by Nick Upton
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A Short Thailand Birding Trip , 29th June - 4th July 2013
  Bird Watching & Photography Trips:
If you need help organizing a bird watching or photography 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.
I have made several trips with David Scott and James Thomson-Glover and once again we got together to visit some sites that they had not before been to. We had toyed with the idea of visiting northern Thailand but the probable heavy rain put us off and instead we decided to base our trip around visiting Nam Nao, a location that all three of us enjoy. I also suggested a side trip to Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park and David wanted to visit Bueng Boraphet for Glossy Ibis; the decision to visit Mae Wong was taken on the spot when we realized that we had time for it.
We used a four-wheel drive Ford Ranger which performed excellently on highways and proved to be essential on some of the muddy dirt tracks that we drove down to our accommodation and for birding. In the wet season there is always a distinct possibility of very muddy tracks and flooded roads so our decision to use a sturdy, four-wheel drive vehicle was a good one.

At Bueng Boraphet we took a boat out onto the lake with the Khun Phanom piloting the boat. The fee for boat trips is 500 baht per hour.

Baanraithorfun Hilltop Retreat at Nam Nao - comfortable and conveniently close to Nam Nao but only accessible along a muddy track.

Iyara Lake Hotel and Resort near Uthai Thani - a huge hotel which was very comfortable but looked like something a Premier League footballer would dream up. Rather too far away from Bueng Boraphet to be convenient.
Thailand is a country in which it is hard to find bad food and all the places we stayed in and stopped at provided us with good quality meals.

Notes on Finding Birds
Throughout the trip finding birds was harder than expected. Usually many species would be feeding fledged young at this time but it seemed like unusual weather conditions earlier in the year had resulted in forest species having finished breeding early. Despite this, several species were easier to see than in the dry season and there were a few excellent birds that are not present in Thailand outside of the wet season.
Field Guides
1. A Field Guide to the Birds of South East Asia by Craig Robson
2. Birds of Thailand - Thai language field guide by various contributors
Birding Highlights

Nam Nao: Red-headed Trogon, Bar-backed Partridge, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Black-and-buff Woodpecker, Red-billed Scimitar-babbler, Collared Babbler, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Red-billed Blue Magpie

Phu Hin Rong Kla: Nepal House Martin, Dusky Crag Martin, Large Niltava, Chestnut-crowned Warbler

Bueng Boraphet: Pied Cuckoo, Spot-billed Pelican, Glossy Ibis, Oriental Darter, Streaked Weaver, Asian Golden Weaver, Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Mae Wong: Streaked Wren Babbler, Eyebrowed Wren Babbler, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Silver-eared Mesia, Clicking Shrike-babbler

Daily Account

29th June - Bangkok to Nam Nao
Having met David and James at the Oriental Mandarin Hotel, Bangkok, at 10am we drove directly to Nam Nao national park in Petchabun, stopping only briefly for some lunch. Finding our accommodation close to the national park was easy, although we were very pleased to have a four-wheel drive vehicle as reaching it required a 2.5 kilometre drive down a very muddy road.

After checking in we headed straight for the national park headquarters and after paying the 200 baht per person entry fee we took a walk around the campsite which is usually very busy with birds. However, on this occasion, with very high humidity and heavy grey skies, bird activity was less than expected. Although we were expecting a bit more activity, many of the usual suspects from the camp site were in evidence; we had nice close-up views of several groups of White-crested Laughingthrush, Red-billed Blue Magpie both with their attendant Green Magpies and a male Red-headed Trogon. Grey Treepie was nice as were views of both Lesser and Greater Yellownapes although a calling White-bellied Woodpecker remained frustratingly out of view. However, when the clouds became heavier and rain seemed imminent we decided to go back to our accommodation for a 6 o'clock beer!

30th June - Nam Nao
After breakfast we were allowed back into the HQ area using the previous day's entry tickets where we spent the first hour or so walking on the forested loop trail just behind the headquarters buildings. As we walked down the trail from the car park we were a little surprised to see a pair of Bar-backed Partridges. This species is regular here, in fact it is one of the best places to see this bird, but to see it so close to the car park was unusual.

