I was recently informed about a particular area of paddy fields which seems to be good for birding. The area is just about 15 minutes from my house, so on July 11, I paid a visit and was greatly surprised about how good the birds were.
Flocks of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters welcomed me as I drove along the muddy track which leads through the fields. These birds are breeding visitors in northern Thailand and are normally quite shy. I’ve never had a chance to photograph them nicely before. Surprisingly, they were quite tame here as you can see from the photos which I took right from my driving seat.
There were many exposed branches which were perfect for bee-eaters to perch on and were also perfect for photography. I don’t remember finding Blue-tailed Bee-eaters which are this easy to photograph before.
Bitterns were also numerous, particularly Cinnamon Bittern which I saw constantly flying across the fields. One of the males was feeding by the roadside and as I stopped my car to photograph, it immediately did the ‘bitterning posture’ trying to camouflage as dry grass. Obviously, it failed. Another species of bittern which was seen was the Yellow Bittern which was less common.
Then I spotted a bright yellow bird flashing up from the grass. I was stunned to see that it was a male Asian Golden Weaver in full breeding plumage. This bird is a new comer for Chiang Mai since there had been no record of it until the last 3-4 years when few stray individuals turned up in different places.
The surprise didn’t end there. It turned out that there were at least another 4 pairs of them building nests along the canal which parallels the road. It’s interesting to see that they have started to build up the population.
Because the nests were built on low hanging branches along the canal, it was really easy to photograph them. I could just photograph them from my car. They were much easier to photograph than their native relative, the Baya Weaver, which has the taste of nesting on tall trees. There was a big nesting colony of Baya Weavers on a coconut tree nearby as well.
Then out of the blue, a pair of Red Avadavats showed up right where I was photographing the weavers. They seemed to be looking for nesting materials. Too bad the male was still in non-breeding plumage, so it was not as colourful as it is when in full breeding plumage.
Then I spotted a male Greater Painted-snipe landing in a rice field in front of where I was parking. I quickly drove to the area where it landed and found it sitting on an open lump of straws. It didn’t seem to be much disturbed by the car as it slowly stood up and walked down to the water and stayed there until I decided to move on to photograph other birds. The call of the females were heard constantly throughout the area too but I couldn’t locate any.
Then before I decided that it was too dark and I should get going, I heard a booming and croaking call of the male Watercock coming from my left. As I looked out for the source of the call, I immediately spotted a large blackish bird standing among the swaying green grass. It was such a beautiful scene that I missed so much. I haven’t seen this bird in my local patch for so many years. Last year, I didn’t even hear its call. I decided to drive a little closer to the bird but it disappeared into the grass. I waited for a while but it didn’t show up again. Two other males showed up flying across the fields as I was waiting though. It was a perfect ending for my first visit to this new hot birding spot which I’ll sure be visiting very often from now on.