Sunday, March 25, 2012

Thailand 2 - Laem Phak Bia = White-faced Plover

One afternoon we took two small "longtail" boats out to Laem Phak Bia south of Pak Thale, an area of sandspit and islands reached by a river channel through mangroves. Here's Pipit, our local tour operator from ETS, Educational Travel Services. ETS handled all the local arrangements, and Pipit made everything seem easy. The boat operator tracks the presence of White-faced Plover, a species that was described by Swinhoe in 1870 as Charadrius dealbatus and then confused with Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinussubspecies in the area. The White-faced Plover is quite different from the Kentish dealbatus subspecies illustrated in Robson's Birds of Thailand and other field guides. Here's the White-faced Plover. Although 2 or 3 of these stunning plovers were present earlier in the year, only one was left. They are early migrants and were already heading north. Recent work (Rheint et al. 2011) supports full species status for this taxon even though it is not genetically distinct from Kentish Plover.

The sand islands and sand spit were full of terns including Little, Common, Great Crested and Lesser Crested. Whiskered Terns were common in the river channel. Brown-hooded Gulls were present, but no other gulls. Shorebirds were heavy on the plovers, with Malaysian, White-capped, Kentish, and Lesser Sand-Plover.

On the way in, vast mudflats were exposed along the sand spit and mangroves. Many more shorebirds and herons were feeding on the mudflats.
One bird we were looking for in this habitat was Chinese Egret. We found one with a Little Egret at the back of a small area that was still flooded. Here's the Chinese Egret on the left, and the Little Egret on the right .
The mudflats were also home to mudskippers, amphibious fish that walk on their pectoral fins. These fish were common, and wriggled quickly back into the water at the approach of our boat.

We got close to Little Cormorants perched on snags along the river.
F. E. Rheint et al. 2011. Conflict between Genetic and Phenotypic Differentiation: The Evolutionary History of a ‘Lost and Rediscovered’ Shorebird. PloS ONE:6(11): e26995. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026995

P. R. Kennerly et al. 2008. Rediscovery of a long-lost Charadrius plover from South-East Asia. Forktail 24:63-79.