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Stijn De Win

 

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Where2watch

birds in Asia

 

 

 

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Grey-headed Lapwing

 Grey-headed Lapwing

 

Mugimaki Flycatcher

Mugimaki Flycatcher

 

Brown-throated Sunbird

Brown-throated Sunbird

 

Green Imperial Pigeon

Green Imperial Pigeon

 

River Lapwing

River Lapwing

 

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

 

Long-toed Stint

Long-toed Stint

 

Purple-backed Starling

Purple-backed Starling

 

Fried Pantail

Fried Pantail

 

Siberian Thrush

Siberian Thrush

 

White-faced Plover

White-faced Plover

 

Malaysian Plover

Malaysian Plover

 

Thai Muang golf course

Old golf course

 

Thai Muang lagoon

Thai Muang lagoon

 

Thai Muang beach

The beach inside Had Thai Muang

National Park -full of ATV tracks...

 

Thailand Fishing Vessel

Local fishing vessel, looks

picturesque eh...has 25 crew though

and no dust bin on board...

 

Thai Muang kids

Local kids on TM beach

 

Thai Muang Landscape

View from near the lagoon

 

Hoopoe

Hoopoe

 

Thai Muang sunset

All photos copyright

Birding2asia.com

  

Thai Muang

    

Birding the marsh & old golf course in South-Thailand.

Habitats found in the area SW of Thai Muang village in Southern Thailand consist of a marsh which gradually changes into dry buffalo fields towards the seaboard. Several ponds and pools add interest and coastal woodland grows on the dunes that back a beautiful lagoon. A nice white sand beach gives way to the deep blue…the Andaman Sea.

Oh, don’t forget what were once the most birdiest greens in the world. The bird list just might prove. ‘Birdies’ however have long gone. The golf course got abandoned leaving the greens overgrown and yellow. Birdwatching is the main activity these days.

  

Nobody went birding at Thai Muang…until Stijn came along in the spring of 2006!

  

As with the now well-known Na Hin Forest in Laos, exploring on the motorbike did the trick and it was actually a Black-winged Stilt (rare in SW-Thailand) that got my attention at first. Soon became clear that this is a special area and it’s amazing what excellent species the site has turned up after the discovery back in 2006. Only a few birders have since visited this completely new birdwatching site. No doubt with the first detailed and free info for the birding site made available, on this page, this is about to change.

 

Thai Muang marsh                                                                             The beach, town…so where IS the marsh, and the golf course??

 

Key species

A number of resident goodies and regular wintering species inclusive up to 6 species of Starling forms the perfect base for what makes this birding site so interesting –a spot with a high likelihood for rarities to turn up- again here, the list proves.

A remarkable high number of quality and surprise species that turned up opposes a low rate of birding-hours spent so far on the site.

Some of the best birds found include; White-faced Plover, both Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, Black-headed Ibis, Imperial Eagle, Amur Falcon, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Siberian Thrush, Burmese Shrike and 3 species of Starling rare in Thailand; Chestnut-cheeked, Brahminy and Rosy.

  

A couple of these sightings are significant. The Burmese Shrike was the very first one to get recorded in the Thai-Malay Peninsula and Thai Muang has had the highest count of Rosy Starling in Thailand ever. (30+) Also 9 White-faced Plovers present in January 2009 might have been the highest count so far for Thailand. A count of approx. 220 (192+) Orange-breasted Pigeons back in January 2007 is no less than ‘the’ number to beat. An Amur Falcon in Dec. 2010 is a very rare mid-winter record for Thailand and certainly South-Thailand is a long way from the normal wintering range of the species.

 

‘Rare’ (MP) photographed in harmony with ‘common’, or not?             Three Lapwing species, B-b Quail, Pratincoles, Snipes...

   

Of course, any visit starts with what can be found on a regular basis. Specialities to look for include Watercock, Purple Swamphen, 3 species of Bittern, both River and Grey-headed Lapwings, Slaty-breasted Rail, Blue-breasted Quail, Orange-breasted Pigeon, Spotted Wood Owl, 3 species of Bee-eater, Blue-winged Pitta and of course Starlings. Purple-backed, White-shouldered and Chestnut-tailed perhaps are the most regular. Always look out for migrants, and keep an eye out on the sky for raptors.

