/15 winter was seen yesterday at Pak Thale.  Photo here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Balcony birding

I had been planning full-on weekend's birding, but my plans were cut short as my cold virus intensified. Instead I simply tried a bit of viz-migging from our balcony (which in years past has produced flocks of Black Baza in late October) on both Saturday and Sunday morning.

The results were quite surprising:  on Saturday I saw two large raptors  - the first seen incredibly briefly as it disappeared behind a building, whilst I photographed the second - identified after some discussion on the Thai Bird Report Facebook page as an imm. Brahminy Kite.  I also picked up a pair of Pacific Swifts (seldom reported in the city, as far as I am aware) high up, a single Red-rumped Swallow (there were about 20 Barn Swallows moving south west as well), and a Painted Stork whilst an Intermediate Egret in the company of a Little Egret made for a nice comparison of size & structure.

imm Brahminy Kite

Pacific Swift

Painted Stork

Sunday's attempted viz-migging was a little bit poor by comparison, with a few egrets (including three Cattles, four Littles, and one Great White with a broken leg) and several Ashy Drongos, whilst a couple of Red-breasted Parakeets perched up in a fruiting tree, offering prolonged scope views.

Cattle Egrets

male Red-breasted Parakeet

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The humble heron

Woke up this morning with a fever, so abandoned plans to drive to Bang Pu for waders and gulls and instead plumped for a gentle session on the patch.

The weather was really gloomy - heavy overnight rain and low cloud meant that it still didn't really feel light even an hour after sunrise. In my febrile state, the birding was a bit laborious, but after a while I was rewarded with some uncommon migrants - two Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers and an Asian Paradise Flycatcher, followed by a very skulking Thick-billed Warbler that had me convinced for a while that it was going to be something more interesting.

The park was littered with Taiga Flycatchers and I saw at least 4 Asian Brown Flycatchersphylloscs included several Yellow-brows and three Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warblers - one of which I had responding to Sakhalin call.

The bird of the morning however was a flyover Grey Heron, which was a patch tick!  Grey Herons are reasonably common on the Gulf of Thailand, but I cannot recollect ever seeing one in the city.

Other herons this morning included numerous pond herons, including the adult breeding plumaged Chinese Pond Heron that is still hanging around.

jouyi Grey Heron

 EDIT: Doing some reading from Round (2008) about Grey Herons here in Thailand it appears that the race found here is jouyi and that although it used to breed in small numbers to at least 1950 the breeding population has been extirpated so that all birds seen today are migrants from north-eastern Asia. Indeed there are five recoveries of birds ringed as nestlings  in south-eastern Siberia and the Amur Basin. The highest count on the gulf of Thailand is 450 at Petchaburi in January 2003.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mae Sot paddyfields

 I had an hour pre-work to explore the paddyfields between Mae Sot airport and the Myanmar border this morning.

This area was looking fantastic - it's the end if wet season, so after months of rain the landscape is looking amazingly lush.

Birds included about 20 Amur and four Eastern Yellow Wagtails, 1-2 Wryneck, two Thick-billed and two Dusky Warblers, a couple of Zitting Cisticolas, at least three Siberian Rubythroats heard, four Red-throated and a single Richard's Pipit, plus several Siberian Stonechats and Brown Shrikes.

There were 10+ Red Avadavats in their usual area, with males now sporting fantastic deep red plumage.

Most intriguing was a crake spp with a streaked back that I flushed from a roadside ditch - I'm guessing either Baillon's or White-browed but has to be left unidentified.

"Amur" Wagtail Motacilla (alba) leucopsis

Monday, October 20, 2014

18th & 19th October

A bit of a slow down in terms of migration, but still plenty of interesting stuff to look at over the weekend.  The two main highlights were an Oriental Reed Warbler (only my second patch record) in the same area of marsh vegetation where the Rubythroat was on Friday, and a Plain-tailed Warbler (the first one I've seen on the patch for three years).

Ashy Minivets were still in evidence, and common migrants included PL/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler (one on both Saturday and Sunday), whilst the number of Taiga Flycatchers seemed to increase and the number of Asian Brown Flycatchers decreased. I also saw Stork-billed Kingfisher a couple of times.

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Taiga Flycatcher

Eastern Crowned Warbler

breeding plumaged Chinese Pond Heron still here
adult non-br Chinese PH (note remnants of br plum on ear coverts)
female Small Minivet (resident)
male Ashy Minivet (migrant)
1st winter Brown Shrike - probably Lucionensis
this shot and the one below show the reddish cap of cristatus  nicely

juv Shikra (thanks to Thai Bird Report subscribers for help with ID)