Happy New Year Chestnut-capped Babbler!

I wasn’t expecting any lifers when I dragged myself out of my gloom and doom this afternoon. Huay Mai Teng reservoir rarely disappoints. I was having fun even before I noticed the bird; helpfully it was with two Yellow-eyed Babblers so that species could easily be dismissed; the flash of black mask and white supercilium suggested Yellow-vented Bulbul but the bird then posed and it was clearly something else.

I got on it and started making mental notes – chestnut head, black mask, white supercilium, black legs, brown uppers, white breast with fine dark streaking……. . It hung around for a while so I was quite happy to stay on it and enjoy the view and its song. I committed my notes to written form once the bird flew but only a cursory look at Robson was needed to confirm Chestnut-capped Babbler. I was almost disappointed on reading further in Robson that it is ‘common’! Whatever, it is a lifer, a first for the year and wonderful to get a lifer on my first birding sortie of 2014

For the record my first bird of 2014 was a Whiskered Tern; there were good numbers of these feeding off the surface of the reservoir which was as smooth as a mill pond. An Intermediate Egret was edging its way along the water edge at the main launch area – the water level is still high so the terrain favoured by Rain Quail and Small Pratincole is still under water.

A lot of  good birds – Ashy Drongo, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Long-tailed Shrike, Yellow Bittern, Rufescent Prinia, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Pied Kingfisher, Taiga & Asian Brown Flycatcher and Purple Heron. No sign of any raptors and likewise no Rain Quail or Small Pratincole.

A Yellow Wagtail, a fairly regular presence here during the “winter” months, got my attention on account of its stand out white supercilium. It didn’t hang around for long but I made a note to check out the sub-species categories as I was curious about whether this might have been one of the rarer sub-species. Those of you in the know will appreciate, as I now do, that this is a can of worms. All I can say is what I had listed as “motacilla flava”, meaning Yellow Wagtail, is no longer listed in the official Thai bird list and in its place we have “Eastern Yellow Wagtail” with the binomial “Motacilla tschutschensis”. I am not the greatest student of taxonomy – however I have adjusted my list accordingly to accommodate this change. Good-bye “motacilla flava”!

Sad to note the presence of mist nets inside the grounds of the water management body. The nets were closed but the presence of bits of birds confirms the netting has no ornithological purpose.

On return home I checked out Chestnut-capped Babbler in one of my favourite Thai birding books, The Birds of the Bangkok Area by Philip Round. This is what Phil has to say about it: “A very smart babbler with a clown-like face pattern of chestnut cap, broad white supercilia that meet on the forehead, and black lores and eye-patch…….Chestnut-capped Babblers inhabit open scrubby areas, and areas of tall grass usually but not always close to water and are often found in similar situations to the Yellow-eyed Babbler. They avoid open paddy lands and tend to be commoner……….. where marshy areas grade into hilly country. ” Not much wrong with that – breathtakingly precise!

This babbler goes onto my list as #383 – #382 was Siberian Blue Robin which I saw on an unblogged visit to Ban Song Nok hide before Christmas. Unblogged because I reached the conclusion that I couldn’t photograph a bird to save myself. I struggled to get a decent image of Common Flameback that was feeding on bananas….all part and parcel of my recent doom and gloom!

Happy New Year and happy birding in 2014!

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