Saturday, September 30, 2006

Locust in Malaysia

Here where I am now, in the inner city of Bangkok, the loud morning and evening calls of the Asian Koels are the most noticeable bird activity. Even non-birders comment about it. This city seems to be too congested and too chaotic for most birds to exist here, even though the hotel gardens are well-watered and leafy. So... I am still enjoying the memory of things I saw in Penang, Malaysia, a few days ago, such as this three-inch-long Locust that landed on a drain pipe beside me. I don't know his name, but he deserves one as colorful as he is.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Asian Fairy Bluebird

Today in Penang, Malaysia, I had a few hours to go birding at a wonderful place called Penang Hill, high above the city. There are many wonderful creatures in that forest, but none could be more dazzling than this Asian Fairy Bluebird. I watched as he gave a morsel of food to a female, apparently as part of a courtship ritual. She also was wearing turquoise, but in a more subdued shade.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Great Hornbill

Here's the other Hornbill (the Great Hornbill) that was feeding in the huge fig tree in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in Singapore yesterday. It's wearing a band on one leg, so is presumed to be an escapee. Regardless of that, it's a very impressive free-flying bird. The local monkeys did not like sharing the tree with the Hornbills, so we were regularly treated to the sights and sounds of these huge birds flapping and squawking their way across to another perch.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Rhinoceros Hornbill

Wow! What a bird! The local birders here in Singapore are not sure if this Rhinoceros Hornbill is an escapee or if it got to this nature reserve (Bukit Timah) on its own, but anyway it is one spectacular bird!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sooty-headed Bulbul

Before leaving Jakarta to come here to Singapore, I did see a few "new" birds. But the only one positively identified so far is the Sooty-headed Bulbul. They were hanging out in the hotel gardens along with Palm Swifts, Yellow-vented Bulbuls, and a Sunbird species or two.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Spotted Dove

In Jakarta, Indonesia, I'm seeing lots of Spotted Doves, but I'm wondering if they are a distinct subspecies, or if I'm just seeing dirty birds. They seem to be generally darker on the front and underparts than the one's I've seen in many other places. Unfortunately, the book I have with me does not cover Indonesian birds, so I'll have to wait for the answer to that question.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Birds are where you find them

Without a chance to do any "real" birding here in Hong Kong, I've been entertaining myself by finding birds in Chinese paintings. (To paraphrase an old saying, "If you can't find the ones you want, want the ones you can find.") This Collared Kingfisher is a detail in a 20 ft. tall mural in the lobby of the Shangri-la Hotel. The book says it's common in coastal areas throughout southeast Asia, so maybe I have a chance of seeing one from a bus or taxi as I move on to four other countries on this trip.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A bird-watcher in Hong Kong

I just arrived in Hong Kong this afternoon, and after seeing only a few Rock Pigeons in downtown Manila in the Philippines, I was encouraged here by seeing a few Black Kites picking scraps off the surface of the bay water and some Black-billed Magpies perched on the edge of an office building roof. But birding is pretty slow here in this city too, and I was most entertained by this young man who was being entertained by a Eurasian Tree Sparrow scavenging among the walkers along the waterfront.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Barn Swallow dawn departure

This morning I watched the Barn Swallows leave their overnight roost in a cornfield. At 6:25 a.m. the eastern sky (from where I stood) was filled with rising, chattering birds, but by 6:40 most of them had disappeared, although I could still hear many that I could not see against the dark sky. There must have been several hundred thousand, and if you click on this image you might be able to see some of the specks. Anyway, it was a glorious morning, with Venus rising above the Cascade Mts. on the horizon. And now I'm off to Asia for three weeks.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Multiple NEXRAD flock indicators

The biologist who is searching for Purple Martin roost sites in the west is also interested in the Barn Swallow flocks that are visible on NEXRAD weather radar when they leave their roosts in the morning. He has identified, in addition to the large Yamhill Co. flock, at least five other roosting sites in the central and northern part of the Willamette Valley, and is hoping that birders in the area will try to find these sites as they go to roost for the night at about 7:30 p.m. Are they all using cornfields as is the flock in Yamhill County? We don't know, but we'd sure like to find out. And it would be very exciting to find Purple Martins roosting with the Barn Swallows. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Nuttall's Woodpecker

Too much happening in too many distant places! But fortunately, when I can't get there, others cover for me. My son found this Nuttall's Woodpecker this morning on a sycamore tree near his house in southern California. This species is easily mistaken for the Ladder-backed Woodpecker which has a similar pattern on the back, but a slightly different face pattern, and is buffy on the underside rather than white as this bird is. In the U.S. it is rarely seen outside of California west of the Sierra Nevada.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Swallows on radar

This morning the radar image of the flock of Barn Swallows leaving their nighttime roost shows a strong presence just east of Newberg, Oregon. Any birders in that vicinity at 6:30 a.m. should watch the sky in the coming days for swallows passing overhead. Or perhaps there are cornfields in the area (maybe just south across the Willamette River) that should be checked for swallows going to roost between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Barn Swallows on radar

Researchers have found a way to use radar for tracking bird movements. I learned just a few days ago that the large flock of Barn Swallows that gathers for roosting in cornfields every fall here in Yamhill County, Oregon, is showing up on NEXRAD images when they take off in the mornings from their nighttime roost. In the image above, the large green cluster shows the flock as it began to spread out this morning at 6:42 a.m. The following images indicated that most of the birds apparently disperse to the east, which would place them mostly in Marion and Clackamas counties, at least for the early part of the day. They return to their chosen cornfield at about 8:00 p.m., but do not seem to show up very well on radar at that time.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I was again called upon to remove a spider that was creating a disturbance in an adjoining office. It turned out to be a spectacular spider, and I wish I knew its name and something about its lifestyle.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Goldfinch Diner

It may not be possible to determine whether or not these American Goldfinches have displaced the Lesser Goldfinches at my feeder; maybe the Lessers were leaving anyway. Whichever it was, only Americans are coming now, and they are consuming a lot of thistle seed, and a little sunflower. Many are also looking a little ragged, showing signs molting into the "basic" plumage, usually referred to as winter plumage.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

American Goldfinch

Maybe they're taking the easy way by coming to my feeder instead of finding lunch in a patch of thistles. But I'm not complaining; American Goldfinches are about the only birds in my yard during these hot days. This juvenile (judging by the lack of greenish coloration on the head and back) is enjoying his sunflower seed snack by the pool.