Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia - Shorebird Heaven

The shorebird heaven of Phetchaburi Province is home to a small wintering population of Spoon-billed Sandpipers and that is obviously the major draw here. And quite right too! Classified as Critically Endangered by BirdLife International they state that there are only 240 - 400 mature individuals left in the wild and this site is undoubtedly the 'easiest' place for visiting birders to go and see this very special bird. We found 3 spoonies, one of which had a green leg flag from the reintroduction project. The worrying thing here is that the owner of these salt pans is considering closing them to visiting birders due to a few instances of bad behaviour........

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Click here to go to the "Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper " website.

The other major target species here is Nordmann's Greenshank, classified as Endangered by BirdLife International with a reputed 330 - 670 mature individuals. They are always difficult to get close too but this year we had our best views ever of several groups and enjoyed watching them on repeated occasions.

Nordmann's Greenshanks and Great Knots at distance

Nordmann's Greenshanks by Nick Upton
Asian Dowitchers have been rather more erratic this year and it wasn't until our last morning in the area that we caught up with them, thanks to Nick Upton's local knowledge. Although a little distant we watched 3 birds at a range of some 50m through the scope and felt a little relieved! Here's a photo of a different group from a tour we did a couple of years ago. 

Asian Dowitchers by Nick Upton

The sandpit of Laem Pak Bia holds White-fronted Plover (Charadrius Dealbatus) and you can read about this fascinating species here. There's also Malaysian Plovers, Chinese Egrets, and a good selection of terns and gulls, which this year held Pallas's, Heuglin's and this Steppe Gull (Larus barabensis) - a new bird for Thailand and previously found by Nick Upton some 6 weeks earlier.

Steppe Gull at Laem Pak Bia by Nick Upton

Chinese Egret

White-faced Plover (right hand bird)
A huge variety of other shorebirds were seen on our tour and on one day we saw 40 species out of a total tour count of 46...! So we saw Oriental Pratincole, 100's of Great Knots, Long-toed Stints, Red-necked Phalaropes, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Far Eastern Curlew, Greater Sandplover, Greater Painted Snipe and thousands of Red-necked Stints. For anyone with an interest in shorebirds, this is the place to be. And if you're not.... Oh well..! But the spectacle of seeing so many birds is something to behold.

Great Knots

Long-toed Stint

More Great Knots

Oriental Pratincole

Temminck's Stint

Curlew Sandpiper
Broad-billed Sandpiper

But it's not just about shorebirds and the nearby rice fields, pools and marshes also produced Baillon's, Ruddy-breasted and White-browed Crakes, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Slender-billed Gull, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, White-shouldered and Purple-backed StarlingsAsian Golden Weaver and so much more.

Spot the Slender-billed Gull

Thailand never disappoints and our tours seem to get better and better every year. Take a look a Nick Upton's blog here. And his Thai Birding website here

Eared Pitta by Nick Upton

So I can't wait to return. Next year's tour is already full, but looks like I will be back in June for our Thai Pita tour where we hope to see Blue, Blue-winged, Hooded and hopefully the ever elusive Eared Pitta. We might also make a detour to get Mangrove and Malayan Banded Pittas as well. If you fancy joining us then take a look at our itinerary - click here.

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