Birding around Bangkok (Part 2 of 4)

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For the weekend of 10/28/22-10/30/22, I decided to rent a small sedan (as it was all urban roads) and visit all these places. I went to  (twice), Pathum Thani Rice Research Centre, Phuttamonton Park and Bang Pu Recreation AreaKhok Kham (check the map for their positions). While it was not a long drive, but Bangkok traffic made it at least an hour each way. Bang Pu is a mangrove forest (rather a remnant of a mangrove forest!!), Pathum Thani has extensive open fields where rice is cultivated for research purposes, Phuttamonton Park is a huge park just outside Bangkok that has both recreational and religious value for Thai people and Khok Kham is the name of the general area with large salt pans. Of all these the most impressive (for me) was the Khok Kham salt pans. There are hundreds of acres of salt pans which is used rotationally, when not in use one can see thousands upon thousands of shorebirds here in winter (November-February), of them the most famous visitor is the Spoon-billed Sandpiper (and unfortunately critically endangered). That was one of my target birds to see in Thailand, but alas it remains to be seen (hopefully in future trips). Check out some videos below see what I mean by thousands upon thousands! It was truly thrilling to see that many shorebirds in one place and I am grateful for the Thai people to let them be (they are not harassed or chased) there. Hope they remain that way forever. In total saw 80 species during this weekend, photographed 77 and had more than 40 lifers! Overall a wonderful weekend. Checkout here for a detailed trip report from eBird for these three days. 

The first place I visited of these was to Bang Pu on 10/28/22 just after the conference ended. This time I used the public transport. I arrived there just as the tide was returning. Spent around 3 hours roaming the vast area that is Bang Pu RA. This place has a mangrove forest, a reasonable shorebird habitat and some forest ecosystem. There are a few hides that are spread across the property and some of them give some nice views of the shorebird habitat and some are not usable. Did see 27 species during this visit and thought must figure out this tide thing and must return at low tide (that's when this place will have lots of birds), but that was not to be as I couldn't figure out this tide thing completely! Anyway, during this trip some notable lifers were Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)Brown-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus)Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis)Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) and ten others. In total I had 16 lifers here. A complete list from this visit can be found here.

Common Redshank

Black-tailed Godwit

On Saturday morning, I went to Bangkok airport to pick up the car and headed straight to Pathum Thani Rice Research Centre, an hour drive from Bangkok. PTRRC has vast fields where rice is grown and they are in various stages throughout the field. That provides varied habitat for different kinds of birds, from varieties of munias that steal the unharvested rice grains, shorebirds that enjoy the just harvested fields for some nice grubs, kingfishers and bee-eaters that enjoy the fish and other critters in water or otherwise, waders that can eke out a living on any habitat and some raptors that are dependent on all these. The birding could be done entirely by car (a normal sedan would work) and I spent around three hours driving through the small tracks around the fields, saw 38 species of birds with 12 lifers. Some notable ones Amur Stonechat (Saxicola stejnegeri)Black-capped Kingfisher (Halcyon pileata)Blue-tailed Bee-Eater (Merops philippinus)Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)Paddyfield Pipit (Anthus rufulus)Plain Prinia (Prinia inornata)White-rumped Munia (Lonchura striata) and Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) to name a few. The entire checklist could be viewed here

After a short lunch break, I headed to Bang Pu again thinking of catching more birds when I thought it was low-tide. But, by the time I reached there, I realized that my understanding of "tide chart" was not accurate. But that didn't stop me from having a great time birding this place. Had lifers in Amur Paradise-Flycatcher (Terpsiphone incei)Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)Pink-necked Green-Pigeon (Treron vernans) and Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida). The entire list from that visit could be found here.

This time around did manage to photograph some non-birds as well. Not with a macro or other appropriate lens, but with the same 500 mm tele that I was shooting birds with. So, these are not exactly stellar shots, but I think they look just fine.

On that Sunday (10/30/22), I left early and headed towards what could be described as the central park of Bangkok called Phutthamonthon. It is a huge park on the west side of Bangkok (an hour drive from downtown) and has lots of maintained and wild green spaces. It also houses lots of Buddhist religious buildings with lot of water features, from small creeks to canals to ponds. The day started out slowly but ended with a bang after I found some spots where there were lots of bird activity. In total was able to see 29 species with 9 lifers. Some notable birds being Ashy Drongo (Dicrurus leucophaeus)Black Baza (Aviceda leuphotes)Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis)Green-billed Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus tristis)Hair-crested Drongo (Dicrurus hottentottus) and a gorgeous Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) to name a few. That is a huge undercount for the park that has more than 200 species listed in eBird, but that's the best I could do there in the time I had as I was planning to check on the next location before it became too hot. So, after a few hours took off to the Khok Kham salt pans to check on the shorebirds I could see and hoping I can find a Spoon-billed Sandpiper there. 

The last stop on this somewhat whirlwind birding week was the Khok Kham bird centre, an operation run by BCST and supported by local . Arrived at this place by 11 AM and it was already like >34oC! There is no cover any where except for a hide that is maintained by BCST. But one can walk around and check various plats on own and generally the birds are ok with it if you are careful not to make sudden movements. My main purpose of the visit was to locate the salt farmersSpoon-billed Sandpiper, an endangered shorebird (with just around 2500 individuals worldwide). But locating them among the hordes and hordes of shorebirds (checkout the video below) and at 35oC is no easy task! Unfortunately, I was not able to locate any (hopefully, will get to see them next time). But it was not totally disappointing, had 5 lifers and all were shorebirds. Some notable ones were Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)Greater Sand-Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)Little Stint (Calidris minuta) and Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis). In total saw 16 species of birds in the two hours that I spent there. I must also add here that Little Stint ruined out to be my 500th life bird (thanks to eBird for pointing it out!), what a great bird to be that, I was so thrilled to have seen that many different species of birds. I hope I would be able to see more in the future. Detail checklist could be viewed here.

Lesser Sand-Plover and other shorebirds!

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