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Thalebun National Park
(Updated 22/04/14)
 Introduction
Thalebun National Park, in Satun province, is actually a complex of mountains which consists of evergreen forest with a little deciduous forest, mangrove forest and an offshore island; it has been a National Park since 1980. In the past there was occasional trouble with Islamic separatists but these days it is not one of the troubled provinces and bird watchers can feel safe and welcome visiting this national park and, indeed, the whole province of Satun.

Park headquarters is easily visited and it is very picturesque with a beautiful lake nestled in between lush forest. Other locations at which to enter the park also exist with a small area of grassland and larger areas of mangrove making for a mixture of habitats.

Very few birders seem to visit this National Park, but with some effort I'm sure a lot of very exciting birds could be found given the quality of the habitat here. If nothing else, this is a relaxing spot which, during the week at least, receives very few visitors.
 
The lake at Thalebun National Park HQ
(Photo by Nick Upton)
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 Birding Highlights

Grey-and-buff Woodpecker
(Photo by Nick Upton)
  Since there are very few bird watching records from this location in recent years it is difficult to identify many known highlights. This in itself makes the Park an exciting place to visit with the high possibility of finding good birds in a "new" location. The quality of the habitat is such that there is no reason why most of the southern specialities should not be found here by those ready to follow gullies and unexplored trails.

Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot is a scarce bird which has been seen around the park headquarters on a number of occasions and the rare Green-backed Flycatcher has also been seen. Malayan Banded Pitta is possibly the most beautiful Pitta species in Thailand and it can be found in suitable forest around HQ as can several species of Woodpeckers.

National Park staff talk about sightings of rare birds such as Great Argus, Giant Pitta, Rail Babbler and Diard's Trogon but you will have to make an effort to get into the forest somewhere other than HQ for such treats! Thalebun could prove very rewarding for birders wishing to get off the beaten track and makes a good stopover if coming from Malaysia.
A checklist of the birds for this location can be found here -Thalebun National Park
  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 Thalebun National Park. The blue line shows the route from the Satun (Red Pin) to Thalebun National Park (Blue Pin).

View Larger Map
For those driving their own vehicle, finding the park headquarters is very easy as it is sign posted from the main Had Yai - Satun road (route 406); the border crossing is also sign posted from the main road, which is just a few kilometres further than the national park HQ.

Getting to Thalebun National Park by public transport should not be too tricky. The easiest way would be to take a bus to the provincial capital Satun (pronounced Sa Toon; long "oo"). From here take a songtaew going to the Malaysian border which is about 2.5 Km beyond the park headquarters; I have not done this myself but I would imagine that songtaews run fairly frequently in business hours. Motorcycle taxis are also available at the junction from route 406 to the HQ.

If coming from Malaysia I would imagine that Alor Setar is the place to travel from or it is quite likely that Padang Besar is geared up enough for backpackers to have transport to the Thai border near Thalebun National Park.

When leaving the national park it is a simple affair to jump on a songtaew on its way to Satun from the Malaysian border. One can ask the National Park staff for details of these; when I visited there were staff who could speak English at HQ.
 Finding Birds
Bird watching at Thalebun can be a little frustrating due to the lack of good trails into the forest, however with some effort there are plenty of exciting birds to see here and the possibility of some birds seldom seen in Thailand.
  Ya Roi Waterfall : A trail which begins at a small car park, at the end of a narrow road, proceeds for 700 metres to the waterfall and has the potential for quite a few forest species while the waterfall itself apparently holds Chestnut-naped Forktail; get here before it is crowded with locals. I have not visited this area so there is plenty of potential to add to the park checklist provided here.

The Road : In the past birders would walk along the road birding the surrounding forest. However, these days corruption has resulted in development along the road and the destruction of most of the roadside forest which has resulted in an invasion of open-country species such as Large-billed Crow, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Common Myna, Zebra Dove and suchlike. This combined with the fact that the road can get quite busy means that it is not a good birding option any more. It does not take long to walk to the Malaysian border where visas can be quickly renewed if this is required and a ramshackled market sells all sorts of things from food to faked designer handbags.

Wang Pra : There is a ranger station here which can be reached by driving along 10 kilometres of dirt road - there is a signpost in Thai only. I have not been to this area but park staff mentioned a small area of grassland and access to forest which contains some very interesting birds and mammals. Whether there is any access to the forest for visitors, I do not know, but this is certainly the area to visit if wishing to find rare southern species; rangers mentioned to me that they see various Hornbills here as well as sighting Great Argus and Trogons. The dirt road is not suitable for saloon cars.

