by Nick Upton
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Satun Mangroves
(Updated 11/05/16)
Mangroves at Satun, are extensive along much of the province's coastline, a fact which protected it from the worst of the effects of the tsunami in 2005, indeed, there are many signs around the region discouraging people from clearing mangroves in recognition of this. However, unfortunately, shrimp farming is making some inroads into the back mangroves despite these warnings.

Large areas of mangrove forest can be easily reached within minutes of the town centre and birders are able to enjoy birding from short boardwalks and roads or, if they prefer, hire a boat to take them along the many creeks within the mangrove forest. This is a relatively unexplored area of Thailand and an area of mangroves with a fairly rich avifauna characteristic of the habitat.

Although Satun is situated on the Malaysian border, it is not one of the troubled provinces and visitors can travel around in complete safety with the mangroves making for a pleasant morning's birding for those travelling to nearby islands or visiting nearby Thalebun national park.
Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker
(Photo by Nick Upton)
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 Birding Highlights

Cinereous Tit
(Photo by Nick Upton)
  For bird watchers based in Thailand, the mangroves at Satun are home to one species which is currently known from nowhere else in the country: Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker. However, there is more to interest bird watchers than just this one species as the mangroves here are rather richer in birdlife than many others in Thailand.

Both Mangrove Whistler and Golden-bellied Gerygone are species which are rather common at this location making themselves obvious by their calls; Cinereous Tit, which is scarce and localized in Thailand, is fairly abundant, and vocal, too. Copper-throated Sunbird is a very colourful species which is difficult to find in most of Thailand but is relatively common at this site, with dazzling colours as the light hits the male.

Other sought-after mangrove species which are also know to occur here include Brown-winged Kingfisher, Mangrove Pitta and Mangrove Blue Flycatcher; Pied Triller also occurs here in coastal scrub and casuarina pines, although it is certainly not easy to find.
Mudflats, exposed at low tide, also hold shorebirds at the right time of year and Javan Pond Heron has made its way this far south, look out for them in breeding plumage from March onwards.

A checklist of the birds for this location can be found here -Satun Mangroves
  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 Satun Mangroves. The blue line shows the route from Satun (A) to Tam Malang pier (B).

View Satun Mangroves in a larger map
Getting to the mangroves from Satun town centre is extremely easy, simply follow the signposts to Tam Malang pier on the main road heading south out of the town; it is just 10 kilometres. If you are using public transport there are a few songtaews that head to the pier, alternatively hire a motorcycle taxi to take you there and collect you later on.
 Finding Birds
Although there are extensive mangrove tracts near Satun town there are limited opportunities to get into them. A couple of places allow birders to get into the forest and find birds as well as the possibility of hiring a boat to penetrate the mangroves.
Mangrove Boardwalk : A mangrove boardwalk is the best way of getting into the large amount of habitat here. The trail starts at a shelter which is accessed from the car park of the ferry terminal, at the southern end of the terminal, close to the sea.

Mangrove Whistler
Golden-bellied Gerygone

Pied Fantail
Collared Kingfisher
(Photos by Nick Upton)
  The boardwallk starts within the mangrove trees and the call of Golden-bellied Gerygone is obvious - this species is very common here. This is also a good place to get good views of Mangrove Whistler which is also abnormally abundant in this region. Collared Kingfisher is also common and easily seen, but Brown-winged and Ruddy Kingfishers are not, although they are present here.

The boardwalk emerges into an area of former coastal scrub, which has now been turned into a concrete picnic area with some surrounding buildings which means it gets quite busy at weekends and holidays. There are still some patches of casuarina trees here which may play host to Pied Triller, although it certainly is not common. However, tall trees and bare branches in this area are an excellent place to look for Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker. Black-naped Oriole is a resident breeder in this part of the country and a few pairs can be found here as can Cinereous Tit and Pied Fantail. During migration this would be a good place to look for passage migrants; I found a Dusky Warbler here which is scarce this far south.

Other species that are worth looking for along the mangrove boardwalk include Mangrove Pitta and Mangrove Blue Flycatcher.

The nearby pier at the ferry terminal is a good place to look out over the estuary and mudflats. Various shorebirds will occur here and Javan Pond Heron occurs alongside Chinese Pond Heron, wait for the breeding season to tell them apart; Brahminy Kites will easily be seen from this vantage point and it is worth looking out for White-bellied Sea Eagle.

Mangrove Research Station: This small compound has a variety of trees within it and a small mangrove boardwalk at the back where several species of interest can be found. A couple of pairs of Cinereous Tits occupy the area and use small puddles of freshwater for bathing in and in both April 2014 & 2016 a pair of Sunda Pygmy Woodpeckers were nesting in a dead snag inside the compound. Collared Kingfisher and Mangrove Whistler are easily found along the trail and Common Flameback can be seen on some of the larger trees. Copper-throated Sunbird appears to be unusually common in this area - early mornings seem to be the best time to see them as they busily feed.
Bridge Across Mangrove Channel: Here the road crosses a mangrove channel which is lined by mature trees. This may be a good place to stop and search for some of the habitat specialists that require larger trees, such as Brown-winged Kingfisher, Ruddy Kingfisher and Mangrove Pitta. However, it may be better to search for these birds from a boat which can be negotiated from several small piers along the road towards the town of Satun.

Fishing Village: The short stretch of road towards this village passes through some good mangroves which are quite open and easy to see into and as very little traffic passes along here it is a good birding spot. Here plenty of the mangrove species can be seen with Ashy Tailorbird, Collared Kingfisher and Golden-bellied Gerygone being fairly common plus there are several territories of Mangrove Pitta and Cinereous Tit frequents the area. I have also seen Mangrove Blue Flycatcher along here although it is scarce and by no means is it easy to find.
Facilities within the mangroves themselves are non-existent although at Tam Malang pier there is car parking, toilets and a couple of small restaurants and coffee shops. vendors selling fruit, sausages and ice cream visit the pier too, particularly around the times for boat departures and arrivals.

The mangroves are so close to the provincial capital of Satun that there is no reason to stay anywhere other than in one of the number of good hotels and guesthouses in and around town; I stayed in the Sinkiat Buri Hotel which was very nice with breakfast included. On Saturdays there is a night market in Satun town, close to the large mosque, but there are lots of noodle shops and restaurants around. There are also Big C and Tesco Lotus supermarkets out of town.

For birders requiring very early breakfasts, 7/11 stores are the answer with toasted sandwiches and coffee available among the normal array of snacks. There are a couple of these stores in town.
Mangrove Boardwalk
(Photo by Nick Upton)
The mangroves at Satun are not part of a national park and there is currently no entrance fee to go birding there.
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Satun Mangroves Bird Checklist

Birdwatching Tours

Other Southern Thailand Birding Locations

Unrest in the South claims the Life of Foreigner
 Photo Galleries
Select the thumbnail photos to see larger images.
Coastal Vegetation
Mangrove Centre
Boardwalk Sala
  Bird Watching Trips:
Satun Mangroves is a good site to explore in conjunction with other seldom-visited sites in southern Thailand; some scarce species can be found and with some effort a few surprises are a very real prospect.

Look at some suggested itineraries, Thailand bird tours, or contact me for more information:
 Trip Reports

Southern Thailand & Kaeng Krachan Photography Trip, 8-20th June 2016

Southern Thailand, 5-16th April 2016


by Nick Upton

by Nick Upton

 Related Blog Entries
  • Mangrove Birding - posted 14/04/16
  • Some Bird Sightings from Thalebun National Park - posted 21/04/14

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