Thailand bird trip report to Bangkok, Cha Am, Pak Thale, Laem Pak Bia and Kaeng Krachan 31st January to 11th February 2012

This years annual holiday with my wife was to Thailand. The lure of so many great birds from the salt pans alone south of Bangkok proved too tempting in the end. This was my second attempt the first of which turned out too expensive and right in the middle of a recession. This time round we did something different and went to Bangkok for a couple of days then moving down to Cha Am where good birding habitat was in easy reach. The three main areas to visit from Cha Am are Pak Thale, Laem Pak Bia and Kaeng Krachan National Park. I left it too late to hire a guide so found myself with a rather large task of finding everything myself. Checking various trip reports on the internet in general only gave a flavour of these sites.

Little Swift
Little Swift

Bangkok birds
First stop Bangkok. Birding as you would expect was limited here but it was pleasing to get good views of Little Swift in the morning at eye level from floor 14 of the Montien Hotel. The windows didn't open so shots of these lovely birds was mediocre. Elsewhere birding in Bangkok came from Lamphini Park where Long-billed Crow, Chinese Pond Heron, Common Lora, Common Myna, Black-naped Starling, Yellow-browed Warbler, Streak-eared Bulbul, Pied Fantail, Feral Pigeon, Tree Sparrow, Zebra Dove could be found.

Chinese Pond Heron
Chinese Pond Heron

Black-naped Starling
Black-naped Starling

Long-billed Crow
Long-billed Crow

Zebra Dove
Zebra Dove

Holiday Inn, Cha Am birds
A 2.5hr drive on the main highway was all that was needed to get us to the Holiday Inn at Cha Am. This site is right on the coast with quiet beaches holding few people and birds other than the odd Brown-headed Gull and Gull-billed Tern. The surrounding wooded area however held a surprising number of birds. The grounds are opposite the front entrance to the hotel situated between the hotel and the main road. It is possible for non-hotel residents to bird in the area although a guard is present to lift a barrier without question. The habitat is a series of wood and lakes and is undisturbed by humans day or night except for an area of football pitch at one end used by locals in the evening. Regular visits in the morning and evening slowly notched up a reasonable number of species come the end of the trip. Day one started off with Hoopoe, Yellow-browed Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Night Heron, Little Swift, Barn Swallow and Asian Brown Flycatcher. Other highlights throughout the stay turned up Radde's Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Brown Shrike. Non UK species clocked up inlcuded Forest Wagtail, Indian Roller, Paddyfield Pipit, Schrenk's Bittern, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Red Collared Dove, Common and White-vented Myna, Pied Fantail, Long-billed Crow, Black Drongo, Grey-faced Buzzard, Red-wattled Lapwing, Streak-eared Bulbul, Asian Palm Swift..... Surrounding areas looked to have potential but were not explored in any detail. My only visit in the area was about 2 miles up the road where 40 or so Asian Openbill Storks circled on two different days. This area held my only sightings of Yellow-vented Bulbul otherwise only Paddyfield Pipit, Brown Shrike and Purple Heron recorded.

Streak-eared Bulbul
Streak-eared Bulbul

Stripe-throated Bulbul
Stripe-throated Bulbul


Schrenk's Bittern
Schrenk's Bittern

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker

Red-wattled Lapwing
Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-collared Dove
Red-collared Dove

