Central West Trip – October 2020

With my week of holidays during the second half of October 2020, I decided to go to two protected areas I’d previously visited only once each – Mae Wong NP back in July 2019, and Huai Kha Khaeng WS (HKK), which I’d first visited with a friend only a month earlier. Along with these two sites, I also planned on visiting Phu Toei NP in Suphanburi province; a national park that hold the southern-most pine forest in Thailand, and the crash site of an ill-fated Lauder Air flight. It was an interesting trip that started with horrible weather at Chong Yen, Mae Wong NP, but included plenty of good birds, and an nice hike at Phu Toei.

October 17th

Having driven as far as Nakhon Sawan the previous afternoon after work, I left my small guesthouse before dawn to make it so some open country habitat near the town of Khlong Lan, Kamphaeng Phet, the largest town of note near the main entrance to Mae Wong NP. I spent about an hour in the area, with highlights being a flock of Grey-headed Lapwings, a perched Crested Honey-buzzard, and some Red-breasted Parakeets loudly flocking in a large tree by a canal at the edge of a rice field. –> checklist

After grabbing some breakfast and some supplies from Khlong Lan, I headed into the park, and registered my vehicle for Chong Yen, the uppermost campsite, where I’d reserved a bungalow for two nights. By 9:30 am, I had reach Khun Nam Yen – a campsite a few kilometres down from Chong Yen, and stopped for my first birding within Mae Wong of the trip. The conditions were very foggy, though without rain, and during my walk around the campsite and along the road up to Chong Yen, not a whole lot made itself evident, although Grey Treepie was a nice encounter, but the best was a single Olive Bulbul in a tree a few hundred metres along the road. I also encounter a thrush, but the conditions weren’t great, and it disappeared before I could get a good look. –> checklist

After stopping at Khun Nam Yen first, I then made my way to Chong Yen, and rain began quite persistently until 1 pm. Before than time I managed to check in to my bungalow, and as is my experience here, the room is comfortable enough – more comfortable than camping in the wind and rain – but the bucket shower is ice cold, and despite there being lights and sockets, there is no electricity in the room, meaning charging camera batteries and devices isn’t possible.

Regardless of all this, once the rain abated around 1 pm, I trudged off down the road to see what was about, but I only got about 45 minutes of birding in until the rain resumed and stayed around until close to 4 pm. In the wet, foggy condition, I still saw some nice birds, including Maroon Oriole, Golden-throated Barbet, Collared Babbler, and a drenched White-necked Laughingthrush roosting in the canopy. Despite my best efforts, though, I my birding at Chong Yen this day was heavily weather-effected, and during the night, the rain and wind did not relent. –> checklist

October 18th

As usual at Chong Yen, heavy fog greeted me in the morning, but I was able to get in a couple of hours of birding before the rain set in. During this time in sat around the campgrounds, and also walked down along the road, but despite the absence of rain, there wasn’t a lot about, although Pin-tailed Green-Pigeon was a great addition to the trip list – and a lifer – and other good birds to make appearances were Barred Cuckoo-Dove and Grey-chinned Minivet. –> checklist

Sick of the rain – and the possibility of being stuck in my dark room for hours on end, I decided to leave Chong Yen, and disregard the second night I’d paid for. I stopped briefly at Khun Nam Yen on the way day, where it wasn’t raining, and added a couple of species to the trip list, most noticebly Marten’s Warbler. –> checklist

With my abandonment of Chong Yen, I headed to my next stop – Huai Kha Khaeng WS – a day early, but decided to stop as several sites on my way there, the first of which was an agricultural area along the road I was traveling. Nothing of note was seen, but an encounter with a low-flying Black Kite was memorable. –> checklist

Further on I stopped at Khlong Pho Reservoir in Nakhon Sawan, and my first stop at the reservoir wall turned up the usual suspects, although an out-of -season Oriental Pratincole was given a little extra scrutiny. However, a few kilometres on, while crossing a bridge that crosses part of the same reservoir, I stopped my car due the the large number of Spot-billed Pelican swimming around the wetlands. I counted 97 in all, by far my most numerous sighting of this species. –> reservoir wall pelicans

Once I’d made it to my planned accommodation for HKK, I explained why I was a day early, and they had no issue changing the dates of my two booked nights, but as it was already getting late, I decided not to go into HKK, and found a site outside instead. This site was a dam wall a little to the south, and while most birds seen were expected, a pair of Pied Kingfishers that flew by stood out. –> checklist

October 19th

Huai Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary has a lot of interesting history, a lot of which surrounds the life – and death – of one of Thailand key figures in conservation, Seub Nakhasathien; at the visitors centre, there is a memorial for Seub, and murals in both Thai and English honoring him. Furthermore, HKK, as part of the Western Forest Complex, has a healthy tiger population, probably owing in part to it’s healthy populations of tiger’s prey species. In fact, in September 2020 during my first visit with a friend, we came upon a tiget pug-mark not far from the visitor’s centre, and hearing tiger roars, especially early morning, is not that uncommon; but don’t come hear thinking you’ll see a tiger, as actually sighting are extremely rare.

