Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Little Brown Jobs

The LBJs are always fun to watch and very challenging to photograph! The whole afternoon of Sunday 18th saw me following flocks of LBJs all along the road near the summit of Doi Inthanon. The low vegetation along both sides of the road near the summit is the best place where you can encounter a handful of LBJ species, sometimes even some nice rarities. The party started with a huge flock of the tiny and restless Rufous-winged Fulvettas (Alcippe castaneceps). Not only do they hop around in the bush, they also spiral up and down the trees just like nuthatches to make us photographers feel dizzy as hell. I wasn't quite fond of following these tiny devils as they are quite common and widespread. The real thing started as a couple of Ashy-throated Warblers (Phylloscopus maculipennis) kicked in. This species of Phylloscopus warbler's distribution in Thailand is restricted to only the highest summit of Doi Inthanon. That reason alone easily made me decide to follow them instead of the fulvettas.
Ashy-throated Warblers (Phylloscopus maculipennis)
The Ashy-throated Warbler is even smaller than the Rufous-winged Fulvetta, only 9-9.5 cm in length and normally even harder to photograph! I've never been able to get any decent shot of this tiny warbler before. Didn't know why but the one you see in these photos was really obliging and posed for me so well. These small birds at the summit are not afraid of human at all since there has never been any human settlement in the past. It's very normal to watch them hopping around just before your eyes. However, being too close is surely not a good thing, so I had to constantly step back to get the whole body of the bird into the frame.

Ashy-throated Warblers (Phylloscopus maculipennis)

Rufous-winged Fulvetta (Alcippe castaneceps)
Taking care of the nuthatch's job
It was when I was enjoying shooting photos of the showy Ashy-throated Warbler that I saw 2 brownish birds flying into the bush in front of me. I was so happy to see that they were Yellow-browed Tits (Sylviparus modestus), a scarce montane forest resident. This species of tit always confuses new (or sometimes even senior) birders because it is so nondescriptive. Most people often mistaken it with warblers. However, if you look closely at its bill, you will see that it still has the tit's bill shape. Its yellow eyebrow is normally hidden by the olive-brown feathers but pronounced when displaying or alarmed. Shrubs around the summit of Doi Inthanon might be the easiest place in Thailand to see this northern montane specialty.
Yellow-browed Tit (Sylviparus modestus)

Bar-throated Minla (Chrysominla strigula castanicauda)
However, the most numerous LBJ of the highest summit of Doi Inthanon is the larger Bar-throated or Chestnut-tailed Minla (Chrysominla strigula castanicauda). It is also among the few Doi Inthanon's specialties. It can be found on a few high mountains in the west and northwestern parts of Thailand, but Doi Inthanon is the easiest place to find it. It has a nickname among Thai birders as the "Doi Inthanon's sparrow" comparing its abundance to the Eurasian Tree Sparrow which can be found literally everywhere in Thailand.

Mountain Tailorbird (Phyllergates cucullatus coronatus)
The last LBJ that I want to introduce in this post is the Mountain Tailorbird (Phyllergates cucullatus coronatus). Although it is not so drab and brown but its super skittish behaviour and its habitat fits nicely to the others. I can truly say that among all of the birds in this post, this one is the toughest to photograph. I found a pair singing and feeding in the same area for the whole morning near the 2nd checkpoint of Doi Inthanon and I spent the whole morning trying to get photos of them and the result was still not so satisfiable. This bird was extremely fast and always hid itself among the leaves and branches. Even when I tried using playback, it still didn't come out easily. I finally had to give up for lunch. Otherwise I'd be so damn angry bashing all the bushes around the checkpoint lol.


Phil said...

I had never heard of Ashy-throated Warblers but when I scrolled down to look at your pictures they are like “crests”, Firecrest in particular. I think (I know) you worked hard to get all those LBJs on camera and the last shot of the Mountain Tailorbird is very, very good.

Russell said...

They look more than LBJs to when you take such splendid photographs. A beautiful collection.

Chris said...

They look lie our goldcrest or wren species, so surely not so easy to get pictures of, but man, you did it just perfectly. I love the ashy-throated warblers a lot, it is so cute ;-)

John said...

Very difficult to get photos of the "small stuff" but you've done well here. Mountain Tailorbird usually hides in the thickest tangles !