Thursday, March 12, 2009

First Try at Nam Kham Nature Reserve I

Photo by จับกัง
It's been 2 years since this project of my nature club, the Lanna Bird and Nature Conservation Club (LBNC), has been started. It was a dream of the club's chairman, Dr. Rungsrit Kanchanawanit, which was inspired by the work of RSPB in England. Nam Kham Nature Reserve will be opened to public in near future and is now in the process of researching and environmental developing. Many rare species of Thailand and South East Asia had already been reported. These species include White-tailed Rubythroat(Luscinia pectoralis), Large-billed Reed Warbler(Acrocephalus orinus), Blyth's Reed Warbler(A. dumetorum), Paddyfield Reed Warbler(A. agricola), Australasian Grass Owl(Tyto longimembris) and Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler(Cettia major). Not to mention about other interesting species that can be found easily at Nam Kham area like Siberian Rubythroat(Luscinia calliope), Baikal Bush Warbler(Bradypterus davidi), Red Avadavat(Amandava amandava), Black-faced Bunting(Emberiza spodocephala), Pied Kingfisher(Ceryle rudis) and Indian Spot-billed Duck(Anas haringtoni), Nam Kham Nature Reserve is now known to all birders in Thailand.

Siberian Rubythroat 1st Individual

I had a chance to visit Nam Kham Nature Reserve last Saturday with Dr. Rungsrit. It is located in the Northernmost part of Thailand, in the valley of Chiang Saen in Chiang Rai Province. We left Chiang Mai at 3 in the morning by car and arrived Nam Kham at about 7. The temperature was quite low in the morning, about 14°C, but the air pollution was crisis. It has become a regular problem in northern Thailand for several years now. The forest-burn smoke, mostly man-made, causes very dense smog covering many provinces in northern Thailand. However, when we arrived at the place, there were voices of birds calling from everywhere. There were a song of the Striated Grassbird(Megalurus palustris) from thick grass, voices of warblers calling in thick reeds, songs of the Rubythroats, sweet calls of the Oriental Magpie Robin(Copsychus saularis), noisy sound of the Sooty-headed Bulbuls(Pycnonotus aurigaster), and much much more that couldn't be recognized. The area is mainly filled with grasses, mainly Reed(Phragmites karka (Ketz.) Trin.ex Sterud. var. karka) or แขม(kaem) in Thai language, with an oxbow lake, which unfortunately has already been dried up for more than 50 percent due to dry weather. There was also a large pond on the West of the area but it was already completely dry.

There are 3 permanent blinds at Nam Kham. The first one is at the pond and the other two are inside the Reedbeds. There are tiny ponds in front of the two blinds inside the thickets which are used to attract secretive speices like robins and warblers that live inside reedbeds to come out in dry season. These small birds are not easy to spot when they feed in grasses, even though their voices come very close. After arriving, we walked from the entrance to the blinds. I chose the smaller one which is placed in a thicker area. After sitting for few minutes, a male Siberian Rubythroat(Luscinia calliope) quietly hopped out to the open ground in front of the blind from thick bushes in the back. I'd call this guy the "1st individual" since he's the first rubythroat I saw here. This individual has small pale spots on the tip of his tertials and greater coverts and has already been ringed. After watching this beautiful guy for a while, surprisingly came a new visitor, a Baikal Bush Warbler(Bradypterus davidi), quietly crept out from the dark, walking towards the pond and hesitatingly took a bath before walking back into the bush. It is not easy to see a Bradypterus bush warbler clearly in open outside of its breeding ground like this, so the appearance of this little guy really brought me a lot of pleasure. It was formerly treated as a subspecies of B. thoracius or Spotted Bush Warbler which is mainly resident in Indian Subcontinent, China and North Myanmar, but now regarded as a full species.

A rare scene of Baikal Bush Warbler bathing
After sitting for a while I came out to go birding around the area. There were so many birds, but all in thick bushes. I finally found 2 Chestnut-capped Babbler(Timalia pileata), another Siberian Rubythroat, Dusky Warblers(Phylloscopus fuscatus), a Racket-tailed Treepie(Crypsirina temia) and another Baikal Bush Warbler. This Baikal Bush Warbler individual was much paler than the first one. The dark spots on its breast was very faint and almost invisible, but the white scales on its undertail coverts were still prominent. It was hopping in the reeds and when it saw me, instead of flying away, it started to call its alarm and hop higher and higher to the top of the bush, gave me a perfect chance to photograph it in its natural habitat.

A variant Baikal Bush Warbler

1 comment:

Phil said...

That Rubythroat is just a dream bird for most UK birders. Fantastic pictures. Looks like a great place to go birding - all those little brown jobs.