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Thailand Day 9 Kaeng Lawa Lake and area ISABELINE SHRIKE!

18th February 2023

I’ve only seen a single Lanceolated Warbler back home on Scilly when it was crawling over my trainers over 15 year ago! So seeing this very showy individual, while waiting for a male Siberian Rubythroat, was like I was observing a Lancy all over again for the first time.

What a cracking day down the marshes for my third visit to Keang Lawa Lake. After discovering a 4th, 6th and 7th for Oman only two week ago, Grey-bellied Cuckoo, Brown Shrike and Blyth’s Reed Warbler respectively, I didn’t think I could step it up a gear with a first for Thailand! However, the Shrike and Blyth’s Reed Warbler were discovered in Oman in November but had not been seen in the area until I came across both species at the beginning of February. I couldn’t believe my look, thinking that I had found them but I was immediately informed by the finder himself when I put the news out on social media. Last time I was in Oman, four year ago, I turned up the 7th Cinerous Vulture for the country as well as an Oriental Turtle Dove.

Again I stuck to the east and south side and followed a track bordering the lake, 6 Painted Stork moved out west. This was quickly followed by some 32 Oriental Pratincole and hawking with them, another new species, some 20 Small Pratincole. One I was hoping to connect while out in Oman. A Pied Harrier moved through and put up 2 Little Bittern and Red-wattled Plover and I flushed a Savanna Nightjar off the side of the track with the scooter. Further on, four Golden-headed Weaver flew in front of me while I was scooting along but one of them was bright yellow and I had no idea what it was. It perched nearby, and although the light wasn’t ideal, I thought I had a male Ruppel’s Weaver and the other three that got away, must of been females of the species. I took a few shots before it flew off.

These 6 Painted Stork was not a bad record down at the lake

Hawking with these 32 Collard Pratincole

Was 20 Small Pratincole and were a new species for me after missing out on two trips to Oman

The back end of a Yellow Bittern flying away

The weather was turning dull when I took a pic of this Red-wattled Plover

Out of the large flocks of Golden-headed Weaver that I’ve come across since arriving in Thailand, this is the only male that I’ve seen so far and that’s why I passed it off as a male Ruppel’s Weaver

No sign of the Burmese Shrike and the Yellow-breasted Bunting were down from 100 yesterday to 40. A turn off up a small lane to a dead end was productive. Of note, single Black-napped Oriole, Brown Shrike, Chestnut-tailed Starling, 2 Hoopoe and a handful of Yellow-vented Bulbul. As I was close by and there was an hour of light left, I thought I would end the day to look and see if the Siberian Rubythroat was still present. It was, sharing the grassy path with the Bluethroat. I made a great effort to hide behind some tall stems and waited for the rubythroat, to hopefully get a better crack at it with the camera than my last effort. Standing still, a small brown job flew down low into the undergrowth from the top of the stems, only a meter away to where I was. I immediately put my bins up and though it was obscured, I was taken back to see that it was a Lanceolated Warbler! Get in there! It disappeared deeper into cover. Shite! I waited around, saw some movement and there it was out in open and I quickly fired off some shots. I returned behind the same stems again, still thinking of the rubythroat, when a shrike alighted on the tallest stem at very close range to my right. Clearly I could see immediately it wasn’t the Brown Shrike that has been hanging at out nearby next to the road that I had earlier on and yesterday. I lifted my bins up and as I thought, an adult male Isabelline Shrike and didn’t think much of it. As it was a male, it made it easier to rule out Red-tailed Shrike. After seeing both species of shrikes, four or five daily, while in Oman over a week ago and gettin some awesome shots of them both while out in Kuwait also Oman four years before, my eyes were focused back on the grassy path and maybe the Lancy might reappear as well. It dawned on me that I had not seen a Issy Shrike in Thailand before and had a look at its status on the Ebird App and was kinda of taken back. According to the app, there’s been no Isabelline Shrike recorded in Thailand. OK, that changed everythin. Now my mission was to relocate the damn thing. I took off and just a few meters from where I had been, I caught some movement directly in front of me and sticking out like a bacon from it being so pale, there it was, deep in the centre of a thicket. Despite being deep in the thicket, I could observe it no problem with the bins and again at close range. I had a good look at it before trying to get somethin with the camera but it was no use. After blasting the thicket and still nothin, when looking at the BOC. It was while taken pics that the shrike disappeared unnoticed. Probably gone to roost but I gave it nearly 30 minutes in searching the area before dark and then returned back to my digs, disappointed.. I could of nailed it with the camera before when it was showing very well out in the open in good light if I had an idea it was a first for Thailand. Never mind, one that’s got away. I’ve already co-found a first for a country anyways before. In Gambia, with Graham Gordon, we turned up a Caspian Plover and a few days later, I got crackin shots of the 17th Egyptian Vulture for the country as well! Even better was when I discovered a third for the Western Palearctic, Asian Red-rumped Swallow in Egypt! So what I’m saying, I’m sound and I can let this one slip away. Although I will be down the marshes at first light tomorrow and give it a few hours in hope that it reappears.

