Thursday, 1 March 2018

Thailand...again - 5

An overnight stay in Nakhon Sawan gave us an opportunity to take a boat trip on the lake at Bueng Boraphet.  Last year this trip was one of the highlights of our time in Thailand and we had no hesitation when a repeat was suggested.  It has to be said, however, that this second trip didn’t quite live up to our expectations.  One of the main reasons for this was this year’s much higher water level, which certainly had an effect on bird numbers and distribution.  Another reason was that the boatman was intent on finding for us a Baer’s Pochard that had been seen just a few days earlier.  What was supposed to be a three-hour trip turned into more than four hours and when it finished we had to hurry to meet the check-out time back at the hotel. 

Baer’s Pochard is a rare bird and there is no doubt that we would all have liked to see it but Beung Boraphet is the largest freshwater swamp and lake in central Thailand covering 224 square kilometres (for readers in Staffordshire that’s just about 300 times the size of Belvide Reservoir!).  We would have needed some luck to find it, particularly given the large numbers of Garganey, Lesser Whistling Ducks and other species on the water.  Really, we spent far too much time concentrating on just this one target although the morning’s bird list was still impressive, including Pied & Eastern Marsh Harriers, Black-eared Kite, Pheasant-tailed & Bronze-winged Jacanas, Green & Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and White-throated Kingfisher as well as many long-legged waterbirds.

 Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Oriental Darter

Our next three nights were spent at Ban Bang Home Resort, near the coast on the Gulf of Thailand.  How very different it seemed without the continuous, torrential rain that we experienced there last year.  The same could also be said of the nearby saltpans at Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia, where we were able to enjoy looking at the thousands of waders without the need to be regularly drying off our binoculars.  The boat trip to the sandspit, which previously had been quite unpleasant, was this time really enjoyable and we were able to get much better views of Malaysian Plover, Chinese Egret, Pacific Reef Egret and the other species that make this short boat ride well worth the effort.

 Ban Bang Home Resort

 Pacific Reef Egret

 Malaysian Plover

Chinese Egret

During our time in this area we identified 38 wader (shorebird) species, including Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Far Eastern Curlew, Long-toed Stint, Asian Dowitcher and Malaysian Plover.  We also saw White-faced Plover, also known as Swinhoe’s Plover, which (depending on who you ask) may or may not be a separate species from Kentish Plover.  What a treat it was to see a flock of about 1,200 Eurasian Curlews but at the same time be able to watch more than 300 Terek Sandpipers gathering to roost.

Spoon-billed the 'scope!

 Great Knot

 Marsh Sandpiper

 Black-winged Stilt

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

We also managed to visit several sites that we didn’t get to last year.  Notable was a lake near Wat Takaro where we went to look for Spot-billed Pelican.  We found just one but among the many accompanying ducks we were surprised to find a drake Red-crested Pochard, thought to be only the fifth or sixth record of this species for Thailand.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and we had to head for Bangkok and one last night in Thailand before our flight home.  On the way to the capital we stopped at Nong Pla Lai rice paddies, where Booted, Greater Spotted & Eastern Imperial Eagles and Black-eared, Black-winged & Brahminy Kites were all seen.

 Brahminy Kite

 Black-eared Kite

Greater Spotted Eagle

Our flight from Bangkok was an evening departure, which meant that we had plenty of time for birding on our last day.  We went first to Muang Boran Fish Ponds, located on the outskirts of the city but by 8.30 a.m. the heat and humidity were such that we decided to head for the coast and Bang Poo. Here a Slaty-breasted Rail showed well from the hide and among the huge numbers of Brown-headed Gulls and Whiskered Terns present, we were able to find both Black-headed & Slender-billed Gulls both scarce winter visitors.

 Slaty-breasted Rail

Brown-headed & Black-headed Gulls

Will we go again to Thailand?  Possibly – it’s a big country and there are lots more birds to see!  In spite of the dreadful weather early on in both trips and some seriously hard beds, we have really enjoyed most aspects of Thailand, including the food.  Thanks are due to Neil & Pennapa Lawton for arranging it all. 

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