Pak Bia/Pak Thale
Pak Bia/Pak Thale
(pronounced Lairm Pug Beer/Bark TaLay) is a large area of
salt pans, mudflats, mangrove remnants and a sand spit, in
Petchaburi province. This is without doubt the premier birdwatching
site for shorebirds in Thailand, with large numbers of birds
and many rare species appearing annually.
is very open and exposed which allows for good views of the
birds but, as with any shorebird watching, a telescope is
highly desirable; in fact it is almost essential. In addition
to the sand spit, mudflats and salt pans there are lots of
ditches, brine shrimp pools as well as smaller areas of freshwater
wetlands and scrubland meaning that a very wide variety of
species can be found here; this site has far more than just
shorebird watching to offer.
Bia/Pak Thale is 2 to 2.5 hours from Bangkok making it a suitable
destination for day trips from the capital or as a place to
stay for a day or two before moving on to, or coming from,
Kaeng Krachan National Park, making Petchaburi province probably
the best area for birdwatching in the whole country.
(Photo by Jörg Hanoldt)
Pak Bia/Pak Thale is an excellent place to see a large variety
of waterbirds. In the dry season, between late September and
May large numbers of Waders, Gulls and Terns escape the northern
winter by coming here. The critically endangered Spoon-billed
Sandpiper is by far the most sought-after bird here which is
regularly seen on the salt farms at Pak Thale between late October
and late March. Nordmann's Greenshank is an annual winter visitor
too as are large numbers of Great Knot and Black-faced Spoonbill
is very nearly an annual visitor in ones and twos.
Charadrius alexandrinus dealbatus
(Photo by Johan
(Photo by Peter
globally endangered/threatened species are just a few of the
exciting birds to be found here. Other highlights are the
small population of resident Malaysian Plovers on Laem Pak
Bia sandspit along with a few individuals of Chinese Egret
and "White-faced Plover", although wintering large
gulls have become scarce in recent years probably due to increased
disturbance on the sand.
visit to Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale won't leave you disappointed
and the possibility of finding a rarity, or even a new bird
for the Thai list, is high here, with Lesser Black-backed Gull,
Slaty-backed Gull, Large-billed Reed Warbler and Red Phalarope
added in recent years.
checklist of the birds for this location can be found here
- Laem Pak Bia -
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
order to get to Laem Pak Bia one must first travel to the
town of Petchaburi. If coming by car, this will take
just under two hours from Bangkok in the early morning. This
is a simple journey, just get on the expressway in Bangkok
and head for Dao Kanong/Rama 2 road. After crossing over the
Chao Phraya river on a large bridge follow signs towards Samut
Sakorn (at this point stop following the signs for Dao Kanong)
and continue along the highway until Petchaburi is reached;
the town is signposted for most of the way.
by bus, take a taxi and head to the Southern bus terminal
where there are lots of buses which will stop at Petchaburi
- buses to Pranburi, stopping at Cha Am and Hua Hin depart
regularly and will stop at Petchaburi for you to get off.
Petchaburi there are two ways to get to Pak Thale to look
for Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The easiest way to navigate is
to follow the highway through Petchaburi and follow signs
for Had Chao Samran then, about 13 kilometres later take the
left hand turn at the crossroads about 200 metres before the
seafront at Had Chao Samran and drive along the road through
the salt pans with good birding all along towards Pak Thale.
the most direct route from Petchaburi to Pak Thale is to follow signs
for Ban Laem, navigating through the small roads towards the coast;
this is easier than it sounds. One will arrive near the village of
Pak Thale where the birding starts. One can drive north or south scanning
the salt ponds for birds and there are usually plenty to see. Following
the coast road south towards Had Chao Samran will take one towards
the Environmental Research Project and the sand spit of Laem Pak Bia,
but birding is good all the way along this route, it is just a question
of finding the ponds with the right water levels to attract birds.
those arriving in Petchaburi by public transport it would
be necessary to find somewhere to hire a motorcycle to follow
this route in order to enjoy the birdwatching here.
wishing to get onto the sand spit it is essential to take
a boat, unless you want to endure a long, hot walk along the
beach; thankfully the road which was constructed upon the
spit was dismantled after the construction of 7 boulder dams
parallel with the shore and two breakwaters perpendicular
to the sand spit, however, the spit is now more a series of
islands as a result. Boats can be chartered for 800 baht from
a small boatyard. This is located about 2 to 3 kilometres
north of Had Chao Samran and it is obvious as a lot of boats
are visible as the large canal is crossed. Drive into the
entrance of the boatyard and head to the end of the road where
you will come upon Mr Daeng's place. Mr Daeng has taken hundreds
of birders out to the spit and knows exactly how to find all
the specialities there.
