Northern central Thailand: 6 - 10 Nov 2017






6 - 10 Nov 2017
Mostly dry with variable cloud cover. Temperatures ranged from 20°C to 32°C.
Thung Salaeng Luang National Park, Nam Nao National Park and Tat Mok National Park.

With Steve Tibbett. Following improvement of the general weather patterns across northern Thailand since our damp and disappointing trip in October, we thought a rerun might be in order. As the majority of the targeted birds had been seen on that trip, we concentrated more specifically on butterflies this time around. We were also keen to explore both Tat Mok National Park and the parts of Thung Salaeng Luang National Park that we'd been unable to enter previously due to the very wet conditions.

6 Nov. Left Chiang Mai early to cloud and overcast conditions that, contrary to expectations, did not improve moving eastward. Arrived at Thung Salaeng Luang early afternoon, making our first stop at Kaeng Sopha Waterfall, a few kilometres before the park's northern entrance, and a place we'd not previously tried. The overcast and cool conditions were hardly conducive to either birds or butterflies, but Painted Bushbrown was a nice find. The falls themselves were larger than expected, and worth the stop. We next tried the forest around the park's campsite and northern entrance, but equally dull, so drove to Lomsak to find accommodation

7 Nov. A better morning weather wise, but still cloudy until 10:00. We started the day on the Nature Trail at Nam Nao where at least the leech numbers had dwindled to a reasonable level. Also discovered that the entry to the main trail complex was currently blocked by a large tree fall, that hopefully park staff would deal with in the near future - Nam Nao having one of the best trail systems in Thailand. No luck with Bar-backed Partridge, though Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Starry Diadem and Curved Cyclops were good for the list. After checking the forest edge around the campsite, we worked the long dirt road to Phu Goom Khao, spending most of the day here, recording the usual suspects such as Bay Woodpecker, Greater Flameback, Slaty-backed Forktail at the river and Vernal Hanging Parrot, plus White Commodore and Siamese Pale Grass Yellow butterflies.

Kaeng Sopha Waterfall
Kaeng Sopha Waterfall

Painted Bushbrown
Painted Bushbrown

Starry Diadem
Starry Diadem

Moustached Barbet
Moustached Barbet


Banded Swallowtail
Banded Swallowtail

Also a huge flock of at least 50 Eurasian Wild Pig, plus a surreal experience with a couple of female pigs that wandered out of the forest, came up to us and even followed the vehicle. Totally bizarre, and clearly not from any habitation.

Late afternoon we checked the grassy area around the nearby helicopter pad with a close range Chinese Francolin that just managed to avoid having its photo taken. Back at Lomsak early evening where at the local fuel station a flock of at least 400 House Sparrow came to roost. Amazing how quickly this bird has spread in Thailand from being a rarity less than 10 years ago.

8 Nov. Although, according to the weather forecast of yesterday, we were in for a clear, sunny, day the Thai Meteorological Department had clearly had a bad hair day, as conditions were dull and heavily overcast without sign of clearing. So a change of plan, with us substituting a day in the grasslands of Thung Saleang Luang with checking out the forest and waterfall at Tat Mok. At least this time the road was open, so paid our 100 Baht entrance fee and slowly drove the 20 kilometres to the falls. Nice to visit a park where the staff are helpful and actually seem happy to receive visitors - a general characteristic of less frequently visited national parks. Also good to have the park practically to ourselves, seeing less than a handful of visitors the whole day. Despite the cloudy conditions we found the butterfly activity very good in sheltered, warm, areas recording an excellent variety, with Wizard, Indian Purple Emperor, White Commodore, Malay Count, Tabby, Jezebel Palmfly and White Lineblue the pick of the bunch. Green-legged Partridge common by voice plus Moustached Barbet. Overnight in Phetchabun town with some light rain.

9 Nov. The whole day spent in the grasslands and forest of the eastern side of Thung Salaeng Luang. Unfortunately, the weather was even more overcast than yesterday with heavy cloud threatening rain all day, though it never actually materialised. Access to the grasslands, despite the paved road, requires a permit from the office, that once acquired can be used to pay the overpriced 500 Baht entry at the checkpoint. At the pond just after the checkpoint we found our only new butterfly of the day - Grass Demon - together with a surprising amount of leeches for open grassland habitat. Having explored the accessible paved road we spent much time on some pretty bad off-road tracks, but despite the good looking forest saw little on account of the weather. We finished the afternoon along the park entrance road with little to no activity other than hordes of leeches. Overnight again in Phetchabun.

