Joint OBC meeting with BOC and NHM

Joint-meetingThe Club’s Annual General Meeting this year is being held jointly with the British Ornithologists’ Club & Natural History Museum on Saturday 22nd November 2014 at The Flett Theatre, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD.

A packed agenda includes talks by Dr Pamela Rasmussen on new species and rediscoveries, Dr Debbie Pain on saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, John Gregory’s adventures in Sumatra, Dr Stuart Marsden on Asia’s large frugivorous birds, Dr Robert Prŷs-Jones on Allan Octavian Hume and Warblers and Dr Per Alstrom on warblers and larks.

The meeting is open to members and non-members of OBC and BOC. Admission is free to members, donations from non-members invited.

Full programme and details of how to reach the venue in the Joint Meeting programme (PDF, 150 KB).

Jewel Hunter available from OBC

THE_JEWEL_HUNTER_cover_LRThe Jewel Hunter, Chris Goodie’s gripping tale of his quest to see every species of true pitta inside a single calendar year is now available direct from Chris, with £4 from every sale going straight to the Oriental Bird Club.

To find out more about this exciting opportunity to read about one of the world’s great birding tales, please visit the OBC publications sales page.

Asian ibis on the Edge


Giant Ibis (c) James Eaton / BirdtourAsia

An assessment by scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Yale University of bird species worldwide has helped produce a list of the top 100 most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (Edge) species.

Top of the list is the rare and striking Giant Ibis, which today can most easily be found in northern Cambodia. Approximately 230 pairs remain in the wild, many of them protected by local campaigns run through the Sam Veasna Centre and BirdLife Cambodia. Chief threats to the ibis are habitat loss, human disturbance and hunting.

New bird family from the eastern Himalayas


The Spotted Elachura Elachura formosa, newly elevated to single-family status. (c) James Eaton / BirdtourASIA

DNA molecular analysis has revealed that the Spotted Wren-babbler is a unique species, unrelated to wren-babblers and is best placed in its own family, the Elachuridae.

Henceforth the species will be called the Spotted Elachura Elachura formosa.

The discovery, by Professor Per Alström and co-workers, is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

Molecular analysis of passerine families identified 10 separate evolutionary branches, one of which was unique to the Spotted Elachura, the only living representative of one of the earliest off-shoots within the passeriformes

The Spotted Elachura is extremely secretive and difficult to observe, usually staying hidden within dense tangled undergrowth in subtropical mountain forests.

The male’s high-pitched song doesn’t resemble any other continental Asian bird song. The close resemblance in appearance to wren-babbler species is thought due either to pure chance or convergent evolution.

BirdingASIA 20: a publication you can’t afford to miss


Cover photo: Spangled Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus, Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, West Bengal, January 2013 by Arabinda Debnath

OBC members should already have received BirdingASIA 20, the latest issue of the Club’s biannual publication, BirdingASIA.

As ever, the issue is packed with the latest information and ornithological sightings from the Oriental region. It includes articles on identifcation of ‘Black-eared’ and ‘Pariah’ Kites, right, and ringing sparrowhawks on migration,a whole suite of taxonomic changes to the region’s avifauna, right through to some stunning photo essays and an artilcle about the poorly-known Wood Snipe in Bhutan.

The full contents and sample articles from each issue are posted here on the OBC website, but it’s a publication you simply can’t afford to miss: so join OBC today and you will receive two issues of BirdingASIA every year, plus once a year, Forktail, the Club’s peer-reviewed journal publishing original ornithological research from the region.

Birding NE Tibet with Oriental Bird Club


We aim to find spectacular birds like this Henderson’s Ground-jay. Photo (c) Richard Thomas

In 2014, there will be an exciting opportunity for OBC members to visit the Koko Nor, deserts, Roof of the World & SE Qinghai, 27 July – 17 Aug 2014.

[This draft 30 June 2013] By Jesper Hornskov * ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Situated in western China, rugged Qinghai province is the ideal place to see a mix of Central Asian specialities, Chinese / Tibetan endemics, and isolated populations of otherwise mostly Siberian species. In zoogeographic terms we will be visiting the Tibetan Plateau and the deep valleys of its eastern fringes, with the latter showing particularly strong affinities with the least accessible parts of neighbouring Sichuan, known for its avifaunally rich Panda reserves.

Unlike China’s ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ (which could remain trapped in the current unrest- and-clampdown cycle for years to come), Qinghai – with scenery fully on par with the very best in parts of ‘geographical Tibet’ now administered by neighbouring provinces – offers excellent, reliable & (with comparatively less developed tourism) affordable access to Tibet’s array of unique birds, mammals & flora.

Drawing on unequalled birding experience in Qinghai (>45 comprehensive tours during 1995- 2013 in addition to six years’ residence in the province) the following itinerary incorporates several sites pioneered by your leader Jesper Hornskov as recently as in summer 2013. The present itinerary has been carefully planned and updated to take in as wide a range of habitats as possible, thus maximizing our chances of connecting with all target species. Improved infrastructure – mainly better roads, but also more frequent domestic flights – now allows us to incorporate into a three week tour the very best this part of Asia has to offer without compromising on the field hours: we have sufficient time to ensure that all specialities can be properly searched for, at a realistic pace. We shall be expecting to see around 220 species in Qinghai, with additional ones possible as we pass through Beijing.

