As I will be heading back to Pak Thale & Laem Pak Bia for a few days tomorrow I thought I would process some of my photos from my last visit on 3-4th November. Of course for most birders viewing the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper is the top priority and I was successful on both mornings with this bird, getting quite close one day; I spent more than an hour watching some Spoonies feed at a distance of just 10 metres with at one point four individuals of the species feeding together including one white-flagged bird.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about my visit on these two days were the huge numbers of shorebirds at both Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia salt farms. Not only were the numbers of birds very impressive but the variety of species was very high too with the star species being Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher, Far Eastern Curlew, Terek Sandpiper, Malaysian Plover and White-faced Plover. Such numbers also allowed for many close encounters and photography opportunities.
Spoon-billed Sandpiper is a tiny bird so it feeds in the shallowest water and I watched several of them feeding in the same area for some time. Every now and then they would fly away a short distance but it did not take long for at least one or two of them to return each time. In the photo below one Spoonie is stretching while another feeds.
One of the commonest waders here is Black-winged Stilt. In fact they are so common that it is easy to overlook them but this one posed very close to me so I took a photo of it to add to my collection.
One of my favourite shorebirds is Ruddy Turnstone. They are full of character and always seem to be busy doing something comical. In Thailand they are not particularly common and usually not at all approachable but as I was sitting below a soil bund this one walked right up to me for a look.
In fact there was a real profusion of small shorebirds scampering around on this bund, just 5-10 metres or so away. Curlew Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Red-necked Sting and this Sanderling was one of around 10 birds, a little unusual to see so many of this species away from the shoreline but not unprecedented.
Among a huge flock of Eurasian Curlews there always seem to be a few Far Eastern Curlews. Locating them in the multitude is not easy but looking out for their brown tails, barred flanks and lack of obvious supercilium can help pick them out. of course it is much easier to identify them when they are in flight. The brown, barred underwing is obvious and the brown tail can also be seen here. As the bird wheels around it is also often easy to see the brown back, whereas Eurasian Curlews have an obvious white tail and back.
Freshwater wetlands a short distance from Pak Thale always hold a few different species including Long-toed Stint, Little Ringed Plover and Wood Sandpiper but Grey-headed lapwing was my target and I was happy to get this photo.
At Laem Pak Bia salt farms I was able to drive along the dirt tracks and get really close to a wide variety of shorebirds feeding in shallow waters. The variety of species was really amazing with Spotted Redshank, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Grey & Pacific Golden Plovers, Terek & Curlew Sandpipers, Common Redshank, Red-necked Phalarope, Red-necked & Long-toed Stints, Ruff, Lesser & Greater Sand Plovers and Kentish Plover. It made for some great photo opportunities.
A trip to the sand spit with Mr Daeng is always a pleasant ride and always provides nice views of the very handsome Malaysian Plover. They are often fairly approachable or if one sits and waits in a likely spot they will often come quite close as the feed and chase each other around.
Watching shorebirds in the Gulf of Thailand is always a great pleasure and I am looking forward to more great sightings over the next few days.