Saturday, March 30, 2019

Richmond Park

Edenbrook CP - Garganey

I was really surprised today visiting this small local site close to Farnborough.  The varied habitat was great and one I would love to have as my local patch.  A mosaic of flooded meadows, small lakes, reedbeds, rough grassland, and a line of paddocks would undoubtedly attract a number of interesting species during the course of the year.

I was there for the drake Garganey that showed beautifully and is always such a stunning bird to see.

A surprise cronking Raven cruised over, and there were a total of five Little Ringed Plover on and around the flooded meadow. 

Two flighty male Northern Wheatear were passing through the periphery of a freshly mown grassy field.

A gaudy singing male Yellowhammer occupied a tree along the edge of the meadow.

The warm weather heralded the emergence of butterflies with Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, and Brimstone all seen today.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

London WWT

So I came back for a second helping of the weekend.

Today though was glorious, blue skies and a warm-ish sun.  It was also a day to pick out some of the other species I had failed to connect with the day before.

A Water Pipit was feeding within the reeds on the wader scrape.  Two Redshank were still present on the grazing marsh.  A Bittern was seen from the Headley Hide, hidden within the dense reedbed and predictably difficult to locate.

A drake Mandarin flew past the Wildside hide.

The Pintail and Shelduck were still present and a total of five Sand Martin flew past the Peacock Tower hide.

A Brimstone was seen close to the visitor centre.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

London WWT

Great to be out on the weekend.  Great to be able to get on the bike and head out to the wetlands.  Great to walk around this urban reserve and not remotely feel like I'm just a few miles from the centre of the nations capital city.

It was a thoroughly decent day and at last, my first summer migrants of the year.  I had arrived early but began scanning the skies where a group of five Sand Martin were seen flying around the Peacock Hide.  Later, a single flew through followed by another small group of three birds.

There was decent variety to be seen today with six species of wader and six species of Gull.

On the Grazing Marsh, a single Black-tailed Godwit was actively feeding close to the bund between the Wildside hide and the sluice.  A Jack Snipe was seen scampering into cover with around four Common Snipe roosting on the marsh and a couple more on the wader scrape.  Three Redshank were scattered around the marsh and the wader scrape.

Then at midday, a Little Ringed Plover was found that was best seen from the Wildside Hide.  Always great to see these lovely returning waders.

Of the Gulls, a second calender year Iceland Gull flew onto the main lake, best seen from the WWT hide.  There were at least 29 Common Gull present on the islands including a few sparkling adults.

There were still a decent number of wildfowl with minimum counts of 45 Shoveler, 48 Wigeon, two Shelduck, pair of Pintail, and an aythya Tufted Duck x Common Pochard hybrid.

aythya hybrid with Tufted Duck
At least two Cetti's Warbler were exploding from the scrub, and three Chiffchaff in full song.  This male Blackcap was in sub-song within the woodland.

A Red Kite drifted through.

Thursday, March 21, 2019


It was a grey day but the air temperature was a little higher than yesterday.

Highlights were two Merlin both of which were seen heading purposefully out to sea.  Wader numbers were higher today with peak groups of 35 Turnstone and 27 Sanderling.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Clacton - Northern Wheatear

Great to get away from my desk for a couple of days out on the Essex coastline.  This was a second visit for a set of winter-bird surveys.

The first early migrants had made landfall over the preceding days so an early walk along the beach at Clacton was an inspired decision as the Northern Wheatear encounter I had hoped for provided an unprecedented nine males perched up along the rocks with a couple along the beach.

On site, a pair were seen close to the vantage point.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

London WWT

There are signs that spring is approaching, there's always something in the air at this time of year.  I can sense it.  However, today was a little cool but the sun did make an appearance with some inspiring signs of things to come.

I'm falling for the Wetland Centre now, having got round my cynicism of the (over)commercialism that appears to encroach upon some of our wild places.  The habitat is great here as is the coffee.

There is always something of interest at the wetlands, and a great spot for Jack Snipe of which two were seen today with a few more I'm sure tucked away in the reeds.  Two Water Pipit were present, one on the grazing marsh and one on the wader scrape.

The sound of a singing Chiffchaff carries with it a sense of joy, and an evocative sound of spring.  There were two in full voice today.  Two Shelduck and a pair of Pintail were present on the Main Lake.

Sheltered Lagoon

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Thailand & Cambodia - Day Nine - Pak Thale

This wasn't part of the plan.  This was the day I travelled home but with my flight due to depart at 6pm, I had a few emergency hours in the morning for one last crack.  Today, I arrived for sunrise where on previous days I'd arrived at around 9am after having breakfast at the hostel.

The sunrise over the salt pan was really beautiful.

This group of Terek Sandpiper was part of a collective group of around 300 birds - typical of just how amazing this place is.  Also there were seven Red-necked Phalarope feeding along the bund-line.

Terek Sandpiper
It appeared that the tide was low again, only because of the lack of waders on the shore.  However, there were decent congregations of wader on some of the pools.  One in particular looked very promising.  The light was great, and Stints were busily feeding in the shallows.  One by one, searching through but nothing.

This felt tough.  Having met a couple of guides, one yesterday and one this particular morning, I was encouraged to be a little bit more expansive in my search.

Heading over to the north side again, I set up the scope in what was my final chance.  The clock ticked through and I possibly had half an hour left.  I admit to feeling a little disappointed after what was a great trip.

I scanned through more wading birds.  What I saw was truly incredible. Scoping out from the the vantage point below, I clocked a Spoon-billed Sandpiper feeding as it scurried away amongst a group of small waders.  Its bill was clearly visible as it fed on the shallow pool before settling down on a bund.  I was so relieved.

