This past weekend* was a perfect example of why I love birding for three reasons: enjoying the common species, finding rare species, and doing it with friends!
(This was from late September! I started writing it immediately after, but didn’t get around to finishing it till now 😬)
The weekend started off at New Vision, birding with two of the legends of Bangladesh birding, Sayam Chowdhury and Enam-ul Haque!
While waiting for them to arrive I enjoyed watching the Great Egrets after not seeing them for a long time. I had almost forgotten how huge they are!
After meeting up with Sayam and Enam, we started slowly down the slightly slick trail. Not much bird movement in the first stretch, but there were lots of bulbuls as always and I got a photo of one feeding on some kind of berry for PlantBird.
Fairly early on we accidentally flushed a young Black Bittern from some bushes beside the path. Always a good bird to see, no decent photos for me though.
A little further along we saw our first Yellow Bitterns of the day and I was able to capture two in one frame which was cool.
Birding wasn’t fast, but it was pleasant with a large flock of Asian Palm Swifts circling above the water, Long-tailed Shrikes, and then our first Clamorous Reed Warbler of the season. I didn’t get any photos of the Clamorous, so here’s a shrike.
Just past where we saw the first Clamorous Reed Warbler there was a fairly large patch of reddish brown reeds and I saw several brown birds in there.
One I quickly figured out was just another Clamorous Reed Warbler, but the other bird had me puzzled. It was brown overall with a streaked back and fairly long bill. I half wondered if it could be some bunting, but pushed that out of my mind as a ridiculous guess and decided it must be something common I wasn’t quite recognizing.
Looking at the photos later I realized my first guess of bunting was correct, it turned out to be the rare Black-headed Bunting, only a female sadly since the males are much prettier. This is only around the 10th national record all since Sayam found one around 2010. And mine is the first record from around Dhaka. (note: since then there are been a few more records in Bangladesh including at least 2 around Dhaka)
This was my first lifer since the Wedge-tailed Shearwater in May which was a first national record!
As we continued along our way I saw two terns that ended up being more Whiskered, the expected species, but I keep hoping to find something else. We enjoyed watching them try to land on these bamboo poles while fighting the wind.
They weren’t very close, so my photos aren’t ideal.
The Plain Prinias along here are always begging to be photographed, so I try to oblige.
As we neared the end of our time we found a small flooded field with lots of sandpipers and wagtails. We were especially interested in the wagtails as it was recently discovered that Eastern Yellow Wagtail is actually possibly more common than Western Yellow and Sayam still needed it for his list.
So we carefully scrutinized all the wagtails, there were a few Citrine and White mixed in,
but quite a few of them were yellow wagtails, and thankfully Sayam was able to record one individuals calls and that was an Eastern!
That was a successful end to the morning, but bright and early next morning I was out there again this time with Nic and Elias.
First up was a young Black Bittern in the same area as the morning before, quite probably the same individual
A juvenile Black Drongo let us get pretty close, but the lighting wasn’t ideal for photos.
I got a pretty nice shot of an Asian Koel in flight.
Then we took a trail to the left that I hadn’t taken before, and it proved to be a good choice with an awesome Purple Heron, my first for New Vision and decent bird around Dhaka!
Also along that trail were a photogenic Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, quite a few Brahminy Kites, and a briefly seen coucal which may have been Lesser which is uncommon but couldn’t get photos of it.
As we continued the normal loop we had a bunch of the normal stuff: nothing too thrilling. In one field we came across quite a few wagtails and were able to confirm at least one Eastern. We checked the same spot where we had good photo ops for the wagtails last time, but they weren’t nearly as obliging…
Somewhere along the way we met up with my friend Zaber Ansary and Asker Ibne Feroz (who I hadn’t met before).
As we headed out to where we had parked our bicycles we we got super lucky and had an adult Black Bittern fly past and land fairly close to use before disappearing in thick reeds, but before it disappeared I was able to get some nice shots of this elusive species!
What a fitting end to a great weekend of birding with friends!
eBird checklists: first morning with Sayam and Enam; second morning with Nic, Elias, Zaber, and Asker Ibne Feroz.
p.s. my luck with Black Bitterns continued as the next week I got the longest views I’ve ever had of a perched Black Bittern and was even able to get video footage! Sometimes it pays to keep birding the right areas…