Last week I made my first visit to Pak Thale this “winter” to see Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The first record of this highly sought-after species this season was on 27th October at Khok Kham where Mr Tii found one bird. A total of 7 Spoon-billed Sandpipers have been found at various sites around the Gulf of Thailand in the last few weeks with a maximum of 3 at Pak Thale but on my visit on 12th and 13th November they were much harder to find than they would normally be.
On the 12th Chris Kelly and I found 1 Spoon-billed Sandpiper quite quickly but the large number of shorebirds present were very jumpy and were continually moving around, making it hard to relocate the bird. We did relocate it on two occasions, eventually being able to observe it feeding in one of the few salt pans that had a suitable water level for the species; most of the pools were either full of deep water or completely dry, leaving large numbers of birds roosting on the bunds between pools.
On 13th we were unable to locate any Spoon-billed Sandpipers after our arrival at Pak Thale at 7.15am until 9.30am when we moved to nearby Wat Komnaram for a short period. Returning to Pak Thale at around 10am the heat was intense but the tide had come in and larger numbers of shorebirds were present on the salt pans. Eventually, at around 11.30am we found two Spoon-billed Sandpipers feeding in a salt pan together.
With water levels going down due to evaporation, hopefully these critically endangered birds will become easier to find, but several other guides and visitors have told me that they were unable to find any Spoon-billed Sandpipers on recent visits.