Monday, 26 September 2011

The Weekend that Was

Black drongo

I am pretty tired. Workwise the last few months have been tough and demanding and with the semester's end falling this Friday I am busy with marking and grading. So Saturday morning I did something unusual: I stayed local in the morning and sat in the bays in the golf driving range adjacent to our home. I have been reading too much of Dave Gandy's exellent blog and had hopes of Chinese or Japanese Sparrowhawks swooping on the sparrows, plus I would really like to see some migratory warblers.... alas no, much more prosaic and ordinary! 3 Brown Shrikes, a couple of Black Drongos, a fair number of Red-wattled Lapwing, lots of Cattle Egrets, a couple of Greater Coucals and lots of mynas and starlings. An amount of jostling but no predation!

Cattle Egret 

In the afternoon I took a very interesting trip into Chaloerm Prakhiat Thai National Park in the south western part of Ratchaburi province, and due north of Kaeng Krachan NP in Petchburi Province. I visit here periodically due to its proximity to Kaeng Krachan and my view that it must have some good birds because of this. On Saturday afternoon I drove to within 10 yards of three Greater Flamebacks which were at human head height on a tree. I had fantastic views plus these guys make a big sound. They were tapping away quite manically, reminiscent of cats on a scratching post. Sadly I wasn't set up and had to be content with the view. What I should have done, with the benefit of hindsight, is reverse, set up and then attempt to walk in with the rig.

Orthetrum Testaceum

I had a little walk through the forest and heard plenty of birds but frustratingly no sightings. Out in the more open part of the forest I had great views of a Common Kingfisher, perched on a branch hanging over a stream;  it flew just as I was about to shoot  and a Grey Wagtail which wasn't wanting to be photographed either. In the same area I shot this dragonfly, which aeshna5 at Birdforum reckons is Orthetrum Testaceum. 

I have to say it was uncomfortable due to the density of the flies in the forest. They were hardly deterred by my repellent!
Brown Shrike

On the way out I stopped at the dam, normally a good place to watch Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers and Olive-backed Sunbirds. The flowerpeckers were audible but nothing else was discernible until a strange croaking sound had me looking up into the sky to see a solitary hornbill. Now I had a good look as it flew over and it was too small to be a Great Hornbill. I would have said Pied Hornbill but it had no white belly or white fringing on its wings. In fact what I saw was uniform black/brown underneath and its tail feathers looked 50% white and 50% black/brown in a lateral direction; it looked as if it was moulting as it appeared very scruffy.

I have now had a chance to look at the Thai language field guide and my own view is it was probably a Brown Hornbill but as I  can't be sure I can't claim it. I would claim it had I seen white wing tips which appear to be a key field mark, but those did not register. I am also drawn this way because of the tail feathers. I had a look at  Robson's Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-east Asia, and he complicates matters by listing a Northern and Southern version of this species! The key thing is that it is first hornbill species for me in Ratchaburi province. So an interesting couple of hours.

Common Myna

Sunday I headed to Rama 2 Park at Amphawa, Samut Songkram, about 45 minutes from home. Just a notion! It is near the sea and near the estuary of the Meklong River and migratory birds must pass nearby. This was a first visit here. It's a small park on the banks of the Meklong River. It's also right in the heart of Amphawa's floating market and near some significant temples. So it is very busy area in human and traffic terms. Amphawa, in particular, is a huge draw. Lots of sunbirds and an Indian Roller but not much else..... the mandatory Asian Koel announcing its presence in no uncertain terms. I do think this little park may be interesting early in the morning. It is beautifully maintained, manicured in fact, and when I was there soft Thai jazz music was coming through the PA system in the park, really quite incongruous! The park is full of fruiting trees and lots of beautiful shrubs and these  may well be a magnet for birds. On the way out a solitary raptor glided by, just a silhouette. I couldn't help think a migrant Sparrowhawk, but on shape, especially the short bulky head and not much else above the wings, I thought it most likely was a Kestrel.

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