One of Thailand’s most popular national parks, probably given it’s size and ease of accessibility, Khao Yai National Park is a place I’ve visited numerous times since I’ve taken up birding as a hobby. I had previously visited the park in late 2012, but that was a mere fleeting couple of hours when I was in the area with a school camp. However, since then I’ve visited the park on five occasions: January 2016, January 2017, December 2017, March 2018, and June 2019, with the last three visits seeing me staying inside the park in the national park bungalows at Thanarat Zone (from 800 baht), near the access road to Khao Khieo. The individual trips will be outlined in greater detail further down the page, with the most recent trips first.
Khao Yai’s most frequently used entrance is its northern gate, which is about 200 km northeast of Bangkok, and takes between 2.5 and 3 hours to reach following major arterial roads. The other main entrance is at the southern side of the mountain range in Prachinburi province, and takes less time, but the route itself is a little more convoluted, and once inside the park, the drive to the HQ and accommodation is further.
I’ve read many reports about Khao Yai being unpleasant, especially on weekends, due to the number of visitors accessing the park, but I’ve never found it unbearable, and have always been able to find quieter places to while away a few hours. That said, there can be crowds, and the Pha Gluay Mai campsite (where I’ve never stayed) looks to be a place to avoid staying; all that said, Khao Yai NP does definitely seem busier than most other places on Thailand’s birding trail.
Among Khao Yai’s stronger points is its system of reasonably well kept trails – something that can’t often be said of Thailand’s national parks. Because of this, accessing good forest is easy, and finding a place away from the crowds isn’t too hard either, as most tourists tend not to walk too far – or arrive too early! To top this off, the park’s bird list is well over 300 – of which I’m currently sitting at 131 – so there is plenty to see if one knows where, and when, to look.
Majors Sites at Khao Yai I’ve Birded
The following is a small list of areas I’ve spent some time birding along with interesting species I’ve encountered there. The sites are listed as they are encountered when entering from the northern gate.
At the KM 33 marker, there is a small layover where one can safely park and explore the forest along the roadside with relative safety and ease. The parking space is located here because at KM 33 is a trailhead that leads off into the forest on the right hand side (if driving towards the park’s HQ). The trail’s beginning has some informative boards, and while I have walked perhaps 500 m into the forest along this trail, I’ve never made it much further before turning back, finding the bird activity in the trees along the roadside here worth an extended stay. I’ve always seen Great Hornbill here, and once Wreathed, while in the wet season I’ve seen both Long-tailed and Banded Broadbills directly above the road. Other birds I’ve encountered here include Scaly-breasted Partridge, Red-headed Trogon, Golden-crested Myna and Collared Owlet along the trail itself.
In late February 2020, I finally did the whole trail – all of 4 km – from Nong Pak Chi to KM 33 during the BCST Khao Yai Bird Survey. A small run-down can be read below.
Nong Pak Chi
This site, a couple of kilometres from KM 33, offers a wide trail through grassland, leading a kilometre or so to a wildlife watching tower. And while I’ve personally never encountered any wildlife either along the trail or from the tower as yet, I know people who have, and I’ve personally come across scat and tracks of elephant, gaur, deer, wild boar, and dhole. As far as birdlife goes, the walked through the grassland affords great views both of the grassland itself and the surrounding treetops, with Golden-headed Cisticola and various prinia species being easy to see, as are Ashy Woodswallow, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, and several drongo species. From the wildlife watching tower, it’s easy to see hornbills flying from tree to tree, and raptors can often be seen soaring, while the adjacent forest often has small birds flitting around inside, including minivets, flowerpeckers, and more bulbuls.
Headquarters (incl. concrete nature trail)
A couple more kilometres on from KM 33 is the park’s headquarters, which includes both the visitors centre, a large food area complete with food stalls, a restaurant and a small store, as well as a few other buildings. The food area sits next to a small stream and can be a pleasant place to sit and have a meal, and a place where tame Sambar Deer seem to be ever present.
On the other side of the road from the food centre is the visitor’s centre – which is where you’ll need to pick up and drop off keys for accommodation – and to the left of here starts a small nature trails that runs for about a kilometre through the forest. The trail itself is sealed, and as such I’ve never had any problem with leeches along here, and despite its proximity to the most active part of the park, good birds can be seen. The best I’ve seen here would undoubtedly be Austen’s Brown Hornbill, which often nests in the forest along this trail, but I’ve also had Long-tailed Broadbill, Abbott’s Babbler and Common Green Magpie along here, and at the end of the trail at the second suspension bridge that crosses near some small rocky rapids, I’ve seen Blue-eared Kingfisher. It should also be noted that along this stream, smooth-coated otters are seen, but I’ve yet to encounter them, mostly because I’m in the forest early in the mornings when they’re most likely to be seen.
