by Nick Upton
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Klong Si Yat Reservoir
(Updated 02/05/14)
Klong Si Yat Reservoir, in Chachoengsao province, is a shallow lake formed by a dam across Klong Si Yat which has farmland and woodland around its edges. For much of the year the water level is high but in the late dry season water levels recede and large areas of marginal habitats form, including large areas of wet grassland; this lasts into the early rainy season until water levels are replenished in September and October. Permanent scrub and marshy areas close to the dam mean that there is quite a patchwork of habitats here, making for high biodiversity and, of course, plenty of birds.

This reservoir is a good site for seeing a number of the ground-nesting birds that occupy grassland habitats but the site lacks any really rare species that make it worth making a special visit. However, this is a great place to spend a morning, at the right time of year, if one is in the area or passing through.
Zitting Cisticola
(Photo by Nick Upton)
Certainly Klong Si Yat reservoir is a site where birders can see a large number of species in a morning and many birds are approachable in a car, when the water levels are low, making this a good site for bird photography.
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 Birding Highlights

Small Pratincole
(Photo by Nick Upton)
  Although most of the species that occur at Klong Si Yat reservoir are commoner water birds and open country birds, there are a few scarcer species that can be found at the site. Vinous-breasted Myna is tricky to find in most of Thailand and although it is not common at Klong Si Yat, it can be found with a little effort. Bright-headed Cisticola and Oriental Skylark are two more species which are not common throughout Thailand and both are resident in the grassy areas around the lake, with the latter being very abundant when the water level is low.

Small Pratincole is a species which is getting rarer as the Mekong river becomes increasingly degraded, but a small breeding population at this site indicates that they may be able to adapt to other areas; Oriental Pratincole is very abundant here as the water level goes down in February to July.

Oriental Darter is another scarce (although increasing) bird which is present at Klong Si Yat in small numbers and with waders passing through on migration there is the chance of something rare turning up.
A checklist of the birds for this location can be found here - Klong Si Yat Reservoir
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If you need help organizing a bird watching trip to Thailand, take a look at the suggested itineraries for ideas on creating a tailor-made trip and contact me for advice: Thailand bird tours.
 Travel Information
Use the interactive map below to plan your route to Klong Si Yat Reservoir. The blue line shows the route from the Chachoengsao (Blue Pin) to Klong Si Yat Dam (Red Pin) via Phanom Sarakham (Green Pin).

View Klong Si Yat Reservoir in a larger map
Getting to Klong Si Yat reservoir is fairly easy if you are driving your own vehicle. Firstly, head to Chachoengsao and then take highway 304 to Phanom Sarakham - it is signposted on the highway. Upon reaching Phanom Sarakham turn right at a junction towards the town of Sanam Chai Khet and pass through the town on route 3245. As one passes all the shops in Sanam Chai Khet there is a signpost for Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary; turn right here and keep following this road (route 3259) until eventually seeing a signpost to turn left to Klong Si Yat Reservoir - the dam is a few kilometres down a potholed road.

Should you attempt to reach the reservoir by public transport it is probably possible by taking a bus from Phanom Sarakham to Wang Nam Yen and getting off near the reservoir, but it would leave you with long distances to walk in very hot weather so I would not recommend visiting this location without your own transport.
 Finding Birds
Finding birds at open-country sites is always fairly easy, with birds such as Asian Openbill, Lesser Whistling Duck, Oriental Darter and Egrets found at various points on the water's edge. Other species, however, will be found in various habitat patches depending on their preference.
Woodland : A number of patches of woodland/forest exist around the reservoir and while most of them are not large enough to support much of an avifauna, some of them are remnants of original forest and close to areas of more extensive forest, so the possibility of finding some interesting species is good. Additionally, the woodland on the lake's edge, close to the dam, is likely to attract passage migrants at the right time of year (September/October & March/April). I have only recorded common species such as Pin-striped Tit Babbler, Lineated Barbet and Dark-necked Tailorbird but the scope for adding new species to the site list from these woodland areas is high.

The "Causeway End" of the Lake : When the water level of the reservoir is low a causeway is revealed, which is the old route of highway 3259, which has now been diverted. At these times there is also a large area of marginal habitat exposed; wet grassland, emergent vegetation, mud and shallow water which attracts large numbers of birds.

Asian Openbill
Oriental Pratincole

Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Pacific Golden Plover
(Photos by Nick Upton)
  Asian Openbills continue to expand their range throughout Thailand and this species is obvious, feeding at the water's edge, as soon as one arrives. Red-wattled Lapwings and Black-winged Stilts are also easily spotted but it is worth scanning the water's edge for wintering/passage shorebirds with species such as Common Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover, Common Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper likely with many others possible - perhaps even a rarity at the right time of year?

