More Reservoir

31 12 2012

Asian Golden Weaver – female

In my rather naive way I thought it would be as easy as set up, wait and shoot and thus I would get a decent shot of Black-browed Reed Warbler.  Well I got set up and waited but the Black-browed Reed Warbler didn’t oblige. A weaver did! Thanks to Dave Sargeant and Birdforum members for confirming the ID.

I also enjoyed good views of a Darter and a Cinnamon Bittern but neither the Black-browed Reed Warbler or its more common partner the Oriental Reed Warbler obliged. At about 1720, after two hours in the hide, I broke cover and decided to head to the Savanna Nightjar site in daylight to see if Rain Quail were present. Guess what happened next? I started packing up and in came a pair of Black-browed Warblers! They didn’t really pose for me but had I been in the hide I might have managed the type of shot I had been hoping for. Whatever I got a couple of shots. I also managed to pick up an Oriental Reed Warbler as it played on nearby reeds. I made it to the Savanna Nightjar site in daylight but couldn’t see any Rain Quail. As darkness fell, the Savanna Nightjars piped up, at least 6, and in the midst of this I picked out a Rain Quail calling, and then another one.

Oriental Reed Warbler

Oriental Reed Warbler

Black-browed Reed-warblerSkulking

Black-browed Reed-warbler


Savanna Nightjars back at Huay Mai Teng Reservoir

29 12 2012
Small Pratincole

Small Pratincole

I have hardly done any birding this week but I did it make it out to Huay Mai Teng Reservoir this afternoon. What bliss! A Long-tailed Shrike was one of the first birds I saw today, followed soon after by a Hoopoe. I proceeded to the northern area of the reservoir to check on the Small Pratincoles – I would estimate in the region of 300 today. They were a little on edge and went up a couple of times. I noticed some were diverting to the gravel track for a “dooking” as we say in Glasgow;  “ducking” for non-Weegies; a refreshing splash in the cool water. It’s hot here at the moment and it is even affecting the birds.

So I set up the hide and got a couple of shots of these cuties. As I drove out lots of tiny Grey-breasted Prinias, a few Sooty-headed Bulbuls, some Brown Shrikes and a fair few Richard’s Pipits. I decided to head to the outlying north western pond and am glad I did. I found a location in the fading light with reeds and Reed-warblers, funnily enough! I had  Oriental and Black-browed, at least two of the latter reed-warblers and I don’t know what else! The Black-browed, normally a skulker,  even showed a little so I will go back with the hide and would dearly love to get a shot of a Black-browed Reed Warbler.In the vegetation on the nearby water surface there were at least 5 Pheasant-tailed Jacanas and 1 Bronze-wonged together with good numbers of Moorhen. It was idyllic really with a setting sun and beautiful, golden sun-drenched light. An added bonus was a Darter which flew over.

Then to what was once my stamping ground at this site, the northern end scrub, arriving in the dark where I was greeted by the unmistakeable call of Savanna Nightjars; I wouldn’t care to say how many, at least ten. What a sound! There was also something else mixed up with the nightjars, a much more melodic song which needs further investigation.. I should note here that I didn’t get sight or sound of Rain Quail at all today. Glad to be back out on the patch A very Merry Christmas to you all.

Inner Gulf 22 & 23 December 2012

24 12 2012
Caspian Tern© How Pang

Caspian Tern
© How Pang

For a second consecutive weekend I had agreed to show some visiting birders around. This time How Pang and Moira Mitchell from London, although Moira is a Glaswegian like myself. These guys were finishing off a major birding trip to South East Asia having just been birding at Ang Trapang in Cambodia. We started early and headed through Petchburi province  to Wat Khao Takrhao; en route we stopped at a pond in the Phetchburi area which held at least 4 Eurasian Coot and good numbers of Cotton Pygmy-goose, Moorhen and Little Grebe. Two Oriental Darters flew over and one actually came down in the pond for an early morning splash.

Pink-necked Green Pigeon© How Pang

Pink-necked Green Pigeon
© How Pang

On the approach road to the very large pond in the Wat Khao Takrhao area we had great views of 8 Pink-necked Green Pigeons.Green pigeons have always been very skittish around me but today they didn’t seem too bothered. Moreover, on account of this, I had never really been satisfied with previous views, so I had never claimed this bird. A lifer no less, though at the time I had no idea I hadn’t listed it yet.

