Words for birds

Creative conservation

Poetry magazine The Rialto, in collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Birdlife International and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, invites submissions for the 2017 Nature and Place poetry competition.


More about each organisation at therialto.co.uk; rspb.org.uk; birdlife.org; conservation.cam.ac.uk

More about the competition at the link here:


Salt pan stopover

Seriously special sandpipers:

In March 2014, Flightpathproject visited the salt pans of Pak Thale in Thailand, to look for – and find! – the critically endangered Spoon-billed sandpiper: see https://flightpathproject.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/seriously-special-sandpipers/

Pak Thale is a vital staging ground on the sandpipers’ way to breed in Kamchatka, in the far east of Russia.

Image at wikipedia.com

Protection for the salt pans:

By the end of 2016, the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand is hoping to buy, manage and  conserve the threatened salt pans for spoonies – and for the hundreds of thousands of other shorebirds – that use Pak Thale annually.

For more about the project see http://www.bcst.or.th/?page_id=4755&lang=en



Home away from home:

After a long flightpath – from Russia via London Heathrow to Gloucestershire, England – watch Spoon-billed sandpiper chicks hatch at Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust http://www.wwt.org.uk


Larks fly in Flanders

Flightpathproject reflects on flight on Armistice Day, 11 November 2015, in the 70th year after the end of WWII

  • in memory of Jim Monteith RAF, much-loved and sorely-missed, who – on metal wings – supported the evacuation of POWs in 1945 from camps in Thailand and Singapore
  • in memory of those who went to war years before him and those who went – are still going – to war years after him

Words from ‘The War to End All Wars’ that wasn’t:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by Lt Colonel John McCrae, Canadian physician, after the funeral of a friend at Ypres in 1915

A flood, blood-red:


Ceramic poppies installed at the Tower of London, July to November 2014

Image at http://www.theguardian.com

Of storks and snails

A flock of forty or so Openbill storks treated Flightpathproject to a fly-by this morning…

Why Openbill? This is why:

asian-openbill-stork web

Openbill stork with nutcracker beak

Image: blogs.crikey.com.au/northern/files/2008/09/asian-openbill-stork.jpg

Stork colonies of Pathum Thani:

Identifying the enemy:

manandmollusc.net web
Image: http://www.manandmollusc.net

‘The golden apple snail was introduced from Florida and Latin America…in the early 1980s by private snail farmers hoping to reap big profits exporting snails to Europe. Easy to rear and fast breeding, the snail’s high protein content also apparently made it an ideal supplement to the low-protein diet of the rural poor. Unfortunately, the snails were not a success with consumers, and although they were initially expensive, their market value soon plummeted.

The escaped and discarded snails quickly spread through waterways and irrigation canals [and across borders]. When they reached the rice fields they found an ideal habitat, feeding by night and at dawn on young succulent plants such as newly transplanted rice crops and weeds. With only a few natural enemies to constrain them, the snails rapidly developed into a serious pest in many areas of cultivated rice land in Asia. Their fast growth and reproduction – females lay egg masses of up to 500 eggs once a week – leads to population levels that can destroy entire rice crops.’

golden snail phils webGolden Apple Snail with eggs

More info: http://www.fao.org/News/1998/rifili-e.htm Image:

Dealing with the enemy:

Stork shelling snails. Image: nbirds.blogspot.com

Stork snapping-up snails.
Image: nbirds.blogspot.com

Welcome, O truant stork!
And where have you been so long?
And do you bring that grace of spring
That filleth my heart with song?

From Armenian Folk Song – The Stork by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

Seriously special sandpipers

Flightpathproject is in Thailand 6 March to 26 April 2014

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

‘The spoon-billed sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus is one of the most threatened birds on the planet. It breeds on the Chukotsk and Kamchatka peninsulas in the Russian Far East, migrates through Russia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and China to winter in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand, 8,000km from its breeding grounds.’

More info at www.saving-spoon-billed-sandpiper.com/

 spoonbilledsandpiper jorg hanoldt web

Photo by Jorg Hanoldt at http://www.thaibirding.com

Spoonies at Pak Thale, Thailand

Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d72igbse4v4

Right place, right time

From an email to Flightpathproject from birders Abhijit and Hassath (who made their own migration of about 3000km from Delhi to Pak Thale to look for spoonies):

‘…We didn’t have a spotting scope then, and Hassath sat calmly on a big mound while I wandered around in the sweltering heat examining each salt pan peering at various plovers and other small birds. Then I decided we should get going back to Bangkok and called out to her. She ambled over, and said “Hey, isn’t that a spoon-billed sandpiper?” It was…’

For detailed birding advice and mud maps for Pak Thale see http://www.thaibirding.com/locations/central/lpb.htm

For spoonies in the news in Thailand, see http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/295360/

Salt pans at Pak Thale

Salt pans at Pak Thale

Photo at http://www.shorebirder-waderworld.blogspot.com

pak thale shorebird sign nathan hentze web

Photo by Nathan Hentz

Birds, feathers

Red caps Morley 26 Dec

Morley Beach is all glinting shallows today. It’s a long way from Pak Thale, where Flightpath: Thailand will make landfall in a few weeks.

Morley Beach is part of wide and wild Wilson Inlet near Denmark, on Western Australia’s south coast; here are muddy sandflats fringed with samphire groundcover and paperbark forest. Pak Thale is on the busy waters of the Gulf of Bangkok;  there, there are saltpans, mudflats, mangroves. For migratory shorebirds, both places offers a rest and refuelling stop on their annual long-haul flight.

feet and boots

A solitary greenshank calls alarm and takes off. Small flocks of resident red-capped plovers run and stop, run and stop along the receding waterline. Summer visitors are arriving –  at the moment there are sharp-tailed sandpipers, greater sand plovers, tiny red-necked stints. For the next few weeks they will rest, feed and bulk-up here, before developing breeding plumage and beginning the long journey, via the countries of the East Asian-Australasian flyway, back to their Arctic nesting grounds together.

My Great Aunt by Roland Leach

My great aunt was always looking for a husband.

She had a few and left them all. Attracted to water,

the distance it offered. She was good at loving

from a distance. My great aunt was always looking.

She was a good looker. Took a steamer out of

Liverpool for the islands of the East, imagining

them still as spice islands. Took men of all creed and colour.

Didn’t mind a risk my great aunt, could always find

a racetrack. Fell in love with a young naturalist on board,

grey-coated and too occupied with the flight of birds

to notice her. She liked that. Didn’t like fawning men.

Just attracted to water and distance.

She had her way though. Lured the poor man

in dresses soft as butterfly wings, the colour of macaws,

pretending she was in flight, which she was.

back stump web