Black Kites at Khao Yoi Roost

29 09 2013

In and around Khao Yoi this afternoon the undoubted highlight was approximately 120 Black Kites in the usual roost. Two weeks ago there were none. I didn’t go in as a major rainstorm was looming and I didn’t want to get stuck. I’ll need to make a point of counting numbers as this site gets overlooked.

Elsewhere no major surprises, although the big pond at Wat Khao Takrhao was rammed with waders. No sign of waterfowl yet and only low numbers of Spot-billed Pelicans, but many Painted Stork. In and around the fish farms plenty of Brown SHhrike and a fair few Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. A couple of Brahminy Kites were the only raptors on show today apart from those Black Kites at the roost site. Not a hint of a Stork-billed Kingfisher and no evidence either of Black-capped, which have arrived in Neil Lawton’s patch in Suphanburi. I did see Common, Collared and White-throated but I would expect to see them at this time of the year in this area.

A huge storm came in about 1800h so might be good to get out early tomorrow morning and see what it forced down.


Small Pratincoles & Richard’s Pipits back

28 09 2013

A couple of hours at Huay Mai Teng Reservoir this afternoon provided lots of nice birds. The surprise was I saw one solitary raptor all afternoon and that was away from the reservoir as I was driving home –  another huge Oriental Honey Buzzard crossing the main road. However i was far from disappointed by my rain affected afternoon.

Trithemis Pallidinervis 28.09.13

Trithemis Pallidinervis

I can report at least 27 Small Pratincoles, the first I’ve seen for a while. Due to my “immobility” I really don’t know if any stayed over during the last few months as they have done in previous years. They are among my favourite birds and their numbers should increase significantly over the next few months.

I can also report the presence of Richard’s Pipits for the first time this year too : I picked out a number of these today at three different locations around the site. I made the ID on call,  flight and behaviour and then it’s easy to match up what you see with what the field guide says! The Richards were making a clearly discernible “scheeeep” call. Their behaviour on being disturbed is quite different to Paddyfield Pipit: the latter tends to “skip” away, not going very far but just enough to feel safe, and definitely not trying to hide itself; the Richard’s tends to fly off and also jumps into the scrub to hide itself. Then, when it returns, the stoutish bill stands out, the more heavily streaked breast is much more visible and even the erect, upright stance is almost winking at you. So great to see these two species back at the site.

Among the more common species, a male Pheasant-tailed Jacana, sporting its breeding plumes, and a beautiful Purple Heron stood out. Brown shrikes were well represented and there was a Long-tailed Strike. It was also easy to see Grey-breasted Prinia today which makes me wonder if this is a visitor. This is based simply on not seeing it on recent visits. In the same way Black-winged Stilts have not been present at the reservoir these last two visits and this too makes me wonder where they have gone to and what there precise status is. Perhaps the former breeds elsewhere and the Stilts breed at the reservoir and then move on.

Finally a short spin on the south side of the reservoir produced a Taiga Flycatcher and a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher flashed past; that yellow rump is such a helpful feauture! Small, drab green with a prominent yellow bum – what else could it be?!

Oriental Honey Buzzards and a Dusky Warbler in The Rice Paddy

28 09 2013

The rain battered down yesterday, Friday, afternoon and then the sun came out for the final ninety minutes of the day, producing superb visibility in the rice paddy. The working week over, there could hardly have been a better opportunity for a quick spin in the rice paddy with real potential for the unexpected thanks to the weather. Our efforts enabled us to add three new ticks to the patch list. First of all three, Oriental Honey Buzzards flew over on a downward trajectory no doubt in search of an evening roost; their course suggested they were en route for the Gulf of Thailand; secondly another Dusky Warbler, which offered great views as it jumped around the understory and then climbed up the tree a little before flying out of sight, and lastly, two Green-billed Malkohas. Not just unexpected, sublime really! And Benny was thrilled too as he saw two trains thundering through!

Rice Paddy Short

26 09 2013

Not much happening in the rice paddy yesterday evening. Of note, a first Asian Brown Flycatcher of the season and a Common Tailorbird. The latter is a resident but I don’t see it very often in the rice paddy. Brown Shrike also present. My eyes and ears were open for acrocephalus warblers and, of course, harriers; the first Black-capped Kingfishers are also due; no signs yet. Lovely to be out in the cool evening breeze.

Dusky Warbler at Huay Mai Teng

22 09 2013
Green Bee-eater 22.09.13 Huay Mai Teng Reservoir

Green Bee-eater 22.09.13
Huay Mai Teng Reservoir

I had another outstanding day’s birding at Huay Mai Teng Reservoir today. Encouraged by yesterday’s raptor flight I thought I would devote the day to a raptor count and see what the final tally was. Well the tally from 0745h to 1500h when I decided to go home was 1 Chinese Sparrowhawk – the only other raptor was a resident Black-shouldered Kite. After yesterday I was expecting a procession of Oriental Honey Buzzards and sparrowhawks. Nothing quite like bird watching for producing the unexpected.

But I had a cracking day’s birding nevertheless and only gave up because I was tired. This, you could say, was my first big birding day in over 6 months. Of course the birds didn’t disappoint. i saw two Rain Quail but pride of place has to go to a Dusky Warbler which I located in an area that I thought would produce Yellow-rumped Flycatcher. It has the same species of tree in which Dave Gandy finds lots of flycatchers and other migrants at Suan Rot Fai in Bangkok. So I had a stroll through a cluster of these trees on the south side of the reservoir, at the end of the track that produced two Chinese Francolin yesterday.

