Sunday, June 10, 2012

Thailand 3 - Nick Upton - Kaeng Krachen area - Water Drip Afternoon

I had two days free between the WINGS Spoon-billed Sandpiper extension and the Peninsular Thailand tour. I had arranged to go birding with Nick Upton of at Kaeng Krachen, a national park on the Burma border. Nick picked me up at 5 AM on March 2 and returned me to the airport hotel late on March 3. In between was a whirlwind trip that was a real highlight for the birds, food, and company. I wish I'd had another day.  I'll post more about Kaeng Krachen and Ban Maka when I get the chance.  Here's a collection of photos from the afternoon of March 2 at a water hole on private property with a blind nearby. We were the only ones in the blind and we were treated to a constant parade of birds and animals coming in to drink. Here's Nick (on the right) with the owner of the site.
Here's the hide, which is more expansive than it looked . There were several folding chairs on either side of the tunnel. We were fortunate to be the only ones present, as the animals were obviously aware of us.  Reservations are recommended, we were just plain lucky the blind was open.  The shade was welcome!
We had a constant circus of squirrels (Burmese Striped Squirrel, Gray-bellied Squirrel (below), Indo-Chinese Ground-Squirrel).
and this Northern Tree-Shrew. I was surprised at these size of these animals! A life family for me, the Tupaiidae - whether insectivores or primitive primates.
A pair of Streak-breasted Woodpeckers came in separately.
These Racket-tailed Treepies were comical! Something about those blue eyes, even without the bowing display. 
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush
Black-crested Bulbul, the real bulbul extravaganza was on the Peninsular tour, but I got a headstart on some here.  Black-crested Bulbul was not an ID challenge.
Three bulbuls at the water hole - from left to right, Stripe-cheeked, Black-crested, Stripe-throated Bulbul.  At least these are the bright, colorful ones! This photo shows nearly the whole pond.  It was quite small compared to waterholes we make in the LRGV of Texas, but it was just as attractive to the wildlife. 
This stunning male Kalij Pheasant strolled out of the jungle.  It was hard to get the whole bird in the photo. What a stunning bird, what incredible plumage!
Several different Lesser Mouse Deer or Chevrotain came in to drink. 
Note the fangs peeking out from the lower lip.  Not much defense when the whole animal is the size of a large Chihuahua. This one has been in a fight - note the cuts on the back. 
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, showing off its long, twisted tail feathers.  The tips were in constant motion  in the breezeas this bird waited its turn in the water!  I'm surprised the birds didn't splash all the water out. 

White-crested Laughingthrush.  I was surprised how shy the Laughingthrushes were as a group, and how social. They normally arrived in droves and stayed until all had a turn in the water. 
Emerald Dove, one of my favorites from Australia is also found here.
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher
Bar-backed Partridge - the scattered grain was a bigger attractant than the water, or so it seemed. 
This Yellow-throated Marten was one of the highlights of the afternoon. It came out of the shadows to drink, watching us as it approached the water each time.
Another highlight, a Scaly-breasted Partridge that strolled into the clearing. Unlike the Bar-backed flock, the Scaly-breasted Partridge came in alone. We did well on the gallinaceous birds. This was one of the first birds to come in. 
The roadside sign for the hide.   You'd never find it if you didn't know it was there! Don't ask me where it's located - ask Nick Upton, or the owners at Ban Maka. I had to guess at the location in eBird, let me know if you know which road it's on. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Presidio and Salt Cedar May 29, 2012

The Presidio BBS route begins at the intersection of TX 67 and TX 170 and follows TX 170 NW along the Rio Grande. The route has thickets of salt cedar or tamarisk along the Rio Grande that have been killed off by a salt cedar leaf beetle (Diorhabda sp.). These salt cedar thickets had high species diversity with a lot of insectivores and Neotropical migrant birds and were always active until the salt cedar was killed by the beetles.The salt cedar in the photo below is the brown line at the base of the hills, just in front of the white buildings on the south side of the river. 
Here's an area where the salt cedars come closer to the road.  These thickets were monocultures of salt cedar with no other vegetation.  The salt cedar tracked the river closely. 
Short term, these areas of dead salt cedars seemed to perhaps have more woodpeckers than before the trees died.  Long term avian population changes will depend on restoration of riparian vegetation and recovery of the natural vegetation. 
Portions of the salt cedar were burned, and these areas were very quiet.  I'll be interested to compare the data for this BBS route as the area recovers and vegetation fills in where the salt cedars were present.