Further along the trail things were a bit quiet again, perhaps due to the high humidity and low cloud that birds typically do not enjoy. A small group of Collared Babblers were the highlight along with a pair of Red-headed Trogons but a calling Banded Kingfisher refused to show itself and the expected Red-billed Scimitar-babbler was nowhere to be seen. Commoner birds were active with Ashy Bulbul, Black-crested Bulbul, Green-billed Malkoha, Striped Tit Babbler and Moustached Barbet all seen but with things being much quiet than hoped for we decided to head into the pine forest and walk along the Dong Paek trail.

As soon as we arrived we heard a Chinese Francolin which we quickly spotted in a pine tree, getting fabulous views of the male through the telescope. When seen clearly this bird is very beautiful with intricate markings and vibrant colours making this sighting a real highlight.

There was a flurry of activity at the start of this trail with a group of Small Minivets, a Large Cuckooshrike and a Golden-fronted Leafbird but as we walked along things, again, were pretty quiet although we did see a few of the species which are specialists of this habitat - Brown Prinia, Indochinese Cuckooshrike and Rufescent Prinia.

We all enjoyed walking through this open habitat on what turned out to be a bright, sunny day and our patience paid off eventually as we entered a more moist area of forest where we found some excellent species including Long-tailed Broadbill, Black-and-buff Woodpecker and a group of four Great Slaty Woodpeckers which responded to call playback.
Pine Forest along Dong Paek Trail
(Photo by Nick Upton)
At the end of a four kilometre stroll we were all ready for lunch and turned around for the return journey which turned out to be a very hot walk. We managed to call in a Black-hooded Oriole for a decent 'scope view and a juvenile Blossom-headed Parakeet obligingly landed in a nearby tree after flying around us a few times.

After lunch at the headquarters we took a drive along the dirt road to Phu Goom Khao. Here is where we were happy to have a sturdy vehicle with four-wheel drive as at some points the road was very muddy and slippery. The 13 kilometre drive through open pine forest was very nice but in the heat of the day the birding was pretty slow and biting horseflies were quite uncomfortable. Although we hung around until late afternoon and tried various points for birding, it was a bit of a struggle to find birds. We did locate a few small flocks which contained Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Small Minivet and Common Iora but we had expected to see several species of woodpecker which were completely absent. I spotted a very distant White-rumped Falcon but this flew away before others could see it but a juvenile Mountain Hawk Eagle was more obliging and a little unexpected at this location at this time of the year. Oriental Dollarbird and distant Crested Treeswifts were other additions but having enjoyed some lovely forest, if rather slow birding, we headed back to our accommodation for a great view over the adjacent valley and House Swifts.

1st July - Phu Hin Rong Kla - Nam Nao
We decided on a change of habitat and location by heading to Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park; the journey took just around an hour from our accommodation. Heading up the road from Lomsak to the national park we stopped several times to take in the spectacular views and to look for Nepal House Martin, this being the only known breeding location for this species in Thailand.
Swirling cloud made spotting birds in flight a bit tricky but we did find Striated Swallow and a group of Dusky Crag Martins, but no House Martins! We decided that we would have another look for these birds on our way out later on.

Once in the national park we birded the stretch of road to the air force radar station which took us through some lovely high altitude forest where we enjoyed some birds that we would usually see in northern Thailand; Large Niltava, Blue-winged Minla, Dark-backed Sibia, Mountain Bulbul and Golden-throated Barbet. We enjoyed the cool temperature here and the abundance of Blue-winged Minlas but decided to move on and find another birding spot.

A long road runs through the forest but opportunities for stopping are few, particularly when thick fog reduces visibility to just a few metres. However, we found a straight stretch of road with no fog and stopped there.
Road to Phu Hin Rong Kla
(Photo by Nick Upton)
At this stop we ran into another flock of nice, northern species including lots more Blue-winged Minlas along with Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Golden Babbler and Grey-chinned Minivet. Perhaps the bird we enjoyed most at this stop was a Chestnut-crowned Warbler that came in to call playback - a very beautiful and under-rated species. With the fog closing in we moved on to the park HQ to have lunch.