While in the park, I spent most of my day along the access road that runs several kilometres from the gate to the visitors centre, and the dry dipterocarp along this road is famous for woodpeckers, and it did not disappoint; in all I saw seven species this trip, including my main target, Great Slaty Woodpecker. Aside from woodpeckers, HKK is also known as the most reliable place in Thailand for Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon, and while I had seen this species the month prior, it was great to connect with a small number on this visit as well. In all, I spent a little over 11 hours in the park and saw 70 species, including the above mentioned, as well as another HKK specialty, Green Peafowl, and other great birds such as White-bellied Woodpecker, Rufous Treepie, and Burmese Shrike. –> checklist

October 20th

Having only dipped on a single target, White-rumped Falcon, I decided not to go back into HKK in the morning, and headed south towards Phu Toei NP. I made numerous stops along the road to Phu Toei, first at a Hup Pa Tat Forest Park, and then several times closer to Phu Toei due the the number of migrating raptors seen above while driving. The best such sighting along this road was an Amur Falcon, a migratory raptor not often seen this far south in Thailand. –> Thung Na Ngam paddiesraptor stop 1raptor stop 2raptor stop 3

For some reason, one cannot book accommodation at Phu Toei NP on the DNP website, and when I arrived at the park, I asked whether there were any free bungalows. I was told, yes, but had to wait, and it seemed that park employees and workers were residing in the bungalows. I’ve not problem with this, especially as they clean the room and made it available to me.

The park itself has plenty of signage, of of which mentions that the pine forest ‘lan son’ is around 11km (one way) from where I was, and though it was just before midday, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to attempt that. Anyway, after lunch I set off along the trail – which is actually a dirt road, accessible only by park 4×4 vehicles – but after around a kilometre and a half, a pick-up truck full of rangers came upon me. They asked where I was headed and I said “nowhere in particular” but they graciously offered to give me a ride to the the junction near the “Lauda Shrine”, commemorating the plane crash decades earlier.

Once at the junction, I headed off up the trail, first thinking that I’d just go to the shrine, but after reaching that in quick time, I set off to the pine forest. From the junction, the pine forest is supposedly 4.5 km, but in reality it was around a kilometre more than signed (a common problem in Thailand).

The trail to lan Son is still actually a road – albeit a rough one – and was very easy to follow, but due to changing conditions, and the time of day, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time up there, but across the whole afternoon, there were plenty of great encounters, including Kalij Pheasant, Bamboo Woodpecker, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, and Blue-bearded Bee-eater. –> checklist

Later in the evening, a Collared Scops-Owl was calling right outside the backdoor of my bungalow, adding another great species to my trip’s list. –> checklist

October 21st

A morning walk around the HQ area added a few birds for my time at Phu Toei, but I decided to leave early to get home later in the day, something that my wife was happy about! I stopped a couple of time to add a few birds, such as Racket-tailed Treepie, and Crested Honey-buzzard on the road home, but m one main stop was at Rahat paddies in Meuang Suphanburi. And while I couldn’t find an way into the actual paddies (or maybe they’d been developed), I still managed to see some good birds, the best of all being a large flock of Glossy Ibis. –> checklist

After this stop, I made my way back to BKK with a few days left of my holiday, but thoroughly enjoyed the exploration, and definitely want to get back to Phu Toei NP, and spend time at the pine field during the day.

