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Southern Thailand, 5th - 16th April 2016
 
  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.
Introduction
When John Plampin contacted me about a birding trip to Southern Thailand in April 2016 we began to discuss which birds to target and which locations he wanted to visit; having been to Bala with me in the past we decided to visit different locations and to target some specialities of other sites even though Bala is the best birding site in the south. Unfortunately, due to the poor health of John's traveling companion, Patrick, he was not able to accompany me for the whole trip. However, I continued alone, following the same itinerary as we had decided upon, hoping to find some of the birds that I had never before seen in Thailand, with some success.
Transport
I used a 4-door Toyota Vigo which had lots of storage space in the covered back section and was very stable at high speeds on rough roads as well as being able to handle dirt tracks and muddy areas. Fuel efficiency was very good in this vehicle although it was made more complicated than necessary with rather too many buttons and gadgets.

Accommodation
Kuraburi Greenview Resort at Sri Phang Nga - a pleasant hotel set in attractive grounds. Quite a walk to the restaurant from some rooms.

Phang Nga Bay Resort Hotel at Phang Nga Bay National Park - a decent hotel that has seen better days but has spectacular views over the national park. Perfectly acceptable with breakfast included, very convenient for birding the mangroves.

Krabi Maritime Park & Spa - Excellent hotel, just outside Krabi town, with great views and breakfast buffet.
 
Suk's House - Suk has 4 air-conditioned rooms on the entry road to Krung Ching Waterfall. Her home-cooked food is delicious and she will prepare an early breakfast and packed lunch for birders going into the forest.

Sinkiat Buri Hotel in Satun - A very clean and comfortable hotel convenient for the nearby mangroves, not too far a drive from Thalebun NP but a long drive from Wang Tai Nan Waterfall.

Food
As is usual in Thailand good food was easily found everywhere we went. Food in hotel restaurants can often be rather bland and this was the case on this trip but eating local food was always good and a special mention goes to Suk's home cooking which was excellent, by far the best food of the trip. In Satun I bought food in the market which was a short walk from the hotel, as usual this was very good too, although some dishes were very spicy.

Notes on Finding Birds
As usual in Southern Thailand forest birding was very difficult with all species being difficult to observe. However, this year has been the driest in Thailand for over 50 years and this coupled with temperatures of 36-40C every day meant that there was no real period of morning activity and that birding was exceptionally tough in all forests, making sightings even more special than normal. Only in mangrove forests was birding quite rewarding and easy with most target species easy to find in the morning and late afternoons.
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
3. A Guide to the Large Mammals of Thailand by John Parr
Birding Highlights

Laem Pakarang: Grey-tailed Tattler, Terek Sandpiper, Greater Sand Plover, Lesser Sand Plover
Sri Phang Nga: Malayan Banded Pitta, Chestnut-naped Forktail, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Scaly-breasted Bulbul, Grey-bellied Bulbul, White-throated Rockthrush, Wallace's Hawk Eagle, Great Hornbill, Whiskered Treeswift
Phang Nga Bay National Park: Mangrove Pitta, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, White-chested Babbler, Black-and-red Broadbill, Brown-winged Kingfisher, Streak-breasted Woodpecker
Bang Phut Mangroves: Copper-throated Sunbird, Mangrove Whistler, Brown-winged Kingfisher
Krung Ching Waterfall: Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Green Broadbill, Dusky Broadbill, Banded Broadbill, Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Southern White-crowned Forktail, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Banded Kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Sooty Barbet, Maroon Woodpecker, Grey-and-buff Woodpecker, Red-legged Crake, Scaly Thrush, Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo
Laem Thalamphuk: Pied Triller, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Mangrove Whistler, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Tiger Shrike
Wang Tai Nan Waterfall: Diard's Trogon, Green Broadbill, Malayan Banded Pitta, Hooded Pitta, Chestnut-naped Forktail, White-crowned Hornbill, Bushy-crested Hornbill, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, White-chested Babbler, Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker, Buff-necked Woodpecker, Olive-backed Woodpecker, Buff-rumped Woodpecker
Satun Mangroves: Mangrove Pitta, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Ruddy Kingfisher, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Cinereous Tit, Copper-throated Sunbird
Thalebun National Park: Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Rufous Woodpecker, Hooded Pitta, Blue-winged Pitta, Malayan Banded Pitta, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Sooty Barbet, Black-capped Babbler, Tiger Shrike
Trang Botanical Gardens: Red-crowned Barbet, Blue-winged Pitta, Banded Woodpecker

Daily Account

5th April - Bangkok to Sri Phang Nga
Leaving Bangkok at around 5am I drove to Sri Phang Nga National Park, making a small detour to Laem Pakarang to photograph shorebirds. Arriving at around 3pm I spent several hours sitting at the waterside allowing feeding waders to approach me so that I could get some photos. Quite spectacular were both Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers in breeding plumage; although these are common birds in Thailand their transformation from fairly dull winter plumage to full breeding colours is wonderful and I was very pleased to get photos of both species as they came very close. Large numbers of Terek Sandpipers were also present and I found a single Grey-tailed Tattler as well as a close-up encounter with a male Malaysian Plover. Other species enjoyed in lovely late afternoon sunlight included Javan & Chinese Pond Herons in breeding plumage, Pacific Reef Egret, Whimbrel, 1 Ruff, 1 Eurasian Curlew, Grey Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Red-necked Stint, Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone.

