Sunday, 15 February 2009
Tii & PO, Tii now apart of the Spoon Billed Sandpiper recovery team
White Faced Plover, Ban Pak Thale, Thailand, It amazes me that since the re-discovery of this species by DB & PK and their article the amount of people who say that they had seen these birds in various parts of Asia and were intending to "put something together" "yeh sure"
White Faced Plover, Ban Pak Thale, Thailand, This bird looks so diferent with the close by Kentish Plovers. Just click on the photos and look at the detailed differences, the legs are flesh coloured. This surely has to be a new full species and not just assigned to yet another race of Kentish Plover.
Nordmans Greenshank, Ban Pak Thale, 1 of 5 adult birds seen this day. An immature bird was seen on the Mudflats of Krabi later in the trip with Vincent Legrand getting ok flight photos.
Oriental Pratincole, Petchaburi, Thailand this bird was one of a colony of over 200 birds that had just arrived from their wintering grounds this past week. Seeing these birds flying around so close by, hawking for insects was an impressive sight. These were the first Oriental Pratincoles I had seen in over 14 years. the last sighting I had was of a single bird at Gimingham, Norfolk 1993.
Oriental Plover, Khom Pong Thom, Cambodia. This male was part of a group of 3 birds, 2 Males and a female. The birds were feeding in the dry open areas of harvested paddyfields before this male walked to the nearby pool to drink. On migration from Australia to the vast open plains of Mongolia and northern China. This area has become a well known and traditional stop over site for these birds to feed up and rest between winter and breeding localities.
Smiles all round, Oriental Hobby and Nordmans Greenshank in a mornings birding! not bad eh ?
The Islands of southern Thailand in the Andaman Sea are a popular destination for many european travellers and it is extremely popular with the Swedish and there are now 3 Swedish Schools on Lanta. When traveling you meet many people on the road.
"Customs" not exactly Bangkok, KL or London, even service with a smile !
Last day of the trip and a lot of the waders had moved on, however these mixed Sand Plovers decided to stick around and the 2 more advanced birds were Greater and Mongolian which looked quite smart as they started to gain a lot of their summer plumage.
I arrived in Bangkok, Thailand and the next day I was at Khok Kham Salt pans where I met close friend Tii and his wife Po. Tii and myself went straight out of the local salt pans where the usual array of Waders wre ever present:Both Greater and Lesser Sandplovers,Red necked and Long Toed Stnts,Broad Billed and Curlew Sandpipers,Black Winged Stilts, Marsh Sandpipers, Spotted Redshanks and Kentish Plovers all provided a good supporting cast to the star of the show with a single Spoon Billed Sandpiper showing well.
The next day Tii and Myself headed off to Ban Pak Thale and a good day’s Wader watching was had with the hightlights being: 2 White Faced Plovers being seen well and seeing both male and female provided good chances to observe this new bird to science and to get an understanding of difference in plumage charecters between the sexes.
The next day I flew in to Cambodia and met up with a birding friend from the UK. We travelled from Phon Penn and stayed at the town of Khom Pong Thom which lies midway between Phon Penn and Siem Reap. The reason for staying here was to spend time in the surrounding area looking for a species of wader that spends its winter in big flocks in the Australian outback and breeds on the vast open steppes and plains of Northern China and Mongolia, migrating through central Cambodia. The first afternoon and evening was spent searching for this species without success. The next morning was an early start and we headed off at dawn, it was not intill around 11:00hrs that we hit the jackpot with 3 birds feeding in the nearby fields which contained 2 males and a female bird all showing signs of advanced moult towards summer plumage. Other birds at this location were, 3 Grey Headed Lapwings, 2 Manchurian Reed Warblers 1 female Bengal Florican and several Pied Harries.
The next few days were spent travelling to and around Siem Reap, playing poole and drinking in the evenings in the many bars on pub street with other fellow travellers. Strips of vallium was purchased over the counter at the local chemists as it is legal here in these parts of the world without prescription. An afternoon was spent lazing in a hammock at the famous temple of Angkor Watt as a hangover put pay to walking around in the heat looking at a load of brickwork, once you’ve done one temple you’ve done em all.