The food served in the national park restaurant was very good and afterwards we decided to head back to the radar road. There was still a fair bit of bird activity even in the mid afternoon and we saw most of the species that we had seen earlier but also added Oriental White-eye, Rufous-winged Fulvetta and Davison's leaf Warbler to our list. With the clouds building it seemed like rain was likely so we decided to head back downhill and look for Nepal House Martin on our way back to Nam Nao.

Once again the views along the road were fantastic and as we rounded a bend I spotted a number of Martins in flight. We stopped and immediately identified them as Nepal House Martin due to their black throats, black undertail and tails without forks. We were able to get excellent views of a group of about 50 of these birds as they fed on insects that were moving in front of a rain shower which soon engulfed us. I was particularly happy to find this bird as although I had seen them before, in Nepal, this was a new bird for my Thai list!

This excitement made for a good end to our brief visit to this seldom-visited national park and we got back to Nam Nao in time to have a quick look along the Dong Paek trail where we saw a pair of Blossom-headed Parakeets, an Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Brown Prinia and several Rufescent Prinias before the rain caught up with us and made us retreat to our accommodation for dinner.
The Sites Visited
  The four sites visited on this short trip all contained different habitats and distinct avifaunas, allowing us to see a wide variety of species in a fairly short space of time.

Nam Nao National Park is a six hour drive from Bangkok with good roads all the way and Phu Hin Rong Kla took just one hour to reach from Nam Nao.

The drive from Nam Nao to Bueng Boraphet took three to four hours and then continuing on to Mae Wong took another two hours; this left us with a three hour journey back to Bangkok.

All three of the national parks as well as Bueng Boraphet Non-hunting area are signposted in English from main highways, making them easy to find.
2nd July - Nam Nao & Bueng Boraphet
For our last morning at Nam Nao we decided to go back to the HQ area where we found the campsite quiet again although we did get great views of a Northern White-crowned Forktail that seemed oblivious to our presence as it foraged on the ground. However, just a couple of Hill Mynas were the only other birds seen so we headed along the river trail to see if we could find one of this locations specialities - Red-billed Scimitar-babbler.

The habitat along the river trail is very different to the pine forests that are such a feature of Nam Nao. The forest along the river is much wetter and has a lot of bamboo within it. We walked along the trail for about 1.5 kilometres but once again bird activity was low. We did come across a party of Collared Babblers and I played their call to try and lure them in, hoping that a Scimitar-babbler might join them. The Babblers came in immediately and a few minutes later we spotted a single Red-billed Scimitar-babbler climbing up a tree trunk. Another bird which gave us a nice reaction to call playback was White-bellied Erpornis but keeping an eye on the time we decided it was time to leave Nam Nao and start our journey to Bueng Boraphet where we were hoping to investigate an area on the north side of the lake.
The journey to Bueng Boraphet took only 3 hours and we found our way into an old experimental area on the north side of the lake where we were able to drive around dirt tracks and bird from the car, which was excellent considering the heat outside. Birds that we saw on our drive in included some beautiful Pheasant-tailed Jacanas in breeding plumage, Black-shouldered Kite and Chestnut-tailed Starling. A quick walk around revealed Baya Weaver, Striated Grassbird and Blue-tailed Bee-eater as well as buckets of sweat, so we decided to jump back inside the air-conditioned car and bird from the vehicle for a bit longer.

