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.

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