by Nick Upton
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Muang Boran Fish Ponds
Muang Boran Fishponds, in Samut Prakarn province, consists of a patchwork of shallow fish ponds and drainage ditches of varying size, with areas of typha, reeds, open water, hedgerows and lilies. The area is completely surrounded by industry and housing but it is a really good place to visit whilst staying in Bangkok, a taxi will only take about 30-40 minutes from the city centre early in the morning, ideal for a half day of birding.

The best time to visit this location is between November and April, when there are large numbers of migrant birds present as well as fine weather, and sixty to eighty species are easily seen in just a four to five hour visit. However, bird watching at Muang Boran Fishponds between the months of May and October will still provide views of lots of interesting species and this is the time to see breeding birds, most notably the weavers, Pheasant-tailed Jacana and Javan Pond Heron, at their most colourful, when they can be seen in their colourful breeding plumages.
White-breasted Waterhen
(Photo by Nick Upton)
This area is state owned and farmed by a number of families who don't seem to mind people walking around to see birds, but please remember to be polite and keep out of some areas if asked. People here are quite poor and some trap and shoot birds to supplement their income (Persecution of birds) or to protect their fish stocks (Dead Birds at Muang Boran Fishponds) and there is also a problem with dumping of industrial waste. These activities are upsetting but I would suggest not removing hooks or lines yourself; it is best to take a photo and report them to the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand;
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 Birding Highlights
Waterbirds and open-country birds are the main reason for a visit to this venue. As well as numerous Egrets, Herons, Bitterns, Cormorants and Jacanas, the Crakes/Rails and Reed Warblers are particularly well represented here.

Striated Grassbird is probably more numerous here than anywhere else that I've visited in Thailand, and it is easily seen all year round uttering its noisy call for much of the year. The sheer number of Acrocephalus warblers allows good views of many species and the separation of Black-browed from Manchurian Reed Warbler. Oriental Reed Warbler is very numerous in the dry season and Thick-billed Warbler can sometimes be found. Rusty-rumped (Pallas's Grasshopper) Warbler is occasionally seen here with Blunt-winged Warbler being available for those willing to spend time checking out all the" small brown jobs".

White-breasted Waterhen, Common Moorhen and Ruddy-breasted Crake are very numerous and both White-browed Crake and Slaty-breasted Rail are commonly seen here. In addition, Watercock can be found throughout the year and Baillon's Crake puts in an appearance in the winter months; Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacanas are common throughout the year.
  Baillon's Crake
(Photo by Suppalak Klabdee)
A checklist of the birds for this location can be found here - Muang Boran Fish Ponds
  Bird Watching Trips:
If you need help organizing a bird watching trip to Thailand, take a look at the suggested itineraries for ideas on creating a tailor-made trip and contact me for advice: Thailand bird tours.
 Travel Information
Use the interactive map below to plan your route to Muang Boran Fish Ponds.

View Muang Boran Fish Ponds in a larger map
Getting to this site can be a little tricky. The first step is to make the journey to Muang Boran (Ancient City) which is a little-visited tourist attraction with recreations of cultural landmarks from around the country. Muang Boran can be found in most guidebooks that deal with Thailand and/or Bangkok. The easiest way to get to Muang Boran is to take a taxi from central Bangkok; virtually all taxi drivers know the site; the fare will be somewhere between 250-350 baht.

To make sure you do not have any trouble communicating with the taxi driver I have prepared Muang Boran in Thai script for you to print and show drivers so that you can make sure they know where to take you; remember to check that the driver switches on the meter of the taxi.

I would not suggest trying to get here by bus or songtaew as, although it is possible, the chances of a visitor who cannot speak Thai getting lost are extremely high and it would take a very long time on slow local transport; finding the right bus to get you here would be next to impossible.

From Muang Boran to the fishponds is no great distance, but having to make a short journey through some residential areas has the potential for difficulties so I shall describe the route with the aid of the simple sketch map below.
It is necessary to take a motorcycle taxi from next to the footbridge and follow the route to the other motorcycle taxi stop marked in red on the map. The tricky bit here is to turn left immediately after the apartment block and not turning into the apartment car park itself. From the second motorcycle stop it is easiest to walk; simply walk along the road past a couple of small shops where it is a good idea to buy water if you do not already have enough. Foreigners walking through here are a source of entertainment, so be prepared to be stared at. At the end of the road is a small walkway in order to cross a ditch heading towards some wooden shacks. Turn left here and you are into the fishponds; congratulations!

