Thailand. Quest for Spoon billed Sandpiper. February 2017.

The news on twitter that four Spoon billed Sandpipers were present at Laem Pak Bia Thailand last November prompted us to book flights to Bangkok. These rare waders had being on the bucket list for many years, so the journey began from Dublin to Dubai with a rapid connecting flight and we arrived in Bangkok sixteen hours later. The journey to Phetchaburi should have taken a couple of hours but took us six due to poor road signs and the hired sat. nav. could not find the hotel! Next day we drove twenty minutes to the salt pans but failed to locate any Spoonies. The following day we met a birder on site and showed us our first looks at this long awaited mega. We spent three more days looking at Spoon bill's (4-5) plus fantastic views of Red necked Stint, Great Knot, Asian Dowitcher, Nordmann's Greenshank (7), Broad billed Sandpipers, Red necked Phalaropes, Eastern Curlew and Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers. We hired a birding boatman Mr Daeng to take us to Laem Pak Bia sand spit and connected with Malaysian and White faced Plovers, Black naped Tern with Lesser Crested and Caspian's, A Pallas's Gull was also present and bonus bird of Chinese Egret. The Kings Project Grounds in Laem Pak Bia is a superb area to bird for most of the common species, one gets superb views as the birds appear fearless of humans. Bonus birds we got here were Indian Nightjar (after dark) and massive Lyle's Flying Fox bats, the size of Black crowned Night Herons. This is the only place we saw Golden-bellied Gerygone and Mangrove Whistler.

The second stage of our trip brought us to Khao Yai National Park for some jungle birding. Day one we had to stop to let a wild Asian Elephant feed along the park road, a welcome detour indeed. We spent three days working the jungle and got some lovely lifers including Siberian Blue Robin, Siamese Fireback, Great eared and Grey Nightjar, Red throated and Dark Sided Flycatchers, several species of phylloscopus warblers just to name a few, we failed to see any Pittas alas. In short considering it's a jungle the park was just teeming with birds and a must do for birders. Three days did not do the park justice, I think a couple of weeks could be spent here.

Stage three saw us in southeastern Thailand for three days birding Bang Pra Non-hunting area Pattaya. This area is fantastic for freshwater birds including Bitterns of which we saw Yellow and Cinnamon. Most of the Drongos are easy. Rufous and Racket tailed Treepie breeds here. Bushlarks and several Reed Warblers plus a bonus Rufous rumped Warbler. Noisy White crested Laughingthrush is easy in the morning. No Quails were observed but we did hear and see a Chinese Francolin. The three species of Bee-eaters are visible here. We expected to see Siberian Rubythroat but failed, as a consolation we saw our only Forest Wagtails, deadly birds!. Of note we took a boat trip from Pattaya to Coral Island or Koh He which produced a few Crested Terns. But on the way back near Pattaya we came across a feeding flock of about sixty Black naped Terns which was a huge bonus as they just don't come to land very often.

Stage four saw us based in Bangkok for a few days birding Khok Klam for more waders, one needs to drive around the salt pans/pools quite a bit to find where the main flocks of birds are, on any given day. Here we saw similar waders as Laem Pak Bia but without any Spoon billed Sandpipers. On the plus side we got lovely close views of Asian Dowitcher, any Dowitchers we saw at Leam Pak Bia were very distant and just looked like dull grey Bar tailed Gowits. Apart from this the birding was nearly as good as Leam Pak Bia. Two parks in the centre of Bangkok are good for close views of common birds like Starlings and Mynas but overrun with people though. We failed to see any Vinous breasted Starling or stork billed Kingfisher.

Birding in Thailand is absolutely superb with plenty of birds but driving can be hazardous and Bangkok traffic is always at peak volume except for dawn and after dusk. Beware of police trying to forge the tourists a ticket for your driving license back even though no crime was committed. It happened to us at a toll bridge but we persisted and began to take video of the conversation so he suddenly forgave our non-crime and moved us on quickly. Bangkok is seedy but safe, in fact we felt safe everywhere in Thailand. The Thai people in general are humble and will try to help with directions etc. We basically used Nick Upton Thaibirding.com to plan our trip and this wonderful free resource is invaluable to any visiting birder. The only book we used was Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson February 2016 which is good but could be better. A decent telescope and tripod is essential for wader watching as the wind in early morning can be difficult.

Below a list of linked images we took throughout our sixteen day trip, one page leads to the next in order of species family. Many thanks to Brian Porter whom updated us daily from Thailand. Mike Rose for help with identification of some species and Nick Upton for hosting a wonderful website thaibirding.com

Paul and Andrea Kelly 2017

Images Here

Red Junglefowl Great Knot Spot billed Pelican
Siamese Fireback Spoon billed Sandpiper Brown Shrike
Lineated Barbet Temminck's Stint Ashy Drongo
Coppersmith Barbet Red necked Stint Large billed Crow
Oriental Pied Hornbill Broad billed Sandpiper Black naped Oriole
White breasted Kingfisher Oriental Pratincole Black winged Cuckooshrike
Black capped Kingfisher Kentish Plover Pied Fantail
Blue tailed Bee-eater Malaysian Plover Red throated Flycatcher
Green Bee-eater White faced Plover Oriental Magpie Robin
Chestnut headed Bee-eater Lesser Sand Plover Siberian Stonechat
Greater Cougal Greater Sand Plover Ashy Wood Swallow
Asian emeald Cuckoo Pacific Golden Plover Asian Pied Starling
Indian Roller Red watteled Plover Black collared Starling
Plaintive Cuckoo Pallas's Gull Common Myna
Red breasted Parrot Brown headed Gull White vented Myna
Hoopoe Caspian Tern Red whiskered Bulbul
Germain's Swiftlett Black naped Tern Brown headed Bulbul
Asian Palm Swift Whiskered Tern Streak eared Bulbul
House Swift White winged Tern Yellow vented Bulbul
Brown backed Needletail Shikra Thick billed Warbler
Great eared Nightjar Oriental Honey Buzzard Plain Prinia
Grey Nightjar Bhrambury Kite Grey breasted Prinia
Indian Nightjar Pied Harrier Dark necked Tailorbird
Spotted Dove Indian Cormorant Yellow browed Warbler
Red Collard Dove Little Cormorant White crested Laughingthrush
Peaceful Dove Pacific Reed Heron Brown throated Sunbird
Scaly breasted Rail Great Egret Olive backed Sunbird
Asian Dowitcher Intermediate Egret Paddyfield Pipit
Marsh Sandpiper Pond Heron Richard's Pipit
Nordmann's Greenshank Black crowned Night Heron Paddyfield Pipit
Terek Sandpiper Painted Stork Indochinese Bushlark
Asian Openbill Plain backed Sparrow
  Scaly breasted Munia