Thursday, 31 January 2019

LBJ in Thailand

It's always exciting finding something bright and colorful (don't worry, more on that in my next post...), however it's great when you find something uncommon, or rarely seen that you have to work on an ID for, such as an overwintering warbler.... Skip back to last week when I was in the north of Thailand.

Kicking round the rice paddies I heard a contact call - not unlike the contact call of plenty of non-breeding warblers and chats you hear out here in Thailand. But something just seemed a bit unusual about this one. A bit of pishing revealed an Acrocephalus warbler and I immediately knew it was something decent. It clearly wasn't Oriental Reed Warbler or Black-browed Reed Warbler (the two commonest members of the family in Thailand) which then left a handful of possibilities (some fairly straightforward to rule out) - Clamorous Reed Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler, Manchurian (White-browed) Reed Warbler, Large-billed Reed Warbler, or Blunt-winged Warbler.

What was clear was that we needed to see the bird well, preferably get some photographs and then try and work out what it was. It was dusk and the sun was disappearing so time was of the essence, we had about 10 minutes of light left. With a bit of luck we were able to pish the bird into the open and got some photos before it got dark.

The first pic we got of the mystery Acrocephalus warbler

It wasn't going to be straightforward to ID the bird so once we hit the restaurant for dinner we started looking through the information we could get - a great website article on the "The Acrocephalus Issue (in Thailand)" ( and lots of help from my ringing/banding/birding mates back in the UK and New Zealand (thanks Tim, Ollie, and Matt!) we started reading through the details to see if the photos had captured enough to confirm the species ID one way or the other! 

Luckily, one of the photos we got enabled us to see the all important wing structure/wing formula. So we started carefully reading the literature and came to the conclusion that our bird was Blunt-winged Warbler. I've annotated my friend Bills photo to show the key features we believe confirms this bird as such. Blunt-winged Warbler is considered an uncommon winter visitor to Thailand. In fact there were few records on ebird for the species in Thailand, and no photos, so we added our sighting and pictures there. 

Blunt-winged Warbler - key features for ID

If anyone has any thoughts on this bird (agree/disagree with our thoughts) please let me know, would be really keen to get the thoughts of anyone more familiar with this species....

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Thailand 2019 - Week 2

For the second week in Thailand I was birding around two sites in the north - Doi Inthanon (The highest mountain in Thailand), and Doi Lang - right along the Thai-Myanmar border. I also called in briefly to some rice paddies that were very productive.

Doi Inthanon is rammed full of amazing birds. I didn't take too many pics, but had some great views of several sunbirds - and all stunners too (Mrs Gould's, Green-tailed, and Black-throated). Other highlights in the mountain included Yellow-cheeked Tit, Hume's Treecreeper, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Silver-eared Mesia, Bar-throated Minla, Blue-winged Minla, Dark-backed Sibia, Rufous-backed Sibia, White-browed Shortwing, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker as just a few. Tonnes of different Phylloscopus warblers which are always good fun!

We then headed up to Doi Lang where we found some simply exquisite birds such as Siberian Rubythroat, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Silver-eared and White-browed Laughingthrushes, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, White-bellied Redstart, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Sibia, Giant Nuthatch, Spectacled Barwing, and one of my favorites - Himalayan Cutia.

The rice paddies were only visited for an hour near dusk but we found several Small Pratincoles, and brief views of Yellow-breasted Bunting, but great views of Burmese Shrike, Citrine Wagtail (more usual setting than the last one I saw in South Australia!), but bird of the day here was the Blunt-winged Warbler we actually saw and photographed. A difficult bird to see in Thailand, let alone get a photo to make ID possible!   

Next week will be back in the central regions of Thailand so looking forward to seeing what's on offer this time.... stay tuned!

Green-tailed Sunbird

Siberian Rubythroat

Spectacled Barwing

Ultramarine Flycatcher

Bar-throated Minla

Chestnut-crowned Warbler
Grey Bush Chat

Hill Prinia

Mrs Gould's Sunbird

Rufous-winged Fulvetta

Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler

White-browed Laughingthrush

White-gorgeted Flycatcher

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Thailand 2019 - Week 1

The first week of my time in Thailand was pretty amazing, c250 species including some amazing birds. See what you can do in one week below...

