Mae Wong NP Getaway – July 1-3 ’19

This is just a short trip report of a 3-day trip I took at the beginning of July 2019 to Mae Wong National Park in Kamphaeng Phet province, which is about 5 hours northwest of Bangkok.

July 1st, 2019

Given the length of the drive to Mae Wong, I was in no rush to leave, and decided to time my trip to arrive around 1 pm. The 5 hour drive from Bangkok to Mae Wong was actually relatively pleasant for a long drive in Thailand, with the roads mostly being not too busy. After arriving at the park’s visitors centre, I arranged accommodation for the night – I’d only pre-booked for Chong Yen. I was given the option of cabins with either a shared or private bathroom, and given what I’d heard about the facilities up at Chong Yen (the higher campsite I’d stay the second night), I decided to take the private bathroom. And I was extremely happy  that I took this option, as the cabin had a beautiful setting, with a wide deck overlooking a small rocky stream, and it was from this deck that I was able to later see one of my target birds. The cabin, which had one single and one double bed cost 1,500B for the night (a little steep as all national park accommodations tends to be), but given the setting, I wasn’t worried, and this cabin probably bumps Phu Suan Sai off the top of my list of favourite Thai national park bungalows.

After settling into the cabin, I headed off to explore the area, which includes both the visitors centre and accommodation blocks, as well as two campgrounds a few hundred metres further along the road to Chong Yen. Immediately after leaving the cabin, a pair of Red-billed Blue-Magpies noisily made their presence felt, though getting clear views was a little more tricky. After watching the magpies for a bit, I followed a sign that directed me to a nature trail, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere, so I headed up to the road; as those who frequent national parks in Thailand would know, roadside birding is often far more productive given it allows greater views in the forest than narrow trails often do.

Almost immediately after beginning along the road, several Oriental Pied-Hornbills flew from their perches from above the road and disappeared deeper into forest, but this lead my eyes to follow them, and notice something hopping along the forest floor. Originally I thought I’d happened upon a pitta, but it turned out to be a Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, and soon enough I located another. Other common birds of this forest type soon turned up as well, including Black-naped Monarchs, Pin-striped Tit-babblers, and the ubiquitous and noisy White-rumped Shama.

After only a few hundred metres of walking, I came across the first stream-side campsite, so I decided to head down and wait, to see whether I’d get lucky with a sighting of the Crested Kingfishers that live along here. After waiting for half an hour or so, my attention was diverted back up to the campground lawn by the familiar call of a Blue-winged Pitta, and quickly enough, I was able to locate the bird as it was busily collecting worms for its young. I sat and watched for a while, and determined the location of the nest, and while the bird didn’t seem too perturbed by my presence, I decided to leave it be and head further along the road.

Once again, after walking not far, the entrance to the next campground was on the right, but unlike the previous one, this campground was down a small dirt track, but it was similarly positioned further up the same rocky stream. While the setting of the campground was peaceful, birding-wise, there seemed to be little activity, with the only birds seen being a female Blue-throated Flycatcher, Little Cormorant sat on a rock at the swimming hole, and a Grey Wagtail bobbing about on the rocks.

So, once again I set off further along the road, which heads through sections of mixed forest with significant amounts of bamboo, and it was this section of road that seemed to hold the most birds. The first birds that caught my attention were a trio of Silver-breasted Broadbills, a bird that until recently had been a bit of a bogie bird for me, but on this occasion I also managed to get a few okay pics. More hornbills were also seen here, as well as Green-eared Barbet, a noisy pair of Bamboo Woodpeckers (a bird that’s definitely NOT a bogie bird for me, I seem to bumped into them a lot), another Blue-winged Pitta, and a large brown owl with noticeable ear tufts that I put down as having to be a Brown Fish Owl.

The rest of the afternoon was spent slowly walking back along the road, and then around the HQ area in the fading light, with the only significant addition to the day’s list being a noisy band of White-crested Laughingthrushes. I finished the evening back at the cabin by leaving the outside lights on to attract some cool-looking moths, some of which I was able to get nice pics of. –> checklist

 

