Tuesday, January 19, 2016

BAER'S POCHARDS

Baer's Pochard is one of the world's most threatened ducks.  BirdLife International's website states that it is classified as Critically Endangered as it is apparently undergoing a extremely rapid population decline, as measured by numbers on both the breeding and wintering grounds. It is now absent or occurs in extremely reduced numbers over the majority of its former breeding and wintering grounds and is common nowhere. It is thought that hunting and wetland destruction are the key reasons for its decline.

In the 1980s and early 1990s there were still counts of 400+ Baer's Pochards at Bueng Borophet, but the rapid decline in the population has seen records collapse in Thailand. Before this year there were confirmed records of Baer's Pochards in Thailand in only one of the last three winters (winter 2013/14 saw them recorded from at least two sites). Having not seen any before, I was starting to think that had really missed the chance to see this species in Thailand, and would need to visit China to stand any realistic chance of catching up with them.

However at the beginning of last week a female was reported at Bueng Borphet and a few days later it was established that in fact two birds were present.  Needless to say, I made arrangements to book a boat to go out to look for these birds, so yesterday (17th January) myself and Gerry Brett spent the morning with a local guide to look for this remarkably rare duck. Our journey out through the lake's heavily vegetated margins gave us great views of many water birds including Striated Grassbird (Bueng Borophet seems to be THE site for this species in Thailand) Cinnamon and Yellow Bitterns, Oriental Reed Warbler, Purple Heron, Little and Indian Cormorants.

Purple Heron

Little and Indian Cormorants

There were only small numbers of duck present in the area that the Baer's have been frequenting, including about 10-15 Ferruginous Duck, five Tufted Duck and three Common Pochard.  We located the pair of Baer's Pochards, innitially with the Common Pochard and a couple of Ferruginous Ducks.

Baer's Pochards (drake far left, duck far right) with Ferruginous Ducks

drake Baer's Pochard

Having watched this pair for a while we decided to take a look for other birds elsewhere around the lake and soon found a drake Baer's Pochard with a group of Ferruginous Duck.  We initially assumed that we had relocated the same birds, but the female was nowhere to be seen, and our discussion with the boatman established that he and one of the other boatmen had thought that there were in fact three birds present and this indeed seems to be the case.

2nd drake Baer's Pochard

2nd drake Baer's Pochard (second from right)


Common Pochard

The journey back to dry land was uneventful, but did give us good views of a male Pied Harrier that was hunting overhead.


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