Although this sounds difficult in reality all the tracks quickly turn into dead ends if you go the wrong way, so if you do not get it right first time a little perseverance will get you to the right place.
Plenty of people have e-mailed me telling me that they successfully followed these directions! If you try to follow them and get lost let me know where the directions became hard to follow and I will try and improve them.
 Finding Birds
Finding birds at Muang Boran Fish Ponds is fairly easy due to the open nature of the site, although some of the Warblers can take some time to see due to their skulking nature. Waterbirds are common throughout the site and it is possible to see almost all the Thai Egret/Heron/Bittern species here in a day. Over 100 species have been recorded here, and a 3-4 hour visit between the months of October to April will typically reveal around 70 species.

Striated Grassbirds can be seen throughout the site; adults favour exposed perches to call from, or can be seen as they fly up out of reedy areas to call.

Indian Cormorants are numerous here, being easy to see perching on the few large trees around the extremities of this site. When perched, they are easily separated from Little Cormorants by their size and bill shape, when in flight separation of the species is not so simple, but possible; Little Cormorants have rapid wingbeats whereas the Indian Cormorant has a somewhat less panicky flight pattern.

A number of species of Acrocephalus warblers can be found around the site; Black-browed Reed Warbler is common and easily observed, but it is worth spending some time examining these, for Manchurian Reed Warbler is often present and is separated by its longer, stouter bill and thinner black eyebrow.
  Pond 1: This is the first pond one sees on entering the site and it is worth spending at least half an hour watching birds here. Its shallow nature means it is good for Pond Herons, Jacanas and Egrets. This is also where large groups of Whiskered and White-winged Tern congregate and both can bee seen fishing here.

Another bird which can usually be seen in this vicinity is Striated Grassbird, with one bird favouring a dead tree to the left of the trail here as a songpost; watch for it as it launches itself off into brief song-flights.

Blue-tailed Bee-eaters often perch on some wires or casuarina trees (large pine-like trees) here too.

Pond 2: This deep-water pond contains permanent water and as such is a favourite fishing spot for Little and Indian Cormorants. In winter months at least one Osprey can often be observed catching fish here and a roost of Black-crowned Night Herons is in the surrounding trees. To the left of the main trail here is an overgrown ditch which seems to be a good place to look for Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler.
Trail 3: The track here passes alongside an area of low and often burned vegetation which is an excellent place to observe various Acrocephalus Warblers. Black-browed Reed Warbler and Oriental Reed Warbler will be seen easily and by spending some time here it should be possible to find at least one Manchurian Reed Warbler. Be careful to take time over identifying these species as Blunt-winged Warbler also occurs and misidentification is likely if good views are not obtained.

Pond 4: The water level in this pond seems to fluctuate quite frequently and is a good spot for many species. A small colony of Asian Golden Weavers nest in some reeds here and White-browed Crake is usually easy to see. By walking around this pond all corners can be investigated and in the past I have found Bluethroat, Red Avadavat and Baillon's Crake. Although never common, virtually all my sightings of Oriental Skylark have come from the vicinity of this pond, and it can be picked out singing in the same way as its European relative (with virtually the same song too).

Location 5: A wide ditch here always contains water and is another excellent place to find many species. Asian Golden Weaver, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Baillon's Crake and Black-headed (Chestnut) Munia are often to be seen along here.
Black-browed Reed Warbler
(Photo by Alister Benn)
  Birdwatching Trips To Muang Boran Fishponds:
If you have only a day or two for birding from
Bangkok, Muang Boran Fishponds is an excellent location, coupled with a visit to Bang Pra. In the dry season this is an ideal place to see lots of waterbirds and some Acrocephalus warblers, in the wet season Asian Golden Weaver and Pheasant-tailed Jacana are the highlights.

Contact me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the best birdwatching options for you:
  Pond 6: This large pond has varying depths and as such is a great place for many species. A small flock of Lesser Whistling-duck usually winter here and occasionally Cotton Pygmy-Goose can be found. Watercock is not an easy species to find at this location, but most of my sightings of this species have been from this pool and Purple Herons can reach double figures here. Both Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas are nearly always to be found here and sometimes can be in large numbers.

