Monday, January 29, 2007


Rufous Treepie by Yurie Ball

(January 23rd HTT) Got a really good close-up of a male Blue Rock Thrush through my telescope this morning it was the Monticola Solitarius not the philippensis. Why I mention this is because I got a good look at the undertail coverts and they were chestnut with dark barring, the rest of the bird was dark blue as expected, no books seem to mention this. The other race has a chestnut belly and undertail coverts.
Thought I saw a Great Crested Grebe but it was at the far end of the lake and there was a heat shimmer in the air. By the time I reached the other side it had disappeared.

(January 24th Mae Hia) Two Cinnamon Bitterns seen sparring on the edge of a reed bed and then chasing each other around the Little Grebe Pond. They aren’t usually so visible at this time of year, it is only during the breeding season that they can be seen vying for females and then flying backwards and forwards feeding young. Incidentally Little Grebe Pond hasn’t produce a Little Grebe in over two weeks. As I mentioned before I think it’s due to the invasion of the pond by 4 or 5 aggressive Common Moorhens, may have to rename the pond.
Two Siberian Rubythroats came out of the undergrowth to my most unbirdlike ‘cherk, cherk’ calls. There must have been something there that they recognised, that same call will also aggravate the Thick-billed Warbler. He goes into a paroxysm of rage at my calls, yet his is really nothing like the one I’m attempting.

(January 25th HTT) Well it was the Great Crested Grebe I saw the other day, this time I got a good view through my scope. The long white throat and the brown neck with the slight crest at the back of its head were plainly visible (non-breeding plumage). A very rare bird here and that brings the total for the area to 243 species. Also a dozen or so Rufous Treepies causing a raucous racket, I couldn’t find the reason for their tantrums but something had upset them.

(January 28th Mae Hia) A new bird for the area and that was a lone Great Egret seen flying overhead. Not a special bird but they always become special when they are the first seen in the area. Three Barbets, lineated, Great and Coppersmith seen in the same dead tree at the same time, it’s not the first time either.

(January 29th HTT) A flock of about 10 Blue Magpies heard making a racket and then they trailed out of the trees one at a time, in line with them was a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. It must have been having an identity crisis as it was imitating the magpies calls to perfection. It occasionally gave itself away by throwing in one of its own more bell-like calls and, of course, it looked nothing like a magpie.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Office Pond – Well And Truly Ducked

Olive-backed Sunbird by Yurie Ball

(January 11th. 2007 Mae Hia) Today I was out with a client, Karen Petersen, and my bird of the day was probably the Emerald Cuckoo. We also got some excellent views of the Siberian Rubythroat and Eurasian Wryneck, both fairly common in the area. Also three barbets, Great, Coppersmith and Lineated. The Green Bee-eater impressed Karen the most. The immature Grey-faced Buzzard is still loitering in the area. Mae Hia is definitely the better of my two sites for raptors, we regularly see two or three species and sometimes up to seven. First stop of the morning was the Office Pond and 300 + Lesser Whistling Ducks took to the air on our approach, all whistling like mad! Morning count was 60 seen and 7 identified by call.

(January 13th. Mae Hia) The red flowering trees are getting redder by the day and producing more birds per tree than ever. I always give these trees around 20 minutes of my time. This morning a couple of Eurasian Jays were upset at the presence of two Rufous-winged Buzzards in one flowering tree and were swearing at it in Crested Serpent Eagle language. I suppose they thought that using the eagles call would frighten off the smaller buzzards or am I anthropomorphising them? In the same tree were 10+ Olive-backed Sunbirds. Two immature Spotted Owlets seen sitting on a shed roof preening themselves.

(January 15th. HTT) A Blue Whistling Thrush seen feeding on the sluice that drains the lake when it gets too full, this one was of the resident variety with the yellow bill. A red flowered tree again, 40+ Red Turtle Doves seen feeding in one. That must be the most I have seen in one flock. Heard two White-browed Piculets having some sort of argument, they were drumming on bamboo and trilling at each other. Would you believe it, my batteries had run out so I couldn’t record them.

(January 22nd . Mae Hia) A new bird for the area, a Drongo Cuckoo (205 spp.). This bird is uncommon up here and first I thought I was looking at a Bronzed Drongo but when it turned its head my way I saw the thin decurved bill. It landed about five metres away from me and that was unusual for a start, then it turned and I saw the white barring under the tail. This is one of the parasitic cuckoos. A Crested Honey Buzzard flew low overhead and it was gratifying to get such a good look at its underparts. Its tail is diagnostic, the tip is black with a thick off-white bar and then another black bar (some do vary in their plumage). The tail of the Crested Serpent Eagle is similar but this bird has clear black and white trailing edges to the underwing which differentiates it from the buzzard. A cold start to the morning, temperature was 9.5 centigrade at 7am.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Boom-boxes-happy campers and the army

TOP - Mae Hia - The office pond
BOTTOM - Huay Tung Tao

(December 30th HTT) Big mistake going to Huay Tung Tao this morning (Saturday) – happy and noisy campers at one end of the lake and army recruit training, firing automatic rifle, at the other. I’m not sure whether I preferred the boom-boxes or the bangs! Let’s face it, neither!
But there was some bird activity. It’s strange that there are always dozens of Rufous Treepies at HTT but not one reported at Mae Hia down the road. The habitat is similar but something must be missing. These treepies certainly make their presence known with raucous cries and the occasional musical note. Two adult Little Grebes and one immature were seen but compared to other years they have been more difficult to spot.

(January 2nd. Mae Hia) A new bird for the area and it was a rather forlorn looking immature Little Egret. It had the grey legs and grey bill of a young bird and is usually to be found in groups rather than alone. Was surprised to see such a large flock of Red Junglefowl, it consisted of 6 males an 7 females. I usually grit my teeth at the noisy motorbikes that ply the road on their way to work but this time it was a very noisy bike that frightened the junglefowl out of a hedgerow into a field, so I quietly thanked him. 2 Eurasian Jays seen imitating the pit-piu call of the Rufous-winged Buzzard. I’m sure they use this call to alert other birds of this raptor’s presence. There happened to be 3 of these small buzzards in the vicinty at the time.

(January 3rd HTT) Today I saw a bird that I consider to be special, a Striated Warbler (25cm). Up here in the north it is not a common bird and I have only seen it 3 or 4 times before, so it was my bird of the day. Another bird that I saw this morning and one that I don’t see to often at Huay Tung Tao was the Blue Whistling Thrush. This one was the migrant variety with a black bill not the yellow-billed one so I was pleased to see that one too.

(January 5th HTT) A good morning 71 species seen 6 identified by call. Caught a bird wave at a marshy bend including; Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Grey-headed Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Verditer flycatcher, Two-barred Warbler and the Inornate Warbler which formed the base of the wave. Worth a mention, two Common Rosefinches, male and female and a flock of 31 Grey Herons seen spiralling down into the lake in the army area. Also interesting were the White-crested Laughingthrushes, three separate flocks calling from different areas around the site.

(January 8th Mae Hia) A tree with red blossoms was the centre of great attraction, Two Rufous-winged Buzzards, two Balck Drongos, six Hair-crested Drongos, two Purple Sunbirds, and three Olive-backed Sunbirds. What was surprising was that the other birds took no notice of the roosting buzzards.

(January 10th Mae Hia) Another new bird for the area (205 spp) and a fairly good one at that, the Stub-tailed Bush Warbler. I almost stepped on it before it flitted off into some deeper undergrowth, very mouse-like in its behaviour.