Conservation Wader Watch
A few weeks ago Rick Simpson, of Wader
Quest, contacted me to encourage me to take part in the 4th Wader
Conservation World Watch on the 4th and 5th November 2017. This
weekend of wader watching is organised in order to draw attention
to the plight of the world's wader/shorebird species which are almost
universally in decline due to a combination of wetland habitat destruction,
pollution, hunting, predation by introduced species and development
of beaches. I found myself in Petchaburi province, Thailand, for both
of these dates and there could hardly be a better place in the world
to observe and count waders and, of course, I found a wide range of
species, in large numbers, including some extremely rare birds. Unfortunately,
I also discovered some saddening destruction of prime wader roosting
pools by a poorly-sited mangrove planting project.
The first site visited in the early morning of 4th was Pak Thale.
This is a traditional wintering site for the critically endangered
Spoon-billed Sandpiper but I was not aware of any regular sightings
up until this date this year so I was not sure if I would find one.
Well, I should not have worried because I did find one although it
was not easy as there were large numbers of small birds present and
they were not very close or in good light, however, that distinctive
bill stood out and eventually as it got closer we could see it well.
The photo is not going to win any awards but you can see that distinctive
Spoon-billed Sandpiper & Red-necked Stints
the same area were large numbers of Red-necked Stint, Broad-billed
Sandpipers, a flock of 750+ Eurasian Curlew with one Far Eastern Curlew
picked out among them, Black-winged Stilts, a few Curlew Sandpipers,
1 Dunlin, 3 Ruddy Turnstones, many Marsh Sandpipers, a few Common
Greenshank, lots of Lesser Sand Plovers and Greater Sand Plovers and
some Kentish Plovers. All good but some of the gloss was knocked off
when I drove the very short distance to the coastline to find that
the pools that were adjacent to a row of mangroves and which were
favoured for roosting by many of the large waders were being planted
up with rows of mangroves which completely destroy the site for roosting
may say that the waders can go and roost somewhere else but I would
suggest if that somewhere else was as good a place to roost as this
had been then they would have been there in the first place. Moreover,
the whole area of salt farms and associated pools is gradually being
lost to small developments, land use change and general squeeze on
habitat. Waders prefer an open aspect and as mangroves and factories
enclose pools the shorebirds stop using them. I have also seen Spoon-billed
Sandpiper feeding on these pools on quite a few occasions. Another
resource for one of the world's rarest shorebirds destroyed and the
irony is that the mangrove planting seems to be feted as some sort
of environmental project.
Full species list for Pak
Thale, 4th November 2017.
on I went a short distance to Wat Komnaram where a large flooded field
always contains some interesting wader species. Here there were a
couple of Grey-headed Lapwings, 2 Long-toed Stints and a few Little
Ringed Plovers to add to our wader total. But guess what? Part of
the site was destroyed last year, being turned into deep-water shrimp
farms and the rest of the site is now for sale, no doubt to go the
same way and remove another piece of quality bird habitat.
Full species list for Wat
Komnaram, 4th November 2017.
Little Ringed Plover
drove to Laem Pak Bia district where we got some close views of Red-wattled
Lapwing, Wood Sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper; all common birds here
but nice to see at close range.
little around the corner there was to be found something a bit more
out of the ordinary. The abandoned building is actually a good place
to find Asian Dowitcher and true to form there were two of these among
a flock of Black-tailed Godwits; a nice find. There were plenty of
commoner species here too and we added Pacific Golden Plover, Ruff,
Common Sandpiper as well as Common Redshank to our day list of waders.
Full species list for Abandoned
building salt farms, 4th November 2017.
Pacific Golden Plover
next site required a short boat trip out to the sand spit at Laem
Pak Bia. This is a great place to find a few specialities and moments
after arrival we were watching 5 Malaysian Plovers on the sand. These
lovely birds are under threat too as they specialize in nesting on
sandy beaches which are under constant pressure from human usage.
This particular site has suffered over the years from some truly stupid
engineering works by the local authorities which have resulted in
a large amount of sand being eroded and deposited in an area that
the Plovers cannot use. This and a car park being built at a formerly
secluded beach have reduced the number of Malaysian Plovers that nest
here. I should also mention the iThara Resort close by which was built
on a former Malaysian Plover nesting site and is, incredibly, now
used by many birding tour companies. I know that not using the place
is not going to change things but do birders really have to patronize
a business that has contributed to the increasing decline of this
highly sought-after bird? That is ridiculous.
Our other target species on the sand spit was White-faced Plover.
This distinctive bird is currently regarded as a subspecies of Kentish
Plover but should probably be better treated as a full species due
to structural, plumage and ecological differences. A number of Sanderling
were also to be found on the beach here along with large numbers of
Kentish Plover, several Lesser Sand Plover and a single Whimbrel.
Full species list for Laem
Pak Bia sand spit, 4th November 2017.
was it for the 4th November but on the 5th we visited nearby Petchaburi
Rice Fields in the morning. The only wader species that were added
to our weekend list were Pheasant-tailed Jacana & Bronze-winged
Jacana, but we did also see plenty of Black-winged Stilts, Wood Sandpipers
and a few Marsh Sandpipers here. At this time of year, just after
the end of the rainy season, water levels are quite high in the rice
fields making the habitat unsuitable for some of the species that
are usually found there such as Snipe and Stints.
Full list of species at Petchaburi
Rice Fields, 5th November 2017.
we had the afternoon to play with and a return to Laem Pak Bia district
put us in the salt pans just as many species were returning from the
mudflats with the rising tide. Several flocks of a few hundred Great
Knot flew past us close by and on the salt pans were several Bar-tailed
Godwits, a small group of Pied Avocets and a single Nordmann's Greenshank,
all new species for our weekend total. Of course we also saw many
birds that we had seen the previous day including Long-toed Stint,
Temminck's Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover,
Broad-billed Sandpiper and others.
Full species list for Laem
Pak Bia salt farms, 5th November 2017.
the weekend we saw 36 species of waders plus White-faced Plover which
some authorities treat as a seperate species. As well as being a good
weekend of birding it really brought home to me the pressure that
waders are under from human activity seeing habitat being destroyed
and degraded in front of me. The fact that little by little this area,
which is an extremely important wintering site for many species, is
being chipped away and it may not be very long before there are very
few large expanses of habitat left here and if the pools that Spoon-billed
Sandpiper so heavily favours are damaged in any way or the land use
changes this critically endangered bird will lose its most important
wintering site in Thailand.
I hope many others took part in the World Conservation Wader Watch
and that it results in at least some new people becoming involved
in wader conservation. If you want to be involved in wader conservation
take a look at the Wader Quest website where details of exactly how
the money that they have raised has been spent (Wader
Quest Project Updates) and hopefully this transparency will encourage
others to donate towards the projects they support. If you were not
involved this year, keep an eye on the Wader
Quest website for next year's Wader Watch.
Related Pages: Shorebirds
in the Inner Gulf of Thailand, Rediscovery
of a Long Lost Charadrius Plover from Southeast Asia, The
First Record of Over Summering Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Laem
Pak Bia/Pak Thale