Only some 40 Yellow-breasted Bunting today


Common Iora

Black-napped Oriole

Only my second Lanceolated Warbler after the only Scilly record of an individual crawling over my feet some 100 year ago!

The area where the Laceolated Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat, Bluethroat, Brown and Isabelline Shrike were observed.

Can you spot the Isabelline Shrike?

After putting my sighting of the day on Ebirds, I informed that my Ruppel’s Warbler was infact a male Golden-headed Weaver. Since arriving in Thailand, I’ve seen big flocks of the latter species and they’ve all been drab brown jobs and was told that it was a very unusual record to see a full on male at this time of the year. Also, I had no idea what a male Golden-headed Weaver looked like and poked my head

It was also later in evening while goin through my pics on the laptop that I could see, right down the bottom of the shot, just showing it’s head tilted to the left back on, the Isabelline Shrike! It was a shite record shot but there it was and you could clearly see it’s pale sandy colour with a dark mask from the base of it’s bill broadening at the back of the eye. I put the news out on social media with the shite record shot, asking if anyone knew if there has ever been a record of Isabelline Shrike in Thailand? Shortly afterwards I got a reply telling me that it was. I also got a lot of stick from a small number of birders from/living in Thailand, as well as support from others. Some made it clear what they thought of the record shot and I admit, it’s probably the worst record shot I’ve ever taken. They also made it clear that it probably a Brown Shriker. Even when I made it clear to them that I observed it at very close range, showing very well before I relocated in the thicket later on and also that I’ve got a lot of experience with both Brown and Isabelline Shrike, still the consensus was that they can’t rule out Brown Shrike from this record shot, particularly the ssp. confusus which is common. Yes, very common and I’ve seen them daily since arriving in Thailand with three alone today. I totally understand that it’s a first for Thailand and you can’t go by the record shot. It seems as though almost everyone is just goin by the terrible record and not what I observed before. It looks like the birders in Thailand have made their minds up already and that is, by the record shot, it’s not a Isabelline Shrike.

As well as having a lot of experience with both Brown and 100s of Isabelline Shrike, Out of the three of the latter species that I have seen back home on Scilly, the third one and last record on the island, I was fortunate enough to find some 15 years agog. I had it distantly on a top of a bush for two seconds but that was enough for me to put the news out to the hundreds of birders on Scilly at the time, to let them know that I just had an Isabelline Shrike. I couldn’t look for it myself as I had to return to work. It was an hour later that the main man, Brian Bland, relocated it and it was identified as a Darian Shrike and everyone connected with it! A few days before, I turned up that Booted Warbler that was believed to be a possible Syke’s Warbler at the time.

This adult male ISABELLINE SHRIKE is not front on, showing it’s underparts, as it seems everyone thought when I put this record shot on social media. It’s back on, showing it’s pale sandy coloured wings and it’s upperparts with his head tilted left. as it’s an adult male Isabelline Shrike, it’s showing off it’s black lores. If you can find a Brown Shrike as pale as this individual and get a pic, even if it’s a bad record shot like mine, then I would love to see it. But really we should forget about the pic above and concentrate on what I observed at very close range. Isabelline Shrike is nothin, I mean nothin, like a Brown Shrike. Even though it’s a terrible record shot above, now you know it’s back on and not front on, does it really come across as a Brown Shrike?

Any comments would be welcome

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Author: Kris Webb 10

I love to throw sticks at trees! I also can’t get enough of music! I also blog about my observations on Scilly and wherever I go around the world and what’s sometimes on my mind. I’ve visited over 30 countries and some more times than once. I’ve worked and volunteered in Nepal, USA, Peru, Gambia, Costa Rica, 3x Australia, and refugee camps in Palestine The profile image is one I took while in Palestine of a brave Israeli holding high the Palestinian flag in front of the Israeli Offensive Forces during protests in Belin

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