Today we headed to the Golden Triangle area and after a 5am departure we reached a small reserve near Chiang Saen Lake shortly after sunrise at 7am. We had taken something of a gamble coming here but were quickly rewarded with views of a Brown-cheeked Rail (also known as Eastern Water Rail) – a split from the more familiar species seen in Europe. It was working its way along a narrow channel at the back of a muddy area and often obscured by tall grasses but with persistence we had decent views, although not as good as a much closer bird later today! At the same marshy spot we also had a pair of Ruddy-breasted Crakes feeding out in the open and showing rather well. Moving on we followed a path along a channel filled with water and as we crossed a clearing a bird flew across that set alarm bells ringing. In the brief glimpse I had I thought it looked like the Firethroat that had first been seen at the end of December. However, knowing that it was extremely elusive and some birders had spent days looking for it, I though “what are the chances…” But when your luck is in – it is well and truly in, as shortly after it began singing! And after half an hour or so of waiting patiently, the bird began to reveal itself and we had brief glimpses in the dense tangle along the water’s edge. But it never came right out into the open, which was a bit frustrating.
Just then Nick came running as he had just seen a Jerdon’s Bushchat literally around the corner so after a frantic couple of minutes the bird was in the bag and the scope views were superb! A great bird and not that easy to get here. So we were about to leave and head to pastures new when Nick and I changed our minds and went to check out a small hide that the Firethroat had occasionally been seen from. I was kind of dumbstruck when it literally hopped out right in front of us! Panic set in and the group was quickly scrunched into the tiny photo blind (it was too small to be a hide!) and we waited, and waited. Nothing happened for 20 minutes but all of a sudden it appeared and stayed about 3 metres out in the open right in front of us for at least a minute before melting back into the dense grasses. Unbelievable!
And with smiles all round we left and headed to Chiang Saen Lake, where we saw hundreds of Lesser Whistling Ducks, female Pied Harrier, a Burmese Shrike, Oriental Reed Warbler and a brief Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler amongst others. By now it was late morning so headed to the Golden Triangle for lunch at a restaurant but along the way noticed that there was still some habitat left on the Mekong River so took a detour. Just as well as the water level was low and there was quite a lot of exposed sand and gravel banks with 70+ Small Pratincoles present – what a bonus!
After lunch we returned to the lake and took a boat out to the far side but apart from some commoner waterfowl there was only Ferruginous Duck and Indian Spot-billed Ducks of note, plus another Eastern Marsh Harrier and some Purple Herons.
|Purple and Grey Herons|
So we returned to the Mekong River and this time found a pair of River Lapwings, as well as getting much better views of Grey-throated Martins, plus a male and few female Red Avadavats.
The final stop of the day was at the harrier roost where 50+ Pied Harriers flew in with plenty more Eastern Marsh Harriers, and boy what a bird. We watched the Pied Harriers flying over the marsh in front of us, as well as scoping some as they landed in an open area. Amazing! There was also a Striated Grassbird, Racket-tailed Treepie, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Black-browed Reed Warbler and another brief Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler. What a day!