Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Grouse season is upon me!

Part of the Bodhi Tree (ficus religiosa)

(February 20th HTT) Temp. at 0700 15c. - The Rufous-winged Bushlark is now becoming easier to see as it goes into its display flights. It flies straight up into the air (about 20 metres) and then parachutes down with wings in a V shape and legs stuck straight down, quite comical.
I was getting a little bit worried at not having seen our Black-capped Kingfisher for about a week when it suddenly reappeared. It really shouldn’t have been here in the first place as it is down as a passage migrant here in the north. Last year one also decided that it had gone far enough and settled in for the winter.
Well now I know that we have at least three Spotted Owlets in the area. They were screeching at each other for at least 15 minutes without let-up.
Something else happening without let-up is the noise and dust produced by a mechanical digger. It seems to me that the driver is giving the illusion of doing something useful but on carefully watching him I realised that he was just pushing the same piles of dirt backwards and forwards. Am I missing something or is he just trying to keep his job?

(February 23rd Mae Hia) Temp. at 0700 13c. Smog was particularly bad, by the end of the morning I was wheezing like an old man – wait a minute, I am an old man, but I’ve never wheezed the way I did this morning.
A Rufous-winged Buzzard was seen building a nest. For the next few months we’ll know where to find one.
The Junglefowl are way ahead of this buzzard, one female was seen with six chicks.
Another tree of interest is the Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa). This morning I was drawn to it by the racket the Common Koels were making. It turned out that there were at least ten of them plus five Coppersmith Barbets and untold numbers of bulbuls and mynahs. The fruit were just the right size to go down in one swallow for the larger birds (1.2 to 1.5 centimetres) and the smaller birds were taking chunks out of them.
Another bird that has been keeping to itself is the Rufous Woodpecker. This morning I heard its drumming with the hesitant stutter at the end and then caught sight of it. It’s not quite as outgoing as the Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, with its drumming, but its cackling laughter can often be heard at this time of year.

(February 27th Mae Hia) Temperature at 0700 20c. A very hot morning and the birds weren’t so active as they have been. The Common Koels were back in the fig tree in their numbers and as noisy as they have been for last few days, along with the Barbets, bulbuls and other smaller birds.
I watched the Rufous-winged Buzzard making fine adjustments to the twigs in the nest, it really did seem fussy about where every twig went. Finally satisfied it went off to collect some more.
Two Hoopoes seen, one with a really raggedy crest, not in the best of plumage but calling away. Its calls brought in the second one.
GROUSE. The Thais don’t appear to like greenery. Most of the lakes and ponds have been shorn of the long grass, reeds and mimosa bushes almost to the edges of the lakes to the detriment of bird life. Luckily they couldn’t get it all without the digger falling into the water. One result of this cutting is that the soil starts to erode away due to there being no roots to hold it together but the Thais don’t seem to understand this. What makes it worse is that Mae Hia is an agricultural research centre and you’d think they would know about this sort of thing! The end result is that we now have more dust in the air adding to the already high density of smog due to bonfires, construction and car fumes. There we are, I’ve had my grouse!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Spotted a Spot-winged Starling

Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush photo by John Moore

(February 14th Mae Hia) Temp. at 7am 13c. - Saw a Hoopoe this morning and soon after seeing it heard its quite distinctive two or three note - hoop, hoop, hoop – call. Also came across a Crested Honey-Buzzard (dark morph) flying low enough to make out that it was carrying something shiny in its talons but not low enough that I could make out what it was. Could it have been part of a honeycomb? I don’t know. It was eating whatever it was, on the wing. Both the Banded Bay Cuckoo (calling at the time) and the Plaintive Cuckoo were seen, always nice to see a cuckoo, even though they are parasites.

(February 16th HTT) Temp. at 7am 15c. - I don’t very often see the Ruby-cheeked Sunbird but when I do they are usually on bamboo. Today I saw one male picking at a curled leaf, it was obviously after some sort of grubs sheltering in this leaf. It stayed long enough that I was able to get my scope on it and have a good look, a beautiful bird. Another bird I don’t get to see that often is the Red-rumped Swallow of the race H.d.badia. Saw two today and the deep chestnut underparts are conspicuous. The Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker is becoming more obvious as it picks out a drumming site. This morning a male, with the red cap, was testing some dead trees for the loudest sound and when it found the one it liked it then started sending out messages. It was soon joined by two others in the distance. Other birds that are testing out their songs are the White-rumped Shamas, the Common Koel and the Magpie Robin. Up until the last few days they have all been relatively quiet.