Further details: OBC Qinghai itinerary 2014 (PDF, 350 KB)

Latest issue of BirdingASIA published


Cover photo: the stunning Ludlow’s Fulvetta Alcippe ludlowi, East Arunachal, India, March 2012 by Chewang Bonpo

OBC members will soon receive or have already got their latest issue of the Club’s biannual publication, BirdingASIA.

As ever, the issue is packed with the latest information and ornithological sightings from the Oriental region. It includes articles on the exciting rediscovery of Sillem’s Mountain Finch in China (see news item below), all the latest taxonomic changes and updates proposed for Asian birds plus updates on conservation breeding efforts to conserve the Spoon-billed Sandpiper right through to notes about the nesting of the rarely seen Hoogerwerf’s Pheasant in Sumatra.

The full contents and sample articles from each issue are posted here on the OBC website, but it’s a publication you simply can’t afford to miss: so join OBC today and you will receive two issues of BirdingASIA every year, plus once a year, Forktail, the Club’s peer-reviewed journal publishing original ornithological research from the region.

Hiding in plain sight: Cambodian Tailorbird discovered within city limits of Phnom Penh

New Species: the previously undescribed Cambodian Tailorbird has been found in Cambodia’s urbanized capital Phnom Penh Photo (c) James Eaton / Birdtour Asia

A team of scientists with the Wildlife Conservation Society, BirdLife International, and other groups have discovered a new species of bird with distinct plumage and a loud call living not in some remote jungle, but in a capital city of 1.5 million people.

Called the Cambodian Tailorbird Orthotomus chaktomuk, the previously undescribed species was found in Cambodia’s urbanized capital Phnom Penh and several other locations just outside of the city including a construction site. It is one of only two bird species found solely in Cambodia. The other, the Cambodian Laughingthrush, is restricted to the remote Cardamom Mountains.

Scientists describe the new bird in a special online early-view issue of the Oriental Bird Club’s journal Forktail.

A new species of lowland tailorbird (Passeriformes: Cisticolidae: Orthotomus) from the Mekong floodplain of Cambodia (Forktail 29: 1-14) (PDF, 670 KB)

Authors include: Simon Mahood, Ashish John, Hong Chamnan, and Colin Poole of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Jonathan Eames of BirdLife International; Carl Oliveros and Robert Moyle of University of Kansas; Fred Sheldon of Louisiana State University; and Howie Nielsen of the Sam Veasna Centre.

The small grey bird with a rufous cap and black throat lives in dense, humid lowland scrub in Phnom Penh and other sites in the floodplain. Its scientific name ‘chaktomuk’ is an old Khmer word meaning four-faces, perfectly describing where the bird is found: the area centered in Phnom Penh where the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac Rivers come together.

Only tiny fragments of floodplain scrub remain in Phnom Penh, but larger areas persist just outside the city limits where the Cambodian Tailorbird is abundant. The authors say that the bird’s habitat is declining and recommend that the species is classified as Near Threatened under the IUCN’s Red List. Agricultural and urban expansion could further affect the bird and its habitat. However, the bird occurs in Baray Bengal Florican Conservation Area, where WCS is working with local communities and the Forestry Administration to protect the Bengal Florican and other threatened birds.

This same dense habitat is what kept the bird hidden for so long. Lead author Simon Mahood of WCS began investigating the new species when co-author Ashish John, also of WCS, took photographs of what was first thought to be a similar, coastal species of tailorbird at a construction site on the edge of Phnom Penh. The bird in the photographs initially defied identification. Further investigation revealed that it was an entirely unknown species.

“The modern discovery of an un-described bird species within the limits of a large populous city – not to mention 30 minutes from my home – is extraordinary,” said Mahood.  “The discovery indicates that new species of birds may still be found in familiar and unexpected locations.”

The last two decades have seen a sharp increase in the number of new bird species emerging from Indochina, mostly due to exploration of remote areas.  Newly described birds include various babbler species from isolated mountains in Vietnam, the bizarre Bare-faced Bulbul from Lao PDR and the Mekong Wagtail, first described in 2001 by WCS and other partners.

Colin Poole, Director of WCS Singapore and a co-author of the Forktail study said, “This discovery is one of several from Indochina in recent years, underscoring the region’s global importance for bird conservation.”

Co-Author Jonathan C. Eames of BirdLife International said: “Most newly discovered bird species in recent years have proved to be threatened with extinction or of conservation concern, highlighting the crisis facing the planet’s biodiversity.”

Steve Zack, WCS Coordinator of Bird Conservation, said, “Asia contains a spectacular concentration of bird life, but is also under sharply increasing threats ranging from large scale development projects to illegal hunting.  Further work is needed to better understand the distribution and ecology of this exciting newly described species to determine its conservation needs.”

Video (c) Martin Kennewell / Birdtour Asia

Supplementary Online Material
Sonograms etc



Two new sites for Jankowski’s Bunting discovered


Jankowski’s (Rufous-backed) Bunting, photographed at one of the newly discovered grassland sites. Photo (c) Terry Townshend

A survey in Inner Mongolia and Jilin Province, China, by a team from the Beijing Birdwatching Society in May 2013 has discovered two new sites for Jankowski’s Bunting, an Endangered species, holding at least 12 birds, plus more than 30 individuals were found at a single established site.

Terry Townshend, a British birdwatcher living in Beijing accompanied the team and talks about the discovery in his blog.