Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Indian Pond Heron

The morning of March 28 saw me visiting Cho Lae, the first birding place I discovered in my local patch, for the third time after my arrival in Thailand. I arrived early in the morning around 7:30am and the temperature was still considerably low. I noticed a large area of open rice field which seemed to be good for marshland birds. Two pairs of Striated Swallows came picking up the mud from the flooded field but quickly took off as I walked by. I set up the hide in the corner of the open field and waited for birds to come. I wasn't so successful this time as the hide seemed to be a little too obvious and birds around here are not obliging. I took a few snapshots of a pond heron that was standing behind the hide with the sun behind its back. I didn't pay much attention to it as I thought that it was the common Chinese Pond Heron in a moult. Quite unbelievably, it turned out as I checked the photos from my camera later on that the bird was actually an Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii), a rare species in Thailand and the first for Cho Lae and northern Thailand.

Sketches made from the photos I took

Indian Pond Heron in breeding plumage

The bird was almost in its full breeding plumage with still some non-breeding feathers on its lower breast and mantle.It can be distinguished easily from other 2 species of pond herons in Thailand; Chinese and Javan, by plain buffish head and neck with maroon back. It was first recorded in Thailand just about a decade ago and most records are mainly from the central parts of Thailand. After I realised that it was an Indian Pond Heron, I tried to get more photos of it but it proved to by as shy as any other pond herons in this area. I couldn't get any closer than 50 metres. At least, I could get enough record shots to prove that this rare bird has finally made its way to northern Thailand.

I located the bird again about an hour after it first flew off.

The plumage will be much neater once it completes its moult.

Note maroon back and no dark wing tips

Apart from the pond heron, there was a flock of about 16 Grey-headed Lapwings staying in the same area. The lapwings were even shyer than the pond heron and disappeared as soon as they noticed me. At least I could get some flight shots while they're taking off and circling before heading to another area far away. I was also surprised to see a flock of 17 Black-winged Stilts came passing by before landing in a dense patch of rice field. Even though they're abundant in the central and southern parts of Thailand, they're not common at all up here in the north, so I was a bit excited to see them. Two pairs of Little Ringed Plovers were found foraging in the open field as well. All of them were in their lovely breeding plumage, ready to fly back to the northern hemisphere.

Shy Grey-headed Lapwings taking off

They have a striking wing pattern.

Little Ringed Plovers in breeding plumage

A flock of 17 Black-winged Stilts in non-breeding plumage

Note black patch on the head and nape in every individual


  1. Well done on the Indian pond heron and the pictures... I guess it can be difficult to relocate it in such habitat!!!! I also love your grey-headed lapwings, they are gorgeous birds!

  2. Lovely collection of birds and photos. The heron is a great find. Doesn't that kind of thing make you wonder about what we're missing when we're not watching? Great sketches too!

  3. these birds are so proud, and they have the right to --- they're really wonderful. Thanks for visiting Asia, and great blog too! :)

  4. Hey I saw those...............in India I think.

    Nice photos/sketches......

  5. I saw them in India too and remember how well they blend in with their surroundings and how shy they are> Well done in finding one in Thailand.

  6. Grey-headed Lapwing is one of my favourites, too. A dozen winter here in HK but they are easy to overlook. Nice find with the IPH.