A Brief Spin in the Local Rice Paddy

30 05 2013

My recent discharge from hospital meant I was able to take a brief spin around the local rice paddy late this evening. It wasn’t planned so I didn’t have any binoculars but the highlight was two species of bittern: Black and Cinnamon, but not the more common Yellow. In fact as we drove along the road I pointed out to Luna, my wife, the site where I had seen Black Bittern before and commented that it is not a rare bird, but tends to skulk and rarely shows. I also reminded Luna of the fact that it was this time last year when she spotted an altogether much rarer bird, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo: at the time she pointed into the bushes andsaid:”Look I think it is just a bee-eater”!

Binoculars would have assisted greatly as there was a lot of nesting activity in the bushes that line the irrigation canals: Weavers and Plain-backed Sparrows. We saw one of distinct male Asian Golden Weaver in its unmistakable golden plumage and black throat and there were lots of Black-crowned Night-herons in the air. We saw the Cinnamon Bittern as it flew across the road and dived into the cover provided by the rice crop; and we noticed an unusual bird flying up the road; we managed to follow it to a tree where it obliging perched for long enough to enable identification;unmistakably a Black Bittern. A lifer for Luna and not a bird I see very often.

Wonderful to be able to have a cursory look at the birds again. Wonderful to be home. It will be some time before I am  100% but I am finally on the mend and I am looking forward to being able to do a little birding locally.

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Quelle Joie!

11 05 2013

Some non-birding teaching colleagues kindly took me to Huay Mai Teng Reservoir early this morning for some bird-watching. I don’t yet feel confident enough to go on my own just in case I experience difficulties, not necessarily health related ones but practical things like a puncture or getting stuck in mud. So it was a joy to be back out on the patch and as much as anything being out was as important as seeing any birds.

Of course, I had River Lapwing in my mind – their arrival at the reservoir is imminent. My records suggest the earliest arrival is May 18th and my records also suggest a high level of consistency. So I was not surprised that none were visible in the launch area. What was apparent was a very low water level and lots of Open-bills. My companions are very aware of these birds as they are abundant in the locale. From my perspective it was nice to show them the “open bill” and explain about how they are generally tolerated because they predate snails which are major predators of the rice crop. Not much else visible other than a few Little Green Bee-eaters and a distant Pied Kingfisher.

Next we went to check out the Rain Quail site. I managed to get a brief view of a female moving in the scrub and two more flew off. I felt disappointed for my companions who were nonetheless impressed by a White-throated Kingfisher and a male and female Koel. Near the water there were lots more Open-bills and Red-wattled Lapwing but no sign of River Lapwing.

A detour off the main track produced a few Oriental Skylarks, their crests clearly visible; a small group of Lesser Whistling-duck flew over and a fair few Great Egrets in breeding plumage; Little Ringed Plovers were also in evidence. A further detour to the main marsh area on the south side showed large numbers of Oriental Pratincoles: maybe as many as three hundred. A few years back there were several thousands of them here in October and it will be interesting to observe how, or indeed if, numbers grow. My friends were very impressed by the Little Cormorants perched on poles with their wings outstretched. A drive along the track to the water edge produced more Oriental Skylarks and two Small Pratincoles. On our way off the marsh we flushed a quail sp., probably Barred Buttonquail. No sign whatsoever of River Lapwing.

So a real joy to be out birding again. I am going back to hospital on Monday morning for a skin graft. My leg infection had deteriorated drastically by the time I made it home to Thailand, probably due to re-infection. So since getting home I have been in hospital fighting a very serious and potentially fatal bacterial infection. The skin graft should hopefully signal the end of this saga. So truly, as we say in Glasgow, Quelle Joie!