Tag Archives: Asian Emerald Cuckoo

Big Year 2018.

Big Year 2018

My target was 100 species for January to kick start my fifth Big Year. A certain Mr. K. had a 100+ on the first day (hats off to him), so it should be easy peasy. Wrong! I was not even half way by mid month. Lim Kim Seng initiated the first Big Year in 2014 as a friendly competition to see how many species we can see in a calendar year. It turned out to be a case of who was the first to find the rarer species and share it with the rest as soon as possible. Meals and outings with wives and girlfriends were often interrupted when a mega rare bird turned up.

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Nice of the Asian Emerald Cuckoo to stay over the New Year.

The key to a good start was to tick off the rare visitors before they made their way back and chase down the hard to find residents. First thing we did was to tick the Asian Emerald Cuckoo before the caterpillars were gone. It may not be coming back anytime soon. The erratic Chinese Hwamei may not be around for long, so getting it was a bonus. I was a day late and dipped on the rare Yellow-browed Warbler, one of the rarer visiting tree warblers. Well you cannot win them all. The Booted Warbler looks like it will be included in the 2018 Checklist and may not be coming back anytime soon. So ticking it early is a no brainer! The bonus at the Kranji Marshes was the super sensitive Black-capped Kingfisher.

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The Booted Warbler is getting use to our presence. It often flies down to the lower thicket to forage giving us a chance of getting open and topside views like this.

I revisited Kranji Marshes on 27th to celebrate Jimmy Chew’s birthday with the rest of his friends. Ended up with a male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and a hard to find resident Greater Coucal at the car park.

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This Yellow-rumped Flycatcher is on its way back north but decided to drop over the Kranji Marshes for a rest.

Things were looking better after a visit to the flooded grasslands along Bulim Avenue. In one morning, we had a Von Schrenck’s and Cinnamon Bittern, Greater Painted and Common Snipes and a Watercock, thanks to Goh Cheng Teng, Lester Tan and Adrian Silas Tay. I don’t have many of these last year.

Swintail Snipe at Bulim

A Swintail Snipe over Bulim Grasslands. A Swinhoe’s Snipe was shot there last month by Lester Tan.

A few days later, I returned and was very surprised to find a Black Kite resting in the open field, a species I have not seen for over 20 years.

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A rare Black Kite thermaling over Bulim on a hot morning. It was seen flying past a few days later. A lucky find!

I went to chase the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo at the Learning Gardens, thinking that it would be an easy tick. But it turned out to be my jinx bird. Luckily all was not lost. A of small flock White-rumped Munias were feeding on the dried bamboo flowers at the Bambusetum. These are rare residents but its wild status is not certain even they are the correct sub species found here.

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Are these wild munias or released birds? At least they are the right sub species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then Meena Vathyam got us a global rare tick in the form of a Band-bellied Crake by the Symphony Lake. This is only our second record.

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A great opportunity for those who missed the first record to get this globally rare crake at the Helliconia Gardens, thanks to Meena Vathyam.

As I will traveling, I will be ending the month today at 108 species with a Drongo Cuckoo at Hindhede Quarry. Thank you all for your sharing the news and the alerts with me. Welcome to the Big Year and Happy Birding all!

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May be a resident Drongo Cuckoo taken at the Hindhede Quarry. 

Ref: Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing Co, 2013

 

 

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Khao Yai Revisited

I first visited Khao Yai National Park in the mid 1990s in between my business trip there. Pat Komol was the one who took me there. The one sight I still remembered was a bare tree near the Visitor’s Center, all yellow, covered by Black-crested Bulbuls. There must be 200 of them. I have been back a few times to enjoy the great birding there. There were always new species to see like the Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo.

Blue Pitta

Early this year, photos of the Blue Pittas were posted on Facebook by Sree and Millie Cher. This was enough for me to make a short trip up there with my wife in late February. The Blue Pitta is one of the more common resident species in Thailand. Khao Yai is one of the easiest place to see them at their stake outs. Kaeng Kra Charn and Khao Sok are the other national parks where they are locally common.

The old Don Muang Airport is the better airport to use. AirAsia flies there. I rented a car from the Eurocar and use goggle maps to get me to the Terrazzo Resort outside the park. It was an easy drive on Highway 1 and 2 and a new road to Pak Chong at the northern part of Khao Yai. Guide Rittichai who lives in Pak Chong knows the park like the back of his hand having been running tours there for over 20 years with his company Green Leaves Tours.

Puff-throated Babblers

We went for our target first thing next morning setting up our hide by 7 am. Puff-throated Babblers, White-rumped Shama, Orange-headed Thrush, Siberian Blue Robin and a Hainan Flycatcher entertained us. I was ready for a long wait based on the experience of my friends that came earlier. But Rittichai said that will not be long. Then without funfare the Blue Pitta appeared twice before 8 am. What a elation! Now we have the rest of the day to go and look for other species.

Siamese Fireback Male

Driving along the quiet forested roads in the morning, you are always on the look out for something surprising. This morning a male Siamese Fireback was our surprise. It stayed by the roadside and gave us a few wing flaps for good measure. It was a lifer that was not expected but most welcome.

Patch of Scandal Wood trees

Sandalwood Trees at the entrance to the Haew Narok Waterfall were infested by caterpillars.

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They in turned attracted the cuckoos. A few local bird photographers were already there when we reached the place, excitedly pointing out a friendly Orange-breasted Trogon perching nearby.

Violet Cuckoo

Violet Cuckoo Female

Both the male and female Violet Cuckoos were in a feeding frenzy. These are winter visitors to Thailand. I would not want to pass up shooting a deep purple male at eye level close up even though I have some shots taken at Jurong Eco Gardens a few years back.

Asian Emerald Cuckoo Female

A female Asian Emerald Cuckoo was spotted. We had only one record of this species in Singapore. So this is a good chance for me to get some shots.

Banded Broadbill Male

Just as we were about to leave, Rittichai heard the calls of the Banded Broadbill from the forest edge. Lucky for us it was curious and came out. I photographed this broadbill at Panti Forests in the 90s. It was the only available photo of this hard to find broadbill then and was used for a bird guide on birds of SEA. I had to wait almost 20 years to get my camera lens on it again. This unexpected find really made our day.

Limestone Wren Babbler

My second target for the trip is the Limestone Babbler. I saw this at Cuc Phong National Park more than 10 years back but was not able to photo it due to bad light and skittish behavior.

Limestone Krast at Saraburi 2

The limestone krasts at Saraburi has a small population and this is only an hour drive from Khao Yai. This particular babbler was a prize catch when it was first discovered on another part of Thailand. Its habitat is so unique among the bare limestone rockery where food sources seem non existent. How do they survived?

Finding the exact spot took Rittichai a bit of driving around but once we got to the place inside a wat, a short playback was enough to get these inquisitive babblers to show. You have to love their streaky brown and buff plumage. Mission accomplished and now we can concentrate on enjoying the rest of Khao Yai and all the new attractions that sprouted in the past few years and the food. Many thanks to Guide Rittichai for taking us around at such short notice.

Ref:  Boonsong Lekagui, Philip D. Round. The Birds of Thailand  1991.