200b entry and the usual camping fee.
I wanted to revisit Nam Nao in the hope of getting better photos of a Neglected Nuthatch I had seen there on a previous visit and to put the trail cam over a water hole on the south side of the road, neither were a success but I did see a good number of bird species I have never seen there before including 3 species of woodpecker.
After setting up the trail cam we camped at the usual place close to the toilets and were entertained by a female Common Flameback looking in a mirror at the toilets, it may have seen a rival in the mirror or……… well it was a female.
Next morning we were woken by a noisy flock of White-crested Laughingthrush prospecting on the ground round the tent but they departed when I started getting breakfast.
I spent most of the day up around the junction of the three trails with not a lot to show for my efforts, so slow I ended up taking photos of butterflies.
Most of the birds I saw were down the Ban Peak track where I put the trail cam
Next morning it was pick up the trail cam pack up and head for the next place on the list Phu Suan Sai NP
Great Slaty Woodpecker
Phu Suan Sai 20,21/2/18
100b entry and the usual camping fee.
Focus on this trip was the hides both at the culvert watering place and the Pitta hide in the stream before the first bridge. The track to this hide is now open and goes round the fallen tree which blocked it on my last visit, it starts from between the no parking signs back up the road from the parking spot on the far side of the first bridge and heads steeply down and along to the hide.
The hide has been used and it appears meal worms have been fed out but only 3 species of bird arrived, a Buff-breasted Babbler, White-crowned Forktail and White-tailed Thrush which is a new species for me.
There is also a small feeding out place close to the road on the left before the track to the culvert. I got some good photos of Rufous-throated Fulvetta at this place but as I had no meal worms with me to feed out little else arrived.
The culvert produced the usual bathing beauties including the much sought after Short-tailed Parrotbill. Late in the evening when it was getting almost to dim for photos a Black-crested Monarch was sitting on a vine when something swopped over and snatched it from its perch then disappeared into the deep shadow on the other side of the stream, It happened so quickly I had no chance to see what it was but it was quite small so possibly an owl.
From here it was into unknown territory for we had never been to any of the other places on our list and for many there was little information out there.
100b entry and camp fees.
A pleasant place with a nice camp ground where people go to admire the view and sunrise, there is another view-point 2km up the road with food stalls where it is possible to camp at certain times of the year. The toilets are good but a bit far away from the camp ground across a parking area.
Food can be cooked as required and there were several van loads of tourists arriving in the morning who had obviously pre-ordered breakfast for after they had done their tourist thing.
There is mains power with plugs for battery charging in the eating area and plenty of night lighting. Several good looking houses for rent.
The nature trail is hrough evergreen forest is steep with good Thai Signs but few birds down there, most of the birds seen were round the camp ground and the rental houses.
Probably wont bother returning on future visits to that area.
Another tourist type place with the main attraction rafting on the Wa River which will set you back 2000b per person. 200b entry and they keep ID card till you leave.
Main camp ground is not wonderful so we camped on a small patch of grass close to the visitor center, again a bit far from the toilets but with mains power there is plenty of night lighting. A covered parking place behind the visitor center and a large restaurant type food place overlooking the river that gets a fair bit of custom from visiting tourists.
I had hoped to get some river bed birds but not to be, possibly because locals gathering whatever, fishing and even spear fishing are continually walking up and down.
The forest is deciduous with the few leaves left on the trees falling to give the place a carpet of dead leaves making walking difficult and noisy. The nature trail is easy to follow and goes from behind the rental houses down to the river and along to a swing bridge that crosses to a disused youth camp area and the track to the top of a large hill where there are rock paintings.
This track is about 4km up a not to easy hill and was difficult to follow in places as the signs are from 450m and 1.2km apart. The ground is rocky and uneven most of the way with the dead leaves masking the holes. I didn’t get right to the rock paintings only to where the forest changed to evergreen at the base of the rock. There is a lot of bird noise up there probably as the birdlife congregates in the evergreen forest but the birds were difficult to see so I got few photos.
