On the Road: Highs and Lows

Brown-headed Gull Bang Pu
Brown-headed Gull
Bang Pu

On Thursday we took Lola, Luna’s mother, to the airport in Bangkok and with the Friday being a public holiday we decided to stay over. This enabled me to hit Suan Rot Fai, the Railway Park, armed with Dave Gandy’s excellent map; my target was the Northern Boobook, a rare, migratory brown hawk owl, which has been reported here over the last few weeks. The presence of half a dozen birders indicated that I was in the right place and the appeal of this particular bird. It didn’t show although some of my fellow birders were saying that it usually arrived between 0900 and 1000h. I left at 0915h and was a bit sad. However the bird may well have flown. Who knows? Such is birding.

Lesseradjutant 026
Lesser Adjutant
Bang Pra

I have always been against the clock on each visit I have made to this park and in truth today was no different. It warrants considerably more than a couple of hours. On this occasion I walked in from the sky train station and I am glad I did this: a good test for my foot but also an opportunity to take in what this park has to offer. Most importantly there is a lot for kids – play areas, bike & boat hire, a miniature car track – and so I think next time we are in town we’ll make it a family day. My wife will enjoy the birds and also the beautiful plants and shrubs. Something for everybody.

Black-collared Starling Suan Rot Fai 14.02.14
Black-collared Starling
Suan Rot Fai

Still, lots of birds: a male Plaintive Cuckoo showed well, lots of Jungle Crows, a Black-naped Oriole and a number of juveniles, a handful of Black-collared Starlings, a few female Koels, Indian Rollers and Coppersmith Barbets and all the usual suspects. This really is an outstanding public park, remarkably well put together in terms of layout and shrubbery and we must all be grateful for those public spirited individuals who are responsible for making it what it is today. A cursory google indicates it was once  the State Railway of Thailand’s golf course; thank goodness it didn’t become high rise concrete.

Black-headed Gull Bang Pu 15.02.14
Black-headed Gull
Bang Pu

In the afternoon we drove down to Sri Racha via lunch at Bang Pu. Northing much to report at the latter but the usual plethora of Brown and Black-headed Gulls. One of these, a Black-headed I believe, was already sporting its breeding plumage and in view of the numbers of people on the pier feeding the gulls I took the opportunity to dispense with the digiscope and use the camera for “normal” photography. Fortunately the gulls were coming in really close. I really don’t know how to operate my camera unless it’s attached to a telescope!

A traffic jam on the Bangkok-Chonburi highway next to the Bang Pakong Power Plant provided an opportunity to pick out a Darter and what looked on size to be a Great Cormorant in an extensive area of marsh. An unexpected bonus in an otherwise difficult drive.Our journey took much longer than planned due to traffic jams so an intended trip to Bang Phra reservoir did not materialise. A very disturbed night’s sleep put paid to Saturday morning’s planned sortie.

Instead I sat on the veranda of our room, with a cup of coffee, and had wonderful views of an Ashy Drongo, a bird I would classify as skittish. A joy to be able to concentrate on the bird: beautiful forked tail, black-tipped flight feathers standing out from the otherwise grey uppers and tail, and a black face becoming grey with whitish lores.

A number of Yellow-vented Bulbuls and Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers were also around when another grey bird perched on a tree. It grabbed my attention; this was much darker and a look at its tail confirmed it was not a drongo; it was similarily sized and its tail was reminiscent of a Plaintive Cuckoo; however where there should have been an orangey pink belly on this bird it was whitish; black bill. “Cuckoo-shrike” I thought on account of the tail, but I must say I really didn’t know which one. It didn’t hang around for long but long enough to get a good look at it.

This, in fact,was a Large Cuckoo-shrike, a lifer no less and I attribute its identification to being able to spend time on the Ashy Drongo. I rather fancy I might have thought it was a drongo and moved on save for this encounter with the Ashy Drongo and being certain of the Ashy Drongo helped me frame the cuckoo-shrike’s size as almost the same.

In the end we went out en famille to Bang Pra late morning. As with Suan Rot Fai I’ve been here before but under time pressure. This time we drove into the Non-hunting Area and our first bird was a Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, minus its right side racket and streamer. We drove south and recorded six White-crested Laughing-thrush, truly amazing looking birds which had Luna purring. We drove on and picked out an Osprey perched on a tree and then as we progressed, in among some Open-bills perched on a dead tree was a huge Adjutant Stork. Once I got my bins on it,it was clearly a Lesser Adjutant. However celebrations were dampened by the near certain likelihood that this is an introduced bird. Khao Kiew Open Zoo is nearby and apparently they have bred Adjutants in captivity there which have either escaped or been released and taken up residence in Bang Pra. The presence of a ring on the right tibia  of my chap confirmed that humans have had their hands on this bird – therefore not a real wild bird. So no tick, but what the hell, it is as good as the real thing. It really doesn’t detract from this bird’s almost hideous, primordial appearance. we were both purring this time and our kids couldn’t understand the fuss about being quiet as I scurried about trying to get a photograph.

Nearby we picked out a Black-headed Ibis, a new bird for Luna, which very kindly flew at the point at which I was ready to shoot!

We then drove north and then west back to Sri Racha but went into the water works which contain the Bang Pra Dam. Not much in terms of birds but a Plaintive Cuckoo with its pink/orange belly showed well for us in an empty car park.

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