10 Nov. Given the previous days' experience we elected to revisit Tat Mok with our last morning. Better weather, and again an excellent collection of butterflies. Reluctantly left the area around 14:00 for the longish drive back to Chiang Mai. All in all a great area with several accessible parks, easy logistics and good forest.

Species List

  Thung Salaeng Luang Count   Nam Nao Count
  Chinese Francolin 2   Chinese Francolin 1
  Green-legged Partridge 4   Spotted Dove 3
  Chinese Pond Heron 1   Common Emerald Dove 6
  Little Egret 1   Asian Palm Swift 2
  Common Moorhen 1   Indian Roller 2
  Red-wattled Lapwing 2   Great Barbet 2
  Rufous Turtle Dove 4   Greater Flameback 1
  Spotted Dove 8   Bay Woodpecker 1
  Zebra Dove 2   Vernal Hanging Parrot 4
  Asian Barred Owlet 1   White-bellied Erpornis 2
  Asian Palm Swift 2   Black-hooded Oriole 2
  Orange-breasted Trogon 1   Ashy Drongo 1
  Red-headed Trogon 1   Bronzed Drongo 2
  Indian Roller 1   Black-naped Monarch 2
  Oriental Pied Hornbill 2   Eastern Jungle Crow 2
  Moustached Barbet 1   Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher 4
  Coppersmith Barbet 1   Black-crested Bulbul 2
  Vernal Hanging Parrot 3   Puff-throated Bulbul 3
  Ashy Woodswallow 4   Grey-eyed Bulbul 1
  Black-hooded Oriole 1   Barn Swallow 4
  Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 4   Two-barred Warbler 6
  Eastern Jungle Crow 3   Pale-legged Leaf Warbler 3
  Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher 4   Claudia's Leaf Warbler 2
  Black-crested Bulbul 2   Sulphur-breasted Warbler 2
  Puff-throated Bulbul 2   Rufescent Prinia 2
  Grey-eyed Bulbul 2   Dark-necked Tailorbird 2
  Striated Swallow 2   White-browed Scimitar Babbler 1
  Yellow-browed Warbler 3   Buff-breasted Babbler 2
  Two-barred Warbler 8   White-crested Laughingthrush 10
  Pale-legged Leaf Warbler 6   Hill Blue Flycatcher 2
  Rufescent Prinia 4   Verditer Flycatcher 1
  White-crested Laughingthrush 5   Slaty-backed Forktail 1
  Asian Brown Flycatcher 1   Taiga Flycatcher 1
  Taiga Flycatcher 1   Fire-breasted Flowerpecker 2
  Grey Wagtail 2      
  White Wagtail 2      
  Tat Mok        
  Green-legged Partridge 8      
  White-breasted Waterhen 1      
  Common Emerald Dove 2      
  Large Hawk-Cuckoo 1      
  Asian Palm Swift 5      
  Chestnut-headed Bee-eater 10      
  Great Barbet 1      
  Moustached Barbet 2      
  Bay Woodpecker 1      
  Vernal Hanging Parrot 4      
  Ashy Woodswallow 4      
  Black-naped Oriole 4      
  Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 6      
  Malaysian Pied Fantail 1      
  Black-naped Monarch 3      
  Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher 6      
  Black-crested Bulbul 4      
  Puff-throated Bulbul 4      
  Barn Swallow 8      
  Striated Swallow 2      
  Yellow-browed Warbler 1      
  Two-barred Warbler 7      
  Pale-legged Leaf Warbler 4      
  Dark-necked Tailorbird 4      
  Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 4      
  Puff-throated Babbler 2      
  White-crested Laughingthrush 8      
  Oriental Magpie-Robin 2      
  White-rumped Shama 2      
  Slaty-backed Forktail 2      
  Blue Rock Thrush 1      
  White-rumped Munia 15      
  Grey Wagtail 3