Travel took us back in to Bangkok, and the next day I flew down to Krabi where I met with Vincent Legrand and his Girlfriend Aror and we spent an evening drinking and catching up. The next morning we were out on the mangroves and then out on the mudflats with local guide Mr Dai and the both target birds were seen, an adult female Oriental Hobby flew around the nest site location and an Immature Nordman’s Greenshank finally gave up the ghost and showed well as it flew past, landed, fed for a few seconds and flew off again, allowing just enough time to get those ever important photos. After this an afternoon was spent relaxing at Raylee beach and then a few cocktails in the evening.
The next day I joined the masses of other travellers all heading off to the Islands, as I boarded the boat I met 2 nice Norweigan Girls who were travelling to Ko Jum, we sat there on the boat laying back, chatting and enjoying the sun, I arrived at Ko Lanta where I re-met up with my friend and 8 days were spent relaxing in the sun by the pool, kicking back with a couple of nice Swedish girls we had met. After this it was time to move on and we Island hopped our way from Koh Lanta to Trang, from Trang to Koh Lipe, Koh Lipe is an island which is part of theTarutao group of islands on the Thai / Malaysian border. 2 Nights was spent here before Island hopping from Koh Lipe in Thailand to Langkawi Island in Malaysia, A night was spent here before taking another boat from Langkawi to Penang Island, another journey of laying on the deck of a boat soaking of the strong rays of the sun, several large flocks of Terns, mainly Bridled, Crested with a couple of sooty Terns, many Pomarine Skuas all containing “spoons” and even a probable Sperm Whale was seen between leaving Koh Lanta and arriving at Penang. A few days was spent in the area birding with a local birder and several nights of heavy drinking and playing poole with other fellow Travellers. After this time had been ticking past and it was time to start the return leg home. AA took the morning ferry from Penang to Sumatra whilst I waited for the afternoon air Asia flight to Bangkok. I arrived in Bangkok 2 hours later than scheduled due to regular delayed flights with Air Asia. The next 2 days were spent back at Khok Kham seeing how some of the waders had moulted in to spring plumage since my last visit over 4 weeks back. A final night in Bangkok, had me bumping in to one the Swedish girls from Ko Lanta and we spent the night with some Canadian Travellers as we drunk copious amounts of beer and talked tales of travel from the Perentian islands in Malaysia to Ko lipe and future trips. At 05:25 I realised it was time to head off, grab a shower, grab my bag and head off to the airport for an 06:00hrs check in, I gave my room to a Canadian Girl who was part of the drinking crowd, we chatted as I Showered and threw the last remaining bits in to my bag in quite a drunken state. As the taxi arrived at the airport I was woken by the driver, I paid, took my bag out of the cab, lit up a cigarette and looked at the great ball of orange sun breaking the Bangkok skyline. As I stood there, partly drunk with blurred eyes, I knew I was feeling better than I was when I departed the UK some 4 weeks earlier. I had smiled and laughed (only after the first 10 days), I had seen some old friends, met some great people, met some well travelled people, spent time lazing with a good crew of Swedish and various other people from other Scandinavian countries and seen some great birds on this trip. It was a good trip. I arrived back in the UK at Heathrow in what was now the month of April.
Drake Graganey, Cabo da Praia quarry, Terceira, was an unusal but welcome find
This Pectoral Sandpiper had not been mentioned on the Birding Azores Website during the winter or spring period so I pressume it was a bird that had come in the previous autumn and just moved around between localities before staying put in the quarry for a few days.
The 21st on the point at high tide produced the first spring migrants such as 1 Wheartear,1 Yellow Wagtail, Hobby, Swallow, 5 Whimbrel, Grey Plover, 40+Turnstone, 350+ Oystercatcher, 60 + Dunlin in Various stages of moult, 20+ Ringed Plover and a single Curlew were the best birds.
The 26th on the Point at high tide produced 4 Bar Tailed Godwits including 1 full summer plumaged bird, 70+ Dunlin, 19 Ringed Plover, 200+ Oystercatcher, 1 Grey Plover, 12 Whimbrel, Redshank, 47+ Common Tern was unusually high count for this species at this time of year. 1 Peregrine, 3 Great Crested Grebes and a single winter plumaged Sanderling.
