Greater Painted-snipes

On July 27, I visited Mae Jo Agricultural Research Station near Mae Jo University to look for some newly arrived migrants. There were small flocks of waders, mainly Wood Sandpipers, scattered around the area. I also came across an aggressive pair of Greater Painted-snipes in a recently ploughed field next to the road. I first observed them from my car. The pair was busy chasing all other birds away from their territory, which was unclear to me as they actually ran and chase literally any bird in that plot of field, ranging from Wood Sandpipers, Spotted Doves to the much larger Red-wattled Lapwings.

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The aggressive pair of Greater Painted-snipes

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A loose flock of adult Wood Sandpipers and Green Sandpiper (second from right) in worn breeding plumage

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One of the immature Red-wattled Lapwings

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Adult Wood Sandpiper in worn breeding plumage

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After observing the painted-snipes for a while, I decided to go down and set up a hide on one corner of the field. After about 10 minutes, the first group of Wood Sandpipers began to come back as well as a juvenile Red-wattled Lapwing. The sandpipers came really close to the hide from time to time but there was still no sign of the painted-snipes until almost half an hour has passed. The same pair flew in from a nearby rice field and landed on the opposite corner of the field. I waited and waited hoping that they will come closer and they did.

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Female Greater Painted-snipe has a really striking plumage.

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The male, on the other hand, is a more cryptic creature. It incubates and takes care of the chicks alone. The female moves on to find a new mate right after laying the last egg.

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At first, the painted-snipes were busy foraging all over the field but then I noticed that the male bird began to kneel down on a particular spot and used its breast to repeatedly push the ground underneath. The female also showed the same behaviour in another spot. I then realised that they were looking for a place to build their nest. That explained the aggressive behaviour which was seen previously.

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Adult Little Ringed Plover (race curonicus) in worn breeding plumage

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Juvenile moulting into first-winter plumage Little Ringed Plover (race curonicus)

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Another worn adult Wood Sandpiper

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I decided to move the hide to the opposite side of the field after seeing that the painted-snipes preferred to stay around that area more than the area where I was sitting. All the birds flushed up as I was getting out of the hide and after finishing setting up the hide once again, the flock of Wood Sandpipers was the first to arrive as before. There was also a pair of tame Little Ringed Plovers coming to feed around my hide as well. They both seemed to be the migrating curonicus race which is larger and more heavily build than the resident race jerdoni.

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After about 15 minutes the painted-snipes came back.

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It was the first time for me to photograph them while mating.

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The female spreads its wings due to a dashing Blue-tailed Bee-eater.

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After about 15 minutes, the pair of painted-snipes came back to the field. This time, as expected, they came much closer to the hide, the area where they seemed to favour. I could also observe and photograph them while mating. It was the first time for me to photograph such event. They spent some time foraging in a particular flooded area then swam across to the edge of the field where I was hiding!

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It was the first time for me to photograph the female at such close distance.

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The male also looks stunning up close.

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They spent more than an hour resting in this particular grassy area just about 6 m from the hide.

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I just couldn’t resist making a tight cropping.

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The pair came walking really close to the hide and decided to take a rest in a grassy area just about 6 m away from the hide. It became really lazy around noon and finally stopped doing any activity. I waited for more than an hour for them to start doing something. It was quite frustrated since the birds were really close but they didn’t do anything except sleeping. Finally the female woke up and began to walk out from the grass. I could finally take photos of the female up close and in the open as it came walking even closer to the hide. The male then followed and they both walked away further to the centre of the field and began preparing nesting areas again.

A video clip of female bird preparing the nest by pushing its breast against the ground.

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A pair of immature Red-wattled Lapwings after a fight

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One of the White-breasted Waterhen chicks

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Yet another pair of Greater Painted-snipes just by the roadside

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Male Baya Weaver at the nesting colony

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After getting more than enough shots of the painted-snipes, I left the area and drove around some more. To my surprise, I came across 3 more pairs of the painted-snipes, all by the road sides! Each pair owned one plot of the field, all recently ploughed waiting to be planted with rice. These birds are really common in a suitable habitat. I spent some time photographing a nesting colony of Baya Weavers at a large tamarind tree in the middle of the fields as well. The male birds were busy building more and more nests, while the females were seen flying back and forth feeding the chicks.

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A confiding juvenile Cinnamon Bittern in fresh plumage

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Looking funny head-on

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The plumage blends well into the natural surrounding.

Before leaving the area, I came across a confiding juvenile Cinnamon Bittern feeding in an open flooded field. The bird was in a very fresh juvenile plumage and looked really nice. It was fun watching it trying to practice catching preys by catching sticks and dry grass too, a behaviour often observed in young herons, egrets and bitterns.

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