by Nick Upton
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Kaeng Krachan & Petchaburi Wetlands, 17th-21st June 2013
  Bird Watching Trips:
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.
Alan and Judi contacted me asking for a short birding trip after their stay relaxing in the south of Thailand. In our correspondence they said they knew that it was not a good time of year for birding but I informed them that in fact the early rainy season is an excellent time for birding in the forests, with an excellent chance to see many species that are extremely difficult to see during the dry season. With this in mind we looked forward to a stay at Ban Maka to visit Kaeng Krachan national park and nearby wetlands.
We made this trip in a four-door Toyota Vigo which was chosen for its high ground clearance and four-wheel drive facility as the road at Kaeng Krachan can be quite bad in the wet season. We never needed to use four-wheel drive but this vehicle dealt with ruts and bumps extremely well as well as the wet road surfaces.

Notes on Finding Birds
Finding birds in the lowlands of Kaeng Krachan was fairly easy due to the high level of territorial behaviour. There were no bird waves but with patience we were able to encounter a lot of good species relatively easily. In the higher areas of Kaeng Krachan finding birds was extremely difficult due to constant low cloud and rain. This was unusual as rain at this time of year is usually in the form of short-lived storms.

Field Guides
1. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson
2. Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Philip D. Round & Boonsong Lekagul

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Birding Highlights
Kaeng Krachan: Hooded Pitta, Blue Pitta, Banded Broadbill, Long-tailed Broadbill, Dusky Broadbill, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Black-and-red Broadbill, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Banded Kingfisher, Great Hornbill, Tickell's Brown Hornbill, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Crimson-winged Woodpecker, Northern White-crowned Forktail, White-fronted Scops Owl, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Blyth's Frogmouth, Black-thighed Falconet.
Lung Sin Hide: Red-legged Crake, Scaly-breasted Partridge, Eared Pitta
Ban Maka: Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Blue-winged Pitta
Khao Look Chang: Black-headed Woodpecker, Rufous Woodpecker, Black Baza, Blue-throated Bee-eater
Laem Pak Bia: Malaysian Plover, Spot-billed Pelican, Painted Stork
Tung Bang Jak: Asian Golden Weaver, Black Bittern, Streaked Weaver
Kaeng Krachan Lowlands
Most of our time in the forest was spent in the lowland areas of the national park, partially due to the fact that I felt that most of the best birds that we could target would be found in the lowlands, but it was also due to the consistently poor weather higher up the mountain. We spent most of our time in the lowlands around the kilometre 9-10 area and between the first stream crossing to the point at which the road heads uphill.

Kilometre 9 is always a good place to stop when first entering the national park and as we had traveled straight from Bangkok, on our first day, we made our first stop here. As soon as we got out of the vehicle we spotted a pair of Black-thighed Falconets which were joined by several others giving us great views. Over the next few days we repeatedly saw these birds in the same place as well as some other nice birds such as Sultan Tit, Greater Flameback, Greater Yellownape, Blue-winged Pitta and Black-and-red Broadbill.

Bang Krang campsite can be a good spot for birds but we did not see much other than some of the commoner bulbuls there on out only visit, with other areas being better and occupying more of our time.

The area of moist, mature forest between stream crossings one and just beyond the third crossing where the road begins to go uphill were very productive areas for us over the course of four days. Many species of Broadbill were nesting and Silver-breasted Broadbills were particularly abundant and easy to see. This is always the case in the wet season and they just seem to vanish in the dry months. Banded Broadbills were easy enough to find too with many calling and a short burst of call playback lured a couple in quickly. A Dusky Broadbill nest was a favourite of photographers, close to stream one, and we were able to observe them at length even when it was raining and we were unable to find any other birds. A Long-tailed Broadbill at this low altitude was a surprise, apparently they had been driven down by bad weather higher up the hill.

Blue Pittas are not uncommon in the lowlands of Kaeng Krachan but even when they are calling in the months of March to July they can be very difficult to observe. However, we got lucky managing to lure in the first one we heard for clear views for a short time; this bird was chased off by a second Blue Pitta. A Hooded Pitta had been showing well beyond the third stream crossing but every time we went there crowds of photographers coming and going had meant that we were in for a long wait for this bird. However, on the fourth morning a fallen tree blocked the road beyond the second stream crossing. Seeing our opportunity we clambered through this, getting covered in insects from the canopy, and arrived at the stakeout on our own. After a short wait we spotted the Hooded Pitta sitting motionless on a dry part of a stream bed allowing us prolonged views of this great bird.

