Nakhon Si Thammarat & Phattalung – April 2018

April 2nd – 6th

Songkhran, Thailand’s New Year celebration, is always a time when I get holidays, so on this occasion, I decided to head to a region I’d never visited before – the southern provinces of Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phattalung, and in particular Krung Ching substation of Khao Luang National Park and Thale Noi Wetlands.

April 2nd

I flew out of Bangkok at around 11 am on an Air Asia flight and arrived in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat (NST) an hour or so later, and once there managed to rent a car. I initially had problems with this as I didn’t have a credit card for the security deposit, but one of the car rental companies gave me the number of a company that was happy with a cash deposit and they arrived at the airport with my car within 30 minutes – win!

So now that I had a car, it was off to the Krung Ching substation of Khao Luang National Park (incidentally, Khao Luang is tallest mountain in Peninsula Thailand, but is further south in the national park than the Krung Ching substation). The drive took around and hour and a half which included a short stop to buy supplies, and once arriving and retrieving my key for my pre-booked national park bungalow, the heavens opened and I was actually stuck in my car until I could locate my rain jacket and then ran from car to bungalow – not so much win! The bungalow itself was typical of Thai national parks, with one bedroom, an open living space, and a bathroom, which in this case had a large opening directly in the forest above the back wall.

The rain stuck around for about 30 minutes or so, but by around 3:30 pm I was off up the entrance road for my first Krung Ching birding. Krung Ching is well known as one of the premier birding locations in southern Thailand, and I had barely walked 300 m up the entrance road when 3 Rufous Woodpeckers were easily spotted foraging in an open tree. This species was a lifer for me and I watched these birds for as long as they hung around before I headed further up the hill. Once reaching the helipad, a Black-and-yellow Broadbill (another lifer, and my first ever broadbill) flew right in front of me and sat within 5 metres, at eye-level for several minutes – what a sight (unfortunately my inferior camera equipment plus the conditions meant I was unable to take greater advantage of the bird’s proximity).

I continued up the entrance road, slowly towards the gatehouse, and in doing so saw Black-bellied Malkoha, Sooty and Red-throated Barbets, Dusky Broadbills, several Large Woodshrikes and Yellow-eared Spiderhunters, as well as a single Lesser Cuckooshrike and Greater Green Leafbird, all of which were lifers! Overall, 25 species were seen and ID’d in just a few hours of afternoon birding as well as a few other birds seen all too briefly.  I then headed back down to the NP bungalows and called it a day. I had intended on walking around the campgrounds at night in search of owls, but rain once again set in, so I stayed in. eBird Checklist – April 2nd Checklist

April 3rd

After a night in the national park bungalow, complete with a resident frog in a bathroom pipe (great acoustics!), I was up before 6 am to start walking along the waterfall trail, a 3.7 km trail that leads steeply up a hillside before flattening out for several kilometres and then descending steeply to the waterfall. Upon commencing my walk, an Israeli birder was also walking the trail, and we birded together for the next few hours. Whilst together, our undoubted highlight was a Black-backed Dwarf Kingfisher which we watched fishing in a stream at the top of the hill ascent, though other lifers for me included Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Hairy-backed Bulbul and Grey-headed Babbler. Other birds seen included Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and several species of both bulbuls and spiderhunters. After the first 100 m or so, this path is very steep, and with the conditions as they were, great care was needed to be taken not to lose footing. Why anyone would make a sloping concrete path on such an ascent and not steps is beyond me!

Once my fellow birder had to leave, I continued along the path alone toward the waterfall. Cautious of the previous day’s weather, I walked on slowly for another hour, but didn’t make it close to the waterfall before deciding to head back. In my time alone on the trail I was treated to great views of a Maroon Woodpecker (one of my favourite birds of the trip!), a moulting male Siberian Blue Robin, and a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, but the highlight was undoubtedly a Malayan Night-Heron I accidentally flushed while slowly traversing the ludicrously steep paved path. The Night-Heron flew and landed on a branch not too far into the forest edge long enough for me to get a couple of record shots. Also seen on my return were a Drongo-Cuckoo, a Black-and-yellow Broadbill, another Scarlet-rumped Trogon, several White-bellied Erpornis , many more bulbuls, and many unidentified babblers in the understory.

