Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park and Thueng Salaeng Luang National Park: 1-3 July 2010


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1-3 July 2010.
Warm, overcast, heavy rain showers
Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park and Thueng Salaeng Luang National Park.

1 July. The main spur for visiting Phu Hin Rong Kla was to look for Nepal House Martin, as this is the only site in Thailand where the species can be found with any regularity. The drive from Chiang Mai took about five hours, so arrived in the park early afternoon. After entering the western checkpoint the first species of note was Rufous-winged Buzzard, which seemed a good indicator of better things to come. As no accommodation was passed reasonably close to the park on the way in, the first stop was the park HQ to secure a room for the night. Was pleasantly surprised that the park has above average restaurant facilities and accommodation. A small bungalow was 550 Baht including a nominal 30% discount. Low season? Mid-week? Didn't’t ask. As to the best of my knowledge, Nepal House Martin are most often seen just outside the park drove the 30+ km through the park and out the eastern Taberg exit. Stopping along the road inside the park is quite frustrating if looking for hirundines, as views across valleys and forest canopy are limited. Once outside the park the forest habitat is immediately replaced with acres and acres of cabbage fields, which on the surface does not look too promising for birds. Descending the hillside slowly and stopping to scan from ridges was eventually rewarded with good views of a number of Nepal House Martin, which mostly appeared to keep in loose flocks of 10-40 birds. Breeding has never been proven in Thailand, and true to form they did not appear to investigate and rocks or suitable breeding habitat. This was in contrast to a number of Dusky Crag Martin which patrolled the rocky ridge to the right of the road all afternoon. The biggest surprise was finding a number of Jerdon’s Bush Chat in rank vegetation alongside the road, indicating this species is presumably resident. Late afternoon rain forced a return to the HQ area, so birded around the open habitat of the accommodation area, though nothing interesting seen. No owls heard at night.

2 July. Headed for the loop trail just east of the HQ. This 3 km walk is interesting for geologists, and has some fantastic views along its southern edge. Despite being able to scan large areas of suitable habitat no Nepal House Martin were seen, though again a number of Dusky Crag Martin were in evidence. Some small areas of forest along the trail held commoner mountain species. Toward the end of the morning headed off to Thueng Salaeng Luang National Park

The desire to visit Thueng Salaeng Luang came from talking to others who had seen Siamese Fireback commonly in the park. Even the Thai government national parks website describes it as a 'prominent resident'. Following a visit to nearby Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park, and with a couple of spare half days decided to check it out.

Arrived at the park on the afternoon of 2 July and waved through the checkpoint. First stopped at the visitor centre, but as there was no staff in attendance dropped into the nearby office where the kindly staff apologised for not having any maps but produced a full colour book of the park instead and handed it over for free - very generous of them. Most of the afternoon was spent, in between dodging heavy rain showers, along the 3 km paved road to the Kek River. Indeed the forest along this road appears in good condition, and it was surprising that Siamese Fireback could not be found feeding along the edges – only numerous Red Junglefowl. Although accommodation was available in the park the restaurant was not functioning, so late afternoon headed out to Kaem Son and checked into a simple guesthouse near the town.

Variable Squirrel
Variable Squirrrel

3 July. Early morning returned to the park but was disappointed that still no Siamese Fireback could be found along the main track to the Kek River. That then left the option of exploring the nature trails. Unfortunately following these trails, like in so many parks in Thailand, is not straightforward, as a lack of maintenance, dilapidated signs and tree falls make following trails a trial. After following the nature trail from the gate for about 500 metres it disappeared into a mass of collapsed bamboo, so gave up from this direction. Buff-breasted Babbler was seen here. Next tried the first trail entrance on the right after the HQ area, but this too disappeared.

At this time of year many butterflies were in evidence, and the white morph of Variable Squirrel was interesting. Left early afternoon on the second day to drive back to Chiang Mai.

Species List

  Phu Hin Rong Kla Count   Thueng Salaeng Luang Count
  Black-winged Kite 2   Red Junglefowl 15
  Rufous-winged Buzzard 2   Greater Coucal 2
  Greater Coucal 3   Orange-breasted Trogon 1
  Black-headed Bulbul 2   Oriental Dollarbird 3
  Spotted Dove 20   Common Emerald Dove 3
  Crested Treeswift 2   Green-billed Malkoha 1
  Cook's Swift 2   Plaintive Cuckoo 2
  House Swift 30   Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo 1
  Great Barbet 4   Crested Treeswift 4
  Blue-throated Barbet 6   Brown-backed Needletail 4
  Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker 2   Cook's Swift 2
  Common Iora 5   House Swift 10
  Scarlet Minivet 2   Scarlet Minivet 2
  Long-tailed Shrike 2   White-bellied Erpornis 4
  White-bellied Erpornis 2   Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 1
  Blyth's Shrike-babbler 1   Black-naped Monarch 2
  Clicking Shrike-babbler 2   Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher 2
  Ashy Drongo 2   Black-crested Bulbul 4
  Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 2   Puff-throated Bulbul 3
  White-throated Fantail 2   Grey-eyed Bulbul 4
  Black-naped Monarch 2   Striated Swallow 20
  Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher 2   Dark-necked Tailorbird 2
  Yellow-cheeked Tit 2   White-browed Scimitar Babbler 2
  Black-crested Bulbul 2   Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 20
  Flavescent Bulbul 20   Puff-throated Babbler 2
  Puff-throated Bulbul 4   Buff-breasted Babbler 1
  Grey-eyed Bulbul 4   White-crested Laughingthrush 4
  Dusky Crag Martin 15   Asian Fairy-bluebird 1
  Nepal House Martin 70   White-rumped Shama 10
  Striated Swallow 40   Hill Blue Flycatcher 2
  Slaty-bellied Tesia 4   Plain Flowerpecker 1
  Mountain Tailorbird 2      
  Hill Prinia 10      
  Grey-breasted Prinia 4      
  Common Tailorbird 2      
  Dark-necked Tailorbird 1      
  Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler 3      
  Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 4      
  Yunnan Fulvetta 20      
  Puff-throated Babbler 2      
  White-crested Laughingthrush 4      
  Blue-winged Minla 2      
  Oriental White-eye 4      
  Oriental Magpie-Robin 2      
  White-rumped Shama 4      
  Northern White-crowned Forktail 1      
  Jerdon's Bush Chat 7      
  Hill Blue Flycatcher 3      
  Plain Flowerpecker 1      
  Black-throated Sunbird 2      
  Little Spiderhunter 1      
  Streaked Spiderhunter 4      
  White-rumped Munia 4      
  Scaly-breasted Munia 20      
  Paddyfield Pipit 4