The "experimental" rice fields gave us great views of both Asian Golden Weaver and Streaked Weaver as well as Yellow Bittern perched in the reeds and a flight view of Cinnamon Bittern but hoping for Savanna Nightjar we braved the heat for another short walk. We walked around an area that I had frequently seen the nightjar in with no luck but then flushed a black and white bird from some Typha which had me confused. Both David and I looked at each other and said "Pied Cuckoo" a real rarity in Thailand. Fortunately I had the call of this species and had played it just twice when the Pied Cuckoo came blasting out of its hiding place, calling as it flew around, giving us great views. Getting closer to it in a perched tree I also managed to get some record shots of this bird - something that I had not expected to see, even though it has been recorded as a breeding bird from this location.

With this excitement it was time for some more birding from the vehicle before heading out to our accommodation. On the way we found a female Greater Painted Snipe and a flock of Chestnut-tailed Starlings bathing.

3rd July - Mae Wong
David and James had never visited Mae Wong National Park before and although the lengthy journey would mean that we could not spend the best birding hours of the day there, they decided that they would like to see the place anyway. The journey took a couple of hours and when we arrived at Chong Yen campsite there was a strong breeze and cool weather which was nice but not great for birding. We walked down the trail from the campsite to get out of the wind but still struggled to find birds, although we did come across a nice flock that contained Silver-eared Mesia, Rufous-backed Sibia and Clicking Shrike-babbler, all very beautiful species. We also tried our luck along the road but once more things were really quite due to the windy weather conditions. Silver-eared Mesias were very obvious in a couple of spots and we got nice views of Mountain Bulbul but after struggling for some time we went for lunch at HQ.

After lunch we returned to Chong Yen and again saw little although a little downhill we came across a spot where 2 Eyebrowed Wren Babblers were causing a commotion and gave us point-blank views. From the same spot David noticed something else and it turned out to be a pair of Streaked Wren Babblers; usually Wren Babblers are hard to see, so to find 2 species in quick succession was a treat. A third species joined the show - a Rufous-browed Flycatcher - a bird we had tried hard to see in the morning and failed. With this success, on an otherwise quiet day, we decided to start our journey back to our hotel.
  Bird Watching & Photography Trips In Thailand:
The early wet season is a good time to see some species that are hard to find
at other times of the year, as well as a good time to see breeding birds. However, all of these locations are perhaps even better in the dry season.

Contact me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the best birdwatching options for you:
Some More Trip Reports
4th July - Bueng Boraphet
On our last day together we opted to visit Bueng Boraphet again, heading to the Waterbird Park so that we could take a boat trip. Khun Phanom took us out but the water levels were exceptionally low and the habitat was not very good for birding - either thick vegetation or open water. We did see a few Pheasant-tailed Jacanas in their finery and several Oriental Darters - a bird that is getting progressively more common - with the highlight being a few Spot-billed Pelicans. Phanom got us quite close to some nesting Oriental Pratincoles but we decided to cut the ride short and let Phanom show us a colony of nesting waterbirds.

An intricate drive through rice fields took us past many colonies of all three species of Thailand's weavers before we finally arrived at a small area of trees and thick undergrowth in the middle of the rice fields - this is where a colony of Little Egrets, Great Egrets, Eastern Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons and Glossy Ibis exist. It was the Glossy Ibis that we were after and it was great to finish with several nesting pairs of this bird which only colonized Thailand in the late 2000s and was up to 80+ pairs by 2013.

With this it was time for us to make the 3 hour drive back to Bangkok and part company after a very enjoyable trip.
Nick Upton (
 Species list with notes
The names and taxonomic order used here are those from the official Thai bird checklist issued by the Thai records committee.
Nam Nao : NN
Phu Hin Rong Kla: PHRK
Bueng Boraphet : BB
Mae Wong: MW

