in the field -
a hong kong
a hong kong
1 - 6 February, 2019 Chiang Saen Lake, Northern Thailand
I felt the need to get away for a few days. I flew from Hong Kong to Chiang Rai via Bangkok on 31 January 2019. The idea was to pick up a hire-care and drive to Chiang Saen Lake where I had booked accommodation for six nights. Unfortunately, there was a delay at Hong Kong and I didn’t make my booked connection, so I had to overnight in Chiang Rai. I drove to Chiang Saen the following morning for what was now a five-night stay.
I stayed at the Viang Yonok Hotel on the shore of the northeastern corner of Chiang Saen Lake. The lake is one of the foremost sites for waterfowl in Thailand. Lesser Whistling Ducks are abundant and Indian Spot-billed Ducks are common. It used to be a reliable place for Baer’s Pochard but, as at other birding sites where this species used to occur regularly, this is no longer the case.
I spent a lot of time in the vicinity of the hotel in the northeast and east section of the lake. This section of the lake is usually referred to as Nong Bok Khai Non-hunting Area. There are good views over the water from here in the early morning, although a scope is necessary to observe the ducks out in the middle of the lake – notably Ferruginous Duck amongst a flock of Eurasian Coot. A road runs south beside the lake from the hotel and I often just walked a kilometre down the road before heading back to the hotel. On the 5th, however, I explored the area 2 -3 kilometres down the road which is more wooded and is good for such birds as Long-tailed Minivet and Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher.
I also visited the northern section of the lake at Wat Phrathatsiwiangkam. In particular, the road leading to the temple climbs a hillside, offering good scopeable views over the lake in the afternoon. Hundreds of Asian Openbills and ducks were visible from here.
I also visited a few other places in the immediate vicinity of Chiang Saen, notably Wat Bamanko which is one of the key birding sites in the area because of the Pied and Eastern Marsh Harriers that come into roost at dusk. Reports suggest the ratio is 2:1 with recently up to 200 Pied Harriers, 100 Eastern Marsh Harriers, and the odd Western Marsh and Hen Harrier being seen.
A few of the photographs I took during my stay are reproduced below.
Lesser Whistling Ducks were the most conspicuous water birds at the lake, with several thousand being present in the area. The second commonest duck was Indian Spot-billed Duck with birds present in various wetland areas; I counted 320 near Wat Phrathatsiwiangkam on 4th February. A flock of 500 Garganey was also present in the same area on 4th. Ferruginous Ducks were also present among Eurasian Coots on the lake, visible - through a scope - from the balcony of the chalet I was staying in. I counted 37 amongst 400 coot on 4th.
Other obvious water birds from my balcony were Grey-headed Swamphens, and they were common elsewhere around the lake too. There were at least 96 in the vicinity of Wat Phrathatsiwiangkam on 4th.
I only saw one or two Asian Openbills in the eastern section of the lake where I was staying, but I counted 340 near Wat Phrathatsiwiangkam , again on 4th.
Pheasant-tailed Jacanas were regularly noted in ones and twos in the lakeside vegetation
A number of birds perched on roadside wires at the eastern corner of the lake, notably Ashy Woodswallows and Striated Swallows.