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Deep South of Thailand July 2020

A WEEK IN THE DEEP SOUTH OF THAILAND 6-12TH, JULY 2020

By Peter Ericsson

Finally, after more then 3 months of not going anywhere overnight I had an opportunity to do so.

Benjamyn Weil, a keen birder and a friend, had set out on a long journey from Bangkok to the deep South and back. We had agreed for me to join him on part of his trip.

I flew down to Trang where Ben picked me up in his nice pick-up truck. Our first stop was Thung Khai Botanical Gardens near to the airport and city itself.

It was late afternoon but surely something should be about.

It was so nice to see green lush vegetation and to hear some sounds not heard back home. Stuff like Banded Woodpecker, Blue-winged Pitta, Grey-capped Woodpecker, Lesser Green Leafbird and Crimson Sunbird elated my being.

There is a canopy walkway in the Gardens but this time of day and year was not very productive for birds.

Here is a list of what we encountered: https://ebird.org/checklist/S71187382

After the birding we went to our hotel which was pre booked and went out for a nice Thai meal.

Day 2. We started out our journey towards the border town of Satun but halfway there we turned off Eastward towards Khao Banthad Wildlife Sanctuary, Phattalung, where neither one of us previously had been.

We got there early and parked at the end of the road. Here we stood in an open area surrounded by stands of trees and took in what we could. Again, Banded Woodpecker was singing from the top of a tree, a Violet Cuckoo flew overhead while vocalizing. Chestnut-winged and Puff-throated Babblers were in the lower scrub and Red-throated and Blue-eared Barbets were in the tree tops. The Blue-eared race in the South is a potential split and is also called Black-eared by some.

We then entered the trail. Didn’t see much to be honest but the potential felt great.
2/3rds along the trail I decided to sit down on a log by a stream while Ben kept walking.
5 minutes later I heard the unmistakable sound of a Blue-banded Kingfisher approaching.
I got ready and was able to see it flying low over the stream and passing right next to me.

Later on, I told Ben, who promptly set out to wait for the bird to show again.
He had just about given up after 40 minutes of waiting when the bird came back in the same manner as earlier on.

Along the way out we passed the office buildings where people now were about. A bit further down we were stopped and questioned by some officials as to our intentions. Ha! Well, it didn’t take long to explain and pose for some pictures like we were some kind of celebrities.

List: https://ebird.org/checklist/S71217191

This is the wet season and while we never were really hindered by heavy downpours the skies often looked gloomy. As we checked in to our hotel in Satun town, bordering to Malaysia, it did rain heavily. A little midday rest and it cleared so time to visit the mangroves for the special birds there. (small tidbit....next to the elevator buttons there was a contraption with toothpicks in it...a sign said to use the toothpicks to press the buttons due to Corvid 19)

As it was, the mangrove boardwalk was closed off due to the Corona virus. Not sure why to be honest but closed off it was. So, we hung around outside and got to see the Cinerous Tit, Copper-throated Sunbirds but not the Sunda Woodpecker.

Neither Mangrove Pitta nor Brown-winged Kingfisher was calling but none of us really needed to see either.

https://ebird.org/checklist/S71220795

Day 3. This morning we had a longer drive towards one of the 2 main sites we wanted to visit.
Paul Farrell had recommended the site and it does have an impressive bird list.
There was no accommodation at the park so we had to check in to a small place almost an hour from the park in Sabayoi. The park is located in both Songkhla and Yala province and we visited the Songkhla side.

There were lots of construction going on. It was impressive to see and we were saying how nice it would be to come back and stay in the park. Ha! All the buildings being built were for the Park officials. The park is about to become an official National Park.

We did our best but was not allowed to walk the one trail we had in mind. There were elephants about we were told.

Nevertheless, our two target birds, Plain-pouched Hornbill and Large Green Pigeon both did show in the late afternoon though none of them stopped for a picture.

This time of year, the Cuckoos are singing a lot and we had Drongo-Cuckoo, Plaintive Cuckoo and Brush Cuckoo singing in chorus it seemed. The Brush Cuckoo (Rusty-breasted) is not easy anywhere further North of the deep South but is a common bird all over Indonesia.

Another seldom seen bird is Brown-streaked Flycatcher. Here we had an adult feeding a young at close range. Also a few different bulbuls and flowerpeckers were feeding in a flowering tree.

A highlight for me was when a woman generously offered me some ‘Golden Pillow’ durian.
This is the best tasting durian and hard to refuse.

https://ebird.org/checklist/S71251132

Day 4. There has been trouble in the deep South for many years now and as an outsider one can only follow the official narrative though the locals will tell you another side to the story. That creates a bit of a concern which is amplified with many checkpoints on some of the roads. However we never felt any danger or cause for concern.

So, another long drive back to San Kala Khiri National Park for the day.

This morning we got to see about 50 Plain-pouched Hornbills flying by on their way to their breeding grounds presumedly. This is a bird that only differ from Wreathed by the lack of a dark line through the gular pouch. I had only seen it once before many years ago so this was quite special.

I wanted to find a Checker-throated Woodpecker and Fiery Minivets for my Thai list but it was not to be. Instead I got my first views of Orange-backed Woodpecker in the country.

