Last month I made two short visits to Southern Thailand where a long-staying Beach Thick-knee had been repeatedly seen at Laem Pakarang in Phang Nga province. Both of my trips took me to this site after some birding in the mangroves and on both occasions I was lucky enough to see this weird and wonderful bird. Although I had seen Beach Thick-knee in Australia, Java and Sumatra this was a Thai “tick” and having not seen one for nearly twenty years it was a very welcome sighting. As happy as I was with the first sighting, my second sighting on 22nd March was something special.
On arrival at Laem Pakarang I immediately looked onto the coral rubble island just offshore, where the Beach Thick-knee had spent all of its time the first time I saw it. Well, we saw the bird but it was being pushed further and further away by a photographer who wanted to get just that bit closer to the bird.
Eventually, from where we were watching, the bird moved so far back that it was hidden from view. However, we moved around the sand spit to look at the other waders, specifically to look for Grey-tailed Tattler (which we found) which always seems to be present here at the right time of year. As the sun was so ridiculously hot (37C) we moved into a small patch of shade under a few trees where we were relatively hidden in this mostly open habitat. From here we could see that the photographer was still attempting to get closer and the Thick-knee was bobbing its head around and generally looking uncomfortable and eventually, with nowhere more to back off to, it took flight.
I was quite concerned that it might fly straight out to sea and that nobody else would be able to see the bird, but it did not, instead it flew straight towards us.
With a few hundred metres of beach to choose from, the Thick-knee decided to head right towards where we were standing, presumably because our shapes were not obvious against the darker background of the trees and from being our worst enemy, the photographer suddenly became our best friend as we were treated to incredible views.
This Beach Thick-knee landed no more than 20 feet away from us and with the late afternoon sun behind us we had the perfect photo opportunity with the ironic figure of our photographic friend standing in the distant background. The Thick-knee moved away from us a little after some time to settle down alongside many other waders. I took far too many photos of the bird as it stood in front of us but I will present just one here.
Seen at this range Beach Thick-knee became an instant contender for bird of the trip even though we had enjoyed great views of species such as Blue Pitta, Mangrove Pitta, Ruddy Kingfisher, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Bamboo Woodpecker, Malayan Banded Pitta, Great Hornbill, Grey Peacock Pheasant, Silver Pheasant, Siamese Fireback and many many more.