Sunday, May 10, 2015

Five broadbills in five hours

Silver-breasted Broadbill

I spent this morning birding at Kaeng Krachan National Park, focusing on the "three streams" area  beyond Bang Krang camp. Being a weekend in the middle of nesting season this area was very very popular with bird phtographers, but I still managed to get away from the crowds to find my own birds.

As I dove through the National Park soon after first light I picked up three Blue-winged Pittas calling to one another, and stopped the car to attempt to get views. I saw one fly across the road but the other two were in dense cover and unwilling to show.  I had another B-w Pitta calling near the camp site.

Once at the three streams area I managed to see lots of great birds with little effort: Silver-breasted Broadbills were nesting out in the open, and I found a small flock made up of Silver-breasted and Long-tailed Broadbills associating with a male Orange-breasted Trogon!  This was soon followed by a party of Rusty-cheeked Hornbills putting on a show, then I had a large game bird (probably a female Kalij Pheasant) flush across the track, and a Bittern spp fly past me at Stream 3.

adult Rusty-cheeked Hornbill

juv Rusty-cheeked Hornbill

Walking back from Stream 3 I located a family party of Dusky Broadbills, and heard both Banded and Black-and yellow Broadbills singing. A quick stop at Stream 2 to join the throng treated me to brief by very nice views of an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher bringing food to a nest.

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher

Dusky Broadbill

White-handed Gibbon

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Friday 8th May - Final day of spring patchwork

Today really was the last chance for finding spring migrants in Suan Rot Fai.  I am birding elsewhere over the weekend and then busy all of next week, so by the time I get a chance to do the patch again it will be devoid of migrants.

This morning was, for the time of year typically hard work, with temperatures of 37 celcius by the time I finished at 8.30am and exceptional humidity. The only notables were the Indian Cuckoo seen a few days ago, a late Asian Brown Flycatcher and a Stork-billed Kingfisher. I also had poor views of a distant flycatcher, perching high in bar branches, which I suppose was a dark-sided, but there was no way to clinch the ID. About five Chinese Pond Herons were still hanging around - it will be interesting to see if any over summer as has happened in the last two years.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pallas's Gropper

Today was a public holiday, so I determined that the first few hours of daylight would see me thrashing the patch in what might be the last gasp of spring migration birding.

Typically the number of migrants to be picked up this late was small, but it is always quality over quantity that counts this late in spring passage.  A look at lotus lake revealed no sign of either of the recent Indian Pond Herons - just a few Javans.

Once again the Ramble offered nothing - it seems that all of the trees in half of this area have died - they have no foliage on them and I suspect that some change in the water table has killed their root systems. The other half od the ramble is now filled with thick, damp scrub which should host some quality sculkers, but never seems to deliver.

Whilst walking towards "The Edge" I noted that an old bunker in the middle of a fairway (from the days when the park was a golf course) has now filled with a reasonable amount of cover.  It is an area I walk past regularly, but never bother looking at.  This morning however I took one look at it, and thought to myself - "If that was on Portland Bill, it would eventually host a White-throated Robin" ie. it's worth a quick check! No sooner had I got to the end of the bunker than I saw a brown passerine flick low across a gap in the vegetation.  I had no idea what it was - the view had been in my peripheral vision - but it "felt" interesting, and the word "locustella" immediately crossed my mind.  I sat down and waited...and nothing appeared.  If it was something unexceptional it would be Plain Prinia, and it would be out of that tiny patch of cover or would start calling, within couple of minutes.  The fact that nothing came out made me suspicious that what ever it was was an interesting skulker. After waiting a few more minutes of nothing I decided to use my Audubon bird call to squeak it out, and as soon as I stopped squeaking I saw a bird flick at the back of the bunker - it looked big, possibly Rubythroat-sized, and my mind momentarily considered that possibility before the bird broke cover  did a couple of panicked  mid-air circuits looking for an escape route.  I only saw it with the naked eye but it was clearly a large warbler with a rounded tail and some streaking - presumably a "PG Tips".  The bird headed away and I lost it against a line of trees, but I figured it would return to the same area if given some space, so I made a wide circuite of the trees where i had lost it, heading back to the bunker via two other small areas of cover just in case it had gone for those.  Once back at the bunker I picked up a soft tacking call and then the bird flew out again, this time giving better, more prolonged flight views through binoculars, confirming the ID as a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler.

Further on I picked up two separate Dark-sided Flycatchers, a new Indian Cuckoo (the second, or possibly third of the spring), a group of approximately 10 Chinese Pond Herons (presumably north bound migrants) and an elusive Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler that refused to respond to playback.

Dark-sided Flycatcher - bird 1

Dark-sided Flycatcher - bird 2

Indian Cuckoo

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Indian Pond Heron(s?)

A visit to Suan Rot Fai yesterday produced a few migrants including single Dark-sided Flycatcher and Forest Wagtail, plus two Thick-billed Warblers.

Pride of place however went to an Indian Pond Heron which was present in the same place as the previous weekend's bird.  When reviewing photos in the field I had a suspicion that it may be a different individual even though it was feeding in exactly the same place, however initial examination of the images once I got home made me think that these was just one bird involved.   Now though, after spending a bit more time looking at the images I rather think that two birds are indeed involved.

2nd May
25th April
Allowing for the very different photographic conditions, lighting, distance from the bird and consequent quality of the images, there is a significant difference in the colour of the forewing. My initial thinking was that this was due simply to the position of the feathers, but perhaps it is actually due to the degree of growth of the scapulars? If so, I don't think the scapulars could grow so much in just one week, though I stand to be corrected...

2nd May - not grey at top of mantle
25th April - no grey at top of manlte

More interestingly perhaps, from the rear view I interpret that the 25th April bird is more advanced in attaining breeding plumage due to the lack of grey at the top of the mantle (Indian PH has a wholly maroon mantle in full breeding plumage).

Either way, securing these new images means that I have good quality shots of all three Pond Heron species from the patch, in breeding plumage:

Chinese Pond Heron

Javan Pond Heron

Javan Pond Heron
Indian Pond Heron
variant Javan, or possible hybrid...

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dark-sided Flycatcher

An enthusiastic stomp around the patch from 06.15-0830hrs was rather dissappointing - I had high hopes of finding a migrant Pitta (a Fairy Pitta was picked up in central Bangkok yesterday, having struck a window) or Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher (peak passage for this species ins now), but I only encountered two migrants: a Dark-sided Flycatcher (in the same place where I saw one last Sunday) and a Chinese Pond Heron.  I guess that is the way patchwork goes. It think I need it to rain!