After a 5 am start from home I arrived at Hat Chao Samran Beach a bit before midday and headed north along the coast road to the first place on my ‘to visit’ list’ the area around an abandoned partly built building about 4km along the road. The turn off on to a dirt road is on the left just past a sluice gate. There was a fair bit of wetland close to the building with several waders foraging and I got my first bird photos of the trip without getting out of the car.
After driving around the area for a while taking photos of anything I saw I headed farther north to Laem Pak Bia to have a look at the place I planned to stay for the night. This is quite a large car park at Hat Sai Madrak Beach, a good looking place to camp for the night. I intended to start from there the next morning to walk about 3km down the beach to the sand spit that is reputed to be the premier shore bird site in the country.
Hat Sai Madrak Beach
I had arranged with Rushen to meet me there, while waiting a pair of Wimbrel landed on the beach and I got some good photos. When he arrived we headed to the Kings Project Environmental Research Area about a kilometer north where there are always many species of birds on and around the ponds as well as a couple of kilometers of boardwalk through the mangroves.
The ponds didn’t disappoint with Spot-billed Pelicans, Painted Storks, Egrets and other birds as well as Brahminy Kite’s fishing in the ponds. We walked along the main boardwalk to the jetty protruding into the sea with Pied Fantail, Golden-bellied Gerygon, White-fronted Waterhen and Collared Kingfisher seen and on the way back 2 snakes resting on branches out of the rising tide.
Painted Storks and Egrets
After saying goodbye to Rushen and Mai I headed north to have a look at a large field I had read about at Wat Komnaram which is said to attract many birds. I had a look there and part of the field at the western end has been filled with spoil to make what appears to be fish ponds, only saw a solitary Red Wattled Lapwing so it looks like this place will be off the itinerary next trip. As a matter of interest there is a new 7/11 at the junction of Rd 6022 as well as a fuel station on the other side of the road.
From there it was farther north to have ‘an explore’ round the much heralded bird watching area at Pak Thale where I had planned to spend the second night. I found the place no problem as it is well signposted and drove out to a pump shed in the middle of the salt pans then walked down to the high tide mark and around some of the berms between the ponds.
Shelter at Pak Thale
Only birds I saw were a few Stilts so I drove on to the end of the road and the parking area where I had intended to spend the second night. This is right on the beach with a shelter overlooking the sea or mud flats at low water. There were a few birds well out on the shallow ponds and I took some long range shots from the car but when I attempted to walk closer the birds were on their way wanting to have nothing to do with me.
I then went farther to the north to look for Wat Khao Takroa Where I had read there were some large ponds that usually held a lot of birds, I found the Temple but as it was getting late left the exploring for another trip and headed back to overnight at Hat Sai Madrak beach.
Next morning as soon as it was light enough to see where I was putting my feet I was on my way down the beach to the sand spit where there were plenty of Malaysian Plover which nest on the spit as well as several other species. As the tide dropped locals started to arrive on motorbikes to fish so I headed back but not before stopping where there are 3 sala’s and another building which had probably been built when there was a road along the beach. I have never seen this place mentioned in any of the reports on the area probably because most birders get to the spit on boats at high tide but it is an interesting place because there are flowering trees planted which were attracting a lot of small birds.
Sala's south of the sand spit
After a quick bite to eat it was back to the Kings Project then to Pak Thale where there were several locals on motorbikes so I decided the place was to crowded and went back to my previous nights parking place, but not before getting some more distant shots of waders and photos of a young Little Heron and a pair of Chestnut Munia on the road.
Next morning I planned to head back home but not before another look at the King Project which once again lived up to its reputation with plenty of birds and several big Monitor Lizards on the roads. A very worthwhile trip with several new species as I have never actively looked for waders before.
Malaysian Plover, male.
In all the accounts I have read about the area few mentioned about the best times or tides to visit the area so for what it is worth these are my observations.
Many of the waders that frequent the area appear to follow the tide out feeding on the exposed mud then heading back to shore and the ponds and salt pans as the tide rises. They also head back in the evening to roost on their favorite ponds, these roosts appear to be well out in the middle of both wet and mud areas, likely so that any predators approaching them at night can be easily detected.
The birds at the King Project appear to be more numerous and less flighty in the early morning so are more easily approached.
Most people who visit the sand spit go by boat so the timing of the trip will be up to the boatman who knows the area well. However should anyone want to walk along the beach they should go about half way down a falling tide which will give plenty of time for the walk both there and back with two or three hours birding on the spit and on the way back. I timed my trip when low tide was at about 9am which meant I could leave camp at first light and walk along the beach in the cool of the morning. It should be noted that at high tide the sea comes right up to the rocks at the top of the beach which would make for a very difficult walk.
Check tide charts before you go because this area is unusual in that there are normally only one low and one high tide each 24 hour period as opposed to two of each tides in most parts of the world.
Bird List, (photos).
Little Ringed Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Pacific Golden Plover
Black-capped Night Heron
Javan Pond Heron
Lesser Whistling Duck
Blue-tailed Bee Eater
Chestnut-headed Bee Eater
I had a few trips to the Pak Thale area last season and found it to be very "seasonal" - its much better when the migrations are taking place especially when the tide is going out matched with the evening arrival of migrants. Although I have to say for the salt pans I would just choose one that had the right water/mud conditions, that I thought right anyway, as the salt pans water is controlled by sluices so stay stable.
Although as a non birder, and having just the intention of taking photographs, I had many evenings and mornings of frustration as the larger congregations of waders were just too far away for me to photograph.
My favorite was like yours - the King's Project at sun up - a winner every time.
I also ventured to the Samut Songkhram notable birding areas like Khok Kham but really didn't like them compared to the Phetchaburi sites.