by Nick Upton
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Khok Kham
Khok Kham is an area of salt farms close to Samut Sakorn (often written as Samut Sakhon, although Samut Sakorn gives a better indication to pronunciation) in the province of the same name and at first glance seems a fairly unlikely place to go birdwatching. However, large numbers of wetland birds congregate here in the winter months with many exciting species seen regularly and this is an ideal place to go as a day trip from Bangkok, especially if time is limited.

This site is quite barren with very little vegetation and certainly no shade to speak of so it is a good idea to go armed with sunscreen and a hat; some people even bring along their own sunshades! At Khok Kham the birds can be quite distant at times and this is a location where a telescope is almost essential.


Sharp-tailed & Wood Sandpipers
(Photos by Alister Benn)

Rufous-necked Stint (Juvenile)
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 Birding Highlights

Spoon-billed Sandpiper
(Photo by Peter Ericsson)
  Shorebirds are the main attraction here, indeed, they are almost the only birds one is likely to see here due to a severe lack of vegetation but a plentiful supply of shallow water and mud. The most exciting species to look for at Khok Kham is of course Spoon-billed Sandpiper which is seen every year from about late October to April, but which numbers no more than 2 or 3 birds at this site.

This species is by no means the only attraction however, as every year other rarities show up including Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope and Nordmann's Greenshank. A good number of Terns frequent this site too with Caspian and Gull-billed Terns both being easy to find here. Whatever one sees here it is unlikely to be disappointing just for the large numbers of shorebirds that can be present.
Click here for a checklist of the birds of Khok Kham
  Bird Tours : Check the suggested itineraries for ideas on creating a tailor-made birdwatching trip to Thailand: Thailand bird tours.
 Travel Information
  Khok Kham is a very convenient place to go birdwatching if there is not time to go further afield. If driving, simply get on Rama 2 Road which is the main road towards the south and head for Samut Sakorn. In the early morning this is quite a quick journey, taking well under an hour from Bangkok. However, later in the day the traffic can get quite bad and the journey to Samut Sakorn can take up to one and a half hours.

When approaching Samut Sakorn look out for signs to Mahachai Samut Sakorn, one needs to keep to the left to avoid missing the turning. If exit 1 is missed there is a second exit a little further up the road. If both exits are missed (this can easily happen) do not worry too much as there is a large U-turn bridge a few kilometres further on to come back in the opposite direction. One must then do a second U-turn after a few more kilometres and try to get the correct exit on the second pass. Having to make a third attempt would be silly!
Having found the way to Samut Sakorn one must get to the salt farms. If coming from exit 1 take the first major left hand turn after entering the town and follow the road to Mr Tii's birding centre. If taking the second exit then continue straight over the traffic lights and follow the road out towards Mr Tii's birding centre. The birding centre is easily missed but the two large bridges over a canal are very obvious landmarks. On crossing one of these a market can be seen on the left. Very shortly after this is a bridge on the right which goes over another canal; take this and then turn left. This is where the salt farms begin.   Khok Kham Salt Farms
It is possible to get to Samut Sakorn by public transport; there are plenty of buses from the Southern bus terminal and the train stops here too, starting from Thonburi station. From Samut Sakorn a taxi or tuk-tuk could be hired to take you to the salt farms, but there would be a lot of hot walking when there. I would imagine that a lift back to town could be arranged with Mr Tii.

The dirt tracks here are pretty solid and a hire car can be driven along them with no concern. On a good day some of the side tracks can be negotiated too, but after rain these side tracks turn into mud glue as David Lewis and myself found out.
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 Finding Birds
  There are not really any places where particular species are more likely to be found than any other at Khok Kham. The best policy here is to cover as much of the salt farms as possible, scanning for birds as one moves along. Having said that, the largest concentration of birds and a reliable location for Spoon-billed Sandpiper is in the vicinity of a small, green-roofed building 1-2 kilometres along the dirt track from the school. Once in the correct area look for flocks of Rufous-necked Stints with which SBS tends to associate. Along the canal Pied Fantail, Golden-bellied Gerygone and Collared Kingfisher can be seen in mangrove trees.

The dirt track to the sea finishes at a small parking area where the mudfalts can be scanned for more waders. This is a favourite spot for Asian Dowitcher and other good birds often turn up as do dolphins (high tide). Driving towards the research station also gives the opportunity to scan over even more muddy pools and salt farms in search of wading birds.
Sometimes, on arrival at Khok Kham, it can appear disappointing, with very few birds obvious. The birds here move around the site, following the water levels that suit them most. Typically they seek out ponds that are in the process of being drained and have a shallow layer of water still in them and/or ponds that have small puddles with soft mud.

Once the congregations of shorebirds has been located species such as Spotted Redshank, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper and Kentish Plover are common and desirable birds such as Great Knot, White-winged Tern, Whiskered Tern and both Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers can nearly always be found. Over the years a number of rarities have turned up here so there is always the possibility of seeing something very unusual at Khok Kham, with the late winter months being the best time for rarities such as Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope and Nordmann's Greenshank.

Tides can be found here: My Forecast, Marine Reports.
Khok Kham has very few facilities to speak of so it is important to bring plenty of water to deal with the heat in this exposed location. There is, of course, the Khok Kham birder's restaurant which serves food and drinks and it is even possible to stay here, although I see little reason to do so given this site's close proximity to Bangkok and all the comfortable hotels there. Mr Tii is a friendly chap though, and considering his readiness to impart free advice it is worth stopping in his restaurant for something to eat to lend some support. For those who are particularly averse to setting foot in Bangkok and do not fancy Mr Tii's for the night, there are several passable hotels in the town of Samut Sakorn which, obviously, has all the shops that are normally associated with Thai towns.

Along the road back to Samut Sakorn are some very nice seafood restaurants where feasts can be had at low prices.

This location is not a National Park and you will not be charged to go birding here.
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 Some Useful Books
 Other Related Pages

Birdwatching Day 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

Top Ten Birds of Thailand: Number 2 - Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Sixth Shorebirds Festival at Khok Kham

Requests for sightings of wing-tagged Mongolian Gulls

  Birdwatching Trips:
Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale is one of Thailand's premier birdwatching locations and is a must visit site on any Thailand birdwatching tour. It is also an excellent option for a day trip from Bangkok throughout the dry season (Nov-Mar) with Spoon-billed Sandpiper present throughout that period.

Look at some suggested itineraries, Thailand bird tours, or contact me for more information:
 Trip Reports
Thailand, 1-21st March 2004

Bangkok & Southern Thailand, 25th Feb-11th Mar 2006

Thailand Tour, 10-24th January 2007

Thailand - An introductory Trip, 11th-21st Jan 2007

Thailand Tour, 11-29th January 2007
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by Petter Zahl Marki

by K. David Bishop

by Joe Cockram

by Patrick O'Donnell
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