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Southeast Thailand: 5 - 12 Dec 2016


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5 - 12 Dec 2016
Dry, sunny and warm. Cool at altitude at night.
Bangpoo, Khao Chamao - Khao Wong National Park and Khao Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary.

With Ian Dugdale and Andy Pierce. An exploratory trip based on a jaunt around the southeast in search of birds, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies, with the added possibility of exploring areas not visited previously. Although not specifically planned as such, the trip morphed into our sixth attempt to find the southeast specialities at higher altitudes of Khao Soi Dao - a recurring nightmare we'd attempted in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and earlier in 2016.

5 Dec. Flew Bangkok Airways to Bangkok arriving on schedule by midday. Picked up by Ian and drove to Bangpoo where met up with Andy who'd arrived earlier in search of Vega Gull, reported a week earlier. No luck however, with only the ubiquitous Brown-headed Gull and a single Heuglin's Gull. Continued our travels eastward, the traffic pleasantly lighter than usual due to the pubic holiday meaning far fewer heavy trucks. Drove as far as Khao Chamao - Khao Wong National Park, finding a pleasant place to stay just outside the park with decent grounds, holding Brown Wood Owl calling after dark.

Heuglin's Gull
Heuglin's Gull

6 Dec. Into the park shortly after opening to secure accommodation for the night. Unfortunately, without doubt the worst Thai park accommodation we'd ever experienced, hardly ever cleaned with no functioning water supply, seats, fridge or other useful facilities. Definitely one to avoid. However, using park accommodation is effectively the only way to access after dark, so needs must. Having dealt with accommodation we hit the trail to the waterfall. This good trail runs uphill, along side a boulder strewn, clear-running river, through seemingly good quality forest. Explored this trail as far as falls level three where an old bridge crosses the river to loop back on a Nature Trail to the park headquarters. However, as usual zero maintenance meant the bridge was dilapidated, closed, and the Nature Trail loop unused, overgrown and defunct. A few butterflies found, but little of interest.

Returned to the park restaurant for a simple lunch then drove the 20 kilometres to Khao Wong Cave, arriving 14:45. At the entrance talked to the ranger on duty who emphasised to us that the cave closes at 16:00. but at least allowed us to proceed unaccompanied. As caves go, this one is rather pleasant, with a good throughput of fresh air and straightforward access. During our hour inside we found several Sumontha's Cave Gecko as well as some difficult to identify frogs hiding in dark corners.

Returned to the park, taking dinner at one of the restaurants near the entrance. After dark, explored the immediate surroundings of the park headquarters and accessible forest for herps, returning around 23:30. The hoped for Cardamom Green Pit Viper not found, but a reasonable collection of frogs seen, including Taiwanese Frog, Striped Sticky Frog, Mortensen's Frog and a couple of unidentified species. Night birds heard included Great Eared Nightjar, Collared Scops Owl and Brown Hawk-Owl. Cool and pleasant overnight temperature.

7 Dec. After somewhat of a lie-in and a catch up with notes and photos we drove to the Khao Soi Dao area. As usual here, logistical issues dominate, but after visiting two ranger stations we were possibly in a position to try a walk up the mountain. Maybe. Overnight at a small resort near the breeding centre and dinner along the highway where we unexpectedly found some good, dark German beer available.

Sumontha's Cave Gecko
Sumontha's Cave Gecko

Striped Sticky Frog
Striped Sticky Frog

Chanthaburi Stream Frog
Chanthaburi Stream Frog

Cardamom Green Pit Viper
Cardamom Green Pit Viper

8 Dec. Most of the day spent preparing for our nights camped on the mountain. A late afternoon visit to the Khao Soi Dao Breeding Centre where we searched the small stream for butterflies and dragonflies. Another German beer session, so not a totally wasted day!

9 Dec. Met up with our guides and started into the forest by 08:30. As usual on Khao Soi Dao the low species diversity makes finding specialities and interesting wildlife slow and difficult. By 13:00 when we arrived at our first camp at 950 metres, we'd seen precious little. A few butterflies around the falls at our chosen camp included Himalayan Jester and a rarer sailor species that disappeared before being photographed. Despite the dry weather, leeches were rather prevalent as much of the forest leaf-litter still damp. Ticks too, as we discovered a few days later.

During the afternoon explored higher forest above the camp, as high as 1,230 metres, finding Kloss's Leaf Warbler and a single Black-browed Fulvetta. After dark we clambered up and downstream from the camp hopping around on the slippery boulders and steep trails; not recommended for the inexperienced. During two to three hours we encountered an excellent collection of reptiles and amphibians, such as Cardamom Green Pit Viper, Cardamom Wolf Snake, Chanthaburi Stream Frog and Spiny-breasted Frog. A pretty cool night, in part due to a wind flowing down the valley stream.

10 Dec. Although we'd originally planned to camp two nights at the same spot we reckoned moving the camp higher would offer different nocturnal options, so following an early breakfast, a two hour walk up to 1,200 metres where we set up for a second night. From about 10:00 for the remainder of the day we walked up, close to 1,500 metres, as far as Bueng Sito and back. Much of this was along a ridge where Siamese Partridge found, as well as at least three pairs of Indochinese Green Magpie that remained stubbornly hidden. Kloss's Leaf Warbler found to be common at these altitudes and a pair of Silver Pheasant heard. After dark we again explored around the camp, but the small amount of water in the stream and drier forest in general contained few herps. Birds recorded were Grey Nightjar, Mountain Scops Owl and a roosting Orange-headed Thrush. A better night's sleep, though still cool.

