Just a little ways south of Bangkok is a system of wetlands, mangroves, paddies and salt marshes famous amongst local and international birders not the least because Laem Pak Bia and Pak Thale make up THE area to find wintering Spoonbilled Sandpiper. The thought of which takes me way off topic to think about this crazy cool video of a crazy cool bird: http://vimeo.com/27330965

Anyway, back to Laem Pak Bia… and like most birders dashing through Bangkok, we made a quick detour in to the salt pans and wetland systems to see what was about. There were no waders, no crakes and not even a single Indian Skimmer, but I was not cared one little bit, because there were tons of Javan Pond Herons (Ardeola speciosa). And I had recently found out that Ardeola Pond Herons are the coolest birds on earth. Well, maybe behind Gurney’s Pitta, Cape Parrot and Spoonbilled Sandpiper, but you get what I mean.

Javan Pond Heron on a pole. But I guess you guessed that.

But there were also other cool birds on poles, like this Indian Cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis) with a luminous green eye and sporting breeding-plumage white ear tufts:

 And between all the great big fishing birds were absolutely huge Water Monitor Lizards (Varanus salvator) that seem to spend their time cruising up and down the settling pools or sunning on a log:

Two bird species that seem to attract the attention (desire/hopes) of a good number of visiting European and North American are the Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) and the Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis). Being a shy and skulking bird of the reedbeds, the Black Bittern is evidently rather a tough one to find, especially out of the breeding season. With a dose of luck, we had one Black Bittern fly overhead (I got one ghastly ID photo) – evidently the typical observation experience for this species.

The Yellow Bitterns were a lot more obliging, with a good few individuals coming out to say hello, and I managed to get a series of photos and videos of them. I was really chuffed with the results; but even nicer was just having the experience of being able to watch them for a while – how they move, how they act, the way they see the world. Okay, maybe I am still no wiser on the last. Or any of the others, but I figure, after 20+ years of birding I still know almost nothing of what is possible to know about birds. Watching them seems to be a good place to start.

So I couldn’t make it through an entire post about birding in Thailand without having at least one photo of a bee-eater, broadbill, kingfisher or pitta. So, here is the obligatory bee-eater, a Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus).

And just for good measure, here is an Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis). Dull is something completely different.

Thanks once again need to go to Alex Vargas for so kindly sharing his time with me while I took a billion bad photos. It is always fun to spend time with other people who love birding and bird photography and living in the Alps means that my photographic subjects are somewhat limited.

 

Happy birding,

Dale Forbes

 

 

 

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Written by Dale Forbes
Dale got his first pair of binoculars for a very early birthday after his dad realized that it was the only way to be left in peace. Many robins, eagles and finches later, he ended up at university studying various biology things and wrote a thesis on vertebrate biogeography in southern African forests. While studying, he also worked on various conservation/research projects (parrots, wagtails, vultures, and anything else that flew) and ringed thousands of birds. Dale studied scarlet macaws, and worked in their conservation, for three years in southern Costa Rica, followed by a year in the Caribbean working on Whale Sharks. After meeting the woman of his dreams, he moved to Austria where he now has the coolest job in the world making awesome toys for birders (Swarovski Optik product manager). He happens to also be obsessed with photography, particularly digiscoping, and despite all efforts will almost certainly never be a good birder. He also blogs for birdingblogs.com