(February 19th HTT) Temp. at 7am 15c. – Yet another new bird for the area (244spp) and a good one at that, a female Spot-winged Starling. It was seen feeding in a red flowered tree (Butea monosperma) at the top end of the lake over the rice paddies, it was mixed in with a flock of Chestnut-tailed Starlings. At the time of writing these are the only two red flowered trees in the area still with flowers. Another bird worth seeing again was a solitary Striated Warbler, it’s a big warbler,has a long uneven ended tail and has a distinctive streaked back. A wire-tailed Swallow was seen with only one and a half wires. I always thought that when most birds moulted that two equivalent feathers on either side of the body moulted at the same time to help with flight balance, moulting out of sync? Maybe this one snapped off half of the tail, who knows. Also one Green Sandpiper seen and three Common Snipe. Came across another flock of around ten White-crested Laughingthrushes and mixed in with them was at least one Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush. That came as a bit of a surprise as usually I see the greater mixed in with the Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrushes.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Mountain Symphony

Black-collared Starlings by Yurie Ball

(January 30th Mae Hia) 0700 temperature 11c – Three Rufous-winged Buzzards seen roosting in red flowering tree (Butea monosperma), two Crested Serpent Eagles seen flying overhead, the black and white stripes along the trailing edges of there wings and black and white barred tails very obvious. Also they were calling to each other with their distinctive call ‘hu-hu-hu pleew pleew’, sometimes only using the last two notes. Two Crested Honey Buzzards also seen along with a Common Buzzard and a Eurasian Kestrel, a good morning for raptors. A flock of Ashy Minivets, along with Inornate Warblers and various other small birds passed through in a feeding wave. A flock of 100+ Asian House Martins seen feeding low over a tree, obviously some flying insects were up there.

(January 31st HTT) I don’t often see the Zebra Doves and Eurasian Wrynecks at HTT (many of the former and some of the latter at Mae Hia) but today saw four doves and one wryneck in the same small dead tree. Two of the doves were mating. One Bombax ceiba tree (I think it’s known as the kapok tree or Cotton tree) that I hadn’t noticed before was brought to my attention by the noisy chattering of some Blue Magpies, Rufous Treepies and two Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, it was beginning to lose its red flowers so will also lose its popularity when they have all gone.

(February 5th HTT) A solitary Rosy Minivet seen and scores of Asian House Martin in the last couple of visits. A Banded Bay Cuckoo seen and heard using both of its repetitive calls. Five Black-winged Stilts spotted flying round the lake. In normal years the water level of the lake would be much lower leaving mudbanks for waders to feed and roost. So not may waders around this year.

(February 7th Mae Hia) Flock of White-rumped Munias and two Common Rosefinches feeding on dying bamboo. I believe that bamboo of a certain type, or the same type, all die at the same time and their ‘swan song’ is the seeds that it produces at this time. I heard a story about this phenomenon in China. It appears that all the bamboo that the pandas prefer were all dying off at the same time and so the pandas were also dying, can anyone enlarge on this? Another instance of the Golden-fronted Leafbird being a bully. One was seen chasing off smaller birds, including a Verditer Flycatcher, from its favourite tree, it really goes into a tantrum at this time and that is most of the time. Three Little Grebes seen, two in their plain winter plumage and the other in breeding plumage. I have come across many that stay in their breeding plumage all year round, sometimes not quite so bright. The Common Koels are really in good voice, they have been for the last week. This brings to mind their host parents, the Black-collared Starlings. All year they fly around in pairs, doting couples, and they foolishly bring up the young of another species, doesn’t seem fair!

(February 12th KMP) Two new species for the area, the Eurasian Wryneck and the Gould’s Sunbird, a very colourful indivdual. The birds were busy along the Ka Mu Phuket road this morning, they just kept coming until almost 11am. The most obvious one’s were the barbets, the Great Barbet, the Blue-throated and the Blue-eared. They provided the rhythm section and the myriad songbirds provided the melody, it was a pleasure to just sit and listen to this symphony. All we had to do to get a variation in the melody was to move a couple of kilometres along the road. One constant in the melody were the ubiquitous Silver-eared Mesias! The only problem this morning, there was much more traffic along this usually quiet road, I hope it hasn’t been discovered by the general public.