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Week-long Southern Thailand Escape from Bangkok (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
This is my first time writing a trip report here on Birdforum; however, I’ve read numerous trip reports on here and know that some people enjoy the ‘simple list of birds’ type of report, while others like a more inclusive report of the trip’s goings-on; this report will be the latter type.

For some background, I regard myself as a novice birder, and I live in Bangkok, Thailand, and enjoy birding around the Thai capital as much as possible and in the Thai provinces when opportunity arises. This report is of a 6-day/5-night trip to the southern Thai provinces of Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phatthalung, two provinces I’d never visited, let alone birded in. While birding was the main aim of the trip, simply exploring new places is also an interest of mine.

April 2nd – April 7th

DAY 1 – I flew out of Bangkok at around 11am 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 with 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 stuck in my car until I could locate my rain jacket and run from car to bungalow – not so much win!
The rain hung around for about 30 minutes or so, but by around 3:30pm 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 barely walked 300m up the entrance road when 3 Rufous Woodpeckers were easily spotted. This species was a lifer for me and I watched them 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) flew right in front of my and sat within 5 metres at eye-level for several minutes – what a sight!
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 a few hours of afternoon birding as well as a few other birds seen all too briefly.

DAY 2 – After a night in the national park bungalow, complete with a resident frog in a bathroom pipe (great acoustics!), I was up before 6am to start walking along the waterfall trail, a 3.7km trail that leads steeply up a hillside before flattening out for several kilometres and 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 was 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 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, 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 (ramp-style, not steps!). The Night-Heron flew onto a branch not too far into the forest edge 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. The rest of the afternoon walking up and down the entrance road proved quite fruitful with great views of an immature Wallace’s Hawk-eagle catching and eating a lizard, 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 half-a-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.

DAY 3 – I started walking up the entrance road on this morning at around 6:30am and the morning was already quite misty. The mist continued to thicken until around 7:30am where the mist was thick enough to make birding in trees 20 metres away difficult. Despite the mist, or perhaps because of it, the bird activity was (frustratingly) high. But once the mist started clearing after 7:30am, I was treated to great views of numerous birds including Red-throated Barbets, Dark-throated Orioles, Great Ioras, as well as Dusky Broadbills and a pair of Banded Woodpeckers - all in all a great morning.
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 localation he’d ever encountered Pied Triller, as well as a place he’d seen Chinese Egret and Eurasian Curlew, both globally threatened species; so off I went!
It took about 3 hours to finally get to Thalumphum 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. I was assured there was a ‘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 2:30pm 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.
While on the mangrove boardwalk I came across a migrant Crow-billed Drongo as well as a Common Flameback 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, I 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 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 amazing lifer. After spending a little more time on the otherwise barren 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.

DAY 4 – Off again to the mangrove walk after a sleep-in (I woke up at 6:30am), and while nothing terribly exciting came from it, I did manage to pick up another life in the form of several Ashy Tailorbirds. However, in the search for the elusive Pied Triller (which I never found), I was 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.
Having packed and loaded my bags when I left my accommodation in the morning, after several hours of exploring the mangroves and the adjacent 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, 25km to the 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 and this would be my afternoon birding location.
The botanical gardens ended up being a pleasant location that gave me another lifer, Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, as well as a very close fly-by by a White-bellied Sea Eagle, three Forest Wagtails, as well as a soaring Oriental Honey-buzzard, and also several Brown Shrikes, and Blue-throated Bee-eaters. After spending a few hours there, 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 a delightfully refreshing beer.

