Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rufous-headed Robin in Phnom Penh

Two weeks ago I wrote an email to Andy Symes giving my opinion on the state of autumn birding in Phnom Penh:

 "Autumn here has largely passed me by - Phnom Penh is literally rubbish for passerine migration, it's stuck in a little armpit of land, everything just cuts the corner and misses it out.".

On 15th November 2012 I stepped out of my house to go to work and saw a Luscinia hopping amongst the flower pots.

Any Luscinia is a good bird, and any Luscinia is a very good garden bird, so I grabbed the DSLR and started blasting away.

To cut a long story short, the bird stubbornly refused to be shoe-horned into either Siberian Blue Robin or Rufous-tailed Robin. After extensive consultation with James Eaton and Paul Leader I was confident with the completely bonkers theory that there was a first winter female RUFOUS-HEADED ROBIN IN MY GARDEN!!!

The reality took more getting used to. I still haven't really fully processed it. This was like a dream come true, but it felt more like I was actually in a dream, dreaming about having a dream in which there was a first winter female RUFOUS-HEADED ROBIN IN MY GARDEN. I have checked passage and wintering Luscinias carefully since moving to Asia four years ago, hoping but never really expecting to find one of the rarer species. Now I had found one, in my own garden.

This bird is the:

First record of a first-year Rufous-headed Robin ever, anywhere in the world.

Second record of Rufous-headed Robin outside of the (tiny) breeding grounds in 49 years (the only other record is of a male mist-netted on Gunung Brinchang, Peninsular Malaysia in March 1963.

Best (closest, most prolonged, etc) views ever obtained of this elusive species, ever. 

First time that a female has been photographed in the wild.

Best bird on my garden list.

To understand the context better take a look here

The Rufous-headed Robin was very tame and enjoyed its daily feed of mealworms. To say that it was confiding is an understatement. We spent many hours watching it feed, bathe, preen and roost. During all this time we were able to sit less than two meters away, often much closer, with the bird completely unperturbed. As well as being rare and beautiful, it was a delightful, charming bird and it was a pleasure to spend much time with it. It was last seen at midday on 20th November and Sarah and I already miss it very much.

I hope that these pictures convey some of the character of the bird, as well as the key identification features. Other people have got better photos and will no doubt post them online, but these are all my own. A paper is in preparation for Forktail.

Urban birding in Phnom Penh...does it get any better than this...?

Simon Mahood

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Green-backed Flycatchers in Siem Reap Province

On 19th November Mardy Sean (SVC) found a male Green-backed Flycatcher at Beng Melea in Siem Reap province. This morning, whilst looking at the photographs on his camera I noticed a flycatcher in the SVC garden, Street 26, Wat Bo, Siem Reap. Which was also a male Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae. This was somewhat of a surprise. I obtained a few of photos, which are below.

Also in the garden at the moment: one superb male Black-naped Monarch, at least 4 Taiga Flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher, at least 3 Yellow-browed Warbler along with the resident Brown-throated and Olive-backed Sunbirds, Streak-eared and Yellow-vented Bulbuls and Zebra Doves. 

Rob Martin

Sunday, November 18, 2012

White-faced Plover sighting

On 10 November 2012, John K and I found two plovers that were larger and more robust than the usual Little Ringed Plovers in an area where the wetland had been filled in with sand on it's way to being Phnom Penh's newest golf course. This is the area just across the Tonle Sap river about 20-30 km along NR5. We first saw the plover that looks most like a Kentish, but then the second one appeared (LHS in photos), which was much paler with white lores, forehead and supercilium, narrow breast band and paler upperparts. We checked with one of the co-authors of the 2008 Forktail paper describing the White-faced Plover and he agrees that it looks like it is one! By the time we were done, the two plovers had flown off together. They weren't present in a later visit the next weekend, although the 50 or so Small Pratincoles were still around on 18 Nov.

Other birds: Barred Buttonquail, House, Tree and Plain-backed Sparrows, Brown Shrike, Indian Roller, White and Yellow Wagtails, Zebra Dove, Blue-tailed and Little Bee-eaters, Stonechat, Richard's Pipit. Also a Common Kestrel on 18 November and John saw a Golden-bellied Gerygone at the wetland further on past the golf course.