An added bonus was a small flock of Painted Stork and Howard & Moira also managed to get Collared & Black-capped Kingfisher. At the large pond there were thousands of ducks, huge flocks of Garganey and Northern Pintail, a conservative estimate being 2,000 of the former and 1,ooo of the latter. Always a brilliant sight especially when these birds take to the air. I managed to pick out two female Northern Shovellers, courtesy of their massive bills, and we also managed to see one Black-headed Ibis. Not such a bad start to the day.

Greater Sand-plover

Greater Sand-plover

I had scheduled the day in order to arrive at Pak Thale before high tide, predicted today at about 1100h. We got there at about 0930 and I was rather surprised by the comparative dearth of waders. Sure there were waders but not as many as I had expected. The usual suspects were present – Eurasian Curlew, Lesser Sand-plover; there was a small flock of Great Knot.  We checked the usual places but there was absolutely no sign of Spoon-billed Sandpiper and there wasn’t much evidence of its favourite associate, Red-necked Stint. We had a good look around and picked out two Pied Avocets in the pans on the road to the mud flats; plenty of Curlew Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, a few Long-toed Stint, good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, but no Spoonie. Most depressing, bothersome – I want everybody I take out to see the “big” birds if possible. It’s a fact, however, that we didn’t today and it is equally a fact that birds are not “available on demand” creatures.


Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Reluctantly we headed on but agreed to return early on the following day without reference to the tide. We headed south and  stopped off at Wat Kamnoram for Grey-headed Lapwing and Black-headed Ibis; again,another no shows. So we went on to Laem Pak Bia, heartened by a call from Mike & Dave Bruce, from last weekend, who had sighted a Nordmann’s Greenshank. Phew! Again I think it would be fair to say the salt pans here were not exactly loaded with waders. If Spoon-billed Sandpiper is number one target for most visitors then Nordmann’s is second on the list. One solitary Nordmann’s stood on the bund,surrounded by a handful of Great Knots but unmistakeable on leg colour and bill base toning. It is undoubtedly the case that I have much more success with Nordmann’s than I do with Spoon-billed Sandpiper!

We then went into the King’s Project where we reconnected with the Bruces and here we had a lot of fun calling out Ruddy-breasted Crake; there were three in the shallow pools. There were also at least three Painted Snipe in the same area. Unfortunately they reeds in the reed beds had been hacked down so little to observe in that area. I have only realised that Ruddy-breasted Crake is a lifer as I had never listed it previously on account of only snatching fleeting glances, just like Pink-necked Green Pigeon.

Malaysian Plover

Malaysian Plover

Then we combined with the Bruces and headed to the sand-spit with Mr Daeng. There really is something quite special about sitting in Mr Daeng’s little boat and heading to the sand-spit. It is so atmospheric, especially mid-afternoon onwards, which is my preferred time when the sand-spit catches the setting sun and the quality of the light is brilliant. The sea breeze normally counters the effect of the heat. Today was no exception and the birds obliged: Chinese Egret, Lesser Crested Tern, two White-face Plovers, 10 Malaysian Plovers and 2 Sanderlings. On the way back the dominant bird in the creek was Collared Kingfisher – I think our party counted 30 plus and we let out a cheer when finally we saw a solitary Black-capped Kingfisher.

Pacific Reef Egretdark morph variant

Pacific Reef Egret
dark morph variant

On Sunday we started early and after a delicious, and unexpected, breakfast in Phetchburi’s main market, we headed straight for Pak Thale.  I was delighted for How and Moira that we scored immediately with a fantastic count of 4 Spoon-billed Sandpipers – effortless, really. Drive-in birding at its best; drive-in, park the car, walk 200 metres and bingo! I have learned something from this – the tide theory, two hours before and two hours after high tide as the best time to watch waders, doesn’t necessarily apply to Spoon-billed Sandpiper. I suspect Spoon-billed Sandpiper is best seen first thing in the morning. Whatever I was delighted that we got this most sought after species in the bag and a good count too. We then headed to Wat Kamnoram where the Grey-headed Lapwing also obliged – at least three sighted. On to Laem Pak Bia where there wasn’t much of note: I counted a flock of 30 Pied Avocets but beyond this little else.

We then headed over to the dipterocarp forest at Wat Khao Look Chang, about a 50 minute drive. I have to say this was a bad move; we saw some Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, a few sun birds but nothing else. Perhaps this was because of the time of the day but I was disappointed and was disappointed for my guests as this site has been reliably good for species like Black-headed Woodpecker and Spotted Owlet. We headed on to Wat Norng Blah Lai and I am gad to say the eagles obliged: two Eastern Imperial Eagles, (likely juveniles), at least 1 Steppe, 1 Greater Spotted Eagle and 1 Booted Eagle, all fairly high in the sky plus a couple of Black Kites. We finished off with a brief look at the Black Kite roost at Khao Yoi but got there much too early in the afternoon – nevertheless there were a few Black Kites on the ground.