DAY 5 – Up before 6am to make the 25 minute drive to Thale Noi for a longtail boat ride, I was initially 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 new birds 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 notorious for being evasive. Across the 3-hour boat ride great views were had of three species of bittern – black, yellow, and cinnamon – Purple Heron, Lesser Whistling-duck, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Oriental Pratincole, and a greater appreciation of Asian Openbill after seeing them in great numbers, including a nesting site, that wasn’t among suburbia. All in all, a fantastic experience, and recommended for anyone who finds their way there – the habitats range from open freshwater lake, to paperbark swamp, to flooded fields and reed beds.
After my time on the lake, I headed back to my resort for a few hours before venturing to my final birding location of my trip, Khao Ok Thalu, a small limestone kasrst mountain that acts at the symbol of Phatthalung province. I arrived at around 3:30pm, and started heading up the stairs – they were steep and it was hot. Aside from several common bulbul species, there was little bird activity. However, once at the top, I was surprised by a vocal fly-by by 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, while I was also afforded close but brief views of a Large Hawk-cuckoo. So, while the first hour of birding on this provincial icon was slow, the second hour provided several surprises that added to an already great trip. With the sun setting and a thirst growing, I headed back to my resort for a fabulous Thai meal and cold beer.

DAY 6 – 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 BKK. Overall, it was a fantastic week of birding and exploring places I’ll surely return to!

TRIP SPECIES LIST – Taxonomic Order

LOCATION CODE – Location seen first
KC – Krung Ching Substation
LT – Laem Thalumphuk (Thalumphum Peninsula)
PB – Phatthalung Botanical Gardens
TN – Thale Noi Waterfowl Park (boat ride)
KT – Khao Ok Thalu Park

