Thursday, August 6, 2020

SARUS CRANES

 

Huai Chorakhe Mak 5/6th August, 2020

 

I started birding too late to see a Sarus Crane in the wild in Thailand. But then in 2011 a group of birds were released into the wild in a wildlife sanctuary in Buriram province.

Since then additional birds have been released and the birds have started to breed producing a number of offspring. Currently there are about 110 birds spread out in the province.

 

The area of release is called Huai Chorakhe Mak,  5 hours drive from Bangkok.

I have held off a visit until now as I didn’t  want to drive so far for just one bird.

But now I felt the time was right and so it turned out to be.

 

I did spend a night and did some birding at Sap Sadao to look for some birds with a preference for dry dipterocarp forest. It was on the slow side but Paul Farrell came down from Khon Kaen and it was fun to do some birding together. It took me 4 hours to get to this site then the following morning another 2 hours to Buriram.

 

We arrived at Huay Chorakhe Mak early afternoon. A very impressive visitor center which included a watch tower had some welcoming staff receiving us.

 

They explained that the birds disperse in the early morning but at the reserve up to 16 birds can be seen out in the large field. The fields have suffered from 3 years of drought which hasn’t affected the Cranes. The Cranes are not fed but are surviving well without assistance.

 

The released birds have rings on their legs but the naturally born birds do not have such contraptions. We saw several birds with and without rings.

 

 



 

Around the reservoir is a bicycle lane…I am not sure how long it is but I would say at least 15km. There is also a dirt road for motorized vehicles.

 

At another end of the lake/field there are several buildings for staff and government officials. All in a nicely landscaped area with nicely fenced boardwalks and another solid watchtower.

 

There were quite a few birds in this area  as it still held some water.

The area is recreational and I must say very nicely done.

 

I spend the afternoon and an hour the following morning to check things out.

 

62 species of birds is not bad for this time of year and seeing how few birds one actually see in the fields and on wires if felt like all the birds had gathered here.

 

The roads in Buriram were really good. Wide and without potholes.

 

On the way back to Bangkok I drove over Sa Kaeo, Prachinburi and Chacheungsao provinces.

The roads were also good though road construction hampered the flow in a few places. It seems that Thailand is building and improving roads just about everywhere. Hopefully the country will open up to the outside world in the not too far a distance.

 

 

 


 Bird list

 

 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Birding trips out of Bangkok!

Daytrips out of Bangkok

The following are a few sites that I regularly take visiting birders to. I often do one site in the morning and another in the afternoon and sometimes even fit in one midday. 

Depending on the time of year number of birds seen will vary. Most migrants are here from September – April yet there are others that only visit in May-August. 

I find it very fulfilling for people on business or others with limited time circumstances to invest in a guided trip with someone that not only knows the birds but also how to get around and has years of experience living in Thailand.

Fields of Latkrabang, Bangkok:

My local patch and a gem in the city concrete with still rice fields and scrub present. The roar of the traffic in the background and airplanes lifting to the sky is subdued a bit and the birds present are clearly heard. Many a good wetland birds as well as warblers and other birds have been recorded.
On a normal morning I average 70-80 species. 

1.       Experimental ricefields at Pathum Thani:

This site is very good for taking pictures from the car as the fields are crisscrossed with roads
A normal morning produce 50-60 species depending on the season. My personal list is 110 for the site. Typical wetland birds are abundant such as Red-wattled Lapwings, Asian Openbills, Egrets and Pond-Herons, Weavers, Stonechats, Pipits, Prinias, Brown Shrike, Jacanas, Common Moorhen etc
The site is easily reached with a normal pick up at 5:30. About 30 minutes drive from Bkk.

2.       Military Academy in Nakon Nayok:

The site is about 100km from Bangkok but an easy add on after having visited the site above first. At the Academy, which is situated next to forested hills, you will add a few birds not found at the ricefields. Blue-winged Pitta is common May-July and I have even seen an Eared Pitta. June-July Malaysian Night Heron is found in the early morning. But the easier ones are Black-collared Starling, Vinous-breasted Starling, Indo-chinese Bushlark, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Black-naped Oriole, Lineated Barbet, Green Bee-eaters and White-throated Kingfisher. A direct drive to here from Bangkok would take an hour and a half or slightly more.

