Sunday, 26 June 2016

Less than plastic (1)

The sun and heat have been so outrageously fierce over the last week that I've had little choice but to spend much of this weekend in 'sheltering' mode. According to the Central Weather Bureau, the 'apparent' temperature for Tainan maxes out at 38 degrees at the moment (and doesn't fall below 30, even at night) which, with no cloud cover, does not make for comfortable birding conditions. I've spent some of the 'cool' parts of the day snooping around the perimeter of the airport looking for Estrilid finches, as I am short one or two of these for the year and recall seeing a large mixed flock in the vicinity of the airport some (many) years ago. As I was far from hot at identifying escaped Estrilids when I had just arrived in the country, I figured it might be worth a 'second' look there to see if any were still extant in the area. I had fancied at the time that I had mostly been looking at Common Waxbills Estrilda astrild (not countable by my own listing rules), but couldn't rule out the possibility now that they may have in fact been Orange-cheeked Waxbills Estrilda melpoda (countable by my listing rules). On the off-chance that I might save myself a long drive into the midlands, I spent a few hours Friday morning and an hour or so Saturday and Sunday evening flogging farmland in the vicinity of the airport. I did indeed turn up a few waxbills, but sadly my guess all those years ago had been accurate and all I could find in the area were Common Waxbills (two on Friday, three on Saturday, four on Sunday), even less than plastic!

I was saved the disappointment of a 'tick-less' weekend by a seawatch on Sunday morning, which added Swinhoe's Storm Petrel Oceanodroma monorhis to my tally for the year. Although the number of birds (as one would expect for the time of year) was low, the seawatch was most marked by some odd terns, including a flock of eight Gull-billed Terns Gelochelidon nilotica (which do occasionally show up mid-summer) and, more unexpectedly, an adult Aleutian Tern Onychoprion aleutica (my first mid-summer record). There were also a dozen or so Bulwer's Petrels Bulweria bulwerii offshore, indicating that they also are around, and a rough sea any time soon may have the capacity to be quite productive for them at least. Above photos taken at Tainan Airport, Tainan City 25-6/6/16.

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