A few hundred metres up the road from the food centre a trail leads off from the right hand side of the road, and supposedly this is known as Trail B – there is a very clear sign marking the nature trail, but it doesn’t give the trail a name. While I’ve read that this trail is great for birding, I’ve never had much luck along here, with my best sighting being an Orange-headed Thrush. In my experiences, this trail is definitely the most ‘leechy’ trail I’ve come across at Khao Yai. Nonetheless, I’ll undoubtedly try my luck along here again in the future.
Boonsong Lekagul Camp
Named after Thai conservation luminary, Boonsong Lekagul, this rather rundown campsite offers a nice respite from crowds in the middle of the day, and also offers a trail, leading off along a stream at the right side of the campsite. I’ve never followed this trail too far, but it does lead to a few areas where the rocky stream can be accessed before heading back into the forest, and while I’ve never seen much of great interest along here, I’m sure good birds are possible to those more astute than I. At the campsite, however, I’ve had Dark-sided Flycatcher, and it’s also the best location I’ve had at Khao Yai for Green-eared Barbet. This area is supposedly also a good place to look for Austen’s Brown Hornbill, but I’ve only seen that species along the headquarters trail.
Nong Khing (TAT Pond)
As you continue on away from park HQ, you will first pass a helicopter pad on your left, then Mo Singto Reservoir on the right – there is a trail that begins here and connects with trail B, but I’ve never really explored this area. Further along, the road straightens out, with grassland on both sides of the road, and a small pond with viewing area – this is supposedly a good place to see elephants and gaur among other animals, but I’ve not really stopped here either. Further still, on your left is Nong Khing, a larger pond that has accommodation available on its far side.
At this point, the road continues around to the left and heads to Pha Gluay Mai, but as the road curves, there is a turn-off on the right which leads towards Haew Narok Waterfall (and also Khao Khieo and Thanarat Zone bungalows). Continuing a few hundred metres towards Pha Gluay Mai, however, will lead to the entrance to the accommodation around Nong Khing (a left turn off the road). Once into the accommodation area, there are plenty of places to stop and explore both the open areas, and the trees and scrub that surround the waterhole.
This area is great for seeing Great Eared Nightjar at dusk, and I finally managed to connect in February 2020 after several attempts (at slightly the wrong location!). Another species that is almost always evident here is Brown-backed Needletail, which is a very cool bird, and close views can be had of small flocks hawking over the water and diving down to drink. Other good birds I’ve encountered here include White-throated Rock-thrush, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Verditer Flycatcher, and Himalayan Cuckoo. As well as birds, there are usually both Sambar Deer and Muntjac hanging around the bungalows.
Pha Gluay Mai (and the trail to Haew Suwat Waterfall)
This campsite seems to be very popular with Thai tourists, and during weekends and holidays, there can barely be a spare place to put up a tent – surely not a pleasant experience. While I’ve never stayed here, there is a restaurant at this campsite serving cheap, filling Thai food which comes in handy after a long walk along the trail. Walking around the campsite, many of the more common forest birds are evident, and at times there are hides set up for birds such as Coral-billed Ground-Cuckoo, but I’ve never been in Khao Yai at these times. Additionally, in my experience, both White-handed Gibbons and Black Giant Squirrels seem to be very easy to get good views of around this campsite.
Leading off into the forest not far from the restaurant is a trail that runs several kilometres to Haew Suwat Waterfall, which was made famous by the film The Beach. Like several other trails I’ve come across in Thailand, bewilderingly, a steep section of trail not far from the trailhead was originally laid with concrete as a slope, which has caused it to be extremely slippery at times and therefore dangerous. However, the trail has also fallen foul to another common trend in Thailand, lack of maintenance, so footholes in the slope where the trail has been washed out have made it a little easier to walk up and down.
Like many of the trails at Khao Yai, I’ve never made it to the waterfall at the end (I walk far too slowly while birding), but I have walked several kilometres, and the trail runs through beautiful forest, passing one waterfall along the way, and running parallel to a stream for portions of the trail. It is in this stream that the DNP officials have released a couple of Siamese Crocodiles, so swimming is prohibited; this hasn’t stopped the occasional idiot tourist from getting too close for selfies and being bitten, however. But despite the many signs warning of these crocs, I’ve yet to see one myself. And as far as the bird life I’ve encountered along here, highlights would be Scarlet Minivets, Blyth’s Paradise-flycatcher, Sulfur-breasted Warbler, Mugimaki Flycatcher and Great Hornbill.
