by Nick Upton
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Bang Poo
Bang Poo, in Samut Prakarn province, at first seems a strange place to go birdwatching; it is scrappy area of offices, ponds, mudflats, mangroves and wasteland where locals go for a picnic, to do tai chi, to release crabs for merit making, to feed the gulls and to dine at the restaurant. However, by poking around the whole site quite an amazing number of birds can be seen; I have personally seen over 100 species here!  
(Photos by Anoop Sukumaran)

It is for shorebirds that most people will visit and this means that the months between October and May are the best for birdwatching and the site's close proximity to Bangkok is ideal for a half day trip by taxi, or make a whole day of it by going to Muang Boran Fish Ponds in the morning and then move on to Bang Poo. 

Bang Poo can get exceptionally crowded at weekends so it is a good idea to schedule your visit for a weekday if you appreciate peace and quiet whilst birding.

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 Birding Highlights

From October to May, 2000-3000 Brown-headed Gulls are normally to be seen at Bang Poo with small numbers of Black-headed Gulls nearly always present. This large gull flock is easily observed, with many locals feeding the birds scraps of food, and it is worth checking for less common species; Slender-billed Gull is sometimes found here as are Heuglin's Gull and very occasionally Pallas's Gull. Terns are also a feature here, Whiskered is the most numerous and most of the other Thai species often turn up here.

Bang Poo is also a good place to see waders on the mudflats at low tide and on the inland pools at high tide. Inspecting the wader flocks can reveal some interesting birds with Grey-tailed Tattler being the speciality here in April and May and Asian Dowitcher sometimes amongst the large flock of Eastern Black-tailed Godwits.

Slender-billed Gull
(Photo by Suppalak Klabdee)

Brown-headed Gull
(Photo by Suppalak Klabdee)

Bang Poo doesn't at first appear as if it would be an ideal birding venue, but a good number of unusual birds have been seen here; Frigatebirds, Thailand's first Mew Gull and Glossy Ibis have all been found in recent years, and people who regularly watch this site, particularly during migratory periods, will be rewarded with interesting sightings.

Apart from these highlights, any walk around Bang Poo will afford good views of many other species such as Collared Kingfisher, Brahminy Kite, Egrets, Plain-backed Sparrow and Golden-bellied Gerygone, and a seafood lunch in the restaurant at the end of the pier is a non-birding highlight of any visit to Bang Poo!

Click here for a checklist of the birds of Bang Poo
  Birdwatching Trips:
if you need help organising a birdwatching trip to Thailand, take a look at the suggested itineraries for ideas on creating a tailor-made birdwatching trip and contact me for advise: Thailand bird tours.
 Travel Information
Bang Poo  

The first time I tried to visit Bang Poo I got completely lost and ended up at Samut Prakarn Docks, not one of the world's ornithological hotspots. The mistake I made was trying to get there by bus, which involves changing at Samut Prakarn and a walk between buses: I would not recommend this method at all as the distance between buses is considerable and finding the correct connection is difficult.

The best method is to take a taxi and tell the driver SaTarn Tee Tark A-Kart Bang Poo or if that is a bit too tricky to get your tongue around show the taxi driver the Bang Poo Thai Script. Most taxi drivers seem to know it, but you may have to help them as you get nearer to the site. On the meter the cost should be about 250 baht from Bangkok city centre and taxis for the return journey are easily obtained by walking the short distance back to the main road and waiting for one to come along.

The alternative method is to drive yourself if you have already hired a vehicle for your holiday; follow Sukhumvit road from central Bangkok all the way to Samut Prakarn. At the town centre this road turns left with signposts for Muang Boran showing you the way. After a few kilometres there is a junction with some traffic lights; turn right here, this is still Sukhumvit road. Follow this road and you will see Muang Boran signposted on the left after about 4-5 kms, continue past this and the Bang Poo site is on your right, just past a pedestrian bridge, about 2 kilometres after Muang Boran. This route is very busy and frequently subject to traffic jams; my recommendation is to leave before sunrise for an easy drive or, if timing your visit for the tide, leave central Bangkok at least 1.5 hours before your desired arrival time.

Look out for the three-headed elephant museum on Sukhumvit road, a little before Samut Prakarn, its quite impressive!

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 Finding Birds

A large number of species can be found at Bang Poo at the right time of year, and due to the small size of the site most of these can be easily found. There is always potential to add to the site list, with unusual migrant species showing up every year with some surprising species having been seen over the years.

