Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year - from my temporary local patch in Chiang Mai!!

Firstly, I would like to wish all the followers of this blog and anybody else not indulging in the pleasure in reading this entry a very special, very healthy and a prosperous (both in wealth and birds) 2013!

For the last few days I have been experiencing the delights of Bangkok and latterly Chiang Mai. The former city I had experienced before last Christmas but Chiang Mai, up in the north, was a new thing for me. Aside from the usual temple visits and general sightseeing I've also been getting some birding under my belt. Visits were made to Doi Inthanon National Park, home to Thailand's highest mountain peak, led by Neil Scott who for the summer months of the year is the warden of the Natural Trust's Scolt Head Island Reserve in Norfolk ( I also went to Huay Teung Tao, a large recreational area fairly close to Chiang Mai that is owned by the military. Finally, yesterday I was reunited with my old Bangkok based friend, Dave Gandy (, who took me around Doi Suthep - again close to the heart of the city - packed with people and a couple of good birds  including Martens's Warbler, a bird I had never heard of before!

Today I visited a patch of land 10 minutes from my hotel in east of the city, east of the River Ping. At around 10 acres, it is surrounded by humanity with all it's garbage. The site has a lily choked stream running through it and on either side of its banks is scrubby land with a few large trees. 
 The ugly housing block that presides over the eastern end of my nameless patch
 The lily choked water course
I got there at dawn this morning and had an array of species. Wire-tailed and Barn Swallows swilled overhead alongside Himalayan Swiftlets. White-breasted Waterhens and Moorhens frequented the marshy bits. I even found a Asian Barred Owlet briefly before it saw me and powered off ploughing into a nearby tree sending every other bird piling out in the opposite direction!
 White Wagtail 
 Taiga Flycatcher
 A female Stonechat
 An immature Scaly-breasted Munia
 A non-breeding male or female Baya Weaver
Black Drongo
I'm loving my temporary patch complete with barking dogs and litter. I'll be back in the morning!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Chiang Mai Urban Birding

 Female Olive-backed Sunbird
 Spotted Dove
 Asian Palm Swift
 Oriental Magpie Robin
 Brown Shrike
Yellow-browed Warbler
More details to follow tomorrow......promise!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

First days in Chiang Mai

 Asian Barred Owlet
 Chestnut-tailed Starling
 1st winter Taiga Flycatcher
 Yellow-browed Warbler
 Asian Emerald Cuckoo
 Olive-backed Pipit
 Common Myna
Ashy Wood Swallow
Some of the delights that I have been ogling at since my arrival in this quite cool and arty city in northern Thailand.

More tomorrow.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas in Bangkok

 Asian Koel
 Asian Open-billed Stork
 Asian Brown Flycatcher
 Peaceful Dove
 Whiskered Tern
 Brown-headed Gull
 Little Egret
 Coppersmith Barbet
female flycatcher sp
I've run away. I've escaped the torrential London rain, grey skies and wind to migrate east to Thailand. Billed as a bit of rest and relaxation I will spend Christmas in Bangkok then on Boxing Day fly north to hang out in Chaingmai for a week. Thereafter, I will fly back to Bangkok then head to the coast at Hua Hin to chill for a further three days before heading back to Blighty. Whilst in Hua Hin I plan to head up to Pak Thale to see if I can spy an ultra-rare Spoon-billed Sandpiper or two. So keep tuned.

Today, I went to Suan Rot Fai a 60 hectare park that is also the local patch watched by my mate Dave Gandy, an ex-pat that has been residing in Bangkok for a number of years now. We had a good selection of birds during our morning stroll including Black-naped Orioles, Yellow-browed Warblers and Black-collared Starlings.

We also refound a strange female flycatcher that Dave had found a few days previously. This may not mean much to many of you reading this but it could be a female of the following species: Hainan Blue, Blue-throated or Hill Blue Flycatcher.

What do you reckon?

Friday, 21 December 2012

Bye Bye Bramble

 The scene adjacent to the embankment area
 Shaved to the fence
 Looks pretty severe but it will grow back
A bit of work is going to carried out at my beloved patch over the next few months largely designed to make the place more attractive to wildlife and the users of the area. 

