Bush Warblers are a group of birds that are extremely difficult to observe on their wintering grounds even when they are abundant and few people manage many/any observations of these birds when visiting Thailand. Baikal Bush Warbler was split from Spotted Bush Warbler some years ago and range maps for this taxon show that it is widely distributed in Thailand so why is it that so few people ever see this bird? Well one reason is certainly that it is extremely skulking but another reason is that people do not realize how common it is and do not spend time looking for it; indeed, on several trips to Northern Thailand earlier this year many observations of this secretive bird.
I was asked in conversation by Nick Bray if there was any chance of finding a Baikal Bush Warbler to show our group. My reply was that in the right sort of habitat it should be common so we headed out to thick vegetation at the riverside at Thatorn in late afternoon to try our luck. Birding along the riverside was very productive with great views of Pied Harrier, Small Pratincole, Eurasian Wryneck, Chestnut-capped Babbler and Greater Painted Snipe to name a few but no sign of any Baikal Bush warblers……..until we used a little call playback! Even just a short burst of call playback resulted in several birds answering and before long one came into view. It was difficult to observe and not everyone got onto it but such was the abundance of the species that eventually everyone got good views of at least one bird
Baikal Bush Warbler by Nick Bray/Zoothera Birding
It was quite amazing how many of these birds were calling close to us, it seemed like there was one every 50 metres or so. We found Baikal Bush Warblers in harvested crop stubble, reeds, ditches and scrubby bushes close to the river and with some patience it was not too difficult to see them.
A week or so later I was with another group of birders at Chiang Saen Lake and in the midday heat there was not much for us to see. remembering the experience from Thatorn I decided to play a little burst of Baikal Bush Warbler call and the result was the same with multiple birds emerging from the undergrowth to take a look at us, with one individual coming right up to our feet, making binoculars unnecessary and reminding us that all birds are beautiful when seen well at close range, even those little brown jobs.
Join me on one of the following tours when Baikal Bush Warbler will be just one of many wonderful species we will see;