Thursday, 15 March 2018

11 Nordmann's Greenshank - Krabi Estuary - March 2018

After leaving Khok Kham it was back to KSR for a night and then an early morning flight Bangkok - Krabi with Thai Smile airline. I can't rate them highly enough, safe, efficient, friendly and reasonably priced and they are a subsidiary of Thai Airways. Arrival in Krabi was hot but welcomed and after checking-in at the "Pitta Guest House" It was time to get a few details arranged. 

I had planned to have four visits out on to the Estuary at Krabi, two pre Sri Phang Nga and 2 post, however a quick check of the weather for both in Krabi and Bangkok showed that Friday 09th March was to be a thundery and heavy rainfall day, with this forecast I decided that I would change my flight, to be able to return to Bangkok a day earlier than planned as I wanted another hit at BPT and Khok Kham for Spoon Billed Sandpiper and Friday was showing for a heavy rainfall and thundery I decied I needed to be on site at BPT for Thursday at least

The following morning it was time to head out on to the mudflats of Krabi Estuary and to follow up one of the main reasons for this trip and that was to see and to get better video-footage & photographs of Nordmann's Greenshank. 

Krabi Estuary is one of my favoured "Wadering" locations, alongside The Thames Estuary, Tacumshin, Cabo da Praia quarry and Khok Kham, also Nordmann's Greenshank is also a favoured species and one of those waders I just can't seem to get enough of alongside Spoon Billed, Buff Breasted & Stilt Sandpipers. 

Communication between Phil R, Chenxing Yu and myself prior to leaving the UK allowed for an update of birds and tidal conditions. Chenxing was really helpful providing details of a flag ringed Nordmann's Greenshank that was in the area as a part of her studies and by also sending a tide table for March 2018.

Today and Tomorrow (Sat 03rd & Sun 04th) was the highest tides for the month of March, which has it's +'s & -'s, the + being that birds will get pushed up from most areas but a - is that the tide run's up and run's off very quickly providing less time on birds feeding pre and post high tide. 

Sam W also had news from eBird of 12 birds being seen the previous day providing us a real-time up to date picture of  what was happening out on the mud-flats.

We met with our boatman, Deow, the son of the late Mr Dai who I used to go out with many times, many years ago. As we headed out I noticed that some of the sand bars had become a lot higher and larger than my previous visit in 2011. This has happened in the Thames where mud and shells get deposited over the years and the area buids up larger & higher and can also shift in location. 

It took me a while to get my eye in and I found it more difficult pinning these birds down than previously, I guess lack of fmailiarity with the species and the area didn't help as I used to see them on nearly annual basis. 

Waders being pushed up by the rising tide on the second from last sand bar, Krabi Estuary - 04th March 2018

Waders being pushed up on to the last remaining sand bar pre high tide, Krabi Estuary - 04th March 2018

It was during this time of rising tide on the 05th whilst scanning through the waders that I located a Terek Sandpiper sporting a flag combination of a blue flag over yellow flag on the right leg. I suspected that this was a Chinese ringed bird but wasn't sure of the exact location. Upon checking the flag charts that evening it didn't take long to discover that this was a Bohia ringed bird. Bohia being an area where Chris H visits every spring to undertake wader surveys and ringing, I sent the details straight to him that evening and Chris came back confirming that this was a Bohia ringed bird with additional info. 

Also observed today was a Thai flag-ringed Greater Sandplover. Also present was at least 2 Far Eastern Curlews, both seen in flight showing the dark rump and underwing, compared to that of the Eurasian Curlews present and the "orientalis race" which are larger and much longer billed. Lesser Sandplovers out numbered Greater Sandplovers but some of the Greater's were looking rather smart in their new summer finery, Great Knots were starting to brighten up but very few Red necked Stints were present and still retaining their grey winter wear. Terek Sandpipers were by far the most abundant wader present and seen at every location throughout.

The video footage above and below was taken on Sunday 04th March and provides an insight to what the viewing conditions were like on the day, with birds trying to stay on terra firma before the ebbing tide covers the sand bar. 

It also shows how on first views, Nordmann's Greenshank resembles a large, bulk-bellied - stocky Common Greenshank or that of an overweight, oversized Terek Sandpiper but with closer inspection you discover a unique and beautiful wader, with a soft-gentile appearance and character, admitidley the head and bill are some-what similiar to that of Common Greenshank but the bright yellow legs are much shorter with a short tibia and ghostly white underparts (when in winter plumage) which I believe is one of the best ID features and easiest ways of locating a Nordmann's Greenshank when in the field. 

Waders roosting on the fishing poles / nets at high tide including Nordmann's Greenshank's, Krabi Estuary - 03rd March 2018

As the incomming tide coverred the last remaining sand bars the waders began to head off to roost out on the many fishing poles and nets present in the area. The idea is to scan these poles / nets in the distance and if there are birds present and roosting on them then we would take the boat in closer and then cut the engine and check through the birds present looking for any Nordmann's Greenshanks. If they were present we would start the engine and head closer cutting the engine allowing us to drift in closer and take photographs, however this can be very tricky with a head-on & icomming-tide, birds being hidden or part obscured from view by other birds, fishing poles, ropes and or netting and also the angle of the sun, however with some good manourvers from Deow we manged to get some shots.    
Nordmann's Greenshank - Roosting at high tide, Krabi Estuary - March 2018.

The morning of the 07th March was more productive for searching for feeding birds as the tide was lower and slower in rising than that of the weekend. This left the mudflats remaining exposed for longer allowing more time to look for feeding birds. Three Nordmann's Greenshank were located this morning and provided some nice prolonged viewing and some video-footage of the birds foraging. As the tide pushed  up we checked the last remaining locations of sand bars and located two birds trying to hold out for as long as they could. 

The video footage below was taken on the 07th March and shows a single Nordmann's Greenshank alongside Common Greenshank and a Grey plover. To get this video footage I was up to my waist in the water, with all three tripod legs also in the water. The boat was behind me acting as a hide blocking out my profile so as not to be as visible. The slight tremble and shake in this video footage at times is from the incoming tide lapping and banging against the tripod legs. 

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