6th April - Sri Phang Nga National Park
Breakfast in the campsite/HQ area of Sri Phang Nga national park while waiting to see what turned up in this open area. With the park staff not allowing visitors through the gate to the trails until 8am birding around the campsite is the only option until that time. Although activity was low, a fruiting tree nest to the HQ buildings drew birds in throughout the day and several sessions underneath this one tree gave us the only Scaly-breasted and Grey-bellied Bulbuls of the trip; both fairly scarce species and among the most attractive of the bulbuls. Other birds seen in this fruiting tree included Blue-eared & Coppersmith Barbets, Red-eyed Bulbul, Black-crested Bulbul, Black-headed Bulbul, Grey-eyed Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Arctic Warbler, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Brown-throated Sunbird, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Grey-bellied Spiderhunter and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker. A quick walk around the accommodation blocks resulted in 2 Forest Wagtails and a fine White-throated Rockthrush.

Our main targets at Sri Phang Nga were Malayan Banded Pitta and Chestnut-naped Forktail so as soon as we were allowed through the gate we drove the short distance to the start of the trail. From the parking area we walked along the small forest trail which begins to the immediate left of the toilet block, walking a distance of 3-400 metres, crossing the stream four times, to a spot which has become a regular stakeout for Malayan Banded Pitta and, indeed, a group of photographers were already waiting there with the Pitta sitting, preening in the undergrowth. Shortly after an Abbott's Babbler appeared on a log in front of us to feed on mealworms but it was quickly displaced by the male Malayan Banded Pitta, giving us incredible views of this stunning bird - probably the most beautiful of the Pitta species occurring in Thailand.

With this success we then moved back down the trail to another hotspot, this time for Chestnut-naped Forktail. Again, this species arrived on cue and gave us incredibly good and prolonged views of this attractive and usually very shy bird. After this birding in the forest became very hard indeed with brief views of Plain Sunbird, a Crow-billed Drongo, a party of Chestnut-winged Babblers and a family group of 3 Raffles's Malkohas the main sightings over the next few hours. Indeed, things became rather disappointing with very little activity, only Spectacled Bulbul and Silver-rumped Needletail being added to the list of sightings before lunch.

After lunch a visit to a different ranger station revealed some good habitat but few birds. A pair of Pacific Swallows sat nicely on a wier and a Hairy-backed Bulbul made a brief appearance but little else apart from an Osprey over a small reservoir among palm oil plantations on the way back to the main entrance to the national park where an afternoon session produced very little.
 
Malayan Banded Pitta
(Photo by Nick Upton)
7th April - Sri Phang Nga National Park & Phang Nga Mangroves
A repeat of breakfast at Sri Phang Nga national park campsite where this time I spotted a Wallace's Hawk Eagle perched on a high tree. This species is frequently seen in this area and through the 'scope it was a great view. A calling Gold-whiskered Barbet was a nice sighting too but a walk along the waterfall trail produced almost nothing, just a couple of Streaked Bulbuls and a perched Whiskered Treeswift. The incredibly low levels of activity were hard to explain particularly as at this time of the year birds are breeding and are usually vocal. There was a flypast of a Blue-banded Kingfisher as well as a brief view of one perched but as the birding was so unrewarding I decided to move on to Phang Nga mangroves to look for some specialities there.

On the way towards Phang Nga Bay I made a quick stop on a bridge over a river on highway 4090 to Kapong where River Lapwing is a resident species. Within seconds I spotted 5 birds and a little more searching turned up Grey Plover, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper while a Brahminy Kite soaring close to the bridge was very obvious.

Continuing to Phang Nga a late afternoon session around Phang Nga Bay National Park HQ was rewarding with the main target species, Mangrove Pitta, found without much trouble at all. The mature mangroves in this area make it quite easy to see into the vegetation and spot calling Pittas. Other good sightings included a pair of Black-and-red Broadbills, 2 Chestnut-bellied Malkohas, a female Streak-breasted Woodpecker, Ashy Tailorbird, a Blue Rockthrush of the resident subspecies madoci, a superb Brown-winged Kingfisher as well as Asian Glossy Starling and Rufous-bellied Swallow at the hotel.
8th April - Phang Nga Mangroves & Krabi
With the hotel right among the mangroves a short session in the same place as the previous afternoon seemed sensible. Parking in the national park HQ two pairs of Black-and-red Broadbills showed themselves along with a couple of Black-naped Orioles and a pair of Olive-winged Bulbuls. A little walk along the road turned up an adult White-chested Babbler feeding two noisy young. The young birds were quite strange, stretching their necks up vertically when begging for food, distorting their shape quite dramatically. After this I wanted to check out the mangroves at Ban Bang Phut a short drive away, where there is a walkway through the mangroves. A walk here became rather hot but was quite productive with a pair of Copper-throated Sunbirds, several Mangrove Whistlers, Golden-bellied Gerygones, a Common Iora, 1 Brown-winged Kingfisher and some Oriental White-eyes. Collared Kingfisher was also common here although not seen at Phang Nga national park HQ.

On the drive out of this area I scanned the wires for Jungle Myna, finding one about halfway back to the main road.
 
Black-and-red Broadbill
(Photo by Nick Upton)
After this it was an hour and a half to Krabi and a night at the Maritime Resort. This was an unplanned stop so I decided to check out a few spots around Krabi that I had not visited for some time - Ban Nai Chong Forest Fragment and Hat Nopparat Thara.

Although the forest at Ban Nai Chong is a shadow of its former self there seems to be enough habitat for a few decent and, indeed, a few years ago I had seen Black-throated Babbler, Banded Kingfisher, Black-and-yellow Broadbill, White-bellied Munia and Streaked Wren Babbler there. However, on this occasion things were extremely quiet with just a few Pin-striped Tit Babblers, an Amur Paradise-flycatcher, a couple of Olive-winged Bulbuls, Black-headed Bulbul and 2 Red-throated Barbets.