Boat to Laem
Pak Bia Sand Spit
(Photo by Nick
Mr Daeng is not in you can wait for him to return or find yourself
another boat man. Walking around showing your binoculars will probably
get you a positive response but you can show them Laem Pak Bia printed
in Thai: Laem Pak Bia Thai Script.
of terns and shorebirds are often found at the sand bar close
to the end of the Laem Pak Bia sand spit. The spit itself
is home to breeding Malaysian Plovers and in winter this is
the place to look for "White-faced"
can be found here: My
Forecast, Marine Reports).
Sandpiper is almost guaranteed in the salt farms around the
village of Pak Thale but it does occasionally show up in other
shallow pools and, from time to time, on the sand spit.
of passerine species can usually be found in the Environmental
Research Project and in the mangroves, including Golden-bellied
Gerygone, Dusky Warbler, a number of Acrocephalus
warblers and Racket-tailed Treepie amongst others as. Pintail
Snipe can be seen here (although Common Snipe is present too),
Ruddy-breasted Crake and Slaty-breasted Rail are in the marshy
can be found all over the Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale area, it
is simply a matter of driving around and stopping when birds
are seen feeding or roosting on the numerous ponds that are
on both sides of the coast road. But there are a few places
that certain species have traditionally favoured and always
seem to be worth stopping at.
Building : A
dirt track heads inland, past a small rubbish dump, to a large,
partially constructed, abandoned building which can easily be seen
from the road (photo in the galleries below).
If one is heading north from the Had Chao Samran crossroads, the
dirt track is on the left, a couple of kilometres north of the crossroads,
just after a large sluice gate. The salt pans in this area can be
quite good with Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Eastern Black-tailed
Godwit, Kentish Plover and other shorebirds often to be seen. In
some years a group of Pied Avocets frequent the area and pools in
this area are often one of the best chances of finding a midwinter
A group of resting
Grey Herons are often joined by Painted Storks here and in winter
of 2007-8 this was a reliable spot for 2 Black-faced Spoonbills.
This area also seems to attract small numbers of Red-necked Phalaropes
and a Spoon-billed Sandpiper was seen over the course of several
months in winter 2010-11.
(Photo by Nick
frequently a Peregrine Falcon spends the winter hunting
from the abandoned building itself, feasting on the Feral
Pigeons, Spotted Doves, Red Collared Doves and Mynas that
are always to be found loitering.
scrubby, dry vegetation along the dirt track, near the dump
and around the abandoned building is a good area for finding
a variety of interesting species including Green Bee-eater,
Indochinese Bushlark, Plain-backed Sparrow, Paddyfield Pipit,
Zitting Cisticola, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Dusky Warbler,
White-shouldered Starling and Oriental Reed Warbler. Sometimes
Oriental Skylark and Richard's Pipit can be found too and
rare migratory starlings turn up here in some years.
dump itself always has attendant Eastern Cattle Egrets,
Black Drongos, White-vented Mynas, Eurasian Tree Sparrows
and Common Mynas; Brahminy Starling and Rosy Starling frequented
this dump in 2011 and 2012 so it is worth checking this
spot out if you can stand the smell.
it might seem unlikely, Fishing Cat has occasionally been observed
here after dark.
Hire : This
is the place to get on a boat for the sandspit, but this is also the
starting point of a boardwalk which runs along the river through the
mangroves and terminates on the beach a few kilometres south of the
sand spit's northernmost point. A few interesting species can
be seen along the boardwalk such as Golden-bellied Gerygone, Racket-tailed
Treepie and Collared Kingfisher but quite frankly, mangroves in this
area are not a particularly productive habitat. However, one or two
pairs of Mangrove Whistler are present, although seldom seen, and
during migratory periods all manner of warblers and flycatchers are
possible, although nobody seems to have checked this out.
