Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thailand Birding: Common Shorebirds at Pak Thale & Laem Pak Bia

It is mid May now and all but a few of the commoner shorebirds have left Thailand and returned to their breeding grounds further north. However, I spent some time this week reviewing some photographs of the commoner shorebirds that I took at Pak Thale and Laem pak Bia earlier this year whilst leading a photography tour: Photography Tour of Thailand, March 2013.

Here are some of the photos that I obtained on the tour.

Wood Sandpiper

Temminck's Stint

Little Ringed Plover

Common Greenshank

Red-necked Stint

Usually some of the commoner shorebirds begin to return by the end of July; these are the non-breeders and birds that have failed at nesting. This is a good time to see some species in their breeding plumage, particularly Curlew Sandpiper.

Often by August or September Asian Dowitchers begin to pass through and by end of September shorebird numbers are really increasing as migration gets into full swing. Every year we wait for some of the rarer birds to return and usually they have shown by the end of October; the most awaited species is Spoon-billed Sandpiper and hopefully it will arrive again this year even though its numbers are very low now.

By early November all the speciality species of shorebirds have returned to Thailand and Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann's Greenshank, White-faced Plover and others can be found regularly. If you need any help finding them contact me:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thailand Birding: Third Time Lucky?

With the weather conditions seemingly still good for finding grounded migrants I made my third trip in three days to Nakorn Sri Kuan Kan park. Arriving early at around 6.30am things were pretty dead on the migrant front; overcast skies were creating very humid conditions and with no sun to bring out the insects, bird activity was low. However, I had a chance to try and photograph some resident birds while waiting and got some shots of Vinous-breasted Starling.

Vinous-breasted Starling

Pink-necked Green Pigeons were in evidence again and a Green-billed Malkoha was among a flock of 12 Asian Koels sitting out in the open in a bare tree.

It took until about 9am for things to liven up and then some migrants showed, but mostly the same birds as I had seen on the previous two days, although some new arrivals did turn up. Today the total for Forest Wagtails was 3 and they were associating with an Eastern Crowned Warbler, 2 Black-naped Orioles, 1 Ashy Drongo, 1 Crow-billed Drongo, 1 Asian Brown Flycatcher and a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher - a nice little party of migrating birds!

Once again there were quite a few Eyebrowed Thrushes and I saw a few flocks with a total of around 60 birds; not quite as many as yesterday but enough to get good views of a few.

At another spot some birds from the previous two days were still in the same place, including 1 male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, 1 female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, 1 Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, 12 Ashy Minivets and an Asian Brown Flycatcher which was aggressively chasing away other small birds.

Asian Brown Flycatcher

From the top of the bird watching tower I was able to get close up views of Ashy Minivet, Eyebrowed Thrush, 4 Dollarbirds, Pink-necked Green Pigeon and Brown-throated Sunbird. Several Chinese Pond Herons in breeding plumage were to be seen too as were two Javan Pond Herons also in breeding plumage. This bird is quite something in breeding condition, in contrast to its drab winter plumage.

I also added 1 Black-winged Cuckooshrike, 6 Black-naped Orioles and a male Mugimaki Flycatcher to my migrant list before stumbling into a Black Bittern in a swampy patch which was followed by a Malayan Night Heron! Unfortunately I only got brief views of this bird, which I have seen once before at this park, but I saw enough to be sure of its identification.

Another nice morning in the park, but it was not third time lucky in terms of finding a "lifer".

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thailand Birding: Sri Nakorn Kuan Kan Park Again

With rain all night I decided that it should be a good morning for grounded migrants and so went back to the park again this morning.

In terms of seeing different birds from yesterday it was a little disappointing, I was hoping for a new arrival of birds, but there was a good variety of species and a few surprises.

Many of the same birds were in the same places as the previous day with 1 male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and 2 females, 1 subadult male Mugimaki Flycatcher, 1 Forest Wagtail, 4 Asian Brown Flycatchers, 12 Ashy Minivets, 2 Black-winged Cuckooshrikes, 1 Radde's Warbler, 1 Arctic Warbler all feeding in the same spots.