There is another road through this park to a village Ban Rom Klang which is a 48km round trip. 12km up this road is ranger station 13 which is in much better looking evergreen forest and it would be would be worth exploring this area.
Probably miss this one out next time in the area.
Blue Rock Thrush
Grey-head canary Flycatcher
There is considerable information on this park as it is known for some difficult to find bird species so I had hopes of picking up some new species.
200b entry and usual camping fees.
The park is on the left of road 1256 which continues on past a stargazing spot and a popular shrine to lookout high point and on to Bo Kluea. This road was known in the past for numerous slips in the wet season but has been recently upgraded with much of it resealed and potential slip areas terraced, with a bit of luck this will alleviate much of the problems. Camping is possible at both the stargazing spot and the summit lookout with food available at both.
As well as birds the park is also known for a rare tree called the Chonpoo Phu Kha tree Bretschneidera sinensis which grows at around 1500m and was once widespread in China and Vietnam but may now be extinct in the wild in these countries leaving the Doi Phu Kha population as the only one in the world. We were fortunate that the timing of our trip coincided with the flowering of this rare tree.
Several camping areas with good toilets and plenty of accommodation from houses with sat TV and hot showers to basic wagons with bed on the floor. Mains power and plenty of lighting at night batteries can be charged at visitor center, restaurant or staff housing.
There is a souvenir shop and food is available near the visitor center with the start of the nature trail across the road. This trail descends steeply to a stream then climbes to a sign indicating a Chonpoo Phu Kha tree on the left, this is a diversion from the track as it leads to a dead end, it is also as far as the maintained track goes so it would seem tourists are expected to visit the tree then return down.
However the nature trail continues via a rarely used track at the left of the tree sign junction and continues up past 2 lookout platforms to a high point where the track goes to the left and starts down to emerge on a vehicle track that leads to the highest camp ground close to the helicopter pad. At the high point there is a track that leads off to the right to a fire-break which can be followed up for about 500m. There was a lot of bird activity around the top end of this fire-break but the birds were difficult to see.
Somewhere up there is a track that leads to a high ridge where the speciality species of the area have been seen, I made no attempt to find this track and anyone wanting to go up there should contact the rangers for information.
The higher parts of the nature trail would be best accessed from the exit point at the high camp ground where there is also a lookout to Chonpoo Phu Kha tree. This camp ground has 3 platforms built overlooking a scrubby area these were presumably put there for tents but make good evening lookouts for small birds.
Staff have set up hides with watering places and will take anyone interested there is asked possibly there’s a charge for this I didn’t ask.
Along road 1256 is one of the main known bird watching areas and walking likely looking sections of this road produced some good birds for me.
A place that will certainly be on my return list.
This is a new park that I found sort of by accident when looking for something else so new in fact that the staff have no tickets and don’t know what to do or charge when they see a foreigner it is 2.5km up a dirt road to the HQ and camp ground.
It is a good looking place with good evergreen forest, the headquarters and main camp ground which is quite windswept is at around 1300m, we set up camp below a viewing platform in a sheltered spot. Main toilets are Thai style only but there is a western toilet past the HQ building. Power is by solar and generator and is only on from about 6-30 to 10, plugs for battery charging and plenty of houses for rent as well as bamboo huts at the camp ground. Dogs are at all places but were not a problem.
There is a nature trail that is easy to follow which goes to a small waterfall first at an easy gradient then steeply down. There are a lot of birds on the first part of the trail but difficult to see in the dense trees, staff are very interested in birds and butterflies and I advised them to set up a watering place and hide along the nature trail where there is the most bird sign. Ying is in contact with them and has promised to send then the photos I took and I will be very interested to return there.
There is another camp ground farther up at Doi Wow which is big but the toilets are not much good, there is also a 4.5km road which goes to a conservation area this is definitely a 4WD road, low 4WD in places and is impassable in the wet.
There is a big well-kept area to camp and houses that can be rented, I really liked the look of this place and hope to return and camp there some day. It has great possibilities for birds as it is very remote and at over 1500m, I saw what appeared to be the rear end of a small deer disappearing into the bushes so it has potential for animals as well. We were told another road carries on from there for 4 km to a peak in the distance, more exploring needed, we will return.