While not an area to stop for the sake of birding, the grounds and forest around this accommodation area where I choose to stay hold some nice birds, and an early morning or late afternoon walk usually turns up some good birds. White-crested Laughingthrush is very common here, and so it appears is Large-tailed Nightjar, while I’ve also come across Common Green-magpie, Laced Woodpecker, Greater Flameback, Hill Myna, and both Oriental Pied and Great Hornbill. On top of these birds, I’ve once had a family of Malayan Porcupine make an appearance foraging close to the forest edge one evening.
Khao Khieo Rd – First 1 km++
Khao Khieo Rd, onto which you must turn to get to Thanarat Zone bungalows, quite quickly runs through good forest. However, to safely access this part of the forest, you must park you car close to the turn-off to Thanarat Zone, as the road itself is quite narrow, with very few areas to safely pull over without blocking part of a lane. Regardless, the walk from the parking space isn’t too far, and soon good forest surrounds both sides of the road. While walking along the road here, numerous small trails lead off into the forest. None seem to go too far, but at one, about 1 km along the road, a very rudimentary blind had been set up, and it was here that I encountered my first Blue Pitta, a female – I would later that morning see a male and a few hundred metres down the road. Other birds I’ve seen along this stretch of road include Puff-throated Babbler, Black-throated Laughingthrush, Scaly-breasted Partridge, and Siberian Blue Robin.
Khao Khieo Rd – Pha Dieo Dai
Close to the summit of Khao Khieo is a small, boarded nature trail that leads to a cliff – Pha Dieo Dai. There is a small parking space on the right-hand side of the road, while the nature trail is on the left. Due to the danger posed by slippery rocks at the cliffs, this trail is closed during the rainy season, but you can still explore the forests along the road after parking, and I’ve had Blue Pitta a few hundred metres up the road from here. Other birds, of note I’ve come across here include Orange-headed Thrush, Rufous-bellied Eagle and Besra, while it is also supposedly a good place for pheasants, and as good a place as any to run into a Serow.
Khao Khieo Rd Summit – Pha Trom Jai Viewpoint
At the top of the road there is a small military checkpoint, which also houses a nice viewpoint and a small restaurant/cafe. A road does run further along the mountain ridge, but this road has restricted access. Despite the small area that’s accessible to the public, and despite often misty weather, the summit viewpoint allows for very close views of some nice birds, owing greatly to the abundance of hawk-moths and other insects that occupy the area. On one visit here, I had very close views of Common Green-magpie, Red-headed Trogon, Black-throated Laughingthrush and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, while Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike and Moustached Barbet were also very easy to find. Additionally, when visiting this site, one really must check out the bushes and trees closely to marvel at the sheer number, both of individuals and species, of the hawk-moths and other insects that inhabit the area – a real highlight!
Haew Narok Waterfall
This waterfall, which is quite impressive in the wetter months, is accessed by a sealed nature trail leading through the forest. The trail isn’t particularly long, but the final section is comprised of a large number of quite steep steel steps. This site itself is actually a fair way from other attractions at Khao Yai – about 20 km from Thanarat Zone – and continuing past leads to the park’s southern entrance. While I’ve personally never turned up anything extraordinary here, some nice birds I’ve seen include Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Crested Serpent-eagle, and Banded Bay Cuckoo.
Trips to Khao Yai NP
February 22nd-23rd, 2020
I decided in January that a trip to Khao Yai would probably be in order, so I booked accommodation at Thanarat Zone in advance. On this occasion, I decided to also book a guesthouse in Prachinburi near the southern gate for the Friday night, and after leaving directly from work, was at my guesthouse before 6 pm (about a 2 hour drive), despite some heavy traffic through Pathum Thani.
Staying less than 10 minutes from the southern gate on the Friday night meant I was able to get into the park early, and although the drive from the southern gate into the main attractions in a little further, it was a nice, quiet drive, and I was at Pha Deow Dai nature trail by 7 am. I did have hopes of hanging around this area in hopes of seeing Sumatran Serow, but the wind was blowing an absolutely gale, and I was not dressed appropriately at all, so this stop ended up being a brief one. One quality sighting, however, was that of a soaring Black Eagle as I got out of my car. –> checklist
Next I headed just up the road to Pha Trom Jai Viewpoint, but the whole area was very dry, and there were next to no moths or insects about, meaning the usual birdlife was also low, so I decided to head back down the mountain to an area along Khao Khieo Rd where Coral-billed Ground-Cuckoo had recently been seen. –> checklist. And while I wasn’t fortunate enough to run into the ground-cuckoo, I did manage to finally get some pics of Siamese Firebacks, as a pair were seen foraging very close to the roadside. Other notable birds seen during my two-hour walk include Hainan Blue Flycatcher, a female Siberian Blue Robin and five different bulbul species including Ashy and Grey-eyed. –> checklist
My next stop was the trail at KM 33, as along here a species I’d seen numerous times before without ever getting a pic was nesting, and after walking along the trail for about 600 metres, and then waiting for about 30 minutes, I finally got great views – and pics – of Wreathed Hornbill as a male came in to feed its partner inside their nest. It was a great experience. Aside from these hornbills, my time along this trail at this time of time was quite unproductive, so I headed off to the HQ to pick up the key for my accommodation at Thanarat Zone. –> checklist
While at the HQ, and just after having lunch, I bumped into a group from BCST (Bird Conservation Society of Thailand), that included a member that I knew from Bang Pu, as well as the author of the most recent field guide of birds in Thailand. After a brief chat, they directed me to a few areas of interest for the rest of my day, as well as inviting me to join the annual BCST Khao Yai bird survey that would be held the following day, an offer that I would take up.