1. Chinese Francolin: 1m at NN.
2. Bar-backed Partridge: 2 at NN.
3. Lesser Whistling Duck: A few at BB.
4. Cotton Pygmy Goose: A few at BB.
5. Little Grebe: A few at BB.
6. Asian Openbill: Many at BB.
7. Glossy Ibis: A few nesting pairs at BB.
8. Yellow Bittern: A few at BB.
9. Cinnamon Bittern: 2 at BB.
10. Black Bittern: 1 at BB.
11. Black-crowned Night Heron: Several nesting pairs at BB.
12. Chinese Pond Heron: Several at BB.
13. Eastern Cattle Egret: BB.
14. Purple Heron: Seceral at BB.
15. Eastern Great Egret: Several at BB.
16. Little Egret: many at BB.
17. Spot-billed Pelican: 6 at BB.
18. Little Cormorant: Many at BB.
19. Indian Cormorant: A few at BB.
20. Oriental Darter: 6-7 at BB.
21. Black-shouldered Kite: 2 at BB.
22. Rufous-winged Buzzard: 1 at NN; 1 at PHRK.
23. Mountain Hawk Eagle: 1j at NN.
24. White-rumped Falcon:1 at NN.
25. White-breasted Waterhen: A few at BB.
26. Purple Swamphen: 1 at BB.
27. Black-winged Stilt: Several at BB.
28. Red-wattled Lapwing: Several at BB.
29. Greater Painted Snipe: 1f & 1m at BB.
30. Pheasant-tailed Jacana: Many at BB.
31. Oriental Pratincole: Several at BB.
32. Whiskered Tern: 1 at BB.
33. Feral Pigeon: Lots at BB.
34. Red Collared Dove: BB.
35. Spotted Dove: Lots at BB.
36. Zebra Dove: Lots at BB.
37. Mountain Imperial Pigeon: 1 at NN.
38. Blossom-headed Parakeet: 3 at NN.
39. Greater Coucal: A few at BB.
40. Green-billed Malkoha: 1 at NN.
41. Pied Cuckoo: 1m at BB.
42. Crested Treeswift: Several seen at some distance at NN.
43. Asian Palm Swift: Everywhere.
44. House Swift: A few at NN.
45. Red-headed Trogon: 3 at NN.
46. Indian Roller: A few at NN & BB.
47. Oriental Dollarbird: A few at NN.
48. White-throated Kingfisher: A few at BB.
49. Pied Kingfisher: 2 at BB.
50. Blue-bearded Bee-eater: 1 at NN.
51. Green Bee-eater: A few at BB.
52. Blue-tailed Bee-eater: Many at BB.
53. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater: A few at NN.
54. Great Barbet: 1 at NN.
55. Lineated Barbet: A few at NN.
56. Golden-throated Barbet: 1 at PHRK; 1 at MW.
57. Blue-throated Barbet: 1 at MW.
58. Moustached Barbet: 1 at NN.
59. Coppersmith Barbet: A few at NN & BB.
60. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker: Several at NN.
61. Stripe-breasted Woodpecker: 1m at MW.
62. Greater Yellownape: 2 at NN.
63. Lesser Yellownape: 1 at NN.
64. Black-and-buff Woodpecker: 2 at NN.
65. Great Slaty Woodpecker: 4 at NN.
66. Long-tailed Broadbill: 2 at NN; 2 at MW.
67. Large Woodshrike: A few at NN; 1 at MW.
68. Ashy Woodswallow: Many at NN & BB.
69. Common Iora: Many at NN.
70. Large Cuckooshrike: A few at NN.
71. Indochinese Cuckooshrike: 3 at NN.
72. Small Minivet: Several groups at NN.
73. Grey-chinned Minivet: A pair at PHRK.
74. Scarlet Minivet: A few at NN.
75. Long-tailed Shrike: A few at BB.
76. White-bellied Erpornis: A pair at NN.
77. Clicking Shrike-babbler: 1m at MW.
78. Black-hooded Oriole: A few at NN.
79. Black Drongo: A few at BB .
80. Ashy Drongo: 1 at NN.
81. Bronzed Drongo: A few at NN & MW.

82. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo: 1 at NN.
83. Hair-crested Drongo: Several at NN.
84. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo: Several at NN.
85. Pied Fantail: Several at BB.
86. Black-naped Monarch: A few at NN.
87. Eurasian Jay: Many at NN.
88. Red-billed Blue Magpie: Several flocks at NN.
89. Common Green Magpie: A few at NN.
90. Grey Treepie: 1 at NN; 1 at MW.
91. Eastern Jungle Crow: A few at BB.
92. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher: 1 at NN.
93. Yellow-cheeked Tit: 1 at PHRK.
94. Black-crested Bulbul: Common at NN, PHRK & MW.
95. Yellow-bellied Prinia: 1 at TBJ.
96. Sooty-headed Bulbul: Common at NN.
97. Flavescent Bulbul: Common at PHRK & MW.
98. Yellow-vented Bulbul: A few at BB.
99. Streak-eared Bulbul: A few at BB.
100. Mountain Bulbul: Several at PHRK & MW.
101. Ashy Bulbul: A few at NN & PHRK.
102. Black Bulbul: A few at NN.
103. Barn Swallow: A few at PHRK; many at BB.
104. Dusky Crag Martin: About 30 on Lomsak-PHRK mountain road.
105. Nepal House Martin: About 50 on Lomsak-PHRK mountain road.
106. Striated Swallow: A few on Lomsak-PHRK mountain road.
107. Mountain Tailorbird: A few at PHRK.
108. Davison's Leaf Warbler: 2 at PHRK.
109. Chestnut-crowned Warbler: 1 at PHRK.
110. Striated Grassbird: A few at BB.
111. Zitting Cisticola: A few at BB.
112. Brown Prinia: A few at NN.
113. Hill Prinia: 1 at PHRK.
114. Rufescent Prinia: Common at NN.
115. Plain Prinia: A few at BB.
116. Dark-necked Tailorbird: 1 at NN.
117. White-browed Scimitar-babbler: 1 at PHRK.
118. Red-billed Scimitar-babbler: 1 at NN.
119. Coral-billed Scimitar-babbler: 1 very briefly seen at MW.
120. Golden Babbler: 2 at PHRK.
121. Pin-striped Tit Babbler: A few at NN.
122. Rufous-winged Fulvetta: A few at PHRK.
123. Grey-cheeked Fulvetta: A few at PHRK.
124. Streaked Wren Babbler: 2 at MW.
125. Eyebrowed Wren Babbler: 2 at MW.
126. Collared Babbler: Several flocks at NN.
127. Puff-throated Babbler: 2 at NN.
128. White-crested Laughingthrush: Fairly common at NN.
129. Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush: 1 at NN.
130. Blue-winged Minla: Very common at PHRK.
131. Silver-eared Mesia: Several at MW.
132. Rufous-backed Sibia: 2 at MW.
133. Dark-backed Sibia: Fairly common at PHRK.
134. Oriental White-eye: A few at PHRK.
135. Asian Fairy Bluebird: 3 at MW.
136. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch: Common at NN.
137. Golden-crested Myna: 1m at NN.
138. Common Hill Myna: A few at NN.
139. White-vented Myna: Common at BB.
140. Common Myna: Common at BB.
141. Asian Pied Myna: Common at BB.
142. Orange-headed Thrush: 1m at NN.
143. Oriental Magpie-robin: Common at BB.
144. White-rumped Shama: A few at NN.
145. Large Niltava: A few at PHRK.
146. Rufous-browed Flycatcher: 1 at MW.
147. Northern White-crowned Forktail: 1 at NN.
148. Pied Bushcaht: 1m on Lomsak-PHRK mountain road.
149. Blue-winged Leafbird: A few at NN.
150. Golden-fronted Leafbird: 1m at NN.
151. Orange-bellied Leafbird: 1f at NN.
152. House Sparrow: Many at BB.
153. Eurasian Tree Sparrow: Many at BB.
154. Asian Golden Weaver: Several colonies at BB.
155. Streaked Weaver: A few colonies at BB.
156. Baya Weaver: Common at BB.
157. White-rumped Munia: A few at NN.
158. Scaly-breasted Munia: Common at BB.
Nick Upton can be contacted at
More information on Nam Nao
More information on Mae Wong
More information on Beung Boraphet
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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