Khao Yai: 15 September 2015

I made a short visit to Khao Yai National Park with my family on September 15. We first drove up to Khao Kheow check point since very early morning hoping to find some pheasants along the way but we saw exactly zero bird. It was a very dark overcast morning but birds were better than I expected around the check point. The reason was pretty obvious, the surrounding trees were full of moths that were attracted by lights from the check point.

IMG_4169

The first bird to show up at the check point was this male Blyth’s Shrike-babbler which was calling from a pine tree not far from where I parked. Not sure which subspecies it was but it seemed to have darker grey throat and underparts than the one I’m familiar with in the north-west.

IMG_4234

Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike was among the friendliest birds up here. Here’s a female perching almost at eye-level.

IMG_4400

Here she caught a nice-looking moth for breakfast.

IMG_4447-2

A rather friendly pair of Red-headed Trogons was attracted by the moths around the check point too. Here’s the stunning male.

IMG_4338

The subspecies found here as described in literature is ‘klossi’. Not really sure how it differs from any other subspecies but I noticed that it has very restricted white breast band.

IMG_4376

The female was even more confiding! Also note how the red on underparts seems to less saturated than in the male.

IMG_4490

IMG_4406

You can’t really hide with such colour!

IMG_4450-2 IMG_4517

IMG_4528

Pin-striped Tit-babblers were also numerous. It’s one of the common birds which I haven’t got any decent photos.

The star of the morning was a rather friendly pair of Red-headed Trogons which came around the check point looking for moths just like many other small birds. At times, they would come perch really close and at eye-level but were always easily flushed, so it wasn’t too easy to photograph them. Other birds that came around the check point included Black-throated Laughingthrush, Hill Blue Flycatcher, White-bellied Erpornis, Pin-striped Tit-babbler, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, White-browed Scimitar-babbler, Common Green Magpie, Blyth’s Shrike-babbler and Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike.

I also spotted Kloss’s Leaf Warbler twice joining a fast-moving mixed species flock but couldn’t manage to take any photo of it. In case you wonder what it looks like, visit this blog entry. I also found a few interesting migrants including this season’s first Yellow-browed Warbler, 2 Dark-sided Flycatchers and several Pacific Swifts. My dad also found a single Tiger Shrike.

IMG_4608

We came across this male Red Junglefowl was standing motionlessly on the roadside while leaving Khao Kheow. It was on its way moulting out of the eclipse plumage.

IMG_4681

Interestingly, we found a small flock of 4 Grey-headed Lapwings! I never expect to find this species up here in Khao Yai before.

IMG_4699

There was only 1 adult (middle) with 3 other immatures.

IMG_4772

The adult showed traces of black breast patch which was lacking in the immatures.

IMG_4800 IMG_4931

IMG_4844

Scratching!

IMG_5048-2

Unlike most lapwings/plovers, Grey-headed Lapwing has short but clearly visible hind toe!

IMG_5048 IMG_5030

IMG_4998

It also deploys the walk-stop-look-snatch technique used so frequently among most lapwings and plovers.

IMG_5004 IMG_5017

IMG_4994

Regularly checking for danger from above

IMG_5072 IMG_5089 IMG_5139

IMG_5098

Immature Grey-headed Lapwing is a neat bird with clean brownish-grey plumage. Note how it lacks the adult’s black breast patch.

IMG_5117 IMG_5166

IMG_5169

The last view of the flock before they all disappeared.

But the biggest surprise of the day was a flock of 4 Grey-headed Lapwings foraging on the open lawn near a helicopter landing pad next to Nong Khing reservoir. At first glance, I thought they were Red-wattled Lapwings which are so abundant in the area but then I noticed the yellow bill and plain greyish head. Normally, I wouldn’t expect to see this species up here in Khao Yai but anything can happen during the migration period. One of the birds was an adult with traces of black breast band, while others were immature. Surprisingly, they were very cooperative and allowed me to approach at a very close range even for a 300mm lens unlike any other Grey-headed Lapwings I’ve seen.

IMG_5188

Black-winged Kite sitting and looking out for prey on a distant tree

IMG_5198

One of the many Red-wattled Lapwings. They all showed variable amount of white on the chin, probably a sign of non-breeding plumage?

IMG_5215

Female Sambar Deer at Kong Kaew Campsite

IMG_5239

Male Sambar Deer happily feeding in the drizzling rain

IMG_5251

IMG_5290

Long-tailed Shrike subspecies ‘longicaudatus’

We birded until around 11am when it began to rain and didn’t stop at all, so we decided to leave around 1:30pm. Before driving back to Bangkok, we stopped by at Pak Pli briefly and managed to find a single male Asian Golden Weaver and a nice ‘longicaudatus’ Long-tailed Shrike sitting alone in the rain.

