Monday, August 12, 2013

Black-throated Grey Warbler

Decided to head out on Sunday morning to Maplewood and just as i arrived, the rain started coming down.
Feeling kind of bad for not using my camera rain gear the whole time in Thailand i decided that this would be a good opportunity to get some wet birding in.
Rain lessened after a while and it was nice to have the place to myself.
Not a whole lot of activity to report but i saw at least 3 or 4 of these guys soon after arriving.
Shooting ISO 800 without flash and was happy enough with the mornings take.




also, for those searching for Green Heron, i finally located the bird that has been frequenting the pond at Hastings Park on Friday afternoon, conditions were terrible as far as light and there was a lot of activity due to PNE and Playland, also, i'm not sure great looks are possible with this particular bird due to the pond access and viewing areas, still, i finally saw it from a distance after a couple of failed attempts last month.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lam Pak Bia - Part 2 (Thailand)

The condo in Cha-um was pretty plush, right by a private beach, our 12th floor condo looked out on the water, sweet.

When we first arrived i noticed many swifts darking about all over the place, at times there were up at eye level but usually below you, i should have been quicker on the draw for when i finally pulled out my camera (after relaxing on the plush bed) the bird activity had pretty much ended.
While i didn't get any shots of them, i believe the majority were House Swifts, i did get one long-range shot that was sharp enough to crop closer, of a Asian Palm Swift, a lifer!

Asian Palm Swift (Lifer), taken from the 12th floor

Well, we were lucky to get the car again next morning (July 16th) as Api's sister and aunt were going to take a bicycle ride to the local market that day.

Off to Lam Pak Bia one last time.

It was raining  a bit harder this morning but again, we were in the car, what did a few drops matter? i had Api's nylon jacket to cover the lens if need be, which it did at times.

Yesterday we had seem some plover-like birds on one of the fields and wanted to take a closer look today.
Obviously the rainy season in Thailand is not the optimum time for shorebirds but i had hoped to see a few, perhaps early-returning birds.

Driving closer to the field we spotted shorebird activity and i excitedly took aim with camera at the action.
We were able to pull up right to the side of road to get killer looks at these birds as they foraged without paying us much heed.

 Little Ringed Plovers in various states of plumage

 Pacific Golden Plover

Pacific Golden Plover still with a bit of breeding colour.

I love shorebirds and was stoked to shoot those guys.
Next up was some close looks at Little Heron, wood-swallows, pipits and more ducks (but no snipes alas).

 Little Heron

 Ashy Wood-swallows

 Paddyfield Pipit

Lesser Whistling Duck

Next we saw an exciting sight, Painted Storks!
Another nemesis bird i can cross off the list, ever since a brief long-distance look years ago and seeing some captive ones at the Chaing Mai zoo during our first trip i was still searching. 
Painted storks are actually considered an introduced species in Thailand but are now countable since escapees long ago established wild populations and seem to be expanding their range.
A nice change from the numerous Opened-billed storks all over the place.
Later we saw a large mixed flock of Opened-billed and Painted together circling together in the sky on the drive back.

Painted Stork

Shorebird activity continued when i spotted a Wood Sandpiper, which to me looks exactly like a Lesser Yellowlegs for some reason : )

Wood Sandpiper

So we decided to really look for kingfishers as the day was getting on and we did have to bring the car back before the evening.
we decided to work the mangrove forest, little dirt roads criss-crossed this expanse of dense mangrove, occassionaly disected by beat-down little elevated wood walkways into the greenery. You couldn't really walk on any of them, they looked that dangerous. Colourful mangrove crabs dotted the landscape if you looked closely and while searching for kingfishers saw some bird activity by the side of the road.
Api, who was driving saw a couple of interesting little warbler-like species flitting about and i got a quick shot off of a kinglet-like bird with the noble name of Flyeater, a Lifer!


Did we see any kingfishers?

Yup, just after the Flyeater we came across a Collared Kingfisher, feathers ruffled due to the rain.
We were able to creep up almost next to it but the angles were tough and as soon as it became aware that it was being watched it flew off deeper into the woods, but not before some close looks.

 Collared Kingfisher
 If that wasn't grand enough, i later got up close and personal with a White-throated Kingfisher and was able to shoot different poses as it just happened to be in a good spot and didn't mind the car one bit.
These shots top the first looks i got of this bird here back in '08, full-frame, what more is there to ask for when shooting the often challenging kingfishers of the world.

 White-throated Kingfisher

What a way to end the morning!
Fully satisfied with the days shooting we drove back to Cha-um victorious.
Api's sister and aunt enduring a grueling bike ride that morning, much longer to market than either of them thought and didn't need the car in the end after all.
A seafood feast eaten at a restaurant next to the beach later that night was a nice touch, the Heineken tasted just right and the food was delicious, perfect.

punkbirdr beach-style

After this trip we just chilled in Bangkok till our flight back, we both bought new glasses, i picked up a new Casio G-Shock watch with a compass and world time, sweet!

July 18th, we fly out of BKK at 11:50pm on ANA Airways and i am impressed by the way they treated us, even in economy, lots of snacks, a tasty dinner and breakfast even though it was only a 6 hour flight to Japan.
Coolest feature was a live point-of-view feed of the plane taking off and landing that played on all the monitors, really cool, and a bit scary too. Oh, the only time i have had the pleasure of drinking a can of Suntory Pilsner, a delicious thirst-quencher for those long flights.