Moving on to Hat Nopparat Thara I was hoping for Pale-capped Pigeon, a rare bird that I had seen at this spot twice, in April, in previous years. However, in the past some offshore islands were only accessible at very low tides but now a permanent causeway has been built out of dredged sand, increasing the amount of human disturbance and no pigeons showed themselves, despite waiting until gone 6pm. The only birds seen were 1 Pacific Reef Egret, a distant White-bellied Sea Eagle, several Greater Sand Plovers, Collared Kingfishers, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Blue Rockthrush and a few Brahminy Kites.
  9th April - Ban Nai Chong & Krung Ching
After a nice breakfast it seemed like Ban Nai Chong would be worth checking out again despite it being very quiet yesterday. Unfortunately it did not turn out to be any different with only brief sightings of a few common species and a Siberian Blue Robin as well as a Raffle's Malkoha. The extremely hot weather would seem to play a role in the total lack of activity here but the habitat fragment is surely too small to support populations of most species now.

The drive from Krabi to Krung Ching took four hours and after checking in at my accommodation I went straight into the HQ area. Even in the heat at around 3pm there were 3 Sooty Barbets, a male Greater Green Leafbird, several Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers and a male Ruby-cheeked Sunbird feeding on flowering trees in the campsite. However, I had decided to look for harder-to-see species along the trail to the waterfall so that is where I spent the bulk of the rest of the afternoon.

The trail at Krung Ching is sealed in concrete for part of the way and can be quite slippery in wet conditions. On this visit there had been no rain so it was not slippery but the very steep part, around 700 metres in, is really hard to negotiate in the hot, humid conditions and potentially dangerous for those not in good health or with any mobility limitations. Birding was predictably slow at this time of day but over the course of the afternoon I saw Chestnut-winged and Moustached Babblers, a single Blyth's Paradise-flycatcher, 2 Raffles' Malkohas, a close-encounter with a Maroon Woodpecker and superb views of 3 different male Scarlet-rumped Trogons. As the afternoon wore on birds began to call and a Banded Kingfisher showed itself as well as one of four calling Red-bearded Bee-eaters; these birds were to be heard calling every day of my stay here.
I made it out of the trail in time for a short walk along the access road where I saw some of the common Bulbuls of the south, Cream-vented, Red-eyed and Spectacled, as well as hearing a Green Broadbill call from thick foliage. A quick burst of call playback lured this amazing bird out into the open, what a stunning creature!

10th April - Krung Ching
Early morning birding was spent along the access road to the HQ. At first things were quiet but as it warmed up more birds became active. Particularly nice were a pair of Grey-and-buff Woodpeckers tapping away on a dead snag which were then joined by 2 Vernal Hanging Parrots. A Rufous-tailed Tailorbird showed itself and both Yellow-eared and Spectacled Spiderhunters perched out in the open for a brief time before I located a singing Dark-throated Oriole - quiet a complex song but unmistakeably the song of an Oriole. Black-and-yellow Broadbill is always a great bird and one perched close by, eating a large insect before launching into its crazy call although a Banded Woodpecker made a lot of noise but refused to come into the open.

By about 8.30am I decided to walk along the waterfall trail, armed with plenty of water and a packed lunch. Walking up the steep part of the trail was something of a toil but resulted in some excellent sightings, not least that a Leopard Cat strolling along just feet away from me as it concentrated on its prey. Bird sightings were good too with a small party of Grey-headed Babblers, a skulking Red-legged Crake and a real surprise - a Scaly Thrush foraging in the undergrowth. On looking at the field guide I found that there was a small dot for Scaly Thrush in the region of Krung Ching but I doubt that sightings are made very often at all, I certainly have never heard of one until now. Birding along the trail for the rest of the day was certainly not easy and despite much effort, there was no sign of Rail Babbler, one of the key species here, although I did hear a Great Argus calling repeatedly not far away but searching for it through thick forest was not an option; it is really easy to get lost in this environment. Slow walking and patience turned up some nice birds with a pair of Short-tailed Babblers, a family group of Green Broadbills, a few male Rufous-winged Philentomas, another male Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Grey-cheeked Bulbul, Yellow-bellied Bulbul, a pair of Buff-rumped Woodpeckers, Red-throated Barbet and lots of Moustached Babblers. At times the lack of activity and humidity was difficult to deal with but a sighting of Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo reminded me that persistence usually pays off. An Indian Cuckoo was another nice distraction and a male Orange-breasted Trogon just after my lunch stop was like a jewel in the dark forest but it was nice to go back to my room for a few hours to cool off and rest between 2-4pm.

In the late afternoon I explored a trail that heads into the forest, along an old road, from the helicopter pad along the access road. Things were quiet but again with patience I turned up some good sightings including 5 Dusky Broadbills, a Banded Broadbill and a really close-up sighting of a Southern White-crowned Forktail. This latter species is not split by all authorities but the dramatic difference in size from its northern relation suggests that it may be a full species. Dinner and bed were welcome after a long and tiring day.
11th April - Krung Ching & Laem Thalamphuk
For my final morning at Krung Ching I began along the access road where a Banded Broadbill showed itself well before a Banded Bay Cuckoo revealed itself. A few other species included Green Iora, Large Woodshrike and Asian Drongo Cuckoo, but I was keen to go along the trail again. A couple of Wallace's Hawk Eagles were noisliy displaying to each other along with many small birds mobbing them, making it easy for me to spot them in the mid canopy of the forest. Amazingly another male Scarlet-rumped Trogon sat out in the open for me, meaning that I had seen more of these birds in the last 3 days than I had in the previous 15 years! Most of the remaining birds I saw were the same commoner species from before but I also added a nice Red-billed Malkoha to my list of sightings as well as some more Green Broadbills.

