Monday, 7 February 2011

Thai crackers

Spoon-billed Sandpiper, the first of the trip's main target birds, showed brilliantly this morning.
This post comes to you from the Gulf of Thailand coast, somewhere south of Bangkok where salt pans, mangroves and thousands upon thousands of waders have been providing a scintillating day's birding. Three of us (Adrew, Steve and I) flew out yesterday to join three others (Roy, Neil and Dave) on the WildWings Spoon-billed Pitta Tour in Thailand. I have history with Spoon-billed Sandpiper - or rather I don't, as I dipped it in Hong Kong in 1991. Since then it has become one of the most Critically Endangered bird species in the world. Some estimates put the global population at as low as 400, so it feels very much like a 'last chance to see' kind of experience. I hope it isn't.

That spatulate bill has other uses as well as feeding ... the 'Spooner' seen here with a Kentish Plover.

Front-heavy and with a gleaming white forehead, 'Spooners' are distinctive even in flight.
As these photos show, under the expert leadership of Mark Andrews we had no problem in locating a Spoon-billed Sand at Pak Thali, and in fact even notched up a second one for good measure. I've processed these crops in a hurry and uploaded them on a small-screen machine; if they don't look great, the originals will be better

It's been a good opportunity to look at species which rarely reach Britain, such as Pacific Golden Plover.
I haven't finished writing up my notes yet today and have lost count of the number of wader species seen so far, but as well as hundreds (thousands?) of Red-necked Stints, Marsh Sandpipers and more, we've also notched up the likes of Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Pacific Golden Plover, Pintail Snipe and Long-toed Stint. Tomorrow we'll be looking for the recently described White-faced Plover, among other species. Check back soon for more news and images.

Plenty of other good birds to look at apart from waders, including Ruddy-breasted Crake ...
... and Slaty-breasted Rail, which popped up while we were watching the crake!

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