A pair of Oriental Dwarf Kingfishers were seen at the same spot as the Hooded Pitta (after the third stream crossing) on every occasion that we visited - this bird is a real jewel lighting up the dark forest understorey. Other nice birds we saw here included Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Green-eared Barbet and Banded Kingfisher.

Another staked out bird that we saw easily was a Blyths Frogmouth sitting on a nest on our first morning. We were lucky here because heavy rain and winds destroyed the nest that afternoon and the bird was not seen again afterwards!

We were also lucky with the pair of White-fronted Scops Owls roosting close to the second stream crossing. These birds had been present for over a year but some visitors had been unlucky when the owls changed their roosting spot. They were present on the first day we arrived, giving us fantastic views of this extremely scarce bird. In this area we also found a pair of Crimson-winged Woodpeckers, Raffle's Malkoha and a soaring Black Eagle.

Ban Maka
One of the nice things about staying at Ban Maka is that there are always plenty of birds to see there. Knowing that Pittas are usually very hard to see, it was a constant source of amusement to us that several Blue-winged Pittas were always hopping around the garden, often performing for us as we ate our breakfast and lunch. Several pairs of Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers were to be found constantly feeding on bananas placed at a feeding station and Red Junglefowl, White-rumped Shama and several species of Bulbuls also took advantage of this food.

Lung Sin Hide
This former poacher's waterhole attracts lots of birds in the dry season but at the time of year we visited I did not expect much to happen. However, we were told that Red-legged Crake and Scaly-breasted Partridge were visiting regularly so we decided to spend an afternoon at the hide. We were not to be disappointed as both of these fantastic species displayed for us with a pair of Red-legged Crakes putting on a synchronised bathing show. A few other species included Abbott's and Puff-throated Babbler but another stunning bird was shown to us by Lung Sin himself - an Eared Pitta on a nest! This put as at 4 species of Pitta in four days; remarkable!

  Birdwatching Trips to Kaeng Krachan:
Kaeng Krachan national park is one of the must-visit birding locations in Thailand.
At any time of year a wide variety of species can be found here but during the early wet season Kaeng Krachan is really at its best and birders have the chance to see many colourful resident birds.

Contact me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the best birdwatching options for you:
Some More Wet Season Reports

Kaeng Krachan Highlands
The higher altitudes of Kaeng Krachan have a different avifauna to the lowlands making this a great national park to visit and see a large number of species. However, during our visit the weather conditions were very challenging with frequent rain and poor visibility. We made a few visits to Km 27 and Panoen Tung but struggled to see many species due to the weather.

Km 27 revealed a pair of Ratchet-tailed Treepies, Red-headed Trogon and a pair of Bamboo Woodpeckers quickly on our first visit and walking a little uphill we found Buff-rumped Woodpekcer, Rufous-browed Flycatcher and an impressive flock of Tickell's Brown Hornbills but as we were hoping to lure in a Rusty-naped Pitta the weather stopped us from doing any more.

Panoen Tung was not much different. We got nice views of Blyth's Shrike-babbler and Everett's White-eye as well as Black-throated Laughingthrush feeding in a fruiting bush but things were otherwise thin on the ground. On our final visit to this area there was thick fog but by sitting near a fruiting tree we saw a variety of Bulbuls as well as a juvenile Large Niltava, something I had never before seen at Kaeng Krachan. Retreating from the weather we also got good views of a White-crowned Forktail in the road, so although things had been very challenging we did manage to see some excellent species through perseverance and patience.

Khao Look Chang
On our last morning we headed to some dry woodland at Wat Khao Look Chang near Tha Yang. There are never lots of birds here but over the course of a few hours we managed to see Black-headed Woodpecker, Rufous Woodpecker, Asian Barred Owlet, Spotted Owlet, Lineated Barbet, Rufous Treepie and Blue-throated Bee-eater; a nice collection of birds for the morning!

Laem Pak Bia& Wat Komnaram
This area is a hotspot for waders in the dry season, but in June there are very few species to be seen. We stopped here mainly for a seafood lunch on the beach but we also managed to spot some Caspian Terns out to sea and found a nice male Malaysian Plover on the beach. A group of Painted Storks were nice but a bit distant. One probable Milky Stork was with them but the range was a bit far for me to be able to rule out the leucistic Painted Storks and hybrid birds that are also in the area but 6 Spot-billed Pelicans were easy to identify. A quick stop at Wat Komnaram produced the expected Oriental Pratincole and Oriental Skylark.