3.      Bangpra, Chonburi:

A protected area with a large reservoir and surrounding woodlands. Birds are pretty abundant in all habitas but when the water level is very high there is less to see.
I do this in a combination with fields and nearby hills so the list for the morning usually is pretty good.

Hoopoe, Chestnut-capped Babbler, White-crested Laughingthrushes, Common Flameback, Indian Roller, Bright-capped Cisticola, Grey-breasted Prinia, Lineated Barbet, Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Oriental Pratincole, Ashy Woodswallow, Common Iora, Black-crested Bulbul and a lot more to be expected

4.      Bangpoo, Samut Sakorn:

A coastal site with mangroves, hinterlands and a walkable pier into the Gulf of Thailand.
The site is filled with Brown-headed Gulls in winter as well as waders that are best seen during low tide. The site has recorded over 200 species as the mangroves also serve as a resting place for migratory birds. The early morning is nice and cool but midday usually very hot. Lots of locals visit here to feed the gulls and to dine at the restaurant at the end of the pier. I often visit here midday in between Bangpra and later  one of the wetland sites.

Collared Kingfisher, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Oriental White-eye are common resident birds. In winter loads of waders abound.

Rice fields of Latkrabang:

My list for the site is at 132 species. It is easy to get to if following the Hot Spot as marked on eBird.
Lots of wetland birds as well as scrub dwelling critters. Some of my 'best birds here' has been:
Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Baikal Bush Warbler, Eurasian Wryneck, Siberian Rubythroat, Bluethroat, Spot-billed Pelican, Grey-headed Lapwing, Baillion's Crake, Slaty-breasted Rail, Watercock, Greater Painted Snipe etc.

Some common birds seen: Pheasent-tailed Jacana, Asian Golden Weaver, Indian Cormorant, Javan Pond Heron, Asian Openbill,  White-breasted Waterhen, Magpie Robin, Asian Pied Starling etc etc


5.      Pahktaley and Lampakbia, Petchaburi:

This is the main site for daytrips Nov-April. One of the best sites in the world for wader watching with huge numbers and incredible diversity. Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Asian Dowitcher, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Malaysian Plover, White-faced Plover, Chinese Egret…are the main targets but the shorebird list usually end up 30-35 species seen and sometimes even higher.

The wetlands in the area help to add a good numbers of birds. Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Black-browed and Oriental Reed Warbler, Freckle-breasted Woodpecker, 3 species of Weavers, Painted Stork, Black-capped Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher and many more.

Day count around 80-90 species

City parks:

There are several parks that can be visited for a morning walk: King’s Park, Lumpini Park, Train Park being the easier ones to access. These parks all hold similar species and can be very rewarding for a first timer to the birds of Thailand.


1-4 days trip

The very best combination of such a trip is to visit Paktaley, Lampakbia and the fields of Petchaburi along with Kaengkrachan National Park. The latter is Thailand's largest National Park and holds an amazing array of wildlife. The park is also situated in the province of Petchaburi. I have seen 487 species of birds in this province alone. You can not go wrong spending time here. 

The park offers easy walking and by using the car one can cover a lot of ground in a short time. The surrounding areas outside the park also hold a lot of birdlife and there are several permanent hides and waterholes where one can enjoy the birds at close range and take pictures. 

The trip normally enjoys the services of Baan Maka Nature Resort which in itself has a lot of wildlife aside from being picturesque   and lush. 






Monday, July 20, 2020

Deep South in July




A WEEK IN THE DEEP SOUTH OF THAILAND 6-12TH, JULY 2020

By Peter Ericsson

Finally, after more then 3 months of not going anywhere overnight I had an opportunity to do so.

Benjamyn Weil, a keen birder and a friend, had set out on a long journey from Bangkok to the deep South and back. We had agreed for me to join him on part of his trip.

I flew down to Trang where Ben picked me up in his nice pick-up truck. Our first stop was Thung Khai Botanical Gardens near to the airport and city itself.

It was late afternoon but surely something should be about.