The rest of my afternoon consisted of going to several places I was told about specific species that I’d not yet encountered at Khao Yai, the first being a few migrants at Pha Kluay Mai campsite. And while I didn’t connect with the species I was looking for, I did end up getting great views of both Hainan Blue Flycatcher and Red-breasted Parakeet, while also seeing several Vernal Hanging-Parrots up close as well. –> checklist
Next I headed back up Khao Khieo, stopping at an area half-way up near some bridges where Brown Wood-Owl can be quite conspicuous, but unfortunately for me, the bird was neither herd nor seen, although some good birds including Red-headed Trogon, Sulphur-breasted Warbler and Claudia’s Leaf Warbler were seen. –> checklist
I then headed back down to the open fields at the base of Khao Khieo, hoping to possibly see some large mammals come out to graze at dusk, and while that didn’t occur, I didn’t happen upon a single Barred Cuckoo-dove calling from a tree, as well a few Siberian Stonechat and Red-wattled Lapwing and a flyover Wreathed Hornbill. –> checklist
The final location I went to before heading to my cabin was TAT Pond, and after spending time walking around the campgrounds and accommodation blocks as I have in the past without luck, I decided to drive to the other side of the pond, to the carpark across the road, and no sooner than I parked the car, I finally saw Great Eared Nightjat, with at least three birds flight low and close over the carpark and small adjacent field. –> checklist
Having been told the previous day to meet near the HQ before 7 am to form groups to do the bird census, I arrived and listened to the group leaders tell when site they would be attending and asking who would like to join them. Luckily for me, the site/trail that I wanted to do – the full trail from Nong Pak Chi to KM 33 – was being run by the author of the most recent Thai bird guide, so not only would I have an excellent ‘guide’ for my morning, but also someone whose brain I could pick.
During the next 5 hours, the group I was with slowly made their way along the trail, beginning with 30 minutes or so of surveying the tree tops from the Nong Pak Chi carpark. The slow pace, and the professional eyes and ears of our guide meant that across this 5-hour, 4-km walk, me managed to see and hear 93 species, with highights being three species of hornbill – Great, Wreathed and Oriental Pied – Long-tailed Broadbill, Sultan Tit, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Oriental Honey-buzzard, and Scaly-breasted (Green-legged) Partridge among many, many others. –> checklist
Once we’d made it back to the road at KM 33, I was able to get a ride back to my truck which I’d left at the Nong Pak Chi carpark, and from there, I briefly stopped at the park HQ, before heading back home.
June 15-16th, 2019
Having not been to Khao Yai for quite some time, I decided to make a trip up a normal Friday afternoon after I’d finished work at 3:30 pm. The initial traffic heading out of Bangkok was quite bad, and by the time I got to Pak Chong, it was almost 6 pm, so I felt vindicated in the decision not to try and make it into the park that afternoon, having booked one night’s accommodation at a small guesthouse outside the park on the Friday, and a park room for the Saturday.
