To be honest I’m lost for superlatives in order to describe this latest stint on Koh Man Nai as part of Phil Round’s ringing operation. This time a comparatively short stay of five nights allowed for four and a half days of ringing between 25 – 30 April 2014. And the birds just kept coming and coming with our penultimate capture being a Ferruginous Flycatcher, not a bird I would feel confident about seeing or identifying in the wild. Likewise the first rarity of this stint: a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher; in fact we processed about ten of these.
In amongst the pittas and flycatchers, the bird which made the biggest impression on me, and on my fingers, was the Tiger Shrike: a flash git with an insatiable appetite for death and destruction! It swoops and kills, a real thug and bully. I watched it slaughter a cricket and we gathered the remains of a number of smaller birds which had been “shriked”. For this reason we were very active in checking the nets.
Tiger Shrikes seemed to be everywhere on the island and of course we netted a fair few, so undoubtedly a major passage in terms of volume for what is otherwise an uncommon bird in Thailand. Believe me, extricating these monsters from the net and then ringing them was at times an agonising process and all our fingers bear the evidence of their assault on us. Of course getting the bird in the ringer’s grip is the key to avoiding pain: neck between index and middle fingers of left hand, while the rest of the hand keeps the wings under control. As I learned, however, Tiger attacks the soft flesh, gets it trapped in its bill and starts to yank and pull. Agony! I can’t think any other bird I have handled which presents such a challenge – those beautiful Ruddy Kingfishers with their impressive, long “stogies” can grab skin but it is painless and nothing more than a scrape. Tiger for all its savagery is a bonnie bird and it was good to get close to it in such numbers.
Lizards were also predating the spring traps we had set for ground birds: Blue-winged Pittas in abundance and a fair few thrushes. My only sense of disappointment was not to get a Fairy Pitta but we did get plenty of Blue-winged and a few Hooded. I completely understand why pittas captivate so many birders’ imaginations. I was amazed to see the Blue-winged Pittas feeding around our quarters and they could usually be seen on the ground when we did net rounds.
Andy Pierce has “eagle” eyes and he spotted a Little Bunting one morning flying around the concrete sides of the small reservoir/water trap. I don’t believe I had ever seen any species of bunting in Thailand until then and it was kind enough to hang around for long enough to enable a shot or too. Always nice to see these birds in the wild as opposed to in the net, although it would have been nice to net it and get it in the hand.
Just simply an amazing experience and opportunity; some more birds that were processed during these few days: Chinese Blue Flycatcher (female), Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Siberian Thrush, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Slaty-legged Crake, Ruddy Kingfisher, Black-capped Kingfisher ( a first for the ringing operation), Lanceolated Warbler, White-throated Rockthrush(female), Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler and a particualr pleasure to handle a Black-browed Reed Warbler. Interestingly the flight of Sakhalin Leaf Warbler appeared to be over with Pale-legged Leaf Warblers being the dominant species.