The 27th and I was walking in the Cabo da Praia quarry, Teceira, Azores As I walked in to the quarry I reflected back to some of the great days I have had at this location, the last time I was in this quarry I was watching a Pacific Golden Plover alongside an American Golden Plover which was found by Darryl Spittle last October, an amazing find. Today the best birds were a Pectoral sandpiper, 1 Semi Palmated Sandpiper, 1 Semi Palmated Plover, 1 Ruff, 1 Little Stint, 2 Least Sandpipers, 60+ Sanderling, 12 Turnstone, 3 Knot, 4 Black Tailed Godwit,1 Grey Plover, 11 Ringed Plover, 5 Whimbrel, all Eurasian and still after so many visits out here I amk still searching for that Hudsonian Whimbrel. The most surprising bird a drake Garganey loafing at the back of the pool was a nice Azores Tick. A quick visit to the Praia pool produced 1 Spoonbill and 3 Cattle Egrets in full summer plumage.
The 28th-30th was spent else where, the best birds were a Female Common Scoter, 4 Common Terns and a Whimbrel still not a Hudsonian. A few hours late afternoon and early evening back on Teceira produced a nice full summer plumaged Laughing Gull which had remained since last October. The quarry held pretty much the same birds as when I was here 2 days ago.
The 4th on the Point at high tide produced 1 Sandwich tern, 1 Little Tern, 12 Common Tern, 50+ Dunlin, 12+ Ringed Plover , 1 Whimbrel, 1 Greenshank, several Redshank, 2 Swallow, 40+ Oystercatcher and an adult female Peregrine sat on the shell bank flushing all the waders from their usual high tide roost.
The 7th on the Point at high tide produced 12 Dunlin, 9 Ringed Plover, 11 Grey Plover, 3 Whimbrel,65+ Oystercatcher, 30+ Turnstone, 6 Curlew,
2 Sandwich tern, 14 Common Tern 30 Brent Goose remaining later than usual and a single Bar Tailed Godwit
The 9th on the Point at High tide produced 5 Summer plumaged Sanderling which was a nice surprise, 23 Dunlin, 14 Ringed Plover, 30+ Turnstone,
1 Grey Plover, 6 Whimbrel and 2 Sandwich and 2 Common Terns.
The 10th at Tewkes Creek was quieter than expected with 2 Greenshank,1 Grey Plover and a single Redshank. The Point was also quiet with just 6 Sandwich Tern, 4 Common Tern, 16 Dunlin,12 Ringed Plover, 5 Grey Plover and 40 Brent Goose still present. 2 Ringed Plover nests found today both containing fresh clutches.
The 17th on the Point at High tide was a wet affair with some constant light rain and a steady south westerly wind. A big surprise today was 2 Purple Sandpipers heavily moulting in to summer plumage, To have these birds this far south and so late is quite a remarkable record. Another surprise record today was 5 Gannets flying up-river was again a strange date for this species of seabird and to be in the Thames Complex on South Wesrly winds is a bizarre record. Other sightings today consisted of 19 Ringed Plover,6 Dunlin, 2 Whimbrel15 Turnstone, 3 Little Tern and a Common Seal just off shore…
The 18th on the Point didn’t produce anything unusual, 6 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plover, 40 Oystercatcher, 18 Turnstone, 6 Grey Plover and still 40 Brent Goose remaining.
The 20th on the Point was a quiet day with 11 Dunlin, 19 Ringed Plover,60+ Oystercatcher,20+ Turnstone, 4 Little,2 Common and 1 Sandwich Tern.
The 24th on the Point was a good day with a flock of 64 Ringed Plover, 4 Sanderling, 19 Dunlin, 30 Turnstone, 40 Oystercatcher, 1 Little and 1 Sandwich Tern and 1 Med Gull with a Peregrine and 30 Brent Goose.
The 30th and it was time for Steve and myself to go on the annual pilgrimage down to the New Forest. The day started with usual set up of a getting comfy in the chairs with the stove on the go brewing up fresh tea and a good cooked breakfast,
These 2 Dunlin roost on the point over high tide no doubt moving north to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.
