My birding day began unusually early just after 0500h as I decided to investigate the screech coming from the golf driving range facing my house. I reckoned it had to be a Barn Owl and so I checked my recordings and sure enough Barn Owl it was. It very kindly flew over my house and I could make out its white mass against a dark night sky.
I had agreed to take Phil Round around my Ratchaburi haunts today as he was eager to get a recording of Plain Prinia and was interested to reconnoiter Huay Mai Teng Reservoir. It was shaping into a hot,sunny day morning when Phil arrived and after a cup of tea we headed into the local rice paddy for Plain Prinia. I'm not sure Phil got a great recording but we got a good selection of birds: lots of Black-browed Reed Warblers, Pied Kingfisher, Black-shouldered Kite, Lanceolated Warbler, a female and a juvenile Pied Harrier, Purple Heron, Zitting Cisticola, Yellow-bellied Prinia and lots of Plain Prinias. For me the highlight was a brief view of Rufous Woodpecker, which flew out of the trees as we approached. Thai lifer ⌗368, no less, thank you Phil, I would not have been able to call this on my own. I would have been able to add Lanceolated Warbler to my list too had I followed Phil out into the rice paddy. I am going out after this one in the next week.
After another cup of tea, we headed out to Huay Mai Teng. Probably not ideal getting there at 1000h but we still managed to see lots of good birds: Little Ringed Plover, Little, Intermediate & Great Egret, Little Cormorant, Whiskered Tern, Pied Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, a solitary, likely juvenile Small Pratincole, a solitary, aerial Oriental Pratincole, Grey & Purple Herons, 5 Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, 1 Bronze-winged Jacana, 1 Black-shouldered Kite, Paddyfield Pipits, Green Bee-eaters, Indochinese Bushlark, Small & Barred Buttonquail, Rain Quail, Oriental Skylark, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Pintail Snipe, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Thick-billed Warbler (heard), Richard's Pipits, Taiga Flycatcher, Martins plus all the common birds. Not a bad haul for such a late start.
Of course the stand out bird for me was Richard's Pipit. Phil sighted an initial bird and pointed out its different call and behaviour from the more common Paddyfield. The Richard's Pipit generally flies off when disturbed whereas the Paddyfield moves only a little away. However the real diagnostic is the call: the Paddyfield has a sort of "chirp" sound whereas Richard's is more of a "schreep". There is an excellent review of the differences between these species and also including Blyth's Pipit on Dave Bakewell's blog. It also helps enormously to be able to go out birding with Phil Round. I would not have been able to make the distinction unaided but once Phil had done it in the field it became much easier; I reckon we had in the region of 10 Richard's Pipits.
Richard's Pipit becomes Thai lifer ⌗ 369. I'm not going to claim Small Buttonquail as I just got a flash of a small, orange quail; work to be done here still though most importantly it was in the "usual" place. So maybe I can stake it out a little and try to get a good look in the months ahead. I am also intrigued by the presence of Martins, not sure whether they were Sand or Plain. SO work to be done here before I can add one or both of these species to my list. Good, however, to know they are at the site.
So a highly informative and fun few hours' birding. For me a real honour and privilege to be able to bird alongside the leading authority on Thai avifauna. Phil pointed out that the name of one of the local villages, Ban Nok Karien, actually means "Sarus Crane Village". This tells us that historically Sarus Crane could be found in this area. Maybe a vagrant might return one day....... Hopefully, later in the winter we'll do some ringing here.