After a shower and lunch I began on my way to Laem Thalampuk, to look for Pied Triller. The journey took around 2 hours and on arrival it was very hot with little bird activity. However, as the afternoon drew on I found a few interesting migrants including a Ferruginous Flycatcher, a Crow-billed
 
Scarlet-rumped Trogon
(Photo by Nick Upton)
Drongo and a couple of Taiga Flycatchers. Resident birds were quite active too with a group of 7 Blue-throated Bee-eaters catching insects over an open area - the only individuals of this species seen on this trip.
Golden-bellied Gerygone, Malaysian Pied Fantail, Collared Kingfisher and Common Tailorbird were very common and I also saw several Mangrove Whistlers and Ashy Tailorbirds in a short walk around the HQ area within the casuarina woodland while at the tip of the spit there were large numbers of terns including around 12 Caspian Terns, c200 Whiskered Terns and perhaps as many as 20 White-winged Black Terns. I searched some other areas of casuarina but was unable to find any Pied Trillers which was surprising as on a previous visit I had found them very easily. Around 30 minutes away in the town of Nakorn Sri Thammarat I found a nice hotel and dinner.

12th April - Laem Thalamphuk & Wang Tai Nan Waterfall
The next morning I drove back to Laem Thalamphuk to look again for Pied Triller but it proved elusive. However I did locate a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, 2 singing Arctic Warblers, 1 Brown Shrike and a single Tiger Shrike. I saw most of the same species from the previous afternoon too but also added Common Flameback, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Oriental White-eye, Yellow Bittern and Yellow-vented Bulbul to the species at this location. After much searching I finally found a male Pied Triller but did not manage to watch it for very long before losing it - a lot of searching for a very short view. On my way towards my next destination, Satun, I saw a few species in surrounding wetlands that I had not seen elsewhere; Black-winged Stilt, Lesser Whistling Duck, Intermediate Egret and Asian Openbill.

The journey to Satun only took about 3 hours and after checking into the hotel I headed straight towards Wang Tai Nan waterfall. This is a seldom-visited location and somewhere I had never been to before so I was not sure what to expect. I had been told that there was a trail through good lowland forest to a waterfall but I had no idea how long the trail was and locating the right place could be tricky. However, by following the signs to Phu Pha Phet Cave I was taken all the way from Satun town to within a kilometre of my destination. About 1km before reaching Phu Pha Phet Cave there was a sing in yellow Thai script to Wang Tai Nan ranger substation and a drive of about 1km long dirt roads got me to the trail head at two disused buildings. From Satun to the trail had taken around 1.5 hours, rather too far to be convenient but I had chosen to stay in Satun for flexibility (not knowing what Wang Tai Nan might be like) so that I could split my time between several sites. The trail turned out to be easy to walk on, mostly flat, through excellent lowland forest, surely one of the last peices of remaining lowland forest in Thailand, although in the late afternoon it was really quiet. Even then I was able to find Moustached Babbler, Chestnut-naped Forktail, Malayan Banded Pitta and Green Braodbill although almost nothing else. As I was one my way out of the trail I was alerted to a buzzing bird call above me which turned out to be Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker, an extremely range-restricted bird in Thailand and one of my target species here. An excellent result before heading back to Satun.

13th April - Wang Tai Nan Waterfall & Satun Mangroves
In the early morning it took a little over an hour to reach the head of the trail at Wang Tai Nan from Satun town. I spent half an hour in a clearing at the trail head hoping to see some activity but apart from several Black-headed Bulbuls, 1 Hairy-backed Bulbul, 1 Lesser Green Leafbird and 2 Banded Broadbills there was not much action so I started off down the trail.

Walking very slowly along the trail, listening for movements in the undergrowth, I soon came across a male Malayan Banded Pitta quickly followed by an inquisitive Green Broadbill. Very shortly after that I heard the call of some Woodpeckers which did not take long to locate and proved to be a pair of Buff-necked Woodpeckers - a nice start to the day! However, the remainder of the morning turned out to be difficult birding with birds turning up in ones and twos through a tiring 4km walk to the waterfall and back. 2 Olive-backed Woodpeckers were a highlight as well as 2 more Malayan Banded Pittas and a Chestnut-naped Forktail while at the waterfall itself was a Ferruginous Flycatcher. Throughout the morning I came across a single Short-tailed Babbler, several groups of White-bellied Erpornis, the only Asian Fairy Bluebird of the trip, Moustached Babbler, Chestnut-winged Babbler, a female Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker and several of the commoner Bulbuls. Although the habitat seemed excellent the bird abundance was very low indicating that perhaps hunting is a problem here. On the way back I did locate a flock of 5 Bushy-crested Hornbills but by the time I got back to the car I was very hot and tired with just enough energy to spot a couple of male and one female Yellow-rumped Flycatchers.
Feeling like a change of scenery I drove back to Satun, stopping briefly at Nong Plak Phra Ya Non-hunting area where waterbirds included several Purple Herons, 10+ Purple (Black-backed) Swamphens, a small flock of Lesser Whistling Ducks and some Asian Openbills. My main destination was the mangroves just outside of Satun and I arrived there at around 4pm, still a little hot but a quick stop at the mangrove research station was productive with several small birds bathing in a small pool of water - Oriental White-eye, 1 Cinereous Tit and a pair of Copper-throated Sunbirds. I investigated the mangrove boardwalk which begins at Tammalang pier but at this time of day it was busy with noisy tourists and an area that had been formerly secluded had now been developed into a concrete platform so birding did not seem like it would be rewarding. With this in mind I went back to the mangrove research area where I immediately heard a Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker call and tracked it down within a few seconds. This is one of the main targets in this area and the only known site for this species in Thailand so it was very nice to find it and a little surprising to find it on exactly the same tree as I had seen it two years previously.
 
Copper-throated Sunbird (female)
(Photo by Nick Upton)
With this success I drove two a small patch of mangrove/plantation at the back of the hotel I was staying in to see if anything interesting came in to roost in the area. Apart from large numbers of Pale-rumped Swiftlets there was very little until I heard a Ruddy Kingfisher calling; a little mimicking of the call and two of these beautiful Kingfishers came into view for a very nice end to the day.

