‘Look, Daddy, there are two birds walking’

5 04 2015

With temperatures hitting 38 º C the last thing we needed was a power outage this afternoon. We don’t use air-con   but we do need fans. There was a loud pop outside followed by all appliances coming to an abrupt halt so we reckoned the problem wasn’t going to get fixed in a hurry.  We decided to pile into the truck and headed to the reservoir. A good move as there was a strong breeze there taking the edge off the heat.

I wasn’t expecting anything today, especially with two lively youngsters in the truck and an initial scan in the usual place drew a blank. I was happy to sit in the truck and wait and feel the breeze. Then Benny piped up:”Look Daddy there are two birds walking” And sure enough about twenty feet from the truck two Barred Buttonquail were slowly making their way across the road totally oblivious to us. What a brilliant spot for a five-year old! The quail put on a good show and we all got views of them with the black on their throats prominent and rufous bellies and rumps  So now Benny has another bird species name to add to his list. A brief spin around the area yielded four Small Pratincoles and an Indochinese Bushlark and in keeping with the quail theme I made out the call of at least two Rain Quail.

We took a drive to the water edge and I doubt I have ever seen so many Pheasant-tailedJacanas as there were here today. The males were starting to sport breeding plumes but only yellow napes were visible, with the exotic tail feathers mere smidgeons today. But loads. The reservoir must be an important breeding site for this species. Heaps of Little Cormorants strangely clustered on two mounds. For good measure a pair of female Pied Harriers were quartering the flats making a wonderful spectacle and a distant Osprey was also visible against the hills.

As we drove out of the area the ‘wood’ was being watered with two people present so I didn’t really expect to see anything but this in part explains the presence of the rubythroats and other birds in this spot. Further down the lane I stopped to look at a woodpecker in the gloom. It flew before I could get on it with the scope so I couldn’t say for sure what it was. I assume it was Fulvous-breasted but it seemed quite small. So some food for thought and something to come back for. We were able to d rive over the road which has been submerged for the last couple of years and crosses the middle of the reservoir. On the ‘other’ side we picked out some Oriental Skylarks always a nice bird to look at.

But what a memorable moment with Benny starting to emulate his mother in finding great birds. He already knows the names of quite a number of species. He can even call ‘Openbills’ and knows that ‘egrets’ are white;  he was confused however by the cattle egret’s rufous head and neck. But I am very encouraged by Benny taking an interest in birds and getting his eye in.


Ruby, Ruby, Ruby!

2 04 2015

A few years ago Nick Upton advised that he had heard a Sibe calling at Huay Mai Teng. I thought I had caught a glimpse of one a few years earlier. Today on my first visit this year I had fantastic views of three, two males and one female.  Both males were unmistakable showing red on the throat and I just sat in the truck and watched.

Initially I thought the bird, which flew up from the ground to a nearby branch was a Taiga Flycatcher as this is an area where they are usually plentiful and easy to see. It cocked its tail as if to confirm it was a Taiga but this was not right. There was no black to be seen on the trail nor the usual white sides.  I had a side view at this point and noted the white supercilium and the ends of the black and white moustache.  Reasonably long thin bill holding prey. Then it turned and showed its rather washed out red throat. I was thrilled.

I stayed and watched and noted a lot of Yellow-eyed Babblers coming in to feed on a fruiting tree. A Grey-breasted Prinia came in very close to the truck with a fair amount of activity from Common Ioras. As I scanned the ground I picked out another male Siberian Rubythroat this one sporting a much darker red throat and closeby a rather plain female emerged.

A couple of Vinous-breasted Starling then put in an appearance, a new patch record for this otherwise common species. This had me positively buzzing as I thought there might be possibilities of rarer ground foraging starlings and thrushes on migration. I was startled by a Common Snipe which touched down about twenty feet away and did a fantastic job of hiding itself by standing motionless.

The three Small Pratincoles on the water edge were almost inconsequential.  In fact Oriental were present in much greater numbers with lots of Little Ringed Plovers, Yellow Wagtails and Wood Sandpipers. There was a distinct absence of any evidence of Rain or other quail.

I had to get back to the small wood and on the drive back noted one Blue-throated Bee-eater, presumably a passage migrant.   Another beautifully plumaged bird. Overhead an unidentified smaller raptor hovered.

There was no evidence of any raptors on the ground in the roost area. There was not much happening in the Rubythroat area so a quick spin brought me to the spectacle of a female Pied Harrier being very effectively mobbed by a small number of Black Drongos. This led to me switching back to the roost area where other than an Oriental Pratincole and a few Red-wattled Lapwing there were no other birds in view.  And then a magnificent male Pied Harrier flew over – always a great moment.

On the way out I had a great view of a juvenile Lesser Coucal and close to it a pair of Yellow-rumped Bulbuls were tending a nest.

The water level today was probably the lowest I have ever seen. It’s extremely hot here right now with highs approaching 40° C. There’s been rain but we really need a sustained downpour. Unfortunately I noticed a floating platform made of oil drums which is now moored in the quieter, less accessible side of the reservoir. This is also where most of the good birds can be found.  A concern.

But no complaints today. Simply stunning.