I was at the park’s gate before the 6 am opening time the next morning, meaning I had a wait a few minutes, but once in, I made my way to KM 33. And while I don’t usually have targets when I come to Khao Yai, on this time I was hoping to find Austen’s Brown Hornbill, as well as see broadbills, as it was breeding season, and hopefully they’d be easy to see. And sure enough, while walking along the road at KM 33, a Banded Broadbill called from directed above me, and that led my eyes to a broadbill nest higher above the road. After watching this nest for a minute or so, a Long-tailed Broadbill flew in to add to the nest. It turned out to be a great morning, with my 90 minutes at this site turning up the aforementioned broadbills, plus other great birds such as Great and Wreathed Hornbills, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Golden-crested Myna, and several noisy Greater Flamebacks. –> checklist
I next stopped at Nong Pak Chi, and walked to the wildlife viewing tower, as well as walking the trail that continues past it, and while there were plenty of birds about, they were all the commonly encountered species, though a large flock of Golden-crested Mynas was a highlight, as was just spending time in the tower relaxing. –> checklist
Upon leaving Nong Pak Chi, I decided my next stop would be the trail behind the visitor’s centre, to try and look for brown hornbill, but before I got there, I was stopped by a flash of green flying in front of the car. I pulled over off the road, and to my surprise were three low-hanging Long-tailed Broadbill nests, each with two attending birds. I sat and watching for a while as they continued to build their nests, and was able to get some great pics. –> checklist
Once at the visitor’s centre, I headed off along the concrete nature trail, with Crested Serpent-Eagle being clearly heard before being seen, soaring above the canopy. After taking a few small detours in the forest, and finding some cool insects, I was walking further along the trail when I started hearing a loud call, which I thought was brown hornbill, and sure enough, a little further along the trail, there was a small dirt path that lead to a large hide, that had been set up to study an Austen’s Brown Hornbill nest. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the area just as the male had returned to the nest with food. It was a great experience, topped off further by a Blue-eared Kingfisher I once again stumbled upon while crossing the small suspension bridge at the end of the trail. –> checklist
After arriving at my room at Thanarat Zone, heavy rain began falling, and I was stuck inside for the next couple of hours, but once the rain seemed to have cleared, I drove up to the summit of Khao Khieo. The couple of hours I spent at the viewpoint were interspersed with light showers and heavy fog, but it was nonetheless a great afternoon, with very close views of Common Green-Magpie, Black-throated Laughingthrush, Velevet-fronted Nuthatch, Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Red-headed Trogon and Moustached Barbet, while a little way back down the road, I stopped the car upon hearing Blue Pitta, and after a bit of a search, found a male hopping through the undergrowth. Aside from the birds at the summit, there was an amazing array of insects, with many types of moths, especially hawk-moths taking a fancy to a couple of trees next to the road, something the birds were very appreciative of. –> checklist
Once back down the mountain, I tried Nong Khing once again for Great Eared Nightjar, but once again came up empty handed, and rain in the evening prevented me going out to look for owls.
Given the success I’d had the day before, I decided to leave Khao Yai a little earlier than had previously planned, so that I could stop on my way home at another site, Pak Phli, which would mean exiting via the southern gate, something I’d not done before. I did, however, have another quick walk along the concrete trail behind the visitor’s centre after I’d returned my key, and also stopped briefly at Haew Harok Waterfall, because it is close to the southern exit, but neither stop turned up anything new or out of the ordinary. –> HQ Trail / Haew Narok
March 10-11th, 2018
With this being only a normal weekend, I left Bangkok at around 4:30 am Saturday, and arrived in the park just after 7 am, and decided to first try my luck at Boonsong Lekagul campsite and trail. And while a lot of birds – barbets and babblers mostly – were heard, not much of significant was seen, with the best birds probably being a pair of Green-eared Barbets. –> checklist
My next stop for the day was Pha Gluay Mai campgrounds, where I explored the left-hand side of the site (if driving to the waterfall), but unlike my first stop, the birds were more evident, with a good mix of species including Oriental Pied-Hornbills, Rosy Minivets, numerous bulbul species, and close views of a Shikra, flushed from a low branch on the forest edge. Despite being all common species, it was a pleasant morning spent around an area I’d not spend much time before. –> checklist
I then drove the short distance from here to Khao Khieo Rd, where I stopped my car and walked along the road. After about 1 km, on the left-hand side, a small trail led about 40 metres in the forest, and here at a small clearing, someone had set up a small blind – nothing more than a piece of black shade-cloth with a few holes punched in it and a log. While I sat here, two Blue Pittas began calling, but unfortunately they didn’t come in, and their calls soon disappeared into the forest. While sitting here, however, I was afforded close views of male Hainan Blue Flycatcher, and a male Siberian Blue Robin, and a pair of Green-eared Barbets actually came down quite low nearby as well, while interesting non-avian fauna included a Lesser Mouse-deer, and a Diard’s Blind-snake –> checklist
By now it was close to midday, so I drove back to park HQ for a bite to eat, and to also pick up the key for my bungalow. Unlike my last visit, the room I’d booked this time only had a single double bed, but did have a private bathroom – and all this for the same price as the shared-bathroom room I’d stay in last time! I now know that when booking online using the DNP’s website, to book rooms 407/1, 407/2, or 407/3 at Thanarat Zone.