It was so nice to see green lush vegetation and to hear some sounds not heard back home. Stuff like Banded Woodpecker, Blue-winged Pitta, Grey-capped Woodpecker, Lesser Green Leafbird and Crimson Sunbird elated my being.

There is a canopy walkway in the Gardens but this time of day and year was not very productive for birds.

Here is a list of what we encountered: https://ebird.org/checklist/S71187382

After the birding we went to our hotel which was pre booked and went out for a nice Thai meal. 

Day 2. We started out our journey towards the border town of Satun but halfway there we turned off Eastward towards Khao Banthad Wildlife Sanctuary, Phattalung, where neither one of us previously had been.

We got there early and parked at the end of the road. Here we stood in an open area surrounded by stands of trees and took in what we could. Again, Banded Woodpecker was singing from the top of a tree, a Violet Cuckoo flew overhead while vocalizing. Chestnut-winged and Puff-throated Babblers were in the lower scrub and Red-throated and Blue-eared Barbets were in the tree tops. The Blue-eared race in the South is a potential split and is also called Black-eared by some.

We then entered the trail. Didn’t see much to be honest but the potential felt great.
2/3rds along the trail I decided to sit down on a log by a stream while Ben kept walking.
5 minutes later I heard the unmistakable sound of a Blue-banded Kingfisher approaching.
I got ready and was able to see it flying low over the stream and passing right next to me.

Later on, I told Ben, who promptly set out to wait for the bird to show again.
He had just about given up after 40 minutes of waiting when the bird came back in the same manner as earlier on.

Along the way out we passed the office buildings where people now were about. A bit further down we were stopped and questioned by some officials as to our intentions. Ha! Well, it didn’t take long to explain and pose for some pictures like we were some kind of celebrities.

List: https://ebird.org/checklist/S71217191

This is the wet season and while we never were really hindered by heavy downpours the skies often looked gloomy. As we checked in to our hotel in Satun town, bordering to Malaysia, it did rain heavily. A little midday rest and it cleared so time to visit the mangroves for the special birds there. (small tidbit....next to the elevator buttons there was a contraption with toothpicks in it...a sign said to use the toothpicks to press the buttons due to Corvid 19)

As it was, the mangrove boardwalk was closed off due to the Corona virus. Not sure why to be honest but closed off it was. So, we hung around outside  and got to see the Cinerous Tit, Copper-throated Sunbirds but not the Sunda Woodpecker.

Neither Mangrove Pitta nor Brown-winged Kingfisher was calling but none of us really needed to see either.

https://ebird.org/checklist/S71220795

Day 3. This morning we had a longer drive towards one of the 2 main sites we wanted to visit.
Paul Farrell had recommended the site and it does have an impressive bird list.
There was no accommodation at the park so we had to check in to a small place almost an hour from the park in Sabayoi. The park is located in both Songkhla and Yala province and we visited the Songkhla side.

There were lots of construction going on. It was impressive to see and we were saying how nice it would be to come back and stay in the park. Ha! All the buildings being built were for the Park officials. The park is about to become an official National Park.

We did our best but was not allowed to walk the one trail we had in mind. There were elephants about we were told.

Nevertheless, our two target birds, Plain-pouched Hornbill and Large Green Pigeon both did show in the late afternoon though none of them stopped for a picture.

This time of year, the Cuckoos are singing a lot and we had Drongo-Cuckoo, Plaintive Cuckoo and Brush Cuckoo singing in chorus it seemed. The Brush Cuckoo (Rusty-breasted) is not easy anywhere further North of the deep South but is a common bird all over Indonesia.




Another seldom seen bird is Brown-streaked Flycatcher. Here we had an adult feeding a young at close range. Also a few different bulbuls and flowerpeckers were feeding in a flowering tree.

A highlight for me was when a woman generously offered me some ‘Golden Pillow’ durian.
This is the best tasting durian and hard to refuse.

https://ebird.org/checklist/S71251132


Day 4. There has been trouble in the deep South for many years now and as an outsider one can only follow the official narrative though the locals will tell you another side to the story. That creates a bit of a concern which is amplified with many checkpoints on some of the roads. However we never felt any danger or cause for concern.

So, another long drive back to San Kala Khiri National Park for the day.

