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)

Friday, October 17, 2014

A binful of Sibes & an interesting Arctic Warbler

Two hours in Suan Rot Fai before work, with the highlight being when I raised by binoculars to view a Thick-billed Warbler and found a Siberian Rubythroat lurking just behind it before disappearing, never to be seen again.

I also found this very well-marked Arctic Warbler which was silent but has me thinking it may be a good candidate for Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (P. examinandus). Sadly it did not call, and didn't give an especially obvious response to a sound recording of P. examinandus but on plumage it immediately looked like a very different kind of Arctic Warbler - very well marked supercilium (much broader and brighter that the dowdy P. borealis I'm used to seeing) and the yellow suffusion around the face seems to favour examinandus - but without the call or biometrics I'm just speculating.

P. examinandus???

In addition to this bird I had two Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warblers, one of which showed interest in and responded to my Sakhalin recording, a lone Eastern Crowned Warbler and at least five Yellow-browed Warblers. The same area held an incessantly calling Monarchidae but I was to busy with the phylloscs to bother working out if it was an Asian Paradise Fly or Black-naped Monarch.

I also encountered at least two Ashy Minivets as well as four Brown Shrikes, lone Black-naped Oriole and leucogenis Ashy Drongo, and a Blue-tailed Bee-eater.

a rather splendid  male lucionensis Brown Shrike

Black-capped Kingfisher

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thick-billed Warbler

Did the first couple of hours of the day at Suan Rot Fai with the most notable sighting being my first Thick-billed Warbler of the autumn.  There were at least three leaucogenis Ashy Drongos  zooming about  the canopy of the larger trees, whilst flycatchers were present in smaller numbers than last weekend (four Asian Browns and approximately 10 Taigas).  Ashy Minivets were heard calling several times, but weren't seen. Phylloscs included four Yellow-browed, two Eastern Crowned and a pair of PLLW/Sakhalins, one of which showed well and even posed for a few photos - the extensively dusky lower mandible & relatively long primary projection might favour Sakhalin LW.

Sakhalin candidate

 Pond Herons were much in evidence, with 20-30 seen and I was also surprised to see this adult that retained more-or-less complete breeding plumage.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sakhalin Leaf Warbler?

I took an early morning walk around the Ministry of Public Relations today.

Migrants were in evidence with two Brown Shrikes,  a couple of Black-naped Orioles, and a calling Ashy Minivet, whilst one small area of trees held an Asian Brown Flycatcher and three Phylloscs: one Eastern Crowned Warbler, one Yellow-browed Warbler and one Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler.

The PLLW/Sakhalin obviously held my interest - the conundrum of how to separate these birds in the field is one that is still very poorly understood, with the only birds confirmed as Sakhalin having been spring passage migrants in song. Current indications of the numbers of Sakhalins passing through Thailand on migration are based upon mist-netted long-winged male birds who's biometrics put them outside the range of PLLW.  Phil Round has also commented to me that "It's not that clear-cut, but generally PLLW looks to have a pale, or only slightly sullied lower mandible", so it may well be that this is another feature that can be used to support in-the-field ID.

Regarding this morning's bird, it was foraging in the mid-storey of a tree, about 6 metres off the ground, but then responded strong to pishing by dropping lower and giving views at close range (sadly I didn't have the camera with me).  I played the contact call of Sakhalin LW (a wintering bird confirmed in Sinagpore last winter) and my bird responded immediately with an identical call. By contrast it did not respond at all when I played a PLLW call a couple of minutes later.  Although the views were close it was difficult to judge the colour of the lower mandible, and the upperparts (and thus primary projection) could not be seen.

Given the immediate response to playback, should I tick this bird as a Sakhalin? It doesn't seem unreasonable.  Sakhalin LW is evidently not uncommon as a passage migrant, and in fact Phil suggests that, based on his ringing data during spring passage "the numbers of Sakhalin LW swamp those of PLLW in the Bangkok area".