My next stop for the day was Haew Narok Waterfall and trail, and an hour or so there turned up the usual forest birds, with nice close views of Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters and Asian Fairy-Bluebird, while upon driving out of the site, a single Wreathed Hornbill flew quite low over the road and canopy. I then drove back towards the main part of the park to Nong Khing in an attempt to see Great Eared Nightjar, a bird that had so far eluded me, and did so once again. I did, however come across a Himalayan Cuckoo sitting on an open perch, and also had close views of a White-throated Rock-Thrush, and Brown-backed Needletails as they flew down to drink. –> Haew Narok / Nong Khing
The following morning I headed up Khao Khieo road early, and walked along the Pha Dieo Dai nature trail with highlights being Moustached Barbet, a low flying Besra and an Orange-headed Thrush feeding among the leaf litter close to the boardwalk. –> checklist After an hour in this area, I set off back down to the first kilometre of Khao Khieo road and went back to the makeshift blind in the hope of seeing Blue Pitta; and lo and behold, as soon as I sat down on a log, a female Blue Pitta was staring back at me, within only a few metres. So, I sat for a while, and aside from the pitta, which didn’t stay around too long, the birds were similar to the day before. I followed my time at the hide with a short walk further along the road, and turned up a male Blue Pitta, calling close to the road, as well as a Scaly-breasted Partridge and a low flying Great Hornbill. –> checklist
I then headed the short distance back to Thanarat Zone, packed my things, and drove back to HQ to return my key. While there, I walked around the area for a short time, turning up just the usual birds, though a very noisy and active Common Green-Magpie was a highlight. –> checklist
December 26-28th, 2017
For my first solo trip to Khao Yai, I left Bangkok a little after 4 am, and after stopping for supplies, I was birding along the trail at KM 33 by around 7:30 am. And because there was intermittent light rain the whole time I was there, the birding activity seemed quite low. I did, however, flush a single Scaly-breasted Partridge from the trail, and was afforded good, though gloomy, views of several Red-headed Trogons. –> checklist
As is often the case with my Khao Yai trips, my next stop was to be Nong Pak Chi, and as I was driving there, I stumbled upon a female Siamese Fireback crossing the road. Luckily, I came upon this magnificent bird on a straight stretch of road, and I was able to slowly and safely (for both the bird and I) roll down the hill to get closer view. Unfortunately, I was unable to get any pics, as the bird quickly ran deeper in the forest when I finally stopped the car. –> checklist When I did finally make it to Nong Pak Chi, I walked to and from the nature viewing tower, with most of the regular birds of this area seen. –> checklist
Next up was at stop at HQ, where I showed the staff my receipt for my pre-booked room; however, it was only 11 am, and I was told to come back at 1 pm to get my key. Most other parks I’ve stayed in are much quieter, and I’ve been given the key for the accommodation on arrival, regardless of the time. Nonetheless, I decided since I was in the area that I’d check out Trail B, that begins only a hundred metres or so up the road, as I’d previously never walked this trail. I found this trail to be relatively quiet, with the best birds being a single Red-headed Trogon and an Orange-headed Thrush–> checklist
The room I was staying in at Thanarat Zone (near Khao Khieo Rd), was quite spacious, with two large double beds, but didn’t have a private bathroom – a shared bathroom (which was very clean) was found just along a covered veranda that connects all the room of this building. I decided to take a walk around the accommodation area, which is flanked by forest, and found quite a few good, albeit common birds, with highlights being Common Green-Magpie and a Large-tailed Nightjar that I almost stepped on. –> checklist
I then drove up to Pha Dieo Dai where I spent the next hour, and while I was encouraged by a pair of Wreathed Hornbills that flew over the road on the drive up, the bird activity once there was quite low, though I did get nice views of a Rufous-bellied Eagle soaring in the strong winds above. –> checklist My day finished with another walk around Thanarat Zone accommodation area, and I finally managed to tick off my first ever woodpecker, a male Greater Flameback – for some reason, I just hadn’t been able to connect with any woodpeckers up until this moment, so I was happy to finally do so. –> checklist
The next morning I decided to once again try my luck around the accommodation area, and I was quickly I knew I’d made the right decision, with Greater Flameback hanging around long enough for me to get some pics, as well as there being a tree full of around 50 Thick-billed Pigeons, and smaller flocks of Common Hill Myna and Eyebrowed Thrush, while a lone Burmese Shrike topped off a productive first hour of the day. –> checklist
My next location for the day was the park’s HQ and Boonsong Lekagul camp, and while both were quite birdy, I didn’t hang around either for too long before heading off to Pha Gluay Mai, with a single Dark-sided Flycatcher being a highlight. –> Park HQ / Boonsong Lekagul camp. Once at Pha Gluay Mai campgrounds, I quickly headed to the trail that leads to Haew Suwat waterfall, and spent the next three hours walking along and back. But given my slow pace, I didn’t actually reach the waterfall, with my return trip being close to 5 km. Some highlights of the trail were Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Blyth’s Paradise-flycatcher and both Asian Pied and Great Hornbills. –> checklist
The remainder of the day I spent walking along the first section of Khao Khieo road, followed by another walk around Thanarat Zone, with Black-throated Laughingthrush being found along the road, and another flock of Eyebrowed Thrush at Thanarat Zone being the highlights. –> Khao Khieo Rd / Thanarat Zone.
