Monday, April 20, 2015

Asian Dowitcher survey

On Sunday (19th) I participated in an impromptu survey to simultaneously count Asian Dowitchers in the inner Gulf of Thailand. The survey was initiated after Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang had posted some photos on Facebook of the 120 Dowitchers he had seen earlier in the week, and Phil Round suggested that a survey was long overdue, which prompted a small group of us to volunteer to undertake an early morning survey as the tide receded and waders started to forage on the mudflats. 

I was given Mahachai Mangrove Forest Research Station as my site, a little under an hour from my house. Arriving whilst the sea was just starting to drop I found migrant Forest Wagtail, Dusky Warbler and Sakhalin/Pale-legged Leaf Warbler in the mangroves before reaching the viewing platform where a group of Whimbrel were using bamboo posts as a roost. As soon as the mud was exposed they dropped to start feeding and were quickly joined by Common Redshanks and Curlew Sandpipers.  As the tide continued to recede more and more waders came in, with other flocks whizzing past me to reach  other feeding areas along the coastline. One problem however was the I was looking directly into the early morning sun, which made it very hard to identify the fast-moving flocks.  

Eventually I found my first Asian Dowitcher, a splendid bird in near full breeding plumage, but unfortunately missing the lower half if its right tarsus. I went on to locate more Dowitchers, in groups of no more than five birds and usually in close proximity to groups of Black-tailed Godwits.  Over all I estimated a maximum count of 50 Dowitchers, with the movement of birds back and forth  along the coatline making it hard to be certain of an exact number.

Other volunteers picked up varying numbers of birds and our combined total was only 231, which is disappointing given that  the highest single site count ever made in Thailand was over 600 birds in late April.


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