Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Days Like These

One of the things that has changed since I started taking photographs is I have stopped listing the birds I  observe and have stopped recording details of unidentified birds. In a way I have started to rely on photographs for identifying birds I cannot identify. This is not wise as I don't always manage to capture a photograph of the bird.  No doubt the fact that I have largely been looking at raptors of late is also a reason. However I must resolve from here onwards to start recording more in my notebook.

Saturday afternoon after teaching I headed out once more  to Wat Norng Blah Lai in Petchaburi. However I had barely left home than I spotted a couple of black kites swooping down on wet rice paddy where hundreds of openbills and cattle egrets were attempting to feed and take it easy. This prompted further investigation as I had never seen black kites so close to home before. In the final analysis I counted 12 black kites, 8 of which were perched on nearby trees. Who needs to travel to see birds in Thailand?! This really is one of the truly great things about birding in Thailand...... you never seem to be very far away form good birds.

Further down the Petchkasem Highway I had to pull to the side as once more I saw a large bird in the sky hovering above Manao Corner, where the Petchkasem merges with the main morth-south highway in and out of Bangkok. Another black kite, to qualify this with "sadly", seems inappropriate. So onwards I went through  Khao Yoi to Wat Norng Blah Lai where it was very quiet on the eagle front. I spotted one greater spotted eagle with my scope but as I attempted to get near it took off. Then this eastern marsh-harrier, a male I believe, performed a little for me as it hunted over the rice paddy.

eastern marsh-harrier, male, circus spilonotus, Wat Norng Blah Lai, Petchaburi Province, 27.02.10

There were plenty of black kites, a black shouldered kite and a female pied harrier was doing her rounds in a distant part of the paddy. Many commoners: large-billed crows, openbills, cattle egret, little egrets, pied starlings, great egrets, red wattled lapwing, plain prinias etc. There was eagle activity but it was distant. Last weekend's window had been taken over by thousands of ducks, under human control, who were getting fattened up for slaughter on the remnants of the rice harvest. No doubt the eagles would relish a bit of duck hence the human presence to scare them away.

At the end of the day I saw an amazing sight. I was looking at a very fine black kite through the scope, it was sitting on the rice paddy and from nowhere a slithering long snake, possibly a king cobra, pounced but the kite got away just in the nick of time. I really can't be sure what species of snakeit was but it was long and slimmish. It slithered off quickly into the undergrowth when it had failed to land its prey. No love lost in nature.

Sunday afternoon I returned with Luna, my wife and Benedict, my son. She said she wanted some air and there was plenty of wind. It was also scorching hot. We fell on to this black kite almost immediately.

black kite , milvus migrans, Wat Norng Blah Lai, Petchaburi Province, 28.02.10

Next we met Mr Parn, a Thai raptorologist and very serious photographer. He told me the days count had been 6 greater spotted eagles and a couple of imperial and steppe eagles. He told me I needed to be out early and very kindly took me to a place and pointed out a dead tree and he told me an imperial eagle perches on it every day from about 7:00 am to 9:00 am. Parn reckons the eagles will be gone soon. I strongly urge you to head for Parn's web site Don't let the Thai language deter you. Use some common sense and click some links and you will see some truly excellent bird photography. We saw a pied harrier, male, and a black shouldered kite as well as many commoners. I really want to get the male pied harrier in my sights. I think it is an eerie looking creature!

Monday was a public holiday so no school but, alas, I felt so tired that I lay in bed and played with my wife and son. The unexpected arrival of two of Luna's friends late morning prompted me to head out and not feel guilty of being neglectful! I decided to head for the sandspit at Laem Pak Bia, a very important shorebird site which I hadn't yet visited. En route I drive through Khao Yoi and went via the ponds in the Wat Takrao area. I got very excited because I thought I sighted a darter in a pond. In fact the photograph confirmed it was clearly a purple heron so I was a little deflated. A darter would not have been unheard of in these parts but it would have been unusual.

My favourite ponds alas were no more; I am not sure if this was intentional drainage or  a result of natural evaporation due to heat. In the past I have seen a lot of good birds here including pheasant-tailed and bronze-winged jacanas, cotton pygmy geese, purple swamphen, and little grebe. Until water returns there won't be much for them here.

A barn swallow obliged in front of the camera.

barn swallow, hirundo rustica, Khao Yoi, Petchaburi Province, 01.03.10

Elsewhere in the ponds I counted 78 lesser whistling ducks. Closeby there were 3 juvenile pheasant-tailed jacanas. It was also noticeable that the pond herons were starting to develop their breeding plumage finally making it possible to distinguish Chinese and Indian. I also observed two Indian cormorants with their distinctively tipped bills. 

So onwards to the Laem Pak Bia sandspit. Unfortunately it was very windy so I was only able to stay on the lee side of the sandspit. The Gulf of Thailand was very choppy, rough in fact. There were not that many birds either but there was one Chinese egret. I have some photos but I don't think they do the bird any justice or would help anyone with identification as I was a fair way away. I got a good shot of this Malaysian plover, hardly a rarity but a good bird nonetheless. Notice the rings which I enquired about to Phil Round who advised the ringing had been done by the Department of National Park and by a scientist as part of a research project. Phil commented that the ringing is fairly pointless as these birds don't really go anywhere!

Malaysian plover, charadrius peronii, Laem Pak Bia sandspit, Petchaburi Province, 01.03.10

My list shows a common sandpiper, three Malaysian plovers, various terns including this shot of a lesser crested tern. I thought initially this was a greater crested tern due to its dark gray body but the bill, its orange/yellow hue is what makes me call this a lesser. I have looked at the Oriental Bird Image database and reckon this is correct. The greaters  have unmistakably yellow bills....... of course I could be wrong!
lesser crested tern, thalasseus bengalensis, Laem Pak Bia sandspit, Petchaburi Province, 01.03.10

Later I headed to the Deserted Building nearby and I make this a Nordmann's greenshank; there is a disctinct two tone to the bill and the lighter head markings together with the yellowish leg colour marry with Robson's description. Of course it could be something else so I'll put a question mark to indicate "putative" or in plain English, "not sure". Please feel free to advise!

Nordmann's greenshank (?), tringa guttifer, Laem Pak Bia, Petchaburi Province, 01.03.10
(see comment below, this is not a Nordmann's Greenshank but rather a Marsh Sandpiper)
black-tailed godwit, limosa limosa, Laem Pak Bia , Petchaburi Province, 01.03.10

Finally a black-tailed godwit. There are often 400 + plus black-tailed godwits loitering around the deserted building. 

More to come!

1 comment:

  1. I saw a Nordmann's Greenshank this morning and I can safely say the above photograph is not of a Nordmann's Greenshank! There may well be two tones on the bill but the overall bill is not stout enough. I would say this is a Marsh Sandpiper as the Common Greenshank also has a stout bill. This fellow had a much slimmer offering. Ooops a revision!!