The first stop I made was at the famous section of coast between Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia. Famous for its Spoon-billed Plover overwintering population. I was very pleased to find one of these incredible, unique and Critically Endangered shorebirds in among thousands of other birds.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - very much a record shot (phone-scoped)

It wasn't all about the one species, though and I had at least 45 species of shorebirds in the few days I was in the area. Some of the better birds (from a World and Thai perspective) included Nordmann's Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher, Far Eastern Curlew, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (national rarity), Collared Pratincole (a national mega rarity - this was the 3rd record), White-faced Plover, Oriental Pratincole (our of season record), Terek Sandpiper, Malaysian Plover, Grey-headed Lapwing, and Pheasant-tailed Jacana. I also had several Chinese Egrets.

White-faced Plover - is not a Kentish Plover!

Got some other really great birds in the rice fields and mangroves near here too, such as Yellow-breasted Bunting (Critically Endangered), along with Mangrove Whistler and Golden-bellied Gerygone.

Mangrove Whistler - not the most colourful, but a decent record. For some colour keep reading.....

After leaving the coast I moved inland to the area around Kaeng Krachan. Some of the highlight birds from here included:Tickell's Brown Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Black-and-Red Broadbill, Red-breasted Parakeet, Kalij Pheasant, Jerdon's Baza, Black Baza, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Black-thighed Falconet, Slaty-legged Crake, Bar-backed and Green-legged Partridges, Siberian Rubythroat, Siberian Blue Robin, 4 species of 'Blue Flycatcher', Orange-headed Thrush, White-crested, Greater Necklaced, and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes, and Spot-winged Starling (a rarity - I found a flock of 50 of them!).

Lots of time spent in hides watching and photographing some amazing birds. A few pics below....

Siberian Rubythroat - a great view of this skulker! 

Bar-backed Partridge

Blyth's Paradise Flycatcher

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush

Kalij Pheasant (male)

Kalij Pheasant (female)

Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush

Orange-headed Thrush

Oriental Pied Hornbill

Siberian Blue Robin

Slaty-legged Crake

Spot-winged Starling

Streak-breasted Woodpecker

Sultan Tit

White-crested Laughingthrush

White-rumped Shama

Thanks to Birding Ecotours for sending me to these amazing locations! 2020 anyone????

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

A Big Aussie Twitch - Citrine Wagtail

I've been lucky to spend Christmas and New Year with my friends Dave and Sue in Adelaide this year and the day after Boxing Day whilst enjoying watching India stuffing Australia in the cricket Dave got a message from a birder with a report of a Citrine Wagtail in the town of Whyalla, about four and a half hours to the west of Adelaide. Now this is a serious Australian MEGA, with only 4 previous (accepted) records, one other of these records was also in South Australia.

Once we got a back of camera photograph of the bird, and confirmed the record was current etc we all jumped in the truck and so started my final twitch of 2018! 

Five hours after setting off from Adelaide we stepped out of the vehicle and right into an oven. It was baking hot, 45oC and blowing a gale (so felt a lot hotter). We set off out in different directions around the wetland composed of several small waterbodies hoping to find the bird. After a short while of searching the various pools Dave and Sue located the bird on one of the back pools. After a few nervous minutes after it had vanished before I could get across from where I was, the bird suddenly appeared and we then spent the next hour or so enjoying great views of the 5th for Australia.

The Citrine Wagtail was a very worn 1st-winter bird and seemed happy enough finding plenty of food along the lake shore. It would occasionally fly about and was heard calling several times.

5th for Australia Citrine Wagtail. 

We had a nice selection of other birds whilst looking for the wagtail, such as Australian Spotted Crake (pic below) and Wood Sandpiper.

Australian Spotted Crake

After grabbing some dinner in Whyalla we drove back to Adelaide, arriving back home near mid-night. What an awesome and exciting day! Huge thank you to Dave and Sue for all their driving! (and of course for having me for Christmas and New Year!)

Monday, 7 January 2019

Thailand 2019

I'm going to be heading over to Thailand from Australia in a couple of days and am getting very excited about the numerous really cool birds that will be on offer... Here are a few of the species I'll be looking for....

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - this will again be one of my big targets while I'm in the country. Look below for a whole load more awesome birds! 

Giant Nuthatch

Hodgson's Frogmouth

Kalij Pheasant

Long-tailed Broadbill

Mrs Hume's Pheasant

Siberian Blue Robin

Siberian Rubythroat

Silver Pheasant

Silver-breasted Broadbill

Banded Kingfisher

Black-breasted Thrush

Great Hornbill

Common Green Magpie

Rusty-naped Pitta

Ultramarine Flycatcher

White-tailed Robin