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher

A few things were different though with a flock of 40+ Eyebrowed Thrushes landing in the trees around the bird watching tower. I watched them for a long time hoping to find something rarer among them but to no avail. However, the highlight of the morning was a fantastic Chestnut-winged Cuckoo which landed quite close to me giving me a great view and the chance to take a really bad photo of it.

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo

Amazing what photoshop can do; as poor as it is now this photo was much worse before a lot of work in photoshop - completely out of focus and dark!

After another short rain shower a few more migrating birds showed up including a few that I had not seen the day before; 4 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, 1 Taiga Flycatcher, 1 Oriental Honey-buzzard flying overhead plus a female Mugimaki Flycatcher to join the subadult male.

Other migrant species that I saw this morning in the park were; Chinese Pond Heron, Drongo Cuckoo, Crow-billed Drongo, Ashy Drongo, Black Bittern, Dollarbird, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Hair-crested Drongos, Black-naped Oriole and Barn Swallow.

There were two other suprises in the park for me this morning too a Common Hill Myna and 2 Red-breasted Parakeets. It would be tempting to put them both down as of escaped origin but with strong winds last night with a storm the Myna could easily have been blown in, and a population of Red-breasted Parakeets are in the Dusit area of Bangkok - very close as the Parakeet flies!

Resident species included very many Pink-necked Green Pigeons and Koels plus Laced Woodpecker, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Lineated Barbet plus Collared Kingfisher and just as I was leaving the park a flock of 150+ Eyebrowed Thrushes emerged from the trees and continued their northbound migration.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Thailand Birding: Sri Nakorn Kuan Kan - More Migrants

With migration still underway I decided that another trip to Sri Nakorn Kuan Kan park was in order, particularly considering it is not far from where I live. I arrived a little too early, just before 6am, and found myself having to wait a little while for it to become light enough for birding.

By 6.15am, though, birds were active and close to the park gate I found the first of many passage migrants; 2 Eyebrowed Thrushes. I decided to get myself up the birdwatching tower early but on my way I got distracted by the many Pink-necked Green Pigeons that are always to be found in the park.

Pink-necked Green Pigeon

The top of the tower gives a good view over parts of the park and in half an hour I saw more migrant birds moving through and perched in trees; 2 Black-naped Orioles, 1 Crow-billed Drongo, 3 more Eyebrowed Thrushes, 3 Ashy Minivets, 1 male Japanese Sparrowhawk and 2 Dollarbirds.

When the activity started to die down I moved on to an area that always seems to attract birds and after a slow start I saw a singing Arctic Warbler, an Asian Brown Flycatcher and a male Green-backed Flycatcher. I have only ever seen the female of this rare bird before and interestingly that observation was in the same park almost exactly 2 years ago. I watched this bird for some time, failing to get even poor photos of it, before it was chased off by a male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher. A flock of 8 Ashy Minivets then showed up and a Black-winged Cuckooshrike gave itself away with its song, being joined by a second bird to feed with the minivets.

I decided to walk through some of the overgrown, swampy areas to see if any Black Bitterns had arrived and I had not walked more than 5 metres before flushing one into a tree.

I moved to another area with some trees that are always full of insects to see if that had anything different in store for me and this turned out to be one of the best spots in the park and I visited it three times finding 3 Asian Brown Flycatchers, 1 male and 2 female Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, 1 Drongo Cuckoo, 1 more Crow-billed Drongo, 1 Forest Wagtail, 1 female Black-winged Cuckooshrike, 5 Ashy Minivets and a female Mugimaki Flycatcher.

Between 8am and 9am things got a bit quiet but by hanging around I came across a second period of activity adding Shikra, another Forest Wagtail, Radde's Warbler, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler and another female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher to the migrant total; oh, and it is easy to forget that Chinese Pond Heron is a migrant too.

Chinese Pond Heron

I should also add that Sri Nakorn Kuan Kan park always has a few interesting resident species and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Vinous-breasted Starling, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Green-billed Malkoha and a pair of Laced Woodpeckers all showed themselves.

One final effort to see if any new migrants had arrived turned up a nice Indian Cuckoo which posed for a while - the first of the year for me - and the first Ashy Drongo of the morning, plus more Ashy Minivets, Asian Brown Flycatchers and several more Eyebrowed Thrushes flying overhead.