The Local Rice Paddy

20 12 2012

In previous years the local rice paddy has very much been my bolt-hole for a brief hour here and there.  However our new daughter and evening work commitments mean I rarely get the time to venture forth during weekdays. I did last night but not much to report: a female Pied Harrier flew over and I had decent views of an Oriental Reed Warbler but little else. The rice crop has been harvested recently so it is  rather dry. I expect that we’ll see some kites and eagles over the next few weeks. 

The Weekend that Was: Huay Mai Teng, The Inner Gulf and surrounds

18 12 2012
Chinese Egret

Chinese Egret

I had the pleasure of showing David Bruce from the UK around this weekend. David is a stalwart of the Essex county scene (Old Hall, RSPB reserve) and is one of those wise people, unlike myself, who started birdwatching when his age was still in single digits. Sixty years later Dave is still at it and his experience shows.

On Saturday we made a gentle, early start at Huay Mai Teng Reservoir. I was very surprised that there wasn’t so much as a whisper of Rain Quail on the south side of the site. This would be the first time in living memory that I have failed to hear Rain Quail calling in this particular location. I had rather fancied Rain Quail would be as close to a nailed on certainty as there can be.

Our first bird of the day was a Taiga Flycatcher and it proceeded from there with most of the usual suspects barring Rain Quail. As on recent visits there were many Richard’s Pipits on the ground and in the air and a few Oriental Skylarks. We noted an abundance of Zitting Cisticolas and there were good numbers of  Eastern Stonechat. The highlights were probably an Oriental Reed Warbler and a pair of Yellow-eyed Babblers.

Malaysian Plover

Malaysian Plover

A refreshing cool breeze took the edge of the increasing temperature. In real terms a very pleasant walk around the marsh which enabled Dave to see quite a few different species: Bronze-winged Jacana, Black-shouldered Kite, Eastern Marsh Harrier, White-throated Kingfisher, Lesser Whistling Duck, Hoopoe and the normal range of common waterbirds: the egrets and the herons.

A mid-morning work commitment brought us back to Ratchaburi but we headed back early afternoon. I estimate in the region of 22o Small Pratincoles in the usual place, well a little bit further up and out of sight if truth be told, but they announced their presence by a quick fly past and then landed out of sight but nearby. These birds never fail to rouse my spirits. I was also encouraged to hear the insistent calling of Rain Quail in this northern part of the reservoir.

I then decided to take Dave into the western sector in search of Darter; alas not in evidence today. But we had a good view of an Indochinese Bushlark and also had a good look at a female Common Kestrel perched high on a tree. I was also gratified that Rain Quail were calling and we managed to stop reasonably close to three and first of all had fleeting snatches of them as they rummaged around and then they flew. Dave got sight of the three of them as they  flashed away. As we headed out of this area we chanced upon a reasonably sized flock of Baya Weavers.

Not a bad start to Dave’s briding trip. I  must say how I was impressed by Dave’s interest in an enthusiasm for  Red-collared and Peaceful Doves, both new birds for him, and birds which I rarely look at these days.

Sunday an early start and on the road at 0530 to Pak Thale,winter home to Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Every visiting birder comes here for this remarkable little bird which always impresses with its effervescence and sheer. It’s not a bird that I have a great record with and the word on the street, so to speak, is that this year it is not so reliable. We bumped into Games Petsri and Ian Dugdale of South Thailand Birding  soon after our arrival at about 06:55h. In fact  they located one Spoon-billed sandpiper almost immediately. I felt mightily relieved for Dave and of course for myself. I must say it eased the pressure on me, all of which,I hasten to add, was entirely self-imposed. 

There were also three female Northern Shovellers nearby; ducks in general are few and far between at Pak Thale and courtesy of their huge, striking bills these ducks were unmistakable. In much the same way the male Northern Shoveller is a very striking and distinctive bird so identification as female was effortless. We drove out towards the mudflats in the hope of finding Asian Dowitcher which have been present in numbers in the salt pans near the sea. No sign of them today but we did  add two Pied Avocets which were in a group of Black-winged Stilts and other waders.

