by Nick Upton
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Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale Day Trip, December 2007

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While on an official trip to Bangkok, I managed to squeeze a little time out of it on a saturday to go birding around Bangkok. It being my first trip to Thailand and my previous birding experience closer to Thailand being just Singapore and North-east India, I expected to find a few lifers with ease by walking around the city. Alas ! Bangkok turned out to be a concrete jungle with little green cover around - though, I found that there are a couple of open areas in the city, it became clear that these species are not new for me. A few mails to birdingpals ( and subsequent redirections (Jintana has been extremely helpful in finding me a guide), I reached Panuwat Sasirat (Par in short) who agreed to show
me around Phetchaburi province targetted mainly at seeing the elusive Spoon-billed Sandpiper, which he termed it as "not difficult to find".

We left early from my hotel in Bangkok with Par and his eco-tour partner and by seven we were in the field, watching birds around the mangrove forests of Laem Pak Bia King's Project, Par had a short talk with another friend whom I later learnt was Mr.Wind (associated with Philip D. Round of Large-billed Reed Warbler fame) and we were watching birds in the very place which yielded the lost species a year ago. I already had my first lifer en route a Zebra Dove, which I had missed in Singapore. The next good species for me was a flock of Caspian Terns among Brown-headed Gulls. I have missed this species in the west coast of India. Later we moved to the mangrove reserve and from the vehicle we heard a trilling whistle (of White-eye quality but notes similar to Brown-cheeked Fulvetta) from the mangroves and I enquired about the presence of Mangrove Whistler. Instead, this whistle seems to be made by Golden-bellied Gergone, which we found after a small search. Later, I got my first Collared Kingfisher (I dipped on it in Singapore) and then Pied Fantail. Further down in the marshes we saw several Long-toed Stints along with Marsh Sandpipers.

After driving a little, we came across 200+ waders in a wetland and most of them were Great Knots apart from a few Grey Plovers and some Lesser Sand Plovers (& perhaps Greater too). Par was searching for Nordmann's Greenshank which was seen here by Mr.Wind and he had indicated to look carefully into the Great Knot flocks. We did not find any Greenshanks, but we decided to walk further to check out other flocks. A 100+ flock of Black-tailed Godwits landed and there were also several Dunlins in it. Among the Great Knots, I felt I saw a much paler bird which was sitting with its bill tucked inside the wings. Soon when the bill was out, it was clear that we were looking at a Nordmann's Greenshank ! The bird was injured and was limping. Further searched revealed another two of them. The species is considerably rare in this region. While returning back, I saw a fews wiftlets and later realised they were Germain's Swiftlet - different from Indian Swiftlet which we are used to in India. My ninth lifer for the day in just over two hours.

The next mission was the Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Pak Thale and Par knew exactly where to look for them. By the time we parked the vehicle, we had already seen a flock of waders a little further and an initial look yielded several Rufous-necked Stints and a Broad-billed Sandpiper. After more careful watching through the telescope, with a sly smile, Par asked me have a go at the scope. There, right in the centre of the field view, was what I was craving for all these days. A diminutive Spoon-billed Sandpiper looking back. With much excitement, we inched closer through the salt pans. Though the wader flock was still around, we took sometime to resight the bird. But this time, it was much fuller view and had an excellent look for sometime. By the time Par tried digiscoping, the bird has gone down the bund. Later we met a few Danish bird-watchers who also seems to have seen the same bird earlier in the day - and the Nordmann's Greenshank too a week back.

By now, we have got most of the species which I wanted to see - the next stop was at the Red-necked Phalarope site in Lame Pak Bia King Project area. Within no time, we saw 5 birds swimming along with several Spotted Redshanks. We then pushed towards the coast in the hope of seeing Pacific Reef Egret - we could only see Little Egret there. Later, we pushed into a different habitat from the brackish water wetlands. A Green-billed Malkoha crossed our path offering a good view in flight. The local Streak-eared Bulbul was a lifer for me. We saw a largish raptor sitting on an open branch in a dried up paddy field. It turned out to be a dark morph of a Tawny Eagle - perhaps a local rarity in this region (Note: This species was recently removed from the Thai Checklist and there are no comfirmed sightings in Thailand). Par has got several digiscoped photographs which hopefully shall show the gape line and nostril shape properly. We could clearly see these features through the scope for about 10minutes in very good lighting. Two large raptors flew overhead, from the dark band across the arm pits and broad whitish patch on wing and dark tail band - I felt they were Bonelli's Eagle - another seemingly rare bird in this part of the region - but looks were not good enough to nail it down properly.

We were looking for Black-collared Starlings which seemingly was absent that day though several Pied Starlings were around. We reached Par Farm and there we got an Olive-backed Sunbird. Our next route lead us through some countryside and took us near several fresh water lakes near Wat Khao Takrow. The sun was becoming hot and hence birding was getting tough. We expected Black-faced Spoonbill or Yellow-bellied Prinia - but could not find either of them. Only a single Osprey seen perched atop a branch on the lake side. Further ahead we saw large flocks of Baya Weaver and Scaly-breasted Munia and then came across a Cinnamon Bittern caught in a fishing net. One of us waded across slushy vegetation to free the bird and remove all the strings from its wings. The bird was not injured but was in a state of shock and was quite aggressive. By then, it was nearing 3PM and it was time for me to rush back to the airport for my

In summary, an excellent trip with a handful of lifers among the 63 species we saw on that day with two very good birds - the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper and the Endangered Nordmann's Greenshank.

Praveen J.
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 Birds seen at Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale
Little Cormorant
Little Egret
Great Egret
Indian Pond Heron
Cinnamon Bittern
Marsh Sandpiper
Common Redshank
Spotted Redshank
Nordmann's Greenshank
Common Sandpiper
Red-necked Stint
Long-toed Stint
Spoon-billed Sandpiper
Broad-billed Sandpiper
Lesser Sand Plover
Grey Plover
Red-necked Phalarope
Great Knot
Brown-headed Gull
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Whiskered Tern
White-breasted Waterhen
Common Moorhen
Black-capped Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher
Plain Prinia
Siberian Stonechat
Oriental Magpie Robin
Streak-eared Bulbul
Red-turtled Dove
Rock Pigeon
Zebra Dove
Asian Koel
Greater Coucal
Green-billed Malkoha
Indian Roller
Tawny Eagle
Bonelli's (?) Eagle
Brahminy Kite
Germain's Swiftlet:
House Swift
Pied Fantail
Black Drongo
Ashy Wood Swallow
Barn Swallow
Olivebacked Sunbird
Common Iora
Brown Shrike
Long-tailed Shrike
Common Tailorbird
Pied Starling
Common Myna
White-vented Myna
Golden-bellied Gergone
House Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Scaly-breasted Munia
Baya Weaver
Praveen J. can be contacted at
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Click for more information on Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale Suggested Birdwatching Tour Itineraries
Birdwatching in Thailand; Trip Reports, Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale, December 2007, Praveen J.
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