Saturday, 26 March 2011

A Pelagic Pasting off Phuket

Bridled Tern - EOS
Sterna Anaethetus
Phuket Island Area 26.03.11

I had the good fortune this morning to join Ike Suriwong, Phil Round and Tony, a visiting birder from Germany, for a boat trip in search of pelagic birds off Rawai beach at the southern tip of Phuket island. Pelagic birds are those species which can live in open seas and oceans. Unfortunately it poured down for most of the morning and the sea got a little bit lively. So we all got soaked and I decided to put my binoculars into the wet bag in order to protect them.
Lesser Frigatebird - EOS
Fregata ariel
Phuket Island Area 26.03.11

There were plenty of birds, including some jaegers, but conditions made it difficult to see or photograph the birds. So I will not make any claims of sought after pelagic species though I did hear my colleagues mention Long-tailed Jaeger. What we did see were plenty of Frigatebirds, we reckon at least one Christmas Island Frigatebird and a Lesser. I'll give myself a tick for the Lesser but I don't think I can reasonably claim the Christmas Island. There was also a distant kettle of these birds.
Some waders
Phuket Island Area 26.03.11

Ike had prepared some “chum”, rotten fish which is dumped into the see to attract the birds. This had the desired result in attracting birds and in came some Bridled Terns and Jaegers. Alas it would be impossible to call or even claim the Jaegers as I couldn't make out any distinguishing features. There was mention of Long-tailed JAeger but I am not going to claim a bird because someone else, even if they are the accepted authority on Thai birds, says it is! The truth is I didn't actually see it and while I saw movement and shape I wouldn't stand a cat's chance in hell of recognising a Parasitic,Pomarine or Long-tailed Jaeger if I saw one tomorrow. The real point is there were jaegers but I didn't get a view of them as my binoculars were too wet! Such is birding!

Later in our trip we did see three Bridled Terns perched on a some driftwood and as conditions had eased a little I was able to get a shot with the EOS and soon after I managed a shot of a Lesser Frigatebird, which I have probably seen before off Phi Phi but which represents a lifer.

As we reached calmer water we had a look at a small flock of waders, Pacific Golden Plovers, Greater Sandplovers and some Ruddy Turnstones. Unbeknown to me the Greater Sandplover was a second lifer of the day.

I have to say this was a great way to spend the morning notwithstanding the conditions. It really has whetted my appetite for further pelagic bird trips. Many thanks once more to Ike Suriwong for organising the trip and if you are planning a trip to this area and need a guide then look no further than Ike. I think the trip was also successful because it has established that there are significant pelagic birds in the area and that it is now worthy of further exploration and survey.

Post script 28.03.11 I was copied into an email from Phil Round today and he confirms he sighted 4 Long-tailed Jaegers on Saturday. Now I am still not claiming them and I learned today that Jaegers and Skuas are the same bird! I really didn't know that and I must confess when I read the email I started to think that I had referred to the wrong bird!

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