Following my walk in the park it was back to the Maruay Gardens Hotel to meet the group I would be traveling with and our guides Uthai Treesucon, Thai ornithologist extraordinaire, and Keith Valentine, managing director of Rockjumper Birding Tours. I will mark their report cards later.
The tour began on the morrow with a drive to Pak Thale and its world famous salt works. This is located about 125 km southwest of Bangkok on the shores of the Gulf of Thailand.
This area is one of the best places anywhere to see the shorebirds of the Asian Flyway. They mostly breed way to the north and escape the winter by long migration to warmer climes. Top of our list of desirable species were Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank.
We amassed a list of 43 species (not all shorebirds) including the Spoonie but not including the Greenshank.
Fair views were had of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper but I got nowhere near close enough to get a good photo. I pinched this one from arkive.org who are keen to conserve the creature and would be pleased if you dropped by their website, especially if you made a donation. The one in the picture is in breeding plumage, in winter they lack the colour. The easiest way to pick them out of a hoard of little waders is to look for the characteristic side to side feeding motion of their heads, very similar to the much bigger and not closely related Spoonbills, convergence of form and function, I suspect.
The upside of group travel is that accommodation, transport and local knowledge are all in the package. The downside is the little time available to sit and wait for that magic photo. Snatch what you can …
Once finished in the salt pans it was on to the Laem Phak Bia sandspit. To get there we took a boat not unlike the one below down a mangrove lined creek out to the sea, making a wet landing on the spit.
Note the engine mounted onboard with the propeller on a long shaft. This seems to be the standard arrangement in Thailand. It enables operation in shallow water and provides good maneuverability.
Our main objectives were Chinese Egret, Malaysian Plover and the enigmatic White-faced Plover, currently a distinctive subspecies of Kentish Plover but may one day be elevated to full species status. We found them all and a few terns and shorebirds as well.
From there it was back into the minibus and on to Kaeng Krachan, Thailand’s largest national park.