The powers that be claim that the grassland area will be made part of the local nature reserve in the New Year. I dearly hope that happens so that the breeding Meadow Pipits have a bit more protection. We have the closest colony of this essentially rural bird to central London.

I'm so proud to have them breeding on my patch.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Scrubs update

Female Reed Bunting
Since my last triumphant posting in which I trumpeted the fact that we had achieved the magical milestone of 95 for the year at The Scrubs, changes have occured.

Three nights ago, a drunken Scrubber (a Wormwood Scrubs birder) was returning from his office Christmas party. He was a little worse for wear and got off at the wrong station ending up near The Scrubs. He decided to take a short cut and walk through The Scrubs. In the dark near Scrubs Lane Wood he pulled out his ipad (not a wise move and not one that I would endorse given the site's propensity for potentially attracting small time nocturnal criminals) and proceeded to play both Little Owl and Tawny Owl calls. After receiving no response, he put his computer away and continued homeward. He then suddenly heard a Tawny Owl hoot. Thinking that he had left his ipad on he stopped to check his bag when a Tawny Owl flew from a tree and headed down the road - no.96!

Yesterday, I strode through the grassland and flushed one Wren, one Blue Tit and a Woodcock!! No. 97!

Will we get three species before 2012 is out?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

We'll Take Five

Bohemian Waxwing (Will Webb)
We are in the midst of a bird slowdown here at The Scrubs right now. This is a classic situation during the winter on my patch. The 100 species target for the year was looking like a bleak, distant and totally unrealistic proposition until we added three new birds over the past couple of weeks; Goshawk, Green Sandpiper and last week's lone Waxwing that was picked up calling and flying north over the grassland.

Our 2nd ever record, following the five or so briefly seen twice during the last Waxwing Winter two years ago. Of course, I wasn't there to see either sets of birds and indeed, I'm still yet to see a Waxwing anywhere this winter yet and I am certainly not considering twitching any. Well not just yet........

In the meantime, we're not greedy. We don't need to exceed our 100 species target we just want to reach it for the first time. So if there are any birding gods out there, we'll just take five. We'll be happy with that.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The end of a Serbian adventure

 Milan Ruzic - our brilliant and lovable Serbian guide
 More of those fantastic Long-eared Owls
 Corn Bunting
I'm fresh back from an amazing tour of Serbia. As you may recall from yesterday's entry, we saw loads of Long-eared Owls. Indeed, we probably ended our long weekend with upwards of 1,000 birds seen. To put that into prospective that's quite possibly nearly half the entire UK population seen in a handful of towns in the Pannonian Plain. The whole region receives around 30,000 wintering LEO's. That's exceptional!

My co-guide was the inimitable Milan Ruzic, a Serb ornithologist who has put his heart and soul into studying and preserving all of Serbia wildlife and especially the country's owls and other birds of prey. Without him we would not have found a third of the owls as he had an uncanny knack for seeking them out.

All the participants of the tour seemed to be completely bowled over by the sight of so many owls. The dull and freezing conditions did little to dampen spirits. Nothing could beat the those owls. We did see other birds including an obliging Great Grey Shrike, skiens of White-fronted Geese, a couple flocks of Common Crane, several White-tailed Eagles, a Hen Harrier, several Marsh Harriers, lots of Common Buzzards and Kestrel. Waterbirds were well represented with many Pygmy and Great Cormorants, Great Egrets, Grey Heron, Pintail, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Shelduck.

You must come and see the owls here in Serbia though. If you are interested in coming on my spring tour in May next year when we will be watching many breeding LEO's then let me know.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Serbian Owl Bonanza!!

 You lookin' at me?
 Who are you?
 Where do you think you're going?
 Not you again!
 A tiny portion of the Long-eared Owls that I saw today in Serbia
TUB being interviewed by the Serbian media about the owl phenomenon in Kikinda
I never though that I would live to see the day when 600 Long-eared Owls would enter my life. Yes, 600 you read it right. All of them were perched in their daytime roosts in the three towns that I visited with the tour group that I am leading in Serbia.

The best town was my favourite, Kikinda - 16km from the Romanian border in northern Serbia. We saw half our total in the town's square alone! I heard the great news that the square will be made into a nature reserve from next year making it the only one of its kind in the world. How amazingly cool is that!?!?

