Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Red-necked Phalaropes

Just a little update before I go on talking about the phalaropes, I have now moved to Bangkok for internship for at least 2 months. Probably, I won't be able to visit blogger as often as I used to since I'll be much busier with both my internship and raptor illustrations. At least, I'm not staying home being unproductive anymore. These photos were taken back on April 9 during my visit to Ban Pak Thale in Petchaburi Province, a very famous birding site in the Gulf of Thailand. It was my last day and I had only few hours in the morning before going back to Chiang Mai with my family. I luckily got this news of a flock of Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) staying in a particular salt pan where they fed on some kind of artemia from a fellow birder whom I met coincidently just the day before. As soon as the sun rose, I was already there at the salt pan with my dad searching for the phalaropes.

Female Red-necked Phalarope in breeding plumage

Male (front) and female (back) assuming breeding plumage

Male bird shows more buffish colouration on the head

A non-breeding bird beginning to assume breeding plumage

There was no sign of the phalarope when I first arrived, but there were many Marsh Sandpipers with some Curlew Sandpipers, Spotted and Common Redshanks and Common Greenshanks feeding in the partly dried up salt pan. I sat down and took my time taking photos of them while waiting for the phalaropes to come. As the sun began to rise higher, a flock of 12 Red-necked Phalaropes came flying from the north and landed in the salt pan where I was taking photos of the other waders. However, they chose to stay on the opposite side of the salt pan before moving to the one behind where they started feeding without caring about my presence.

First they came preening and bathing together in flock.

This one was having trouble with a crab.

A non-breeding bird showing its webbed feet

A short handheld clip showing the bird while preening

They seemed to prefer feeding in a particular corner of the salt pan.

Red-necked Phalaropes are actually scarce in Thailand. I've seen them several times here at Ban Pak Thale, Khok Kham and even at my local patch, Ban Cho Lae. Unlike in Japan, here in Thailand they prefer to stay in salt pans instead of open sea making it much easier to take photos of them at close range. Even though I've seen them several times before, I hadn't seen them in breeding plumage until that day. Most of them already showed signs of breeding plumage and some of them have already moulted into full breeding plumage. There was 1 female bird in full breeding plumage and it looked just stunning. Time sure flew extremely fast while I was enjoying taking photos of them at close range.

Another non-breeding bird with faint breeding plumage on the neck

This one has progressed a little bit more.

Picking up some kind of artemia

There seemed to be a really good amount of artemia in the particular corner of the salt pan where they were staying. They mostly swam out quickly as I approached, but always came swimming back to that same corner in just few minutes. I also met another birding friend whom I haven't met for so many years while I was taking photos of them. It was such a great fun to be able to observe these wonderful birds at such close range and also in a perfect condition. I didn't have to worry about the speed shutter, or the light or anything at all. I just needed to focus at the bird precisely and try to fit them nicely in the frame.

Another female bird that has moulted almost completely into breeding plumage

Stretching out for food

Love the tiny slender bill

Just about a week later, I heard that the birds have become much more wary and began to disappear one by one. My guess is that the artemias which they were feeding on had already vanished and it's about time for them to migrate northward. I felt lucky to be able to be there at the right place and the right time, even just for few hours. Now I don't need to be jealous while looking at other people's photos of these birds and seek for other opportunities to photograph them anymore.

Picking up the food easily from the surface

This one still hasn't started moulting into breeding plumage.

More photos of the males

Looking funny from this angle

The last shot before I left the area


  1. Beautiful!

    I thought you'd come back to Japan when I saw these.......

  2. Great shots.... nice light and low angle.

  3. Hi Ayuwat! I just saw the article about your art on the Spanish wildlife art magazine, great job!! Beautiful

  4. Wow wonderful shots Ayuwat! I hope I will see them again soon. They are supposed to arrive in few days over here. I know a river where i can take nice pictures with sunset there and I love them so much this little fellow ;-)