Khao Yai and Pang Sida: 26-31 May 2013







26 - 31 May 2013.
Surprisingly dry with occasional light rain showers. Warm to hot at Khao Yai, but hot and very humid in lowlands of Pang Sida.
Khao Yai National Park, Pang Sida National Park and Wat Phra Phutthabat Noi.

Five-bar Swordtail
Five-bar Swordtail

With Steve Tibbett. With almost two years having passed since the previous Khao Yai visit, this trip targeted two of the most difficult Thai species known from the park - Eared Pitta and Austen's Brown Hornbill.

26 May. A long, 800 plus kilometre drive to Khao Yai, arriving late afternoon. Checked into accommodation near the park, after which we tried, from memory, to locate the bat cave along the Pak Chong road, failing miserably. Very quiet, with few birds, although Chestnut-capped Babbler of note.

27 May. Into the park at the opening time of 06:00. A short stop at the fire station viewpoint, seeing half a dozen Oriental Dollarbird and a pair of Great Hornbill. Eager to start a pitta hunt we started with the Kong Kiew Trail that loops behind the headquarters. A couple of hours here gave us Blue Pitta, Long-tailed Broadbill and a pair of Siamese Fireback with two young. Due to a late start to this year's monsoon season, conditions were dry and leechless.

Khao Yai Trails

A recent development at Khao Yai is that most of the trails now require a permit, with signs at the trail heads stating "No Entry Without Permit". Presumably this is a follow-on from the previous signs, that no one understood, stating "Activity Prohibited In This Area". According to park (mis)management the previous signs were to deter poachers from entering the forest. One assumes the new signs are designed to apprehend them when they apply for a permit....

The permits are available from the Visitor Centre and currently free of charge. It's rather vague whether a guide is required to walk the trails, and was offered at 500 Baht. However, we simply wrote our own names as the guide and were issued the permit without quibbles.

We next tried the Dong Tiew Trail, and almost immediately at the valley bottom heard an Eared Pitta. Over the next 15 minutes the bird called three times, but never approached closely, nor moved any vegetation - disappointing to say the least. Birds of note included Black-and-buff Woodpecker, Northern White-crowned Forktail and Banded Kingfisher.

Following lunch at the park headquarter kiosks, in the heat of the day, we ascended to the top of the Khao Kiew Radar Station road, birding the upper road and the boardwalk trail to Pha Diew Die viewpoint - Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Barred Cuckoo-Dove and several Blue Pitta calling. A late afternoon slow drive out of the park looking for Great Eared Nightjar, without success. Coming down the hill near the entrance, had close views of a single male Asian Elephant grazing right on the verge, apparently totally unconcerned by passing traffic.

28 May. Started with a couple of Blue-winged Pitta and a Brown Hawk-Owl heard outside the accommodation. Into the park at 06:00 and first to Kong Kiew loop trail again. Several Long-tailed Broadbill, Green-eared Barbet, Orange-breasted Trogon, Red-headed Trogon, Blue-eared Barbet, Moustached Barbet, another Siamese Fireback and Banded Kingfisher, but not a squeak from any pitta. After a quick coffee we drove to the Nong Pak Chi trail at Km 33, where a number of jeeps were parked and people already on the trail, although very surprisingly we met only one group in our three hours here. Again we concentrated on pittas but none heard. Banded Broadbill seen well, and on the return we heard a distant Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo.

In the heat of the day, we decided to try something different, and walked the river edge along the Pha Kluai Mai trail toward Orchid Waterfall. Hot and dead, save for a smart Blue-eared Kingfisher. The last two hours of the day again along the loop trail but no pittas. On the drive out met the same Asian Elephant walking down the road. This time however, it wasn't friendly, turned, didn't like our vehicle and charged from about 80 metres. Amazing how fast you can reverse a car up a steep windy mountain road when there's an elephant bearing down on you! Waited a while, for it to move off the road, and exited the park.