We then drove down to Laem Pak Bia and below Bang Kaew there were noticeably large groups of gulls, terns and waders in the salt pans. We made a couple of brief stops which didn’t produce any surprises. A perfunctory scan with the scope showed Brown-headed Gulls and more Brown-headed Gulls; fortunately most of the other species of gulls stick out prominently, usually because they are significantly bigger; lots of Great Knot; Black-tailed Godwits and smaller waders like Lesser Sand-plovers.Dave added a second kingfisher species on this drive: Black-capped perched on the telephone lines. At Pak Thale he had a Collared Kingfisher – I was a little surprised by this as he has birded in India and Sri Lanks and I was under the impression Collared was common in those parts.

So we proceeded into the salt pans and our search for Nordmann’s Greenshank was soon productive – I picked out 4 resting on the bund in amongst some Great Knot; it’s all in the legs which, at a distance, appear a much brighter, yellowish green whereas the Greenshanks legs are much more of a washed out grey/green; the bill is also distinctive and I am learning about its head too. Nordmann’s is probably the second most sought after wader in this area so I was very happy to get the big two out of the way before 09:00h.

We had a scout around but this produced northing so we went into the King’s Project and had a good look around. Dave snatched a Ruddy-breasted Crake in the reed beds; this would have been a lifer for me but I just missed it. There were some Green Sandpipers and a couple of Common Snipe in the swamps; the latter distinguishable by the white trailing edge on its wings. Add in a few Richard’s Pipits.

Rosy Starling - juvenile

Rosy Starling – juvenile

Next we headed to the Abandonned Building. Two Painted Storks appeared to be have been our highlights but on our way out we bumped into Peter Ericsson who put us on to a juvenile Rosy Starling. Lo and behold, a lifer for me, no less. After lunch we went back to the Abandonned Building in an attempt to enable me to get a shot of the Rosy Starling. I succeeded but not the best shot. Thank you, Peter. Peter also advised that Ruddy Shelduck were in Laem Pak Bia so we went back there to have a look but couldn’t see it. While scanning for the Nordmanns I picked out an Asian Dowitcher, really recognisable on account of its long black bill; it also is more black and white in appearance. I managed to pick out four in the end. Another biggie for Dave. Possibly the third most sought after wader in the region.

We then went back towards Bang Kaew to check out Wat Kamnoram. This did not disappoint – 15 Grey-headed Lapwing and 3 Black-headed Ibis. These were exactly what I had hoped for and I am very glad we made the detour. I expect Garganey will appear at this site imminently.

Finally we headed to Mr Daeng’s where once more we bumped into Peter Ericsson and his party  and were able to put them onto the Dowitchers. The sand spit was just perfect: one White-faced Plover, 2 Chinese Egret, 4 Sanderling and lots of Malaysian Plovers; add in lots of Great Crested Terns and at least one Lesser Crested Tern. I love being on the sand spit late in the day, there is something wonderful about the light as the sun starts to drop towards the horizon.

A bonus was getting back on terra firma with enough time left to dash to Khao Yoi. There we had the Black Kite roost to ourselves.I would have to say there must have been at least 500 birds, many of which were on the ground in a recently cut rice paddy. An impressive sight and a nice finishing touch to a great days’ birding.

Spot-billed Pelican

12 12 2012

Spot-billed Pelican
Pelecanus philippensis

This is one of the shots I have been trying unsuccessfully to add to my latest blog. I am not sure what but this bird doesn’t look quite right. I don’t know if it is moult or sickness but it doesn’t look so good around the upper neck. It was resting in among a small group of Painted Stork. I love these birds – big, hideous and primordial!

In and Around Pak Thale & Laem Pak Bia

10 12 2012

A Monday public holiday enabled me to hit Pak Thale early this morning, well not that early as I didn’t get there until 08:00h. I decided to take it very gently this morning so no rush. It was also very hot by the time of my arrival and there were coach loads of birders in the salt pans in search of Spoon-billed Sandpiper. I had the luxury of eschewing the trophy birds and headed onto the mudflats. Not much there other than some lingering Whimbrel though I did count 9 Great Crested Tern and I Lesser Crested Tern perched on poles out at sea.

The crowds having departed I then repaired to the usual salt pans and was thrilled to hit upon a final count of 16 Asian Dowitchers in a mixed flock of predominantly Black-tailed Godwits, though I did count 6 Bar-tailed in the scrum. Heaps of Curlew Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper, lots of Red-necked Stints and Marsh Sandpipers with a  sprinkling of Common Greenshank and Redshank, the usual volumes of Whiskered Terns and a particularily large flock of Brown-headed Gulls…nothing obvious standing out from that lot. There was a solitary Ruff loitering at the back.


