Thailand - KNC and Pak Thale - 8th - 13th January 2010

Published by Josh Engel (jengel5230 AT

Participants: Josh Engel


After a visit with family in Australia over the holidays, I took a week in Thailand on my way back to the US. With limited time and limited budget, I decided to look for two of Thailand’s most sough-after birds and also two of the world’s rarest—Gurney’s Pitta and Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The trip—with little planning ahead of time—came off surprisingly well, and I saw both of my targets as well as a lot of other good birds. This report is especially intended to help those who want to bird these sites using public transportation, as I did for parts of the trip, and thus includes directions and methods of transport that I used along with birdfinding information.

Special thanks goes to Nick Upton and, which was particularly useful in planning my trip.

8-12 January 2010 - Khao Pra Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary (Khao Nor Chuchi or KNC)

After arriving in Bangkok the previous night, I departed on an Air Asia flight to Krabi around midday (4,000 Baht return including baggage fees). From the Krabi airport I took a shuttle bus into town (80 Baht), then a bus to Khlong Thom (40 Baht and about 45 minutes; the bus continues on to Trang), then a motorbike to Morakot Resort (200 Baht). (It should be possible to simply walk out of the airport to the main road, then catch a southbound bus headed to Trang from there). With the help of the ladies at Morakot, I arranged to have the driver pick me up for my departure. I got to the park too late for birding, but I was able to do a quick recce and find the start of the B trail and the start of the U trail, seemingly the two most reliable areas for Gurney;s Pitta.

I had three full days here. I spent the nights at Morakot Resort (good food and great service; high season rates run from about 450-650 Baht, depending on the room), less than 1km from the park entrance (the entrance fee is 200 Baht). I spent the first two days fruitlessly searching for Gurney’s Pitta, but seeing some other nice things, including Banded Pitta. My third day I was invited to tag along with a Canadian birder who I had met at Morakot and had hired Yotin, the local guide, to look for Gurney’s Pitta (thanks Paul!). This was quite a coup as within, literally, a few seconds of arriving at the spot we had point blank (and, eventually, walk-away) views of a pair feeding on termites.

As many prior trip reports and Morakot logbook reports have said, the birding at KNC is relatively challenging. Birds are often thinly distributed, many trails are overgrown making walking quietly difficult, and the forest is tall and thick. Nonetheless, with patience and perseverance I was quite happy with what I saw.

As most birders seem to, I focused on B/C trail and U trail, and I also spent time walking along the main road past U trail and on H trail (which is really a motorbike track) and various other small trails in that area, as well as on the N trail. Be sure to pick up a trail map from Morakot Resort or print it from Sometimes the trails are difficult to follow. For example, as far as I could tell, C trail doesn’t complete its loop, and I lost E trail just after it crosses a river just 100m or so from the start. The N trail that I followed (marked by an N and an arrow carved into a tree where it meets H trail) isn’t the same N trail as on the map. It eventually led me to an oil palm and rubber plantation, which I walked along the edge of for maybe 200m, before re-entering the forest at the map’s N Trail and following the U trail back to the road.

One highlight of my first couple of days there was Banded Pitta. I heard it my first evening, but failed to see it. Returning to the spot the following morning, I heard it again, and after nearly an hour of stalking was finally able to see the stunning male. The area was on the east side of U trail, just before it descends into the second gully. Also seen along U trail were Red-throated and Plain Sunbirds, Oriental Bay Owl (flushed during the day), and Rufous Piculet.

I spent a morning and an afternoon on B/C trail. It was good in the morning and completely dead in the afternoon. Highlights along this trail included Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Rufous-winged Philentoma, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Abbott’s Babbler, and Thick-billed Spiderhunter.

I lucked into a mixed babbler flock at the river crossing on E trail, which included my only Chestnut-rumped, Ferruginous, and Rufous-crowned Babblers of the trip, as well as a Rufous Piculet.

My trip down the “N trail” was reasonably productive, with Puff-backed Bulbul and Eye-browed Thrush along the trail, and Raffle’s Malkoha and Brown-streaked Flycatcher where the trail ran into the oil palm plantation.