11 Dec. A surprise just after dawn in the form of a singing Green Cochoa, as well as Siamese Partridge resonating from the adjacent valley. With the morning to spare we again hiked onto the ridge above the camp in search of Indochinese Green Magpie, that disappointingly remained silent. Some good feeding flocks with Claudia's Warbler, Kloss's Leaf Warbler, Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Martens's Warbler, Moustached Barbet, Blyth's Shrike-babbler and a couple more Green Cochoa. At the recommendation of our guide we took a shorter route back to base that, while decidedly a shorter distance, was steep, difficult and could have verged on dangerous if wet, resulting in little saving in time, arriving back around 16:30.

Moustached Barbet
Moustached Barbet

Overnight at the same resort, and very nice to sleep in a real bed rather than a hammock again. All-in-all an excellent experience on the mountain, though still missing Blue-rumped Pitta and Indochinese Green Magpie not seen.

Vega Gull
Vega Gull

12 Dec. Hardly surprisingly, not up at dawn, but a mid morning departure back to Bangpoo, where not only the Vega Gull had reappeared but a Mew Gull had been found. We arrived around 15:30, and with pleasant, cloudy conditions a good number of gulls present. Vega Gull successfully located, plus a single Heuglin's Gull and two Slender-billed Gull. However, the Mew Gull failed to materialise. Overnight near Bangkok airport.

13 Dec. Return to Chiang Mai.

Species List

  Khao Soi Dao Count   Bangpoo Count
  Siamese Partridge 10   Great Egret 3
  Green-legged Partridge 4   Little Egret 4
  Silver Pheasant 2   Little Cormorant 10
  Eastern Cattle Egret 4   Black-tailed Godwit 50
  Barred Cuckoo-Dove 1   Slender-billed Gull 2
  Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon 6   Brown-headed Gull 1,000
  Mountain Imperial Pigeon 5   Vega Gull 1
  Greater Coucal 1   Heuglin's Gull 1
  Green-billed Malkoha 2   Asian Koel 1
  Mountain Scops Owl 3   Germain's Swiftlet 10
  Collared Owlet 2   Golden-bellied Gerygone 2
  Grey Nightjar 1   Barn Swallow 2
  Germain's Swiftlet 10      
  Orange-breasted Trogon 1   Khao Chamao - Khao Wong Count
  Red-headed Trogon 4   Crested Serpent Eagle 2
  Wreathed Hornbill 5   Zebra Dove 2
  Moustached Barbet 20   Collared Scops Owl 1
  Greater Yellownape 3   Brown Wood Owl 1
  Vernal Hanging Parrot 2   Asian Barred Owlet 2
  Long-tailed Broadbill 10   Brown Hawk-Owl 2
  Large Woodshrike 1   Great Eared Nightjar 1
  White-bellied Erpornis 6   Germain's Swiftlet 10
  Blyth's Shrike-babbler 4   Indian Roller 2
  Black-naped Oriole 2   White-throated Kingfisher 1
  Ashy Drongo 1   Blue-tailed Bee-eater 2
  Hair-crested Drongo 20   Lineated Barbet 6
  White-throated Fantail 3   Coppersmith Barbet 2
  Black-naped Monarch 2   Vernal Hanging Parrot 2
  Indochinese Green Magpie 6   Ashy Woodswallow 4
  Black-crested Bulbul 4   Common Iora 1
  Sooty-headed Bulbul 4   Black-naped Oriole 3
  Ochraceous Bulbul 20   Ashy Drongo 2
  Barn Swallow 20   Bronzed Drongo 4
  Yellow-browed Warbler 15   Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 4
  Two-barred Warbler 1   Eastern Jungle Crow 2
  Claudia's Leaf Warbler 10   Grey-eyed Bulbul 3
  Kloss's Leaf Warbler 30   Yellow-browed Warbler 1
  Sulphur-breasted Warbler 10   Two-barred Warbler 3
  Martens's Warbler 5   Pale-legged Leaf Warbler 3
  White-browed Scimitar Babbler 8   Rufous-fronted Babbler 2
  Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 10   Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 2
  Black-browed Fulvetta 1   White-crested Laughingthrush 2
  Streaked Wren-Babbler 6   Common Hill Myna 2
  Great Myna 10   Great Myna 6
  Orange-headed Thrush 1   White-rumped Shama 1
  Green Cochoa 3   Asian Brown Flycatcher 2
  Oriental Magpie-Robin 2   Taiga Flycatcher 2
  Hill Blue Flycatcher 2   Olive-backed Sunbird 4
  Verditer Flycatcher 2   Little Spiderhunter 3
  Cambodian White-tailed Robin 2      
  Blue Whistling Thrush 2      
  Mugimaki Flycatcher 2      
  Black-throated Sunbird 6      
  Little Spiderhunter 4      
  Eurasian Tree Sparrow 6      
  Grey Wagtail 1