Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I've done shuffling about

Sadly my birdwatching career has come to an end. This is due to a breakdown in just about everything including equipment, transport and myself. I am not prepared to renew the above or buy spare body-parts at my age. The final straw was although I could compose a blog and send it to my blog-site It wouldn't let me in to see it.But I will be keeping up my 'rant and rave' blog at the following URL . Now I will have time to sit back and write my memoirs which should fill all of one or two pages.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A rubbish dump of a nest

Above is evidence that the Red-whiskered Bulbul has no aesthetic sense, but it’s not the only bird guilty of this. It was photographed this morning in my 10ft x 10ft garden – as for the size of the garden I admit that I chose the house just because of the garden’s size, I don’t have a green thumb and I’m lazy!

(May 18th HTT) This morning I recorded a Lineated Barbet using its most unusual croaking call. When I first heard this call some years ago it stumped me, it was ages before I actually saw one making it, problem solved.
Migrants seen: 1 Common Moorhen and 1 Barn Swallow.

(May 19th HTT) I had just finished recording a flock of noisy White-crested Laughingthrushes that were passing by when two Chestnut-winged Cuckoos showed up. They were obviously on the trail of these birds and would eventually lay their eggs in one of their nests. I managed to record them muttering away with hoarse grating and squeaking calls and just one loud whistle, this is the first time I have recorded them. It’s a pity, though, that they weren’t using their louder calls as I had to compete against the all pervading calls of the resident cicadas. This was in the same patch of woodland that I spotted the other Chestnut-winged Cuckoo on the 18th. of April.
A male White-rumped Shama was seen attacking a female and I have to, shamefacedly, admit it was my fault and I promise not to do it again. I was recording the male which was in fine voice but it stopped short of what I needed so I played it back. Now this is something one shouldn’t do especially at this time of year as it drives the males mad, but It had no reason to attack a female! But seriously one really shouldn’t do it. If you feel you have to attract their attention try using a raptor call as I did the other day, it doesn’t seem to stress them. The reason that hearing their own call played back stresses them is that they think that it’s another male that has invaded their territory, they don’t recognise their own voices.
For the first time this year I heard the ‘zee-zee brink’ of the Bright-capped Cisticola. Last year they started on April 21st and they were at it almost continuously until July 7th.
Just about all the Lesser Whistling Ducks in the area have paired up and can be seen flying around together most of the morning.
Migrants seen: 2 Olive-backed Pipits. The last one’s seen at HTT last year was on the 7th. of April.

(May 21st HTT) A Eurasian Jay was seen calling but you wouldn’t have known it was a jay unless you saw it calling. It had hi-jacked the call of the Rufous-winged Buzzard and had it down to perfection.
A leafless tree provided the next attraction, there was a Lineated Barbet on the left side minding its own business, a few feet away a male and female Common Koel were mating, in the centre a Rufous-winged Buzzard was tearing away at a frog clutched in its talons, on the right an adult Coppersmith Barbet was feeding its young and four Collared Doves were looking on. But no partridges in a dead tree.
The patch of woodland provided the opportunity of recording the complaints of a pair of Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, the cacophany of sound they created forced me to turn down the volume, the needle was in the red.
One of the young Shikras, almost fully fledged now, was sitting on a branch a few feet away from the nest, no sign of the other one but it was probably in the nest.
Migrant seen: 1 lonely Barn Swallow.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Taken on by the Mob!

Red-whiskered Bulbul by Yurie Ball

(May 14th HTT) It wasn’t supposed to rain according to the forecaste but it did. Low count again (37-12) as the birds were keeping under cover.
3 bedraggled Rufous Woodpeckers, 2 male and one female were seen together, the males were buffeting each other with their wings, eventually all three flew off. Just a little farther on a male Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker was working on an old hole which I had been watching for further occupancy.
A male and female Greater Painted Snipe were seen in the flooded paddy stubble. A reminder that it is the female that has the colour and the male a dull brown, she is polygamous and he broods the eggs and looks after the young.
Migrants seen: A Little Heron and two Chinese Pond-Herons in non-breeding plumage.

(May 15th HTT) An interesting accident. I was rewinding my tape and went back too far into another recording I had made earlier in the morning. It was of a Rufous-winged Buzzard and I let it run. Suddenly the woods came alive, birds were moving in on me and up to that moment things had been pretty quiet. Among those ‘mobbing’ me were a female Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, a Yellow-bellied Warbler, a White-rumped Shama, a Black-naped Monarch, 4 or 5 Striped Tit-Babblers, 2 Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, 2 Rufous Treepies, 2 Puff-throated Babblers, 1 Rufous-fronted Babbler, 3 or 4 Red-whiskered Bulbuls and a chorus of White-crested Laughingthrushes in the background. Quite amazing considering how quiet it was a few minutes before!
No migrants seen this morning.