Pied Fantail
Pied Fantail

Ochreous Bulbul
Ochreous Bulbul

Large Woodshrike
Large Woodshrike

Greater Flameback
Greater Flameback

Crested Goshawk

Coppersmith Barbet
Coppersmith Barbet

Forest Wagtail
Forest Wagtail

Grey-faced Buzzard
Grey-faced Buzzard

Pak Thale birds
I rented a car from Avis in neighbouring Hua Hin which is 300 baht (£6) to get to by taxi. Sat Navs were available for hire but in the end I opted to use my Blackberry which worked fine although for longer trips it would have been necessary to take a car charger as it drained the battery. I was desperate to get to Pak Thale so made this my first destination. High tides were in the morning but whether this had any effect I'm not really convinced. The Salt pans are easy to find and birds could be seen in many of them although clearly there were favourites. It was these that I planned to concentrate on until the target of Spoon-billed Sandpiper was found. Parking was a bit of a mystery as there are no parking areas sign posted and with lorries moving up and down the tracks it is important to think carefully about parking. I made my way on foot around the pans and quickly noticed that birds would often fly up and dissappear into the distance landing in distant pans which was rather frustrating but with a Peregrine in the vicinity it became apparent that this was a problem that I would have to live with. The Spoon-billeds usual favoured pans held many birds but there was no sign and not that many Red-necked Stints, a species that the Spoon-billed hangs around with. Birds that were present included Marsh Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Long-toed Stint, Grey Plover, a flock of 29 Red-necked Phalaropes, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Lesser and Greater Sandplover and many terns mainly Gull-billed and Little. Three hours searching in this area proved fruitless of the target species so I ventured farther afield and it was then that I found a visitor centre. The inhabitants didn't speak english but they did offer a log book which revealed that a single Spoon-billed Sandpiper was indeed still present. Earlier in the year there had been up to 4 and in November last year there had been 7. The lady behind the counter pointed to a picture of Painted Stork and pointed off in a direction that I had not searched so before I left I thought a quick look for the Storks would be some small compensation. Along this road I quickly found hundreds of Red-necked Stints and realised that the Spoon-billed must have been here all morning. Starting from one end of the road I slowly worked my way through all the pans until bumping into a Swedish birder who had just found the Spoon-billed Sandpiper to my delight.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper
Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Spoon-billed Sandpiper map
Spoon-billed Sandpiper map

Laem Pak Bia birds
Laem Pak Bia was my second trip away from the Holiday Inn at Cha Am and I was looking forward to the prospect of seeing Nordmann's Greenshank and Great Knot. Word on the internet mentioned Nordmann's often get in with the large flocks of Great Knot so that was my plan. Laem Pak Bia was a little closer and just as easy to get to from Cha Am so in no time at all I was on site faced with many salt pans on either side of the road. I quickly found a salt pan with a large flock of Great Knot and set about getting some video. The flock numbered someting in the region of 800 birds. Sadly no Nordmann's but I was happy with Great Knot. This is one species that I've never managed to catch up with in the UK despite numerous attempts. Other pans held good numbers of Marsh Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, a Sanderling and Avocet whilst Gull-billed Terns and Germain's Swiftlets flew overhead. With no Nordmann's in sight I drove further up the road but found that most of the pans held no birds. Some that did hold birds were now starting to become silhouettes from the suns direction perhaps a good reason for an evening visit. With no time to do the beach I concentrated on the roadside and notched up Indochinese Bushlark, Wood Sandpiper and Common Snipe for the trip list.

Great Knot
Great Knot

Germain's Swiflet
Germain's Swiflet

Kaeng Krachan National Park birds
Kaeng Krachan National Park is another top birding site in easy reach from Cha Am. The drive was calculated at an hour and 10 minutes. The roads are good and there are very few turnings to be made. The only problem we had was finding the entrance to the park after leaving the visitor centre. The visitor centre does not open until 8:30am so we attempted to find the park entrance which was around 15km away. Here you pay 200 bahts to get in and 10 bahts for the car. Once in the single road takes you on an undulating journey to the first camp Ban Krang. Birding around this spot produced the first real birds of interest. The next two kilometres were really as far as we could get in the car as two rivers crossed the road and being a hire car we didn't want to push our luck. I birded along this two kilometre stretch by foot and found the first half productive but soon became quiet the farther I got. What was of interest was the dozens of beautiful butterflies attracted to the river banks. The day could have panned out better for us having taken four hours to arrive at the park entrance and only managing a short distance inside. Having now been there I would be reluctant to hire a guide outside the breeding season as the area is dense bumping into some of the target species could be down to how lucky you are on the day. Certainly from reading trip reports some led tours failed to connect visually even with calling birds. 2-3 days here is recommended and if birding without a guide I found that driving with the window open listening and looking for bird activity useful. When found, short walks along the road are very productive. Laybys and tracks leading into the undergrowth are also give away signs of regularly visited areas.

