Saturday, 9 June 2012

Black-headed Woodpecker

Finally at the umpteenth attempt and with a steer from Nick Upton I bagged Black-headed Woodpecker in the dipterocarp forest at Wat Khao Look Chang in Phetchburi Province. What a beautiful bird, almost crested, with the male showing a beautiful red rump. In fact I saw five of them. In the end they were very confiding. In better light they would have provided great photographs. I had to contend with a downpour and then grey gloom as daylight faded. Fortunately I had my PVC camouflage poncho (80 baht in Klong Toey, Bangkok!) and my much more expensive dry bag so I was able to protect my optics from the elements.

I had some playback so I used it. This is the first time I have used it. It did not produce immediate results, in fact it drew in what looked like a Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush which would have made a great shot had I been set up. I am not sure whether the playback had any effect whatsoever. I had to work hard for this woodpecker and it took a couple of hours to get one in my binoculars.  Possibly the playback enabled me to recognise the bird's call; I went in the direction of the same sound; it definitely didn't come to me! So I am not sure about the playback. It was, however, a very satisfying moment when I finally saw the bird's beautiful and unmistakeable plumage, followed quickly by another and then another and then a couple more.Thai lifer #358. A Spotted Owlet came in to check out the commotion.

This is a species that is usually easiest to see in the North. Wat Khao Look Chang, however, is one area where it can be seen. I hope to revisit and try to get a shot of it. A real, sublime beauty.

Earlier this morning, at first light, I was at Huay Mai Teng reservoir hoping for Eurasian Thick Knee. I am still hoping but I am sure it is still about. The highlight of a lovely couple of hours was 2 River Lapwing; also a brief view of a Barred Buttonquail with two chicks; good numbers of Small Pratincoles. I am trying to get a shot of a cattle egret as its rufous breeding plumage really transforms this bird - they are virtually impossible to get near to!

Now I love penguins and reckon Luc Jacquet's Oscar-winning March of the Penguins is as good a wild life film as it gets. I discovered this article in today's Guardian. It has shattered my impression of these noble birds! Do read, it's a blast!


  1. I find that the playback get the Woodpeckers 'stirred up' but they don;t come in. They are normally at the 'back' of the forest in a group of 3-4 birds. Morning is usually easier then the afternoon. I reckon this rather fragile habitat wouldn't do that good with a 'ton' of birders visiting using playback at all times.
    Better kept for the 'now and then' visit, I would think.

  2. Thanks Peter for visiting and for your comment. I am not sure about using playback, doesn't sit too comfortably with me. I doubt whether the woodies heard my tape; my phone is really low volume! I think it helped me more in terms of matching sounds to birds and being able to head in the right direction as I did my 360 degree scan.