(May 16th HTT) Got some good recordings of an Asian Barred Owlet with its trilling and yelping calls. More importantly on replaying it I realised that I had also recorded the call of a White-bellied Yuhina and even more importantly this worthy bird brings the figure for the area to 250 species! This happened in my new patch of woodland and as soon as I realised what it was I went back in and finally got a look at it. Just as I was leaving the area a group of workmen were on their way in, they were carrying a bandsaw and axes, they at least had the decency to look sheepish as they trooped by me, they knew that what they were about to do was forbidden. I left the area to the sound of the saw and axes in action. Am I paranoid or are they following me and then chopping up my best spots?
Two male Common Koels seen facing off, there was a lot of tail flicking and bobbing but nothing really physical, although their screeching did batter my ears.
Saw a Velvet-fronted Nuthatch which is worth a mention as I’ve only seen it once before in the area. Again, it was hearing its call that put me onto it.
Migrants seen: Two Common Moorhens in two different spots.

(May 17th HTT) The lake is full to overflowing and the lakeside trees have marched into the lake up to their knees.
As I was watching one Shikra chick peering over the edge of the nest the female flew in to feed it, the meal was a lizard. It’s interesting that the losing of the down starts at the rear end of the chick working it way up to its head. It’s the same when a young fledged bird changing from speckled brown, in the case of the Oriental Magpie Robin, to black and white, it starts with the tail and works it way up the body. Saw the White-bellied Yuhina again, also the Yellow-bellied Warbler. At the same time a Crested Serpent Eagle was seen soaring and calling with its two note call.
Migrants seen: 2 Common Moorhens

Saturday, May 12, 2007

"Let's Dance" for a lark

Yellow-vented Flowerpecker by Yurie Ball

(May 10th HTT) Quite an interesting morning, A flock of ten Grey-headed Parakeets seen flying overhead. I haven’t seen that many before in the area, sometimes three or four but never more.
Two male Tickell’s Blue Flycatchers seen jousting for the favours of a female but when either of them approached she crouched and opened her beak wide at them. This was not a ‘I want to be fed’ posture it was definitely a threat posture , she was not giving her favours to either of them and taking the hint they both left.
I was recording a Black-throated Laughingthrush which was in good voice and then a White-rumped Shama burst in with its very melodic song but interspersed with part of the laughingthrush’s song, the shama does, quite often, incorporate other birdsongs into its own.
Recorded another bird, the Thick-billed Warbler, with its scratchy song and in the background were a couple of Lesser Coucals having a go at each other with their hiccupping and hooting calls, a nice combination.
Two Rufous-winged Bushlarks were doing quite an unusual number but this time it was a dance. They would do a fast mincing step running parallell to each other, then one would charge the other and stop within inches and go back into the parallell dance and this went on for about five minutes, obviously two males and again quite entertaining and it was much more entertaining than my description.
After all the rain we have been having the lake is back to full so we have lost our mud-banks and the Ruddy-breasted Crake has lost its promenade.
Migrants seen: 1 Black-naped Oriole, 2 Thick-billed Warblers, 1 Chinese Pond-Heron and 6 Common Moorhens. The moorhens are difficult to keep a check on as there are a lot of fishermen who get to the lakeside at dawn and if they are there before me the moorhens go into hiding amongst the reed and mimosa, this morning I was there first.

(May 11th HTT) Low count this morning 44-12, it must have been the weather. The rain was monsoonal just before we left home and then slowed to a light drizzle. It also caused a blackout so my morning cup of tea was brought to me by candlelight.
Two Oriental Turtle Doves seen, could easily be confused with the Spotted Dove in the field. One way of telling them apart is to check the tails as they land, they will flare out and the tips of the turtle dove will be grey and the spotted will be white.
There is a tree that at certain times of the year will generally yield a Yellow-vented Flowerpecker or two, but I hadn’t seen one for a few months, this morning one was back in the same tree.
A Little Heron has turned up, I haven’t seen one since April 23rd and before that I would see one almost every day so naturally I assumed they had all migrated.
A nomadic fisherman, one who roams the lakeside casting a spinner, beat me to my favourite spot for moorhens so none were visible but I did finally see one in another spot. So those were the only migrants seen today.

