Monday, March 23, 2015

Spooner "05"

Chris Collins and I went out to Khok Kham yesterday (Sunday) morning for some wader action, and despite the limited time we spent birding, and the "slight logistical problem" we ran into, we still came away with a nice selection of goodies.

First up was a roadside stop for a large group of Knot, which consisted  of at least 320 Red Knot plus about 800 Great Knot.  I think the Red Knot count is pretty impressive for the Gulf of Thailand, given that Round (2008) cites the two highest counts as 100 and 200, with most records involving less than 10 birds.

There had been a very heavy downpour overnight, so I thought twice about taking the dirt track up to the pools where I had seen a Spoon-billed Sandpiper back in November, but after some umming and erring I convinced myself that we'd be OK.  However, after about 500 metres we became stuck!

The mud at Khok Kham has remarkably sticky qualities, and is incredibly hard to remove.  So, at this point I decided that the best strategy was to abandon the car for an hour or so for the sun to dry out the track, and hopefully enable us to escape upon our return. We headed over to the pools frequented by the two Spooners that have been present this winter and after about half an hour of searching I picked up the unmistakable form of a Spoony bill in my binoculars, and a quick check through the scope and shout to Chris sent him scurrying over to join me to watch the first leg-flagged Spoon-billed Sandpiper that I have seen!  This was female "05", who's leg flag in green and has recently had a short article written about her here (see page 17). 

The article states that "’05’ was first ringed on her nest in Ankavie, on the eastern
part of the Meinopylgino spit, Chukotka, Russia, on 20 June 2013. Her eggs were taken for artificial incubation under the Head-Starting Project, and the pair was selected to be shown to tourists of the Heritage Expeditions cruise in early July, when about 50 tourists were able to see their only Spoon-billed sandpipers of the trip"
. Rather amazingly, Chris was leading that trip for Heritage Expeditions (and deserves a great deal of credit for getting the trip off the ground) but unfortunately did not see this individual there, instead he went to a different nest that year and saw a bird flagged "06".  I think he's also seen the bird flagged '07'...that's quite a nice little flush!

Chris celebrating his third leg-flagged Spooner, and a bit of car trouble

After about five minutes "05"  and the stints that she was feeding with took off and headed towards the falling tide line, leaving us to trudge back to the car and  hope that the sun had managed to dry out the mud bath sufficiently for us to be able to free the car. Sure enough, after a bit of work we managed to turn the car around and get back onto the metalled road, though as we passed some of the local salt farmers they looked rather dismayed - hopefully at my stupidity for driving up their muddy track, rather than because the ruts that I had created may have caused them some problems (either way, I've learned my lesson and will not be driving up there again in anything less than dry conditions!).

We then checked out the mud flats at the Mangrove Conservation Centre where Chris found us a lone Asian Dowitcher whilst other birds included a single Terek Sandpiper and 20+ Whimbrel.  Before heading back to Bangkok we stopped at some roadside pools and I found a suspect Little Stint (since confirmed from photos) amongst a flock of Red-necks (see images below). The extensively rufous-fringed tertials, apparently tapering bill, relatively long tibia and pale throat all point towards Little.

two blurry images of a Little Stint attaining breeding plumage

a blurry Red-necked stint for comparison

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