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Laem Pak Bia, April 2004
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The traditional site for Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Thailand has up till now been Khok Kham at Samut Sakorn. Though the birds are still present there, this season a 'new' site for the same species has emerged at Laem Pak Bia in the province of Petburi. This site is a little more then an hour away from Khok Kham but holds so much more to see for the avid birdwatcher.

Drive to the town of Petburi. Don't drive into town at the fork in the road but continue on the highway going south. Only two traffic lights further on, take a left and follow signs towards Chao Samran beach. Right before the beach take a left and begin your birding. From here on and back on northward bound you will find an endless amount of salt pans. Stands of mangrove and scrub are also part of the landscape and from time to time you will catch a glimpse of the sea.

A few kilometers after the turn at Chao Samran beach (at the beach there are nice restaurants with shelter, sea breeze and delicious Thai cuisine) you will pass LamPakBia Mangrove research center. A little after that there is a little gathering of fishing boats. Here you can enquire about having someone take you out to the sandbars of LamPakBia. The ride takes about 20 minutes and sure beats the 5 kilometer long walk in the heat of the day through mucky mangroves. Price is 350 Baht. Along the mangroves you will find Black-capped and Collared Kingfishers along with other regular mangrove dwelling birds such as Golden-bellied Gerygone and Black-crowned Night Herons.

Out on the bars is the best place for Malaysian Plovers. These birds are resident and breed on the bars. On one trip there I counted 8 birds in a group. Easy to see but not to be confused with the Kentish Plovers present. Sanderlings run up and down the beach.

Many Great Crested Terns with a few Lesser Crested Terns feed out here and often rest on the bars. Good numbers of Palla's Gulls and Heuglin's Gulls. Chinese Egret was photographed a couple of months back. Other Terns easy to see are Little Tern, Common Tern and from time to time Gull-billed Tern.

On the way out you can also spot the Greater Sand Plover more easily then on the salt pans on the hinterlands. Ospreys and Brahimy Kites look for prey overhead. The sandbar is tranquil and has a nice breeze. I often did my birding there midday after a nice spread of Thai food at the restaurant earlier mentioned.

Between Chao Samran beach and the village of Bahn Pak Tale there are gatherings of waders all over. Most common species are Black-winged Stilts, Marsh Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper and Mongolian Plovers. Other common birds are Broad-billed Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints, Black-tailed Godwits, Common Greenshank, Long-toed Stints, Temminck's Stint, Wood Sandpipers, Common and Spotted Redshanks. Eurasian Curlews, Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel and Terek Sandpipers are not uncommon either.

Right before the little village of Bahn Pak Taley there is an asphalt road (small) to the right. Follow this road and work the pans closer to the sea. The Broad-billed Sandpipers have been very regular in here this year. They seem to prefer muddy pans with shallow waters.

Some rarer birds for this site are Red-necked Phalarope, Black-faced Spoonbills, Painted Storks, Ruff, Little Stint, Pied Avocet and Far Eastern Curlews. The crown of the rarities besides Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Black-faced Spoonbills must be Nordmann's Greenshank. Up to 14 of these birds was seen at one gathering! All Egrets and many Grey Herons abound. Little Cormorants and Little Heron are not hard.

Rarer gulls such as Black-tailed and Mongolian Herring Gull have been seen. The birds are often seen in the larger ponds resting at midday along with groups of waders.

To top off last season there was only the 3rd record of an Indian Skimmer that stayed for a whole week in April, attracting a great number of local birders and photographers alike. How it got here, I guess, God only knows.

In the scrub, fields and woodlands a bit further inland there are many other birds to be seen such as Black Drongo, Long-tailed Shrike, Brown Shrike, Oriental Pratincole, Common and Pintailed Snipe, Red-wattled Lapwings, Openbills, Asian Pied and Black-collared Starlings, Plain-backed Sparrow, Indian Roller, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Ashy Wood Swallows, Zitting Cisticola, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Dusky Warbler, Rusty-rumped Warbler, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (on passage), etc etc…

Other good birds in the more marshy situations are Slaty-breasted Rail and Ruddy-breasted Crake. And even some Ruddy Shelducks visited for a few weeks this year.

As this site gets more attention I am positive more will be revealed of what lies within the boundaries of this great area.

Peter Ericsson
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