A few days ago Dave Gandy asked if I knew whether anybody was covering Wat Khao Takrao during the Asian Waterbird Census [“AWC”];I don’t know and I was oblivious to the fact that it is AWC time. This nudged me into action. Today, Wednesday, is Teachers Day in Thailand and for once we were given the day off. So I forced myself out of bed and headed south to Phetchburi province just after 06:30h. It’s about a 45 minute drive to the big pond at Wat Khao Takrao: I hasten to add that it is several kilometres from the pretty temple perched on the rock that is called Wat Khao Takrhao. I am glad I made the effort.
The highlight was two Gadwall, comparatively rare ducks this far south in Thailand. Of course the real story is finding them in amongst everything else. I would estimate there were in the region of 2,500 Northern Pintail and an estimated 1,500 Garganey; add in the fact that they were at least 500m away. So I was pleased to get a couple of images for the record, as it were, and indeed to enable me to get the ID confirmed. Dave Gandy has confirmed they are Gadwall and Phil Round has also done so and now Tom Backlund has too – thanks. The key feature that stands out in these ducks is the smallish white patch that can be seen towards their tails; this is in fact on the wing and is much more visible when the bird is in flight. As I scoped the two of them dabbling away I also thought the bills were different from everything else nearby, just a sense as opposed to a specific detail. If anything I thought the bill tip was a little rounder and that overall it was quite slender. Fortunately I was able to get a shot.
In additon there were 3 Eurasian Wigeon and 2 Northern Shovelers with their diagnostic huge,”shovel” bills; the wigeon are lovely ducks with a reddish brown head and a yellow centre.
I had a good scan but couldn’t pick out anything else. However the ducks were a distance away and I would not be surprised if there were some other rarities in there. There is considerable concern in birding circles about the fate of Baers Pochard; its numbers appear to have declined dramatically in recent years. The odd vagrant often appears in Thailand usually in the north but they have been recorded historically in the central area too.
Waterfowl apart the bird of the day was Black-headed Ibis of which I counted 32. This must be the most I have ever seen in Thailand apart from Bueng Boraphet. I also saw four species of Kingfisher: Collared,White-throated, Black-capped and Common. There were two Pied Harriers and also one Osprey. In among the hundreds of egrets, herons and ibis a solitary Painted Stork really stood out! I also noted 22 Indian Cormorants today. I don’t usually pay much attention to cormorants as here they are usually Little. This Indian species is much more exotic: note the aqua-marine coloured eye and the long slim bill with its downward-pointing tip. Beautiful birds. On the approach road I counted one Pink-necked Green Pigeon.
A lovely way to spend a couple of hours in the morning and there was a little surprise for me when I returned to Ratchaburi. I was driving through the Muang Torng market area when I saw a rather skittish wagtail on the cement surface. I managed to stop and it was a White Wagtail, the first I’ve seen in these parts. Unfortunately there was a bit of traffic passing through so it flew off rather too quickly. I’ll need to check out this bird’s range.