I also got a Thai lifer in the form of Rufous-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher that flew over the stream at incredible speed. Not everyone holds this as a species but eBird do.

It was a long day but having come all the way here we just had to see it through.
https://ebird.org/checklist/S71279955

Day 5. If we were able to fly like the crow our next destination wouldn’t take all that long but as the area is riddled with rugged mountains and thick jungle we had to back track and eventually end up at the end of the road in a very remote area of Yala.

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Bang+Lang+National+Park,+Yala/6.3276257,100.9248304/@6.0596926,101.2608166,239599m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m9!4m8!1m5!1m1!1s0x31b45fead0a3c72d:0xc99899d81e933e56!2m2!1d101.3712939!2d6.0205223!1m0!3e0

The next 2 days were amazing. We had located a Homestay and got one room each.
The owner, a very nice women with an interesting history took good care of us.
She explained how the Malaysian resistance army (communist) had fled Malaysia as they were persecuted by the British as well as the Malay government and they had set up a strong hold in the jungles of Bang Lang. We met several senior citizens who now reside in a small village having left the jungle.
They were quite happy people and showed no resentment etc. Instead they felt they had fought for a good cause to liberate their country for a good cause.
We were shown a museum that was well worth the effort.

In the area there are also indigenous forest people called the Asli.
They look rather Papuan and I was amazed to find out they still live inside the forest in humble dwellings. We met a few of them as they come to the village by boat to work in the rubber plantations. These people do not want visitors and will quickly relocate if being found by strangers.

First bird of note was a Black-thighed Falconet on a post in front of the house. How about that?

A kilometer from the Homestay the trail begins. It is easy to walk but the smaller trails were very wet and not really walkable this time.

In here we got to connect with more true forest dwelling birds and though it is very challenging to see things well the list kept growing. Benjamyn was extremely happy to see a Rhinoceros Hornbill perched and got flight pictures as well.

Black-yellow Broadbill was common as was Red-bearded Bee-eater! Black-red Broadbill just before the trail head and out on a pole in the river a Gray-headed Fish Eagle. This is a very rare bird in Thailand and a new bird for my Thai list!

As for me, a trumpeting Helmeted Hornbill was my definite highlight as it flew across the forest and over the nearby river. What a bird!

We had several Plain-pouched Hornbills, a pair of Great Hornbills as well as Wreathed Hornbill. A great place for these birds!


On our second day while having a midday rest a truck with 4 fully armed Border Patrol policemen showed up. Someone had reported a suspicious vehicle in the area: ours! Ha!
All they found in the back of the truck was some camping gear and no contraband or illegally hunted animals. They were all civil and apologized for the inconvenience.


Many other birds in here but not many pictures.

https://ebird.org/checklist/S71337714

https://ebird.org/checklist/S71342085

Day 7. A little sleep in and then off towards Had Yai to drop me off at the airport. But along the way we stopped briefly at a field in Pattani so now I have a list of birds from all the provinces of Southern Thailand.

It was a good trip. Could have been longer but that just means there is reason to go back!




Botanical Garden at Trang
Botanical Garden at Trang
Canopy walk at Botanical Garden, Trang
Canopy walk at Botanical Garden, Trang
Trail at Khao Bahntad WS, Pattalung
Trail at Khao Bahntad WS, Pattalung
Khao Bahntad WS, Pattalung
Khao Bahntad WS, Pattalung
Tooth picks
Tooth picks
Campsite at San Kala Kiri, Songkhla side
Campsite at San Kala Kiri, Songkhla side
Benjamyn's truck
Benjamyn's truck
Peter
Peter
Asli, indigenous forest people in Yala
Asli, indigenous forest people in Yala
Former communist fighters now happy villagers at our homestay
Former communist fighters now happy villagers at our homestay
Homestay
Homestay
Memorial
Memorial
Plain-pouched Hornbill
Plain-pouched Hornbill
Plain-pouched Hornbill
Plain-pouched Hornbill
Plain-pouched Hornbill
Plain-pouched Hornbill
Plain-pouched Hornbill
Plain-pouched Hornbill
Brown-streaked Flycatcher
Brown-streaked Flycatcher
Brown-streaked Flycatcher
Brown-streaked Flycatcher
Brown-streaked Flycatcher
Brown-streaked Flycatcher
Lesser Leafbird
Lesser Leafbird
Blue-eared Barbet (Black-eared race)
Blue-eared Barbet (Black-eared race)
Double-banded Nymph (The Pan)(Xanthotaenia busiris)
Double-banded Nymph (The Pan)(Xanthotaenia busiris)
Malayan Fivering  (Ypthima nebulosa humei)
Malayan Fivering (Ypthima nebulosa humei)
Plush  (Sithon  nedymond)
Plush (Sithon nedymond)
Burmese Cerulean (Jamides philatus)
Burmese Cerulean (Jamides philatus)
Chocolate Demon    (Ancistroides nigrita othonias)
Chocolate Demon (Ancistroides nigrita othonias)
Short-banded Viscount  (Tanaecia aruna)
Short-banded Viscount (Tanaecia aruna)
 One Spot Grass Yellow (Eurema andersoni))
One Spot Grass Yellow (Eurema andersoni))