Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Scarlet Gentleman

Yellow-cheeked Tit by Yurie Ball

(December 22nd Mae Hia) A new bird for the area, a Pompadour Pigeon sitting high up in a tree, bringing the numbers up to 203spp. The Black Eagle was seen again and at the time it was flying over a dead tree which contained a Crested Serpent-Eagle. The latter bird then flew off and it was interesting to see that the Black Eagle was appreciably bigger.

(December 25th HTT) 12 Grey Herons seen flying in the direction of the army lakes. They have obviously decided that the main lake is too busy, we used to see 3 or 4 in the trees or at the lakeside before, now we’re lucky if we see one. The Lesser Whistling Ducks are still favouring us with their presence, 200+ seen today, but I wonder how long they will put up with the ever increasing activity around the lake. The immature Eurasian Kestrel is still to be found on its haystack early in the morning.

(December 26th Mae Hia) An immature Little Grebe seen on Little Grebe Pond, much lighter than the adult, but no adult birds seen. The farmyard scene was replicated with a Hoopoe and 3 male Junglefowl feeding around the cows feeding on the rather too aromatic cabbage leaves infested with flies.

(December 28th KMP) Can’t wait! This was a very special bird, a male Scarlet Finch up at the start of the Chae Sorn national park at about 1,700m just before the km.5 marker. I saw this red blob sitting at the top of a dead tree, got my scope on it and couldn’t believe my eyes. If my legs would have allowed me I would have pranced like a young gazelle but as it was a mere shuffle had to suffice. John was quite amused at my excitement but even he had to admit it was well worth looking at. And two other new birds for the area, the Asian House-Martin and the Black-headed Sibia bringing the numbers to 180spp.

The first 7 kilometres along this road comes alive with birds early in the morning. Bar-backed Partridges can be heard duetting, one with the repetitive ti-hu, ti-hu, ti-hu, and the other with a faster kew-kew-kew, sadly they are more often heard than seen. I put this down to hunting and they now keep well away from the road. Other birds that add their voices to the chorus are the Great Barbet, the Blue-throated Barbet, occasionally the Golden-throated and the Blue-eared Barbet. Another bird seen, and heard, this morning was the Large Cuckoo-Shrike – it announces itself with a strident klee-eep call. Also seen a flock of Yellow-cheeked Tits.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Barbets Galore!

Common Koel Photo by John Moore

(December 14th Doi Pui) Took a trip up Doi Suthep/Pui with John and Chan, not a very busy morning birdwise. At km. 16 we saw a Crested Goshawk sitting at the top of a dead tree all huddled up against the cold. Another bird heard in the same place was the Silver-breasted Broadbill, its melancholy 'pee-lu' call held our attention for about a minute. The main excitement of the morning was the traffic jam at the King’s Palace, one solitary policeman looking quite stressed and desperate, you had to feel sorry for him.

(December 18th Mae Hia) New bird for the area (201spp) an uncommon Chinese Sparrowhawk, nearly wrote it off as a Shikra until closer examination. At the risk of going on about this, ad nauseam, six more raptor species seen this morning. It was brought home to me that the Richards Pipit we most often see is the A. n. rufulus.I say this because this morning I came across two A.n. ricardi, they are giants compared to the others and their legs are pinker. The Hair-crested Drongos are being seen more often due to these large trees with large white flowers. They are easy to see because this tree loses it leaves and then the flowers appear.

(December 20th Mae Hia) An excellent new bird for the area this morning (202spp), but you wouldn’t think that to look at it, the rare Russet Sparrow. I almost overlooked it, it was in amongst a flock of Scaly-breasted Munias and the thing that brought it to my attention was the thin bib on its chest and then the rusty head and back. First I thought it was a Plain-backed Sparrow but it had no yellow and then the rest fell into place. Smelly Field came into its own this morning, four male Junglefowl and one female feeding among the cows. The scene did seem to lack authenticity, it looked more like some farmyard with cows and chickens feeding on cabbage leaves. I could have wished for a more jungle-like scene but beggars can’t be choosers. A Hoopoe and two more Richard Pipits A.n. ricardi seen in the same field. I have decided to rename this bend, instead of Stench Bend it will henceforth be known as Flaming Flies Bend. The stench is intermittent but the flies are constant! 15+ Hair-crested Drongos seen in their regular white-flowered tree.

(December 21st HTT) A funny day today, funny peculiar that is. Two Little Egrets flew overhead (yellow feet, black legs and black bill seen) and that’s not unusual but one had its neck stretched straight out and its head twisted down. I watched until out of sight and it never settled its head back into its shoulders as all egrets do when flying. I assume that it must have had some sort of accident. Next, for the last few days there has be an immature Eurasian Kestrel lying/sitting on top of a pyramid shaped haystack in the early morning. My theory is that it is getting the effects of internal combustion from inside the haystack, these have been cold mornings. A leafless fruiting tree has been taken over by 15+ Coppersmith Barbets and 4-5 Lineated Barbets and one female Common Koel. This bird is quite interesting, it is connected to the cuckoo family and is parasitic. I have noticed that they prefer Black-collared Starling as host parents whenever I have come across them up here but they also use Mynahs as hosts.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Harrier got harried!