At the turnoff from the road another ranger station, only 2 kilometres away, is also sign posted - this may be worth checking out too.
Headquarters : The Headquarters area is the most easily visited part of Thalebun National Park and is where most visitors will start their birding. Just birding around the buildings will turn up a lot of the commoner species, particularly if any of them are producing fruit or seeds; I saw Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot on a seeding tree behind the restaurant. Species such as Red-throated Barbet, Grey-bellied Bulbul, Spectacled Bulbul and Golden-whiskered Barbet are also likely to show up on fruiting trees around HQ.

Both Grey-rumped Treeswift and Whiskered Treeswift frequent exposed perches around the headquarters area and can also be seen soaring around.

Birding along the short stretch of road which goes to the campsite and park accommodation can be quite productive with Black-and-yellow Broadbill being quite common along with a number of Bulbuls and species such as Green Iora, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Lesser Green Leafbird joing flocks. The potential for finding woodpeckers is good too and I have seen Grey-and-buff, Rufous, Banded and Crimson-winged Woodpeckers along this stretch.

Grey-bellied Bulbul
 
Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot
(Photos by Nick Upton)
  The Lake : This is a very photogenic area which attracts most of the visitors to this site. It is an extremely beautiful spot to just sit and relax and given the lack of trails it is quite probably worth finding a comfortable spot to sit by the lake and wait to see what turns up. Grey-rumped Treeswift and Silver-rumped Needletail both frequent the lake and in 2003 I saw Blue-eared Kingfisher here. I have also seen White-bellied Sea Eagle and Great Hornbill by just sitting and waiting next to the lake. Certainly in October this could be a good place to sit and watch migrating raptors; park staff told me that hundreds can be seen in a day at migration's peak.

The margins of the lake do not seem to attract much birdlife although Yellow-bellied Prinia can be heard calling from a reedy area close to the boardwalk.

The large trees just behind the boardwalk are visited by a lot of birds, particularly when they produce fruit. Golden-whiskered Barbet, Streaked Bulbul, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot and many other species are regular - perhaps something rarer may join them.

Nature trail : Parts of this trail area bit overgrown but it does get birders right into the forest and there is a good chance to find Babblers, with Black-capped Babbler being quite common. Several gullies are ideal habitat for Malayan Banded Pitta, and I saw a pair along here in April 2014. As with most forest interior birding things can be hard work but with patience interesting birds that do not come to the forest edge can be seen. Other interesting birds that I have seen along here include Moustached Hawk Cuckoo, Purple-naped Sunbird and Grey-headed Babbler.

Rani Waterfall : A very short trail goes about 30 metres into the forest to the foot of this small waterfall but it does allow adventurous birders to follow the course of the stream further in order to find scarce forest species. Chestnut-naped Forktail is possible and other potential species include Green Broadbill, Fulvous-chested Jungle-flycatcher and Diard's Trogon as well as a variety of Babblers.
Poo Yoo Cave: One can attempt to hire a boat at Tam Malang to go to Poo Yoo cave, a journey which goes through some good quality mangroves which will contain some excellent birds such as Mangrove Pitta, Brown-winged Kingfisher, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and possibly Masked Finfoot. Most of these species can be more easily seen, though, birding the mangroves around Satun town and Tam Malang pier itself.
 Facilities
Facilities in this park are reasonably good, with most of the accommodation in a better state of repair than in many National Parks in Thailand. There are bungalows for rent here which can be booked in advance by contacting the visitor centre on 0747292023, although this could prove frustrating given the scope for language problems if you do not speak Thai. Considering that this is not a busy national park visitors can probably just turn up and find some accommodation - even during Thai New Year 2014 most of the park bungalows were empty! There is also a camp ground in a convenient place with toilets and showers available.

There is a drink and snack shop next to the lake and a small restaurant next to the car park where simple, but tasty, food and drink is available, but the opening hours are not particularly convenient; 8 am to 4.30 pm. The lady in the restaurant will cook food to take away to be eaten at a later time if asked, but it is perhaps a good idea to bring something to cook with and food to prepare at leisure: Satun is a decent sized town with several large supermarkets where virtually anything can be obtained. It takes about 40 minutes to drive to Satun town where there are many places to stay if required.
 
Park Bungalows
(Photo by Nick Upton)
Although the entrance fee for foreigners is 200 baht on both occasions that I have visited the staff were lenient and let me in for the Thai price after I spoke to them briefly in Thai.
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Thalebun National Park 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.

Forest View

Park Buildings

Birding

Lake View
  Bird Watching Trips:
Thalebun National Park 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: nickupton@thaibirding.com.
 Related Blog Entries
  • Some Bird Sightings from Thalebun National Park - posted 21/04/14
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