Sunday, 7 February 2016

Spoon-billed Sandpipers Galore!

I've been having some great encounters with a few different Spoon-billed Sandpipers over the last few days during a Birding Ecotours customized tour of Thailand. After my India trip, and Baer's Pochard twitch I decided to go to Pak Thale before my tour to check out the area and see what the birds were doing this year. Once there I found at least two un-ringed/un-flagged Spoon-billed Sandpipers, and got some good views of both birds. I was pleased as managed to get some better phone-scoped shots than my previous visits to the site.

Fast forward to the back end of this week (after an exciting few days in Kaeng Krachan - more on that later) when the tour arrived in the Pak Thale/Laem Pak Bia area for a couple of days looking for waders such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other goodies like Nordmann's Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher etc. We were not disappointed on out first day with very good views of a fairly close Spoon-billed Sandpiper. It gave close views as it preened on a little mud island on one of the salt pans. Very satisfying views.

Then yesterday we went back to try for them again on our way through to Bangkok, time of day was not ideal and it was blowing a gale but I managed to find two birds together, one of these was leg-flagged and the other was 'clean'. It was clear that one of these birds was fast approaching our position so we all got into the dirt and lay in wait for it to come closer. Amazingly the bird came and fed within 12ft of us! This was my best view to date and it finally allowed me to get some photos with my camera rather than relying on phone-scoping it!

Needless to say we were all mighty happy with this view! Some photos below followed by some info on the ringed bird.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper U6

Spoon-billed Sandpiper U6

Spoon-billed Sandpiper U6

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - un-ringed bird (IPhone-scoped Swarovski ATX95 and IPhone 6s)

A quick search about the ringed bird photographed above - U6 - shows that it is a 'head-started' bird.
  • Born in July 2015. It was cared for in its early days until fledging and left its natal area of Chukotka, Far East Russia on 5th August 2015.
  • It was seen and photographed at Yuboo Island, South Korea on 28th September 2015 where it was present until 28th October 2015 (also in the presence of several other birds). 
  • It was next seen and photographed at Pak Thale, Thailand on 29th November and I saw it there yesterday, 6th February 2016!

More details of the incredibly important conservation effort to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper can be found on the Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper website here.

If you want to come and look for these stunning waders and a load more amazing birds why not join me on a Birding Ecotours trip in 2017? The shear number of waders in this area is simply staggering and is made up by over 40 species, including some globally threatened species! 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Big Spotty Cat

One of the non-avian highlights in India was undoubtedly the stunning Indian Leopard we saw whilst up in Corbett National Park. Hot on the heals of the Bengal Tiger we'd seen a few days previously, and not to forget the two Jungle Cats we'd also seen prior to this new cat sighting.

It was a huge beast and lay totally unconcerned on a huge boulder beside the river where we watched it for a good 20 minutes, unlike the Tiger where there was a crowd of people all jostling for position here we had the big cat to ourselves. Spectacular. We also had another Leopard trying to get inside our camp for a deer tea too!

IPhone-scoped Indian Leopard

Friday, 22 January 2016

BAER'S POCHARD!!!

Sorry for the delay in posts/news over the last three weeks. Internet and time during my tour was hit and miss, will catch up with posts on India soon (It was great! - 400+ species including some of the best birds in the world, and some more feline activity...), but for now I'm back in Thailand. Have been having a bit of R&R in Bangkok the last couple of days and have just started a 10 day trip to a few places.

First up on the list of places to go was Bueng Boraphet about 4 hours north of Bangkok, for one reason. Baer's Pochard. One of the rarest ducks in the world. Three birds had turned up on the lake whilst I was in India and I decided to head straight across for them once I'd organised myself. Baer's Pochard used to be fairly frequent, even a common winter visitor to Thailand but the recent population crash (last 20 or so years) has seen this species become listed as Critically Endangered - I think there's only been a couple of records in Thailand in the last 5 years.

I heard an interesting talk by Dr Debbie Pain (Director of Conservation at the WWT) whilst at the Oriental Bird Clubs AGM in September last year and afterwards thought my chances of seeing this species were getting lower and lower by the minute! Lets hope all the work going into conserving this species works...

So late yesterday afternoon I got a boat out onto the lake and saw the three birds with a flock of Ferruginous Ducks, Common Pochard and Tufted Duck. Views were distant and not great and the light was practically gone so I decided to go back again this morning...