A fruiting tree was present on the east side of H trail where a stream crosses under the track, just about 30m from the main road. A group of Green Broadbills was here, and several Red-crowned Barbets could be heard among the usually chorus of Red-throated Barbets. One of the former landed above my head and sang from the fruiting tree itself. Red-billed Malkoha, Hairy-backed Bulbul, Brown Barbet, and Streak-breasted Woodpecker were also seen in this very productive area. Further along the main road, past H trail where it starts to climb a hill, I heard Black-and-yellow Broadbill and saw Vernal Hanging Parrots flying overhead in the evening.

The third morning was spent with Yotin. His assistant had already staked out the pittas that morning, and they were present when we arrived. They didn’t move from their favored area the entire time we watched, and we were able to observe them from just a few meters away for 30 minutes. Not a bad way to see a Gurney’s Pitta, I must say. We then moved on to another area nearby. Birds seen there include Black-bellied Malkoha, Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Lesser Green Leafbird, Dark-throated Oriole, and Green Broadbill.

I never heard Blue-winged Pitta, as people often do, behind Morakot Resort. The most interesting birds I saw there were Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher along the stream behind the resort and Dark-sided Flycatcher just behind the bungalows.

12-13 January 2010 - Coastal Phetchaburi Province—Pak Thale and Lam Phak Bia

I retraced my route from Morakot to Bangkok, arriving in the early afternoon. From the airport, I took the airport express bus to the Victory Monument (150 Baht), then walked a short distance (following the overhead rail line) to the shared minibus taxi station (next to the Suzuki dealership). Here I quickly caught a minibus to Phetchaburi (120 Baht). The trip took only two hours, letting me off at the Big C along the highway. From there I took a motorbike to a hotel in town (the selection is rather slim). I then set out looking for a motorbike to hire, eventually finding it at Rabieng Guest House along the river. I hired it for 24 hours for 350 Baht.

I set off early the next morning for the coast. I lost my way in the dark, but eventually made it just as it was light enough to identify shorebirds. To find Pak Thale--the Spoon-billed Sandpiper site--leave Phetchaburi by following the signs through town to Ban Laem (which has various spellings on different signs). Once just out of town, instead of turning left towards Ban Laem (if you do, you will see a sign that indicates the town is in 12 km), continue straight (towards the coast). After roughly 10 minutes the road comes to a T-junction. Turn right. After a short distance (maybe 100m), there is another T. Turn left. This road soon Ts again at the coastal road, where you will see the blue-roofed buildings in front of you and the sign indicating the Pak Thale Shorebird Site just to the right. The trip from Phetchaburi to Pak Thale takes about 20 minutes.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Spoon-billed Sandpiper very quickly, preening among a large group of Greater Sandplovers (with a few Red-necked Stints, Broad-billed Sandpipers, Lesser Sandplovers, and others mixed in). It soon flew off, but returned a few minutes later. I eventually left the bird, but judging by the attention paid to the spot later by a tour group, it must have stayed there for a while. It was in the same general area as the 2008 map shows (which can be found on at

There were plenty of other shorebirds around, but no Nordmann’s Greenshanks. I continued down the coastal road towards Had Chao Samran. The entire area seems to have great birding potential. One set of salt pans, for example, had flocks of Great Knot and Pacific Golden Plover; generally there were lots of birds everywhere. I noted the boat hire location, but continued on to the abandoned building site also described on Black-browed Reed-Warblers were in the reeds there (as well as other Acrocephalus that eluded identification) and there were plenty of shorebirds to search through, but again there were no Nordmann’s Greenshanks.

I then went and found a boat to take me to the Lam Phak Bia sandspit (600 Baht). Unfortunately, my timing was rather off because of the limited time I had here, so I found myself there well below high tide. On the way out, I saw Collared and Black-capped Kingfishers in the mangroves. Though there were plenty of plovers on the island—mostly Malaysian and Kentish, with a single Lesser Sandplover—there was no White-faced Plover. A Chinese Egret somewhat made up for my plover dip, as did a first winter Pallas’s Gull that landed briefly before moving on.

On my way back to Phetchaburi I tried one last time at Pak Thale for Nordmann’s Greenshank, but to no avail. A flock of about 100 Great Knots had moved onto the pan on which the Spoon-billed Sandpiper was been earlier in the day, but the sandpiper itself seemed to have left.

With that, I returned to Petchaburi, dropped off the motorbike, and caught the train back to Bangkok (4 hours, 34 Baht).