July 19th we arrive at Narita International Airport at 8:30am and have a 9 hour wait for our Air Canada flight back to YVR (Vancouver), we spend the time wandering around in the duty-free stores, and watching day-time game shows on a giant tv that boggled the mind,i couldn't for the life of me figure out what was going on, something about going out to stores and buying certain items, it didn't make any sense, even with my ipod and good tunage sending beats through my cranuim.
What seemed a lifetime later, it was nearing flight time, we would soon be on our way for the final leg of our journey but not before i tried out the Japanese McDonalds just to see what a Big Mac tasted like in Japanese (just like what you expect it to taste like) and the lineup must have been biggest in the whole airport, i had time to kill and waited while Api rested in a chair nearby.

Air Canada was frugal in economy, that's the best i can say about the service but we made it back home, after having to endure 9 hours of a sick little kid behind me kicking the back of my chair and trying his hardest to infect me with his cold, which he did quite successfully after all.

A Canada Line, a Seabus and a bus after breezing through customs and we were home again, safe and relatively sane : )

I didn't mention the trip over but will say now that we flew with Air Canada from YVR to Shanghai, China, before connecting with a Thai Air flight on to Bangkok.
I thought it would be cool to go to Shanghai and eat real Shanghai noodles but it turned out that we didn't have much time to relax due to having to collect our luggage and go through customs. 
Kinda sucked, but not too much, a better experience than our transfer through Beijing a few years ago.

Back to the local birds now!

Lam Pak Bia - Part 1 (Thailand)

Wonder of wonders, on our drive down to Cha-um we passed by Lam Pak Bia, we had no idea it was so close to our condo, right away Api and i decided that we would borrow the car next morning and drive back the next day to check it out
We hadn't been back since '08 and remember it being a great location to drive around and shoot from vehicle, shore birds, herons, grebes, cormorants, and kingfishers.

The best shot i ever got of a White-throated Kingfisher was at Lam Pak Bia so i was excited about getting back to the King's project, a mangrove reaseach centre the public was free to drive around and bird in, after signing in with the guards.

July 15th
Our morning starts with excitement on the road, what looked like a very small quail scrurred back into the brush before we could pull over, too bad.
We arrived at Lam Pak Bia with a slight drizzle in the air, but still decent enough conditions, especially when shooting from a car.

 Black-winged Stilt

 Red-wattled Lapwing

 Red Turtle-Dove

 Javan Pond-heron hunting

 Little Egret

 Little Grebe

Asian Pied Starling

Not too bad so far, the real amazement came a bit later when we spotted a couple of Lesser Whistling-ducks, in close!
I've never been able to get close to any sort of duck in Thailand before, they are extremely wary and just not all that common, so seeing a pair hunkered down, waiting out the rain perhaps or just resting before flying was really cool. 
Using a vehicle as blind was the trick i guess.

Lesser Whistling-duck

Near the end of our day we spotted some incredible nest-building going on by the side of the road in the shade of a palm tree.
Baya Weavers are aptly named, check out that condo!

Baya Weaver

Biggest shame of the day however was missing the chance to finally get a shot of a Snipe, we saw two in the tall grass but they had vanished by the time we turned the car around to get a better look. Alas.

Did get some other birds as the rain picked up.

 Black-winged Stilt chick

we have now almost driven over these guys by accident on two continents, thankfully it was all good, the parents were flying around in a panic and we figured there had to be young ones nearby, sure enough. : )

 Little Heron sporting "bling"

 Black-crowned Night-heron balancing act

Collared Kingfisher saying "come again!"

Once i saw the Collared Kingfisher by the exit as we were leaving i knew we had to come back again tomorrow and Api agreed.
There were indeed kingfishers at Lam Pak Bia, a point hammered home on the drive back as there seemed to be kingfishers on all the powerlines, we even saw a family together, should have stopped for that shot..

Back to Train Park (Thailand)

Well, we were back in Bangkok and had no further trips per say planned.
There had been talk of spending a few days down south in Cha-um, one of Api's aunts owned a deluxe condo on the water.
I had been there previously and thought it a great location to just relax and walk around on the beach etc.
I also remember it being a super location for kingfishers but we weren't sure if the condo would be available. I was ok just birding around Bangkok and decided to head to Suan Rot Fai (Train Park) for another walk through.
Api's sister drove us there and joined Api in a bike ride around the park while i did some shooting.

July 14th

It was a sunday morning and we left it a bit late, big mistake on both parts.
Sunday is a day when Bangkok citizens head to the parks and ride bicycles and have picnics on the grass.
Birdy activity might be harder to come by with all the people about, but i would try, it was better than walking through another shopping mall.
I checked the pond near the entrance for herons but the light was harsh and i was satisfied with my previous looks at Javan Pond-heron..
I continued on to the overgrown area i had been with Alan Lo first time out.
We had been patiently waiting for a White-throated Kingfisher to show up and i kind of wondered if it might show for me today.
Alan, by the way was a smart photog, he had a small battery-operated fan mounted to his tripod, i was amazed, what a great idea for the heat and humidty, maybe i'll try it next trip : )
No luck again with the kingfisher but i did finally vanquish one of my nemesis birds in Greater Coucal, a common enough bird and one i had seen before, it's just that a record shot was missing, for whatever reason.
I spotted one coming in to a nest in the reeds and waited around a bit for it to come back, sweet!

Greater Coucal (Lifer!)

I also got some shots of Black-crowned Night-heron and i had to think hard to realize that it wasn't a Thai lifer after all as i had one from Khao Sam Roi Yot during our very first birding trip, lousy shot that one.

Black-crowned Night-heron

Zebra Dove

 Black-naped Oriole

 Oriental Magpie-Robin (female)

 Common Koel (female)

Pied Fantail displaying to me for some reason : )

Afterwards we realized that getting out of Bangkok for a few days before we headed back home would indeed be a good idea. One of Api's aunts was coming along as well as Api's sister and her car.
We would spend two days in Cha-um and maybe get some more birds.

The Waiting Area

The Waiting Area