I could hardly believe my eyes – first up was an Asian Brown Flyctcher, then I got an unmistakable male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, which scarpered as I approached, and the Dusky Warbler was jumping around in the lower part of the same tree.It stood still long enough for me to get a good look at it including its supercilium. I thought to myself – it’s got to be one of those brown phylloscopus warblers… the way you do!

Black Drongo 22.09.13 Huay Mai Teng Reservoir

Black Drongo
Huay Mai Teng Reservoir

It’s a lifer, so obviously I have some reservations about making the call, but, on reflection and now I have had a good read of the literature,  I am pretty sure it fits the bill – an unintentional pun – unmistakably phylloscopus, it couldn’t be locustella ( too brown with no russet or streaking on the breast) or acrocephalus ( these would be presumably in reeds and much closer to water). I don’t know Radde’s Warbler either, which might be the most likely alternative, but I would say Dusky because it was really small and the bill was quite slim. It didn’t hang around once it saw me.  A further reservation was that it might be too early for Dusky Warbler to be this far south; however Dave Gandy has seen it in SRF at the end of September, so I am not persuaded that it is unusually early.

I only got a partial view of the Yellow-rumped Flycatcher but enough – it really has the most brilliant colouring – I got the blue against the yellow rump on the back and the white supercilium. The male in particular is quite unmistakable. There were also some Taiga Flycatchers making their distinctive sounds.

Elsewhere lots of birds – I need  tally my figures but lots of species. I saw two Rain Quail and heard at least twenty, if not more. A Pied Kingfisher put on an aerial display before swooping down on its unsuspecting prey, a lot of Whiskered Tern, a Long-tailed Shrike, many Brown Shrike, lots of Indochinese Bushlark, many Yellow Wagtails, a solitary Black Bittern, good numbers of Paddyfield Pipits and Green Bee-eaters, a few Oriental Pratincoles and Little Grebes – but no Black WInged Stilts. A male  Asian Golden Weaver sporting full breeding plumage was an unexpected surprise. I also had  unidentified cuckoo species.

It’s been fantastic to be able to get out birding again this weekend and I am showing no adverse reactions. I am also feeling much more optimistic about the long term viability of Huay Mai Teng.

Ratchaburi Raptor Watch

21 09 2013


A real cracker of an afternoon at Huay Mai Teng reservoir today. Beforehand, raptors were on my mind. They did not disappoint today between 1500 -1630h a count of 207 Oriental Honey Buzzards ( including one kettle of about 120 birds) , 5 Japanese Sparrowhawks and 2 Chinese Sparrowhawks. The OHBs were flying in a near perfect North-South course with a reasonably lively breeze from the west; some were coming down for the night but most flew on. This  course will ultimately take them out to the Gulf of Thailand and down the coast.

On arrival at the reservoir I headed to the north west sector where the presence of a Long-tailed Shrike in among lots of Green Bee-eaters was encouraging.  I then picked up a Japanese Sparrowhawk buzzing a flock of Red-collared Dove. This got me looking eastwards where I could see raptors high in the sky, big birds even at a distance. So I headed over that way to a spot I normally associate with Rain Quail and sure enough a steady flight of Oriental Honey Buzzards passed overhead, some flying low in search of a perch for the night.

I managed to pick out a number of sparrowhawks too, really quite diminutive birds in comparison with the buzzards and I was very pleased with two Chinese Sparrowhawks, sporting prominent black underwing primary tips and apparently with a longer flutter pattern; they also appeared slightly bigger. 

There was a lot of variation in the Oriental Honey Buzzards, a few were light but most appeared dark – but they were big! It appeared as if the flight was moving east so I drove  to the south of the reservoir, driving over two sections of the road that are already covered by water. As I drove along the usual track I stumbled upon two juvenile Chinese Francolins. We stared at each other and I decided to get set up and try and get a shot. As you can see I succeeded. How I managed the shot I don’t know as it took me at least five minutes to get set up, I had to get the tripod off the bed, attach the telescope to it and then take the shot; at the same time my four year old son was expressing a strong wish to go play with the birds! Just as well they were juveniles. Adults would have legged it!

This was a great discovery. Two juveniles would suggest the francolin are breeding here and this bodes well for the species’ survival at the site.

A few more Oriental Honey Buzzards passed over but the main flight appeared to have ended about 16:30h.

I didn’t see any Rain Quail but heard plenty and got sight of two orange/rufous buttonquail dropping into the scrub. No sign of River Lapwing but it would be rather late for them to be present.

I think I am going to have to devote more time to raptor counting. It would be interesting to get a more detailed information about the flight over the course of the whole day. My foot is giving me grief but I decided to suffer it today and I am glad I did.

In the Rice Paddy

19 09 2013

A sparrowhawk fluttered across the rice paddy tonight in the fading light and disappeared into some distant trees; its flight pattern was quite distinctive, flapping its wings a few times and then gliding. I suspect is was Japanese but can’t say for sure as I didn’t get on it for long enough, and a grey sky combined with generally damp, overcast conditions didn’t help identification either. Nothing remarkable in a sparrowhawk being present at this time of the year but it is the first time I have observed one locally. We are  perhaps a little too far away from the coast in Ratchaburi to get a significant flight of migratory accipters. But obviously, as this bird’s presence shows, some are in the area.

A beautiful Common Kingfisher, a couple of Brown Shrikes and a Blue-tailed Bee-eater underlined the current migratory tenor. This is an exciting time in the natural cycle.