Great Barbet by Yurie Ball

(December 8, 2006 HTT) count 67-9, a fairly good count for HTT and among them was a juvenile Red Avadavat. The only thing that kept it from being labelled a ‘little brown job’ was its bright orange bill. The uncommon Oriental Turtle-Dove occasionally becomes common for a while. Four seen today and in February and March a flock of up to 12 birds was seen almost every day. As for the Ruddy-breasted Crake heard again today, it is a very frustrating bird, heard often but seldom seen. I now speak of it with the emphasis on the Ruddy, as in ‘where is that Ruddy-breasted crake!' A lone Grey Heron was seen in its effortless flight going down the length of the lake, a beautiful sight.
I know it’s not a bird but it’s worth a mention and that is the mongoose. I see them quite often as I did today, wandering along a track or just crossing it, shades of Rudyard Kipling’s Riki Tiki Tavi.

(December 9th Mae Hia) Six raptors today, they are almost becoming ‘Old Hat’, Ah, but one of them was nothing like an old hat. It was a Black eagle! It’s a whopping bird at nearly 80cm. and it flew at tree-height over our heads with yellow legs plainly in sight. I’ve only ever seen it once before. It’s a new bird for the area along with a Great Barbet. The barbet was a little surprising as it is usually found above 600m. but I do have it down as having been seen at Huay Tung Tao, once. This brings the number for Mae Hia to 200spp.
Weatherwise things have been warming up. From early morning temperatures of 11-12c the previous week, today’s temperature was 19c. and yesterday’s 18c.

(December 11th HTT) A new bird for the area, a Plain Flowerpecker and it has earned its name. It really qualifies as an LBJ (little brown job). It has nothing to redeem it except, of course, that it now brings the number up to 241 spp. I forgot that today was the last day of a long weekend. The place was packed with joggers, cyclists and noisy campers.

(December 13th HTT) And yet another new bird for the area, a White-browed Fantail bringing the figure to 242spp. A delightful bird to watch but it must get tired. Not only is it forever fanning its tail but it twitches its body from side to side without stopping. But the bird of the day was a male Pied Harrier, it was sitting on the ground when first spotted. It soon flew off when a mob of smaller birds took umbrage at its presence. This male is one of the easier harriers to identify being black and white. To differentiate between the females one has to look for other identifying marks, and on the wing and at a distance they can be difficult to spot. A Blue-throated Barbet was seen and is unusual at this level, only seen once before at HTT. The White-vented Mynahs and the Common Mynahs seem to have deserted the area, didn’t see one today. Even the Black-collared Starlings are few and far between.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Verditer Flycatcher by Yurie Ball

(November 30th HTT) Found another good fruiting tree which is attracting some interesting birds. Problem is I can’t identify the tree but its position is being mapped and dated for future reference. The Coppersmith Barbets and Lineated Barbets were in the majority. A small flock of Black-headed Bulbuls were also seen in the tree including another grey morph. This strengthens my view that they are not as rare as the book would have it. A Verditer Flycatcher was seen at the top of the tree but didn’t appear to be taking any part in the feeding frenzy.

Other birds putting in an appearance this morning were a Ruddy-breasted Crake. This bird has a very distinctive trill and it is this call that usually brings it to one’s attention, more often seen than heard as it is a skulker.

(December 1st Mae Hia) Not too much to report but at Stench Bend, looking into the foothills of Doi Suthep quite a few raptors have been turning up. Today produced two Rufous-winged Buzzards, two Crested Honey Buzzards and a Crested Serpent Eagle.

Nothing to do with birds but an interesting happening. One of the many stray dogs that roam both HTT and MH was spotted with the half eaten carcase of a Thai hare. A few minutes later another hare bounded towards us as if looking for something but turned off on seeing us. Now I don’t believe in anthropomorphism but it did seem that this hare was in distress – draw your own conclusions.

(December 2nd HTT) A bumper four hours this morning, 70 species seen and 9 identified by call. A little late to be important as returnees but 2 male and 2 female Rosy Minivets seen. Another interesting sighting was a flock of 20+ Long-tailed Minivets. According to the book they should be above 900 metres but of course they can’t read the book. They were seen on a regular basis down here last year.

December 4th Mae Hia) Another good morning with 68-8. It was the raptors again that surprised me. 4 Black Bazas harassing 3 Crested Honey Buzzards, a Black-shouldered Kite seen hovering over a newly harvested rice field, a Common Buzzard, a Shikra, a Kestrel and 2 Rufous-winged Buzzards. It can’t last!

(December 7th Mae Hia) A returnee Grey-faced Buzzard, the last one I saw just before migrating was on May 19th . Also seen, another Verditer Flycatcher and a solitary Thick-billed Pigeon.