Monday, 4 February 2013

Wader Heaven

We left Bangkok early and drove to Pak Thale along the shores of the Gulf of Thailand and the wintering grounds of Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The weather was still freaky with low cloud and some light rain but on leaving the minibus it cleared a bit and within a few minutes we had 3 spoonies teed up in the scopes. Wow! It's always interesting to speak to my groups about this bird being the main reason for visiting Thailand, and when I ask is it THE best bird of the tour so far it usually never is. I mean how can it compare to the point-blank views we already had of Rusty-naped Pitta, Blue Pitta, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, White-bellied Redstart etc etc. There's obviously more to Thailand than spoonies!

Err - Spoon-billed Sandpiper...
Anyway, the spoonies were in company with some Great Knots, Curlew Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints and a few Broad-billed Sandpipers. Nearby a flock of Eurasian Curlew took to the air and at least two Far Eastern Curlews were picked up showing their dark underwings and rumps. It was all go with birds everywhere! We had a few Indian Cormorants flying over, but were soon back to the waders with Spotted Redshanks, Marsh Sandpipers, a flock of Lesser Sandplovers with a couple of Greater Sandplovers thrown in for good measure. But the 7 Red-necked Phalaropes were much appreciated and as we walked closer an immature Black-tailed Gull was found which is very scarce here. Other waders around the salt pans included Long-toed Stint, Grey Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Dunlin, Avocet and other commoner fare.

Red-necked Stint
Long-toed Stint - note pale legs and long toes.....

At an area of mangroves we had Mangrove Whistler and Golden-bellied Greygone but the rain came in again, and with the sea looking very rough wondered if we’d get out to the sandspit this afternoon. We then moved down the road to our next site and after a quick couple of stops, located a flock of 30+ Nordmann’s Greenshank and spent some time watching them before going for the hat-trick of awesome waders. That turned out to be Asiatic Dowitcher, and we found a flock 25+ at another area of salt pans and really gave them a good grilling. Funny but this species seemed to cause the most excitement mainly due to the fact that we didn’t expect to see them.

Asiatic Dowitcher

On the way we found a Slaty-breasted Rail skulking under some bushes which proved a little tricky to see clearly. After lunch the weather cleared and the sun came out so we went in two boats out to the sandspit at Laem Pak Bia in the early afternoon and quickly notched up Malaysian and White-faced Plovers – the latter species subject of some controversy.

White-faced Plover

With a borderline DNA analysis suggesting it be lumped in Kentish Plover (for now) it is not only structure and a distinctive plumage that sets it apart, but the fact it holds a wintering territory and spends all its time chasing away KP’s and also runs with a horizontal stance exceedingly fast…. Mmmm maybe DNA is not the ‘be all’ or maybe they should simply retest it! Not rocket science is it?

Great Crested Terns

Brown-headed Gulls 

Pacific Reef Egret

Anyway, we also had nice views of at least 2 Chinese Egrets, a few Pacific Reef Egrets, a 1st year Heuglin’s Gull, a flock of Whiskered, Little, Great Crested and Lesser Crested Terns and Collared Kingfisher as well. Leaving here we went off and found a few Greater Painted Snipes, Lesser Coucal and Zitting Cisticola. Other goodies around the saltpans included Brahminy Kite, Richard’s Pipit, Painted Stork, 4 species of egret, Little Green Bee-eater, and others. At the Royal Project a couple of White-winged Terns were picked out from the blizzard of Whiskered Terns present, whilst Lesser Whistling-duck, Pintail Snipe, a Javan Pond-heron in breeding finery, White-breasted Waterhen, Black-crowned Night-heron and many Lyle’s Flying Foxes were seen.

Here's a few more wader pics - all common stuff but nice to get such close views of......

Wood Sandpiper

Spotted Redshank

Black-winged Stilt

Marsh Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper


More Marsh sandpipers

At the bird log this evening we counted up and discovered we’d seen 105 species today, with 37 species of wader…..

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