(May 12th HTT) The Shikra’s nest showed signs of life this morning, a young one dressed in creamy buff down was seen lying dangerously close to the edge of the nest. It finally made the right move back into the nest.
A Black Drongo was spotted sitting on a small neat nest made of intertwined twigs. I’ve noticed that drongos tend to make small nests compared to their size.
Four White-throated Kingfishers sitting in a dead tree, two of them were doing the wing-flicking display.
Migrants seen: 2 Common Moorhens and one Chinese Pond-Heron in non-breeding plumage.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Poncho Paradise

Black-naped Oriole by Yurie Ball

Well the weather really is interfering with the work, more specifically the rain is. I don’t mind the discomfort, a poncho can keep me dry but the birds are keeping quiet and undercover and are more difficult to find. The important one’s are the migrants at this time of the year and the only one’s that have not been affected by the rain are the water birds. Of the migrants the Common Moorhen is going to be the easiest to keep a check on as it saunters up and down the shoreline searching for food come rain or shine (Last year I saw the last one on May 16th.) Some Chinese Pond-Herons are still showing up but I feel that these are birds that started their migration from farther south. But the other shore birds such as snipe, herons, little and grey, sandpipers and egrets seem to have left already, some stragglers may pass through but that’s about it. Last year the Mango rains started on May 11th. , this year May 4th. .

(May 7th. HTT) Rather amusing to see a Black-collared Starling try to cope with a plastic bag, circa 1ft.X 1ft., it finally did manage to struggle off the ground with it and flew off. Some birds do use odd material in building their nests.
A Chestnut-headed Bee-eater was seen on the telegraph wires, I almost took it as a juvenile Green Bee-eater with its yellow throat but then saw the dark gorget. I don’t often see it in the area.
I forgot to mention that the White-throated Kingfishers had started to flick their wings in display about a week ago, the idea must be to shown the white wing patches, they do stand out and they were doing it again today.
A Little Grebe was seen in one of the smaller ponds, they’ve been pretty scarce this year. I think the increase in human activity around the lake can be blamed for that.
Three pairs of Fulvous-breasted Woodpeckers were seen in different parts of the area, also a pair of Rufous Woodpeckers were seen.

(May 8th HTT) The Common Koels still very noisy during the heavy rain and the Plaintive Cuckoos persistent in their calling, four or five going at the same time. They are mostly using their descending call but I have noticed that if I make their three note ascending call they will often reply with it.
Migrants seen: 5 Chinese Pond-Herons, 2 Brown Shrikes, 8 Moorhens and one Thick-billed Warbler.

(May 9th HTT) A male and female Golden-fronted Leafbirds were seen flying to and from their nest carrying food on the inward journey, obviously feeding young. I couldn’t actually see the nest as it was covered by leaves. Otherwise nothing unusual although the count wasn’t bad, 50spp seen and 17 identified by call.
Migrants seen: 1 Black-naped Oriole, 1 Thick-billed Warbler, 1 Barn Swallow, 1 Chinese Pond-Heron and 1 Moorhen, almost a mass exodus of Moorhens since yesterday.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Mango Rains have set in

Special birds at HTT over the years

Bar-headed Goose (26.11.2005) Anser indicus
Northern Sparrowhawk (21.2.2004) Accipiter nisus
Amur Falcon (2.11.2005) Falco amurensis
Northern Hobby (20.10.2004) Falco subbuteo
Water Rail (17.10.2006) Rallus aquaticus
Black-tailed Crake (24.3.2004) Porzana bicolor
Spot-billed Starling (19.2.2007) Saroglossa spiloptera
Golden-crested Mynah (25.11.2004) Ampeliceps coronatus

(May 2nd HTT) That patch of woodland that I discovered the other day is a gem! It’s home to a host of birds and some of them quite special, at least birds that I don’t see everyday elsewhere in the project area. One is the Asian Paradise Flycatcher male and its amazingly flexible tail which seems to have trouble keeping up with it as it performs aerobatic flights after insects. The Yellow-bellied Warbler always lets me know it’s around with its loud, high pitched tinkling song. The White-crested Laughingthrush which becomes more visible there than anywhere else. The Black-naped Monarch with its loud monotone trill that lets you know it’s around and a pair of Shikras which at the moment are nesting about 15 metres up at the top of a tree. I spend about an hour each morning confined to just this small area.
I’ve always know that White-breasted Waterhens can become quite eccentric come breeding time but three I came across this morning took it too far – or should I say too high. I heard them calling then realised that the calls weren’t coming from ground level where one would expect too find them. I looked up into the trees and there were three of them strutting around on branches at the top of a very tall tree caterwauling and ‘wokking’ at each other, quite amusing to watch.