14th April - Wang Tai Nan Waterfall & Satun Mangroves
With the habitat at Wang Tai Nan being so good and the potential for rare species being high, I made another trip to walk the trail again in the early morning. Things were similarly difficult but once again Malayan Banded Pitta and Green Broadbill were keen to show themselves. In a small fruiting tree I saw a small group of Red-throated Barbets along with a single Dusky Langur and a Prevost's Squirrel, one of the most colourful squirrels I have ever seen. A Hooded Pitta foraging in a small stream bed was a nice sighting and after some effort I finally tracked down a calling White-crowned Hornbill, surely one of the craziest looking birds in Thailand. Rufous-winged Philemtoma was a nice sighting and a few other birds I added to my list included Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Brown-streaked Flycatcher and Buff-vented Bulbul but overall things were slow and as I was tired I made an early retreat to my hotel.

However, in the late afternoon I made another trip to the nearby mangroves, hoping to find Mangrove Blue Flycatcher. This species has very seldom been seen at this location, most Thai birders who want to see this bird make a somewhat dangerous trip to Yaring mangroves in Pattani province where there are frequent bombings and shootings. I found a short piece of road through the mangroves to a small fishing village and slowly walked up and down, finding Ashy Tailorbird and 2 calling Mangrove Pittas as well as Collared Kingfisher, Malaysian Pied Fantail and a single Cinereous Tit. After about 40 minutes I heard a faint sound which was reminiscent of a Cyornis flycatcher so played the call a little, receiving a longer answer to confirm my suspicions. As it was some way into the mangroves I entered the area (fortunately it was low tide) to get closer and it did not take long before the bird came into view. It was a female Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, easy to identify with the white spot above the base of the bill, and it gave me plenty of opportunity to watch it catch prey. Only my second lifer of the trip and very satisfying - I headed back for a shower and dinner.
15th April - Thalebun National Park & Satun Airfield
I had arranged for a ranger to take me into a restricted area to look for Dusky Eagle Owl, an extremely rare and localised resident species in Thailand, but before my appointment I had time for some birding around the headquarters of Thalebun National Park. Arriving early I was waved in without paying the entry fee by the security guard but later I was asked to pay. Several fruiting trees at the car park provided easy birding with 3 Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots being an excellent sighting. Lots of Black-headed, Red-eyed, Streaked and Spectacled Bulbuls were feeding too along with Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Spectacled Spiderhunter and a couple of Sooty Barbets. Standing and watching the activity around a fruiting tree can be rewarding and a short wait turned up a couple of Yellow-rumped Flycatchers and a female Mugimaki Flycatcher while overhead a group of 8 Grey-rumped Treeswifts were busy hunting.

A walk along the nature trail revealed 2 Blue-winged Pittas as well as 2 Hooded Pittas and a pair of Rufous Woodpeckers although not much else until another fruiting tree with much the same species as I had seen at the first one. At 9am it was time for my appointment with the ranger and together we drove to the Wang Pra grassland ranger station followed by a hot walk through very stunted and dry-looking forest. On reaching the known area for the Dusky Eagle Owl my ranger proceeded to look for the birds but after much hunting and checking all the established roost spots we failed to locate them! In the heat of the day in this open habitat there were very few birds, just Brown Shrike, Greater Green Leafbird and Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, although the walk back gave us incredibly close-up and lengthy views of Black-capped Babbler. It was a shame to miss the owl, particularly as I was told that there was an 80% success rate but I will just have to go back some time. For those wishing to look for themselves, contact ranger Boonrit - 0845874120. I spent some more time around the park HQ finding Tiger Shrike and Forest Wagtail but with it being so hot I jumped back into the car and headed back to Satun.

Several kilometres before reaching Satun there is an old airfield that appears to be disused but kept prepared perhaps for emergencies. I spent the late afternoon looking around the adjacent areas of this airfield hoping that perhaps some of the rarer Green Pigeons might use the scrappy woodland nearby, in particular I was hoping for Little Green Pigeon. Although I failed to find this bird it still looks a potential site for it, particularly as I did see Pink-necked Green Pigeon there. A few open country species I saw at the airfield and nowhere else included Asian Pied Myna, Oriental Pratincole, Paddyfield Pipit, Red-wattled Lapwing and Grey Heron. I also came across several groups of Jungle Myna, the largest being 9 birds together. This species seems to be becoming increasingly scarce in Thailand so these sightings may be more significant than they would have been in the past.
 
  Bird Watching Trips In Southern Thailand:
Birding in Southern Thailand can be difficult but the rewards can be great with a great many fantastic
species to search for. By visiting a number of sites over the course of 8-14 days it is possible to build up an exciting list of sightings.

Contact me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the best birdwatching options for you: nickupton@thaibirding.com
 
Recommended
 
Some More Trip Reports
16th April - Wang Tai Nan Waterfall - Trang Botanical Gardens
A final morning along the trail at Wang Tai Nan provided further difficult birding; if anything it was even quieter than on the previous visits. However, once again there were easy sightings of Malayan Banded Pitta and Hooded Pitta to enjoy although seeing anything else proved to be almost impossible. Surprisingly there was a group of local Thais going up and down the trail on motorbikes, taking their things out after spending a night camping. From the things they had with them it seemed as if they had been poaching, although it may have been as innocent as a simple fishing trip. However, a group of 6 Sakai aboriginal men with blowpipes were definitely on a hunting trip and this may explain why although the habitat at this location is exceptional, there seemed to be a very low abundance of birds, although it may be also explained by the very hot conditions. As it was beginning to look like a fruitless morning a couple of Banded Woodpeckers began to call but before I was able to locate them I also heard the very loud call of a Diard's Trogon back down the trail. It did not take long to locate a stunning male and soon after the female joined him. I was able to watch these birds for some time as they called to each other and as this was only the second time I have seen this species, the sighting was very special.

