The morning of July 14 saw me driving through the rice fields of my local patch as usual. I surprisingly came across a female Watercock, a rather scarce breeding visitor in Chiang Mai, feeding by the roadside. I immediately stopped but could only grab a few shots before it disappeared quickly into the field.
The bill of this bird looks brighter than usual. I guess it might be a characteristic of breeding bird, but I can’t be sure.
After the female disappeared, I tried using playback in hope of luring it back. Instead, a male bird showed up from the rice field nearby and quickly walked closer to where I was parking looking for the origin of the sound.
At first, it would hide itself in thick vegetation raising only its head to look out for another bird. It’s never easy to find the bird at this point since all you can see is pretty much part of its bright red knob. After a while, when it couldn’t find any other bird from its hiding, it would come out into the open to search again for another bird. Now there’s a chance to photograph it.
Even though the male bird ventured out into the open twice, it was walking so quickly that I could only grab a few shots. This bird still seemed to be in an early stage of breeding plumage showing much of pale brownish fringes on the wings and some pale barring on the underparts.
After a while, another male bird appeared in the distance. This one was slightly darker with less clear cut fringes on the wings. It was only observing from afar and disappeared shortly. I guess it didn’t want to encounter the other male bird which was already in the area. I have seen 2 male Watercocks fighting and it was really brutal.
Before leaving, the first male bird appeared again on a grassy ditch not so far from my car. It gave a really nice prolonged view before disappearing into the field. The red knob of this individual was especially long. The knob makes it resemble some kind of dinosaurs a lot.
I visited the area again in the evening. This time with a photography hide. Unfortunately, the bird only came out once and the above shot was the only view that it gave. It later came to call really close to the hide and I couldn’t even notice a single movement. It’s really an expert in hiding.
At least, I could get this shot of the male Baya Weaver in full breeding plumage while waiting inside the hide. A flock of this bird came to feed on rice seeds along with the smaller Scaly-breasted Munias.