After a short lunch and rest in my bungalow, I was back out walking around the campground and entrance road. Here I encountered my first raptor of the trip, a soaring Wallace’s Hawk-eagle. Walking up and down the entrance road for the remainder of the afternoon proved quite fruitful, with great views of an immature Wallace’s Hawk-eagle catching and eating a lizard, which I watched for thirty minutes or so, as well as good views of Dark-throated Oriole, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, Raffles’s Malkoha, and Scaly-breasted Bulbul (all lifers), as well as a tree-full of about a half-dozen Velvet-fronted Nuthatches. After this full day of walking, I returned to my bungalow for an early night to afford another early wake-up. eBird Checklists – April 3rd – morning / April 3rd – afternoon

April 4th

I started walking up the entrance road on this morning at around 6:30 am and the morning was already quite misty. However, the mist continued to thicken until around 7:30 am when it was thick enough to make birding in trees only 20 metres away very difficult. Despite the mist, or perhaps because of it, the bird activity was (frustratingly) high, but once the mist finally started clearing after 8:30 am, I was treated to great views of numerous great birds including several Red-throated Barbets, Dark-throated Orioles, Great Ioras, as well as Dusky Broadbills and a pair of Banded Woodpeckers, the last of which took a while to locate, but once found at the top of trees afforded long views. One final look around the campgrounds before leaving added Golden-whiskered Barbet to my list, as well as close views of a pair of Scaly-breasted Bulbuls. All in all, another great morning had at Krung Ching, a destination I will undoubtedly return to in the future. eBird Checklist – April 4th

After my morning walk, I packed up my belongings and headed to my next destination, Thalumphuk Peninsula. As it happened, while at Krung Ching I bumped into Nick Upton of Thaibirding.com and asked him about my next location, and he informed me that it was an interesting place and was actually the only Thai location he’d ever encountered Pied Triller, as well as a place he’d seen Chinese Egret and Far Eastern Curlew, both globally threatened species – so with this added knowledge, off I went!

It took about 3 hours to finally get to Thalumphuk Peninsula, and the place had a real ‘edge-of-the-world arid coastline’ feel to it. I stopped and had a seafood lunch and asked about nearby accommodation, and was assured there was a nearby ‘guesthouse’ and despite no signage in either English of Thai, I found it, ‘checked-in’ and relaxed in the A/C for the next hour or so, but once 2:30 pm hit, I was back out to explore the non-hunting Zone at the end of the peninsula, which included a mangrove boardwalk and the sandspit.

IMG_3732.JPG

From the small village near the seafood restaurants, it is only a short drive to the non-hunting zone where I needed to pay a small entrance fee (40B, I think). Once parked, I asked the local workers where the boardwalk was, and I was put in the right direction – there were no signs in either English or Thai, and the entrance is a little off from the road, so it could be easily missed.  While on the mangrove boardwalk I came across a migrant Crow-billed Drongo as well as a Common Flameback, several Blue-throated Bee-eaters, and a pair of Dollarbirds, while also getting good views of a Yellow-browed Warbler and the southern subspecies of Stork-billed Kingfisher, which has much deeper blue wings and a darker crown; this is a species that I’m very familiar with from my local park in Bangkok, so seeing this plumage variation was quite impressive for me.

After walking the mangrove boardwalk for an hour or so, I then drove further up the peninsula to the sandspit, where I walked along a cow-trail and through a small muddy stream. At first there seemed to be little other than hundreds of swallows (mostly Barn Swallows, with some Pacific Swallows, too), a single Common Sandpiper, and a few species of tern – Caspian, White-winged and Whiskered – however, just as Nick Upton had mentioned, I was soon getting great views of a Chinese Egret (another lifer!). After some more time exploring the sandspit, I headed back to the mangrove walk for the last light of the day and was rewarded with amazing views, both front and back, of an Indian Cuckoo. After that, it was back to my little ‘guesthouse’ for another early night. eBird Checklist – April 4th

