Sunday, 28 November 2010

Laem Pak Bia: A Great Day's Birding

 Black-faced Spoonbill
Platelea Minor
Pak Thale, Petchaburi Province

I always have a great day's birding when I join up with Tom and our trip to Laem Pak Bia on Saturday was probably one of the best day's birding I have ever had. From my perspective it is great to bird with such a knoweldgeable and experienced birder and we both saw some great birds.

No sooner had we started just to the north of Cha-am in Bang Kao hoping to see Ruddy Shelduck than Tom is saying "Look a parakeet" and sure enough a noisy, small, green mass darts in off the sea and moves rapidly inland. That's as far as the identification went but it would literally and metaphorically have gone over my head had I been on my own. Bang Kao did offer great views of eight beautiful Painted Stork in the early morning sun and a host of shorebirds and brown-headed gulls and an Eastern Marsh Harrier glided over just as we were leaving. I am not sure about the status of the RSDs. No sign of them this morning nor later in the day when I returned to collect my car. [Update from T Backlund: one RSD was seen here on Monday 29.11.10]

Black-headed Ibis
Threskiornis Melanocephalus
Wat Khao Takhrao, Petchaburi Province

Next stop at the abandoned building in Laem Pak Bia where we bumped into three Hungarian birders who confirmed the presence of a Long-billed Dowitcher and a Black-faced Spoonbill further north at Pak Thale. This news had Tom itching. Nothing much to report here but we went into the King's Project and had a nice time photographing a Little Grebe and Grey Heron. We were looking at a flock of black-tailed godwits parked in a salt pan nearby when the loud crack of canon fire from the nearby temple caused their sudden flight. These miniature style canons are used in temples to mark the beginning of events or the arrival of a special time. Tom got his camera out and started shooting the flock of birds. The resulting photographs show the presence of an Asian Dowitcher in the flock - by any standards a very decent bird. Of course this was the surprise in the can, so to speak, as neither of us was aware of this bird in the flock and Tom only realised it when he processed his photos on getting home. Elsewhere in a  flock of brown-headed gulls we saw a few Caspian Terns with their distinctive big bright orange bills.

Red-necked Phalaropes
Phalaropus Lobatus
Red-necked Phalarope
Pak Thale, Petchaburi Province

So we then headed north to Pak Thale to what is known as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper site in pursuit of the Black-faced Spoonbill. There were plenty of shorebirds, thousands, but we were looking for a flock of egrets with the Black-faced in their midst. We had a fruitless march around during which Tom pointed out some Red-necked Phalaropes "spinning" in one of the salt-pans. Very elegant and really distinctive birds and lifers for me! We noticed that our Hungarian friends had come back to this site so Tom went off to check locations with them while I photographed the phalaropes. Fortunately we were looking in the wrong location so off we went. This meant I wasn't able to photograph the two Spoon-billed Sandpipers which were in the salt pan and of course when we came back they had gone!

Anyhow we walked into another salt pan as directed and the Black-faced Spoonbill was there surrounded by between 45 - 50 Painted Stork. What an amazing sight! I was grateful for the digiscope as I was able to get some decent record shots. We were probably between 150 - 200 meters away and this is the last sort of bird you want to scare off. A second lifer, a real beauty of a bird and something of a rarity in these parts.  

Photo credit © Tom Backlund
Asian Dowitcher
Limnodromus Semipalmatus
Kings Project, Petchaburi Province

We then headed north to Wat Khao Takhrao and after a spot of lunch we went in pursuit of the reported Black-headed Ibises. Over lunch I made the mistake of looking at my photographs and decided to change the  exposure setting as I thought my photographs were too dark. Well as a result my pictures of the Ibises are a bit washed out. I had the correct exposure! We quickly found the Ibises sitting in a bit of a marsh, two adults and a juvenile. Nearby a Black-shouldered Kite and Black Kite were perched in trees. I had already seen the Ibises before at Bueng Boraphet but nevertheless great birds to see and look at.

Thereafter we went back to Pak Thale in vain pursuit of Spoon-billed Sandpiper and we had a spin around the marshes and rice paddies looking, also in vain, for Grey-headed Lapwing. Pak Thale yielded lots of Marsh Sandpipers, Curlews, a small flock of Gull-billed Terns, and the usual suspets including one Sanderling. I think I had a Temminck's Stint, a stint with greenish legs, but it flew before I was able to be sure. I am happy to report there are lots of birds, lots of birds indeed. 

Tom headed home so we drove back to Bang Kao. From there I checked on the Ruddy Shelducks, nope, and then I drove back to see if I could take some more photographs of the Black-faced Spoonbill; not a bird to be seen at the site. I then headed home with an eye open for Grey-headed Lapwing but to no avail. 

What a great day's birding!

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