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Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea   - Non-breeding
Spoon-billed Sandpiper
Photographer : © Arka Sarkar
Location :Pak Thale, Petchaburi, Thailand
Date : 27 December 2016
English synonyms:Spoonbilled Sandpiper, Spoonbill Sandpiper, Spoon-bill Sandpiper
Bird Family :Tringinae - Godwits, Curlews, Shanks, Sandpipers, Tattlers, Turnstones, Dowitchers, Knots, Stints, Dunlin, Ruff & Phalaropes
Red Data Status :Critically Endangered
Remarks :The wader hotspot of Pak Thale in Petchaburi province of Thailand is an area of shrimp ponds, salt pans and mudflats along the coast. This habitat and the adjoining Laem Pak Bia host a significant number of waders every winter. These include various Gulls and Terns, good numbers of Broad-billed Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Malaysian Plover (resident), Great Knot, Red-necked Phalarope, Asian Dowitcher, Long-toed Stint etc. But the most important and sought after visitors are the Spoon-billed Sandpipers, a few of which arrive every winter.

Finding the SBSP in Pak Thale takes a little time, as there are only about half a dozen birds amidst large flocks of waders – possibly around 10,000 or more over the entire area. They associate with Red-necked Stints and Broad-billed Sandpipers, and are very much like the former in shape and size. But with patience and a good telescope, it is not too difficult to find the birds eventually. What is most distinctive in field is the quick bobbing motion of the head while feeding. It is usually the most animated bird in a feeding flock. It keeps its head down for longer than other birds and combs through the mud.

I scoped in on my first Spoonie after 20 minutes, and found more birds on at least half a dozen occasions. But the flocks took flight frequently, harrowed by a Peregrine and Brahminy Kites. At times people working around some of these shrimp farms and salt pans caused them to fly and resettle. Finally, I managed to see the last bird that I scoped for a good 15 mins. In my conservative estimates, there were at least 5 Spoon-billed Sandpipers.

This is a bird that I wanted to see for long but it evokes mixed emotions, knowing that it is critically endangered due to the numbers coming down by 90% in the last 15 years, and that there are less than 400 left.

A video of this bird can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUnVGX-RQkk - AS