Bingo: Rain Quail seen but BVR….

Today I was joined by Steve Mawby from North Devon, England and we headed for Huay Mai Teng Reservoir just after 0530 this morning after some coffee at 7-Eleven. Steve had one main target, Rain Quail but was also enthused by the possibility of Chinese Francolin. Notwithstanding my recent unsuccessful attempts, I felt confident we would see Rain Quail today. I also felt there was a good chance too with Chinese Francolin. Don’t know why, just did.

We arrived in darkness and after the briefest of looks at the launch area, one discernible Little Ringed Plover,  we headed to the usual Rain Quail location at the northern end of the reservoir. We were greeted with the loud rasping of Savanna Nightjars, perhaps 7 or 8, as they flew around this area perching high on tree tops. This really is something special – an acoustic feast and well worth the visit. Like yesterday it stopped at 0630 as the first light of the day appeared and the nightjars repaired to roosts in nearby trees. No Rain Quail, however, so I guess we better stop referring to this as the “usual” place!

Having had a good look round in recent weeks my thinking was to go to the south side of the reservoir and concentrate on the western section of this large area of flat land. This was simply on the basis that I hadn’t been this way in recent weeks whereas those places I had been to hadn’t produced any Rain Quail. We discounted Chinese Francolin as we got to the entrance to the marsh. If it can’t be heard, then finding it will be equivalent to searching for a needle in a haystack. It couldn’t be heard.

We set off on a walk and first up we were detained by a couple of Thick-billed Warblers. We progressed around the grass area close to the water edge and in amongst some airborne Red-wattled Lapwing I picked out some bigger birds whose wings were not right: black primaries with white coverts and secondaries. Grey-headed Lapwing, I thought, but they came down a distance away and stayed out of sight. So we headed in their direction and saw lots of the regular, common species: as last Sunday good numbers of Pheasant-tailed Jacanas; we picked out a couple of Oriental Pratincoles in the sky too, rather early arrivals I fancy; lots of Zitting Cisticolas, a hovering Black-shouldered kite, both Paddyfield and Richards Pipits, a few Oriental Skylarks and as we walked I flushed a Rain Quail; off it went with a little burst of sound and down it came a few hundred metres away. Soon after I flushed a second and we pursued it. Sadly they weren’t calling but in the remainder of our walk we must have flushed at least five Rain Quail, good enough for Steve but I think we both agreed: BVR – better view required.

We also established the presence of three  Gray-headed Lapwing in the air but never got to see them on the ground. A low-flying Shikra was a patch tick and Steve then pulled out a Red-rumped Swallow, a lifer for me. I need to do some work on my swallows and martins, because there are also a good number of martins present but I wouldn’t know if they are Common or Pale Sand Martins. We also had a mystery bird in some reed like plants: Steve mentioned Paddyfield Warbler as a possibility; it looked like an acrocephalus but it really didn’t allow us good views. I know where I am going to go next weekend with my hide and a seat!

On the northern side of the reservoir we saw an estimated 50-60 Small Pratincoles and at the western outlying pool we had two Oriental Darters and about 50 Cotton Pygmy Geese. A lovely morning and great company.

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