I once again started my day with a walk around the accommodation area, and quickly added to my first woodpecker, with Laced Woodpecker becoming my second. Another new bird that I added on this morning was Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, but after around 45 minutes, I set off to Haew Narok waterfall –> checklist At Haew Narok, I quickly happened upon another new bird for me, Banded Bay Cuckoo, while other birds seen included Hill Blue Flycatcher, Grey wagtail, Bronzed Drongo, and several species of bulbul. –> checklist
I then drove back to my room, packed the car and drove back to HQ to return my key. After doing so, I walked around the fruiting trees nearby and get great views of the many Thick-billed Green Pigeons and Blue-eared Barbets that were fighting each other for the best fruit, but the undoubted highlight was a magnificent Mountain Hawk-Eagle soaring quite low about the HQ area – a great way to end my 3-day trip! –> checklist
January 28th, 2017
Another trip undertaken my my wife and the same friends as last time, but on this occasion, my wife, my friend and I drove up on a Friday, while my friend’s wife caught a bus up to Pak Chong once she’d finished work that afternoon. While waiting for her to arrive, we checked into our guesthouse, then went to explore a large nearby reservoir and its adjacent parkland – Lumtakong Reservoir and Thao Suranari Garden. It was a nice afternoon, with the highlight being watching a pair of Ospreys fishing in the reservoir.
The following morning saw us in Khao Yai and birding the KM 33 trail by 7:30 am, and not far into the trail we came across a pair of Red-headed Trogons, while my friend somehow managed to spot a tiny Collared Owlet perched in the sunlight – a great start to the morning. Along the road at KM 33 we were also lucky to see a male Great Hornbill feeding his partner who was sitting on a nest inside a large tree.
As with our first visit the year before, our next stop was Nong Pak Chi, where we strolled through the grassland to the wildlife viewing tower. Nothing of great interest was seen at this location, but it is always nice to see plenty of Red-whiskered Bulbuls here, a bird that has been heavily trapped and caged throughout the country for songbird competitions. Along with these bulbuls were other common birds such as Siberian Stonechat and Ashy Woodswallow.
The next stop was the HQ area where we had lunch – and came across a Blue Rock-thrush sitting atop of the buildings – before we continued on to Nong Khing where once again my wife’s eyes came to the fore when she spotted a White-throated Rock-Thrush sitting on a metal structure. At Nong Khing we also happened upon a pair of Blue-bearded Bee-eaters and a single Verditer Flycatcher. Aside from these birds, however, nothing much of note was seen.
Our final location for this trip was the old golf course area, another area of grassland where’d we’d not previously been, located off the road to Pha Gluay Mai. Unfortunately, nothing much was seen at this place, with the only take home being ticks! And so, with the sun beginning to set, we headed back out of the park to our accommodation.
The following day, on our way back to Bangkok after a late lunch in Pak Chong, we decided to stop by a small national park in Saraburi province that our route home took us past, Namtok Samlan National Park. On this occasion, we only stopped for an hour or so, but I have since returned a number of times, and the above link details those visits.
January 9th, 2016
On this occasion, my wife and I travelled up to Khao Yai with a couple of friends (also birders) on a long weekend, but as my wife isn’t a birder so to speak, the first day was spent driving up and then visiting Jim Thompson Farm, a local tourist attraction showcasing fields of flowers and produce. While it was a nice enough afternoon, we all concluded that a second visit would not be necessary. We then drove closer to Khao Yai NP where we’d booked our accommodation at a small guesthouse.
The plan for the following day was to spend the whole day in Khao Yai, visiting different places as we went, armed with information from Thaibirding.com – an invaluable source of information for those new to birding in Thailand, which we were. So, after a relatively slow morning, we were finally in the park and walking along the trail at Nong Pak Chi around 7:30 am. At this stage, my Thai bird list was barely over 100 species, so a lot of things that were seen this trip were new for me, which included at this site White-crested Laughingthrush, and Chestnut-headed Bee-eater at the car park, and Golden-headed Cisticola in the grasslands.