 

Birding

The open surroundings and plenty birds around always make for a nice change to the usually slow forest birding in Southern Thailand. Any visit is likely to turn up a high list total and indeed, Thai Muang is the perfect site to visit in the afternoon after a morning of forest birding. I can think of Tonpariwat Wildlife Sanctuary, Khao Sok National Park and Sri Phang-nga National Park as possible combinations in a single day, all highly likely to get the keen birder a day list well over a 100 species.

Try avoid mid-day hours on sunny days. It can get extremely hot here and shady shelter is only found far and few in between.

1 The dirt track that runs in between the marsh and golf course probably is the best spot to start your visit. Park just past the gate after you’ve showed the guard your bird book. “Do knock” might help as this means ‘watch bird’ in the Thai language.

Once on the track, and immediately on the left after you’ve left the car, check the high vegetation for reed warblers. Black-browed and Oriental Reed are regular. A pool on the right (golf course) and close to the track is excellent for Watercock and both Yellow and Cinnamon Bittern. Seeing them however, might require for them to get flushed.

2 Further on, scan the marsh and fields, preferable with a scope, for Purple Swamphen and whatever else might turn up. Oriental Pratincoles arrive in March; they breed here and are conspicuous when flying above the expanse.

Closer to the woods ahead and still on the left the marshy area gives way to more dry fields. Check those for both Grey-headed and River Lapwing. If you fail, don’t worry, both can also be found on the golf course. When conditions and water levels are right, it is possible to ‘walk in’ and with luck (‘chock dee’ might help) flush your Blue-breasted Quail.

3 Anywhere on the old golf course can be good and produce some decent bird species but the 1 area that is highly favoured by Starlings must be around where some huge fig trees grow (3). Make sure you check the waterholes, little woods and bushes, open and overgrown fields, the casuarinas for both Starlings and Orange-breasted Pigeons…just anywhere that looks good to hold birds. You’ll find quite a few spots and birds alike. Promised!

4 The woods that grow on the dunes bordering the lagoon are always worth a check for migrants etc. It is here that the Blue-winged Pitta breeds, won’t arrive before late April though.

5 The lagoon and beach here are nothing less than superb. I’m merely talking beauty then, although it is here that White-faced Plover and Malaysian Plover have been found. Always check for waders at least. Lesser Sand Plover, Common Greenshank, Kentish Plover and even the ‘Common Sandpiper’ will bring relief when missed out on the heavy finds.

5,5 Once again, anywhere in the area can turn up good birds so don’t refrain from exploring some other spots with time left. It’s easy to walk and wander around anywhere here, just take along enough drinking water as it usually gets quite hot.

Pretty sure that a cool dip in the sea will be hard to resist at some point, be aware though that the beach drops steeply into the sea here with dangerous currents quite common. Do not swim if sea conditions look rough, which is more often than not the case. If you still don't get this, try the 'Thai style version' in the photo below. (Watch keeping and reporting for the moving waviness section of mieng island)

 

                             “”Watch sea conditions””                                                 Why not stay after birding? For the sunset, right!

  

 

                          The Golf Course in its glory days.                               Thai Muang lagoon, also a shot from years ago, the actual 

                                                                                                                              spot it’s taken from is private property nowadays…

  

Getting there & around

As with any birding site in Asia, it is best to have someone with you on your visit, who knows the area and birds. Those with a quest to find such help might just realize they got ‘very’ close. No need to look further.

Otherwise, -simple and short-, best is to have your own transport. A rental car is easy enough to get but another and cheaper possibility certainly would be to rent a motorbike in Khao Lak for the 38 km to Thai Muang. Which then might come in handy additionally to get around on the site.

Plenty public busses pass by Thai Muang town centre. Most long distance busses however do use a small by-pass to the north of the town so you probably won’t notice when you actually got close. Hop off at the right spot from any bus scheduled to ply this route is risky business. Those that manage might then find a local tuk-tuk

or taxi-motorbike in town for the 2 km to the best birding area. To walk from town wouldn’t be impossible (enter golf course through archway then) but consider the heat if you set off for the long walk. Take plenty water as there’s nothing on site.

  

Bird list

162 species, 01 near-endemics, 03 threatened species

This bird list is best viewed using Internet Explorer on a speedy connection.

Feel free to print your checklist for use in the field.

Please send us any additions using our online form.

Download the Thai Muang bird list as a Word.doc for easy printing.

 

Notes & (environmental…) observations

- Thai Muang marsh is not a protected area, this means that you are free to wander around without getting charged an entrance fee. It also means that, as everywhere in Thailand, money and development come first. Nature and even local communities are considered insignificant. A new resort recently popped up on a section of the dunes that back the lagoon. No need to spread that this has messed up a truly amazing, rare and most beautiful landscape. A pity, a shame and prove that Thailand does not manage this particular sector of tourism properly and consequently does not deserve any tourist dollars if environmental issues are taken into account.