Between February and July (and probably into August) large numbers of Oriental Pratincoles are present, breeding on the open areas and can often be observed at close range, but be careful not to trample their nests - they will feign injury and lead you away from their eggs and/or young. Eastern Yellow Wagtails can be seen on the wet grassland, with large numbers present when they are migrating, and ground-nesting species such as Indochinese Bushlark, Paddyfield Pipit and Oriental Skylark being very obvious and numerous - driving slowly across the causeway will allow birders to get close-up views of these birds.

Using the causeway is the best way to get out onto the large areas of habitat and it is best to park the car on the side of this old road and walk out onto the grass and mud to find birds such as Greater Painted-snipe, Pintail Snipe, Pipits and Wagtails as well as scanning for waterbirds and waders. However, when this causeway is exposed, local traffic uses it as a short cut, with a steady stream of trucks and pickups, so be careful when driving and walking out here.

This end of the reservoir is where the water is always at its shallowest and even when the water level is high there is emergent vegetation, which will contain Oriental Reed Warbler in the dry season and birds such as Eastern Great Egret, Little Cormorant, Pied Kingfisher, Lesser Whistling Duck and others all year round; this is also a good place to look out for Oriental Darter.

This area does get busy with locals fishing, swimming and even washing their vehicles, so it is best to get here early, before disturbance becomes a problem.
The Dam : To the west of the dam is a patchwork of habitats which differs significantly to that around the rest of the lake, with dry scrubland, irrigation ditches and marshland which give birders the opportunity to come up with a big day list! A network of small roads criss-cross this area, making it good for approaching birds closely in a vehicle.

Indochinese Bushlark
Baya Weaver

Bronze-winged Jacana
Little Ringed Plover
(Photos by Nick Upton)
  Originating from the dam itself is a canal, to collect overflow water, which forms a marshy habitat favoured by species such as Bronze-winged Jacana, Egrets, Little Cormorant and perhaps Crakes. The canal is lined with Typha and sedge which will attract Reed Warblers and other skulking species and a good sized population of Baya Weavers nests in trees and bushes along here; walking along the edge of this canal could be rewarding when migrant species are present in the dry season.

In between the dam, service roads and various canals is an area of scrubland, containing some small pools and ditches where typical species of this habitat exist; Plain Prinia, Pied Fantail, oriental Magpie Robin, Black Drongo, Mynas, Eastern Cattle Egret and Indochinese Bushlark, which is very numerous here. This area has potential for finding migrants in winter and during migration, a few Thick-billed Warblers were present in April 2014 and migratory Starlings are possible at other times - this would be a good place to find migratory passerines at the right time of year.

Plain-backed Sparrow is a bird which is much more attractive than its name suggests, with the male's brick red back and yellowish underparts, and several pairs can be found breeding around this area - particularly near the near bridge over the canal.

The seasonally flooded grassland to the southeast of the dam actually consists of rocky and scrubby areas interspersed by grass and here is where a few pairs of Small Pratincoles nested in 2014; scan hard for them and try to avoid disturbing them. Lots of Zitting Cisticola and Paddyfield Pipits are to be found and Bright-headed Cisticola breeds on the edge of the farmland found area here; a few pairs of Black-winged Stilt seem to nest in this area too and there are also breeding Little Ringed Plovers.

Farmland : Agricultural land in this region is very intensively farmed and not many other species of interest are likely to be found. The commoner open country species such as Sparrows, Indochinese Bushlark, Mynas etc. are all that is likely to be seen. Black-winged Kite hunts in the farmland, though, and it is possible that Rufous-winged Buzzard is in the area - it favours large, dry trees in open country and farmland
Although there are only a few small villages in the region of the reservoir there are a surprising number of accommodation options around the lake. In the village of Ban Nong Dok there are several guesthouses, some close to the lake, which are cheap but rather dark and uninviting.

Far better options are three rather newer accommodation options; one brightly-coloured "resort" a few hundred metres west of Ban Nong Dok, on Route 3259, with clean, air-conditioned rooms; Sornlai Homestay, on the northern side of the lake, with pleasant-looking, clean bungalows and a restaurant; and Chalet Resort, very conveniently placed, close to the dam.

Near the dam and close to the "causeway" road are some small restaurants where food and cold drinks can be found (it is wise to carry cold water with you as it gets extremely hot here) and there are a variety of small shops and food stalls at Ban Nong Dok.
Guesthouse Sign
(Photo by Nick Upton)
Klong Si Yat Reservoir is not a National Park and there is no entry fee to go birding at this location.
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Klong Si Yat Reservoir Bird Checklist

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 Photo Galleries
Select the thumbnail photos to see larger images.
Irrigation Canal
Fishing in the Lake
Overgrown Ditch
Lakeside Vegetation
Exposed Grass & Mud
The Causeway
Marshy Canal
  Bird Watching Trips:
Klong Si Yat Reservoir is a good place to visit to see a lot of birds in a single morning at the right time of the year. Although it is not a site that is one of the "must-visit" locations it fits well into longer itineraries for birding in the southeast region.

Look at some suggested itineraries, Thailand bird tours, or contact me for more information:
 Related Blog Entries
  • Nesting Small Pratincole - posted 03/05/14

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