This was the last species I saw at Wang Tai Nan before beginning the journey back home but as I was passing Trang Botanical Gardens I decided to make a stop there. Unfortunately the midday heat was at its worst but it was interesting to see even at this time of day the abundance of common species was quite good; this being a place with no hunting taking place. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Red-eyed Bulbul and Thick-billed Pigeon among others, were feeding on a fruiting tree and I got lucky with first 2 Red-throated Barbets then a Red-crowned Barbet feeding on the same fruit. This latter species is almost extinct in Thailand due to the almost complete loss of its lowland forest habitat and Trang Botanical Gardens is one of the few sites remaining where this bird can be seen. I was very lucky to see it in the middle of the day, mornings would be better. A calling Blue-winged Pitta was easy to see and finally a Banded Woodpecker reacted to call playback to give me a nice view before the journey back home drew me away.

Conclusion
Although birding was consistently harder than in other parts of Thailand, with patience and persistence, coupled with visiting a number of birding sites, it was possible to build up a long list of excellent sightings and see many of the species which are restricted to the south. 4 species of Pitta, 11 species of Woodpecker, 7 species of Kingfisher, 3 species of Trogon, 5 species of Broadbill, scarce birds such as Pied Triller, Red-crowned Barbet, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, White-crowned Hornbill, Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker, Wallace's Hawk Eagle, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha and Grey-tailed Tattler all demonstrate that a lot of excellent birds can be found given time, local knowledge and knowledge of bird calls.
Nick Upton (nickupton@thaibirding.com)
 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.
Laem Pakarang: LP
Sri Phang Nga National Park: SPN
Phang Nga National Park: PN
Bang Phut Mangroves: BP
Kapong Bridge: KB
Hat Nopharat Thara: HNT
Ban Nai Chong Forest Fragment: BNC
Krung Ching Waterfall: KC
Laem Thalamphuk: LT
Wang Tai Nan Waterfall: WTN
Satun Mangroves: SM
Nong Pluk Praya: NPP
Thalebun National Park: TB
Satun Airfield: SA
Trang Botanical Gardens: TBG

1. Lesser Whistling Duck: A few at LT & NPP.
2. Asian Openbill: A few near LT.
3. Yellow Bittern: 1 at LT.
4. Striated Heron: LP, SPN, SM.
5. Chinese Pond Heron: LP, SPN, PN, LT, SM & TBG.
6. Javan Pond Heron: A few at LT & BP.
7. Eastern Cattle Egret: A few here and there.
8. Grey Heron: 1 at SA.
9. Purple Heron: A few at NPP.
10. (Eastern) Great Egret: A few at most wetland sites.
11. Intermediate Egret: 2 at LT.
12. Little Egret: Common in suitable habitat.
13. Pacific Reef Egret: A few at LP & HNT.
14. Little Cormorant: A few in all suitable habitats.
15. Western Osprey: 1 at SPN.
16. Black-winged Kite: 1 at LT.
17. Crested Serpent Eagle: KC, WTN & TB.
18. Wallace's Hawk Eagle: 1 at SPN & 2 at KC.
19. Shikra: 1 at WTN.
20. Brahminy Kite: Common in coastal areas.
21. White-bellied Sea Eagle: 1 distant bird at HNT.
22. Red-legged Crake: 1 at KC.
23. White-breasted Waterhen: A few at LT.
24. Purple (Black-backed) Swamphen: a10 at NPP.
25. Black-winged Stilt: A few at LT.
26. River Lapwing: 5 at KB.
27. Red-wattled Lapwing: 1 at SA.
28. Pacific Golden Plover: 2 at LP.
29. Grey Plover: 5 at LT & 1 at KB.
30. Malaysian Plover: 1m at LP.
31. Lesser Sand Plover: LP.
32. Greater Sand Plover: LT & HNT.
33. Bar-tailed Godwit: 3 at LP.
34. Whimbrel: a40 at LP.