Our next stop was the headquarters area where we walked along the sealed nature trail, adding new birds Abbott’s Babbler, Puff-throated Bulbul, and White-browed Scimitar-babbler. This was followed by lunch at the food centre by the stream where we were afforded great views of Common Kingfisher and Mugimaki Flycatcher. Unfortunately, at around this time the rain began, and was on-off for the next few hours, and aside from a short stop at Nong Khing where we picked up Olive-backed Pipit, the earlier parts of the afternoon were characterized by sitting around and waiting for the rain to clear.
And finally it did, allowing us to walk some way along the trail from Pha Gluay Mai to Haew Suwat waterfall. We found this trail to be quite birdy, but mostly with more common species such as minivets, drongos and bulbuls. And by the time we’d returned to the campsite, it was already getting dark, so we decided to make our way back out of the park to our accommodation. In all, a pleasant, if not completely rewarding foray into birding at Khao Yai. –> checklist
BIRD LIST (131 identified species)
- Scaly-breasted Partridge
- Red Junglefowl
- Siamese Fireback
- Spotted Dove
- Asian Emerald Dove
- Zebra Dove
- Thick-billed Pigeon
- Mountain Imperial-Pigeon
- Greater Coucal
- Green-billed Malkoha
- Asian Koel
- Banded Bay Cuckoo
- Large Hawk-Cuckoo
- Himalayan Cuckoo
- Large-tailed Nightjar
- Brown-backed Needletail
- House Swift
- Asian Palm-Swift
- White-breasted Waterhen
- Red-wattled Lapwing
- Asian Openbill
- Little Cormorant
- Little Egret
- Striated Heron
- Black-winged Kite
- Crested Serpent-Eagle
- Mountain Hawk-Eagle
- Rufous-bellied Eagle
- Crested Goshawk
- Collared Owlet
- Red-headed Trogon
- Eurasian Hoopoe
- Great Hornbill
- Austen’s Brown Hornbill
- Oriental Pied-Hornbill
- Wreathed Hornbill
- Common Kingfisher
- Blue-eared Kingfisher
- White-throated Kingfisher
- Blue-bearded Bee-eater
- Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
- Indian Roller
- Blue-eared Barbet
- Green-eared Barbet
- Moustached Barbet
- Greater Flameback
- Laced Woodpecker
- Red-breasted Parakeet
- Vernal Hanging-Parrot
- Long-tailed Broadbill
- Banded Broadbill
- Blue Pitta
- Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike
- Ashy Woodswallow
- Common Iora
- Scarlet Minivet
- Ashy Minivet
- Brown-rumped Minivet
- Rosy Minivet
- Black-winged Cuckooshrike
- Brown Shrike
- Burmese Shrike
- White-bellied Erpornis
- Black-naped Oriole
- Black Drongo
- Ashy Drongo
- Bronzed Drongo
- Hair-crested Drongo
- Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
- Black-naped Monarch
- Blyth’s Paradise-Flycatcher
- Common Green-Magpie
- Large-billed Crow
- Barn Swallow
- Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher
- Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
- Black-headed Bulbul
- Black-crested Bulbul
- Red-whiskered Bulbul
- Stripe-throated Bulbul
- Yellow-vented Bulbul
- Streak-eared Bulbul
- Puff-throated Bulbul
- Ashy Bulbul
- Yellow-browed Warbler
- Radde’s Warbler
- Plain-tailed Warbler
- Two-barred Warbler
- Sulphur-breasted Warbler
- Common Tailorbird
- Yellow-bellied Prinia
- Plain Prinia
- Golden-headed Cisticola
- Chestnut-flanked White-eye
- Pin-striped Tit-Babbler
- White-browed Scimitar-Babbler
- Puff-throated Babbler
- Abbott’s Babbler
- White-crested Laughingthrush
- Black-throated Laughingthrush
- Asian Fairy-Bluebird
- Dark-sided Flycatcher
- Asian Brown Flycatcher
- White-rumped Shama
- Hainan Blue Flycatcher
- Hill Blue Flycatcher
- Verditer Flycatcher
- Siberian Blue Robin
- Mugimaki Flycatcher
- Taiga Flycatcher
- White-throated Rock-Thrush
- Blue Rock-Thrush
- Siberian Stonechat
- Orange-headed Thrush
- Eyebrowed Thrush
- Golden-crested Myna
- Common Hill Myna
- Common Myna
- Blue-winged Leafbird
- Golden-fronted Leafbird
- Yellow-vented Flowerpecker
- Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
- Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
- Olive-backed Sunbird
- Grey Wagtail
- Paddyfield Pipit
- Olive-backed Pipit
- Scaly-breasted Munia