Species Lists

Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Great Egret Ardea alba
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra
Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes
Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus
Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Grey Plover/Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii Near-threatened
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus
Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa Near-threatened
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata Near-threatened
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Wood SandpiperTringa glareola
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris
Sanderling Calidris alba
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis
Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus Critically endangered
Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Great Black-headed (Pallas’s) Gull Larus ichthyaetus
Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Little Tern Sterna albifrons
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida
Rock Dove Columba livia
Red Turtle Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica
Spotted-necked Dove Streptopelia chinensis
Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica
Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
Vernal Hanging Parrot Loriculus vernalis
Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus
Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus
Common Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus
Black-bellied Malkoha Rhopodytes diardi Near-threatened
Green-billed Malkoha Rhopodytes tristis
Raffles's Malkoha Rhinortha chlorophaea
Red-billed Malkoha Zanclostomus javanicus
Chestnut-breasted Malkoha Zanclostomus curvirostris
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
Oriental Bay Owl Phodilus badius
Great Eared Nightjar Eurostopodus macrotis
Himalayan Swiftlet Aerodramus brevirostris
Germain’s Swiftlet Aerodramus germani
House Swift Apus nipalensis
Grey-rumped Treeswift Hemiprocne longipennis
Scarlet-rumped Trogon Harpactes duvaucelii Near-threatened
Orange-breasted Trogon Harpactes oreskios
Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis
Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata
Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris
Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
Common Hoopoe Upupa epops
Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii Near-threatened
Red-throated Barbet Megalaima mystacophanos Near-threatened
Brown Barbet Caloramphus fuliginosus
Rufous Piculet Sasia abnormis
Streak-breasted Woodpecker Picus viridanus
Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis Near-threatened
Black-and-yellow Broadbill Eurylaimus ochromalus Near-threatened
Banded Pitta Pitta guajana
Gurney's Pitta Pitta gurneyi Endangered
Rufous-winged Philentoma Philentoma pyrhoptera
Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus
Great Iora Aegithina lafresnayei
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus
Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus picatus
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
Dark-throated Oriole Oriolus xanthonotus Near-threatened
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans
Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea
Asian Paradise-flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi
Large-billed Crow/Jungle Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius
Dark-necked Tailorbird Orthotomus atrogularis
Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus
Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps
Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus melanicterus
Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus
Puff-backed Bulbul Pycnonotus eutilotus Near-threatened
Stripe-throated Bulbul Pycnonotus finlaysoni
Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier
Olive-winged Bulbul Pycnonotus plumosus
Streak-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus blanfordi
Cream-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus simplex
Red-eyed Bulbul Pycnonotus brunneus
Spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus erythropthalmos
Ochraceous Bulbul Criniger ochraceus
Yellow-bellied Bulbul Criniger phaeocephalus
Hairy-backed Bulbul Tricholestes criniger
Buff-vented Bulbul Iole olivacea Near-threatened
Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus
Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis
Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus
Puff-throated Babbler Pellorneum ruficeps
Ferruginous Babbler Trichastoma bicolor
Abbott's Babbler Malacocincla abbotti
Moustached Babbler Malacopteron magnirostre
Scaly-crowned Babbler Malacopteron cinereum
Rufous-crowned Babbler Malacopteron magnum Near-threatened
Chestnut-rumped Babbler Stachyris maculata Near-threatened
Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera
Striped Tit-Babbler Macronous gularis
Great (White-vented) Myna Acridotheres grandis
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
Asian Pied Starling Sturnus contra
Orange-headed Thrush Zoothera citrina
Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus
Siberian Blue Robin Luscinia cyane
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis
Common Stonechat Saxicola torquatus
Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher Rhinomyias olivaceus
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
Brown-breasted Flycatcher Muscicapa muttui
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher Cyornis tickelliae
Blue-throated Blue FlycatcherCyornis rubeculoides
Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis
Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon Near-threatened
Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus maculatus
Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis
Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex
Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
Red-throated Sunbird Anthreptes rhodolaemus Near-threatened
Purple-naped Sunbird Hypogramma hypogrammicum
Purple-throated Sunbird Leptocoma sperata
Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra
Thick-billed Spiderhunter Arachnothera crassirostris
Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera modesta
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
White-bellied Munia Lonchura leucogastra
Black-headed Munia Lonchura malacca
Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus
Richard's Pipit Anthus richardi