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A Report from

Southern Thailand-Bangkok, Karon(Phuket), Phi Phi & Krabi, 2-17 June 2002,

Gareth Watkins

This is a summary of the birds seen on a largely non-birding holiday to Southern Thailand which included four bases - Bangkok, Karon (Phuket), Phi Phi Don and Krabi.  Obviously we didn't go at the best time of year bird-wise and we intend to go back at a better time when I hope to be able to visit one or two of the obvious hotspots.

2nd June - Bangkok

My first experience of Asian birds!  We stayed in the Amari Atrium Hotel:  very nice place, located on the New Petchburi Road.  From our room window I clocked Common and White-vented Mynas, House Swifts, Large-billed Crow and Red Collared Doves.

3rd June - Bangkok, Ratchaburi, Bangkok Rose Garden

Did the tourist thing since we only had one whole day in Bangkok.  The excursion to Ratchaburi floating market and Bangkok Rose Garden took us west out of the city and right past the Samut Sakhon salt pans.  I couldn't pick out any waders (the pans looked largely devoid of birds) except several Black-winged Stilts.  There were lots of egrets here though, and as the bus sped by, I was only able to positively ID Little Egret and couldn't string any into Chinese.  However I got a couple of ticks in the shape of Chinese Pond Heron and Little Cormorant

Around Ratchaburi there are loads of narrow canals and from the longtail boat we took to the market (I told you we were doing the tourist thing!) we saw several Indian Rollers perched prominently next to the water.  Around the floating market we saw Collared Kingfisher, Olive-winged Bulbul, Olive-backed Sunbird and Oriental Magpie Robin.

In the afternoon at the Bangkok Rose Garden there were a few birds around:  Scaly-breasted Munia, Common Iora, White-vented Mynas, Rosy Minivet and best of all (looks-wise) was a Coppersmith Barbet - the only one of the trip and what a bird!

4th - Karon, Phuket

Took an internal flight from Bangkok to Phuket where we would spend the next four nights at the South Sea Resort in Karon.  This was a decent spot, much quieter than the nearby town of Patong, which is far busier and noisier (but good for shopping if you fancy a fake Rolex!).

Our hotel window overlooked the gardens of the adjacent hotel and this provided the bulk of my birding for our stay here.  On this first afternoon I saw Yellow-vented Bulbuls (very common), Asian Glossy Starlings, a single Thick-billed Pigeon, Tree Sparrow, Common Myna and Oriental Magpie Robin.

5th - Karon

Brown-throated Sunbirds were regular from the window over the next few days but also today Olive-backed Sunbird and more Asian Glossy Starlings.  Nearby on the rough grassland by the beach there was a pair of Richard's Pipits.

6th - Phang Nga

Tourist thing again but there was birding to be had.  We went north off Phuket Island to Phang Nga where we took a long tail boat through the mangroves to the bay.  Sadly the boat kept well clear of the banks so no birds seen in the trees except Brown-winged Kingfishers which were very obvious.  The boat took us to the famous James Bond Island where Roger Moore (or his stuntman perhaps) landed his plane in The Man With The Golden Gun.  This and the surrounding islands are spectacular!  Other birds around here:  Pacific Swallow (common), Striated Swallow, Pacific Reef Egret, Brahminy Kite and three hornbills that were probably Oriental Pied Hornbill (I didn't get binoculars on them in time).

7th - Karon

Birding from the hotel room window again.  In addition to earlier species there were a lot of swiftlets flying low after some rain.  These were probably Edible Nest Swiftlets.  Other new birds today: Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and a stunning Black-naped Oriole.

8th - Karon, boat from Phuket to Phi Phi, Phi Phi Don

As we left our hotel in Karon to go to the port in Phuket town, there was a single Lesser Whistling Duck in a pool by the beach.  The only duck of the trip!

Hopeful of a few seabirds on the ferry crossing, there was a fine start as we left port in the shape of a White-bellied Sea Eagle.  It was an immature bird and looked huge as it flew right by the boat.

On the crossing there were few birds except:  Lesser Crested Tern(1), Bridled Tern (10+), Lesser Frigatebird (1), unidentified frigatebirds (4), Black-naped Tern (10+, most around Phi Phi Ley).