What I'm aiming to do is really examine each PLLW/Sakhalin that I encounter, to see if there are other features or behavioral traits that can be used to help identify these two species in the field, but this remains a tough challenge.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sunday: Pratincole patching

The first time I came to Bangkok was in June 1999.  After the long flight we checked into the Amari hotel by Don Muang Airport, because back in those days you could get a day room for GBP 12  and we had quite a few hours to kill before catching a train to northern Thailand.  One on my clearest memories was swimming in the open air pool at the Amari and having an Oriental Pratincole fly low overhead - as a British birder experiencing SE Asia for the first time this was a brilliant moment!

With this experience so soon after arriving in Bangkok, it has puzzled me over the last six years of watching Suan Rot Fai that I've never seen Oriental Pratincoles there.  After all, they are highly migratory and the park is on the same. side of the city as Don Muang Airport (though admittedly much further into the inner city.

Today I managed to put a big fat tick next to Oriental Pratincole when I found a migrating flock of about 20 birds feeding at some altitude over the Park.   I was actually looking skywards for raptors (or Needletails!) but these were a welcome, if somewhat over due alternative!

Oriental Pratincoles

With this patch tick secured early on, and no commitments for the rest of the morning I was able to give the southern sector of the part a pretty comprehensive survey, and came away with good selection of migrants as a result.  The best of the bunch was a Dark-sided Flycatcher actively feeding in the Canal Zone.  There were many more Taiga Flycatchers present this monring compared with yesterday, with approximately 15-20 birds encountered and these outnumbered Asian Brown Flycatchers by a ratio of approximately 2:1.  Phylloscs were represented by three Eastern Crowned Warblers, three Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warblers, five Arctic Warblers and four Yellow-browed Warblers. Only three Brown Shrikes were encountered, but I was surprised to hear a couple Ashy Minivets calling in different parts of the Park (I've only seen them on spring passage in the past).

Dark-sided Flycatcher

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Siberian Blue Saturday

Arctic Warbler

This morning I spent 6am-8.45am on the patch. Lots of migrants were in evidence, with several Asian Brown Flycatchers calling as it got light, and many Pond Heron spp moving around the park. Overall I must have encountered about 15 ABF, as well as five Taiga Flycatchers. Phylloscs were represented by at least three Arctic Warblers and one Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler feeding in the canopy of a large fig tree which makes me suspicious that it may have been the latter.

There were also a good number of Brown Shrikes present, perhaps 10 encountered in total, including this confiding individual.

Other migrants included two Ashy Drongos (of different races) feeding in the Ramble. The first that I saw was a leucogenis whilst the second looked to be a mouhouti.

Best bird of the morning was first winter female Siberian Blue Robin that gave several fleeting glimpses and then completely disappeared, despite me spending another 45 minutes searching for it.

In the afternoon I visited Khok Kham to look for waders.  I arrived later than planned and gathering storm clouds meant that dusk came rather earlier than expected, so I didn't get  time to locate many large groups of waders, the best being a flock of 250-300 Black-tailed Godwits,  40 Painted Storks, single Long-toed Stint and Broad-billed Sandpiper, 30+ Marsh Sandpipers, several small groups of Lesser Sandplover and Red-necked Stints and three Pacific Golden Plovers.

Pacific Goldies

This Chinese Pond Heron still had some breeding plumage evident

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A few more Shetland pictures

I'm back in Thailand now, buried in work and desperate for the weekend to arrive so that I can get out birding!

In the meantime here are a few more shots from my time on Shetland...

Red-flanked Bluetail in fading light at Sumburgh

self-found Red-backed Shrike

The first of many self-found YBWs

what could be more Shetland than a YBW on a wire fence?

leading bird in Fair Isle's first flock of Barnacles of the autumn

Lesser Whitethroat - origin under discussion

stonking Wheatear

Tystie in Lerwick Harbour