35. Eurasian Curlew: 1 at LP.
36. Common Greenshank: 1 at KB.
37. Wood Sandpiper: 1 at KB.
38. Grey-tailed Tattler: 1 at LP.
39. Terek Sandpiper: Many at LP.
40. Common Sandpiper: LP & HNT.
41. Ruddy Turnstone: c30 at LP.
42. Sanderling: A few at LP.
43. Red-necked Stint: c70 at LP.
44. Ruff: 1 at LP.
45. Oriental Pratincole: 2 at SA.
46. Caspian Tern: 12 at LT.
47. Lesser Cested Tern: c15 at LP.
48. Little Tern: c25 at LP & c60 at LT.
49. Whiskered Tern: c200 at LT.
50. White-winged Black Tern: c20 at LT.
51. Feral Pigeon
52. Red Collared Dove: 4 at SA.
53. Spotted Dove: Common in open country.
54. Common Emerald Dove: SPN, KC & WTN.
55. Zebra Dove: A few in open country.
56. Pink-necked Green Pigeon: 1m at SA.
57. Thick-billed Green Pigeon: A few at SPN, KC, HTN & TBG.
58. Greater Coucal: Several at LT & SM.
59. Raffle's Malkoha: 3 at SPN; a few at KC; 2 at WTN.
60. Red-billed Malkoha: 1 at KC.
61. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha: 2 at WTN.
62. Chestnut-bellied Malkoha: 2 at PN.
63. Asian Koel: 1m & 1f at SA.
64. Violet Cuckoo: Calling male in flight at SPN, KC & WTN.
65. Banded Bay Cuckoo: 1 at KC & 1 at WTN.
66. Plaintive Cuckoo: 1m at Maritime Resort, Krabi.
67. Asian Drongo Cuckoo: 1 at KC.
68. Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo: 1 at KC.
69. Indian Cuckoo: 1 at KC.
70. Great Eared Nightjar: 1 at Maritime Resort, Krabi.
71. Grey-rumped Treeswift: 8 at TB.
72. Whiskered Treeswift: 1 at SPN.
73. Pale-rumped (Germain's) Swiftlet: Most sites.
74. Silver-rumped Needletail: A few at SPN, KC, WTN & TB.
75. Asian Palm Swift: SPN.
76. House Swift: 2 at PN.
77. Scarlet-rumped Trogon: 3m at KC.
78. Diard's Trogon: 1m & 1f at WTN.
79. Orange-breasted Trogon: 1m at KC.
80. Indian Roller: A few at LT.
81. Oriental Dollarbird: 1 at LT.
82. Banded Kingfisher: 1 at KC; heard on a daily basis at KC & WTN.
83. Brown-winged Kingfisher: 1 at PN & 1 at BP.
84. Ruddy Kingfisher: 2 at SM.
85. White-throated Kingfisher: 1 at BNC, 1 at TB.
86. Collared Kingfisher: Common at BP, HNT, LT & SM.
87. Blue-banded Kingfisher: 2 at SPN.
88. Blue-eared Kingfisher: 1 at KC.
89. Red-bearded Bee-eater: 1 at KC & 1 at WTN.
90. Blue-throated Bee-eater: c10 at LT.
91. White-crowned Hornbill: 1 at WTN.
92. Great Hornbill: 1 at Kuraburi Greenview.
93. Bushy-crested Hornbill: 5 at WTN.
94. Gold-whiskered Barbet: 1 at SPN & 1 at KC.
95. Red-crowned Barbet: 1 at TBG.
96. Red-throated Barbet: 2 at BNC; 1 at KC; 4 at WTN; 2 at TB.
97. Blue-eared Barbet: 2 at SPN; heard in all forests.
98. Coppersmith Barbet: 1 at SPN; 1 at SA.
99. Sooty (Brown) Barbet: 3 at KC & 3 at TB.
100. Rufous Piculet: 1 at WTN.
101. Grey-and-buff Woodpecker: 2 at KC.
102. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker: 1 at TB.
103. Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker: 1 at SM.
104. Banded Woodpecker: 1 at TBG.
105. Streak-breasted Woodpecker: 1f at PN.
106. Olive-backed Woodpecker: 2 at WTN.
107. Common Flameback: 1m at LT.
108. Maroon Woodpecker: 1 at KC.
109. Rufous Woodpecker: 1 at KC & 2 at TB.
110. Buff-rumped Woodpecker: 2 at KC; 2 at WTN & 2 at TB.
111. Buff-necked Woodpecker: 4 at WTN.
112. Vernal Hanging Parrot: 2 at KC.
113. Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot: 3 at TB.
114. Green Broadbill: Numerous birds at KC & WTN.
115. Black-and-red Broadbill: 2 pairs at PN.
116. Banded Broadbill: 1 at KC & 2 at WTN.
117. Black-and-yellow Broadbill: Seen and heard at all forest sites.
118. Dusky Broadbill: 5 at KC.118.
119. Malayan Banded Pitta: 2m at SPN; 3m at WTN & 1m at TB.
120. Hooded Pitta: 2 at WTN & 2 at TB.

