Northern central Thailand: 2 - 6 Oct 2017






2 - 6 Oct 2017
Very wet. Heavy cloud with a few sunny spells. Temperatures ranged from 22°C to 32°C.
Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park, Nam Nao National Park, Sri Dit Waterfall, Tat Mok National Park and Thung Salaeng Luang National Park.

With Steve Tibbett. October, being toward the end of the monsoon, is usually a good time to start to be out and about exploring. This year however, the changeable weather between the seasons seemed to drag on, with days of poor weather followed by limited better days. However, in the interest of trying a few less frequently visited areas and wishing to try out a few new ones, we set off in hope. The main animal groups targeted on this trip were birds and butterflies.

2 Oct. Left Chiang Mai, and drove six hours to Lomsak, with some heavy rain en route. At Lomsak, checked into one of the many hotels in and around town, and headed up the mountain towards Phu Hin Rong Kla, although looking at the low cloud we were unsure what we would find, if anything.

Our main target here was Nepal House Martin, the only known locality in Thailand for this species. Amazingly, once above 1,500 metres we broke through the cloud hanging on the mountain sides, and in excellent conditions found in excess of 300 Nepal House Martin, together with a few Dusky Crag Martin and a single male Jerdon's Bush Chat. A nice start. Fortunately, it was unnecessary to enter the national park proper, as the greedy management here rip-off foreigners for 500 Baht.

3 Oct. Some overnight rain easing by morning but still grey and overcast. Drove to Nam Nao through some further heavy rain, that luckily ceased upon our arrival. Nam Nao is one of the few parks in Thailand with a good trail system so, donning leech socks, we started on the shorter Nature Trail behind the headquarters. Wow, the months of rain had really been good to the leeches, that were probably the worst we'd experienced in Thailand. Even compared with Khao Yai and Hala-Bala this was bad. Few birds in the damp conditions, though Bar-backed Partridge heard, plus Greater Flameback and Greater Yellownape. A longer walk in forest edge and inspection of flowering plants around the campsites gave us a few butterflies, with Common Silverline and Burmese Batwing the pick of the bunch. Later drove the long dirt road toward Phu Goom Khao, with Red-billed Blue Magpie, but little else, as far as the river crossing about ten kilometres in. Clearly though we'd not be crossing the river today, as it was in full flood from the recent rains. At 15:00 the heavens opened and we returned to the highway, driving up what appeared more of a river than a dirt track, and thankful for 4x4 on the vehicle. Further heavy rain at night.

4 Oct. For a total change we decided to check out Sri Dit Waterfall for butterflies. Evidently this site has great potential in the dry season, although on the downside it would be pretty crowded during peak tourist season, with several restaurants and tourist tat shops near the falls. No such problem today as zero visitors, cold and overcast. A short walk to the falls and the forest edge produced a few butterflies.

Nepal House Martin
Nepal House Martin

Dusky Crag Martin
Dusky Crag Martin

Common Silverline
Common Silverline

After a couple of hours here, we headed up the hill to the eastern entrance of Thung Salaeng Luang, a site neither of us had previously tried. A series of dirt roads cross the savanna and grasslands, and give a totally different habitat to that elsewhere in the region. However, today access to the grasslands was closed due to the road conditions, so we had to content ourselves with the two kilometres of entrance road and clearings around the campsite. A couple of sunny periods was a pleasant surprise, plus we saved the eye-watering 500 Baht entrance fee due to the closure of the main areas. Best bird was a disappearing Slaty-legged Crake or Red-legged Crake that scuttled across the road. Certainly a return visit called for when the weather improves. At 13:30 the rain started again, so headed to Tat Mok National Park; another site we'd never visited.

Thick-billed Green Pigeon
Thick-billed Green Pigeon

Great Siam Sergeant
Great Siam Sergeant

Further disappointment with the park again closed due to the condition of the tracks within being impassible even with 4x4. With further rain, found a coffee shop in which to ponder our options for the next two days. Clearly we needed to stick to parks with paved or at least passable roads. Abandoned the remainder of our afternoon, with an overnight in Phetchabun city.

5 Oct. Heavy rain all night with grim, overcast conditions persisting. A return to Nam Nao, where with 4x4 we could at least explore the longer Phu Goom Khao track. Overcast with rain till around 10:00 when it cleared briefly till 11:00 allowing a few butterflies to be found. Thereafter rain set in for the remainder of the day, with us moping around till 16:00 when we finally gave up and returned to Lomsak.

6 Oct. Still cloudy but some early sunshine, so we headed to the northern entrance of Thung Salaeng Luang. As expected, entrance was 500 Baht, though after a bit of negotiation this was reduced to 300 Baht on the basis of us being researchers. Finally, some warm sun, and along the three kilometre route to the Kek River and campsite we had Blue-throated Bee-eater and a good flock of Thick-billed Green Pigeon, plus a very good collection of butterflies including Great Siam Sergeant and Indian Yellow Nawab. With returning rain at 13:00 we headed back the five hours to Chiang Mai.

Species List

  Phu Hin Rong Kla Count   Nam Nao Count
  Himalayan Swiftlet 1   Bar-backed Partridge 2
  Cook's Swift 1   Chinese Pond Heron 15
  Great Barbet 2   Spotted Dove 4
  Blue-throated Barbet 2   Common Emerald Dove 2
  Brown Shrike 2   Thick-billed Green Pigeon 2
  Eastern Jungle Crow 2   Greater Coucal 1
  Sooty-headed Bulbul 4   Asian Barred Owlet 1
  Barn Swallow 2   Asian Palm Swift 2
  Dusky Crag Martin 3   Orange-breasted Trogon 2
  Nepal House Martin 300   Indian Roller 2
  Striated Swallow 4   Great Barbet 2
  Hill Prinia 2   Blue-throated Barbet 1
  White-browed Scimitar Babbler 3   Greater Yellownape 2
  Common Myna 2   Greater Flameback 1
  Blue Rock Thrush 2   Vernal Hanging Parrot 2
  Pied Bush Chat 2   Black-winged Cuckooshrike 2
  Jerdon's Bush Chat 1   Scarlet Minivet 2
  Grey Bush Chat 1   Black-hooded Oriole 6
  White Wagtail 1   Black Drongo 20
        Ashy Drongo 4
  Thung Salaeng Luang Count   Hair-crested Drongo 1
  Red Junglefowl 4   Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 2
  Thick-billed Green Pigeon 20   Black-naped Monarch 2
  Green-billed Malkoha 1   Eurasian Jay 2
  Blue-throated Bee-eater 1   Red-billed Blue Magpie 6
  Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike 20   Eastern Jungle Crow 8
  White-bellied Erpornis 4   Sooty-headed Bulbul 9
  Black-crested Bulbul 2   Stripe-throated Bulbul 2
  Grey-eyed Bulbul 4   Puff-throated Bulbul 4
  Two-barred Warbler 1   Grey-eyed Bulbul 1
  White-crested Laughingthrush 4   Rufescent Prinia 4
  White-rumped Shama 1   Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 4
  Taiga Flycatcher 1   Buff-breasted Babbler 2
        White-crested Laughingthrush 8
        Golden-fronted Leafbird 2
        Olive-backed Sunbird 1