Friday, February 29, 2008


Common Koel (female parasitic cuckoo) photo by John Moore

(February 26th. KMP) This mountain road never ceases to produce, this morning three new species brought our figure for the area to 200 species they were the Bamboo Woodpecker, Brown Hawk-Owl and the Black Baza, and would you believe it John forgot to bring the champagne – I think he didn’t believe that we would reach that mark this morning. Anyway, champagne or not this road is always a pleasant diversion from my usual sites and this morning was no exception. The dawn chorus played like an orchestra with the Barbets forming the rhythm section and the other birds taking on the melody. The only way to enjoy this is to sit, eat breakfast and take it all in.

( February 29th. HTT) The holding pattern is over and things are coming to life. This is mostly due to the breeding season being upon us. Most birds are calling louder than usual and this applies more so to the Common Koel with its earsplitting, never-ending kow-wow call.

There are skirmishes for the best nesting holes and three in particular have provided great excitement over the past few years. One instance this morning was a nesting hole that had just ended a nesting cycle and the lucky first tenant was the Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker. Over the last few weeks I have watched it enter the hole, first to lay and brood the eggs and then making repeated visits to feed the young. This ended as the young left the nest but as you’ve probably guessed that wasn’t the end of the story. This morning the first in line for the second tenancy were a pair of Plain-backed Sparrows. The female was giving the hole the once-over and seemed to approve of it but it was not to be. A pair of Chestnut-tailed Starlings also showed great interest in this obviously up-market abode and and in no uncertain terms showed them the door. The sparrows sat on a nearby branch and looked on, if sparrows could look crestfallen that’s how they looked. But for these contenders there is no loser in this house-hunting game, each will have its turn if they show a little patience.

Also seen this morning was a stunning female Emerald Cuckoo – her irridescent green upperparts glistened brightly in the sunshine and the contrast of her orange head and black and white barred underparts came together to form a sight to behold!

So there you have it, for me we have arrived at the most interesting time of year, the songsters are at their most melodic, waxing lyrical, and the hooligans at their most raucous but either way this is how they show their feelings for their temporary or sometimes permanent partners. And let’s not forget our numerous parasitic cuckoo species, they are sneaking around looking to lay their eggs in some unsuspecting host bird’s nest, what was Nature thinking about when it created these lazy birds?

Friday, February 08, 2008

A not so glossy Glossy Ibis

The Glossy Ibis - not the actual bird we saw but a borrowed picture (not a decent camera between us)

(February 6th Mae Jo) I got a call from Paul Mackenzie, a Canadian, reporting a sighting of a Glossy Ibis (very rare in Thailand). He was staying in an up-market housing complex on the Mae Jo road and it backs onto a wetlands area. So the next evening fully armed with all my equipment consisting of pistol-grip microphone and recorder (well you never know, it might squawk or something), my binoculars and telescope I arrived at the wall overlooking the wetlands where Paul was waiting for me. It only took a couple of minutes before we spotted the Ibis and we watched it for about 40 minutes. It didn’t appear very ‘glossy’ but that was either due to worn plumage or the fact that it was evening and there was no direct sunlight to reflect off the feathers. From our viewpoint we could see over close to two acres.

Other birds seen were: 15+ Purple Swamphens, 10 Common Redshanks, 80+ Black-winged Stilts, 20+ Snipe (not sure which one’s) , 2 Little Egrets, dozens of Common Moorhens and heard the drawn out trill of the Ruddy-breasted Crake. The evening before Paul said he saw a Water Rail.

What I did find amazing was that these wetlands should exist in a fairly well built-up area bordered by a highway, another busy road that leads to Chiang Rai and this housing complex. The birds seemed perfectly at ease surrounded by the hurly-burly going on around them.

(February 8th. Mae Hia) Quite a good morning for raptors, A Peregrine Falcon was spotted sitting in a dead tree, a Rufous-winged Buzzard, a Shikra and a Crested Serpent Eagle seen and heard soaring above. The latter bird was using its full five note ascending call, the first three notes fairly fast and the last two drawn out. I’m not noted for my bird imitations but I did my best with its call and it hastened over and was obviously intrigued by this biped who was having an identity crisis, but the purpose was served and I got a closer look at it.

It doesn’t rain but it pours with Racket-tailed Treepies, I don’t see them for weeks and then, like today, they are all over the place, nice to see them. This morning I saw the biggest flock of Junglefowl I’ve ever seen at Mae Hia, at least eight females and three and a half males, one was a juvenile and was just growing into its comb and splendid plumage.