1 – Lesser Whistling-duck (LT)
2 – Cotton Pygmy-goose (TN)
3 – Little Grebe (TN)
4 – Asian Openbill (PB)
5 – Little Cormorant (LT)
6 – Yellow Bittern (LT)
7 – Cinnamon Bittern (TN)
8 – Black Bittern (TN)
9 – Purple Heron (LT)
10 – Great Egret (LT)
11 – Intermediate Egret (TN)
12 – Chinese Egret (LT)
13 – Little Egret (LT)
14 – Cattle Egret (LT)
15 – Chinese Pond-heron (LT)
16 – Javan Pond-heron (TN)
17 – Striated Heron 9KC)
18 – Black-crowned Night-heron (TN)
19 – Malayan Night-heron (KC)
20 – Black-winged Kite (LT)
21 – Oriental Honey-buzzard (PB)
22 – Wallace’s Hawk-eagle (KC)
23 – Shikra (TN)
24 – Brahminy Kite (LT)
25 – White-bellied Sea-eagle (PB)
26 – White-breasted Waterhen (LT)
27 – White-browed Crake (TN)
28 – Watercock (TN)
29 – Gray-headed Swamphen (TN)
30 – Eurasian Moorhen (TN)
31 – Black-winged Stilt (LT)
32 - Pacific Golden Plover (TN)
33 – Red-wattled Lapwing (PB)
34 – Pheasant-tailed Jacana (TN)
35 – Bronze-winged Jacana (TN)
36 – Whimbrel (LT)
37 – Long-toed Stint (TN)
38 – Common Sandpiper (TN)
39 – Oriental Pratincole (TN)
40 – Caspian Tern (LT)
41 – White-winged Tern (LT)
42 – Whiskered Tern (LT)
43 – Feral Pigeon (TN)
44 – Spotted Dove (LT)
45 – Asian Emerald Dove (KC)
46 – Zebra Dove (LT)
47– Pink-necked Green Pigeon (TN)
48 – Thick-billed Green Pigeon (KC)
49 – Greater Coucal (KC)
50 – Raffles’s Malkoha (KC)
51 – Chestnut-breasted Malkoha (KC)
52 – Black-bellied Malkoha (KC)
53 – Green-billed Malkoha (LT)
54 – Asian Koel (LT)
55 – Square-tailed Drongo-cuckoo (KC)
56 – Large Hawk-cuckoo (KT)
57 – Indian Cuckoo (TL)
58 – Silver-rumped Needletail (Spinetail) (KC)
59 – Germaine’s Swiftlet (LT)
60 – Asian Palm-swift (KT)
61 – Scarlet-rumped Trogon (KC)
62 – Common Kingfisher (TN)
63 – Black-backed Dwarf-kingfisher (KC)
64 – Stork-billed Kingfisher (LT)
65 – Black-capped Kingfisher (TN)
66 – Collared Kingfisher (LT)
67 – Blue-throated Bee-eater (LT)
68 – Indian Roller (LT)
69 – Oriental Dollarbird (LT)
70 – Sooty Barbet (KC)
71 – Red-throated Barbet (KC)
72 – Lineated Barbet (KC)
73 – Gold-whiskered Barbet (KC)
74 – Banded Woodpecker (KC)
75 – Common Flameback (LT)
76 – Rufous Woodpecker (KC)
77 – Maroon Woodpecker (KC)
78 – Peregrine Falcon (KT)
79 – Vernal Hanging-parrot (KC)
80 – Black-and-yellow Broadbill (KC)
81 – Dusky Broadbill (KC)
82 – Blue-winged Pitta (LT)
83 – Golden-bellied Gerygone (LT)
84 – Large Woodshrike (KC)
85 – Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike (KC)
86 – Rufous-winged Philentoma (KC)
87 – Common Iora (PB)
88 – Great Iora (KC)
89 – Lesser Cuckooshrike (KC)
90 – Mangrove Whistler (LT)
91 – Brown Shrike (LT)
92 – White-bellied Erpornis (KC)
93 – Dark-throated Oriole (KC)
94 – Black Drongo (TN)
95 – Ashy Drongo (LT)
96 – Crow-billed Drongo (LT)
97 – Bronzed Drongo (KC)
98 – Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (KC)
99 – Malaysian Pied-fantail (LT)
100 – Black-naped Monarch (KC)
101 – Large-billed Crow (LT)
102 – Bank Swallow (TN)
103 – Barn Swallow (LT)
104 – Pacific Swallow (LT)
105 – Rufous-bellied Swallow (KT)
106 – Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher (KC)
107 – Velvet-fronted Nuthatch KC)
108 – Black-headed Bulbul (KC)
109 – Black-crested Bulbul (KC)
110 – Scaly-breasted Bulbul (KC)
111 – Stripe-throated Bulbul (KC)
112 – Yellow-vented Bulbul (LT)
113 – Streak-eared Bulbul (LT)
114 – Red-eyed Bulbul (KC)
115 – Spectacled Bulbul (KC)
116 – Hairy-backed Bulbul (KC)
117 – Ochraceous Bulbul (KC)
118 – Baker’s Bulbul (KC)
119 – Yellow-browed Warbler (LT)
120 – Eastern Crowned Warbler (KT)
121 – Oriental Reed Warbler (TN)
122 – Common Tailorbird (KC)
123 – Dark-necked Tailorbird (KC)
124 – Ashy Tailorbird (LT)
125 – Yellow-bellied Prinia (TN)
126 – Oriental White-eye (LT)
127 – Pin-striped Tit-babbler (KC)
128 – Grey-headed Babbler (KC)
129 – Abbott’s Babbler (KT)
130 – Asian Fairy Bluebird (KC)
131 – Asian Brown Flycatcher (KC)
132 – Oriental Magpie-robin (KC)
133 – White-rumped Shama (KC)
134 – Siberian Blue Robin (KC)
135 – Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (KC)
136 – Taiga Flycatcher (LT)
137 – Blue Rock-thrush (KT)
138 – Common Myna (LT)
139 – Jungle Myna (TN)
140 – White-vented Myna (LT)
141 – Greater Green Leafbird (KC)
142 – Blue-winged Leafbird (KC)
143 – Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker KC)
144 – Yellow-vented Flowerpecker (KC)
145 – Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (LT)
146 – Plain-throated Sunbird (KC)
147 – Van Hasselt’s Sunbird (PB)
148 – Crimson Sunbird (KC)
149 – Little Spiderhunter (KC)
150 – Yellow-eared Spiderhunter (KC)
151 – Spectacled Spiderhunter (KC)
152 – Grey-breasted Spiderhunter (KC)
153 – Forest Wagtail (PB)
154 – Eastern Yellow Wagtail (TN)
155 – Plain-backed Sparrow (LT)
156 – Eurasian Tree Sparrow (LT)
157 – Chestnut Munia (TN)

*Thanks to fellow Birdforum members for correcting and confirming some IDs from this trip.
If you’d like any extra info, please don’t hesitate to ask,
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