29 May. The same early start, but by now we'd had enough of impossible pittas and wanted to give Austen's Brown Hornbill a try. A landslide half way up the Radar Station road currently gives an excellent view across an huge expanse of lowland forest, so we thought an early morning scan might produce a fly-by hornbill. On the way up yet another Asian Elephant was grazing in the clearing and a Yellow-throated Marten crossed the road. We also disturbed a Malayan Night Heron right next to the road. Unfortunately only Oriental Pied Hornbill and Great Hornbill heard. Also a small group Everett's White-eye. Up to the Pha Diew Die viewpoint again for a quick scan, finding a Black Eagle, Wreathed Hornbill and a singing Blue Pitta.

Asian Elephant
Asian Elephant - Khao Kiew road

Black Eagle
Black Eagle

Tired roads in Pang Sida
Tired roads in Pang Sida

Black-and-buff Woodpecker
Black-and-buff Woodpecker

Around 11:00 left Khao Yai to head to Pang Sida where we hoped Eared Pitta might be more accommodating. A two hour drive, and checked into the Blue Mountain Resort which now appears to be the only accommodation outside park. Things have also changed inside the park with a new checkpoint/barrier controlling access to higher sections of the road to the upper viewpoint - sign the book, fill in car details and tell the rangers where you're going. We drove as far as the old Pong Krating Trail, which has now been renamed the Butapot Nature Trail.


Banded Swallowtail
Banded Swallowtail

Limestone Wren-Babbler
Limestone Wren-Babbler

Walked the trail on a hot and humid afternoon, finding Green Imperial Pigeon and Siamese Fireback. As usual, Pang Sida did not disappoint on the butterflies, with a nice selection feeding on rotting fruit.

30 May. Relatively cool and cloudy, and almost threatening some very overdue rain. Spent three hours on the loop Nature Trail, with two groups of Dusky Broadbill the highlight. Surprisingly, despite the habitat, no pittas heard. Filled in the logbook and headed to the upper, Por Dor Ha, campsite in the heat of the day. Good numbers of butterflies around the campsite stream. A sole Wreathed Hornbill at the viewpoint, where we also had Black-and-buff Woodpecker, Common Hill Myna and Lesser Yellownape. A slow drive back to the barrier with Siamese Fireback, Laced Woodpecker and a Yellow-throated Marten en route. Judging by the amount of elephant and Gaur dung along the road, there must be quite some activity at night.

31 May. Pre dawn start to drive to Wat Phra Phutthabat Noi near Saraburi, where a pair of Limestone Wren-Babbler found readily. Drove back to Chiang Mai. A disappointing trip for our targets, but some good birds and butterflies recorded.

