Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Four Wagtails and a Funeral

Views on Ka Mu Phuket (KMP) by John Moore

(April 18th HTT) A new bird for the area bringing the total to 247 spp. This was the spectacular Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (46cm.). I’ve only seen this bird 5 times before so I was quite excited at this meeting. It does a sort of migration in reverse, it comes here to breed while all the other migrants are going the other way. I say it comes here to breed but in fact it is a parasitic cuckoo so it searches out host parents. Every time I have seen it, it has been following a flock of White-crested Laughingthrushes and obviously this is its preferred host, at least up here in the north.
A pair of Plain-backed Sparrows seen investigating a Coppersmith Barbet’s nesting hole, the only problem was it was already occupied by a family of these barbets. The female sparrow was clinging to the hole and peering in at one of the already fledged young. I suppose that these sparrows will be taking up the next tenancy of this nesting hole.
One Burmese Shrike seen, probably not a regular but just passing through. The last of the regulars left their territory on the 2nd April and this one was seen in a place where we don’t usually see them.
Another bird I don’t see that often is the Yellow-legged Buttonquail. The one I saw this morning was a female with more chestnut on the upper back and, of course, yellow legs which tells it apart from the Barred Buttonquail.

(April 17th KMP) Today was remarkable due to the fact that we didn’t get a new bird for the area. We always do! We were stunned and started looking for excuses and the only one we could come up with was that it was windy. We all know that birds don’t like wind, don’t we? That’s not to say that it wasn’t an enjoyable trip as you can see from the photos above, we pass through some beautiful scenery.
But all was not lost, I got a good recording of that great songster the White-rumped Shama. It was a call that had me fooled at first, the bird is rather a good mimic and it was doing a pretty good imitation of a Maroon Oriole to start with.
Also I saw my first Forest Wagtail of the year (a passage migrant) and we have at times seen three other species of wagtail up there, plus the fact that the traffic was pouring past us on their way to a funeral being celebrated in the middle of the road. Now that was a bit disjointed but the upshot was that my friend, Entomologist John, suggested that I call this blog “four wagtails and a funeral”, so you can blame him! The funeral party really was in the middle of the road, a marquee and around twenty tables with four chairs at each. We passed it with suitably solemn faces.

(April 16th HTT) Didn’t go out on Saturday and Sunday as it was Songkhran, The Thai New Year. Huay tung Tao becomes packed with Thais celebrating, the noise (music) is enough to make the local migrant species migrate early.
Last night we had some rain so this morning was just about clear of smog, how long will that last I wonder. Temperature at 0630 a cool 19c and for some reason another low count 52-9.
I don’t often see the White-rumped Munias but today a small flock was seen in a dying but seeding stand of bamboo. They were mixed in with their more common relatives the Scaly-breasted Munias.
The Barn Swallow population has diminished and just a few seen this morning. I have a feeling that these are the one’s that have changed their status to ‘resident’ birds, at least I’m hoping so. The resident swallows started off a few years ago in the mountain villages near Fang over a 100 kilometres from Chiang Mai and they have been working their way south ever since. Also there are not so many Chinese Pond-Herons about, most of them have gone north.
A Black-capped Kingfisher (passage migrant) was seen and I’m sure it wasn’t the one that wintered here as it had a more extensive white front. The one that wintered here disappeared a few weeks ago. Also a Common Kingfisher was seen, this one had bright orange/rufous underparts. It is said that these brightly coloured one’s are river birds and the fish they feed on eat more small crustaceans than the lake fish, thus producing this brighter colour in the bird, or so it is said. It is the same process as the flamingos.


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