Thursday, August 31, 2006



It being the rainy season I am sitting here knocking out this recap of what has been going on here birdwise. It really is pelting down outside and a few trickles here and there on the inside.

One passage migrant, the Black-capped Kingfisher, stopped on its way north and decided that there was no point in going any further than the Huay Tung Tao lake as it provided all its needs, It stayed for almost exactly 6 months and then disappeared. One of the highlights of the year was the appearance of a solitary Bar-headed Goose in the middle of the lake. Now this is a very rare winter visitor so I decided to check whether anyone was missing one. The two obvious places to check were the Zoo and the Night Safari Park, not only didn’t they have any but they stared at me blankly and asked what sort of creature was it! I then checked the private collections that I knew about and nobody was missing a goose so it has to have been a wild one. It flew away as I was watching it, never to be reported again, to my knowledge.

My friend John Moore the Entomologist and I have found an interesting new road. We came across it being built about 40 odd kilometres out of Chiang Mai on the Doi Sakhet – Chiang Rai road, it starts at a well known Thai restaurant Ka Mu Phuket. It eventually arrives at Chae Sorn National Park (far side) and only the locals who live in 5 or 6 villages along its route use it. It is alive with interesting birds, some of the species listed below. Considering that the habitat along the route is mostly the same, forested, the 163 species of birds listed by us is not bad.

Unintentional humour in the field – I disturbed an adult Slaty-breasted Rail and four chicks. On noticing me the adult bird took off at a run and the four puff-ball chicks, trying to keep up, were tumbling and running and tumbling and running all the way until disappearing into some long grass.

3 species of Buzzards
5 “ “ Cuckoos
9 “ “ Babblers
4 “ “ Barbets
2 “ “ Broadbills
12 “ “ Bulbuls
3 “ “ Forktails
3 “ “ Nuthatches
5 “ “ Owls/Owlets
2 “ “ Pittas
4 “ “ Wagtails
6 “ “ Woodpeckers
and the Green Cochoa

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A morning at Mae Hia

Common Kingfisher - Illustrated by Yurie Ball

The Mae Hia Agricultural Research Centre is always coming up with some surprises. This morning it was a lone Peahen sitting up near the top of a thinly leafed tree in the foothills of Doi Suthep. Now it's too much to hope that it was a wild one with the local zoo on one side and the Night Safari Park on the other. But escapee or not it is nice to see one roosting in a tree in my project site. The problem is that the keepers in both of these centres are none too careful about closing doors behind them.

But this is an interesting time of year as the migrants have started returning from their breeding grounds in North Asia. A Common Kingfisher sat on a mimosa twig poised to dive on unwary fish (painting by my late wife Yurie). A grey Wagtail was spotted as were seven Chinese Pond-Herons and one lone Common Snipe. Soon there will be a rush as the main body of migrants return.

Other birds spotted this morning were a flock of Racket-tailed Treepies and they do make a racket, there's no missing them. Meanwhile breeding is still going on here and two Chestnut-capped Babblers flitted to-and-fro carrying broad-leafed grass to their nesting site in the grassy undergrowth. The Baya Weavers are busy building their hanging nests at the top of a tall leafy tree and abandoning them half built, I don't know why they do this unless it is that the females have rejected the males building ability. There are ten nests in all and four of them had got to the stage where they would have started to form the long narrow pipe at the bottom but they abandoned them. You can always see how they are getting on because they use fresh green grass and as time goes on the first stages turn to the colour of straw so the bottom half is still green as they add to the nest. Two Olive-backed Sunbirds are busy building their hanging nest which looks just like a piece of rubbish thrown into the tree - good disguise, they even build a porch over the entrance to the nest, which is at the side, as a sun and rain shade.

My main project site at Huay Tung Tao lake is off limits to me at the moment as the military, who own the area, are busy turning a rough track into an asphalted road. But before they started on it some interesting birds were seen in the newly planted paddyfields. A pair of Greater Painted Snipe were seen stalking the dikes the dominant female, in her smarter plumage, in the lead. She is a philanderer and will mate with a few males leaving them in there dull plumage to hide away and incubate and bring up the young. Also seen were a pair of Slaty-breasted Rails with four young (they can have as many as nine) and a Ruddy-breasted Crake.

Ka Mu Phuket - A morning's birdwatching

The Author (delusions of grandeur)

The weather wasn't too good and we didn't see as many birds as we would have expected but we got a couple of specials. The first was a flock of five Vernal Hanging Parrots and two of them were actually hanging upsidedown on the branch. I have only rarely come across this bird so it really made the morning worthwhile.

The other bird wasn't in itself special but finding its nest was. It was the White-browed Scimitar-Babbler. The nest was on the ground next to the road we were travelling on, it was dome shaped and had a side entrance. Now I did something that I don't normally do, I put mind hand into the nest and extracted one of three eggs, it was white. I did it because it was the first nest of this species that I had come across and was curious to see the colour of its eggs.

The morning was cold, we were at about 1,200 metres, in the clouds most of the time and it was damp. We also got a a new bird for our area checklist, a Rufescent Prinia, not special but it brought our list to 162 for this area.