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Mu Ko Surin National Park, Thailand

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Old Thursday 22nd May 2003, 02:02   #1
Sumate Bhlapibul
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Mu Ko Surin National Park, Thailand

Birding Trip Report: Mu Ko Surin National Park
Kuraburi, Phang-Nga, Thailand,
May 01-04,2003


During the period of the 1st to the 4th of May 2003, five of my Thai birder friends and I made a short visit to Mu Ko Surin National Park, Thailand, The purpose of this trip was to check on the local avifauna and in particular, to see the rare resident Beach Thick-knees. This visit proved to be successful and I managed to obtain sightings of these rarely seen birds. I saw a pair only too briefly on the day before our return but I shall be going back to have another look again

The highlight on this short trip was, of course, the sighting of the Beach Thick-knees we came to see. Other uncommon birds that we saw were a Pomarine Jaeger, Long-tailed Jaeger, Nicobar pigeons and a Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel.

In addition, we heard the Brown Hawk-Owl and Flyeater calling. No sightings of these birds were made. A total of 39 species including those heard only, were recorded

Mu Ko Surin National Park

Mu Ko Surin was designated the 29th National Park of Thailand on July 9, 1981. The Park covers an area of 135 of which 24 % is land and the rest is marine. The land area consists of 5 main islands; North Surin Island, South Surin Island, Stork Island, Ko Klang and Ko Kai, and the nearby Hin Pae and Hin Kong rock outcrops.

Mo Ko Surin is an invaluable site for the study of Nature and not just a destination for tourists to exploit for their own pleasure. The islands with their rich bio-diversity in flora and fauna are natural classrooms. The fact that the Park is a combination of
several forest types, which merge with colorful coral reefs, makes the place distinctive and interesting.

This National Park covers an area extremely rich in terrestrial and marine life ranging from the largest fish in the world, the whale Shark to rare birds such as the Beach
Thick-knees, Nicobar Pigeons and strange mammals such as the Malayan Flying Lemur.

The mainland HQ and Visitor Center are located in Kuraburi, Phang-Nga, Thailand. To
reach the mainland HQ, turn west near the 720 km. stone-marker on Highway No. 4 if you are coming from Bangkok. Go on further for 3 km. towards Kuraburi Pier. During the high season (mid-Nov to mid-May) there is a daily ferry service from Kuraburi Pier to Mu Ko Surin leaving at 9.00 a.m. The journey takes approximately 4 hours. The ferry returns to the mainland at 10.00 a.m. daily.

Mu Ko Surin lies 60 km. offshore and has limited but adequate accommodation facilities for visitors. It is essential to reserve accommodation in advance by contacting either: the National Park Marine Division or the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department in Bangkok, Tel.+66 2 561-2918, +66 2 561-2921 ext. 746 or the Mu Ko Surin NP. Tel. +66 7 649-1378, +66 7 649 1582(mainland), +66 7 6419028-9 (island)
Fax. +66 7 649-1583


Generally clear sky condition and very hot. It rains often during the night. I experienced heavy rain one morning during our stay at the Island HQ. The sea was a little choppy with waves as high as 30 cm.

Itinerary Summary

30 April Night departure from Bangkok in a van.
01 May Arrived at Kuraburi Pier to board a ferry to Island HQ.
01-04 May Birding and snorkeling around the Island all day.
04 May Return to Bangkok.

Daily Account

Thursday 01st May 2003

In the morning, at Kuraburi pier, a flock of about 5-7 Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica)
were seen flying over us. We left Kuraburi pier at 9.00 a.m. On the way to Mu Ko Surin NP, we saw many seabirds, About 30 minutes into the journey, an adult Common Tern
(Sterna birundo) in breeding plumage landed on our boat. Three adult White –
winged Terns (Chlidonias hybridus) flew parallel to our boat on the starboard side. Within the optical limits of our 8X binoculars, we saw three Bridled Terns in breeding plumage flying just above the sea looking for food.

One and a half hours later, we saw a large dark gull-like seabird with elongated spoon shaped tail feathers, flying past in front of the boat. It was an adult, dark morph, Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus) in breeding plumage. It was overall blackish-brown in color and had a black cap and dark belly.

When we arrived at Ao Chong Kaad where the island HQ of Mu Ko Surin NP is located, a white morph Pacific Reef-Egret (Egretta sacra) was sighted fishing off the rock. An adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) was seen soaring above in the sky. Three adult Hill Mynas (G.r.religiosa) called from a fig tree. A Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) was perched on the roof of the HQ building and it seemed to be welcoming our group. Near the radio tower, an adult Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) was perched on a tall tree.

