Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Emerald Dove by John Moore

(November 24th HTT) There is a tree that I have been able to put a name to,albeit a Latin name, and that is the Pterocarpus macrocarpus. This tree has a thin round seed base with the seed stuck in the middle of it somewhat like an amoeba. The reason I mention this tree is because it seems to attract many different interesting species of birds around this time of year. Some of them are - the Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, Violet Cuckoo, Golden-fronted Leafbird and two White-eyes, the Japanese and the Chestnut-flanked and the Grey-headed Flycatcher.

Spotted a Black-headed Bulbul grey morph this morning. The book says they are rare but when a certain tree is fruiting (near the big Buddha at HTT) flocks of these birds appear and feed on them. At these times I have come across one or two grey morphs out of a flock of 12-15 birds. This morning another Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker seen digging out a nesting hole in a dead tree.

(November 25th Mae Hia) Temperature at 0640 11c. Interesting behaviour – A Plaintive Cuckoo and a Greater Coucal both seen with their backs to the sun and the back feathers raised to expose the dark underfeathers. This was early on a very cold morning and the dark feathers were obviously absorbing the heat of the sun. Another White-browed Piculet seen today in its usual bamboo habitat.

(November 27th KMP) Another bumper day today at Ka Mu Phuket, six new birds for the area bringing the figure to 177spp. Rufous-throated Partridge, Pale-legged Warbler, Blue Whistling Thrush (which I felt we had seen before), White-crested Laughingthrush, Chestnut-flanked White-eye and the special bird, the uncommon Black-headed Woodpecker. I have only ever seen this bird three times before and one of those times it was in a cage at the Rai Im-Aim resort near the Sukothai airport. It was here that I got an excellent recording of its maniacal, laughing call. The Laughingthrush was close to its upper-known limit of 1,200 metres. Also spotted two Emerald Doves after hearing their very low key call, a soft tuk-wooo, repeated every two or three seconds.

(November 29th Mae Hia) Just to prove my point I spotted another Black-headed Bulbul grey morph at Mae Hia this morning. I have put it down as a new bird for the area just to keep it separate from the more common one, now 198 species for MH.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Blue Magpie by John Moore

(November 20th HTT) A White-browed Piculet seen drumming, very interesting, it drums mostly on bamboo and sounds a little like someone tapping out morse code. So close to morse code, in fact, that I’m sure I picked out an S.O.S. but it didn’t appear to be in any trouble. One returnee today a Common Sandpiper. The Black-capped Kingfisher, a passage migrant, is still with us and today I managed to record its call which is very similar to the call of the White-throated Kingfisher. A juvenile Common Buzzard seen making some extremely clumsy landings as it flew ahead of us from tree to tree. As it’s a migrant one wonders how it made the journey from the northern climes to us here in Chiang Mai.

(November 21st Mae Hia) We have five different Spotted Owlets in the area, two can usually be found sitting on telephone lines and the other three on an exposed branch in a leafy tree. They will sit there staring down at you and occasionally move their heads from side to side to get a better look at you. They could certainly stare me down.

Raptors galore today, 3 Crested Honey-Buzzards (one dark morph), 12 Black Bazas circling in the sky, 1 Common Buzzard and a Rufous-winged Buzzard. This latter bird was sitting on a dead tree and interestingly had a snake clamped in its talons. We managed to get quite close and the snake, what was left of it, was about 70-80 centimetres long.The buzzard had started with the head and that was long gone by the time we arrived on the scene but every time the bird tore a strip off it its body writhed and curled up on itself. The thing was dead but was still reacting, amazing.

(November 23rd Mae Hia) 50+ Chestnut-tailed Starlings seen, in those sort of numbers they must have been heading for a fruiting or flowering tree. Talking of numbers, at least 12 Blue Magpies were seen. They don’t exactly fly in a flock but one at a time float across the sky to their next destination, giving their little screeches as they go.

I’m a little worried about our rare Long-tailed Shrike (Chinese/Vietnamese-Nominate race) as there is a spate of chopping and mowing going on and its habitat is fast disappearing. A few Siberian Rubythroats will also be affected but I’m not too worried as there are dozens of them around the area. They skulk in low bushes and long grass but occasionally pop up to take a look around. A flock of Baya Weavers were seen and all the males were in their drab winter plumage and resembling females.

So finally, what with ‘progress’ I don’t expect things to get any better, habitat destruction is part of this so-called progress. It may benefit us humans in the short term but in the long term will be our downfall.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Caught in the crossfire by Shamas

White-rumped Shama by John Moore

(November 9th Mae Hia) A bumper crop today (74-6) including two new birds for the area, a Greenish Warbler (also a returnee) and a Blue Rock-Thrush, a male of the race M.s. Philippensis, this bird is blue and chestnut. It wasn’t in the best of plumage and was probably a young one. I don’t recall ever having seen one up here in the north but have seen it at Khao Yai National Park, near Bangkok. Although I regularly see the other thrush during the winter, I have put this sub-species as a new bird.