Indian Cuckoo

A pretty good morning of birding in the park!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Thailand Birding: Migrants at Sri Nakorn Kuan Kan Park

Yesterday morning I paid a visit to Sri Nakorn Kuan Kan park, close to where I live in Bangkok. This spot can be very good for migrants at this time of year so I was hoping for some good birds passing through. As it turned out, although there were quite a few migrant species to be found, there were not the variety of species that I was hoping for and have seen in previous years; perhaps I just missed the peak migration days or maybe it was that the weather was fine, allowing birds to continue their journey.

On of the nicest migrants I saw was this Black Baza, a species which can often be seen passing through here.

Black Baza

I was lucky enough to be standing at the top of the birdwatching tower when this landed in a tree quite close to me. For the rest of the morning I kept seeing it as it chased other migrating birds around, in particular, a flock of Ashy Minivets.

Ashy Minivet

This flock of about 20 Ashy Minivets spent the whole morning feeding on insects attracted to a flowering tree and this proved to be the best spot with 1 Yellow-browed Warbler, 1 Arctic Warbler, 1 Drongo Cuckoo, 2 Black-winged Cuckooshrikes, 1 Radde's Warbler and a female hepatic morph Himalayan Cuckoo also frequenting it.

Other migrant species I saw included 5 Chinese Pond Herons, 1 Black-capped Kingfisher, 20+ Black-naped Orioles, 2 Crow-billed Drongos, 3 Ashy Drongos, 1 Hair-crested Drongo, 1 Eastern Crowned Warbler, 1 Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, 2 Taiga Flycatcher, 3 Asian Brown Flycatchers, 2 Shikras and 1 Hainan Blue Flycatcher.

Not too bad for a morning in a park but I was hoping for more in the way of flycatchers. Still, there were also a few interesting resident birds to see also with 2 Stork-billed Kingfishers, 50+ Pink-necked Green Pigeons, 1 Green-billed Malkoha and 2 Red-billed Blue Magpies, although the latter must surely be from escaped origin?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Thailand Birding: Summit of Doi Inthanon

Recently I had the pleasure of a very relaxing day spent at the summit of Doi Inthanon. I was accompanying Pieter Verheij and Roger Marchant who are both very keen bird photographers and wanted to take high quality photos of birds that they could get close to - well, Doi Inthanon with its semi-tame species was perfect for that.

We spent almost the entire day at the summit and over the course of the day excellent photos of the following species were obtained; Grey-sided Thrush, Bar-throated Minla, Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Buff-barred Leaf Warbler, Green-tailed Sunbird, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Blue Whistlingthrush, Dark-backed Sibia and Yellow-bellied Fantail.

I managed to get a few nice photos too, particularly of the tame Minlas which I almost stepped upon at one point.

Female Green-tailed Sunbird

Bar-throated Minla

Silver-eared Laughingthrush with nest material

Other birds which we managed to photograph but not obtain high quality images of were Blyth's Leaf Warbler, Ashy-throated Leaf Warbler, Pygmy Wren Babbler and Rufous-winged Fulvetta.

A few other birds seen but not photographed were White-browed Shortwing, Flavescent Bulbul, Golden-throated Barbet and Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker.

It was a very nice day, taken at a slow pace which gave me time to look at species in detail and see things in their plumage and behaviour which I had never before noticed.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thailand Birding: Large Waterbirds at Pak Thale

Most mornings at Pak Thale there are huge congregations of large waterbirds, mostly egrets but over recent weeks more and more other species have been joining them. 

Up until a few weeks ago there had been hardly any Indian Cormorants or Painted Storks in the area but there has been an influx; I guess that they are moving to Pak Thale from their breeding colonies, mostly in Cambodia, having finished nesting.

On 27th a flock of Painted Storks kept flying around before joining a large number of egrets to feed in a pool and then several hundred Indian Cormorants came in from the sea. Also amongst these birds was one subadult Black-headed Ibis. However, although I looked closely, there did not seem to be any Milky Storks in the area.

Painted Storks in flight

I am expecting there to be an arrival of Spot-billed Pelicans soon and hopefully there will be a Milky Stork or another rarity to join them.