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West-central and Northwest Thailand, Feb/March 2016

From February 21 - March 05, 2016, Sheridan, Willlie Sekula and I spent fifteen days in the west-central, north-central, and northwest parts of Thailand, expertly led by Dave Sargeant of Chiang Mai.

We visited Pak Thale, Laem Pak Bia, Nong Pla Lai, Kaeng Krachan, Bueng Boraphet, Mai Ping, Doi Inthanon, Mae Taeng, Chiang Dao, Fang, Doi Lang, and Doi Ang Kang.

White-faced Plover (Charadrius [alexandrinus] dealbatus ?) was described as recently as 2008, having been noticed as a distinct form that was wintering in Singapore and the Malay peninsular. Since then it has been found in the winter as far north as Lam Pak Bia on the upper Gulf of Thailand, and in the summer on the southeastern coast of China.
Its status as a species has been re-evaluated (as has the applicable scientific sp./ssp. name), and Clements currently treats it as a subspecies of Kentish Plover - despite a number of morphological and behavioral differences from the various ssp. of Kentish, and from the sympatric resident Malaysian Plover.

Many birders now visit the spit at Laem Pak Bia to look for this striking plover, along with various other target species (Malaysian Plover; large gulls; Chinese Egret) - and we followed suit early in our trip. Note the following features:

- relatively long legs (esp. tibia) that are tinged dull pink.

- relatively long bill that is thicker distally and rather blunt apically.

- pale sandy upperparts with variably pale fringed scaps (more-so than on Kentish; less-so than on Malaysian).

- pale-fringed lesser wing coverts.

- on the upper wing, thicker white middle wing bar and more-extensive white in the bases of the inner primaries and on the tips of the secondaries, plus white tips to all the greater primary coverts.

- the relatively thinner and less-extensive dark breast patches.

- the thicker white rear-collar

- on males, the strikingly white lores and face (with the eye isolated), plus a thick black forecrown band and gingery cap.

- on females, the whole cap, lores and breast patches strongly ginger-toned, plus there is relatively little dark (which is diffuse) on the lores.

This first image was 'phone-scoped and has a warmer hue than the subsequent images taken with a DSLR and 400mm lens:

The following images were taken with a DSLR and 400mm lens:

The images below illustrate a distinctive feeding behavior, wherby it dashes rapidly forward (sometimes as much as 30 feet or more) in a crouched posture with head held very low, before grabbing a food item:

These flight photos show the contrasing upperwing pattern:

I have tentatively IDed this individual as an adult female White-faced Plover, but it might be a female Malaysian Plover (?):

- and this as a first-cycle (male?) White-faced Plover: