A Monday public holiday enabled me to hit Pak Thale early this morning, well not that early as I didn’t get there until 08:00h. I decided to take it very gently this morning so no rush. It was also very hot by the time of my arrival and there were coach loads of birders in the salt pans in search of Spoon-billed Sandpiper. I had the luxury of eschewing the trophy birds and headed onto the mudflats. Not much there other than some lingering Whimbrel though I did count 9 Great Crested Tern and I Lesser Crested Tern perched on poles out at sea.
The crowds having departed I then repaired to the usual salt pans and was thrilled to hit upon a final count of 16 Asian Dowitchers in a mixed flock of predominantly Black-tailed Godwits, though I did count 6 Bar-tailed in the scrum. Heaps of Curlew Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper, lots of Red-necked Stints and Marsh Sandpipers with a sprinkling of Common Greenshank and Redshank, the usual volumes of Whiskered Terns and a particularily large flock of Brown-headed Gulls…nothing obvious standing out from that lot. There was a solitary Ruff loitering at the back.
There have been good numbers of Asian Dowitchers recorded in Pak Thale over the last few weeks; it is usually seen in ones and twos but this year there have been some large flocks. No sign of Spoon-billed Sandpiper for me so I went to its usual quarters and started scanning.I didn’t succeed but I bumped into Lindie & Frank Kolver from Australia who were deliriously happy because they had just seen two Spoon-billed Sandpipers and were on their way to catch a plane home! I decided to show them the Asian Dowitchers, and I even managed to pick out the Ruff from the massed ranks. We decided to head to Wat Norng Blah Lai as it was on the way to the main highway and hence would get them airport-bound. We stopped en route at a pond near to where I recently saw Gadwall and they saw a little flurry new birds: Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Moorhen, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Lesser Whistling Duck, Little Grebe, Eurasian Coot, Bronze-Wiinged jacana, Pheasant-tailed Jacana. I have just realised that Eurasian Coot is a lifer. Well I have seen it at Bueng Boraphet and at Huey Mai Teng Reservoir, but I haven’t recorded it so it goes onto the list as Thai lifer ⌗374. For the record there were three Coots present.Norng Blah Lai was a bit disappointing. I had to abruptly answer nature’s call so dumped Lindie & Frank in front of some raptors in the sky and legged it into a bush! By the time I was back in circulation they had gone but I reckon Frank described a Steppe Eagle; he described it as huge with a lot of white on its uppers; could be a Greater-spotted Eagle but that isn’t quite so big. Sadly they had to head to the highway so rather sad they couldn’t spend a bit more time in pursuit of eagles.
I legged it back to Laem Pak Bia and had lunch and made a courtesy call on Mr Daeng to reserve his boat for some trips over the next few weeks. I learned that there are up to ten whales in the sea beyond the Laem Pak bia sandspit and that fishing boats are ferrying lots of parties out. I am sure the prospect of seeing some Bryde’s Whales will be equally attractive to visiting birdwatchers over the next few weeks.
After lunch I went to Km 47, the elbow, and turned into the salt pans. It was on my mind that I hadn’t managed a decent shot and so I resolved that I would sit and try and get a few shots. Alas no, it was pretty difficult getting close to anything. I was shooting a Black-tailed Godwit when 5 Pied Avocets dropped down into the salt pan about 50 metres away, saw me and promptly took off. They would have made a great shot!
I did manage to get some shots of a reclining Spot-billed Pelican. But no sign of Nordmann’s Greenshank which was the bird I would have liked to photograph. As they day was drawing to a close I decided to head towards the Black Kite roost at Khao Yoi. AS I drove out of the salt pans I was thinking how extraordinary that I hadn’t seen any Great Knot. As I drove north I managed to locate a flock of about 1500 birds and I decided to walk out into the salt pans to try to get some shots. It’s always on my mind that Nordmann’s are usually near Great Knot. I couldn’t see any as I scanned and got focused on a group of what I thought were three Great Knot that were slightly nearer to me than the main pack. I don’t know what happened but the whole flock went up and and didn’t come back. I think an adjacent flock of Whiskered Terns was disturbed by something as they went up first and then like a domino effect everything else went up. It’s only on reviewing my images of the three Great Knot that I realise that in fact there are only two Greats and that the middle bird is in fact a Red Knot. You can see the bill is quite different and the middle bird, which has green legs also, is a tad smaller. Tom Backlund taught me to check my images carefully, so thanks Tom!
So I headed back to Khao Yoi and was thinking to myself as I approached the roost area that it was remarkably quiet – no lines of Black Kites flying into the roost like planes do when they are coming into land at Heathrow Airport, London. However once I got to the roost area at about 1715 the palm trees were loaded; at a conservative estimate I would say about 300 Black Kites. They are ugly, unattractive big birds but they make an impressive sight when in the roost in such numbers.
For me another great day of birding.
I got in close to a Plain Prinia using the Panasonic 20 mm f1.7. Now it was impossible to frame the bird, or indeed to get a correct focus,as the wind was really moving the tree and the branch on which the bird was perched. I did manage this shit and it fills me with great optimism; it is much sharper than usual. I must get the hide up and get in close to some other birds.