April 5th

I was up early again and set off again for the mangrove boardwalk, and happened to be there before anyone was at the checkpoint/gate, so was spared the entrance fee, and while walking the boardwalk managed to pick up another life in the form of several Ashy Tailorbirds. Later on while exploring the gnarled casuarinas for the elusive Pied Triller (which I never found), I was lucky enough to be treated to a very close fly-by from a Blue-winged Pitta, and while I’ve seen this species on several occasions, any Pitta encounter is special in my books. eBird Checklist – April 5th

Having packed and loaded my bags when I left my accommodation earlier in the morning, after several hours of exploring the mangroves and adjacent casuarina forest, I headed off to my next location, Thale Noi Waterfowl Park in Phatthalung province, a few hours south-west. Thale Noi (meaning ‘little sea’ in Thai) is part of a larger lagoon complex that encompasses what is known as Thailand largest natural lake, Lake Songkhla. Without any real destination to stay at, I followed the road until I saw signs for Thale Noi, and then also a ‘beach’ area.

While there is accommodation at Thale Noi, I found (through signage) very affordable and comfortable accommodation at the town of Lam Pam, 25 km due south of Thale Noi. Coincidentally, on the way to Lam Pam, I passed the Phatthalung Botanical Gardens, which is situated on the shore of Lake Songkhla, a location which would turn out to be my afternoon birding site.

The botanical gardens ended up being a pleasant location which combined a raised boardwalk through flooded paperbark forest with a more cultivated garden/lawn area.  While the bird activity here wasn’t anything special, I did encounter another lifer, Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, as well as having a very close fly-by by a White-bellied Sea Eagle, which was later seen sitting on a large wooden fishing apparatus out on the lake. While at the gardens, I also came upon three Forest Wagtails, a soaring Oriental Honey-buzzard, and several Brown Shrikes, and Blue-throated Bee-eaters. After spending a few hours exploring,  I drove to the Thale Noi Waterfowl park on a scouting mission to know where to head the following morning, before I headed back to my resort for an extremely refreshing beer. eBird Checklists – April 5th – Botanical Gardens / April 5th – Thale Noi

April 6th

I was up before 6am to make the 25 minute drive to Thale Noi for a longtail boat ride.  At first, I was a little wary of what my ride would entail, but after telling the boatman I wanted to see ‘birds’, we were off across the main lake with birds flying everywhere. While initially my boatman seemed keen for me to see as much as possible in as little time as possible, once I conversed with him in Thai about birds, he seemed to lighten up and genuinely want to show me all the birds available with time not an issue. While I never saw any ‘lifers’ on this boat ride, I saw well over 50 species, and got some of the best views of previously seen species I’d ever had, including being within 5 metres of Black Bittern on several occasion, a species I’ve always found to be notoriously evasive.

Across the 3-hour boat ride (I was originally told I’d paid for 2 hours), great views were had of three species of bittern – black, yellow, and cinnamon, as well as Purple Heron, Lesser Whistling-duck, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Oriental Pratincole, and I also developed a greater appreciation of Asian Openbill after seeing them in great numbers, including a nesting site (that wasn’t among the more urban setting I’m used to seeing this species in around Bangkok). All in all, a fantastic experience, and recommended for anyone who finds their way to Thale Noi – the habitats here range from open freshwater lake, to paperbark swamp, to flooded fields and reed beds. eBird Checklist – April 6th

After my time on the lake, I headed back to my resort to relax for a few hours before venturing to my final birding location of my trip, Khao Ok Thalu, a small limestone karst mountain that acts at the symbol of Phatthalung province. I arrived at around 3:30 pm, and started heading up the stairs – they were steep and it was hot. Aside from several common bulbul species, there was little bird activity at first. However, once at the top, I was surprised by a vocal fly-by from a Blue Rock-thrush, and while descending the stairs, I was equally surprised by an Abbott’s Babbler, as well as seeing by both a Yellow-browed and Eastern Crowned Warbler at close quarters.

