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