This morning we got to see about 50 Plain-pouched Hornbills flying by on their way to their breeding grounds presumedly. This is a bird that only differ from Wreathed by the lack of a dark line through the gular pouch. I had only seen it once before many years ago so this was quite special.

I wanted to find a Checker-throated Woodpecker and Fiery Minivets for my Thai list but it was not to be. Instead I got my first views of Orange-backed Woodpecker in the country.

I also got a lifer in the form of Rufous-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher that flew over the stream at incredible speed. Not everyone holds this as a species but eBird do.

It was a long day but having come all the way here we just had to see it through.
https://ebird.org/checklist/S71279955

Day 5. If we were able to fly like the crow our next destination wouldn’t take all that long but as the area is riddled with rugged mountains and thick jungle we had to back track and eventually end up at the end of the road in a very remote area of Yala.

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Bang+Lang+National+Park,+Yala/6.3276257,100.9248304/@6.0596926,101.2608166,239599m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m9!4m8!1m5!1m1!1s0x31b45fead0a3c72d:0xc99899d81e933e56!2m2!1d101.3712939!2d6.0205223!1m0!3e0

The next 2 days were amazing. We had located a Homestay and got one room each.
The owner, a very nice women with an interesting history took good care of us.
She explained how the Malaysian resistance army (communist) had fled Malaysia as they were persecuted by the British as well as the Malay government and they had set up a strong hold in the jungles of Bang Lang. We met several senior citizens who now reside in a small village having left the jungle.
They were quite happy people and showed no resentment etc. Instead they felt they had fought for a good cause to liberate their country for a good cause.
We were shown a museum that was well worth the effort.

In the area there are also indigenous forest people called the Asli.
They look rather Papuan and I was amazed to find out they still live inside the forest in humble dwellings. We met a few of them as they come to the village by boat to work in the rubber plantations. These people do not want visitors and will quickly relocate if being found by strangers.

First bird of note was a Black-thighed Falconet on a post in front of the house. How about that?

A kilometer from the Homestay the trail begins. It is easy to walk but the smaller trails were very wet and not really walkable this time.

In here we got to connect with more true forest dwelling birds and though it is very challenging to see things well the list kept growing. Benjamyn was extremely happy to see a Rhinoceros Hornbill perched and got flight pictures as well.

Black-yellow Broadbill was common as was Red-bearded Bee-eater! Black-red Broadbill just before the trail head and out on a pole in the river a Lesser Fish Eagle.

As for me, a trumpeting Helmeted Hornbill was my definite highlight as it flew across the forest and over the nearby river. What a bird!

We had several Plain-pouched Hornbills, a pair of Great Hornbills as well as Wreathed Hornbill. A great place for these birds!


On our second day while having a midday rest a truck with 4 fully armed Border Patrol policemen showed up. Someone had reported a suspicious vehicle in the area: ours! Ha!
All they found in the back of the truck was some camping gear and no contraband or illegally hunted animals. They were all civil and apologized for the inconvenience.


Many other birds in here but not many pictures.

https://ebird.org/checklist/S71337714

https://ebird.org/checklist/S71342085


Day 7. A little sleep in and then off towards Had Yai to drop me off at the airport. But along the way we stopped briefly at a field in Pattani so now I have a list of birds from all the provinces of Southern Thailand.

It was a good trip. Could have been longer but that just means there is reason to go back!


More pictures here: https://pbase.com/peterericsson/deepsouth2020





Friday, May 29, 2020

Birds at home!

The first really long rains kept falling through the night making me decide against going out this morning.

But after rains birds sing!

First one as usual is the ever so noisy Asian Koel. I don’t think there is a single birder that doesn’t know it by sound.

The distinctive whistles of Malaysian Pied Fantail follows. We have a resident pair in our garden and it is always fun to watch these little buggers hunt insects.

The Eastern Jungle Crows, (Large-billed Crows) fly over our house in the early morning and some of them make a little stop on the rooftops or trees across the road.

The loveliest singer of them all starts singing really early. Magpie Robin whereof we have several pairs in the immeditate surroundings. They often come for a drink of water or on the lawn to look for grubs.