BIRD LIST (146 identified species)

  1. Lesser Whistling-Duck
  2. Green Peafowl
  3. Feral Pigeon
  4. Barred Cuckoo-Dove
  5. Zebra Dove
  6. Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon
  7. Pin-tailed Green-Pigeon
  8. Green Imperial-Pigeon
  9. Mountain Imperial-Pigeon
  10. Greater Coucal
  11. Green-billed Malkoha
  12. Asian Koel
  13. Germain’s Swiftlet
  14. Asian Palm-Swift
  15. Crested Treeswift
  16. White-breasted Waterhen
  17. Black-winged Stilt
  18. Grey-headed Lapwing
  19. Red-wattled Lapwing
  20. Greater Painted-Snipe
  21. Pheasant-tailed Jacana
  22. Bronze-winged Jacana
  23. Common Snipe
  24. Wood Sandpiper
  25. Oriental Pratincole
  26. Whiskered Tern
  27. Asian Openbill
  28. Little Cormorant
  29. Indian Cormorant
  30. Spot-billed Pelican
  31. Great White Egret
  32. Intermediate Egret
  33. Little Egret
  34. Cattle Egret
  35. Chinese Pond Heron
  36. Glossy Ibis
  37. Black-winged Kite
  38. Crested Honey-buzzard
  39. Grey-faced Buzzard
  40. Crested Goshawk
  41. Shikra
  42. Black-eared Kite
  43. Collared Scops Owl
  44. Eurasian Hoopoe
  45. Oriental Pied-Hornbill
  46. White-throated Kingfisher
  47. Black-capped Kingfisher
  48. Pied Kingfisher
  49. Blue-bearded Bee-eater
  50. Green Bee-eater
  51. Blue-tailed Bee-eater
  52. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater
  53. Indochinese Roller
  54. Coppersmith Barbet
  55. Blue-eared Barbet
  56. Great Barbet
  57. Lineated Barbet
  58. Golden-fronted Barbet
  59. Grey-capped Woodpecker
  60. Bay Woodpecker
  61. Greater Flameback
  62. Common Flameback
  63. Grey-headed Woodpecker
  64. Black-headed Woodpecker
  65. Great Slaty Woodpecker
  66. Amur Falcon
  67. Red-breasted Parakeet
  68. Vernal Hanging-Parrot
  69. Blue-winged Pitta
  70. Grey-chinned Minivet
  71. Large Cuckooshrike
  72. White-bellied Erpornis
  73. Black-naped Oriole
  74. Black-hooded Oriole
  75. Maroon Oriole
  76. Ashy Woodswallow
  77. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
  78. Common Iora
  79. Malaysian Pied-Fantail
  80. Black Drongo
  81. Ashy Drongo
  82. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
  83. Hair-crested Drongo
  84. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
  85. Brown Shrike
  86. Burmese Shrike
  87. Red-billed Blue-Magpie
  88. Rufous Treepie
  89. Grey Treepie
  90. Racket-tailed Treepie
  91. Large-billed Crow
  92. Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher
  93. Indochinese Bushlark
  94. Common Tailorbird
  95. Plain Prinia
  96. Zitting Cisticola
  97. Barn Swallow
  98. Red-rumped Swallow
  99. Black-headed Bulbul
  100. Black-crested Bulbul
  101. Sooty-headed Bulbul
  102. Flavescent Bulbul
  103. Streak-eared Bulbu
  104. Olive Bulbul
  105. Ashy Bulbul
  106. Mountain Bulbul
  107. Yellow-browed Warbler
  108. Marten’s Warbler
  109. Pale-legged Leaf Warbler
  110. Yellow-bellied Warbler
  111. Indian White-eye
  112. PIn-striped Tit-Babbler
  113. White-browed Scimitar-Babbler
  114. Collared Babbler
  115. Puff-throated Babbler
  116. White-crested Laughingthrush
  117. White-necked Laughingthrush
  118. Common Hill Myna
  119. Siamese Pied Starling
  120. Chestnut-tailed Starling
  121. Common Myna
  122. Great Myna
  123. Asian Brown Flycatcher
  124. Oriental Magpie-Robin
  125. White-rumped Shama
  126. Indochinese Blue Flycatcher
  127. Yellow-rumped Flycatcher
  128. Taiga Flycatcher
  129. Siberian Stonechat
  130. Pied Bushchat
  131. Olive-backed Sunbird
  132. Black-throated Sunbird
  133. Little Spiderhunter
  134. Streaked Spiderhunter
  135. Asian Fairy-Bluebird
  136. Golden-fronted Leafbird
  137. Asian Golden Weaver
  138. Scaly-breasted Munia
  139. House Sparrow
  140. Plain-back Sparrow
  141. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  142. Grey Wagtail
  143. Eastern Yellow Wagtail
  144. Richard’s Pipit
  145. Paddyfield Pipit
  146. Olive-backed Pipit

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