Species List

  Khao Yai Count   Pang Sida Count
  Green-legged Partridge 10   Green-legged Partridge 10
  Red Junglefowl 12   Red Junglefowl 10
  Siamese Fireback 6   Siamese Fireback 3
  Malayan Night Heron 1   Crested Serpent Eagle 2
  Little Egret 1   Red-wattled Lapwing 1
  Oriental Honey Buzzard 1   Spotted Dove 2
  Crested Serpent Eagle 2   Common Emerald Dove 15
  Changeable Hawk-Eagle 1   Green Imperial Pigeon 4
  Black Eagle 1   Vernal Hanging Parrot 5
  Crested Goshawk 1   Greater Coucal 3
  Red-wattled Lapwing 8   Green-billed Malkoha 1
  Spotted Dove 12   Asian Koel 2
  Barred Cuckoo-Dove 8   Banded Bay Cuckoo 1
  Common Emerald Dove 10   Plaintive Cuckoo 1
  Zebra Dove 5   Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo 1
  Thick-billed Green Pigeon 10   Brown-backed Needletail 3
  Mountain Imperial Pigeon 10   Asian Palm Swift 2
  Vernal Hanging Parrot 4   House Swift 4
  Greater Coucal 4   Orange-breasted Trogon 2
  Lesser Coucal 2   Red-headed Trogon 2
  Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo 1   Banded Kingfisher 2
  Asian Koel 3   Oriental Pied Hornbill 15
  Collared Scops Owl 1   Wreathed Hornbill 1
  Asian Barred Owlet 1   Blue-eared Barbet 2
  Brown Hawk-Owl 1   Lesser Yellownape 1
  Brown-backed Needletail 4   Laced Woodpecker 1
  Asian Palm Swift 25   Greater Flameback 2
  House Swift 25   Black-and-buff Woodpecker 4
  Orange-breasted Trogon 3   Long-tailed Broadbill 1
  Red-headed Trogon 4   Banded Broadbill 7
  Oriental Dollarbird 6   Blue Pitta 1
  Banded Kingfisher 4   Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike 2
  White-throated Kingfisher 1   Ashy Woodswallow 2
  Blue-eared Kingfisher 1   Common Iora 1
  Blue-bearded Bee-eater 5   Great Iora 2
  Oriental Pied Hornbill 20   White-bellied Erpornis 5
  Great Hornbill 6   Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 5
  Wreathed Hornbill 6   Black-naped Monarch 5
  Lineated Barbet 1   Black-crested Bulbul 15
  Green-eared Barbet 12   Sooty-headed Bulbul 5
  Moustached Barbet 25   Stripe-throated Bulbul 2
  Blue-eared Barbet 6   Puff-throated Bulbul 12
  Coppersmith Barbet 2   Grey-eyed Bulbul 6
  Greater Flameback 2   Golden-headed Cisticola 6
  Black-and-buff Woodpecker 1   Grey-breasted Prinia 3
  Long-tailed Broadbill 12   Common Tailorbird 1
  Banded Broadbill 4   Dark-necked Tailorbird 6
  Eared Pitta 1   Large Scimitar Babbler 2
  Blue Pitta 8   White-browed Scimitar Babbler 2
  Blue-winged Pitta 4   Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 15
  Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike 2   Abbott's Babbler 3
  Ashy Woodswallow 12   Scaly-crowned Babbler 6
  Common Iora 2   White-crested Laughingthrush 12
  Scarlet Minivet 2   Common Hill Myna 4
  White-bellied Erpornis 3   Common Myna 1
  Bronzed Drongo 2   White-rumped Shama 4
  Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 6   Tickell's Blue Flycatcher 1
  Common Green Magpie 5   Blue-winged Leafbird 10
  Racket-tailed Treepie 1   Ruby-cheeked Sunbird 8
  Black-crested Bulbul 15      
  Red-whiskered Bulbul 1   Wat Phra Phutthabat Noi Count
  Sooty-headed Bulbul 4   Barred Buttonquail 1
  Stripe-throated Bulbul 4   Spotted Dove 4
  Streak-eared Bulbul 4   Zebra Dove 10
  Puff-throated Bulbul 15   Greater Coucal 2
  Grey-eyed Bulbul 12   Asian Koel 1
  Red-rumped Swallow 2   Plaintive Cuckoo 1
  Golden-headed Cisticola 10   Lineated Barbet 2
  Common Tailorbird 1   Coppersmith Barbet 2
  Dark-necked Tailorbird 5   Black-crested Bulbul 1
  White-browed Scimitar Babbler 5   Sooty-headed Bulbul 4
  Rufous-fronted Babbler 5   Stripe-throated Bulbul 2
  Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 15   Limestone Wren-Babbler 2
  Chestnut-capped Babbler 2   Common Myna 10
  Abbott's Babbler 4      
  White-crested Laughingthrush 15      
  Everett's White-eye 4      
  Asian Fairy-bluebird 12      
  Common Hill Myna 8      
  Common Myna 2      
  Blue Whistling Thrush 1      
  Oriental Magpie-Robin 2      
  White-rumped Shama 6      
  Northern White-crowned Forktail 1      
  Hill Blue Flycatcher 3      
  Blue-winged Leafbird 2      
  Buff-bellied Flowerpecker 12      
  Olive-backed Sunbird 1      
  White-rumped Munia 4      
  Scaly-breasted Munia 12