Pond 7: A number of large radio masts are placed in this pond but some of the support cables tend to be a favourite place for Indian Cormorant to roost, with numbers up to 100. Most winters a Peregrine Falcon uses these radio masts to launch its hunting forays and an Osprey can often be seen perched on top of some of the smaller masts.

Location 8: A lot of dry, thorny undergrowth in this region plays host to plenty of Warblers such as Black-browed Reed Warbler, Dusky Warbler and Oriental Reed Warbler. Although I haven't seen them here, this seems like a good area to search for Lanceolated Warbler and Baikal Bush Warbler.
Pond 9: This is another shallow pond which frequently contains a good variety of species. This seems to be a favourite with Jacanas and Cotton Pygmy Goose as well as White-browed Crake. At the point I have marked with a star, there is an obsevation point over the pool and from this spot Black-browed Reed Warbler, Oriental Reed Warbler and Asian Golden Weaver are easily found at the appropriate times of the year. In this spot I have also seen Manchurian Reed Warbler, Blunt-winged Warbler and an Acrocephalus that i was not familiar with; either Blyth's or Large-billed! Either one would have been phenominal.
This part of Samut Prakarn isn't the most picturesque place anyone will visit on their travels and it is unlikely that anyone would want to spend the night here, nor is it necessary due to its accessibility from central Bangkok. Far better to stay in a nice hotel in the city: Bangkok Hotel Reservations.

Once birders have found their way onto the site there is nowhere to buy water, although I have been offered drinks by some of the families farming the area in the past. For food and water it is best to bring a packed lunch, the lack of shade at this site means that plenty of water is a must. It is a good idea to buy some ice-cold water from one of the small shops in the small housing development one passes through to gain access to the area. This area is not a National Park and you will not be charged to go birding here but by spending some money in the small shops here it means that the poor people in this area benefit in a small way from your visit. These shops also sell snacks and other soft drinks which are always welcome when leaving the site.

When leaving, motorcycle taxis are available from outside a small shop a short walk from the fish ponds; see map above, the fare back to the main road is 10 baht.
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 Some Useful Books
Reed & Bush Warblers by Pearson, Kennerley &  Small Birds of Southeast Asia by Craig Robson Waders of Europe, Asia & North America by Message & Taylor Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson
 Other Related Pages
Birdwatching Day Tours/Guiding

Other Central Thailand Birding Locations

Habitat use, moult and biometrics in the Manchurian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus tangorum wintering in Thailand

Wetlands Polluted by Fly-tipping of Industrial Waste

Waterbird Count at Muang Boran Fishponds

The Birds of the Bangkok Area

Birds Dead and Dying at Muang Boran Fishponds

Dead Birds at Muang Boran Fishponds

Bird Persecution
 Photo Galleries
Select the thumbnail photos to see larger images.
Draingin ponds
Workers draining pools
Pool and Factory
Wetlands & Factories
Birds through the reeds
Temple at Muang Boran
Temple & Wetlands
Cattle Egrets
Cattle Egrets & Factories
Asian Golden Weaver Nests
Asian Golden Weaver Colony
Flora of Muang Boran Fishponds
Typha Blue Flower Blue Flower White Flower
Dragonflies/Damselflies of Muang Boran Fishponds
Dragonfly at Muang Boran Fishponds Dragonfly at Muang Boran Fishponds Dragonfly at Muang Boran Fishponds

Dragonfly at Muang Boran Fishponds
Birdwatching Trips in Thailand   Bird Watching Trips:
Muang Boran Fishponds is a good place to include on a tailor-made bird watching trip to Thailand as there are a number of species which are easy to find here that are not so frequently seen on most tours.

Take a look at some suggested itineraries and contact me for more information: Thailand bird tours.
 Trip Reports
Thailand Tour, 11-29th January 2007

Thailand - An introductory Trip, 11th-21st Jan 2007
  by Patrick O'Donnell

by Joe Cockram
 Related Blog Entries
  • Asian Golden Weaver - posted 07/07/10
  • Counting Waterbirds at Muang Boran Fishponds - posted 12/08/08
  • Pheasant-tailed Jacana - posted 29/05/08
  • Wetland & Open-country Birding near Bangkok - posted 26/04/08
  • Weaver Wonderland - posted 22/04/08
  • Muang Boran Fishponds - posted 10/03/08

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