July 2nd, 2019

I awoke at 5:45 am, with the intention of sitting on the deck as the sun rose, followed by another walk along the road. Unfortunately, after about 30 minutes of being on the deck, light rain began to fall, and while it wasn’t too heavy, it was more than I could be bothered with at this time of the day, so I continued sitting under the covered section of the deck, waiting for it to clear. But the rain ended up being a blessing in disguise, as at 6:30 am, I heard a call coming along the stream, and sure enough, it was a Crested Kingfisher – one of my major targets for this trip – and I was afforded great fly-by views as it made its way downstream. Buoyed by the sighting, I decided to sit and see what I could be viewed from the deck, but aside from a Crested Goshawk and a single Vernal Hanging-Parrot, nothing else significant showed, but I was treated to several more fly-bys from the kingfisher, both up and down the stream, over the next hour or so, so in all in, a successful morning without having to leave my bungalow’s deck. –> checklist

DSCN8015.JPG

To drive to up to Chong Yen, permission is needed from the staff at the visitors centre, so after handing in my bungalow key, receiving my permission slip for Chong Yen, and arranging my next night’s bunglow (which I’d pre-booked), I was off up to Chong Yen, which is abut 30 km uphill from the park visitors centre; the road itself is in pretty good condition, some sections aside, and is never really too steep, and given these conditions, I’d guess even small saloon-style cars could make it up. –> checklist (road to Chong Yen)

I stopped at the first major viewpoint along the road, named Kiew Krating, but light rain started to fall so after a short stroll seeing not a lot, I continued up the road. After not too much longer, I reached the first of the upper campsites, called Khun Nam Yen, and it was here that I stopped for an hour or so to see what was about. And while the campsite itself didn’t yield too much aside from a single Small Minivet and Mountain Imperial Pigeon, the road heading up from here was much more productive with species such as Coral-billed Scimitar-babbler, Grey-throated Babbler, Common Green Magpie, Grey Treepie, numerous Mountain, Flavescent and Striated Bulbuls, as well as a juvenile White-crowned Forktail, that kept its distance, but never strayed from the road in front of me. I did also venture in the forest along a small trail where Rusty-naped Pitta is often seen, but today I was out of luck. –> checklist

After spending about an hour and a half at Nam Khun Yen, I drove the final few kilometres to Chong Yen. After receiving my key from the park staff member stationed there, I took a quick stroll around the small, but picturesque campground, before heading up the trail that leads to a Phu Sawan viewpoint. Unfortunately, after climbing stairs and the trail for about 15 minutes, the rain became much heavier, and coupled with the wind continuing further, even with my heavy rain jacket, was pointless, so I went back down and took refuge in a shelter close to the Umphang trail (which is an old, very overgrown road). The rain eased slightly, so I headed down this trail, but after only a few minutes it returned again, so I dashed back up to the shelter.

Later that afternoon, between showers, I was able to reach Phu Sawan viewpoint, but the wind and cloud was constant, and good views were fleeting. I also walked a kilometre or so back down the road, and while it was more shelter there, the bird life was still quite limited. The best birds of the afternoon all came from the ranger’s hut, as he leaves fruit out, and a small band of White-necked Laughingthrushes, along with a couple of Black-throated laughingthrushes and Dark-backed Sibias made the most of an easy meal. –> checklist

July 3rd, 2019

Having fallen asleep extraordinarily early, with the electricity at Chong Yen being out, I awoke to the same drizzle and strong winds that I’d had the day before. In fact, the winds were blowing so strong during the night, that I was frequently awoken by the sounds of them alone. So, thinking Chong Yen itself a lost caused for this trip, I starting down the mountain, a little after 6:30 am, stopping at Khun Mak, which seems to be a small substation down a steep track a few kilometres down the road from Chong Yen.

I started walking down the small road just before 7 am, and to the left seemed to be more ‘birdy’, so my eyes were directed that way. The drizzle had slowly picked up, but as I continued down the steep trail, I turned to the right, and within 5 or so metres was a largish mammal, about the size of a border collie. After the initial shock, I realised it was a Hog Badger, and it seemed completely unfazed by my closer proximity as it went about snuffling in the soil around the tree bases. While birds are my main focused, anytime a large mammal is encountered in the wild is truly an exhilarating experience.