(May 3rd HTT) The weather today was reflected in the bird count, miserable, 46 species seen and 9 identified by call, the drizzle persisted most of the morning. Even my woodland site was as quiet as the grave, the birds were keeping their heads down. Except for the Common Koels, the mating urge still upon them, the males were chasing the seemingly reluctant females from tree to tree uttering their earsplitting calls.
Some Chinese Pond-Herons, in their resplendent breeding plumage, are still passing through and our brown and white one, I’m assuming it is the same one, joins them while they are there.
Also a few pairs of Red Turtle-Doves can be seen and heard at this time with their hoarse, throaty ‘croodle-oo-croo’.

(May 4th HTT) When my sentences start getting longer and really saying nothing much then it was probably raining that morning, as it was this morning, and I’m trying to fill the requisite space in my Diary before I present it to you.
Due to the rain I decided to concentrate on the migrant species as it is that time of year again and the resident species will still be there when they are gone. Also it could be that a passage migrant might be the bird that will bring the number of species I have documented in the area to that tantalising number of 250 species. That didn’t happen today but the migrants spotted were: Chinese Pond-Heron (3), Little Egret (1), Common Moorhen (10), Barn Swallow (1), Thick-billed Warbler (2), and Brown Shrike (1). At the end of the morning I finished soaked to the skin (I forgot my poncho) and nothing much to show for it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Drumming up competition

Tree Sparrow by Yurie Ball

(April 28th HTT) More rain last night and by the time I got out this morning there was just a light drizzle which disappeared after the first half hour. The overcast sky persisted until nearly 10am, so it was quite a pleasant, cool morning.
A Blue-bearded Bee-eater made its presence known with its coarse language, gutteral croaking noises, I then spotted it sitting on a bending bamboo frond. It is a big bee-eater at 35 centimetres.
Saw the lone Pond-Heron again but this time it wasn’t alone, it was sitting high up in a tree with another pond-heron, this one was in full breeding plumage so probably won’t stay long.
I’m so full of myself! I heard a Shikra calling so called back to it and gradually it came to me, think again Ball! It turned out that it was coming to its nest which was in the top of a nearby tree and it eventually settled itself onto its eggs. The nest was an untidy collection of twigs. I have what I’m sure is a unique calling ability and this was brought about by my brother as we were somersaulting around a lawn as kids, his shoe clipped me in the teeth and chipped the two front one’s (I have since forgiven him). But this incident now allows me to produce these calls through the gap in the teeth. But I have to admit, some birds will come to any old noise out of curiosity.

(April 30th HTT) Today there were more Brown Shrikes than I’ve ever seen in one morning, there were ten of them, four together. Two of them seemed to be displaying which I thought unusual, I was under the impression that they waited until they got to their breeding grounds before they started that.
Just after I thought we had seen the last of our Barn Swallows a flock of 20+ were seen this morning. I do hope that the lonely one I’ve been seeing joins them in their northerly flight to their breeding grounds.
A pair of Rufous Woodpeckers were seen inspecting a hole in a tree and I’m fairly certain they didn’t dig it out themselves. It was in a pretty obvious place and I’m sure I would have seen them at work if they had.
There are quite a few young birds about, six young Coppersmith Barbets seen in various places around the area, ten Green Bee-eaters also dispersed around the area and three Red-wattled Lapwings trotting along the water margin. These delinquents weren’t obeying the parent birds, whenever there is a hint of danger they are told in no uncertain terms to keep under cover. Meanwhile the parent birds were dive-bombing me and Suk my assistant was laughing her head off, I don’t know why but they never attack her.
In the last 15 visits I have seen the Ruddy-breasted Crake 13 times. I’ve had people who have come over with this bird on their lists as a ‘special’ and I haven’t been able to show it to them, sometimes we heard it but that’s not good enough. Now that it’s promenading most mornings no one is coming to see it, I think that is a prime example of “Murphy’s Law”.

(May 1st HTT) Now that I know the area the Yellow-bellied Warbler prefers it is easier to locate. It’s still elusive but at this time of year it sings a lot so I know it’s still there.
A White-browed Piculet was seen drumming madly on bamboo and that started off another two, each in nearby bamboo thickets.
A lesser Coucal gave a display of how much can go into producing a pretty mediocre call. The body quivers and the neck arches up then forward and down, the quivering is during the hiccupping part and the arching is during the hooting part.
The female Shikra was sitting on the edge of her nest peering down at me peering up at her
Last and least, there seem to be a lot more Tree Sparrows around than I ever remember seeing before, in this particular area.