Research and Development Project initiated by H.M King Bhumibol
: This is an area of mangroves and settling pools
where quite a number of interesting birds can be found as
well as large numbers of common birds. One of the advantages
here is that most birds can be viewed at close range from
the car and the sheer number of birds that are flushed out
whilst driving slowly around can be quite amazing at times.
pools here seem
to be a reliable spot for Ruff and small numbers of other
waders are usually present including Wood, Marsh and Common
Sandpipers, Rufous-necked, Long-toed and Temminck's Stints
and 3 species of Snipe (Common, Pintail and Painted).
and White-winged Terns can often be viewed at close quarters
here, fishing over the settling pools, and small areas of
open land and reeds mean that many migrant passerines can
also turn up during migration, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Black-browed
Reed Warbler and Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler and most notably
Large-billed Reed Warbler
have been mist-netted here. The
reedy areas are also a good place to look for crakes and rails
as well as Pintail Snipe. This
is also a great place to catch up with Common, Black-capped,
Collared and White-throated Kingfishers and Golden-bellied
Gerygone is abundant and can be teased out of the mangroves
with a bit of whistling.
dusk thousands of very large fruit bats (Lyle's Flying Fox) can
be seen overhead, going to their feeding grounds and I regularly
see Indian Nightjar sitting on the dirt tracks here at night; White-shouldered
Starling always comes in to roost in the winter months along with
large numbers of Black Drongo and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. One thing
you are bound to see here is at least one large monitor lizard.
Entry to this project area is not allowed after 6pm.
works on the King's Project area since December 2011 have resulted
in a lot of disruption, removal of trees formerly used as pre-roost
gatherings and permanent disturbance which have rendered the site
less productive than it used to be; however, it is still worth a
look, particuarly in the morning and late afternoon.
(Photo by Pieter
Laem Pak Bia Sand
Spit : This spot is the
place to visit to observe the attractive resident Malaysian
Plovers that breed on the beach; these colourful shorebirds
are easily found here and between the months of October and
April it is worth searching for
Plover" too with one to three birds usually
few Chinese Egrets are often seen on the mudflats adjacent
to the sand spit in the dry season, with Pacific Reef Egret
favouring the rocky breakwaters, and Javan Pond Heron is abundant
- wait for March to see it in breeding plumage.
end of the sand spit is a great place to see large numbers
of roosting terns which usually peak around late February
to early April with Common, Whiskered, Little, Caspian and
Great Crested usually resting in fairly large numbers and
Gull-billed, White-winged and Lesser Crested in smaller numbers.
This also used to be the place to see a flock of large gulls
but in recent times they have become scarce; occasionally
Pallas's and Heuglin's can be seen but look out for rarities,
I have found Mongolian Gull and Black-legged Kittiwake here
in the past, others have seen Pomarine Skua.
baht is the price charged for this trip and a tip of 100 baht
is appropriate for good service.
Farms : Although birds
can be found wherever water levels are suitable, the ponds
in this area always seem to be very productive with large
flocks of waders roosting. Great Knot is becoming increasingly
common at this site, and here is where they usually congregate
in numbers up to 2000 strong; scan through them for Nordmann's
Greenshank in small groups up to 70 in number. Flocks of Lesser
Sand Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey
Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Kentish Plover and Curlew Sandpiper
are nearly always present here in large numbers and many other
species can also normally be found, including Long-toed Stint,
Pied Avocet, Ruff, Broad-billed Sandpiper and, occasionally,
Asian Dowitcher, although this latter species is more of a
passage migrant than a winter visitor.
the southern end of this area a dirt road heads towards the
sea for about 500 metres before running parallel with the
main road. Entering here is useful and will afford good views
of many of the above species as well as Painted Stork and
Bar-tailed Godwit and this route often gives birders a closer
look at flocks of gulls. Richard's Pipit seems to particularly
like vegetation along this dirt road and ten or more can usually
be seen in the dry season.
Trips To Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale:
If you have just a day or two
for birding from Bangkok, Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale
a great place to visit, and iIf you are coming
to Thailand to twitch Spoon-billed Sandpiper before
it becomes extinct, then visiting this site is
a no-brainer. The site is at its best between
late October and mid April.
me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the best
birdwatching options for you: email@example.com
Komnaram: Wat Komnaram is a temple a few hundred
metres along a side road which turns off the main coast road at
the point at which the sea is right next to the road, in a small
village. A large field lies in front of the temple which is wet
much of the time but dries out towards the end of the dry season.
Asian Openbills & Black-headed Ibis at Wat Komnaram
(Photo by Nick
A number of
waders that enjoy freshwater can be found here including Long-toed
Stint, Pacific Golden Plover and Wood Sandpiper. Several pairs
of Oriental Skylark breed here and, from the end of January to
the end of the wet season, Oriental Pratincoles rear their young
which can often be spotted here include Yellow Bittern, Chestnut
(Black-headed) Munia, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Grey-headed Lapwing,
Intermediate Egret, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill and Black-headed
Pak Thale: Around the village of Pak Thale
there are salt farms and other pools where Spoon-billed Sandpiper
is regularly seen; there
is now even a sign which directs birdwatchers to the right
area for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper (see photo) which makes
finding the site much easier than before. There is also a
Bird Conservation Society of Thailand information centre at
the site now. Take a look at the map on the right for further
details on how to get to the right spot.
network of dirt
tracks allow one to drive into the middle of these pools and
also towards the sea, but please do remember that this is
all private property and access is dependent on a good relationship
with the land owners - stick to the mud banks and please do
not walk on salt pans.
