Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pray for the prey?

Excellent photo borrowed from Jonathan Kwong

(December 18th. HTT) Not a bad morning – one new bird and it made a grand but deadly entrance to the list. It was the Crested Goshawk (45cm). I first saw it as it downed a bird close to the ground and then flew into the low branch of a nearby tree. It flew back down to its prey and it was then I caught sight of its brown, wavy barred underparts, the crest was hardly noticeable. A couple of soldiers passed us on a motorbike and saw what had happened and the pillion passenger jumped off and made his way over to the struggle. The Goshawk flew up clutching its prey but the soldier was coming close so it lost its nerve and dropped it. The soldier picked it up and brought it over to us, it was a Spotted Dove (30cm) and the upper thigh was mangled. He laid it on the ground and then, much to our surprise, it launched itself into the air and flew off. One could hardly call it lucky and its chances of survival, with that mangled leg, would be very remote.

This is becoming ridiculous, the only Black-headed Bulbul seen this morning was a grey morph – it’s become an embarrassment reporting this ‘rare’ bird day after day! But then again, it must say something about the breeding of these birds, at the moment I’m not quite sure what but as they become less rare maybe they are producing more of themselves, possibly?

A Bright-capped Cisticola presented itself close to us and gave us a great view of all its markings down to the streaked back, rusty nape and streaked head (winter plumage), pictures don’t do it justice. Its relative the Zitting Cisticola was also seen nearby and I have to say that when someone points it out and asks me what it is I quite often get a cynical look when I tell them. Someone even went so far as to say that I was making up the name, until I showed them the book. I have to say that besides misnomers there are some pretty weird names given to some birds.

As I have mentioned before the Siberian Rubythroat can be difficult to spot due to its habit of skulking in low bushes and undergrowth. Well today a male made a liar out of me. It paraded its scarlet throat and cherk-ed at me for one whole minute and there was nobody to show it to, isn’t that always the case?

And finally a Thick-billed Flowerpecker put in an appearance. Now this bird has nothing to recommend it, it is the original LBJ (little brown job) and is almost certainly overlooked, I’ve probably only seen it seven or eight times. The one thing that brings it to one’s attention is the silly little wiggle of its bottom as it is busily feeding its way through the foliage.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's hard to swallow

(December 11th. HTT) Weather-wise things have warmed up a little, this morning it was 14c at 7am. Bird-wise things were also pretty good with 56 species seen and 10 identified by call.
We always have a few Wire-tailed Swallows in the area and there are usually two that seem to like the octagonal’Sala’ that sticks out into the lake. Their problem is that every year they fly under the sala, with mud in their beaks, to build a nest and yet I have watched them, year after year, give up before the nest is built or at least before any young are produced. Today two were sitting on the wooden pier and then one at a time they would make an exploratory flight under the sala. ‘The Book’ says thet they breed between January and November and I have watched them throughout December at least making these exploratory flights, so let’s assume that they nest all year round and they need to if those two are any example. (photo above was taken with a digital camera through the lense of my telescope)
The large fruiting tree that I mentioned last time was full of Coppersmith Barbets (20+), plus 2 Lineated Barbets and as we arrived 15+ Thick-billed Pigeons flew out, a very pleasant surprise!
The Red-wattled Lapwings that had remained hidden in the growing rice for the last few months had their concealment harvested away and there were 30 or so left standing stock-still in the stubble trying to act as if they weren’t there. They did a pretty good job of it because, at first glance the field appeared to be empty, then I picked out one and eventually realised the field was full of them.
A small flock of Blue Magpies drew my attention as they churred and chattered away, it was their alarm call. They took no notice of me and continued to flutter from branch to branch in a fairly big tree. Suddenly a big ginger tom cat sprang from the lower branches and sprinted off into the undergrowth.
Another favourite tree of mine is what I call my ‘Breakfast Tree’, I sit there sipping my cream of something soup and just wait. Today it produced a flock of Japanese White-eyes, 2 Golden-fronted Leafbirds, a Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, a Grey-headed Flycatcher making itself obvious with its aerial a acrobatices, usually from the lower branches of the tree and an assortment of Bulbuls.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Ka Mu Phuket - morning mist over the mountains

Red Avadavat

(November 28th. Mae Hia) MH turned up trumps today for guests Steve and Marie-Cecile and the bird of the day was the Red Avadavat. We got excellent views of this bird and it posed for Steve’s camera. Just to put the icing on the cake it brought along a lady friend and posed again. Altogether the numbers were up (67 spp.) compared to the past few weeks of numbers in the 50’s. Other birds of note was a single Black Eagle seen on the last two visits, a very dainty Cinnamon Bittern in a very bright cinnamon coat, never seen one quite so bright, especially at this time of year, the Crested Serpent Eagle and the Crested Honey-Buzzard. It is always nice to show an unusual bird to visitors and today it was the grey backed Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius Schach), nominate race (Vietnam). It is ‘old hat’ for me as it has returned to the same spot for at least the last 3 years and is waiting every morning to greet us. Our local resident Long-tailed Shrike (L.s.longicaudatus) is much more striking.

(November 29th. KMP) The numbers this morning were a bit disappointing 35 species seen 11 identified by call. But Ka Mu Pukhet is a beautiful site in a rugged mountain setting so the lack of birds was somewhat made up for by the spectacular views. That is not to say that we didn’t get some interesting birds. One that was new on my checklist for that area was a Japanese Sparrowhawk – this one was brought to our attention by the mobbing calls of various small birds that took exception to its presence, we spotted it as it flew away. Another striking bird that caught our eyes was the Emerald Cuckoo, the upperparts,head and chest an irridescent green sparkling in the sunshine set off by the orange-yellow beak and the black and white barred underparts. It’s not a shy bird so we were able study it at our leisure.
Birding is not without it surprises and on one occasion as we disembarked from the car there was an almighty racket all around us us. This was caused by 4-5 Junglefowl fleeing the area from the surrounding trees. Another pleasant interlude was brought about by a Little Spiderhunter. It had discovered a patch of red flowers in a tree and it was going into paroxysms of delight as it flew, and sometimes hovered, from flower to flower uttering chip-chip-chips of excitement. Also spotted were some Maroon Orioles, a Black-naped Oriole, and a flock of Crested Treeswifts soaring in the sky overhead.

(December 3rd. Huay Tung Tao) The numbers this morning were 57 species seen and 11 identified by call. At 7am the temperature was a very cold 12c. Surprise, surprise – another Red Avadavat seen, this time at HTT, I have gone years without seeing one and now 2 in one week! One fruiting tree attracted quite a few birds this morning and amongst them were 2 Lineated Barbets, 2 Coppersmith Barbets, 6 Blue Magpies, 3 Golden-fronted Leafbirds, a flock of Japanese White-eyes and some Black-headed Bulbuls one of which was a grey morph. There are always quite a few Siberian Rubythroats around but the trouble is that they are skulkers so, although we heard 4 or 5 we didn’t see one. Three different flocks of White-crested Laughingthrushes were heard cackling away at the same time in three different parts of the area so there is no shortage of these birds at HTT. A single female Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker was seen prospecting for grubs in a dead tree, it seemed to have hit the jackpot as I saw it pulling out five grubs from the same branch. Another skulker, the Ruddy-breasted Crake was heard but not seen, it has a drawn out trilling call. A single Grey Heron lifted heavily off a tree stump some way out in the lake and four Rufous-winged Buzzards were also seen.