121. Blue-winged Pitta: 2 at TB & 1 at TBG.
122. Mangrove Pitta: 2 at PN & 2 at SM.
123. Golden-bellied Gerygone: BP, LT, SM.
124. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike: A few at KC, WTN & TB.
125. Large Woodshrike: 1 at KC & 1 at WTN.
126. Rufous-winged Philentoma: A few at KC, WTN & TB.
127. Common Iora: 1 at BP; 2 at SM.
128. Green Iora: 2 at KC; 2 at WTN & 2 at TB.
129. Great Iora: 2 at KC.
130. Lesser Cuckooshrike: 1 at KC; 1 at TB.
131. Ashy Minivet: 2 at LT.
132. Scarlet Minivet: 2 at KC.
133. Mangrove Whistler: A few at BP & LT.
134. Tiger Shrike: 1 at LT & 1 at TB.
135. Brown Shrike: Singles at PN, BP, LT & TB.
136. White-bellied Erpornis: Several at KC & WTN.
137. Dark-throated Oriole: A few at KC.
138. Black-naped Oriole: 2 at PN.
139. Black Drongo: 1 at PN.
140. Ashy Drongo: Singles at BP & LT.
141. Crow-billed Drongo: 2 at SPN & 1 at LT.
142. Bronzed Drongo: 2 at KC.
143. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo: 1 at KC; 3 at TBG.
144. Malaysian Pied Fantail: BP, LT, SM.
145. Black-naped Monarch: 1m & 1j at KC.
146. Blyth's Paradise-flycatcher: 2 at KC & 1 at WTN.
147. Amur Paradise-flycatcher: 2 at BNC; 1 at WTN.
148. Large-billed Crow: Several in mangrove areas.
149. Sultan Tit: 2 at KC.
150. Cinereous Tit: 2 at SM.
151. Black-headed Bulbul: SPN, KC, WTN, TB & TBG.
152. Black-crested Bulbul: SPN, KC, TB & TBG.
153. Scaly-breasted Bulbul: 1 at SPN.
154. Grey-bellied Bulbul: 2 at SPN.
155. Stripe-throated Bulbul: A few at SPN.
156. Yellow-vented Bulbul: A few at LT.
157. Olive-winged Bulbul: 2 at PN, 3 at BNC, 2 at TBG.
158. Streak-eared Bulbul: 2 at LP.
159. Cream-vented Bulbul: SPN, KC, WTN & TB.
160. Red-eyed Bulbul: SPN, KC, WTN, TB & TBG.
161. Spectacled Bulbul: SPN, KC, WTN & TB.
162. Ochraceous Bulbul: SPN & KC.
163. Grey-cheeked Bulbul: 1 at KC, 1 at WTN & 1 at TB.
164. Yellow-bllied Bulbul: 1 at KC.
165. Hairy-backed Bulbul: A few at SPN, KC, WTN & TB.
166. Grey-eyed Bulbul: A few at SPN.
167. Buff-vented Bulbul: 1 at WTN & 1 at TB.
168. Streaked Bulbul: SPN, KC, WTN & TB.
169. Barn Swallow: A few at SM.
170. Pacific Swallow: All locations.
171. Rufous-bellied Swallow: PN & WTN.
172. Yellow-bellied Warbler: A few at SPN & KC.
173. Arctic Warbler: SPN, BP, KC, LT, TB & TBG.
174. Eastern Crowned Warbler: 1 at SPN & 1 at WTN.
175. Yellow-bellied Prinia: 1 at LT.
176. Common Tailorbird: A few in gardens and open areas.
177. Dark-necked Tailorbird: 2 at LT.
178. Rufous-tailed Tailorbird: 1 at KC, heard at WTN & TB.
179. Ashy Tailorbird: 1 at PN; a few at LT; 1 at SM.
180. Grey-headed Babbler: Several groups at KC.
181. Chestnut-winged Babbler: SPN, BNC, KC, WTN & TB.
182. Rufous-fronted Babbler: A few at SPN.
183. Pin-striped Tit Babbler: SPN, BNC, KC, WTN, TB & TBG.
184. Brown-cheeked Fulvetta: A few at SPN.
185. Abbott's Babbler: 1 at SPN; 1 at TB.
186. Short-tailed Babbler: 2 at KC; 1 at WTN.
187. Moustached Babbler: KC, WTN & TB.
188. White-chested Babbler: 3 at PN; 1 at WTN.
189. Puff-throated Babbler: 1 at WTN.
190. Black-capped Babbler: 2 at TB.
191. Oriental White-eye: A few at BP & SM.
192. Asian Fairy Bluebird: 1f at WTN.
193. Asian Glossy Starling: PN & Satun town.
194. White-vented Myna: A few at SM & SA.
195. Jungle Myna: 1 at BP & 11 at SA.
196. Common Myna: All open areas.
197. Asian Pied Myna: 5 at SA.
198. Oriental Magpie Robin: All open areas & mangroves.
199. White-rumped Shama: 1m & 1f at KC.
200. Asian Brown Flycatcher: All sites.
201. Brown-streaked Flycatcher: A few at WTN & TB.
202. Ferruginous Flycatcher: 1 at LT & 1 at WTN.
203. Mangrove Blue Flycatcher: 1f at SM.
204. Chinese Blue Flycatcher: 1m at WTN.
205. Verditer Flycatcher: 1 at KC; 1 at TB.
206. Siberian Blue Robin: A few at SPN, KC, WTN , TB & TBG.
207. Chestnut-naped Forktail: 3 at SPN; 2 at WTN.
208. Southern White-crowned Forktail: 1 at KC.
209. Yellow-rumped Flycatcher: 2m 1f at SPn; 3m 1f at WTN; 2m 1f at TB.
210. Mugimaki Flycatcher: 1f at TB.
211. Taiga Flycatcher: 1 at SPN; a few at LT.
212. Blue Rockthrush: 1 at SPN; 1 at HNT.
213. White-throated Rockthrush: 1m at SPN.
214. Greater Green Leafbird: 1m at KC; 2 at TB.
215. Lesser Green Leafbird: A few at SPN, KC, WTN, TB & TBG.
216. Blue-winged Leafbird: Pairs at SPN & TB.
217. Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker: A few at SPN, KC & TB.
218. Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker: A few at SPN, KC & TB.
219. Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker: 2m & 1f at WTN.
220. Thick-billed Flowerpecker: 1 at SPN.
221. Yellow-vented Flowerpecker: 1 at KC; 2 at TB.
222. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker: SPN, KC, WTN, TB & TBG.
223. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker: A few at SPN & TBG.
224. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird: KC, LT & TBG.
225. Plain Sunbird: 1 at SPN; 1 at KC; 1 at TB.
226. Brown-throated Sunbird: All sites.
227. Purple-naped Sunbird: KC, WTN & TB.
228. Copper-throated Sunbird: Several at BP & SM.
229. Olive-backed Sunbird: A few at SPN & LT.
230. Crimson Sunbird: 1m at SPN; 1m at TBG.
231. Little Spiderhunter: A few at SPN, KC, WTN & TB.
232. Spectacled Spiderhunter: 1 at KC; 1 at TB.
233. Yellow-eared Spiderhunter: 1 at KC.
234. Grey-breasted Spiderhunter: 1 at SPN.
235. Eurasian Tree Sparrow: All open and urban areas.
236. Scaly-breasted Munia: A few at SA.
237. Forest Wagtail: 2 at SPN; 1 at KC; 1 at LT: 2 at TB.
238. Grey Wagtail: 1 at Kuraburi Greenview.
239. Paddyfield Pipit: 2 at SA.

Mammals
1. Common Treeshrew: At most forest sites.
2. Long-tailed Macaque: Satun.
3. Dusky Langur:
1 at WTN.
4. White-handed Gibbon: 1 at SPN.
5. Black Giant Squirrel: 1 at TB.
6. Plantain Squirrel: At most forest sites.
7. Grey-bellied Squirrel: Most sites.
8. Prevost's Squirrel:
1 at WTN.
9. Horse-tailed Squirrel:
KC, WTN TB.
10. Low's Squirrel: KC.
11. Leopard Cat: 1 at KC.
Nick Upton can be contacted at nickupton@thaibirding.com
More information on Sri Phang Nga National Park
More information on Ao Phang Nga National Park
More information on Laem Pakarang
More information on Hat Nopparat Thara
More information on Thalebun National Park
More information on Satun Mangroves
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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