Greater Coucal is also mostly active in the early morning and you can hear its low pitched booming call. It must be a master of disguise cause as large as it is and as common as it is in urban areas it isn’t always readily seen.

Our 3rd Cuckoo, Plaintive Cuckoo, has 3 different vocalizations. Once learned one realize how regular it is. Not always so easy to see but not that hard either.

The incessant call of Brown-throated Sunbird grabbed my attention. A male singing from the top of an ornate palm tree. The song always reminds me of Chiffchaffs from Northern Europe in that they keep at it seemingly forever.

The Olive-backed Sunbird however has a more simple contact call but is a more common then Brown-throated and often visits the flowers in our garden. It also does its explosive drill like song.
I only had a fly by Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker but its rapid tick-tick-tick-tick-tick makes it hard to go unnoticed.

Great Myna and Common Myna are loud birds always around. They like our little vegetable garden as well as the lawn. But they also enjoy telephone wires and top of buildings. I still haven’t achieved the level of telling them apart by sound.

Common Tailorbird with its repetitive call note is another bird always in the area but due to its small size and feeding behavior not always obvious.

Common Iora is always here but often silent and hidden in the vegetation. It has several sounds but is not hard to identify once learned.

The appropriately named Coppersmith Barbet with its one tonal call is a daily bird. A real winner with its striking colors and exotic looks.

So then our 2 resident doves: Spotted and Zebra……they are always here though Zebra is more common then Spotted. Zebra is one of those birds the locals like to use for song bird competition. Seems a bit out of place but a past time hobby for some I suppose.

We have 2 species of Bulbuls on our daily garden list and so it was this morning as well.
Yellow-vented, always in pairs, with nice musical notes. When I first started birding I was awakened by a rich song and I thought it was a Straw-headed Bulbul since I had heard that it would be the best singer of the Bulbuls. The song was coming from inside bushes and it was difficult to see it. So later when I found out I was surprised. Anyhow, the Straw-headed is no longer found in Thailand and very rare anywhere else as well.

Streak-eared Bulbuls are not very musical. Just a chatter. Very successful birds they are in terms of survival rate and I guess that is due to its rather dull appearance, poor vocals and bold behavior.

The last birds to add to the symphony this morning was our 2 sparrow species. We have a group of about 10 Eurasian Tree Sparrows but mixed with them is a pair or 2 of House Sparrows. The latter has a harsher sound that stands out from the chattering from the Tree Sparrows.

All this was enjoyed along with home baked Italian bread made by my son Steven and some fantastic aged Castello Alp Selection Classic Bergkase.

Sounds can be found at www.xeno-canto.org
And the birds here: https://www.facebook.com/peterericsson56/media_set…
https://ebird.org/checklist/S69820757

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Black-browed and Oriental Reed Warbler

The Oriental Reed Warbler is a form the Great Reed Warbler. It is the most common
Acrocephalus in Thailand and quite easy to spot in the morning. It also is very vocal and 
thus readily found.


            It also enjoys to forage in trees some thing that Thick-billed Warbler also likes so caution
          to be taken as to the ID. These 2 birds song sound a lot a like though the call note is quite
          different. Also the ORW has a prominent eyebrow but is lacking in Thick-billed Warbler.






         ORW is found primarily in Eastern Asia. It breeds mostly in China and southern Russia but
         spend the winter in the warmer areas of primarily SEA.

          Call note commonly heard: https://www.xeno-canto.org/462181
          Song:  https://www.xeno-canto.org/462826


          THICK-BILLED WARBLER

           A bird often associated with water but not always reeds. Can be found in more wooded areas.

            The taxonomy is still confusing and the bird keeps being shifted around.

           Call: https://www.xeno-canto.org/508626
           Song: https://www.xeno-canto.org/485180

          





           BLACK-BROWED REED WARBLER

         A common Acropcephalus. It is readily distinguished from ORW by smaller size, warmer
          brown color and a distinctive black brow. Manchurian Reed Warbler has a similiar look but
          not as strong a black brow, longer tail and longer bill.

         It is a Far Eastern bird with its breeding grounds in China and summer grounds primarily in
         SEA.

         It is very active and fun to watch.

