Thursday, November 3, 2011

Suan Rot Fai, Bangkok - late Sep 2011 (1)

After a couple of nights out on the fringes, we threw ourselves to the lions for the following four days by heading directly into the dark heart of Bangkok. Shacking up in a little guesthouse tucked away in a backstreet behind the National Stadium skytrain station, our accommodation was homely and comfortable (if the very definition of basic), and barely two minutes from the station - worth the price alone for several upcoming early starts and some killer urban birding.

female Olive-backed Sunbird

Ostensibly to experience the flavour of this uniquely maniacal city, in reality our positioning in the chaotic depths of its centre was a convenient opportunity to follow up on avian Eastern promise at the urban oasis and migrant trap that is Suan Rot Fai.

Brown Shrike - a ubiquitous and often tame migrant

male Olive-backed Sunbird

After enviously eyeing up his local finds via his excellent patch blog, I'd arranged to hook up with Bangkok resident, ex-pat birder and Suan Rot Fai patch-worker Dave early on the 25th, for the first of three very enjoyable and productive mornings in the park.

White-vented Myna

Dave was kind enough to share his local knowledge, especially useful for isolating the most productive areas within the park, and from around 0645 to 1030 an excellent diversity of species were on show, from various residents to both common and scarcer migrants in good numbers. Over the course of those first few hours I'd almost accidentally racked up eight lifers within the many highlights, and there were plenty more to come.

To provide a little context, Suan Rot Fai is a grade-A, mouth-waterin', lip-smackin' dirty fantasy of an urban patch (and not just from a long-suffering London birder's perspective, although that no doubt helps). Positioned in the very heart of the vast urban sprawl of Bangkok, the park is a large greenspace surrounded by an ocean of concrete on all sides.

Grey Nightjar - an unexpected find on the 28th

Add to that the fact that, unlike other large cities (London & NYC to name two), the park really has no alternative or competition for habitat and location - central Bangkok's other parks are small, over-manicured green ghettos that your average Eastern Crowned Warbler wouldn't bat its tiny Phylloscopus eyelid at - it's easy to see why it attracts such a range of species.

Plaintive Cuckoo & Little Egret

As if that's not enough, its geographical position at the southern bottleneck of northern Thai lowlands, and its position bang on a migratory flyway teaming with Asian wonders basically translates as finding a golden ticket in your Wonka Bar every morning. And then there's the variety and quality of habitat.....

Pond Heron sp. (most likely Javan) and the rear end of a Water Monitor...

male Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker

(More from Suan Rot Fai to follow)

female and male Asian Koels