No Lark but What a Lark!

25 11 2013


The dip was a minor detail, the briefest and slightest of disappointments. In fact I knew the Short-toed Lark had gonebefore I even set off for Nakhon Nayok late Saturday afternoon. My mate Dave Sargeant was at the site and reported that the bird, the newest addition to the Thai list, was last seen on Thursday. However the reports of Bluethroats and Pipits plus a chance to connect with Dave was enough reason to set out. I had booked onto a seminar on Saturday a few days prior to the first reports of the Short-toed Lark emerging plus I had undertaken to provide transportation to a few people so I only got going late Saturday. Dave had also tempted me with reports of an “easy” Mugimaki Flycatcher in Khao Yai and we also were thinking about a trip down to Bang Pu to see what gulls were about.

Red-throated Pipit

So I finally got to Nakhon Nayok late Saturday and crashed out in a very comfortable 450 THB room in a motel a little off the main drag. Sunday we headed out at first light and as Dave had already been there for 24 hours he led the way in with a minimum of fuss. A very considerable number of Black Kites were roosting in nearby eucalyptus trees. As expected no lark but lots of Red-throated Pipits. We took a walk and saw Zitting Cisticola, Oriental Skylark, Indochinese Bushlark, a Long-tailed Shrike, a Black-shouldered Kite, a Striated Grassbird, a couple of Bluethroats, a Richards Pipit but no Short-toed Lark; a lot of Black Kites flying around in the back ground


We then joined the photographers who had staked out the area; a Bluethroat, at least two Rosy Pipits, and a few Red-throated Pipits came out thanks to the worms put down by the photographers.I managed a few digiscoped images. Never easy digiscoping – my chair was too low and of course I am really out of practise, but it was fun. The Rosy Pipit was a lifer and in fairness it was only when I got out of my hide and spoke with Dave that I realised it was a Rosy Pipit! This is the way it often is……. I would have hated to have missed it as it is a relatively hard bird to see in Thailand. We bumped into Nick Upton and agreed that there was little point looking for the lark as there was simply nowhere for it to have gone too in the immediate locale other than to take off….


We then decided to hit Khao Yai National Park in search of Mugimaki Flycatcher; GPS said it as was about 45 minutes away. This is the fourth successive year that Mugimaki has come to this location and the presence of a couple of hides confirmed we had reached the correct location. Then it began to rain so we sat in Dave’s car and chatted. Dave, looking for Thai tick “eight hundred and something” was not impressed by the rain, fearful the same fate awaited us as with the lark. I had just told Dave to relax and be confident that once the rain had eased, the Mugimaki would descend on the worms with a lusty appetite; barely were the words out of my mouth than it obliged. What a stunner! I’ll let the dodgy image do the talking. Another lifer, too.

White-throated Rock Thrush

So we got set up when the rain stopped a few minutes later; in fact a White-breasted Rock Thrush unexpectedly arrived for a feed. A few minutes later Mugimaki returned. He was much more skittish, grabbed a worm and then flew off without saying so much as a thank you. But he kept coming back. Lighting conditions were poor –  I was shooting with a long shutter release ( 1/13 second) on a two second delay in order to eliminate shake, so it was very difficult to get a decent image. These are the best I could do. The Mugimaki almost walked out of the frame on the shot below – such is digiscoping!

Mugimaki Flycatcher

Then we thought Bang Pu would be our next target, but the small matter of at least a two hour drive was in the way. And walls of traffic. So we didn’t make it and sad in some respects that we wasted good time in the afternoon in traffic when we might have been doing something more productive. Such is life.

Mugimaki Flycatcher

For me, however, a huge confidence booster – no adverse reaction from the foot. This was the first time I had tried something a little arduous since my misadventure and I am happy to report that everything went well. On returning home I told my wife I’d be away most weekends from now on!



5 11 2013

Fulvous-breasted WoodpeckerWell my Hen Harrier was probably a flight of fancy! All my birding over the last week has been in the local rice paddy in Ratchaburi. I’ve really enjoyed every minute of it. But I can say with certainty that there has not been anything resembling a Hen Harrrier. I suspect what I saw was an Eastern Marsh Harrier with white/pale undersides.

Eastern Marsh Harriers have very much been to the fore – up to six were present last Wednesday when a group of five, probably a mixture of female and juveniles flew over and then flew back and settled down near the railway line; a little bit earlier another juvenile had been quartering the rice paddy and I don’t know for sure if this was one of the five that returned. I got reasonably good views of one of these birds on the ground and it was clearly a female juvenile with lots of buff around the face and a dark brown mesial streak separating the lighter streaking on both sides of the birds face, nape and crown.


The highlight was on Sunday afternoon when a male Pied Harrier flew over, its black face very prominent. I cannot describe the pleasure this bird gives me; later a female appeared and there was also one male Eastern Marsh and a couple of the juvenile Eastern Marsh Harriers perched in the top of one of the trees. As a general rule the harriers in the rice paddy are on the ground or in the air but these are the first two I have seen perching. Whatever, great to note the return of male Pied Harrier.

Also noted a lot of Black-shouldered Kite activity – there were a very lively pair putting on a very flamboyant show. Great fun to watch first of all the hover show, as the birds take aim, and then watch the bird almost join its wing tips above its head and rapidly plummet down talons first in pursuit of its unsuspecting prey.

I’ve also been taking a close interest in reed-warblers : Oriental Reed has been reasonably common, there were a few Black-browed and there was at least one Thick-billed. I rather fancy there was a Blunt-winged in there too, not nearly as big as the Oriental, showing almost a white gorget, and with more of a rufous wash to its underparts. Absolutely intriguing, but no claims!

This inactivity is agreeing wonderfully with my foot and I have even managed a few images, notably a very late evening shot of Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, with a shutter speed of 1/13 second! The Pied Fantail posed a little, but still incredibly difficult to digiscope.