          Call: https://www.xeno-canto.org/510519
         
          Song: https://www.xeno-canto.org/545596

          




Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Baikal Bush Warbler




This is a bird that I badly wanted to photograph.  It took me a long time to even see one well,
let alone have one come out in the relative open.                                                                       
           Eventually it paid off and these images were taken from my car as the bird emerged from
           the reeds into the scrub.

           These birds are real skulkers and this was actually only my 3rd proper sighting of the species.
           I had seen it at Bangpra, Chonburi and at Num Kum, Chiang Mai prior to this.





Rather heavy streaking on the breast. 


           Baikal Bush Warbler is another Locustella found in Northern and Central Thailand.
    It breeds in the southern parts of Far Eastern Russia and northern parts of North Eastern China.
    I don't hear it often in mid winter but towards March/April it starts to vocalize a lot more.

Here is the normal song: https://www.xeno-canto.org/549297

And here the rather subdued contact call: https://www.xeno-canto.org/430370


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler and Lanceolated Warbler

 


It took me quite some time to develop an interest in various types of Warblers. There are so many other more obvious birds full of color and easier to see then this often rather skulky group of birds.

But evidently one starts to wonder what is making all those sounds  that eminate from the reed beds so armed with curiosity and a lot of trial and error the quest began.

This spring before these bird migrated to their breeding grounds in Siberia etc I spent more time getting to know them and trying to learn both sounds and behavior a bit better.


One of the more attractive one is the Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler aka Rusty-rumped Warbler.

It belongs to the family of Locustella warblers but this family which now has been split in to 2 clades.

Helopsaltes is a genus of passerine birds in the grassbird family Locustellidae.
A comprehensive molecular phylogenetic study of the grassbird family Locustellidae published in 2018 found that the genus Locustella consisted of two distinct clades. The genus was split and six species were moved to the newly erected genus Helopsaltes with Pallas's grasshopper warbler (Helopsaltes certhiola) as the type species. The genus name combines the Ancient Greek ἕλος/helos meaning "marshy ground" and ψάλτης/psaltes "a musician playing a string instrument". Wikipedia




At my local patch, Lat Krabang, the bird is found in the reed beds, sometimes venturing out into the rice fields and sometimes into the adjacent scrub. Early morning is always best to try to catch a glimpse and as in the photos I obtained, the usage of a hide is just about a necessity. This time my car served as a hide.

The strong streaking on the back is a give away and can only be confused with Lanceolated Warbler at LK. However Lanceolated seem a lot less showy and almost always appear on the ground where it runs around like a little mouse.

The white-tipped tail feathers and the rusty rump are other give away features for Pallas's though the white tips seem to often be worn.

It is primarily an Eastern Asian species but is also found in some of the Central parts of Asia.

The bird has many sounds and once the more frequent ones are learned it is surprising to realize how common the species is.

https://www.xeno-canto.org/462895

 And here is the song even if not the full version.

https://www.xeno-canto.org/553037

LANCEOLATED WARBLER


The bird has heavy streaking on the flanks and throat.

It seems a lot less numerous then Pallas's but that could also be due to being overlooked. I seldom hear it singing but more often a chuck which is very similar to many other warblers.  

Here is the regular call:  https://www.xeno-canto.org/545597

And here is a faster call which might be the alarm call:  https://www.xeno-canto.org/546603

And here is the very typical Locustella song:  https://www.xeno-canto.org/286274

These birds are found more Westerly then Pallas's but their summer grounds are exclusive to SEA.

From Wikipedia:

 The Lanceolated warbler (Locustella lanceolata) is an Old World warbler in the grass warbler genus Locustella. It breeds from northeast European Russia across the Palearctic to northern Hokkaidō, Japan. It is migratory, wintering in Southeast Asia. The genus name Locustella is from Latin and is a diminutive of locusta, "grasshopper".[2] This refers to the song of the common grasshopper warbler and some others in this genus.[3] The specific lanceolata is Latin for "spear-shaped" and refers to the streaks on the breast.[2]



 


Monday, November 18, 2019

Bazas



Jerdon's Baza is not a very common bird and certainly not perched as was the case while
driving out from Kaengkrachan midday early November this year.

Black Baza is the other Baza found in Thailand and serves as real eye-candy.