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Two days after arriving in Bangkok on a business trip I found out from Peter Ericsson that there were two very special migrants in town: an Oriental Plover and a Dusky Thrush. Peter had found the time to visit both sites and collected two valuable species to add to his already impressive 850+ Thailand list and encouraged me to make time in my schedule to twitch these birds.

After all, these weren’t exactly easy birds to come by. Dusky Thrush is better found in Japan and rarely comes this far south. As for the Oriental Plover, it wasn’t even on the lists, just a prediction as being a possible addition to the Thai list by Phillip Round in Round and Lekagul’s 1990 Field Guide to Birds of Thailand.

The Oriental Plover was spotted at a beach near Hua Hin, about 250 kilometers south of Bangkok and with a full load to haul back to Phuket and a limited time frame in which to make it, I feared I would have to leave the bird for another time. –If there ever will be “another time”.

The Dusky Thrush however, was wintering at a navy fort museum near the mouth of the Chao Phraya River. I happened to be staying with a friend in Bang Bua Tong only an hour’s drive away so I cleared the schedule and decided to make it happen.

A very important lesson I learned from this experience was the need for thorough research before jumping to action. Doing so would have spared me from having to waste countless hours of precious time – but more on that a little later.

Having spent the dawn working at the computer, I realized I would not be able to make the early morning sortie so opted to arrive at the site by noon after hearing from a fellow birder that the bird shows up at around 3 PM.

Waiting until 3 PM was agonizing due to lack of shade and the 39 degree heat coupled with 75% humidity. Three hours of Candy Crush and browsing through Instagram helped to keep my mind off of my predicament.

By 3 PM more photographers arrived and all of them were singing the same tune: the bird will show around 4.30 PM. I was already here so why quit now, right?

4.30 rolled by and more photographers were flocking in and jousting for a good seat in an already crowded grandstand. One of the photographers declared the bird would arrive at 5.15, a bold prediction and one I desperately hoped would come true.

By 5.30 the crowd of birders and photographers had grown to nearly 30. One of the photographers mentioned to me how that morning a crowd less than half this size had gathered at the site at 7 AM waiting for the bird to arrive but instead managed to spook the bird off. Some of the latest arrivals had set up their gear uncomfortably close to the predicted bathing spot. I was beginning to wonder if my six-hour vigil would be in vain.

Then at 5.47 someone spotted what appeared to be a large bulbul in the tree directly above us. All eyes were trained to the branches and suddenly, there it was: the Dusky Thrush, staring down at the crowd, looking for a landing site.

It moved into a barren tree nearby and I finally got a good look at lifer number 697 for my Thai lists.

Now that I’d seen it well the fun part came: photographing it. Armed with an aging 400 mm zoom meant I was outgunned against a crowd packing 600 mm primes, and it didn’t help the fact that I was pushed to the back of the crowd.

No matter, I was merely collecting a few keepsakes from the experience.

The bird stayed around and bathed for around two minutes before making for the trees and disappearing into the forest once again.

 

It was a long day and waiting for six hours was something I was not expecting or prepared to do. It was perhaps the longest and most demanding vigil I ever sustained while birding and one I could have prevented had I done my homework in advance. Nonetheless, lessons learned and bird in bag, I left for home that night a happy man and one lifer richer.

Thanks to Peter Ericsson for being the first to inform me of this special migrant.

Categories: Featured, Field Report

2 Responses so far.

  1. brian hewitt says:

    Bangbuathong??? I live there.. Didn’t see the rare sighting of Ike… 555 Well done on the birds..

  2. Ike says:

    Ha ha Brian … I was visiting a friend there. Like other passage migrants, I prefer to keep a low profile. Don’t want the paparazzi on my tail!
    The Dusky Thrush was visiting Butterfly Fort near Wat Pra Samut Chedi. Hope you found the time to get it as well!

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