Saturday, 17 September 2011

Saturday at the Seaside

What a joy to be free for once of any responsibilities on a Saturday and to have a very understanding wife!  I was up and away by 0430h. The plan was to get to Pak Thale, Phetchburi province, and sit on the mud flats and watch what  birds the incoming tide might bring in close with high water estimated for about 0930h. I was in place by 0600h.

In truth it wasn’t such a good plan as there were few noteworthy birds, some whimbrel, sandplovers,  lots of pond herons, egrets, collared kingfishers, bee-eaters, fantails : the usual suspects. But no big flocks of curlews or godwits.  As the tide came in the number of birds decreased. So back to the main ponds to meet up with Tom Backlund. 

High tide was at about 0930h, and there were some reasonably sized flocks of waders in the ponds. Tom was with some visiting birders from Vietnam via the UK. They called a number of Asian Dowitchers in a flock of Godwits and Tom called two Terek Sandpipers in another flock.

I am always impressed by anyone who can identify birds in large swooping flocks. Don’t get me wrong, there are birds which are very easy to identify in the air like Black-tailed Godwits and Common Redshanks!  But not Terek Sandpipers and Asian Dowitchers! Tereks are usually easy to identify on the ground because of their upward curved bills, their bright orange legs and their very busy demeanour. Likewise the dowitchers were quite obvious on the ground, with their long black bills. Obviously experience plays a big part in this. Tom advised that the dowitchers in flight are also distinctly smaller than the godwits. Good to go birding with experienced birders.

I decided to try and take a photograph of the dowitchers but the flock promptly upped and offed before I arrived. It looked as if they headed to the mudflats. It’s exactly this type of flock I was hoping for earlier. Perhaps next time the plan will be to get there just after high water or maybe a little bit before and get set up and watch what arrives as the tide recedes. For the record we agreed at least 5 Asian Dowitchers were in this flock of Godwits. Add in a Broad-billed Sandpiper and a Long-toed Stint.

For once it was nice to be under absolutely no pressure of time so we headed down to Laem Pak Bia. This was in stark contrast to the visitors were under intense time pressure. I think they were attempting to see Spoon-billed Sandpiper, unlikely but not impossible so early in the season, as a result of a delayed start to a pelagic trip into the Gulf Of Thailand in search of Bryde’s Whales.  This is the second year to my knowledge that whales have returned to the gulf. I was so glad that I was under absolutely no time pressure today. I'd be interested to learn if they succeeded in seeing the whales as I believe they were seen of the Laem Pak Bia sand spit last weekend.

Tom and I headed down to Laem Pak Bia and had a quick look at the Abandonned Building but there were next to no birds there. We had a brunch of sorts  after which I decided to venture out by boat to the sand spit with Mr Daeng. On arrival two small flocks of Ruddy Turnstone and Great Knots were feeding on the shingle. The turnstones were still showing some traces of their breeding plumage. We had a good look around and also managed to see a White-faced Plover, good numbers of Malaysian Plover and Red-necked Stints.

The White-faced Plover is increasingly treated as a distinct species though I do not believe that the taxon has been formally accepted by the authorities.  For me this would be a lifer but I am not sure what the position is with this type of anomaly. A solitary Bar-tailed Godwit was feeding on one of the beaches and elsewhere a Common Greenshank. But no sign of Chinese Egret although one was observed here the previous weekend. On the way back to the harbour we got close to a Lesser Crested Tern perched on a pillar but the sea was swelling so it was impossible to photograph it with the digiscope rig. My word, it is a big bird. No sign either of Bryde's whales.

Mr Daeng gave me a steer to a nearby site where he saw 6 Nordmann’s Greenshanks at the beginning of September. I headed there after. Alas the Nordmann's were not present today but there was a good number of idling Spot-billed Pelicans (24) and Painted Storks (30+).  I am lost for words when it comes to describing these big pelicans: ungainly, unappealing on the eye, incongruous, hideous, primordial, but for me, absolutely captivating as well.

As we were approaching the last couple of hours of daylight and I was feeling a bit tired I thought I would head in the direction of home and stop at Wat Khao Takhrao. To my pleasure the Great Thick-knee popped out of the scrub,  said hello and hung around long enough for me to get a few shots. It’s a crepuscular creature, best seen first thing and again near the end of the day. This fellow looks as if he was created by Disney. The light was pretty ropey. I should spend longer here next time; I am sure it will produce more good birds. There was a significant number of Painted Storks out in the middle of the big pond and I am sure water fowl will be arriving imminently.

I then decided I would head on to Khao Yoi, again on my route home, to see if there were any Black Kites coming into the roost. Not a dickie bird, or for that matter a black kite! However these raptors should start to arrive imminently. I made it home at 1845h, wiped out but as pleased as punch. I really needed a good, long day in the field. My birding for some time has been in snatches, far from ideal. So this was the perfect answer.

1 comment:

  1. Well done Gerry, the Thick-knee and White-faced Plover are especially nice!