Newly discovered wintering location for Spoon-billed Sandpiper

LöffelstrandläuferSpoon-billed Sandpipers (Calidris pygmaea) are one of the big megas in birding space. This charismatic species is listed as Critically Endangered because it has already an extremely small population. Population distribution is limited for the breeding range from the Chukotsk peninsula south to Kamchatka. The bird migrates from north-eastern Russia down the western Pacific coast through Russia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, China to its main wintering grounds in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

According to BirdLife International HKBWS volunteers found end of December 2015, at least 30 Spoon-billed Sandpipers near the Fucheng Estuary in south-west Guangdong Province. This was the highest number ever found in China during winter. At the end of January further coordinated counts in Guangdong Province, including members from the Zhanjiang Bird Watching Society and staff from the Zhanjiang Mangrove National Nature Reserve Management Bureau took place. The numbers accounted for at least 45 individuals from four locations, with Fucheng Estuary having the highest count with 38 individuals. This is an extremely significant tally, given that the world population numbers fewer than 400 adults. This newly discovered wintering location seems to be the third known biggest one in the world.

Wintering birds have also been recorded from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Viet Nam.

During a birding trip to Thailand in January 2011 I was looking for wintering birds from the palearctic. The whole trip was a great success, seeing especially many waders which are rare in the western palearctic like Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultia), Mongolian Plover (Charadrius mongolus), Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris) and Pintail Snipe (Gallinago stenura).

But many birders go for the Spoon-billed Sandpipers. For general directions and travel advice visit Nick Upton’s excellent website At the first time there were Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii) and surprisingly 3 Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus). I teamed up with a group of german birdwatchers. The best place on finding Spoon-billed Sandpipers in Thailand is certainly at Pak Thale, on the north-western coast. As already mentioned with many other birders, it proved to be very important to get at Pak Thale early in the morning as the birds seemed to be consistent early morning visitors to their favorite ponds. At Pak Thale I went straight to the most reliable pond which was located near a wooden hut with a water pump (approx. 300 meters west of pond 2 on the Sibley´s Google map). Every morning there were at least two individuals in this pond. The favored ponds of the birds change with water levels from day to day, and water levels are controlled by the needs of the salt works, so it is necessary to check and assess the water levels in the ponds each morning.

Try to be there just after 6:00 am. Morning light from the east favors viewing from the dams between the saltpans. Normally wind picks up during the day, thus the morning gives you the chance that the wind is lighter.

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic. Trips to productive locations in Germany but also to remote places in the world to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. The image-of-proof of the blog was shot in Pak Thale/ Thailand and is only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Just give a message, if could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

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