Thursday, 16 January 2014

Petchaburi and Wader Heaven

A brisk wind affected our birding at Pak Thale this morning and resulted in all of the waders being extremely ‘flighty’ and we spent a frustrating couple of hours chasing them as they settled briefly at various salt pans in the vicinity. We had an initially brief sighting of a Spoon-billed Sandpiper that landed right I front of us for mere seconds and only 2 of us managed to see that one. A couple of hours later after yomping around the area, Nigel found a different spoonie with a white leg flag that fortunately remained on view amongst a huge congregation of other waders for quite a while – albeit distantly. However, everyone was extremely happy to get to grips with this much-wanted species. During our search we had seen a number of other good waders, such as Pacific Golden Plover, Long-toed Stint, many Broad-billed Sandpipers, Marsh Sandpiper, 30+ Terek Sandpipers, loads of Red-necked Stints and others, but we’d see them all so much better and closer later in the day. Next up was a short drive along the road, and we had our second big target species of the day in the shape of 10 Nordmann’s Greenshanks at another salt pan. They were also distant and we had to walk out along a narrow bund to get better views. We did achieve the slightly better views, and also managed to see a Heuglin’s Gull as well that was loafing with a flock of Brown-headed Gulls and Caspian Terns.

Curlew Sand, Red-necked Stint and broad-billed Sandpiper

Long-toed Stint

A nice wader shot with the Broad-billed Sandpiper again
We were booked in for lunch at Mr Daeng’s house along the mangrove creek (sounds good right?) before hopping onto a couple of his small boats and taking a rather choppy ride out to the nearby sandspit. Once again the wind had affected things here and the White-faced Plover was located on another sandy area across a narrow channel cut off by the sea – but in the scope we could make out all of the salient features. This is currently ‘lumped’ in Kentish Plover but in my opinion (for what it’s worth) shouldn’t be as it is structurally different, is very distinctive and has certain behavious traits making it a very different creature to a Kentish Plover. Apparently the DNA research and subsequent ‘lumping’ is based on one single feather sample…? That cant be right, can it? I mean even in a teenager’s GCSE science project the teacher would laugh at him (or her) for only providing one sample and be told to go get some more evidence…..! Anyway I digress, and there was also a few Malaysian Plovers present, a Chinese Egret, Pacific Reef Egret, plus 4 Great Black-headed Gulls, Gull-billed Tern, both Great and Lesser Crested Terns, and some other common stuff.

Great crested Terns

Pallas's Gull

So following some very welcome cold drinks we drove around some more salt pans in search of dowitchers, but we got held up looking at Richard’s and Paddyfield Pipits and plenty of very close waders along the way, including a few Greater Sandplovers amongst loads of Lesser Sandplovers and Temminck’s Stint

Temminck's Stint
Eventually we closed in on a flock of Eastern Black-tailed Godwits (a dodgy split if ever there was one) and ended up finding at least 10 Asiatic Dowitchers. What a great bird and we spent ages watching them, with one individual getting closer and closer to us. Using the minivan as a hide is brilliant here, as you just wouldn’t get such close views as we were privileged to get if you were walking. 

Asiatic Dowitcher

Asiatic Dowitcher
Eastern Black-tailed Godwits
Also in the area was a number of close Marsh Sandpipers, and further on 52 Red-necked Phalaropes was quite a sighting.

Marsh Sandpiper
Leaving here we went to the Royal Project and drove around the lagoons where a number of White-winged Terns were seen amongst the more numerous Whiskered Terns. We also had both Common and Pintail Snipe, a Slaty-breasted Rail and a brief Ruddy-breasted Crake for some of us. As dusk descended thousands of Lyle’s Flying Foxes streamed overhead, and we spotlighted an Indian Nightjar. As we did this a female Greater Painted Snipe flew into the torch beam and landed in front of us – and that has never happened before!

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