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.
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.
here for a checklist of the birds of Khok
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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