Back in Bangkok again, this time I was obtaining a visa for Vietnam.
For me the city is not too pleasant and I escaped to Had Chao Samran
(Laem Pak Bia) in the
Gulf of Thailand and then to Kanchanaburi (Hellfire
Pass). My travels were, as usual, by public transport and on
a moderate budget. I write trip reports for Thaibirding.com
not because I am a super twitcher but because this site is so helpful
for independent travellers as myself.
1: Laem Pak Bia
Getting away from Bangkok, I caught a bus from the new southern
bus terminal (my Lonely Planet book is out of date and it has moved
a few kilometres along the road) to Petchaburi. Here a motorcycle
took me a short distance across town to meet a songthaew departing
for Had Chao Samran (HCS).
HCS on a Saturday afternoon, there were quite a few people at the
seaside. You rarely see foreigners here, most visitors are Thai.
Along the beach road I could find several nice mini-resorts but
no cheap accommodation. After lunch, a local took me on his motorbike
to a place called Petch Ploy which is about halfway to the beach.
Without charm but tidy enough it was still not great value at 800
baht per night, I believe rates go up on weekends. Well, I did manage
to borrow a bicycle for the weekend.
The next morning
was productive when I cycled to Laem Pak Bia (LPB) and spent a couple
of hours searching the salt pans. It's very pleasant to be out in
the early morning when the light is soft and with a cool breeze
from the north. A highlight, one of the deeper ponds hosted 29 Painted
Storks feeding and 3 loafing Spot-billed Pelicans. Do not overlook
the roadside drains where Long-toed Stint, Temminck's Stint, Wood
Sandpiper and others regularly feed and allow close approach.
I visited the
Environmental Research Project (ERP) a bit late in the morning around
1000h when the day was warm to hot and the sunlight harsh. Despite
the conditions, Passerines were fairly active and there were many
other birds hanging around the ponds. The gates open at 0800h which
is rather late in the morning for birds.
The second morning
was spent reviewing some shorebird identifications and I spotted
a few birds not seen on previous outings. I left before lunch and
caught a songthaew back to Petchaburi. From HCS the songthaews turn
around at the Seven-Eleven and approximately 100 m out of town there
is a convenient bus shelter/stop.
I left HCS without
visiting the sand spit at LPB and Pak Thale further north, I was
getting enough birds without having to do the “full Monty”.
For bird watchers who want to relax a little and enjoy the environment
I recommend spending a couple of days in the area. I was happy enough
without a scope but it would have been be useful on the saltpans
for observing small Calidrids and on the ponds at the ERP,
I would say essential if you're looking for Spoon-billed Sandpipers.
Bird list and
some notes from Laem Pak Bia and Had Chao Samran:
White-throated Kingfisher - Seen
Black-capped Kingfisher - Common
Collared Kingfisher - Most
Little Green Bee-eater
Barn Owl - At night by the
road in HCS.
Black-tailed Godwit- A flock
of 27 counted.
Common Redshank - A few around.
Marsh Sandpiper - Numerous
Green Sandpiper - One seen
Wood Sandpiper - Numerous
Common Sandpiper - A few
Red-necked Stint - A few
small flocks of minute calidrids.
Temminck's Stint - Can be
viewed at close range in roadside drains.
Long-toed Stint - A few around.
Broad-billed Sandpiper - Only
Ruff - Seen once.
Black-winged Stilt - Common
Pacific Golden-Plover - Not
in high numbers.
Little Ringed Plover - Common
in small flocks.
Kentish Plover - Did not
see Malaysian Plover. (Note from Nick
Upton: Malaysian Plover is to be found on the sand spit)
Lesser Sand Plover - Uncommon.
(Note from Nick Upton: Surprising, Lesser
Sand Plover isusually just about the commonest wader here)
Common Tern - At least one.
White-winged Tern - Apparently
most terns were this species, non-br visitors. (Note
by Nick Upton: Usually Whiskered Terns far outnumber the White-winged,
but at this time of year there would be a lot of both species)
Peregrine Falcon - Looking
for a meal at dusk, probably this species.
Little Cormorant - Hundreds
roost in mangroves at Had Chao Samran creek.
Indian Cormorant - One seen
Pacific Reef-Egret - On the
rock walls along the beach at dusk.
Javan Pond-Heron - Almost
impossible to identify non-br Chinese Pond-Heron.
(Note by Nick Upton: Impossible to searate these two in non-breeding
plumage contrary to what is indicated in Robson.
Both species are common)
Spot-billed Pelican - 3 seen.
Painted Stork - Counted 29.
Asian Pied Starling
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Paddyfield Pipit - Common
The above list
follows Sibley and Monroe's taxonomy, my copy of Robson's
Birds of South East Asia field guide was falling to pieces and
finally discarded after my Vietnam trip, now replaced by the more
2: Hellfire Pass
I did consider visiting Kaeng
Krachan National Park after Had Chao Samran. It's not far from
Petchaburi but public transport seems difficult and accommodation
choices limited. So I caught a bus back to Bangkok, a second to
Kanchanaburi and arrived late in the afternoon. Kanchanburi is a
second-rate tourist town, pleasant enough but not adventurous. It
has one tourist strip with restaurants, bars, beer girls and a reggae-themed
joint that seems to play only Bob Marley. Accommodation rates on
the riverside are somewhat inflated. Amongst the tourist traps I
did find a friendly local restaurant that served fresh and simple,
Back to birding,
I caught the first bus at about 0600h towards Sangklaburi. Number
8203 is a country bus with a wooden floor and it stops everywhere,
accumulating an interesting crowd of ethnic minority people. We
passed through a police/military checkpoint but I was not asked
to produce identification, all the locals travel with ID. I arrived
at Hellfire Pass by
0745h and unlucky for me there was an early tour bus.
There were not
many birds about during my visit to Hellfire Pass and I didn't search
widely for the Limestone Wren Babbler. Never mind, the history is
interesting and it was a good walk to the end of the 4.5 km maintained
section. Thankfully, I encountered few mosquitoes. Outside the gate
there's a local restaurant or two by the roadside. After lunch,
I did not have to wait long for a bus, perhaps half an hour.
Bird list from
Once again the
above list follows Sibley and Monroe's taxonomy.