The 4th on the Point was interesting with still some late wader migration taking place, today’s best bits consisted of a single Sanderling in full summer plumage, 38 Ringed Plover, 11 Dunlin, 1 Redshank, 26 Turnstone, 16 Grey Plover and still 2 Brent Goose remaining!
The 7th over the Point and still waders are moving through the Thames, 2 Summer Plumaged Sanderling gave the point a taste of the high arctic, 6 Dunlin also Summer Plumaged up, 16 Ringed Plover including 1 heavily worn bird looking out of place amongst the crisp summer plumaged birds. 9 Grey Plover a bird I don’t usually pay that amount of attention to but in full Summer plumage they realy are a cracking bird. 26 Oystercatcher, 2 Redshank, 1 Whimbrel, 16 Common tern, 3 Little and 2 Sandwich Terns, a single Med Gull also keeping up te trend of full SP and the 2 Brent Goose still remaining.
The 29th at the Point produced very little in the way of waders, 1 Dunlin, 4 Ringed Plover,4 Oystercatcher, 5 Grey Plover, 1 lapwing and now 5 Brent Goose present obviously deciding that the Thames Complex is the place to spend the summer instead of flying all the way north back to arctic & why not ? The Thames is a great place, when the weather is good, I can’t think of that many more places Id rather be than sat, drinking fresh tea watching a load of waders using the roost.
The 19th and it was back in the Cabo da Praia quarry, Terceria, Azores. The best it got was 3 Semi Palmated Plovers, 3 Black tailed Godwits, 1 Whimbrel (still no bloody Hudsonian, how long is this gonna take ??!!) 40+ Kentish plovers, 40+ Sanderling, 30+ Turnstone, 6 Common tern.
The 20th and I was on board the ferry from Terceira to Graciosa, this was the first time I had taken this route. The journey was plessant with nice clear blue skies and a warm sun beating down from above. Sightings on route produced 3 Madeiran Type Petrels all presumed warm breeding season birds which are now assigned to a new species to science and named Monterio’s Petrel after the scientist Louis Monterio who started working on these birds and who originally suspected that these birds were infact a taotaly different species from the cool breeding season birds. Bulwers Petrel 4+, many Cory’s Shearwaters, several Common Terns 2 pilot whale sp and 15+ Common Dolphins all added to the mix and journey.
The 21st and I was out on a boat I had chartered via Diving Graciosa and the skipper Rolando. We left at 15:00hrs and was out til just after 2i:30hrs. A total of over 30 Monterio’s Petrels were seen and some were seen very well but not until early evening as they flew around the boat coming in to the small chum I had prepared and was using. Two Sooty Terns were on the Islet da Praia amongst the Roseate and Common Terns and 2 pods of Common Dolphin were a great distraction as they came and done the old classic bow riding. This was a real nice trip and I would highly recommend this to any one who is out in the Azores in the Sumer months.
The 22nd-24th was spent kicking back and relaxing at Santa Cruz. I bumped in to Chris Batty from the UK and we chatted and went for coffee as he and his new wife were on their Honey moon. We chatted about all various points of birding. Chris gave me a tip to go to the Ponta de Barca lighthouse to see Monterio’s Petrels in the evening, I did do this one evening and had 4 birds distantly which, to be honest I could only assign to Maderian Type Petrels. I also spent a day lazing by a pool that has a small inlet so the sea water comes in, just as I was about to go for a swim I saw 2 Portugese manowars present so I decided to give it a swerve. A Whimbrel flew past calling and had the large white flash, and I started to wonder if Hudsonian was ever gonna give up the ghost for me.
I decided to take the ferry from Graciosa to Faial but as I arrived at the harbour port I was amazed to find it all shut up like a ghost town, Turns out the girl who worked there got shot and killed by her policeman boyfriend as he found out that she was having an affair, "Jesus" what had a I walked in to, all this on little deserted tranquil Islands in the mid Atlantic eh? Eventually the ferry arrived and we set out. The weather was horrendous, the boat was thrown about quite badly but we eventually got to Faial at 21:30 hours. The only noteworthy sighting was of a single Great Shearwater in the Channel between Sao George and Pico with Plenty of Cory’s and Common and Roseate Terns at various harbour ports along the way. A girl from the Cape Verdes (who's friend it was who got shot last night, she saw her friend get shot, not nice at all) made conversation with me but I kept myself to myself as I just wanted to sit and think about things and so I just continued to search the sea for any cetaceans.