A second staircase on the hill led to a temple, and while walking those stairs in the later afternoon, both a Peregrine Falcon and an Oriental Honey-buzzard were seen soaring above, as well as bee-eaters and several Rufous-bellied Swallows, while I was also afforded close but brief views of a Large Hawk-cuckoo.

So, while the first hour of birding at this provincial icon was slow, the second hour provided several surprises that added to an already great trip, but with the sun setting and a thirst growing, I headed back to my resort for a fabulous Thai meal and cold beer. eBird Checklist – April 6th

April 7th

An early morning rise again, but this time just to capture the sunrise over Lake Songkhla, and while I was on the lookout for birds, there wasn’t much of interest, so after a walk back to the resort, and a nice buffet breakfast, I was back in my car for the 2+ hour drive back to NST Airport and then Bangkok.

While heading back across the raised road that runs between Thale Noi and Lake Songkhla, however,  I did make a quick stop to get a closer look at a group of Jungle Mynas, a species that is supposedly in decline in Thailand. It was interesting seeing this species intermingling with both Common and White-vented Mynas, where it seemed to be the most abundant.

Overall, this trip to these two southern provinces was a fantastic week of birding and exploring places that I’ll surely return to!

 

BIRD LIST (157 identified species):

LOCATION CODE – Location seen first

KC – Krung Ching Substation

LT – Laem Thalumphuk (Thalumphuk Peninsula)

PB – Phatthalung Botanical Gardens

TN – Thale Noi Waterfowl Park (boat ride)

