Migrant-hunting at Phuttamonthon – Thailand Birding

Hainan-blue-flycatcher4

In October migration is in full swing and with resident forest birds very quiet probably the best birding in this month is to find migrant hotspots and search for what has been forced to land in search of food and to rest. Parks within Bangkok are good for this as are copses/wooded areas close to the coast but, on 15th October, I decided to go to the large park of Phuttamonthon, just outside of Bangkok, which can provide birders with a decent morning of migrants as it sort of forms a wooded island with an area of farmland and, increasingly, suburban sprawl.

Finding migrants in this huge park is not exactly easy as much of the area has a canopy of trees and birds can disperse among them and remain hidden. However, by focusing on a few areas which are less manicured than others, with an understorey of vegetation, I was able to find a number of interesting migrant species as well as plenty of resident birds; a total of 60 species for the morning was quite a good tally.

Getting to Phuttamonthon by taxi is easy as everyone knows it so shortly before 7am I was in the park photographing Black-crowned Night Heron, many of which were mooching around the lawns alongside Chinese Pond Herons and White-vented Mynas.

Black-crowned-night-heron4Black-crowned Night Heron

I checked out a large area of grass to see if there was anything more interesting among the many Red-wattled Lapwings but the best I could manage were a few Paddyfield Pipits. A bit of a walk through some of the wooded bits of the park quickly turned up the first Black-naped Oriole of the morning (a total of around 6-7 throughout the morning) which was displaced on its perch by a very vocal Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.

Greater-racket-tailed-drongo2Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

On a Sunday the park was pretty busy with people riding bikes, running and going for a walk but by getting to the scruffy park edges I was able to find some interesting species including a Stork-billed Kingfisher, a perched Chinese Sparrowhawk, a few Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, a few Asian Brown Flycatchers, several Taiga Flycatchers easily detected by their rattling call and an Ashy Drongo ssp. leucogenis.

As I was wiping the sweat out of my eyes under a small shady area I heard a call that I recognized as one of the Ficedula flycatchers and as I looked towards the call I saw a movement and spotted a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher. This is always a nice bird but all the more interesting in that they do not seem to be seen in large numbers on Autumn migration, whereas they are frequently seen in good numbers on Spring Migration. I thought, then, that this may precede a good fall of migrants.

It didn’t.

I had to work a lot harder to find interesting migrant species than that but as I walked to another unkempt corner of the park I added a couple of Black Drongos, a Common Kingfisher and a Black-capped Kingfisher to my list of migrants before hearing some overhead Bee-eaters. Expecting more Blue-tailed Bee-eaters I was surprised to see 2 Blue-throated Bee-eaters which then perched on a bare tree, having caught some prey. This is not a common bird in the Central Plains region of Thailand so it was a nice sighting.

Walking through some areas that are usually good for migrants the only birds I was finding were Taiga and Asian Brown Flycatchers but a few resident species were interesting including Green-billed Malkoha, Plaintive Cuckoo, Racket-tailed Treepie and an Asian Barred Owlet.

asian-brown-flycatcher5Asian Brown Flycatcher

I braved the mosquito-infested bamboo zone, the insect repellent washing off with sweat as fast I could apply it! Still within a few moments I had found a small party of Small Minivets foraging alongside an Eastern Crowned Warbler. I then heard a call of Sakhalin Leaf warbler and it did not take long to find this skulking bird although I failed to photograph it. Another flitter of movement eventually turned out to be a female Hainan Blue Flycatcher and then a few minutes later I found a nice male.

Hainan-blue-flycatcher4Hainan Blue Flycatcher

One of things about Phuttamonthon in the sheer size of the place and although there were still more parts of the park that would probably turn up some more birds, a combination of the extreme heat and distance walked meant that I was ready to go home for some air conditioning and a late lunch. One of the first things my taxi driver asked me was if I had eaten lunch yet. The reply was no and within a few minutes he had stopped to buy me a drink and a coconut bun; nice!

You can see my full bird list for the morning here – Phuttamonthon Park, 15th October 2017.

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