Why are there so many owls?

Well, seeing as the farming methods are relatively simple in the countryside surrounding the urban roosts it has encouraged a huge number of rodents to proliferate providing abundant food not only for the LEO's but Barn and Short-eared Owls but for a number of raptors too.

You have to come out here to witness this incredible phenomenon for yourselves!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

North West Bird Watching Fair at WWT Martin Mere

 TUB with the fabled Ruth Miller & Alan Davies of The Biggest Twitch fame
The queue for my talk
I woke up Sunday morning in a hotel room around six miles from WWT Martin Mere in Lancashire. For the second year running they had asked me to come and give a talk at their Birding Festival.

I really enjoy the atmosphere at the fair plus it's nice to meet some of my mates up there too. The talk was well attended and the audience seemed to appreciate the gags I attempted.

I'll be back in 2013 - if I'm invited that is!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Back at the ranch

Winter male Stonechat
It seemed almost strange to once again patrol the urban expanses of Wormwood Scrubs after swanning around on so much foreign soil over the last couple of weeks. But I was definitely home though because thr wind was howling and the rain was pouring the night before.

I met up with a couple of the Scrubbers and we collectively strolled around to see what we could. Aside from around 30 Fieldfares all told passing overhead, a couple of Redwing and a Stonechat duo, all was quiet.

At 9am I had a meeting on site with several members of the council (Hammersmith & Fulham), the grounds maintainance contractors and the conservation officer from Groundwork to discuss the wildlife management plan. I was pleased to see that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. That really was a comforting thought.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

One for the listers

A female Baglafecht Weaver
It's been a long time coming but I've finally managed to compile the list of birds that I managed to remember seeing in Nairobi. It's such an amazing city for urban birding. With over 600 on its official list you can easily see over 200 species in a couple of days.

I managed nearly 300 in 5 days. Nairobi is well worth a gander.

