The Firethroat Tetralogy (4): 22 April 2015

It’s been a long while since the last post for this series, so here’s the final post. After my last 4 attempts to visit the male Firethroat at Nam Kham Nature Reserve, little did I know that I’d be heading for the fifth one! After coming back from my trip to Nam Kham on 12 April, photos of the bird kept coming up daily on the internet showing continuous moulting progress. By 19 April, the bird seemed to have fully completed its moult into its first breeding plumage (or first-summer). Without conscious, I had already booked another flight to the north!

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Huge flock of Asian Openbills roosting at Nam Kham Nature Reserve

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Just about 10 years ago, there was completely no Asian Openbill in northern Thailand.

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A view from the Cettia Hide where the male Firethroat showed up

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Waiting for the bird to show up in the middle open area

By the morning of 22 April, I found myself arriving at Nam Kham Nature Reserve as early as 6AM. It was a very quiet and peaceful morning. There was no one to be seen but hundreds, maybe thousands of Asian Openbills were roosting on large bare trees all around the reserve. They noisily flushed with their heavy wing beats as I walked in along the narrow path through the tall reed bed leading to the Cettia hide where the male Firethroat had been staying.

I waited and waited inside the dark hide, listening to songs of birds which were starting to become more lively. There was, however, no song of the Firethroat to be heard! I began to feel very frustrated since the bird was very actively singing on my last visit. It’d be a huge waste of time and money, if the bird doesn’t show up. The bird still didn’t show up at 7:30AM when I checked for the time. I continued to wait and wait. Then around 8AM, I spotted something glowing and moving in the dark reeds in front of the hide. There it was, my only target of the trip! Needless to say how relieved I was as I watched the bird with its fiery throat and breast hopping out into the open as it often did to look for food.

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One of the first views I had of male Firethroat as it hopped out from the dark reed bed into the open ground in front of the hide.

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As usual, it came hopping really close to the hide.

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It’s certainly one of the best looking birds in the world!

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At times, it’d come so close to the hide that it almost filled the frame completely.

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I like how this shot actually shows the vegetation in the habitat where the bird was found.

After the first round, it disappeared for about 10 minutes then showed up again in the same manner. It kept coming back and forth like this for every 10 minutes or so until around 10AM when it began to show up less frequently. It would either show up by hopping out from the dark reed bed or flying in from behind the hide. The after arriving at the hide, it would hop around the open area with a small waterhole in front of the hide. At times, it would come really close to the hide and wouldn’t mind the shutter sound at all.

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Showing the white patch at tail base, a characteristic found in Firethroat and Blackthroat

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The white neck patch can be very prominent when the bird stretches its neck.

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Standing up straight when curious

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First-summer bird still retains the brownish juvenile wing feathers. Adult male would have the same shade of bluish-grey wing as the back and crown.

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The orange throat and breast was almost glowing in the dark habitat where it lived.

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No need to say how happy and satisfied I was while sitting alone in the hide watching and photographing this rare beauty for hours. Then around 10:30AM, two other birders arrived. It was getting brighter and also hotter and the bird began to disappear for a longer period. But then it came back and gave us a few more shows until I left around noon for lunch.

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Finally, it began to sing its unique melodious song.

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Also perching on low branches around the hide

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Hard to find a bird to beat its colour!

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It was more actively singing from 10:30-12:00 before I left.

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Light became very strong around noon making the photos highly contrasted.

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Showing the back side

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A kind of damselfly seen perching close to the Firethroat

Pardon me if this post contains way too many photos of the same bird, but I really couldn’t resist taking loads of photos of this wonderful bird. No one knows when will it show up in Thailand (and in full breeding plumage like this) again, so it’s better to take as many photos as I could!

After leaving the nature reserve for lunch, I drove back to Chiang Mai and took a flight back to Bangkok. On the following day, another group of birders went up to look for the bird but turned out that the bird had already left! It didn’t show up at all from 6AM to 6PM. The means I was one of the last persons to see the bird before it left. I felt super lucky for a moment but then also felt sorry for the poor guys. I really hope it would come back again to Nam Kham in the upcoming winter.

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To finish this post, here’s a really nice image showing the same bird from the very first day it was discovered (7 December 2014) until the last day before it left (22 April 2015). The original image was uploaded by the official Nam Kham Nature Reserve facebook page. It’s amazing to see such transformation and certainly another reason to feel astonished by nature’s wonders.

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3 thoughts on “The Firethroat Tetralogy (4): 22 April 2015

  1. Ayuwat, I was recently in Chengdu, China and a Firethroat was reported at Sichuan University, when I got there, there were around 100 photographers….is it like that now in Thailand?

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