(Edit: My thanks to Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok for pointing out my very obvious error: originally this was named Ratchet-tailed Treepie, an altogether much rarer species, when in fact I meant Racket-tailed – thanks Tun. ) With four Himalayan Vultures recently in Phetchaburi province I was very hopeful of something interesting during the two nights of the school camp in a resort, the Thanattichaburi Lake Resort and Spa, to the east of Kaeng Krachan National Park. In the end no raptors but one unexpected lifer in Racket-tailed Treepie. The long, slim tail with its “distinctive broad, spatulate tip”, ( The Birds of the Bangkok Area, Round) is what enabled me to identify this bird. Otherwise easily mistaken for a Drongo, especially when viewed at a distance.
Some Richards Pipits, very erect stance, lots of Olive-backed Sunbirds, a couple of Common Tailorbirds and some Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters – and lots of interesting calls in the dark. A Coppersmith Barbet was noteworthy simply because it was the first seen in over a year. Once a bird I saw very regularly.
Unfortunately my foot is playing up a bit at the moment so limited mobility. Hence little birding.
Ban Bang Kao is one of my favourite bits of beach and it is a great place to photograph shorebirds which like sand – in fact I can’t think of an easier place to see Malaysian Plover and Sanderling. In addition to birds it is quite atmospheric with fishing boats usually beached pending tides: today, with the tide coming in,the locals had driven their trucks as close to the boats as possible to expedite the unloading of the catch, which appeared to be exclusively squid. It is an ideal place to bring non-birders and today I was accompanied by my wife and son.
On arrival we were greeted by a Richard’s Pipit, distinguishable by its very loud song. I had a quick scan of the birds on the beach and in among the flock of Brown-headed Gulls there was at least one Little Tern, showing a yellow bill with a black tip and a few Common Terns ( edit: thanks to Dave Sargeant for pointing out my error here: originally I wrote Arctic Tern, which would have been a new bird for the Thai list! Don’t know what happened there!) No Crested Terns. I got in too close and put the gulls up and annoyingly they didn’t return. Sorry guys. Frustrating also because there were first and second year gulls next to each other which would have allowed good comparative shots.
I had a nice time with the Sanderlings and Malaysian Plovers – at least fifteen Sanderling and 5 Malaysian. I think there might be a case for renaming it Sanderling Beach.
As the afternoon wore on we decided to head to the Kings Project at Laem Pak Bia for dusk in the hope of catching sight of some starlings coming into roost. (Edit: thanks to Dave again for pointing out my error: I originally described these birds as thrushes – !)There were plenty of starlings but sadly only White-vented Mynas. Huge flocks of Brown-headed Gulls in the pools outside the Kings Project. At dusk, hundreds of large fruit bats, Lyle’s Flying Foxes, took to the air from the mangroves and headed inland – a truly wonderful sight.
I wasn’t expecting any lifers when I dragged myself out of my gloom and doom this afternoon. Huay Mai Teng reservoir rarely disappoints. I was having fun even before I noticed the bird; helpfully it was with two Yellow-eyed Babblers so that species could easily be dismissed; the flash of black mask and white supercilium suggested Yellow-vented Bulbul but the bird then posed and it was clearly something else.
I got on it and started making mental notes – chestnut head, black mask, white supercilium, black legs, brown uppers, white breast with fine dark streaking……. . It hung around for a while so I was quite happy to stay on it and enjoy the view and its song. I committed my notes to written form once the bird flew but only a cursory look at Robson was needed to confirm Chestnut-capped Babbler. I was almost disappointed on reading further in Robson that it is ‘common’! Whatever, it is a lifer, a first for the year and wonderful to get a lifer on my first birding sortie of 2014
For the record my first bird of 2014 was a Whiskered Tern; there were good numbers of these feeding off the surface of the reservoir which was as smooth as a mill pond. An Intermediate Egret was edging its way along the water edge at the main launch area – the water level is still high so the terrain favoured by Rain Quail and Small Pratincole is still under water.
A lot of good birds – Ashy Drongo, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Long-tailed Shrike, Yellow Bittern, Rufescent Prinia, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Pied Kingfisher, Taiga & Asian Brown Flycatcher and Purple Heron. No sign of any raptors and likewise no Rain Quail or Small Pratincole.
A Yellow Wagtail, a fairly regular presence here during the “winter” months, got my attention on account of its stand out white supercilium. It didn’t hang around for long but I made a note to check out the sub-species categories as I was curious about whether this might have been one of the rarer sub-species. Those of you in the know will appreciate, as I now do, that this is a can of worms. All I can say is what I had listed as “motacilla flava”, meaning Yellow Wagtail, is no longer listed in the official Thai bird list and in its place we have “Eastern Yellow Wagtail” with the binomial “Motacilla tschutschensis”. I am not the greatest student of taxonomy – however I have adjusted my list accordingly to accommodate this change. Good-bye “motacilla flava”!
Sad to note the presence of mist nets inside the grounds of the water management body. The nets were closed but the presence of bits of birds confirms the netting has no ornithological purpose.
On return home I checked out Chestnut-capped Babbler in one of my favourite Thai birding books, The Birds of the Bangkok Area by Philip Round. This is what Phil has to say about it: “A very smart babbler with a clown-like face pattern of chestnut cap, broad white supercilia that meet on the forehead, and black lores and eye-patch…….Chestnut-capped Babblers inhabit open scrubby areas, and areas of tall grass usually but not always close to water and are often found in similar situations to the Yellow-eyed Babbler. They avoid open paddy lands and tend to be commoner……….. where marshy areas grade into hilly country. ” Not much wrong with that – breathtakingly precise!
This babbler goes onto my list as #383 – #382 was Siberian Blue Robin which I saw on an unblogged visit to Ban Song Nok hide before Christmas. Unblogged because I reached the conclusion that I couldn’t photograph a bird to save myself. I struggled to get a decent image of Common Flameback that was feeding on bananas….all part and parcel of my recent doom and gloom!
Happy New Year and happy birding in 2014!