Pra Puttabaht Noi, 11th October 2009
Having been alerted to the presence of Limestone Wren Babblers (calcicola
subspecies) at Wat Pra Puttabaht Noi, in Saraburi province some years
previous, I decided that a visit was way overdue.
the site is only about a one and a half hour drive from Bangkok
I had never visited due to the fact that I had seen Limestone
Wren Babbler (crispifrons subspecies) before at Hellfire
Pass, Kanchanaburi province. However, the Wren Babblers
were reportedly much easier to see at Wat Pra Puttabaht Noi
and this location is much more convenient than Hellfire Pass,
being closer to Bangkok and close to the route taken when
travelling from Bangkok to Khao Yai; making it a convenient
stop off for this species with a very restricted range when
en-route to other birding locations.
to visit the site on the spur of the moment and having missed
the best time to find birds in the early morning I decided
to head to Wat Pra Puttabaht Noi in the afternoon, aiming
to arrive at about 3.30pm when the birds should be becoming
active again, having been told by other birders that it would
probably be tough to find the Wren Babblers in the heat of
the middle of the day.
My wife and I set off from our home, in the southwestern part of Bangkok,
taking the expressway north. For those beginning nearer the city centre
the expressway heading north from Din Daeng and on past the old airport
towards Rangsit is the one to take; signs for Saraburi appear shortly
after the expressway finishes. We travelled in the afternoon on a
Sunday when the traffic was light and it took somewhere in the region
of 1.5 - 2 hours to reach the temple. Usually, if heading to Wat Pra
Puttabaht Noi from Bangkok, it would be advisable to start the journey
at around 5am to avoid heavy traffic heading out of the city.
One should head directly into Saraburi and drive straight through
the town, following signs north on highway 1 to Lopburi. After some
distance one comes to an intersection with traffic lights, signs still
indicate Lopburi straight ahead and Pra Puttabaht is also signposted.
Be aware that the Pra Puttabaht that is signposted is not the destination
that you want to end up at.
Traffic is heavy
here so if any of the turnings are missed, carry on, do a u-turn somewhere
and try again. Don't dangerously cut across heavy traffic which will
not slow down to let you through.
Eventually an intersection is reached ("Phu Khae Intersection")
where signposts indicate that Petchabun is straight on with
Lopburi and Pra Puttabaht to the left. The highway actually
bears left and to go straight on one must stop at some lights.
Head towards Petchabun (straight on) and not Lopburi/Pra Puttabaht.
A few hundred metres further on take a u-turn and drive back
towards Saraburi and immediately after Phu Khae junction ( a
few hundred metres back) turn left, just before a footbridge
over the road; this footbridge over the road can be seen some
distance before reaching the junction, and this is the indication
to slow down and keep left.
At this intersection the natural route of the traffic is shown by
the black lines. To follow the red lines one must wait at some traffic
lights. From Saraburi head straight on, following the red line towards
Petchabun and then take the u-turn. If you find yourself heading towards
Lopburi, don't panic, do a u-turn, follow the road towards Petchabun
and then take the next u-turn before heading back to the turning for
Wat Pra Puttabaht Noi.
Having made the turning you will soon (about 100m along the road)
see signs in English for Ban Song Khon, this will let you know you
have taken the correct turning. Follow this road for a little over
10km and you will reach a sharp 90 degree right hand bend with a small
police post on the corner in front of you. Turn left on the dirt track
here and follow the main track to the temple gate; cars can be aprked
shortly after passing through the gate.
the Limestone Wren Babblers
I had been told by a number of birdwatchers that finding Limestone
Wren Babbler here was a relatively easy affair and so it proved to
be. After arriving at 4pm, just a brief search around the car park
and then up some stairs that go behind parts of the temple and climb
up the limestone rocks, we found a single Limestone Wren Babbler foraging
amongst some offerings in front of a small golden Buddha. The bird
performed quite well for about 1 minute, juttering its distinctive
churring call, before disappearing into some cracks in the limestone.
A short wait saw it return but never again to close range and we saw
it vanish up the rock face after a few more minutes of viewing.
Golden Buddha in limestone rocks, where we saw our
first Limestone Wren Babbler
(Photo by Nick
Looking down the staircase from where we saw our
first Limestone Wren Babbler
(Photo by Nick
we came down the staircase, back towards our car, I heard another
Limestone Wren Babbler below us, but did not see it. However, a
small flock of migrants passed through the forest halfway down the
staircase and in this flock we saw several Black-naped Orioles,
a Crow-billed Drongo, 2 Ashy Drongos, 1 Eastern Crowned Warbler
and 1 Yellow-browed Warbler.
I wanted to
see for myself how easy the Limestone Wren Babblers were to find
here so decided to look for some more at another part of the temple.
Going through some sort of gateway I walked through a forest patch
with limestone boulders either side. Very quickly I caught a glimpse
of another wren babbler jumping around on rocks. I didn't make any
attempt to call it out and didn't see it again but having found
2 Limestone Wren Babblers and heard one more in a visit that lasted
only about 1 hour I was fairly convinced that the birds are easier
to find here than anywhere else I know of.
Bird Species of Note
Wat Pra Puttabaht Noi turned up a few other interesting birds on my
visit; here I will mention a few that can probably be found on any
visit to the temple. Coppersmith and Lineated Barbets were very vocal
and fairly easy to see on top of dead snags. Ashy Drongos and Blue
Rock Thrushes were easily found on tree tops and limestone pinnacles.
Asian Barred Owlet was quite vocal at 5pm and I found one without
much trouble. A Tickell's Blue Flycatcher was another nice bird and
considering that most birding trips spend very little time at the
right (low) altitude for this species, it is probably worth searching
for it here.
Forest where we saw our second Limestone Wren Babbler
(Photo by Nick
Limestone crags and forest at Wat Pra Puttabaht Noi
(Photo by Nick
would think that a morning or afternoon session at Wat Pra Puttabaht
Noi could turn up a fair number of the commoner forest birds and,
particularly during migratory periods, a few less common ones. Below
is a list of the birds I saw in just 1 hour, between 4 and 5 pm.
seen at Wat Pra Phuttabaht Noi
Asian Palm Swift
Asian Barred Owlet
Eastern Cattle Egret
Blue Rock Thrush
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Taiga (Red-throated) Flycatcher
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher
Oriental Magpie Robin
Eastern Crowned Warbler
Limestone Wren Babbler
Striped Tit Babbler
can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
information on Limestone Wren Babbler at Hellfire
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.
Thanks to Stijn
De Win for making me aware of existence of Wat Pra Puttabaht Noi
and the fact that it is home to Limestone Wren Babbler.