Kloss’s Leaf Warbler at Khao Yai

It’s been more than 2 months since my last blog post. I’ve been very busy with many things but should be able to dedicate more time to this blog soon. Anyway, this morning Wichyanan Limparungpatthanakij, Ingkayut Sa-ar and I went up to Khao Kheow checkpoint, the highest accessible point in Khao Yai National park to seek one of the least known resident Phylloscopus warblers in Thailand, the Kloss’s Leaf Warbler (P.ogilviegranti), of which Ingkayut recently found just around the checkpoint.

img_9599

Habitat looked similar to hill evergreen forest that I’m familiar with in northern Thailand.

img_9601

View from the view point; a couple of Great Hornbills were heard but not seen

We arrived at the checkpoint around 7AM. The weather was brilliant. The forest seemed lush against bright blue sky and warm morning light… but it was strangely SILENT. We almost didn’t hear or see any bird along the way up to the checkpoint. As we arrived, a Barred Cuckoo Dove was heard cooing deep in the forest along with a Mountain Imperial Pigeon.

After a while, we spotted a mixed species flock which seemed interesting and might contain our main target, the leaf warbler, but turned out it didn’t. We wandered fruitlessly around the checkpoint for about half an hour. Finally, Ingkayut and I heard a Phylloscopus leaf warbler singing from roadside forest. We tried but couldn’t locate the bird. It took us another long while to finally hear, probably, a different bird.

img_9392

Kloss’s Leaf Warbler (most likely subspecies P. ogilviegranti intensior)

img_9249 img_9260

img_9265

Check out the undertail pattern! I’ve never seen such pattern before. Looks intermediate between Davison’s and Blyth’s Leaf Warbler.

img_9243

Note faint yellowish wash on underparts

img_9250

Tail pattern when spread

We had to use playback in order to see the bird, otherwise it wouldn’t come out to visibility. Interestingly, the bird didn’t respond so much to the song of P. ogilviegranti that we had but responded more to the song of P. davisoni. We also got some recordings of the song while the bird was singing up close. However, songs of both species sound identical to our ears but we might see some differences when analysed in sonograms.

img_9274

Like other birds around the checkpoint, the Kloss’s Leaf Warbler also enjoyed the high concentration of moths and other insects that were attracted by nightlights from the checkpoint.

img_9279 img_9280

img_9305

It was very actively singing.

img_9308

There are about 27 species of Phylloscopus warblers in Thailand. Only 5 of them are resident! 3 out of 5 are found in northern Thailand, i.e.Ashy-throated Warbler, Davison’s Leaf Warbler and Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, while Kloss’s Leaf Warbler is a very range-restricted species of north-east and south-east. The last one is Mountain Leaf Warbler which can only be found on high mountains in the southernmost part of the country.

Among these resident Phylloscopus warblers, Kloss’s is the least known taxon. Khao Yai is by far the most accessible location to see this species, even though it’s proved to be scarce. Another place where Kloss’s Leaf Warbler is known to occur and even said to be common is Khao Soi Dao which is way more difficult to access. Because of this, we felt blessed to have observe the bird so well and obtained some photos and voice recordings.

img_9313

Adult Dark-sided Flycatcher (ssp. sibirica), the second record for this autumn passage

img_9395

img_9387

Another shot showing the distinctive undertail pattern

img_9331

The bird liked to hang upside down searching for insects under branches and twigs but didn’t show any nuthatch-like behaviour as exhibited so strongly in Claudia’s/Hartert’s group.

img_9415

Showing faint yellowish centre to belly, a bit more pronounced than in Davison’s

After seeing the bird and checking the photos that I took, several identification features can be summarised as follow;

  • very distinctive undertail pattern; sort of intermediate between Davison’s and Blyth’s
  • habitually more similar to Davison’s than Claudia’s/Hartert’s as it mostly sticks smaller branches and twigs rather than staying close to major trunks; also didn’t show any nuthatch-like behaviour
  • relatively more yellow on centre of belly than Davison’s; otherwise, other than undertail pattern, very marginally different
From left to right: Davison’s, Kloss’s, Blyth’s, Claudia’s and Hartert’s

From left to right: Davison’s, Kloss’s, Blyth’s, Claudia’s and Hartert’s

But the easiest way to identify is to see the undertail pattern! Finally, I have a complete collection of undertail view for each member of this complex in Thailand. Ranging from the one with most white on undertail (Davison’s on the far left) to the one with least white (Hartert’s on the far right), the image above should give you some idea of where to look when encountered with these birds.