River Lapwing to Order

25 05 2014

This morning just after 0600h five River Lapwing were flying low over Huay Mai Teng Reservoir when I arrived at the launch area;unfortunately they were flying away! But not a problem – they were undoubtedly River Lapwing and that was all I was really concerned with. There will hopefully be plenty of opportunities to get to see them in the next few months. They usually stay until about mid-August. They are back bang on time –  in previous years about May 22nd. I only saw one last year but  that was virtually on the same day. Five today bodes well. It’s a great mystery to me how birds can be so predictable.

Elsewhere the big story is further development at the site this time on the east side where major water works are under way. A huge amount of plant is involved in digging out what look like large reservoirs so more habitat is being lost. In fairness this area is under water for about two thirds of the year so perhaps not too much impact. This is the area where I have seen a lot of good birds including Chinese Francolin – there was once a a leafy lane leading to the reservoir where virtually no one but locals ever went. That is gone now as trucks thunder up and down from the building site.

On the bird front loads of Rain Quail, including sightings of about eight which were out in the open feeding. However the most striking feature is the call and basically I could hear Rain Quail everywhere I stopped to bird this morning. A few Small Pratincoles were present but not in significant numbers and certainly not in anything approaching the numbers seen in previous years. Their previous breeding site is now being used for the same purpose by Oriental Pratincoles. In this area I had the joy today of observing a tiny Little RInged Plover chick taking its first steps under parental supervision.

No sign of Savanna Nightjar today but they may be because it was virtually daylight when I arrived and they had taken to their day roosts.

It was really hot and sticky today and flies were a huge problem for the first time I can recall. A pair of Pied Kingfishers, a Yellow-eyed Babbler and a Barred Buttonquai were also of note.


Two for One!

24 05 2014

My thanks to Dave Sargent for telling me to get down to Kaeng Krachan for a Schrenck’s Bittern. It was a cinch in the finest tradition of drive-in birding. Thanks also to Tom Backlund for getting me up the hill. We get out of the truck, headed to small pool and Tom said: “There it is” and sure enough there it was. This is a bird Phil Round is hoping to catch on migration at Koh Man Nai but so far it hasn’t obliged. A beauty and a real Thai rarity in recent years. Like many bitterns it very helpfully perches motionless for extended periods of time as it eyes its prey. This allows for photographs in otherwise difficult light conditions. I was shooting on a two second delay with a shutter speed of 1/5 of a second. Anyhow I got a shot and can’t ask for more.



Von Schrenck’s Bittern
Kaeng Krachan National Park
Petchaburi Province

For good measure a pair of stunning Long-tailed Broadbills were servicing a nest overhanging the pond so it really was a brilliant twitch – two lifers in one fell swoop. Nearby a Mountain Imperial Pigeon was fluttering about – a really large ungainly bird. We progressed to the top at Panoen Thung Camp and I was really shocked by the crowds milling around waiting to descend. Hundreds of people – I have never seen the park so busy. We saw an Ashy and Flavescent Bulbul but little else. We headed down the mountain and in view of the crowds along the streams we simply left though the calls of Green Magpie and Silver-breasted Broadbills were clearly audible.



Koh Man Nai, Part 2: Some Better Science?!

24 05 2014
Blue-winged Pitta Koh Man Nai Island Rayong Province 28.04.14

Blue-winged Pitta
Koh Man Nai Island
Rayong Province

To be honest I’m lost for superlatives in order to describe this latest stint on Koh Man Nai as part of Phil Round’s ringing operation. This time a  comparatively short stay of five nights allowed for four and a half days of ringing between 25 – 30 April 2014. And the birds just kept coming and coming with our penultimate capture being a Ferruginous Flycatcher, not a bird I would feel confident about seeing or identifying in the wild. Likewise the first rarity of this stint: a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher; in fact we processed about ten of these.

Tiger Shrike Koh Man Nai Rayong Province 26.04.14

Tiger Shrike
Koh Man Nai
Rayong Province

In amongst the pittas and flycatchers, the bird which made the biggest impression on me, and on my fingers, was the Tiger Shrike: a flash git with an insatiable appetite for death and destruction! It swoops and kills, a real thug and bully. I watched it slaughter a cricket and we gathered the remains of a number of smaller birds which had been “shriked”. For this reason we were very active in checking the nets.

Little Bunting Koh Man Nai Island Rayong Province 27.04.14

Little Bunting
Koh Man Nai Island
Rayong Province


Tiger Shrikes seemed to be everywhere on the island and of course we netted a fair few, so undoubtedly  a major passage in terms of volume for what is otherwise an uncommon bird in Thailand. Believe me, extricating these monsters from the net and then ringing them was at times an agonising process and all our fingers bear the evidence of their assault on us. Of course getting the bird in the ringer’s grip is the key to avoiding pain: neck between index and middle fingers of left hand, while the rest of the hand keeps the wings under control. As I learned, however, Tiger attacks the soft flesh, gets it trapped in its bill and starts to yank and pull. Agony! I can’t think any other bird I have handled which presents such a challenge – those beautiful Ruddy Kingfishers with their impressive, long “stogies”  can grab skin but it is painless and nothing more than a scrape. Tiger for all its savagery is a bonnie bird and it was good to get close to it in such numbers.

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Koh Man Nai Island Rayong Province 28.04.14

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo
Koh Man Nai Island
Rayong Province

Lizards were also predating the spring traps we had set for ground birds: Blue-winged Pittas in abundance and a fair few thrushes. My only sense of disappointment was not to get a Fairy Pitta but we did get plenty of Blue-winged and a few Hooded. I completely understand why pittas captivate so many birders’ imaginations. I was amazed to see the Blue-winged Pittas feeding around our quarters and they could usually be seen on the ground when we did net rounds.

Andy Pierce has “eagle” eyes and he spotted a Little Bunting one morning flying around the concrete sides of the small reservoir/water trap. I don’t believe I had ever seen any species of bunting in Thailand until then and it was kind enough to hang around for long enough to enable a shot or too. Always nice to see these birds in the wild as opposed to in the net, although it would have been nice to net it and get it in the hand.

Yours truly showing signs of old age and dementia!

Yours truly showing signs of old age and dementia!

Just simply an amazing experience and opportunity; some more birds that were processed during these few days: Chinese Blue Flycatcher (female), Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Siberian Thrush, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Slaty-legged Crake, Ruddy Kingfisher, Black-capped Kingfisher ( a first for the ringing operation), Lanceolated Warbler, White-throated Rockthrush(female), Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler and a particualr pleasure to handle a Black-browed Reed Warbler.  Interestingly the flight of Sakhalin Leaf Warbler appeared to be over with Pale-legged Leaf Warblers being the dominant species.