No entry fee just 30b per night to camp, mains power with plugs for battery charging in area by camp ground but toilets which are western style are a bit far from the camp, there is another camp ground above the HQ but again a long way from toilets, we were told in the past some people have set up scopes and cameras on this camp ground no doubt to scan for Serow, no phone coverage at camp ground we stayed at, houses for rent but road to them is steep and not user friendly.
There are large limestone cliffs which are home to Serow which at times come right down to the road, there is a photo of one on the road to the waterfall posted at the start of that trail. This would probably be one of the best if not the best place in Thailand to have a chance of seeing this elusive and threatened animal.
There are 2 trails one of 400m to a waterfall and another of 1.8km called the nature trail which climbes up and around one of the cliffs. The waterfall trail is easy but the nature trail on the way up is steep with sharp rocks which would cause a nasty injury if you were to slip, pay not to do that track alone. Steps with handrails have been concreted all the way up and the first part of the way down which then comes down via 3 sets of steel steps through a forested gully past two big trees, a cave and a salt lick, an interesting track for both the vegetation, potential for birdlife and Serow. Limestone Wren-babbler seen but no photo so needs confirmation.
We were told there are a lot of animals in the park and we heard a Muntjak calling one night from above the rental houses.
Phu Lanka Forest Park.
We did a day trip to this park which is north of and continuous with Tham Sakoen NP, there was no charge to go up the road past the HQ but 4WD vehicles only allowed. There is a sala and toilets at the top of this 4km road through big mature forest where it is possible to camp, the end of the road is at 1552m and from there are tracks up through scrub to a high ridge. There is a camp ground and rent houses at HQ, info office this is another interesting place which needs more exploration.
Both will be on the return list.
Asian Fairy Bluebird
Blue Rock Thrush
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher
No charge here but they keep ID card, we set up our tent in a building they call the ‘general purpose building’ which saved us making a full camp, mains power with toilets attached to the building.
The park is within a few kilometers of the Lao border and there is a border market where the women can get rid of any spare cash.
The main attraction of this park is a waterfall that is fed by a hot pool with a nature trail of 900m going into a swamp forest and past the hot pool. There is a 100b charge for adults and 50b for children to walk the trail but as I arrived early before any staff I missed out on paying, didn’t walk the full trail which is all boardwalk because of windfalls across the trail from strong winds the night before.
Not a lot of birdlife other than common bulbuls so after a visit to the border and a walk along the nature trail we moved on to Chiang Saen, will miss out this one in future..
As there is nowhere to camp we stayed at Mali Hotel where 400b a night got us a fan room with fridge, TV, hot water shower, covered parking area and wifi a pleasant enough place which we will use again.
This place had a considerable reputation but for me it was a bit of a disappointment. There are four main components the lake which is a wintering ground for several species of duck, a harrier roost, the Maekong River and the Nam Kham Nature Reserve.
Access road to nature reserve is through this arch.
The lake proved difficult to access with lots of shiny new barbed wire making it somewhere between difficult and impossible to get to the water the only access I found was at a temple on the north side of the lake and the only birds other than Purple Swamphen’s were a pair of what were either diving ducks or grebe in the distance.
The only access to the river, as far as I went outside Chiang Saen were to man-made embankments that held no birdlife. I visited the Harrier roost which appears to be in the process of being commercialised with new signs being put up and hides being built, I went there on 2 evenings and only saw two harriers arrive when it was to dark for photos.
The only place that I did any good was at the nature reserve which has 5 hides the first 3 overlooking an open area and the other 2 at man-made watering places and even then although I got some quite good photos I didn’t pick up any new species. But I will have another go on a return visit.
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Mub Mae Fah Luang Arboretum 13,14/3/18
Again no camping place nearby so we stayed at a place called Nam Kham a sort of decaying run down resort where 300b got us a basic room with fan and hot water, OK for the night as it is only 21km down the road from the arboretum. There are plenty of resorts and other places to stay including I was told a home stay right at the arboretum. Stalls selling things at the gate and food can be got a couple of kilometers up the road.