Common Ostrich
Pink-backed Pelican
Great Cormorant
Long-tailed Cormorant
African Darter
Black-crowned Night Heron
Cattle Egret
Squacco Heron
Madagascar Squacco Heron
Little Egret
Yellow-billed Egret
Great Egret
Goliath Heron
Grey Heron
Black-headed Heron
Yellow-billed Stork
Black Stork
Saddle-billed Stork
Sacred Ibis
Hadada Ibis
Glossy Ibis
African Spoonbill
Egyptian Goose
White-faced Whistling Duck
Maccoa Duck
Red-billed Teal
Hottentot Teal
White-backed Duck
Yellow-billed Duck
African Black Duck
Southern Pochard
Black Kite
Black-shouldered Kite
Secretary Bird
African Fish Eagle
African White-backed Vulture
Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture
Brown Snake Eagle
Montagu’s Harrier
Pallid Harrier
Eastern Chanting Goshawk
Gabar Goshawk
Little Sparrowhawk
Great Sparrowhawk
African Harrier Hawk
Augar Buzzard
Common Buzzard (and Steppe Buzzard)
Tawny Eagle
Steppe Eagle
Greater Spotted Eagle
Booted Eagle
Long-crested Eagle
Martial Eagle
Eurasian Hobby
Eleonora’s Falcon
Helmeted Guineafowl
Crested Guineafowl
Yellow-necked Spurfowl
Harlequin Quail
Black Crake
Purple Swamphen
Red-knobbed Coot
Common Moorhen
African Jacana
Grey Crowned Crane
Kori Bustard
White-bellied Bustard
Black-bellied Bustard
Black-winged Stilt
Spotted Thick-knee
Blacksmith Lapwing
Spur-winged Lapwing
Crowned Lapwing
Kittlitz’s Plover
Three-banded Plover
Common Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper
Marsh Sandpiper
Little Stint
Grey-headed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Whiskered Tern
Speckled Pigeon
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
Namaqua Dove
Ring-necked Dove
Red-eyed Dove
African Mourning Dove
Laughing Dove
Dusky Turtle Dove
Brown Parrot
Purple-crested Turaco
Hartlaub’s Turaco
Jacobin Cuckoo
Red-chested Cuckoo
Diederik Cuckoo
Klaas’ Cuckoo
White-browed Coucal
Little Swift
White-rumped Swift
Mottled Swift
Nyanza Swift
African Palm Swift
Speckled Mousebird
Blue-naped Mousebird
Narina Trogan
Pied Kingfisher
Striped Kingfisher
Giant Kingfisher
Malachite Kingfisher
Little Bee-eater
Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
White-fronted Bee-eater
Von der Decken’s Hornbill
African Grey Hornbill
Spot-flanked Barbet
Black-throated Barbet
White-headed Barbet
d’Arnaud’s Barbet
Red-and-yellow Barbet
Wahlberg’s Honeybird
Red-throated Wryneck
Cardinal Woodpecker
Grey Woodpecker
Rufous-naped Lark
Fawn-coloured Lark
Red-capped Lark
Fischer’s Sparrow Lark
Rock Martin
Plain Martin
Banded Martin
Red-rumped Swallow
Lesser Striped Swallow
Barn Swallow
Wire-tailed Swallow
Black Saw-wing
African Pied Wagtail
Mountain Wagtail
Cape Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Yellow-throated Longclaw
Sharpe’s Longclaw
Rosy-breasted Longclaw
Grassland Pipit
Black Cuckoo-shrike
Common Bulbul
Yellow-whiskered Bulbul
Cabanis’ Greenbul
White-starred Robin
Cape Robin Chat
White-browed Robin Chat
Ruppell’s Robin Chat
Olive Thrush
Common Rock Thrush
Northern Anteater Chat
Common Stonechat
Northern Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
White-browed Scrub-Robin
Spotted Morning Thrush
Dark-capped Yellow Warbler
Garden Warbler
Buff-bellied Warbler
Willow Warbler
Red-faced Crombec
Brown Parisoma
African Moustached Warbler
Zitting Cisticola
Desert Cisticola
Tiny Cisticola
Stout Cisticola
Rattling Cisticola
Winding Cisticola
Levaillant’s Cisticola
Singing Cisticola
Red-faced Cisticola
Hunter’s Cisticola
Whistling Cisticola
Siffling Cisticola
Tawny-flanked Prinia
Grey-backed Camaroptera
Grey Wren Warbler
Yellow-breasted Apalis
White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher
African Grey Flycatcher
Pale Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher
African Paradise Flycatcher
Northern Pied Babbler
White-bellied Tit
Red-throated Tit
Abyssinian White-eye
Bronze Sunbird
Tacazze Sunbird 
Eastern Double-collared Sunbird 
Amethyst Sunbird
Scarlet-chested Sunbird
Beautiful Sunbird
Variable Sunbird
Collared Sunbird
Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird
Common Fiscal
Long-tailed Fiscal
Grey-backed Fiscal
Isabelline Shrike
Red-backed Shrike
Tropical Boubou
Slate-coloured Boubou
Black-backed Puffback
Rosy-patched Bush-shrike
Northern White-crowned Shrike
Fork-tailed Drongo
Pied Crow
Cape Rook
African Black-headed Oriole
Yellow-billed Oxpecker
Red-billed Oxpecker
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Superb Starling
Hildebrandt’s Starling
Wattled Starling
Rufous Sparrow
House Sparrow
Chestnut Sparrow
Grey-headed Sparrow
Yellow-spotted Petronia
Speckle-fronted Weaver
White-browed Sparrow Weaver
Grey-capped Social Weaver
Black-headed Weaver
Vitelline Masked Weaver
Spectacled Weaver
Speke’s Weaver
Baglafecht Weaver
Grosbeak Weaver
Holub’s Golden Weaver
Red-billed Quelea
Jackson’s Widowbird
Red-collared Widowbird
Yellow Bishop
White-winged Widowbird
Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu
Purple Grenadier
Red-billed Firefinch
Yellow-bellied Waxbill
Common Waxbill
Bronze Mannikin
Black-and-white Mannikin
Pin-tailed Whydah
Brimstone Canary
White-bellied Canary
Yellow-crowned Canary
African Citril
Yellow-rumped Seedeater
Streaky Seedeater
Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting
Somali Golden-breasted Bunting

268 species
103 lifers