We stayed in the Holiday Inn on Phi Phi Don and from the beach that afternoon I saw many Pied Imperial Pigeons (regular around the island) and Crimson Sunbirds (several of which gathered in shrubs by the swimming pool around 4pm).  There were loads of swiftlets over the trees behind the hotel and after a rainstorm they came low enough to be able to ID them as Germain's Swiftlet.  Common Myna and Oriental Magpie Robins were common around the hotel gardens and there were usually eight or so Black-naped Terns fishing on the reef offshore.

9th - Phi Phi Don

An early morning walk produced a pair of Spotted Doves outside our bungalow.  Walking up the steps to the hilltop bar there were singing Stripe-throated Bulbuls, 100+ Germain's Swiftlets, Pacific Swallow, Crimson Sunbird, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and a superb adult White-bellied Sea Eagle.

10th - Bamboo Island off Phi Phi Don

Took a longtail boat to the nearby Bamboo Island (20 Baht entry fee here although possibly just in high season because we were not approached to pay).  Few birds here but an addition to the trip list was Common Buzzard of the race japonicus.

12th - Ferry to Krabi

It rained throughout the ferry trip to Krabi and this prevented any birding from the deck.  However from the window I got a brief view of what I believe to have been an immature Brown Booby.

We stayed a few miles west along the coast from Krabi at the Andaman Holiday Resort.  The hotel grounds are well landscaped and full of shrubs and trees.  The restaurant is level with the tree canopy and ensured good birding at mealtimes!

Birds here today:  Greater Coucal, one in flight near the approach road to the hotel.  Rufescent Prinia - several around the hotel grounds and very vocal!  Ochraceous Bulbul - numerous from the restaurant and in trees around the swimming pool.

13th - Chicken & Poda

We took the hotel shuttle to Ao Nang after having seen a Black-naped Oriole at breakfast.  There we hired a boatman by the beach to take us to the offshore islands of Chicken and Poda.  This cost 1500 Baht for the boat (the boatman waited while we were on the islands) but we saved money by sharing with another couple.

Both islands are very scenic but Poda's golden sands were unfortunately blighted by rubbish and driftwood.  You wonder where the landing fee goes.  However White-rumped Shama was a nice tick here.

Chicken Island provided good views of Pacific Reef Egret and Collared Kingfisher plus great flight views of three Oriental Pied Hornbills that flew low overhead between two small wooded islets.

14th - Andaman Holiday Resort

Nothing major doing today but birds seen from the poolside include Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Stripe-throated Bulbul and Chestnut-bellied Malkoha.

15th - Krabi mangroves

Booked a boat trip with Mr Dai through Chan Phen Tours in Krabi (also known as Chan Phen Travel (pronounced "chan pen") - telephone 66 75 612004, or fax 66 75 612661, located on Krabi waterfront just up from the floating restaurant on Utarakit Road).  We did a four hour trip from 0730-1130 but sadly there was not the diversity or abundance of birds that get reported at other times of year.  However we did see the following:  Mangrove Pitta (first spotted by my non-birder girlfriend!), Mangrove Whistler, Pacific Swallow, Streak-breasted Woodpecker, Brown-winged Kingfisher, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Little Egret, Striated Heron, Common Iora, Pied Fantail, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Common Tailorbird, Ruddy Kingfisher, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Black and Red Broadbill.  We also saw some drongos that were unfortunately too distant to positively ID.

The big problem with the trip was that Mr Dai's boat is not covered and so we were in the full force of the sun for four hours.  My advice if you go with him - wear a hat and LOTS of sun cream!  However Mr Dai's knack for whistling out birds is second to none and he comes recommended, even if he is more expensive than the other local boatmen. 

16th - Andaman Holiday Resort

Our last day in Thailand saw us just taking it easy.  The trees around the pool produced Ochraceous Bulbul, Common Iora, Black-headed Bulbul and a pair of parakeets that were too fast to ID!

Considering the time of year and with only one serious birding trip during the holiday, the list was never going to be very large.  The species total was 66.

For any further details about the places we visited/stayed, please email me at

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