Other birds of note today were one Thick-billed Pigeon, 1 Hoopoe and 4 White-rumped Shamas. There is nothing special about these latter birds but it was the scene they were creating, I was caught right in the middle of a ‘Turf’ battle. They were hurling songs at each other as if the end of the world had arrived. Now there breeding is usually carried out between March and September so I assume that this was purely a territorial dispute, not fighting for a mate.

(November 11th Mae Hia) Two more birds to add to the number for Mae Hia, the Chestnut-eared Bunting and the Blue-eared Barbet. The latter bird surprised me with its repetitive metallic call which sounds like ko-tek ko-tek ko-tek and then I spotted it high up in a leafy tree. Normally it is to be found above 600 metres and Mae Hia is 350 metres above sea-level. This brings the number of species seen to 197. Another returnee, the Golden-spectacled Warbler. I heard its call first, which is quite often the case, a boring chip call every two seconds or so.

That cane-like plant that I was talking about? It has all gone. The workers razed a whole field of it and now all those birds that used to use it have had to move on. So now I have to work more diligently to find their new haunts. One of them, the Siberian Rubythroat is still quite easily found, in fact one can be found every 100 metres or so, tucked away in low bushes and long grass. They are heard more often than seen.

(November 16th Mae Hia) Today I took out Kate and Tom Shower. They had been over here four years ago when I took them on an extensive tour of Doi Inthanon and other areas. This time we decided to do my lowland site at Mae Hia where we got some new life-birds to add to their list. What was amazing was that Tom is 92 years old and if I had let him he would have run me off my feet. I won’t tell you how old Kate is, one doesn’t, does one? We were lucky to get some raptors, the Crested Serpent Eagle, three Black Bazas and a Crested Honey-Buzzard. I think that altogether Tom and Kate added nine new birds to their life-list.

(November 17th HTT) Kate and Tom decided that they wanted another day as they had enjoyed Mae Hia so much, but this time at Huay Tung Tao. We had a good day with more raptors and a relaxing breakfast which Suk set up, table and chairs, producing delicious cheese and ham sandwiches and one of her famous pea and bacon soups. Two pleasant mornings in very pleasant company.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Mountain Hawk-Eagle by Yurie Ball

(November 1st Mae Hia) Two Common Moorhens seen fighting in Little Grebe Pond. They were using their usual form of attack which is laying backwards, this time in water, wings outstretched and pedalling at each other with their legs. This went on for a few minutes and then they turned 180 degrees and, necks outstretched along the water, wings arched up and tail straight up under the wings, they swam away. I don’t know what problem they solved but both seemed satisfied with the result. Two cuckoos also seen, a Plaintive Cuckoo and a Banded Bay Cuckoo. They were in swath of some cane-like plants which harbours many different species, it’s always worth a half hour of my time. Other birds seen there at different times are Siberian Rubythroats, Lesser Coucals, Eurasian Wrynecks, Chestnut-capped Babblers and Yellow-eyed Babblers. The latter bird actually has bright orange eyes. (morning count 61 seen – 9 heard)

(November 3rd. Mae Hia) Two Hoopoes seen and one immature Grey-headed Lapwing seen again. Nothing else to report.

(November 4th HTT) A Red Avadavat seen again, amazing I haven’t seen one for years and then two in a matter of days, there’s no accounting for it. A Black-capped Kingfisher was spotted bashing a really large caterpillar against a branch, preparatory to eating it. Both this kingfisher and the White-throated Kingfisher seem to prefer land-based insects, grubs, small reptiles etc. to fish. (morning count 60-13).

(November 6th KMP) Another morning with John up in the mountains and four new birds for the area, the Plain Flowerpecker, Little Cuckoo Dove, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler and the Mountain Imperial Pigeon. The latter bird is rather surprising as we have never heard it calling. It has a very distinctive and far-carrying repetitive oomp-oomp call. John also went up there on his own the other day and spotted the spectacular Mountain Hawk-Eagle, darn it!! Figure for the area now 171 spp.

(November 8th HTT) Eight Black Bazas seen in two dead trees, probably migrants passing through. A Black-headed Bulbul was giving its usual boring chip call when suddenly it burst into song. Well it hardly burst into song but compared to its normal call that’s the only way to describe it. The Book gives a very good description and here it is. “A hesitant series of short, tuneless whistles”. My report card would read, “Could do better but is a definite improvement on his normal voice, elocution lessons recommended”

The Black Band of tar around the top end of the HTT lake has been completed but it appears that the workers have got their second wind. They are now busy despoiling the roadside vegetation, once they get into their stride there’s no stopping them. The only saving factor is that the other activities ATV, Paintball Battlefield and the Trampolining that I mentioned before don’t get going until the afternoon so they don’t disturb me. But we’ll have to wait and see how the birds are affected!