There have been good numbers of Asian Dowitchers recorded in Pak Thale over the last few weeks; it is usually seen in ones and twos but this year there have been some large flocks. No sign of Spoon-billed Sandpiper for me so I went to its usual quarters and started scanning.I didn’t succeed but I bumped into Lindie & Frank Kolver from Australia who were deliriously happy because they had just seen two Spoon-billed Sandpipers and were on their way to catch a plane home! I decided to show them the Asian Dowitchers, and I even managed to pick out the Ruff from the massed ranks. We decided to head to Wat Norng Blah Lai as it was on the way to the main highway and hence would get them airport-bound. We stopped en route at a pond near to where I recently saw Gadwall and they saw a little flurry new birds: Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Moorhen, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Lesser Whistling Duck, Little Grebe, Eurasian Coot, Bronze-Wiinged jacana, Pheasant-tailed Jacana. I have just realised that Eurasian Coot is a lifer. Well I have seen it at Bueng Boraphet and at Huey Mai Teng Reservoir, but I haven’t recorded it so it goes onto the list as Thai lifer ⌗374. For the record there were three Coots present.Norng Blah Lai was a bit disappointing. I had to abruptly answer nature’s call so dumped Lindie & Frank in front of some raptors in the sky and legged it into a bush! By the time I was back in circulation they had gone but I reckon Frank described a Steppe Eagle; he described it as huge with a lot of white on its uppers; could be a Greater-spotted Eagle but that isn’t quite so big. Sadly they had to head to the highway so rather sad they couldn’t spend a bit more time in pursuit of eagles.

I legged it back to Laem Pak Bia and had lunch and made a courtesy call on Mr Daeng to reserve his boat for some trips over the next few weeks. I learned that there are up to ten whales in the sea beyond the Laem Pak bia sandspit and that fishing boats are ferrying lots of parties out. I am sure the prospect of seeing some Bryde’s Whales will be equally attractive to visiting birdwatchers over the next few weeks.

After lunch I went to Km 47, the elbow, and turned into the salt pans. It was on my mind that I hadn’t managed a decent shot and so I resolved that I would sit and try and get a few shots. Alas no, it was pretty difficult getting close to anything. I was shooting a Black-tailed Godwit when 5 Pied Avocets dropped down into the salt pan about 50 metres away, saw me and promptly took off. They would have made a great shot!


I did manage to get some shots of a reclining Spot-billed Pelican. But no sign of Nordmann’s Greenshank which was the bird I would have liked to photograph. As they day was drawing to a close I decided to head towards the Black Kite roost at Khao Yoi. AS I drove out of the salt pans I was thinking how extraordinary that I hadn’t seen any Great Knot. As I drove north I managed to locate a flock of about 1500 birds and I decided to walk out into the salt pans to try to get some shots. It’s always on my mind that Nordmann’s are usually near Great Knot. I couldn’t see any as I scanned and got focused on a group of what I thought were three Great Knot that were slightly nearer to me than the main pack. I don’t know what happened but the whole flock went up and and didn’t come back. I think an adjacent flock of Whiskered Terns was disturbed by something as they went up first and then like a domino effect everything else went up. It’s only on reviewing my images of the three Great Knot that I realise that in fact there are only two Greats and that the middle bird is in fact a Red Knot. You can see the bill is quite different and the middle bird, which has green legs also, is a tad smaller. Tom Backlund taught me to check my images carefully, so thanks Tom!

So I headed back to Khao Yoi and was thinking to myself as I approached the roost area that it was remarkably quiet  – no lines of Black Kites flying into the roost like planes do when they are coming into land at Heathrow Airport, London. However once I got to the roost area at about 1715 the palm trees were loaded; at a conservative estimate I would say about 300 Black Kites.  They are ugly, unattractive big birds but they make an impressive sight when in the roost in such numbers.

Black Kite

Black Kite

For me another great day of birding.

Digiscoping Note

Plain Prinia

Plain Prinia

I got in close to a Plain Prinia using the Panasonic 20 mm f1.7. Now it was impossible to frame the bird, or indeed to get a correct focus,as the wind was really moving the tree and the branch on which the bird was perched. I did manage this shit and it fills me with great optimism; it is much sharper than usual. I must get the hide up and get in close to some other birds.