Most people come here to see shorebirds and indeed these are easily found on the mudflats at low tide (observing them from the pier is the best tactic) and on the inland pools at high tide, however, it is also worth taking a walk around the site where a lot of common open-country species can be found as well as a number of interesting migrant species. The Spring migration tends to produce the richest pickings in terms of unusual migrants here, with Grey-tailed Tattler often seen in small numbers in April and early May.

Golden-bellied Gerygone (Flyeater) is very numerous here and its high-pitched whistle can often be heard coming from any of the mangrove fragments. It can be quite difficult to observe due to its tiny size and colouration, but be patient and you are sure to get good views of a few.

Mudflats Waterbird Colony Roosting Pools Point 1

A number of places around the site are likely to provide the most interesting sightings:

Mudflats: The Pier and the viewing platform beyond the restaurant provide the best place to observe birds on these mudflats and as with any shorebird watching getting the tide at the right time is important or the birds can be distant specks (tides can be found here: My Forecast, Marine Reports); it is important to have a telescope here. Whiskered Tern, Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers and Kentish Plover, as well as Gulls, are all common birds here and in the Spring many of these birds can be seen in their summer plumage before they leave for their breeding grounds.

If you like a walk whilst birding then a trail eastwards along the foreshore also offers the chance to look over the mudflats. If you can find a rock to hide behind it is a good idea to wait along here whilst the tide comes in to get some close views of the birds - unfortunately this trail now begins behind a locked gate so it is not possible to follow it any more unless you jump over the gate!

Kentish Plover
(Photo by Alister Benn)

Wood Sandpiper
(Photo by Alister Benn)

Waterbird Colony: In a clump of mangrove trees is a colony of Black-crowned Night Herons, Little and Indian Cormorants with small numbers of Egrets, all of which can be observed at close range. Some good photo opportunities here!

Roosting Pools : It is here that many of the wading birds go to roost when the tide comes in. A large flock of Eastern Black-tailed Godwits often harbours an Asian Dowitcher or two with Wood Sandpipers and Long-toed Stints prefering this habitat over the mudflats at all times. This area is now a nature reserve and contains a number of hides where birders can sit and watch the birds without disturbing them. In the past the gate to this nature reserve area was locked, but recently it seems to be opened to all who wish to enter and view the birds.

Point 1 : In this area Plain-backed Sparrows can be found; listen out for their call which has a subtle difference from that of Tree Sparrow. A few other passerines can be found here too including Chestnut Munia, Golden-bellied Gerygone and Common Iora.

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Gull silhouette
(Photo by Anoop Sukumaran)

In theory it would be possible to find a small hotel locally, there are certainly a few in the town of Samut Prakarn, but why you would want to stay in one of these grubby little places beats me; a much better idea would be to make this a day trip from your hotel in Bangkok: Bangkok Hotel Reservations.

In terms of refreshments there are plenty available to revive you if the heat becomes too much; a number of small kiosks around the gate to the pier have cold drinks and snacks for sale, sometimes food such as barbequed chicken is available here too. The real treat though is the restaurant at the end of the pier which specialises in seafood. Lunch or dinner here after watching the birds is a good way to relax and the menu is in English and Thai making it easy to order - the friendly staff will do all they can to help you order something good.

For those who are interested, there are a number of vendors on the pier that sell food to feed to the gulls with and, rather obscurely, you can purchase crabs to be released in the mangroves in order to atone for your sins!

This location is not a National Park and you will not be charged to go birding here.

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 Other Related Pages

Birdwatching Tours

Other Central Thailand Birding Locations

Shorebirds in the Inner Gulf of Thailand

Slaty-backed Gull; A New Bird for the Thai Checklist

The Birds of the Bangkok Area

Shorebirds in the Hand

Leg-flagged Shorebirds in the Inner Gulf of Thailand

Requests for sightings of wing-tagged Mongolian Gulls

 Photo Galleries

Gull feeding at Bang Poo Pier

Bang Poo Pier

Gull feeding at Bang Poo Pier 

Brown-headed Gulls

Little Egret in Mangroves
Seabirds at Bang Poo

Brown-headed Gull

Brown-headed Gulls

Brown-headed Gulls
Brown-headed Gulls

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

White-winged Tern

White-winged Tern
 Related Blog Entries

Wetland and Forest Birds in July - posted 27/07/09

Bang Poo Soi 119, Bang Poo & Muang Boran Fishponds - posted 12/07/08

1 Day, 3 Sites, Lots of Birds - posted 28/04/08

Lunch and Seabirds at Bang Poo - posted 07/04/08

Bang Poo -posted 03/04/08

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