This place has a reputation for White-winged Blackbird and they and other great birds proved easy to find with a little help from a friend. It also has great flower displays many from cooler climates which can grow there as it is at an elevation of 1500m.
We went there directly from Chiang Saen and I went back again the next morning, 90b entry to the arboretum which I didn’t have to pay in the morning as I arrived the before the gate lady and was let in by one of the staff who was expecting 2 other birders.
The first day the first thing I saw was a pair of Silver Pheasant which will have been captive bread and released there. I wandered around getting to know the place and although not seeing the blackbirds I did see other unusual species.
Next morning I arrived spot on the 7am opening time and at the same time as 2 other birders one from Japan. They were expected and I followed along as they were taken to a place above and not far from the entrance where meal worms were fed out on a mossy stump. Didn’t take long for birds to start to arrive including the Blackbirds, after getting good photos I again went for a walk to where I had seen birds the previous day but didn’t stay long as we planned to move on to our next stop.
Not a huge list of birds but some that are very difficult to see elsewhere, for sure on the return trip list.
A large park not far from Chaing Rai with little information out there about it and almost nothing about the bird life. 100b entry, mains power, decent camp site with good toilets across the road, the usual houses for rent and a restaurant and snack shop that even sells ice cream.
The main attraction for the tourists is a series of 9 waterfalls where the punters go to take selfies and puddle. There is a nature trail that appears to get little use with concrete pedestals where information sign once were but have long gone. The trail runs for 1.2km and starts at a large sign on the way up to the waterfalls and joins with that track by a steel bridge, the distance includes the track back down from the bridge.
Not much bird sign up there or on the waterfall track, the best place for birds appears to be across a small bridge from the camp site to what looks like an area that was once a resort and fruit farm.
There is a series of ponds and scrubby areas which hold birds and at the end of the track old buildings where 3 once wild pigs are housed, they were probably caught as suckers by hunters who are still active in the area as I came across 2 people with a pack of dogs while I was up there. I didn’t see as many birds as I had hoped in this area but it does look to have possibilities including Jerdons Bushchat although it may be a bit far south.
There are other parts of this park that need exploring but I will leave that for someone else as it will not be on our return list.
No charge at the check point on the main road or for camping so we continued through dry deciduous forest 10km up a branch road to Lom Dong camp site at 450m altitude where there is a pond amid evergreen forest, this pond is said to be a very deep sink hole and stays full of water all year.
A lot of bird noise with some interesting species many feeding on fruiting and flowering trees. There are also some quite unusual large trees which are the main attraction for the few tourists who visit.
Camp ground overlooks the pond and as with several places is a distance from the toilets which are good and quite new it does have a problem with insects including bees which have a nasty habit of getting inside your clothes, a bee up the leg of your pants is not a desirable thing.
There is a track to the big trees and an old logging road that continues on from there, animals are said to come down to drink at the pond and I did see some sign and we heard a Muntjac call.
There is also a track to a lookout back down the road which is said to be 800m long but is nowhere that far, there are 2 lookout spots on that track a lower and higher. A drivable road goes off to the left of the lower lookout spot and ends up back at the main road, it was along this road and on flowering trees where it meets the road that I saw many of the birds the other productive area was round the camp site and on the trees on the other side of the pond.
2 Barred warbler
Ashy-headed Green Pigeon
Pinstripe Tit Babbler
Red Jungle Fowl
We had intended to make Mae Wa National Park our last stop but when we got close we could see the area was very dry and with the temperature at 39c we decided to carry on to close to Tak and find a place to stay for the night to break up the long trip home.
A return to this area is planned for November where we will start at :
Phu Suan sai NP
To Nanthaburi NP
To Doi Phu Kha NP
To Tham Sakoen NP
To Chiang Saen
Then across to Doi Lang and Fang Hot Springs.
Weather permitting there should be more migrant species about at that time.