Chiang Saen: 5 March 2014

I drove up to Chiang Saen on the afternoon of March 4 along with Dr. Chaiyan Kasorndokbua who went to conduct a research on harriers. We arrived at the Chiang Saen Lake late in the evening and didn’t have much time to do a lot of birding. At least, I managed to lure out a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler and a pair of Black-browed Reed Warbler, exactly at the same area where I found them last year.

We stayed at the lake and on the next morning we were greeted with lots of birds around the lake. Grey-headed Swamphen, Common Moorhen, White-breasted Waterhen, Little Grebe and Lesser Whistling Ducks were very common. A young Racket-tailed Treepie even showed up right in front of our house.


Early morning at Chiang Saen Lake


The first Brown-cheeked Rail that we found


One of the many Baikal Bush Warblers


A worn Greenish Warbler with new set of greater coverts. Even thought the wing bar seems unusually large but overall colouration suggests Greenish over Two-barred Warbler. It has already been ringed!


We quickly moved to Nam Kham Nature Reserve to look for the scarce Brown-cheeked Rails, a former subspecies of the Eurasian species Water Rail, which were reported about a week earlier. I found the bird as soon as I entered one of the hides on the edge of the big pond. The bird was feeding alongside a Ruddy-breasted Crake, but it was extremely difficult to photograph since they were feeding in a dense area.

I later decided to walk around in the reed bed hoping to find some little brown jobs. I came across quite many Baikal Bush Warblers but could only grab a record shot of one bird. A Black-browed Reed Warbler and a worn Greenish Warbler were also found.


Brown-cheeked Rail feeding on aquatic insect


Finishing the meal


Note the brown cheek patch, a characteristic different from the European Water Rail


It liked to swim and look for food. Here it caught a big fish.


One of the 2 male Siberian Rubythroats which were feeding around the edge of the pond. This one had a large insect for breakfast.

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I later met a small group of foreign birders who told me that a pair of Brown-cheeked Rails were showing very well at a different hide on the other side of the pond. I spotted a bird feeding on the edge of the pond as soon as I arrived at the hide. It was busy feeding on various types of food including fish, snails and some aquatic insects that I have no idea what they are.


In total, I estimated about 5 different Brown-cheeked Rails. Here’s a different one which came closest to the hide.


Note also black markings on white undertail coverts different from the plain white undertail covert of European Water Rail


Here’s a compilation of video clips that I took. Later in the video shows 2 birds chasing each other.


Shame about the strong light coming from the side which darkened most of the details and over exposed some parts of the bird.


This Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler was also feeding along the water edge. It had a deformed lower mandible.


Showing the ‘rusty rump’ and black streaks on the back


There was only 1 non-breeding Green Sandpiper. Normally, this species is quite common in this area.


I spent about an hour at a different hide in the reeds hoping to see some birds that came to bathe but there was only this Dusky Warbler which showed up.


In the evening, I decided to spend some time trying to take photos of the warblers at the lake, but they proved to be extremely difficult to photograph. Here’s the best shot I could get of one of the 2 Black-browed Reed Warblers.


And this was the best I could get from the Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler. They acted so different from last year when I could get many good shots of both species.



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