Sunday, 21 February 2016

Champions of the Flyway 2016

I'm very excited to be part of the 'Birding Ecotours Bandits' Champions of the Flyway 2016 (#COTF2016) team. I'm the only English member of the only team representing South Africa during this huge Bird Race so I will be an honorary South African for 24 hours! It is now just over 5 weeks until the big day in Israel where we will be one of 14 teams competing for the coveted trophy.

The 2016 Conservation Cause - the main reason we're all taking part in the race - is to combat the Illegal Hunting and Trapping of Songbirds in Greece and Champions of the Flyway will work with the Hellenic Ornithological Society (BirdLife partner in Greece) in this regard. Many of the birds trapped and killed are migratory birds that spend time in northern Europe (such as the UK) and in Southern Africa. Hence our interest in wanting to take part and contribute to this very worthwhile cause. Over 1 million birds are illegally killed in Greece each year which is a shocking number - please take a look at the details here. There's also loads of information at the following link where you can 'Follow the Race':

Part of the way that everyone can help is by picking and sponsoring a team for the race. I'd be really grateful if you'd sponsor a team and be even more grateful if you'd sponsor the Birding Ecotours Bandits! The team is made up of South Africas finest: Trevor Hardaker, Jason Boyce and Dylan Vasapolli, along with myself. You can sponsor our team at the following link on our team page:  I'll be posting more details about #COTF2016 over the coming weeks so stay tuned! All sponsorship, no matter the size will be greatly appreciated.

We want to stop the likes of this from happening any more. 

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Spoon-billed Sandpipers Galore!

I've been having some great encounters with a few different Spoon-billed Sandpipers over the last few days during a Birding Ecotours customized tour of Thailand. After my India trip, and Baer's Pochard twitch I decided to go to Pak Thale before my tour to check out the area and see what the birds were doing this year. Once there I found at least two un-ringed/un-flagged Spoon-billed Sandpipers, and got some good views of both birds. I was pleased as managed to get some better phone-scoped shots than my previous visits to the site.

Fast forward to the back end of this week (after an exciting few days in Kaeng Krachan - more on that later) when the tour arrived in the Pak Thale/Laem Pak Bia area for a couple of days looking for waders such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other goodies like Nordmann's Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher etc. We were not disappointed on out first day with very good views of a fairly close Spoon-billed Sandpiper. It gave close views as it preened on a little mud island on one of the salt pans. Very satisfying views.

Then yesterday we went back to try for them again on our way through to Bangkok, time of day was not ideal and it was blowing a gale but I managed to find two birds together, one of these was leg-flagged and the other was 'clean'. It was clear that one of these birds was fast approaching our position so we all got into the dirt and lay in wait for it to come closer. Amazingly the bird came and fed within 12ft of us! This was my best view to date and it finally allowed me to get some photos with my camera rather than relying on phone-scoping it!

Needless to say we were all mighty happy with this view! Some photos below followed by some info on the ringed bird.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper U6

Spoon-billed Sandpiper U6

Spoon-billed Sandpiper U6

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - un-ringed bird (IPhone-scoped Swarovski ATX95 and IPhone 6s)

A quick search about the ringed bird photographed above - U6 - shows that it is a 'head-started' bird.
  • Born in July 2015. It was cared for in its early days until fledging and left its natal area of Chukotka, Far East Russia on 5th August 2015.
  • It was seen and photographed at Yuboo Island, South Korea on 28th September 2015 where it was present until 28th October 2015 (also in the presence of several other birds). 
  • It was next seen and photographed at Pak Thale, Thailand on 29th November and I saw it there yesterday, 6th February 2016!

More details of the incredibly important conservation effort to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper can be found on the Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper website here.

If you want to come and look for these stunning waders and a load more amazing birds why not join me on a Birding Ecotours trip in 2017? The shear number of waders in this area is simply staggering and is made up by over 40 species, including some globally threatened species!