KT – Khao Ok Thalu Park

  • Lesser Whistling-duck (LT)
  • Cotton Pygmy-goose (TN)
  • Little Grebe (TN)
  • Asian Openbill (PB)
  • Little Cormorant (LT)
  • Yellow Bittern (LT)
  • Cinnamon Bittern (TN)
  • Black Bittern (TN)
  • Purple Heron (LT)
  • Great Egret (LT)
  • Intermediate Egret (TN)
  • Chinese Egret (LT)
  • Little Egret (LT)
  • Cattle Egret (LT)
  • Chinese Pond-heron (LT)
  • Javan Pond-heron (TN)
  • Striated Heron (KC)
  • Black-crowned Night-heron (TN)
  • Malayan Night-heron (KC)
  • Black-winged Kite (LT)
  • Oriental Honey-buzzard (PB)
  • Wallace’s Hawk-eagle (KC)
  • Shikra (TN)
  • Brahminy Kite (LT)
  • White-bellied Sea-eagle (PB)
  • White-breasted Waterhen (LT)
  • White-browed Crake (TN)
  • Watercock (TN)
  • Gray-headed Swamphen (TN)
  • Eurasian Moorhen (TN)
  • Black-winged Stilt (LT)
  • Pacific Golden Plover (TN)
  • Red-wattled Lapwing (PB)
  • Pheasant-tailed Jacana (TN)
  • Bronze-winged Jacana (TN)
  • Whimbrel (LT)
  • Long-toed Stint (TN)
  • Common Sandpiper (LT)
  • Oriental Pratincole (TN)
  • Caspian Tern (LT)
  • White-winged Tern (LT)
  • Whiskered Tern (LT)
  • Feral Pigeon (TN)
  • Spotted Dove (LT)
  • Asian Emerald Dove (KC)
  • Zebra Dove (LT)
  • Pink-necked Green Pigeon (TN)
  • Thick-billed Green Pigeon (KC)
  • Greater Coucal (KC)
  • Raffles’s Malkoha (KC)
  • Chestnut-breasted Malkoha (KC)
  • Black-bellied Malkoha (KC)
  • Asian Koel (LT)
  • Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo (KC)
  • Large Hawk-cuckoo (KT)
  • Indian Cuckoo (TL)
  • Silver-rumped Needletail (Spinetail) (KC)
  • Germaine’s Swiftlet (LT)
  • Asian Palm-swift (KT)
  • Scarlet-rumped Trogon (KC)
  • Common Kingfisher (TN)
  • Black-backed Dwarf-kingfisher (KC)
  • Stork-billed Kingfisher (LT)
  • Black-capped Kingfisher (TN)
  • Collared Kingfisher (LT)
  • Blue-throated Bee-eater (LT)
  • Indian Roller (LT)
  • Oriental Dollarbird (LT)
  • Sooty Barbet (KC)
  • Red-throated Barbet (KC)
  • Lineated Barbet (KC)
  • Gold-whiskered Barbet (KC)
  • Banded Woodpecker (KC)
  • Common Flameback (LT)
  • Rufous Woodpecker (KC)
  • Maroon Woodpecker (KC)
  • Peregrine Falcon (KT)
  • Vernal Hanging-parrot (KC)
  • Black-and-yellow Broadbill (KC)
  • Dusky Broadbill (KC)
  • Blue-winged Pitta (LT)
  • Golden-bellied Gerygone (LT)
  • Large Woodshrike (KC)
  • Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike (KC)
  • Rufous-winged Philentoma (KC)
  • Common Iora (PB)
  • Great Iora (KC)
  • Lesser Cuckooshrike (KC)
  • Mangrove Whistler (LT)
  • Brown Shrike (LT)
  • White-bellied Erpornis (KC)
  • Dark-throated Oriole (KC)
  • Black Drongo (TN)
  • Ashy Drongo (LT)
  • Crow-billed Drongo (LT)
  • Bronzed Drongo (KC)
  • Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (KC)
  • Malaysian Pied-fantail (LT)
  • Black-naped Monarch (KC)
  • Large-billed Crow (LT)
  • Bank Swallow (TN)
  • Barn Swallow (LT)
  • Pacific Swallow (LT)
  • Rufous-bellied Swallow (KT)
  • Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher (KC)
  • Velvet-fronted Nuthatch KC)
  • Black-headed Bulbul (KC)
  • Black-crested Bulbul (KC)
  • Scaly-breasted Bulbul (KC)
  • Stripe-throated Bulbul (KC)
  • Yellow-vented Bulbul (LT)
  • Streak-eared Bulbul (LT)
  • Red-eyed Bulbul (KC)
  • Spectacled Bulbul (KC)
  • Hairy-backed Bulbul (KC)
  • Ochraceous Bulbul (KC)
  • Baker’s Bulbul (KC)
  • Yellow-browed Warbler (LT)
  • Eastern Crowned Warbler (KT)
  • Oriental Reed Warbler (TN)
  • Common Tailorbird (KC)
  • Dark-necked Tailorbird (KC)
  • Ashy Tailorbird (LT)
  • Yellow-bellied Prinia (TN)
  • Oriental White-eye (LT)
  • Pin-striped Tit-babbler (KC)
  • Grey-headed Babbler (KC)
  • Abbott’s Babbler (KT)
  • Asian Fairy Bluebird (KC)
  • Asian Brown Flycatcher (KC)
  • Oriental Magpie-robin (KC)
  • White-rumped Shama (KC)
  • Siberian Blue Robin (KC)
  • Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (KC)
  • Taiga Flycatcher (LT)
  • Blue Rock-thrush (KT)
  • Common Myna (LT)
  • Jungle Myna (TN)
  • White-vented Myna (LT)
  • Greater Green Leafbird (KC)
  • Blue-winged Leafbird (KC)
  • Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker KC)
  • Yellow-vented Flowerpecker (KC)
  • Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (LT)
  • Plain-throated Sunbird (KC)
  • Van Hasselt’s Sunbird (PB)
  • Crimson Sunbird (KC)
  • Little Spiderhunter (KC)
  • Yellow-eared Spiderhunter (KC)
  • Spectacled Spiderhunter (KC)
  • Grey-breasted Spiderhunter (KC)
  • Forest Wagtail (PB)
  • Eastern Yellow Wagtail (TN)
  • Plain-backed Sparrow (LT)
  • Eurasian Tree Sparrow (LT)
  • Chestnut Munia (TN)

 

3 thoughts on “Nakhon Si Thammarat & Phattalung – April 2018

  1. Pingback: Khao Luang NP (incl. Krung Ching) – Thailand Birding Adventures

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