Sunday, 21 November 2010

Twitching Ruddy Shelduck - A Cautionary Tale

The unexpected arrival of some friends on Saturday led to a change of plans. I was planning on spending last night in Bangkok and then to head to the Bird Fair at Bang Pu this morning. Alas no. My friends are about today as well, so no trip to Bangkok and no Bird Fair.  Instead I got up early and drove south for about 90 minutes to twitch Ruddy Shelduck between Cha-am and Puk Tian beach in Phetchaburi province, about 10 km south of the main action area in Laem Pak Bia. I was also hoping to add Grey- headed Lapwing as this too has been reported in the Laem Pak Bia area.

I don't know about twitching. This is the first time I have been in the Laem Pak Bia area and not visited either the Kings Project or Pak Thale. God alone knows how many good birds I sacrificed because of the twitch and I can tell you from driving through the area that some of the salt pans were bursting with flocks of birds. However I had limited time today in view of visitors and family commitments so this was the right thing to do for me - who knows how long the RSDs will hang around for?

Remarkably I managed to find the reported location and drove in and, lo and behold, in among the hundreds of black-tailed godwits, brown-headed gulls, black-winged-stilts, four painted stork, and smaller pockets of shore birds and hundreds of egrets were eight unmistakable ruddy shelducks. Beautiful biggish ducks with a washed out orange appearance. I got the glasses on them and was thinking over how to approach the photographs when off they went! The other birds stayed but these guys simply upped and offed. I wasn't set up so sadly no photgraphs and I have no doubt they would have made a good shot!

So there is twitching for you! Fortunately I saw the target species and it becomes my latest life bird but I don't really feel as though I know this bird or that we have spent any meaningful time together! A flash in the pan so to speak.  No doubt many a birder has travelled a considerably longer distance to draw a blank. I doubt I would be prepared to go on this kind of twitch. When the Masked Finfoot was found in Khao Yai earlier this year I wasn't prepared to make the effort. I would have wanted to see it had I been in the area but I wasn't prepared to embark on a 12-15 hour round trip.
I have to say there were great numbers of Painted Stork in the area today. I reckon I observed easily in excess of fifty birds today. A review of the above picture shows a Caspian tern, with its stonking great orange bill, in the midst of the gulls.

I made a little detour into the deserted building in Laem Pak Bia as Spooners have been reported there in the last two weeks. I was looking for an easy spot today and the possibilities were too much like hard work and looked impossible to access so I let them be. I was in pursuit of Grey-headed Lapwing and headed on. I got to the reported location but there was no sign of them so I headed on through Laem Pak Bia in a homeward direction and made a brief stop in the Wat Khao Takrao area where there were also many painted stork, grey heron and other heron. I managed to photograph this black-shouldered kite who posed a little for me.


  1. I agree with you about the idea of twitching ... I think it really leaves you feeling dissatisfied with your tick. I keep two checklists, a lifers list and a twitcher list. Of course my twitcher list is higher but I stopped counting that as my primary list now because I've found that once you really get a good look at a bird enough to enjoy it, the last thing you want is to look at your list and realize your joy in ticking off a true lifer was marred by an ugly twitch.
    -Anyhow, thats my two cents on the matter! -I know plenty of others who disagree with me, but whatever makes you happy ... do it!

  2. Great stuff...your FLASH IN THE PAN...would that be a FLASH IN THE SALT-PAN! Birders here in snow-bound Scotland are looking out for Snow Buntings and Lapland Buntings...they would be quite some twitch at Laem Pak Bia! All the best, Tony