Vantage point for Spoon-billed Sandpiper

It sounds a bit mad to have travelled all this way for a single species, but what I had in fact discovered was that the site was not just about one bird, despite its scarcity and novalty.  Pak Thale is an immense area for wintering waders, particularly important when numbers are facing general declines.  The sad and pitiful state of our natural world.

It was the culmination of an incredible trip.  No doubt I'll return, but for the time being, I will be grateful that all the planning transpired without incident.  Grateful also for the kindness shown by all the people I met who were all unfeasibly helpful and gracious.

I am also burying my head in the sand (mud) a little, recognising that my carbon footprint wasn't exactly something that I would write to my mother about.

I drove back to the hostel and enjoyed half an hours peace on the rooftop, before embarking on the long trip home.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Thailand & Cambodia - Day Eight - Pak Thale

The last full day of the trip and I was starting to feel the pressure.  Another hot day, it goes without saying, but felt slightly better than yesterday.  Hundreds of waders still on show both on the salt pans and the muddy pools behind the barns on the north side.

Red-necked Stint were once again numerous feeding off the shoreline as viewed from the disused hut.

A couple of Brahminy Kite were harrassing small birds across the reserve.  

Small groups of Little Cormorant were seen regularly but were surprisingly shy birds.

Walking back and forth across the paths, searching and more searching, through the congregated waders, and still no Spoonie.  The tide had receded further away from the reserve, the shorebirds had flown out and there was very little to see on the salt pan.  It was beginning to feel a little frustrating.  I thought it was going to be easier than this and at 5pm, I called it a day and headed back to Cha am for the evening.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Thailand & Cambodia - Day Seven - Pak Thale

Pak Thale is around a 45 minute drive north from Cha Am. It's an easy drive along the 4028 coast road, minimal traffic, decent roads, and agreeable scenery.

Information on birding at Pak Thale can be found at thaibirding with comprehensive directions to the site and what to expect when you get there. It is an astoundingly impressive site for waders.

The salt-pans are clearly signposted, a right turn off the main road when heading up from the south. Park up on the right-hand side by the rubber tyres and start walking down to the shoreline.

There are thousands of waders here. I wondered how it was even possible to pick up Spoon-billed Sandpiper in amongst all the other waders voraciously feeding out on the mud.

As well as waders, Chinese Pond Heron moved stealthily around the muddy pools with Intermediate Egret and Eastern Great Egret there.

It was all about the waders, so many different species reside and winter here including Kentish Plover which were widely spread around the reserve. Greater Sand Plover and Lesser Sand Plover were ridiculously numerous as were Red-necked Stint, Little Stint, and good numbers of Long-toed Stint and Broad-billed Sandpiper.

Black-winged Stilt on the salt pans, the hot sun illuminating both bird and the shallow saline pools.

Marsh Sandpiper were everywhere, particularly on the salt lagoons.

As well as the waders, Terns were abundant particularly Whiskered Tern that numbered well over 300 birds along with Common Tern, Little Tern, and Caspian Tern with a few Brown-headed Gull tucked in with them.

There were small groups of Pacific Golden Plover present on the muddy pools. Grey Plover were also present here.

Eastern Black-tailed Godwit were seen flying round in small groups, the bills on some of these birds were comical.

The selection of waders were bolstered by some familiar species. Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Sanderling, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Turnstone, and hundreds of Eurasian Curlew were all present. Of the rarer local specialities, a couple of Nordmann's Greenshank were picked out on the floods.

It was a scorching day. Around 35C. It was difficult spending lengthy periods out in the sun. the search for Spoonie had started, picking my way through the small waders, looking at bills, one by one. There were perhaps two birds still present on site. It seemed like a tall order and so it was in that today drew a blank despite a lot of searching, and a lot of walking.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Thailand & Cambodia - Day Six - Cha Am

There was no time to waste.  After the taxi ride back from DMK the night before, it was back in a taxi to BKK the next morning to pick up a hire car and make my way down to Cha Am.  Thai roads look frightening when observed from afar, but it wasn't too bad being on the road with the locals.

The traffic was typically horrendous but arriving in the late afternoon, I was thankfully able to relax for the rest of the day and enjoy 17th floor views from the THA-LAY hostel.

This was to be base-camp for three nights for my quest for the Spoonie.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Thailand & Cambodia - Day Five - Angkor Wat

Today was about the sunrise - a 5am start to settle into position and observe the hues evolve during the course of the dawn.  Pictures never do it justice and again, the site was busy with tourists for this spectacular light show.

The celestial show had reached its zenith and the assembled crowd began to disperse heading for a wander round Angkor Wat.

There were a few primates knocking around the Temple grounds.

Angkor Wat is the largest of the temples within the complex with impressive views of Khmer architecture at every turn.

Driving away from Angkor Wat is the South Gate to the former capital Angkor Thom lined on both sides of the bridge by 54 stone figures that depict a Hindu myth that I couldn't really work out.  Some of the busts had been replaced as the originals had been desecrated during ongoing battles between the Buddhists and Hindus.

The road leads onto the Victory Gate en route to the Bayon Temple.

This is Bayon Temple, what I considered as the most impressive of the Temples I visited within Angkor Thom.  Once again, hoards of tourists took a slight edge off the experience.  The stone face carvings have been looking out across the complex for around 800 years.

These stone wall carvings or bas-reliefs portrayed scenes from battles fought through the height of the Khmer dynasty.  They were utterly fascinating.

This is Ta Prohm, the setting for Angelina Jolie's Tomb raider.  I've not seen Tomb raider.  So this was of no consequence to me. 

I walked round and once again admired the wonderful Khmer architecture with passing tourists intent on getting 'that' picture.

The final temple was Thommanon, again impressive and much less touristy allowing a walk round in relative peace.