Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Back With Spoonie

I'm now back at home in Chiang Mai after a short but fruitful trip to the central part of Thailand. It was such a great fun watching and taking photos of shorebirds in salt pans and mudflats. Even though it was unbelievably hot and sunny, birds were showing really well and I enjoyed taking photos of them a lot. I visited Khok Kham in Samut Sakhon province on April 7. It's a great birding place near Bangkok where I saw my first Spoon-billed Sandpiper back in 2001. I thought that it'd be great if I can see the bird again, but not a problem if I can't. As I was taking photos of some tame common waders, a local birder came talking to my dad and told him that a Spoon-billed Sandpiper was found just a few days ago. We then moved to the area where that birder told us he saw the spoonie. I scanned the flock of small waders and quite unbelievably, I finally spotted a Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) wading along with a flock of Red-necked Stints!

Spoon-billed Sandpiper beginning to assume breeding plumage

Feeding bahaviour

I thought it's going to be impossible for us to find the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, since we didn't bring our telescope. I also forgot my photography hide and tripod. Waders in Thailand are not so tame like the ones in Japan, so it's always better to use telescope to scan through the flocks first before moving in. However, I luckily spotted this Spoon-billed Sandpiper because of its feeding behaviour which was slightly different from those of the Red-necked Stints. While Red-necked Stints only dip their bill briefly into the water, the Spoon-billed Sandpipers often keep their head down slightly longer. Because of this different foraging style, I was able to pick it out from other stints.

I tried to approach the bird but it proved to be much more wary than the Red-necked Stints and other waders. It flew out twice as I was trying to get closer but always came back to the same area where it was first found. I waited for it to come back and finally got photos of it in a quite satisfying range before it flew out to feed in a different area. I was pleased to see that the bird has already begun to moult into the breeding plumage showing black spots on lower breast and breast sides with faint rufous feathers on its throat. It'd be great if the bird chooses to stay a few more weeks and show us its beautiful summer plumage.

Perfect angle to show its spoon-shaped bill

Before leaving the place for Bangkok, I met Gerry of the Birds of Thailand and Beyond blog. I told him the place where I saw the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and I'm pleased to see from his blog that he also found the bird. Hopefully, it will stay longer for other birders to come and watch. I heard that the individuals at Pak Thale have already gone, so this bird might be the last chance for this season. For more info about Spoon-billed Sandpiper's foraging style with video clip, visit David Sibley's blog here.


  1. Congratulations on such beaut photos. Actually he is a cutie. I can't believe you said it's so hot. Today is the first warm day in Niigata after a long, long winter.

  2. Beautiful spoony pictures Ayuwat! I have never seen that one and guess I will probably never see it ;-)

  3. Great shots of a great bird..... you did well to get so close, too.

  4. Great find there , a "mega" anywhere in the world.

  5. One of the great rarity, congaratulations on this find.