Suan Rot Fai: 26 April 2015

Suan Rot Fai (Wachira Benjathat Park) is probably the only good birding site in Bangkok accessible by public transportation. Following the news of a female Japanese Thrush, a rare migrant in Thailand, by David Gandy on Saturday, I made a brief visit to the park on Sunday morning.


Javan Pond Heron moulting into breeding plumage


The first male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher of the day


Adult Indian Roller


Immature Indian Roller begging to be fed

Only within 10 minutes after entering the park, I came across a male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher near the area where Thailand’s first Hartert’s Leaf Warbler was found. This colourful bird had long been one of my bogey birds until the spell broke some years ago and now I see it every once in a while. A walk around the park didn’t produce anything much afterwards.


Female Japanese Thrush


Another male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher



The identity of Drongo Cuckoos in Thailand isn’t conclusive. This one could either be a Square-tailed or Fork-tailed Drongo Cuckoo. Despite the names, the difference is only in millimetres.


Female Plaintive Cuckoo in hepatic morph

I later met David for the first time near the place where I initially found the flycatcher. He told me that the Japanese Thrush was still showing this morning but it was extremely skittish. We were later joined by Krit and Natthaphat who took me on a long walk around their usual birding spots. Later, David sent us a message saying that the thrush was now showing well. We quickly headed to the place where he was and as soon as we arrived, we spotted it foraging in the dark undergrowth in a bamboo grove. I didn’t put much effort on photographing it since I’ve seen and photographed this species several times before in Japan, but this is only my second time seeing it in Thailand.



Immature Indian Cuckoo enjoying the abundant worms and caterpillars


I was happy to get this shot showing the underwing pattern.

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Streak-eared Bulbul and the Golden Shower; look closer at the flowers, you’ll see what the birds were here for.


Another shot of the female Plaintive Cuckoo


An ugly Common Myna; I have no idea why it looked like this but it isn’t too unusual.

Next to the area where we watched the Japanese Thrush, there’s a flowering Golden Shower tree with lots of butterfly caterpillars and worms. The tree attracted many birds, particularly Streak-eared Bulbuls. A pair of male and female Yellow-rumped Flycatchers also visited the tree. Krit said that he saw an Indian Cuckoo coming to feed on caterpillars earlier in the morning but it was very shy. After Krit and David left, I decided to try and wait for the cuckoo. After a while, the Indian Cuckoo came dashing in. It seemed to be an immature bird judging from the rusty mottling feathers on neck sides and buffish fringes on the wings. Even though it was quite big, I could hardly get any clear views of it. Most of the time, it would hide among branches and leaves making photography very difficult. It stayed on the tree for over half an hour before flying out around 11am. It was also getting hot, so I decided to leave the park afterwards.

Thailand’s First “Hartert’s Leaf Warbler”

On January 17th, a photographer found an unusual leaf warbler at Suan Rot Fai (Wachira Benjathat Park), a park located north of central Bangkok. According to him, he only took one picture of it (which I find very unusual) and the bird showed nuthatch-like behaviour. From that single photo, I suspected that it might be the nominate subspecies “goodsoni” of Hartert’s Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus goodsoni) which has never been recorded in Thailand before. David Gandy, a local birder in Suan Rot Fai area, later relocated the bird on January 31st and took many more photos of it which helped confirm that it is most likely a “goodsoni” Hartert’s Leaf Warbler indeed.


Hartert’s Leaf Warbler (ssp. goodsoni) is a striking bird with bright yellow supercilium and contrasting crown stripes.


Another angle showing the highly contrasting crown stripes


It was mostly silent throughout the observation but briefly gave a few variably high pitched calls. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to record the calls of it before it went silent again.


Apart from the supercilium, it has subtle yellow streaks on upper breast as well.



The undertail coverts are pale yellowish, slightly contrasting to the whiter belly.

I visited the park on Monday morning (2 February 2015) before going to work. Only about 5 minutes after arriving at the location where the bird was found, I could locate the bird foraging through the canopy in a nuthatch-like behaviour. There was also a highly vocal Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher foraging nearby which was a good thing since it helped me locate the leaf warbler easily. It is suspected that the canary-flycatcher follows the leaf warbler to catch the insects which are disturbed by the foraging movements of the leaf warbler.


My first view of the Hartert’s Leaf Warbler foraging through the main branches resembling Claudia’s Leaf Warbler or a nuthatch.


Showing underwing and wing formula


Climbing, looking, hopping


Showing undertail pattern; note very thin white edge to the inner web of outer tail feathers


The yellowness of plumage seemed to be very light-dependent. Even with bare eyes, the bird appeared variably yellowish depending on the light.


David sent some of his photos to seek opinions from Paul Leader, an expert on Asian Phylloscopus warblers, and here’s what he quoted.

“I would agree that this is nominate goodsoni. Within the ‘Blyth’s complex, only nominate goodsoni shows this degree of yellow and yellow streaking on the underparts, such that it resembles a washed out Sulphur-breasted Warbler more than other members of the Blyth’s complex. All of the other members of the complex have clean white underparts with limited yellow streaking (central breast/belly), and this includes Ph. g. fokhiensis.

However, the nuthatch-like behaviour is shared by other members of the complex, at least by claudiae, and therefore is not diagnostic.”


Showing the subtle yellow streaks on breast



The striking crown stripes


Again, the undertail pattern

I followed the bird from around 8.00-8.45 as it foraged through the main branches high up on tree tops and occasionally came down to just about 1.5 m above the ground and disappeared into the canopy again. It was totally an amazing observation and the bird didn’t seem to be particularly skittish, probably because I was the only one there. I guess it would stay around in the same area throughout the winter.


A confiding Radde’s Warbler


A female/immature Asian Paradise Flycatcher


Male White-rumped Shama

Apart from the leaf warbler, there were actually quite a good number of species in the area. There was one Radde’s Warbler which was unusually confiding. I also spotted a female/immature Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarchs, a very confiding male White-rumped Shama, a pair of nesting Brown-throated Sunbirds, Yellow-browed Warbler, a fly-over Stork-billed Kingfisher and an Asian Barred Owlet. I guess I’ll be visiting this area of the park more often.