Green-billed Malkoha
Green-billed Malkoha

Thailand bird list :
Red-collared Dove - Common
Common Myna - Common
Spotted Dove - Common
Little Egret - Common
Pied Fantail - Widespread in one's and twos
Black collared Starling - Only seen at a couple of sites
Red-wattled Lapwing - Kaeng Krachan and Cha Am
Black-crowned Night Heron - Cha Am
White-breasted Waterhen - Cha Am
Asian Palm Swift - Common

Asian Koel - Common
Greater Coucal - Cha Am
White-vented Myna - Common
Chinese Pond Heron - Common
Large-billed Crow - Lamphini Park, Cha Am, Kaeng Krachan
Magpie Robin - Common
Yellow-browed Warbler - Common
Red-breasted fly - Common
Hoopoe - Cha Am

Little swift - Bangkok, Cha Am
Barn swallow - Common
Dusky warbler - Common
Common tailorbird - Common
Plain Prinia - Cha Am
Brown Shrike - Widespread in singles
Caspian tern - Pak Thale
Gull-billed tern - Common
Curlew - Pak Thale
Greenshank - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia

Spotted Redshank - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Red-necked Phalarope - Pak Thale
Marsh Sandpiper - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Red-necked stint - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Long-toed stint - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Brown-headed Gull - Pak Thale, Cha Am and Laem Pak Bia
Broad-billed Sandpiper - Pak Thale
Little-ringed plover - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Brahminy Kite - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Peregrine - Pak Thale

Black-capped Kingfisher - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
White-breasted Kingfisher - Singles in scattered localities
Arctic warbler - Cha Am
Forest wagtail - Cha Am and Kaeng Krachan
Night heron - Cha Am
Purple heron - Cha Am and Pak Thale
Great egret - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Asian Brown Flycatcher - Widespread in singles
Kentish plover - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia

Greater sandplover - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Lesser sandplover - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Grey plover - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Coppersmith barbet - Cha Am
Black-winged stilt - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Zebra dove - Widespread in small numbers
Green Bee-eater - Common
Black drongo - Common
Grey heron - Common
Common sandpiper - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia

Curlew sandpiper - Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia
Little cormorant - Widespread in small numbers
Asian pied starling - Laem Pak Bia
Stonechat - Laem Pak Bia
Sanderling - Laem Pak Bia
Wood sandpiper - Laem Pak Bia
Avocet - Laem Pak Bia
Great knot - Laem Pak Bia
Black-tailed godwit - Laem Pak Bia
Black-naped Oriole - Common

Indian Roller - Kaeng Krachan and Cha Am
German's swiftlet - Laem Pak Bia
Indochinese Bushlark - Laem Pak Bia
Pacific Golden Plover - Laem Pak Bia
Common lora - Common
Schrenk's bittern - Cha Am
Little tern - Pak Thale
Common snipe - Laem Pak Bia
Shikra - Cha Am
Asian Openbill Stork - Cha Am

Radde's warbler - Cha Am
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker - Cha Am
Common Flameback - Kaeng Krachan
Pied Hornbill - Kaeng Krachan
Blue-winged Leafbird - Kaeng Krachan
Grey Wagtail - Kaeng Krachan
White-rumped Shama - Kaeng Krachan
Ashy Drongo - Kaeng Krachan
Black-naped Monarch - Kaeng Krachan
Yellow-vented bulbul - Cha Am

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker - Cha Am
Grey-faced Buzzard - Cha Am
Black-crested bulbul - Kaeng Krachan
Ochreous bulbul - Kaeng Krachan
Ashy Woodswallow - Kaeng Krachan
Stripe-throated Bulbul - Kaeng Krachan
Green-billed Malkoha - Kaeng Krachan
Scaly-breasted Munia - Cha Am
Blue-eared Barbet - Kaeng Krachan
Large Woodshrike - Kaeng Krachan

Red-rumped Swallow - Cha Am
Ashy Minivet - Cha Am
Little Heron - Cha Am
Crested Goshawk - Cha Am

Total 104 species.