Both Phi-Phi islands and Ko Tarutao are places (National Parks fgs!) that show the same picture…mass tourism has taken immense proportions with money to by-pass any regulations!

Nevertheless, for Thai Muang, -luckily-, the newly inaugurated

concrete has not yet affected the excellent birding in any way.

- The beach! Yes you got it right from the map, it IS about 35 kilometer long! All pristine white sand, with plenty rubbish washed up along the high-tide line... Up to a couple years ago, not a single tourist was to be spotted along the entire length. I assume the only way here is change… it is still possible to go for a decent walk along the beach here without seeing anyone else, at least in some stretches, but the first tourists (incl. facilities) have arrived. May include yourself soon…

Once again, swimming can be extremely dangerous. Remember the steep drop and dangerous currents! Watch sea conditions!!!

- Mentioned briefly above and with the Malaysian Plover photograph, badly littered beaches are the norm in Thailand. This certainly is the case on Phuket and any beaches north of here, incl. Thai Muang. How does it come? Want to know the facts? Now, with a description of a birding site ‘on the beach’, this is my chance to waffle about and away. Any info that the casual visitor might recognize herein must be considered completely coincidental.

No, not visitors to the beach can be put up with any blame, even if it can be assumed that now and then plastics do find their way from the pick-nick basket onto the sand. The amount involved would merely be insignificant. Anyone who has been to the west coast of Phuket, or north thereof, knows, at any time, plenty fishing boats (local/wooden vessels) can be spotted. Especially at night, when lights are on to attract catch, this becomes obvious. I put it to the test on many occasions, about 30 vessels on average from any viewpoint... That these vessels harm fish-stocks and sea life isn’t hard to figure, that they go completely unregulated becomes as clear as the water from the tourist brochures. Tons of rubbish simply finds his way overboard day after day, ready to be washed up on the beaches. Yes, that’s the pristine ones from the tourist brochures! Oh, of course, the most developed beaches do get cleaned just before the high tourist season, ready for the mass to arrive. Any other beaches remain badly littered year-round. Solution? Not available! It would be uttermost naïve to even hope strict regulations for fishing vessels would ever see daylight, things just don’t work like this in Thailand. Even more stupid would be to think that (mass-) tourists may one day realize that refrain from eating seafood = clean beaches.

Money comes first while ecotourism has a long, loong, looong way to go in Thailand. You’ll remember Phi-Phi from the first paragraph, but I should certainly bring attention to the uttermost regrettable situation present at Khao Nor Chuchi. Perhaps this should change your “desperate to get Gurney’s on the list quest” into some very enjoyable birding for example in Philippines, where you could support some very nice projects with nature and involvement of local communities put on high value…money comes later here with proper ecotourism the way to go. It won’t work without you to visit though…GO!

- Well, you may know, I’m not easily inclined to write anything negative. There would be something negative in everything and everywhere one may write about but here I believe I’ve been given good reason, in some way. It’s a pleasure to fire the good birding at Thai Muang into the world on this page, especially considered that I discovered the site, so has a place in my heart. On the other hand, I would rather have spent the 3-4 days work on these pages to promote a nice protected area that I would support this way by bring in visitors…remember…with ecotourism the key to proper protection! With Thai Muang no such. It is certainly not mine to promote badly managed tourism and certainly it can not be a goal to bring in extra tourists (money) into an area that is scheduled to be concreted! To picture the complete situation here, all of it facts to the best of my knowledge, seemed no less than imminent! Unfortunately!

 

-And yes, here we are with an update as of February 2011;

The place has been bought by a developer and permission to enter is now required. You may try to get this from the office located by the archway entrance to the golf course. (see map) A marina, new golf course and no less than 3 hotels are planned… I recently had the honour to actually speak in person to the big boss of the project. He appears to be a 'nature lover' and promised to plant some trees…

 

                   Pristine white sand beach at Thai Muang.                                   The lagoon outlet, beach and Andaman Sea.

                 Breeding ground for 2 species of Sea Turtle.                                       White-faced Plover, Malaysian Plover...

                             “Meanwhile on nearby Phuket!” So you may get a tast of what TM will look like in the nearby future...

   

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This information page published 15 May 2010, copyright © Birding2asia All rights reserved.