 

For the next couple of hours, I went between finding shelter in the numerous building found along the road and walking further down said road, and while not a lot was seen, the area seemed very birdy, and I did turn up a few new species for the trip including several White-browed Scimitar-babbler and a pair of Oranged-headed Thrushes. But after a while, the walking in the rain got old, so I headed back up to my truck to begin my long drive back to Bangkok. –> checklist

During the drive down, I stopped at the viewpoint I’d missed on the way up, at it was here that I experience the windiest conditions I’d faced in Thailand – the wind was insane. Needless to say, not many birds were seen along the road on these windy upper stretches; however, a little further down the road I came across a very nice juvenile Rufous-winged Buzzard, and further still down the road, closer to the park’s HQ, I added my final life for the trip, in the form of a family of Kalij Pheasants, seen crossing the road in front of me.  –> checklist

After the Kalij Pheasant sighting, I stop at one further place along the road, without added anything significant. It was then a 5 hour drive back to Bangkok, most of which was made under atrocious conditions, with heavy rain most of the way. So, while my first trip to Mae Wong NP was heavily affected by inclement weather, it was still a great place, which I can’t wait to return to when conditions are more favourable to birding.

 

BIRD LIST (72 identified species):

LOCATION CODE – Location seen first

HQ – Around Mae Wong NP headquarters

KNY – Khun Nam Yen

CY – Chong Yen

KM – Khun Mak

EW – Elsewhere (birding along the road and near the entrance gate)

 

  1. Kalij Pheasant (EW)
  2. Rock Pigeon (EW)
  3. Red Collared Dove (EW)
  4. Spotted Dove (EW)
  5. Asian Emerald Dove (EW)
  6. Mountain Imperial-Pigeon (EW)
  7. Lesser Coucal (EW)
  8. Asian Palm-Swift (HQ)
  9. White-breasted Waterhen (EW)
  10. Red-wattled Lapwing (EW)
  11. Little Cormorant (HQ)
  12. Cinnamon Bittern (EW – on the road from Mae Wong)
  13. Black-winged Kite (EW – on the road from Mae Wong)
  14. Crested Serpent-Eagle (HQ)
  15. Rufous-winged Buzzard (EW)
  16. Crested Goshawk (HQ)
  17. Brown Fish-Owl (HQ)
  18. Oriental Pied Hornbill (HQ)
  19. White-throated Kingfisher (HQ)
  20. Crested Kingfisher (HQ)
  21. Indochinese Roller (EW)
  22. Green-eared Barbet (HQ)
  23. Lineated Barbet (HQ)
  24. Bamboo Woodpecker (HQ)
  25. Vernal Hanging-Parrot (HQ)
  26. Silver-breasted Broadbill (HQ)
  27. Blue-winged Pitta (HQ)
  28. Small Minivet (KNY)
  29. White-bellied Erpornis (CY)
  30. Ashy Woodswallow (EW)
  31. Malaysian Pied-Fantail (EW)
  32. White-throated Fantail (KNY)
  33. Bronzed Drongo (HQ)
  34. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo (KNY)
  35. Hair-crested Drongo (KNY)
  36. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (KNY)
  37. Black-naped Monarch (HQ)
  38. Red-billed Blue Magpie (HQ)
  39. Common Green Magpie (KNY)
  40. Grey Treepie (KNY)
  41. Large-billed Crow (EW)
  42. Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher (HQ)
  43. Rufescent Prinia (HQ)
  44. Black-crested Bulbul (HQ)
  45. Striated Bulbul (KNY)
  46. Flavescent Bulbul (EW)
  47. Mountain Bulbul (KNY)
  48. Yellow-bellied Warbler (HQ)
  49. Pin-striped Tit-babbler (HQ)
  50. Coral-billed Scimitar-babbler (KNY)
  51. White-browed Scimitar-babbler (KM)
  52. Grey-throated Babbler (KNY)
  53. Puff-throated Babbler (EW)
  54. White-crested Laughingthrush (HQ)
  55. White-necked Laughingthrush (CY)
  56. Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush (HQ)
  57. Black-throated Laughingthrush (CY)
  58. Black-backed Sibia (CY)
  59. Asian Pied Starling (EW)
  60. Common Myna (EW)
  61. Great Myna (EW)
  62. Orange-headed Thrush (KM)
  63. Oriental Magpie-Robin (EW)
  64. White-rumped Shama (HQ)
  65. Blue-throated Flycatcher (HQ)
  66. White-crowned Forktail (KNY)
  67. Olive-backed Sunbird (HQ)
  68. Black-throated Sunbird (HQ)
  69. Streaked Spiderhunter (EW)
  70. Asian Golden Weaver (on the road from Mae Wong)
  71. Eurasian Tree Sparrow (EW)
  72. Grey Wagtail (HQ)

One thought on “Mae Wong NP Getaway – July 1-3 ’19

  1. Pingback: Central West Trip – October 2020 – Thailand Birding Adventures

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