I headed out just after first light and after an hour or so of twisting through the various channels seeing numerous really nice birds we picked up the Aythya flock. It was apparent that the Baer's were not with them! After an hour or so of searching the surrounding area we picked them out and manoeuvred the boat towards them a little.

There was a pair of birds present, the third bird was out of sight still. I managed to get the following shots on my Iphone through my Swarovski ATX95 - not an easy task handheld on a rocking boat with moving ducks! But at least I've seen them and hopefully they are clear enough. I didn't want to be the one to flush them!

Baer's Pochard (male)

Baer's Pochard (female)

Baer's Pochard (male left and female right)

Sunday, 10 January 2016

TIGER!!!

After the tiger mentioned in the previous post we had incredible views of a female Tiger the following morning. Here are a couple of photos...

We first had her walking about along a lake edge, before she walked out and across a plain - fantastic views. Something I'll not forget!









Monday, 4 January 2016

The (Rare) Owl and the Pussy Cat (TIGER)

Just taking a quick opportunity to write a blog post while I have some internet. The first two days of the Birding Ecotours Northern India Tour that I'm leading have got off to a great start with the finding of a bit or a rarity in the form of a Pallid Scops-Owl in Delhi yesterday, and today with a sun-bathing Bengal Tiger! No pressure for Day 3 then....

All photos from my IPhone and reduced to upload due to internet speed.

Pallid Scops-Owl in Delhi - a bit of a rarity!

Pallid Scops-Owl in Delhi - a bit of a rarity!

Bengal Tiger having a siesta! 

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Enjoying a Citrine Wagtail

Spent some time today enjoying fairly close views of a Citrine Wagtail in Sultanapur, India. Here are a few photos of it... just one of many birds enjoyed today.






Friday, 1 January 2016

Bharatpur Bird Photos

Here are a few more photos from my time at Bharatpur ahead of  the tour commencing in a couple of days. Having some great birds here, with very little effort!

Indian Courser - stunner! (IPhone-scoped)

Eastern Great Egret

Bar-headed Goose - wild ones for once!

 Common Myna

Grey Wagtail

House Crow

Spot-billed Duck

Jungle Babbler

Little Cormorant

Oriental Magpie-Robin

Purple Heron

Ruddy Shelduck

White-throated Kingfisher

Yellow-footed Green Pigeon

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

INDIA BIRDING!

Well I've made it over to India to end 2015 and start 2016. I'm hear for a Birding Ecotours Northern India trip that I'm leading in early January. Really looking forward to the tour but came over early for a couple of days birding in Bharatpur beforehand. Have just finished one and a half days birding in the park which was great fun. Some highlights (reduced file size so they load!) below:

Black Bittern

Bluethroat

Brahminy Starling

Indian Thick-knee (IPhone)

Orange-headed Thrush

Purple Heron

Sarus Cranes

Siberian Rubythroat

Yellow-eyed Babbler

Friday, 18 December 2015

Some Australia Tour Photos

Here is a selection of photos taken during the Birding Ecotours Australia tour that I guided... The trip report is online here, as well as a recce that was carried out in the South West.

The tour commenced in Hobart, Tasmania, moved across to Melbourne, Victoria where we completed a circuit of the state, briefly popping into New South Wales. We then flew up the coast to Brisbane, Queensland visiting the world famous O'Reilly's before continuing to Cairns in Tropical North Queensland where we completed another circuit.

As anyone who follows me on Twitter/Facebook the tour was really enjoyable and we saw some really incredible birds - some of these are shown in the photos below... If you're interested in joining the 2016 Australia tour please get in touch!

Australia is a wonderful place, not just for birds, but a wide range of other wildlife - as you can see from some of my recent posts on this blog and hopefully the following photos...

We had incredible looks at several of the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrots - a breeding endemic to Tasmania. This species is in serious peril with possibly less than 50 birds left in the world.

The Orange-bellied Parrots are thankfully taking up nest boxes provided but it is concerning just how few birds remain.

Forty-spotted Pardalote is another very rare bird. Endemic to Tasmania, global population is estimated at around 900 birds, maybe less, with a very restricted range on the island. Again this species is in severe need of help.

