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Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale, Khao Yai and Kaeng Krachan, 16-23rd February 2008
 
 
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Introduction
With just eight days in Thailand (16-23 Feb 2008), I chose to hire a 4WD pickup truck (Vigo) and stick to the central locations. I was very pleased with the three locations, all offering something different. I did not see anything particularly unexpected but with this trip report I hope to provide some up-to-date information on where to find the birds to other independent birders who are not familiar with these sites.

Thailand is an easy country to travel around. Navigation can be a bit difficult, due to the language barrier, although many road signs now include English as well, which is very useful.

I hired my vigo from QCars, which was a lot cheaper than an international car hire place from the airport. For information I mostly relied on thaibirding.com which is an excellent site. I also gleaned some information from trip reports and by asking questions on BirdForum.

Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale
I spent about a day and a half at Laem Pak Bia and Pak Thale, which is well worth visiting. The number and variety of waders is really impressive. It took me a few hours to work out the lie of the land, however, and got quite lost at the beginning. My advice on finding the place is as follows:

Head into the centre of Phetchaburi, and you should soon pick up a sign for Ban Laem. Once in Ban Laem it is easy to pick up the coastal road heading towards Had Chao Samran, which passes Pak Thale and the other sites of interest. On this road you soon start to enter salt pan territory.

Pak Thale is the first place you come to, where the two Spoon-billed Sandpipers were to be found. First you pass a place with a sign in English saying "Bak Pak Thale Nok" - this is not Pak Thale, but seemed to be the start of good wader territory. Pak Thale is soon afterwards, indicated by large local government buildings with bright blue roofs on the left. You should take the second road on the left, which goes along side the SE side of the village, with salt pans on your right. Take the first proper track on the right, which leads straight through the salt pans to a little parking place surrounded by bamboo wind shield. From here, walk about 100m NE along little mud banks alongside the salt pans, and the two Spoonbilled Sandpipers were feeding alone (not with stints) in the middle of a large pan. Also a lot of waders and terns in this area, plus some mangroves closer to the sea.

See Figure 1, my attempt of a map of Pak Thale area. The signs for Pak Thale are only in Thai script, so I've included a copy of the Thai script for Pak Thale in the bottom left of the picture, which I hope is right and should help spot the right sign.

Figure 1: Pak Thale Map

Click for larger Pak Thale Map

Black-faced Spoonbills were to be found near the harbour - see the map on thaibirding.com. Some 1.8km south of the harbour, there is a dirt track to the right of the main road which leads to a large, derelict building that appears to be missing its front and back walls and was clearly never completed in construction. Behind this building is a large pan, and the two BH Spoonbills were roosting with about 6 Grey Herons. Also Richards Pipit here.

See Figure 2, outlining this area.

Figure 2: Black-faced Spoonbills location 2008

Click for a larger map of the Black-faced Spoonbills location.

"White-faced Plover" the newly discovered species/subspecies(?), was present at the end of the sand spit at Laem Pak Bia, accessable by boat from the harbour. Towards the end of the buildings on the harbour (south side of river) is a hut with pictures of White-faced Plovers on the wall. The woman here speaks English and she sent me out with the boatman (speaks no English) who took me to see the bird. I wish I had taken my scope, but we got good views in the end. Also Malaysian Plover, both Sand Plovers and both Crested Terns here. Well worth doing. Takes about 1.5 hours and they charged 500 baht, which might be haggleable - I didn't try.

Khao Yai NP
Khao Yai is a beautiful place, but certainly not an undiscovered place. I stayed at the Pa Gluay Mai campsite, where all the birds are. It was good to be staying in the middle of the birding action, but dont expect peace and quiet here - it was more like Glastonbury festival than wilderness. And also surprisingly cold at night.

There is a new stakeout for Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo. It is behind the shower block on the left hand side as you enter the campsite, i.e. on the other side from the restaurant. Behind the block there is a small path that enters the forest, and just 5 metres into the forest one can sit down and quietly watch down into a damp gully where the bird turns up. While I was there it seemed to turn up early in the morning (before 10am) and in the late afternoon (after 3-4pm). Also a beautiful male Blue Pitta and Siberian Blue Robin at exactly the same spot.

See Figure 3 for details.

Figure 3: Pa Gluai Mai Campsite

Click for larger Pa Gluai Mai Campsite map

Also many other birds around the campsite, including White-throated Rock Thrush, many sunbirds and flowerpeckers and minivets and Chestnut-throated Shrike Babbler. Someone else had Siamese Flameback just up the road towards the waterfall. I had Red-headed Trogon along Upton's Trail A just on from the campsite.

I saw little else along trails and roads away from the campsite. The campsite was definitely the most productive place during my 2.5 day stay.

Kaeng Krachan NP
Kaeng Krachan is a beautiful park and much more like real wilderness than Khao Yai. Outside of the weekend, there is hardly anyone there, apart from a few birders. The forest is full of birds and there is a distinct difference between the birds of the lower Ban Krang camp area and those of the higher Paneon Tong campsite.

There is a wealth of info on Kaeng Krachan on thaibirding.com and on trip reports. All I can suggest is:
- Hire a 4WD so you can go up to Paneon Tong campsite. Actually you dont need 4WD as such, just decent ground clearance, as there are streams to cross and the road is pretty rough and steep.
- Others I spoke to had Black and Red Broadbill from the path that starts just before Ban Krang campsite (HQ side) and crosses the stream. Black and Yellow Broadbill found around the first stream to the west (other side).
- There are Long-tailed Broadbills to be found about 1km down from the KM27 car park. Listen out for their calls.
- There is a fruiting tree near KM27 which is good for birds

Wat Prabuddhabaht Noi
Limestone Wren Babbler is easily found at this temple near Saraburi, on the way to Khao Yai NP. About 11km north of Saraburi on the highway 1, there is the Pu Kae junction where Highway 21 splits off from Highway 1. Follow Highway 1 to the left, but then do a U-turn after 500m at the special U-turn lane, and return back through the junction. Turn left after 200m from the junction on to a small tarmacked road labelled route 1002 (although signs only visible once you are on this road). Follow this road for 10.6km, then turn left when the 1002 turns right, and then take the second right into the temple.

The birds were easily found on the path that leads around the big impressive limestone rock to the right of the parking area. The nuns were very friendly and dont seem to mind birdwatchers turning up unannounced. Well worth visiting.

John Raven

A Few Notes:

I would like to add a few notes to John's excellent descriptions of these sites.

1. The campsites at Khao Yai are extremely busy at weekends but it is still relatively easy to get away from the crowds and see plenty of species. It is not a pleasant camping experience though - during the week the place is very quiet.

2. Kaeng Krachan is quiet in the week but very busy at weekends; with only the dirt road as a birdwatching option it is very miserable at weekends when lots of traffic goes up and downhill. In my opinion this park should be avoided at weekends.

3. The road even to Bang Krang campsite at Kaeng Krachan is very rutted and a vehicle with good ground clearance is essential. To get up to Panoen Tung a four-wheel drive is essential now as the road is steep and rutted with lots of loose gravel.

4. 500 baht is a fair price for the boat trip to the sand spit and John's attitude of not haggling was spot on. I usually give Mr Daeng a decent tip too as he really makes an effort to get birdwatchers close to the birds. (As of 2015 the boat trip costs 800 baht).

Nick Upton

 
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