Tung Bang Jak (Petchaburi Rice Fields)
As time was ticking down we spent our final few hours catching up with a few species in the rice fields, most notably nesting colonies of Asian Golden Weaver, Baya Weaver and Streaked Weavers. We quickly managed to find many of the commoner birds of this area including Green Bee-eater, Bronze-winged Jacana and Yellow-bellied Prinia and, this being the wet season, lots of Black Bitterns. This was a nice habitat to finish our trip in and add a lot of birds to our trip list - it is always a very birdy area.

On the way back to Bangkok we added one more with an Oriental Darter flying over the highway.

Nick Upton (
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 Species list with notes
Kaeng Krachan: KK
Lung Sin Hide: LSH
Pak Thale: PT
Laem Pak Bia: LPB
Khao Look Chang: KLC
Ban Maka: BM
Tung Bang Jak (Petchaburi Rice Fields): TBJ
1. Scaly-breasted Partridge: 2 at LSH.
2. Red Junglefowl:
a few along the road, KK & LSH.
3. Lesser Whistling Duck:
20-30 at LPB.
4. Little Grebe:
2 at LPB.
5. Milky Stork:
1 probable at PT.
6. Painted Stork:
a60 at LPB & PT.
7. Asian Openbill:
30-40 at LPB & TBJ.
8. Yellow Bittern:
2 at LPB.
9. Black Bittern:
a20 at TBJ.
10. Black-crowned Night Heron:
a few at LPB.
11. Striated Heron:
1 at LPB.
12. Chinese Pond Heron:
1 on several dates at KK; 1 at BM; 1 at TBJ.
13. Javan Pond Heron:
a few at TBJ & LPB.
14. Eastern Cattle Egret:
a few at various places.
15. Purple Heron:
many at TBJ.
16. Eastern Great Egret:
a few at LPB & TBJ.
17. Intermediate Egret:
a few at LPB & TBJ.
18. Little Egret:
many at LPB & TBJ.
19. Pacific Reef Egret:
1 at LPB.
20. Spot-billed Pelican:
6 at LPB.
21. Little Cormorant:
many at LPB & TBJ.
22. Indian Cormorant:
many at LPB.
23. Oriental Darter:
1 flying over Petkasem highway, Samut Songkram.
24. Black Baza:
1 at KLC.
25. Black-winged Kite:
1 at TBJ.
26. Brahminy Kite:
1 at TBJ.
27. Crested Serpent Eagle:
1 at KK, KM 10.
28. Crested Goshawk:
1 displaying at Km 16, KK.
29. Shikra:
1 at KLC.
30. Besra:
1 briefly seen at Km 17, KK.
31. Black Eagle:
1j at Km 16, KK.
32. Black-thighed Falconet:
6 at Km 9, KK.
33. Red-legged Crake:
2 at LSH.
34. White-breasted Waterhen:
a few at TBJ.
35. Black-winged Stilt:
many at LPB & TBJ.
36. Red-watttled Lapwing:
a few at KK, Km 9; many at TBJ.
37. Little Ringed Plover:
1 at LPB.
38. Malaysian Plover:
1m at LPB.
39. Bronze-winged Jacana:
a6 at TBJ.
40. Oriental Pratincole:
a10 at WKN.
41. Caspian Tern:
a25 at LPB.
42. Little Tern:
a20 at LPB.
43. Whiskered Tern:
1 at LPB.
44. Feral Pigeon
45. Red Collared Dove:
many at LPB & TBJ.
46. Spotted Dove:
a few every day.
47. Zebra Dove:
a few at LPB.
48. Common Emerald Dove:
a few on the road at KK every day.
49. Vernal Hanging Parrot:
a20 near LSH.
50. Greater Coucal:
a few along the road, KK.
51. Lesser Coucal:
1 near KK park gate.
52. Raffle's Malkoha:
a pair near stream 2, KK.
53. Red-billed Malkoha:
1 at Km 9; 1 at Km 18, KK.
54. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha:
4 near stream 3, KK.
55. Green-billed Malkoha:
a number of locations at KK.
56. Asian Koel:
1m at TBJ.
57. Banded Bay Cuckoo:
1 at Km 9, KK.
58. Asian Drongo Cuckoo:
2 at Km 9, KK.
59. White-fronted Scops Owl:
2 at stream 2, KK.
60. Collared Owlet:
1 at Km 28, KK.
61. Asian Barred Owlet:
1 at KLC.
62. Spotted Owlet:
2 at KLC.
63. Blyth's Frogmouth:
1 on a nest at Km 15, KK.
64. Grey-rumped Treeswift:
