Now is the end of the spawning season of the Small Pratincole (Glareola lactea) and the Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) birds migrated to live on the sand beach emerging from the water during the dry season. This will be the last round of hatching. When these chicks can toddle and learn to live by themselves until the end of June, they will then move before the beach will be again flooded…
The beach that we have surveyed this time is BuengKan Beach. It covers a very vast area of more than half of the Mekong River shown up from November to June which is in the dry season. When the sun is going down, people come to relax, they eat together, take a walk, parents bring their children to play and have fun on the beach. The placesuits every generations and has servedas an activity site for BuengKan people as well as tourists for a long time. Not far from such area, this sand beach has also offered one of the important ecosystems for both localand migratory birds to live on.
KhunTua from BuengKanRakNok Group informed us that there are many kinds of birds living on this sand beach. The outstanding ones are the Small Pratincole and the Little Ringed Plover migrated to seek a mate and inhabit here until the end of dry season which the baby birds are grown-up enough to move.
Interesting behaviors of these two types of bird are that they will pair with the same mate for the rest of their life and spawn on sand by digging a shallow hole near a clump of grass or a tiny tree all over the beach with 1-4 eggs per nest. The parents will get some insects to eat nearby in order to take care of and control the temperature of their babies by constantly turning the eggs, this will take approximately 16-18 days until the hatching comes.
KhunTua also recalled that although this area is really suitable for the breeding of the Small Pratincole which is protected wild animal, but it was found that their nests have been severely damaged by many disturbing factors such as rain and flood. Many unhatched eggs have been washed away, some nests have been trapped in water until the eggs fail to hatch.
The nature does not cause a sudden rise of water, but the release of water by all 12 dams up above in both China and Lao PDR. This unnatural water level made many creatures unable to adapt, not only fishes in the river, birds are another group that is exposed tothe risk of breeding. The BuengKanRakNok Group has regularly surveyed and collected the number of bird nest on the sand beach and found in 2018 that the flood has destroyed more than half of all unhatched nests in the season caused by 3 times flooding during the dry season. A decrease in numbers of bird willaffect in rapidly increasing pests and that will heavily make problems to local farmers.
From this year onwards, Xayaburi hydropower started generating and selling electricity since February, it will be a critical factor causing a daily unnatural Mekong water level which will probably maintain high flood level for quite long time. Bird populations in the Mekong River are then likely todrastically reducein the very near future.
Not only on the vast sand beach, but also on the knolls, rapids and many small beaches along the Mekong River we can find bird nests almost everywhere. Another beach that we have visited isPhankhodSankrai located in Ban Muang, Sangkhom District, NongKhai Province where we can still find unhatched eggs. This beach is in the middle of the Mekong River among several sizes of so many islands. The nests that we find are on the top of the beach, within 10 days, we hope that the baby birds are getting out of the eggs and learning how to live right before the flood comes again.