Plains-wanderer was yet another 'Mega' bird of the tour, this tiny bird is all in its own family and its closest relatives are the seedsnipes of South America! This adult female was the big highlight of a night-drive in New South Wales. 

And when it turned round and faced us you could hear a collective gasp as we saw how beautiful this bird was. Again, like the species above this species is in serious decline. We cannot afford to lose any species, especially something as unique as this bird.

Southern Cassowary was high on our hit list for our time in Tropical North Queensland, but I never dreamed we'd see an adult male with his two stripy chicks in tow! This is my favourite bird on the planet I think, and the more I see them the more that I agree with myself! An absolute stunning, prehistoric species that comes and goes like a ghost!

Here's a bit of a closer look at those cute and stripy Southern Cassowary chicks!  

It is always nice to see an owl - but to see a Lesser Sooty Owl as well as this, and manage to get a record shot of it was really pleasing. Sooty Owls have a crazy bomb-whistle call that is really scary when it decides to do it right overhead when you didn't know it was there!

Quail-thrush can be shy and skittish, so to get this Chestnut-backed Quail-thrush perched up out in the open  and singing was a real treat! What a beautiful and cryptically plumaged bird.

This Golden Bowerbird was very showy, seeing him attend his bower was pretty special.

This Great-billed Heron was seen during a really enjoyable trip along the Daintree River, such a wonderful place full of interesting wildlife. This bird had apparently just been in a fight with another Great-billed Heron, he got of lightly as the other bird got killed and eaten by a Crocodile that was attracted to all of the commotion!!!!  

A Hooded Plover at a nest in Tasmania was very nice to see. Another rare bird seen well.

Coming second-fiddle to the Plains-Wanderer on our night-drive in New South Wales were the Inland Dotterel. We saw several bird during the course of the evening. Yet another highlight!

A very nice surprise was seeing this Lewin's Rail in Victoria. This doesn't tell the whole picture though, because behind him in the vegetation were his two chicks and their mother! To see Lewin's Rail is good, to see it like this was fantastic!

We saw lots of different parrots during the tour, the Major Mitchell's Cockatoo surely has to be the best! That crest is just incredible. Just one of those birds you HAVE to see.
  
We saw lots of Pink Robins while in Tasmania, and these were a real treat, and certainly very popular. These dainty little birds were very approachable and showed well in their family groups.

Rufous Bristlebird was unusually showy as it basked in the cold morning sun. We weren't going to complain though.

This male Scarlet Robin was busy feeding up his chick that had very recently fledged from their nest in Tasmania. Yet another very popular Robin.

Superb Parrot was a nice find. This parrot has a fairly restricted global range and was a welcome addition to our trip list. It allowed very close views as it sat and preened in the midday sun.

Another parrot that is becoming rarer by the year - the Swift Parrot is another parrot that breeds only in Tasmania, wintering on the Australian mainland. We had good views at a good number of birds which was great to see. Lets hope that the management that is meant to be happening for these species actually happens so it doesn't go the way of the Orange-bellied Parrot.

Michaelmas Cay on the Great Barrier Reef was (another) real highlight of the tour with thousands of Sooty Terns and Brown Noddys on show.

We saw all Tasmanian endemics, and this flightless Tasmanian Native-hen was a bit of a brute of a bird. 

Victoria's Riflebird was a bit shy for the camera but we got some incredible views of displaying birds whilst in the rainforests Tropical North Queensland. 

I'll finish with Australia's largest owl - Powerful Owl. We saw a pair of birds on a day roost - seriously impressive, huge owls!

Common Brushtail Possum - this one was caught fighting in the street in Tasmania!

Greater Glider from Victoria

Koala - always a mammal highlight

Platypus - another highlight, we saw at least 3 on one night!

Short-eared Brush-tailed Possum

Sugar Glider from Queensland

Whiptail (Pretty-face) Wallaby from Queensland

Boyd's Forest Dragon from Queensland

The rare and restricted-range Chameleon Gecko from Queensland

Jungle Carpet Python from Queensland - full head shot

Jungle Carpet Python - head shot

Crucifix Toad - a huge highlight of the night-drive, almost as popular as the Plains-Wanderer for some!

Showing why it's called what it is! Crucifix Toad, also know as Cross Frog!

Whitep-lipped Tree Frog from the rainforest in Queensland