a couple very briefly seen at Km 9.
65. Pale-rumped Swiftlet:
many at LPB.
66. Brown-backed Needletail:
a12 at Km 12, KK.
67. Asian Palm Swift:
a few at BM.
68. Orange-breasted Trogon:
2m between streams 2 & 3, KK.
69. Red-headed Trogon:
1m at Km 28, KK.
70. Indian Roller:
a few every day near KK park gate.
71. Oriental Dollarbird:
1 at Km 9, KK.
72. Banded Kingfisher:
1f near stream 1.
73. White-throated Kingfisher:
a few near KK park gate.
74. Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher:
nesting pair at Km 17, KK.
75. Blue-bearded Bee-eater:
every day at various locations in KK.
76. Green Bee-eater:
a few at LPB & TBJ.
77. Blue-tailed Bee-eater:
many at KLC & TBJ.
78. Blue-throated Bee-eater:
6 at KLC.
79. Eurasian Hoopoe:
3 at KLC.
80. Tickell's Brown Hornbill:
a25 at Km 28, KK.
81. Oriental Pied Hornbill:
many at KK.
82. Great Hornbill:
2 at Km 10; 2 at Km 24, KK.
83. Wreathed Hornbill:
8 flying overhead at stream 2, KK.
84. Lineated Barbet:
3 at KLC.
85. Green-eared Barbet:
1 at Km 9, KK.
86. Blue-throated Barbet:
A few at Km 27 & Panoen Tung, KK.
87. Coppersmith Barbet:
A few at BM.
88. Speckled Piculet:
1 at Km 28, KK.
89. White-browed Piculet:
1 seen very briefly at Km 27.5, KK.
90. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker:
1 near stream 3, KK.
91. Greater Yellownape:
1m at Km 10; 1m at stream 2, KK.
92. Crimson-winged Woodpecker:
a pair between streams 2 & 3, KK.
93. Black-headed Woodpecker:
5 at KLC.
94. Common Flameback:
many at various points at KK.
95. Greater Flameback:
many at various points at KK.
96. Bamboo Woodpecker: a pair at Km 27.5, KK.
97. Rufous Woodpecker: 1 at KLC.
98. Buff-rumped Woodpecker:
1m at Km 27.5, KK.
99. Black-and-red Broadbill:
2 at Km 10; 1 at Km 12, KK.
100. Long-tailed Broadbill:
1 at stream 2, KK.
101. Silver-breasted Broadbill:
common in lowlands at KK.
102. Banded Broadbill:
a few at various places in lowlands at KK.
103. Black-and-yellow Broadbill:
a pair at stream 3, KK.
104. Dusky Broadbill:
a group at the nest between streams 2 & 3, KK.
105. Eared Pitta:
1f on a nest near LSH.
106. Blue Pitta:
2m near stream 1, KK.
107. Hooded Pitta:
1 near stream 3, KK.
108. Blue-winged Pitta:
many in lowlands at KK & BM.
109. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike:
3 near stream 3, KK.
110. Ashy Woodswallow:
a few in all open areas.
111. Common Iora:
young in a nest at LPB.
112. Great Iora:
2 at Km 13, KK.
113. Grey-chinned Minivet:
a small group at Km 27.5, KK.
114. Scarlet Minivet:
a few at stream 3, KK.
115. Long-tailed Shrike:
1 at TBJ.
116. Blyth's Shrike-babbler:
a pair at Panoen Tung.
117. Black-hooded Oriole:
2 at BM.
118. Black Drongo:
1 at TBJ.
119. Bronzed Drongo:
a few every day at KK.
120. Hair-crested Drongo:
a few every dat at KK; many at KLC.
121. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo:
every day at KK; a few at KLC.
122. White-throated Fantail:
1 at Panoen Tung.
123. Pied Fantail:
a few at LPB & TBJ.
124. Black-naped Monarch:
a few here and there at KK.
125. Common Green Magpie:
a few in lowlands at KK.
126. Rufous Treepie:
2 at KLC.
127. Racket-tailed Treepie:
a couple at BM.
128. Ratchet-tailed Treepie:
2 at Km 27.5, KK.
129. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher:
4 at Km 28, KK.
130. Sultan Tit:
a few in lowlands, KK.
131. Indochinese Bushlark:
a few near KK park gate.
132. Oriental Skylark:
a few at WKN.
133. Black-headed Bulbul:
