Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Khok Kham: In Search of Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Common tern
Sterna hirundo longipennis
Khok Kham 16.08.10
(with grateful thanks to StonedCurlew on www.birdforum.net for help with identification)

I went down to Khok Kham this afternoon in search of the reported spoon-billed sandpiper. It's a 90 km drive from home through fish sauce and fish farm territory along the Rama II highway to Nakhon Sakhon which must be to Thailand what Hull is (or was) to England. I fancied getting my digiscope rig onto spoonie especially as latest reports indicate the bird could be seen from the birding centre. Alas spoonie did not show for me but there were plenty of nice birds nevertheless and a few decent shots. Clearly digiscoping becomes much easier in good light when fast shutter speeds mean less vibration and shake and accordingly result in much sharper images.

The first birds of note were about 20 common terns. Now I really struggled with this ID so I posted the photo on www.birdforum.net and StonedCurlew came back and confirmed the ID. I was expecting common tern to have a reddish bill. I thought it might be a whiskered tern but again I didn't feel comfortable with this either. So over to BirdForum for help. Duly received and grateful thanks.

Little cormorant
Phalacrocorax niger   
Khok Kham 16.08.10

I kept a keen eye out for spoonie and had a close look at a dry pond with many plovers, stints and a few curlew sandpipers. Lots of little cormoroants. Alas no spoonie. I took a few picures but the light was variable and anyhow photographing small birds at a distance is much more problematic than the bigger ones! Here are some of the photos and I have to say there has been an obvious improvement.

Marsh sandpiper
Tringa stagnatilis
Little egret
Egretta garzetta

Little heron
Butorides striatus
Khok Kham 16.08.10

I must say the digiscoping is a better, happier experience but I am still at the bottom of a likely steep learning curve. Point and shoot it ain't but I am getting better at framing the bird and I tend to shoot using the self-timer on a 3 second countdown, just about enough time for the rig to be still so long as our dear bird doesn't move too much. I am not going to rush out and buy heads and release cables yet but would welcome any suggestions as to how to improve in any way. I say this as I am enjoying it.....a lot!

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