The Rice Paddy Ablaze

It’s that time of the year in Thailand when rice farmers set fire to the remnants of the recently harvested rice crop. They have started the job in the Ratchaburi rice paddy but fortunately there were no ill effects as I took a stroll this morning. It’s such a problem that General Prayuth, the generalissimo , appealed for restraint on his Friday night talk to the nation – in the north, in particular, the consequences of this needless ritual are verging on ecological disaster.

The issue for me is whether the rich scrub which lines the rice paddy’s irrigation canals will be decimated or allowed to flourish. It’s currently home to significant numbers of reed-warblers, warblers, prinias and cuckoos and first thing today at every step I took I could hear the calls of Oriental & Black-browed Reed Warblers, mixed up with calls of Thick-billed Warbler and possibly Dusky Warbler too; in recent weeks I have also got my eyes on a pair of Lanceolated Warblers too. I hope the scrub is not burned because it really is wonderful habitat.

Top bird this morning was a Wryneck but I was also pleased to see a lot of Red-rumped Swallows. Even more pleased to be able to add this species to my Thai list because when I checked, it wasn’t there. I thought I had recorded it at the reservoir but obviously not. Anyhow what made recognition possible was its highly visible whitish rump which on closer attention had faint hints of a very light peachiness. In winter its red rump appears white. This makes it possible to distinguish it from Barn Swallow which has what appears to be uniform black/dark blue upper parts and no white or red rump; both have tail streamers so these don’t help. So a first addition to my Thai list for 2015! Elsewhere a female Plaintive Cuckoo popped up and flew off and lots of Plain-backed Sparrows. In recent weeks I’ve also seen Black Kites, Eastern Marsh Harriers,a solitary Greater Spotted Eagle and lots of Black-shouldered Kites.

It was also interesting to note that some farmers had started to irrigate their fields. This will undoubtedly draw in waders and who knows what might drop in. Interesting times ahead in the blazing rice paddy!

I’m pretty busy due to a combination of family, work and study commitments, a most fortunate state of affairs I hasten to add, but sadly, one which really limits the amount of birding I can do. Personally I am very happy stretching my legs in the rice paddy which tends to be the extent of my birding at present so no complaints.

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