Koel in Monash and in Bangkok, Ayutthia and Sukothai

Subject: Koel in Monash and in Bangkok, Ayutthia and Sukothai
From: Con Boekel <>
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2008 21:37:10 +1100
Hi Coglisters
Just back from three weeks in Thailand, mainly visiting family, and following historical and cultural interests but got a bit of birding in over there as well. For the Koel fraternity, saw and or heard Koels in Bangkok, Ayutthia and Sukothai. Didn't see or hear them in Chieng Mai or in Mae Hong Son province (far North-west of Thailand). Didn't spot a female bird at all. Birding highlight was seeing several hundred thousand (?) Fork-tailed Swifts, as well as numerous swiftlets, entering Tam Lod cave (N-E of Mae Hong Son city, not far from the Burma border) at dusk. How do several hundred thousand birds enter a cave at great speed without hitting each other? They stack themselves in the same way as passenger aircraft do over a congested airport. In this case birds were entering the stack at height and the birds in the stack were all flying in an anti-clockwise direction and descending in a spiral at the same time. As the reached the bottom of the stack, the birds peeled off and entered the cave. Even so, three swiftlets were knocked out of the air in collisions. All would have died without human-assisted take-offs. Two long, thin aerial roots (about a centimetre in width) dangled practically the length of the cave entrance. Not hit by a single bird even those entering the cave well into the dusk. Several raptors were there hunting through the stack actively both nights. Seen only in silhouette, so no real idea what they were. A general impression - saw no ducks, hornbills, few raptors, no swamphen-type creatures but lots of egrets and storks. The cities were full of Rock Doves, Spotted Doves and Eurasian Tree Sparrows; Ayutthia and Sukothai had our very own charming Peaceful Doves as fairly common city birds as well. Scammers operate outside the royal palace in Bangkok 'giving' Rock Dove food to unsuspecting tourists who are expected to gain 'luck' by feeding the pigeons. The luck must be elsewhere, because the tourists are then somewhat browbeaten into paying for the food. There are an awful lot of Rock Doves outside the royal palace. A lot of the Thai birds are very, very colourful. The little brown bush birds are a set of diagnostic torture creatures. They flit about, are often high in the forest canopy or as silhouettes in dappled jungle foliage and move about like tuktuks in Bangkok traffic. If you are visiting for a short time only, talk to the locals about where trees are fruiting - even in central Bangkok this can lead to pleasing results. Glimpsed a cock fight from our train. Around the hill villages at least, boys use slingshots to kill birds for food. For those of you who are spiritual: I was assured that you may gain merit by purchasing the release of caged birds (finches and doves) at wats. Oh, and one at least of the corvid spp can do quite bouncy hops. Only one small ornithological disappointment - no Hoopoe! Thailand has a greater percentage of its land area gazetted as national parks than does Australia but we did not get to visit any of them... that is for next time.

Jack and Andrea Holland wrote:
The hot night must have made Koels more active as I heard my first one briefly but clearly for my GBS site at 4:40 this morning. I have been hearing this species between 6-7 am in the far distance off and on since Boxing Day, but had concluded that it was the Holder/Duffy bird. Quite late for Koels in this area, very few records in January previously. Jack Holland

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