October and mid April there are always large numbers of wading
birds in this location with some of the most common species
being Curlew Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Marsh Sandpiper,
Spotted Redshank and Eastern Black-tailed Godwit. Several
species of tern are usually found here including Caspian and
Gull-billed and sometimes one of the larger gulls will show
up. This spot frequently turns up some of the less common
species too; look out for Ruddy Turnstone, Terek Sandpiper,
Dunlin, Nordmann's Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher, Red-necked
Phalarope and Whimbrel. Each year a large flock of Eurasian
Curlew frequent this area and most years at least one Far
Eastern Curlew joins them. Remember that bill length is not
an identifying feature as the females of the race of Eurasian
Curlew here have very long bills, the only reliable way to
pick out Far Eastern Curlew is from its buffy underwings and
back/rump patch, something which can be very difficult to
do when they are roosting.
in this region were often used by Black-faced Spoonbill and
Milky Stork in 2011 and 2012, joining feeding flocks of other
seafront can also be reached by a road which heads out to
a small, covered building. As the tide rises this is a good
place to see waders gradually getting closer and if you have
not already seen Terek Sandpiper, look for it here. During
migration periods the mud flats here are also a great place
to search for Asian Dowitcher and Grey-tailed Tattler.
Sign to Spoon-billed Sandpiper site
(Photo by Nick
larger Pak Thale
Salt Farm at Pak Thale
(Photo by Nick
Facilities at Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale are mostly restricted
to Hat Chao Samran. Here there are a growing number places
with bungalows which can be rented for about 800-5000 baht
per night and a number of shops and restaurants selling anything
from ice creams (it is the seaside you've got to have an ice
cream!) to excellent seafood dishes. I would recommend any
of the restaurants (marked on map; right) that are situated
on the beach within a kilometre north of the main car parking
area at Had Chao Samran; the food is great and very cheap.
The 7/11 store on the corner at the beachfront is where visitors
can buy all manner of snacks and drinks as well as cool off
for a few minutes in the air conditioning. There are also
a few local shops along the road from Had Chao Samran to Pak
Thale and at the entrance to the boat yard there is a small
restaurant which sells simple, but good, food very cheaply.
staying in Petchaburi, or passing through, there are all the
facilities typical of a Thai provincial capital. In fact Petchaburi
has a large supermarket (Big C) with takeaway restaurants
and a cinema showing Hollywood movies attached at the southern
end of the town. There are several hotels in town too, ranging
from very good to scabby. I frequently stay at the Sun Hotel
which is priced around 800 baht per night and is situated
at the foot of the cable car to a very obvious temple at the
top of a hill, close to the main highway. The Diamond Petchaburi
hotel is close by on the main highway and is a step up at
around 1500 baht per night; both hotels serve good food and
provide a Thai breakfast buffet. The night market near the
bus station in Petchaburi is a good place to get cheap and
excellent Thai food.
is not a National Park and you will not be charged to go birding
Central Thailand Birding Locations
in the Inner Gulf of Thailand
Gull; A New Bird for the Thai Checklist
Birds of the Bangkok Area
in the Hand
Shorebirds in the Inner Gulf of Thailand
Ten Birds of Thailand: Number 2 - Spoon-billed Sandpiper
of Large-billed Reed Warbler
for Sightings of Wing-tagged Mongolian Gulls
Pak Bia Road Bridge Cancelled
on the thumbnail photos to see larger images.
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.
at some suggested itineraries, Thailand
bird tours, or contact me for
more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sandpiper - posted 15/02/10
Day in Petchaburi Province - posted
Sandpiper and White-faced Plover - posted
Flamingo - posted
Chao Samran, The King's Project and Cha-Am
- posted 25/06/08
- posted 22/04/08
- posted 21/04/08
Day Trip to Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale
- posted 31/03/08
water Monitor Lizard - posted
Quest for Broadbills - posted
for "White-faced Plover" - posted
Birding at Kaeng Krachan & Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale
- posted 10/03/08
Great Days Birdwatching - posted
of Thailand, 17 January to 6 February 2008 -
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