After lunch we went birding along the nature trail that leads us to Haad Mai Ngam. I met up with a pair of Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana) in breeding plumage resting on a rock near the water edge. Along the trail we saw many Pied Imperial Pigeons (Ducula bicolor) and Green Imperial Pigeons (Ducula aenea) flying past our group many times.

Returning to HQ, we heard the melodious song of a White-rumped Shama (Copsychus
malabaricus), It seemed to follow us and sang beautifully ahead of our group. Other birds that we spotted were a Chinese Pond-Heron (Ardeola bacchus) in breeding plumage in the company of Black-naped Terns. When we arrived at our bungalow, a Greater Racket Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) welcomed us with its song

Friday 2nd May 2003

In the morning, we hired a ‘ long tailed ‘ boat to visit Ko Stork in search of the Great-bill
Heron but we were not successful. At this island, we saw Pied Imperial Pigeons collecting small dry twigs to build their nests.

The long tailed boat took us around the island, and we spotted two to three Collared Kingfisher (Halcyon chloris) perched by the rocky shore. A lone adult Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii) in breeding plumage, with black tipped reddish bill and pinkish belly was seen in the company of a flock of Black naped Terns.

On the way back to HQ, at Ao Mae Yai, we saw a blue bird with red bill flying in a rolling manner along the shore.It was a Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis). Then on the top of the forested mountain, we sighted a big flock of birds with white tails and horn-like bills. They were Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus). At the mangrove forest where our boat was parked, some of my friend pointed out to me the small Black-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus atricep).

Although the sun was very hot in the afternoon today, we were not exhausted, and we continued onwards to our intended destination. We went to Ao Tao in search of the Beach Thick-knees. Unfortunately, these birds were not around.

Never mind. We shall return to try again tomorrow. We spotted three to four Asian
Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis), a Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)
feeding on fruit in the fruiting fig tree.

When we were returning to HQ ,someone in our group observed a Ruddy Kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda) perched on a tree and a Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus) walking on the ground. That night my mind was restless and I could not sleep. I heard the Brown Hawk Owl (Ninox scutulata) calling “whu-up whu-up whu-up” very loudly, louder than some of my friends snoring behind our bungalow.

Saturday 3rd May 2003
The day of reckoning

Today, we returned to Ao Tao to search for the Beach Thick-knees again. Unfortunately we failed again. I could not even see their foot prints! I sat down on the white sand beach under a large fig tree and looked at the clear blue sea. I felt frustrated and sad. I thought, I must have come at the wrong time “NO!”, I heard my inner voice answering back.. Some of my friends looked at me and said, “Cheer up, may be we can find the Thick Knees in the next bay.”. “O.k. my friends, you may all be right”. I stood up and started birding with renewed hope.

As we walked along, my friend saw an adult female Common Flameback (Dinopium javanense) on the right of the path. I spotted a White-bellied Woodpecker (race javensis) a sup-species that has a black rump. Above the Woodpecker, an adult male Common Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) was feeding on figs. On an adjoining tree, we saw a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (Ficedula zanthopygia) which was on its return migration back to a cooler environment.

We left Ao Tao and dumped our frustrations there.The next destination was Ao Bon where MORGAN village is located. Ao Bon looks like Ao Tao but is narrower and has a sandy beach that is not as clean sand that of Ao Tao. When our boat drew near the beach, we heard the alarm calls of sea-birds warning us off the beach. It was a clamorous, “Quip-ip-ip. Quip-ip-ip”repeated very loudly.

As the boat floated towards the shore we saw something moving under the overhanging branches of some low trees on the edge of the beach. A largish tern-like bird was walking to join another one nearby.

Success at last! We were watching a pair of Beach Thick-knees (Esacus magnirostris). Both the birds were almost similar but the second bird has wing-bars narrower than the first one. Its body was very pale gray. It may possibly be a juvenile or a female I thought.

When we landed, the second bird disappeared but the other bird called very loudly as if to draw our attention towards it. When we stopped, it acted as if one of its legs was injured, but as we approached closer, the bird moved off without any signs of injury.
This behavior is similar to the broken-wing behavior in Lapwing species. The bird was trying to distract our attention away from its nest which was located somewhere nearby. As we recognized the reason for this behavior, we left the beach and did not disturb the brooding pair.

When we returned to HQ, I was very hungry and tired. I go to the canteen immediately. Near the canteen, I saw a Blue Whistling Thrush (Myiophoneus caeruleus) on the rock cliff.

Sunday 4th May 2003

It rained heavily last night and was still raining this morning. I did not go anywhere
but stayed back to prepare for the return trip to the mainland. When the rain stopped, some friends who were not as tired as I was, went over to Ao Mae Yai to check on the Nicobar Pigeons which the park ranger saw when she was on her way to Ao Mea Yai two week ago. When my friends came back, they told me that they saw a Schrenck’s Bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus), a Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica), a male Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Prionochilus thoracicus) and a male Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma) when they were on their way to Ao Mea Yai.

