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.

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Early morning at Chiang Saen Lake

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The first Brown-cheeked Rail that we found

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One of the many Baikal Bush Warblers

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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!

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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.

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Brown-cheeked Rail feeding on aquatic insect

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Finishing the meal

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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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