25th I flew Faial to Corvo but even here at this time of year in July the flights were tricky as they had been cancelled the previous day to Flores due to bad weather. The cloud cover was so bad that the pilot decided to fly below the cloud line and this meant that the sea was not so far below and various Dolphins and Whale sp were seen on route. I arrived on Corvo safe and sound and after dropping my bags off at the Guesthouse I went up the mountain for a walk and in search of any early migrating waders but the fog and rain didn’t help with any sightings and a quick look on the sea in evening produced nothing other than 3000+ Corys.
The 26th was spent chilling out with Maria and Patricia, I had met these 2 girls the evening before and it turns out that they are both Scientist’s working on various seabird projects including Corys’ on Corvo and they were both really nice girls. We chatted endlessly about birds, travel and life in general etc.
The 27th I chartered the boat with Nauticorvo and both Maria and Patricia joined me, the swell on one side of the island was quite strong and as we slowly made our way around the Island going through any rafts of Corys when we found them, then at one time Maria shouted "Sooty", but as the bird flew it banked and it was only dark to the upper breast producing a pec band as it contrasted with the remaining solid white under-parts, I also thought the bird was some what compact than a Sooty with a more jizz like to that of a Pterodroma type Petrel. This was painfully annoying as they have been other records of definite and probable Gadfly type Petrels in these waters. The bird was never seen again. We continued our way around the Island and had 4 Manx Shearwaters and a nicely appreciated early Little Shearwater which was a new bird for me. That evening Patricia, Maria and myself had dinner together and then took a stroll to get some cigarettes but every where was closed due to the local party of a feast ect. However we managed to see a Long eared Owl flying around at dusk over the bushes near the airpoirt. The remainder of the evening was spent sat on the verandar of the Guest-house chatting with Maria and before either of us realised the sun was breaking, and dawn had arrived to see in a new day and week on Corvo. It was time for me to leave. I departed on the late morning flight Back to Faial and as I sat there inside the Dornier I realised I had just met 2 very nice, decent and kind people. It partly restored my faith in the human race.
The 29th and I chartered the self same sport fishing boat that I had done the previous year with Peter. The weather was not as good as last year and there was a large swell with 2 metre waves. I continued out to the area of the Azores banc, when we arrived I began chumming and after I had managed to get a nice slick going. I had 11 Wilsons Petrels with really nice and close views as they came in to the chum they some times flew over the back of the boat, even Phillip’e (The Skipper) said that he had never seen the birds so close before. The chum which was in onion bags hanging over the side of the boat and in the water also attracted attention from below with 4Blue Sharks constantly around the boat and whist watching these my attention would be drawn to that of the Wilson’s Petrels as I could hear them calling as they flew past.
The 30th and I was on another ferry. This time Faial to Teceira, as the boat departed in the early morning, the weather was windy, cold, grey and cloudy we continued out journey stopping at various ports of Pico, Sao Jorge, etc. I sat at the front of the boat sipping my espresso’s and smoking my cigarettes. I sat there thinking and re-thinking over things and certain chapters in my life. As I sat there on the front of the boat I put my iPod on and started listening to some tunes, at this point a woman and her small daughter came up to me and sat beside me, she was a pretty woman, small in height and structure and with that classic Mediteranean look about her with dark hair, olive skin and dark eyes, her daughter just smiled and sat there, quietly next to her mum, she saw my bins around my neck and asked if I was looking for Dolphins, I said yes and she said If I see any to let her know, we began chatting about her journey. As I sat there I began to lean back, the clouds had passed and the sun was out in full force beating down and reflecting off of the sea. I sat there in my T shirt, shorts, shades and iPod listening to som chilled out Tunes, it was just at this point the woman tapped me and pointed, as I looked to where she was pointing there was a pod of 9 Atlantic Spotted Dolphins and they came right close to the boat and began bow riding briefly before disappearing, then at that precise moment I noticed a Bulwers Petrel flying low of the surface of the water as it had just been flushed up from sitting on the water by the boat. This was a real nice moment indeed, I turned around and thanked the woman and we had a coffee together, smoked a Cigarette and chatted as Terceira came in to view. I spent the afternoon in the Cabo da Praia quarry, the best birds were Semi Palmated Plover, 2 Knot in full summer Plumage, 3 Whimbrel, (don’t bother asking, you know they were not Hudsonian,) 3 Black Tailed Godwit and several turnstone.