We left the island HQ for the mainland at1.00 p.m. On the way back to Kuraburi pier, we spotted more seabirds. About 2 hour from island HQ, we saw a large seabird that looked
like a Pomarine Jaeger flying past in front of our ferry and it sported an elongated tail and a gray belly. Its upper wings showed two tones (dark and pale brown) when in flight. We thought that it was an adult Long-tailed Jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus).in breeding plumage.

Five minutes after our meeting with the Long-tailed Jaeger, we were very surprised to see a small dark seabird floating on the surface of the sea. When our ferry ran close to the bird, it flew up and displayed dark brown plumage with a faint pale bar on its upperwing coverts and a slight forked tail (hard to observe).Then it flew with a fast erratic swooping flight and dropped to settle on the surface of the sea again. I have checked this bird with,” A Guide to the Birds of Thailand” and found that it was a Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma monorhis)


Ko = Island, Ao = Bay, Haad = Breach


1.Ms.Sukanya Thanombuddha Email: [email protected]
2.Mr.Surachai Rungkunakorn Email: [email protected]
3.Mr.Pramote Sittanomai
4.Mr.Chatchai Thanupran
5.Mr.Sumate Bhlapibul, Birdforum Member, Email: [email protected]
6.Ms.Sasiprapha Udomsup

Book references

Boonsong Lekagul and Philip D. Round (1991) A Guide to the Birds of Thailand, Saha
Karn Bhaet Co. Ltd.
Craig Robson (2002) A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia, New Holland.
PeterHayman, John Marchant and Tony Prater (1986) Shorebirds: An identification guide
to the waders of the world, Christopher Helm, London.

R. Surachai
Nonthaburi, Thailand
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2003, 08:34   #2
Paul Rule
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Hi Sumate,

Welcome to the forum. I could be wrong but I think you are our first member from Thailand. Nice report, apart from a couple of the turns, all the birds you describe would be lifers for me (most I’ve never even heard of before).

I look forward to more reports of your birding trips.

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Old Thursday 22nd May 2003, 08:34   #3

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Sumate Bhlapibu

Very interesting report. I have been birding in Thailand mainly down the peninsula towards Malaysia. Very interesting birds there if you keep away from the rubber plantations.

Whereabouts is Mu Ko Surin National Park in relation to Bangkok. It sounds like an interesting place.

Best wishes

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Old Thursday 22nd May 2003, 09:00   #4
Ashley beolens
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Superb report, I am hoping to head to Thailand in 2-3 years time (need to save plenty of cash) and this certainly got my mouth watering!!
Ashley Beolens - Local patch blog - Moth Blog
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2003, 11:16   #5
Sumate Bhlapibul
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Paul, Steve and Ashley, thanks a lot for your comments. It was really a wonderful experience to me. The credit of composing this report goes to my friend Surachai and some experienced birders who gave him advice and helped correct English usage. Mu Ko Surin (Surin Islands) NP is in the Andaman Sea, north of Phuket, the famous paradise island. The islands are close to Myanmar (Burma) border and are very famous for diving, both skin and scuba. All the tour boats are managed by the park to take tourists to diving sites. If you want to go birding in a boat, you may need to look for an idle one and negotiate for a whole-day charter. We were lucky that our boat driver was very friendly and cooperative. Be careful! It is very hot and humid. During the day, the sun can be a killer.

It is monsoon season now and the park is closed from last week until November.

Good Birding,
Sumate Bhlapibul
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2003, 13:10   #6

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What a wonderful read Sumate. Thailand is a land I have never considered before but you have certainly made me give it some serious though for the future.

How easy would it be to get from the UK?
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Old Thursday 22nd May 2003, 13:25   #7
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Sumate, on behalf of all the Moderators and Admin, let me welcome you to Bird Forum, and what an amazing post to start with.

I'm sure you will find plenty to keep you informed and entertained here, and we look forward to more reports from your birding area.

Why not say hello in the .... er, Say Hello forum and let us know a little more about yourself.

My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being, hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint. Erma Bombeck
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Old Friday 23rd May 2003, 02:13   #8
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I am off to Thailand tonight (yippeee!!!) for a ten-day birding trip. Hope to add plenty of birds to my list and will keep you posted on the forum.

See ya,

"Time is never wasted when you're wasted all the time."
Catherine Zandonella.
Check out for birding in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Mongolia, Bhutan, Taiwan, and Northern India.
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Old Friday 23rd May 2003, 04:37   #9
Sumate Bhlapibul
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Ha Ha, sorry I forgot to introduce myself!! Hope it was not too impolite. I use this computer from my office so it is a bit hard to manage time for a long post. Maybe I will try after 5 today.
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