a few at Km 24, KK.
134. Black-crested Bulbul:
common at KK.
135. Red-whiskered Bulbul:
1 at TBJ.
136. Sooty-headed Bulbul:
a few near KK park gate.
137. Stripe-throated Bulbul:
a few in lowlands, KK & LSH.
138. Flavescent Bulbul:
common at Panoen Tung, KK.
139. Streak-eared Bulbul:
common at BM; also LSH.
140. Ochraceous Bulbul:
common in lowlands at KK.
141. Mountain Bulbul:
a few at Panoen Tung, KK.
142. Ashy Bulbul:
a few at Km 28 & Panoen Tung, KK.
143. Yellow-bellied Warbler:
1 at Km 28, KK.
144. Zitting Cisticola:
1 at TBJ.
145. Grey-breasted Prinia:
1 near KK park gate.
146. Yellow-bellied Prinia:
1 at TBJ.
147. Plain Prinia:
a few at LPB.
148. Dark-necked Tailorbird:
a few at KK.
149. White-brwoed Scimitar Babbler:
1 at Km 27.5, KK.
150. Rufous-fronted Babbler:
a few here and here at KK.
151. Golden Babbler:
1 at Km 27.5, KK.
152. Pin-striped Tit Babbler:
common at KK.
153. Brown-cheeked Fulvetta:
a few at LSH.
154. Collared Babbler:
a few at Km 27.5, KK.
155. Abbott's Babbler:
1 at LSH.
156. Puff-throated Babbler:
2 at LSH; 2 at stream 3, KK.
157. Buff-breasted Babbler:
1 at Km 28, KK.
158. White-crested Laughingthrush:
a few at Km 28, KK.
159. Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush:
2 at KLC.
160. Black-throated Laughingthrush:
1 at Km 27.5; 3 at Panoen Tung, KK.
161. Everett's White-eye:
a few at Panoen Tung, KK.
162. Asian Fairy Bluebird:
a few near streams 2 & 3, KK.
163. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch:
2 between streams 2 & 3, KK.
164. White-vented Myna:
common in open country.
165. Common Myna:
common in open country.
166. Asian Pied Myna:
common at LPB & TBJ.
167. Oriental Magpie Robin:
a few at BM & LPB.
168. White-rumped Shama:
common at BM.
169. Large Niltava:
1j at Panoen Tung, KK.
170. Rufous-browed Flycatcher:
a few at Km 27.5, KK.
171. Hill Blue Flycatcher:
1f at Km 27.5, KK.
172. Tickell's Blue Flycatcher:
2f at LSH.
173. Northern White-crowned Forktail:
1 at Panoen Tung; 1 at Km 29, KK.
174. Blue-winged Leafbird:
a few here and there at KK.
175. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker:
at least 6 at BM.
176. Fire-breasted Flowerpecker:
1m at Km 28, KK.
177. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker:
1m at Km 9, KK.
178. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird:
a pair at Km 9, KK.
179. Olive-backed Sunbird:
1m at KLC.
180. Black-throated Sunbird:
2f at Panoen Tung, KK.
181. Crimson Sunbird:
2m at Km 16, KK.
182. Little Spiderhunter:
a few at high altitude, KK.
183. Streaked Spiderhunter:
a few at high altitude, KK.
184. House Sparrow:
1m at LPB.
185. Plain-backed Sparrow:
a few at LPB.
186. Eurasian Tree Sparrow:
common around urban areas/buildings.
187. Asian Golden Weaver:
many at TBJ.
188. Streaked Weaver:
a few at TBJ.
189. Baya Weaver:
many at TBJ.
190. White-rumped Munia:
a few at Bang Krang, KK.
191. Scaly-breasted Munia:
2 at LPB.
192. Chestnut Munia:
a few at LPB.

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More information on Kaeng Krachan
More information on Ban Maka
More information on Tung Bang Jak
More information on Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale
If you are interested in arranging a bird watching tour you can see some suggested itineraries here - Birdwatching Trips - and you can contact me at the above email address to discuss the best options.

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