The following story was written by Tyler Roney for Third Pole, a “multilingual platform dedicated to promoting information and discussion about the Himalayan watershed and the rivers that originate there.”
Just 50 metres from the Mekong, in the shadow of a discarded plastic cup, a lone chick sits camouflaged on the sand. It is a newly hatched small pratincole in Bueng Kan province, northeast Thailand.
“I recorded 15 nests on the beach, smaller numbers compared with previous years,” says Ratchaneekorn Buaroey, a member of the Bueng Kan Rak Nok conservation group, who recorded the chick in February. “I have serious concerns about the declining of (small pratincoles and little ringed plovers) because the nesting ground is impacted by the Mekong mainstream dams.”
Small pratincoles (Glareola lactea) mate for life and, like other vulnerable birds on the Mekong, lay their eggs in the sands of the October-May dry season. But in recent years, hydropower dams have contributed to unseasonable water levels.
Ratchaneekorn and her husband, Noppadol Buaroey, have been monitoring the birdlife of Bueng Kan for 12 years, noting the eggs of beach-nesting birds on the banks of the Mekong. This year, Ratchaneekorn says, the waters have been so low that this area of the bank has not flooded. In contrast, in 2018 nests holding 21 bird eggs were flooded, more than half the active eggs Bueng Kan Rak Nok recorded here.