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.

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