That evening I grabbed some food and a few beers at Moly Jugs, I sat on the steps at the edge of the beach thinking back over the trip.
The 2nd and have a few hours to spare and so I make the Point at high tide, this was a worth while visit as I had 5 adult Curlew Sandpipers in moult which is the highest count I have ever had on the point. 160+ Dunlin, 80+ Ringed Plover, Grey Plover,Lapwing,1 Common Sandpiper, 140+ Turnstone 6 Little and 4 Sandwich Terns, 400+ Oystercatcher, 5 Bar Tailed Godwit in full summer plumage and 2 Sanderling.
That evening I am at Harwich and I board the over night ferry to the Hook of Holland.
The 2nd and I awake and I am in Holland, I have travelled over to see close friend Vincent Van Der Spek, I have not seen Vincent for over a year and his girlfriend Keete greets me and she is surprised how much weight I have lost, I tell her the reason has been a bit of stress. We are go out for lunch and just spend the day chatting and chilling. The other reason for the visit is that ever since Vincent has told me about the vast numbers of migrating waders through different parts of the Wadden Sea in the north of the country I have always wanted to witness this. This year worked out perfect because Vincent is doing a 3 month sabbatical on Montagu’s Harriers in the north of the country exactly near some of the great wader sites. I decide to time my visit with Vincent’s last week as I knew he would be able to get away and get out more
The 4th-9th was spent at Polder Breebart where the highlights were various flocks of waders with various numbers:
1 Lesser Yellow legs, 2 Marsh Sandpipers, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper, a flock of 900+ Curlew Sandpiper including 1 bird in full breeding plumage of a deep red wine colour with a spangled golden sheen over the mantle and upperparts, what a bird! I have never seen anything like this before, even Vincent commented on this bird, Spotted Redshank peeked at 1200+, Dunlin 10000+ Greenshank only reached 49+, 9 Caspian Terns, 9 Gull billed Terns,Several Montagu’s Harriers, Marsh Harriers, a Female Goshawk, Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Hobby, Long eared Owl, Icterine Warblers, Quail, 30+Little Stints, 200+ Spoonbill, 500+Vermin (er sorry I meant Avocet) 1000+ Golden Plover, a probable White Rumped Sandpiper that we never clinched as it was far to distant as it fed on the ever retreating tide.
I arrived back to a very wet and dull UK but close friend Steve was there to give me a lift home. We chatted about the trip and the what had happened in the UK whilst I was away.
The 16th and I am back on the Point, the number of birds seems so small after the vast numbers witnessed in Holland, but even so there was enough to keep me busy with 1 ad Curlew Sandpiper, 260+ Dunlin, 350+ Ringed Plover, 500+ Oystercatcher, 2 Barwits, 1 Whimbrel, 6 ad Knot, 25 Little and 11 Sandwich Terns. A wander over the old patch of Vange Marsh produced 2 Wood Sandpipers an adult and a juvenile, 3 Greenshank and 70+ Black tailed Godwit.
The 17th on the Point and by now Knot were in full return passage, 30+ adults roosted at high tide, with a single Sanderling, 1 Barwit, 300+ Ringhed Plover, 200+ Dunlin, 55+ Grey Plover, 200+ Blackwit, 1 Golden Plover and a single Whimbrel. There were several visits made between the 17th and the 3st but due to fact of misplacing the notebook and being to lazy to write notes some where else there notes have been lost.
The 31st on the point was a nice warm day with a warm breeze, 300+ Ringed Plover, 150+ Dunlin, 1 Sanderling, 1 Knot and 30+ Turnstone. 2 Black Terns in flight were a nice treat and 3 Med gulls (2 juvs and 1 2nd summer added to the mix)