Friday, 26 October 2012

Highs and Lows

What started out as a joyful morning turned to disaster at Wat Khao Takhrao; at about 0830h I drove my truck off the road, doing a U-turn on a tight road, and got one of the front wheels stuck in mud. It took 4½ hours to get hauled out. In the great scheme of things I got off lightly with nothing more than a bruised ego, but I resented the loss of time on what had been planned as my last big birding day before returning to work next week. I should have gone home but instead headed on to Pak Thale & Laem Pak Bia after being rescused. To be honest I was in no fit state to concentrate, gripped by frustration, irritability and impatience.

I left home early in what was shaping into a beautiful, bright and sunny morning. There had been a lot of rain overnight. Through Khao Yoi I stopped at some favoured swamp and had an amazing view of a Purple Swamphen in the spotlight of the rising sun against green plants. No sooner was I set up than the bird and its cohorts took off! That's rather unfortunately the nature of digiscoping, indeed of all photography. Soon after I had raptors above me, a first Black Kite of the year and then a Booted Eagle, also a first of the year. As I progressed though Khao Yoi the big waterbirds appeared: 5 Spot-billed Pelicans in the distant sky and then Painted Storks began more visible. Overhead a pair of Osprey passed by nearby.

By the time I reached Wat Khao Takrhao I had counted four species of Kingfisher: Common, Collared, Black-capped & White-throated. There were five Spot-billed Pelicans gliding effortlessly over the surface of the water and as I scoped the big pond I could see more Painted Stork and lots of smaller birds which were undoubtedly ducks. As the barrier on the gate was up I drove on in the hope of getting a better view of the ducks and other birds. A number of raptors were buzzing the ducks, notably an Eastern Marsh Harrier which came over and passed nearby. The ducks were too far away but lots of Garganey and equally good numbers of bigger Northern Pintails.

I started photographing some Common Sandpipers and then decided to move on. In the process of doing a U-turn on the road, something I have done many times in exactly the same spot, I thought I had enough room to complete the manoevre. Next thing I felt the truck slipping down off the road and that, so to speak, was that: front right wheel half submerged in mud and the remaining wheels not providing enough friction to get me back onto the road proper. Unfortunately I was about 2km from the road so help was not immediately to hand. So I had to call out roadside assistance. Not a good place to come unstuck, or rather to get stuck! In fairness, though, roadside assistance did their job and got me out.

During this period I counted 74 Painted Stork! Once out of my jam I stopped at a nearby pond where 10 Spot-billed Pelicans were paddling about. I just couldn't get a clear shot of them......

Pak Thale was very quiet with no sign of Spoonbill Sandpiper. In fact most of the birds had moved to near the road where there were huge flocks of Curlew Sandpiper, Great Knot and Lesser-sand Plover. I concentrated on a smaller flock of about 60 Brown-headed Gulls; a pair of gulls in this group were strikingly different: their bare parts were much more yellow and they showed signs of moult on their wings; I was also struck by how white their heads were and I started thinking that these might possibly be Slender-billed Gulls.

I managed to get some shots to aid some later research. I have decided against Slender-billed as the two birds in question had black spots behind their eyes. I also remembered from last year year that first year Brown-headed Gulls have yellow bare parts. Anyway, a productive exercise as it got me studying the field guides and Oriental Bird Images; from the latter I learned Slender-billed is also known as Rosy Gull and my field guide noted that  Slender-billed's underparts often have a rosy hue. This is certainly confirmed by some of the images on Oriental Bird Images. I rather fancy that next time I might be able to separate Slender-billed.

At Wat Kamnaran I managed to make out 2 Grey-headed Lapwings. Onwards to Laem Pak Bia and the Abandonned Building in search of Rosy Starling which has been reported from there recently. I couldn't bear the smell from the rubbish dump so gave up after 45 minutes. In Laem Pak Bia proper, little to report from a brief stop there in the fading light of the day.My friend Tom Buckland advised that tbere were Richard's Pipits on the road in the Nordmann's area; the ones I saw looked very much as if they were of the Paddyfield type.

A frustrating sort of day really that reconnected me with some of my demons. It was only on the drive home that I understood how much this mishap had affected me, a knock to my confidence. I found myself asking: Why do you do this? Is it worth it? Would it not be better to to be at home with your family? ..........and so on and on. I was actually delighted to make it home and be in the company of my family and my spirits improved markedly.With work looming large on the horizon I am not going to do much birding in the next few weeks. I doubt I will do much travelling other than in Ratchaburi province itself. Spend more time at home, the family man!

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