Sunday, 19 August 2012

A Very Wet Afternoon in Laem Pak Bia

Great Egret

Torrential rain meant my efforts to locate the Great Thick-knee at the Abandoned Building area in Laem Pak Bia were unsuccessful. The problem was the volume of surface water on the dirt tracks and I had to get my truck onto a sealed surface to avoid getting stuck or worse. It really was no fun and at various points my truck was effectively out of control; fortunately the terrain is flat here but on a sloping surface this might have been deadly. I did learn from some birders that the bird had been seen in morning. I am in the privileged position of having seen the Great Thick-knee in each of the last two years but a couple of friends are itching to add this species to their lists and are actively contemplating a long distance twitch. In view of this I would have liked to confirm a positive sighting.

So the weather was the story today. Not surprising really. This is the rainy season and it does tend to hammer down, often in short bursts. The only real problem tends to be the effect on unsealed roads of which there are many. Later in the afternoon I almost got stuck at the King's Project as my tyres were struggling to get traction.

Common Redshank juv
With grateful thanks to Dave Gandy & Phil Round for the ID

The good news is there were plenty of waders and in amongst all the usual suspects I was pleased to note Pacific Golden Plovers and Grey Plovers. There were also good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Curlews and a fair few Whimbrel too; add in some Greenshanks and Marsh Sandpipers. I didn't see anything unusual but observation conditions weren't so good but I did scan the godwits and curlews for  black bills; unfortunately most of the birds were a distance away and they were roosting with their bills tucked away so pretty difficult to make anything out.

Greater Painted Snipe

There were 7-8 Spot-billed Pelicans two of which I managed to photograph. I am pleased with the shot as they were about 80 yards away and the light was poor. I was also pleased to get all of the Great Egret in the frame and could only have wished for better light to do this elegant bird justice.

I must confess to struggling with the ID of the "tringa". It's those reddish legs that have thrown me. I would expect some red on the bill for one of the Redshank species and on consideration I would expect the legs to be a much richer red. I would say Wood Sandpiper. In Shorebirds ( Hayman et al.)  Woodsandpiper legs are described as "...dull yellowish, usually greenish or brownish-yellow, always looking pale at a distance." That possibly solves the leg issue and of course the bill is undoubtedly that of a Woodsandpiper: once more Shorebirds notes "...a blackish distal half and an olive-green or yellow-green base." I have just learned what "distal" means: furthest away from the centre of the body. So I would say Wood Sand. Of course I would appreciate confirmation or correction.

Update: Dave Sargeant suggests a female Ruff as the reddish legs for a Wood Sandpiper are "off"; looking at the bill which I now see has some decurving, I think he might be right!  Tom Backlund is of the view it is a Wood Sand as "...the bill and legs are way too long..". Dave Gandy thinks it is a juvenile Redshank and he's sure! Fascinating stuff. Well I had to seek Phil Round's opinion because I don't know what it is. From Phil: "Dave Gandy has it right!! It is a juvenile Common Redshank. The legs are far too orange for a Wood Sandpiper. Enough of the back can be seen to show the even upperparts spotting typical of juvenile Tringa. The dull purplish-flesh (no red) to both mandibles indicate juvenile Common Redshank. Also, we already know that we get a massive wave of juv Common Redshanks passing through LPB in mid-August." I am very happy to get this sorted out. Thanks to all for their help and contributions. This process underlines what a complex and challenging task bird identification can be.

The Greater Painted Snipe knew I was near and refused to come out and pose. I'll need to develop my Photoshop skills in order to learn how to remove the strands of grass which are disguising this truly beautiful bird. I have moved one strand which crossed its bill but the others will require a much more precise procedure which I haven't learned yet!

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