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Bang Pra Non-hunting Area
 Introduction

Bang Pra Non-hunting Area, in Chonburi province, consists of a semi-natural lake surrounded by grassland and woodland. The reservoir is one used to hold water for irrigation and drinking and as a fishery rather than for hydro-electric purposes, meaning that it is shallow and abundant in birdlife. Local people are permitted to fish, gather plants and graze cattle but hunting birds and mammals is forbidden.

This is a fantastic place to see a good range of birds in a short space of time, including a number of species that are not often recorded on birding holidays to Thailand, and an ideal location for a day trip from Bangkok or, indeed, Pattaya where many people stay on package holidays. The grassland is probably the most productive and valuable habitat here, but unfortunately in recent years the water has been maintained at a very high level meaning that this habitat has been severely reduced in size and rather degraded in places by people in four-wheel drive vehicles. However, on a good day, I still think it would be possible to find over 100 species in a day at Bang Pra.

 
White-crested Laughingthrush
(By Johan Svensson)
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 Birding Highlights

Rain Quail
(Photo by Suppalak Klabdee)
 

The close proximity of open water, scrub grassland and dry forest mean that a wide variety of birds can be found in this single location, and virtually anything can turn up during migratory periods. The main attraction at Bang Pra, however, is the abundance of open-country birds. Both Thai species of Bushlark can be found here, as can four species of Prinia.

The large number of Quail that are present will be a reason for making a special trip to this area for some birders, but, unfortunately, habitat degradation has made these birds much scarcer than in the past. Barred Buttonquail and Yellow-legged Buttonquail are the most abundant but Rain Quail are also findable with effort. Chinese Francolin is a bird which can frequently found due to its loud call, but getting a good view is not so easy even though it often calls from high in a tree. Blue-breasted Quail are also present but are less frequently seen even than most of the others and Small Buttonquail is theoretically in the area too.

Spot-billed Pelcians and Painted Storks used to be commonly seen at Bang Pra, but less frequently now, although Lesser Adjutant storks can also be found in the reedy areas or seen circling in the thermals and Asian Openbills are common. Unfortunately the provenance of the Painted Storks, Adjutants and Pelcians doesn't hold up to the strictest scrutiny as they are the result of feral or introduced, but self-sustaining, populations from the nearby Khao Khieo open zoo; the birds remain none the less spectacular because of this.

The fringing woodland has something to offer birders to, and this is one of the easiest places to see Rufous Treepie and White-crested Laughingthrush that I know. Add to this Laced Woodpecker, Asian Barred Owlet and, in winter, some commoner forest birds that are altitudinal migrants, and there is quite a variety of species for birders to see.

Click here for a checklist of the birds of Bang Pra
Birdwatching Trips in Thailand   Birdwatching Trips:
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 advice: Thailand bird tours.
 Travel Information
Bang Pra Non-hunting Area  

Getting to Bang Pra is not too difficult if traveling by car. One needs to head towards Chonburi from Bangkok; there are a number of routes. The overhead expressway along BangNa-Trad road is the quickest route and is worth paying the toll for. From the expressway the Bang Wua exit should be taken - keep left and head out to the motorway to Chonburi and Pattaya. After about 2 kilometres from the expressway follow the signs for Chonburi and join the motorway. Simply continue along this road (there is a toll to be paid), ignore the signs for Chonburi and continue towards Pattaya. After a while a sign for Khao Khieo zoo will be seen; this is the turn-off to take. From the centre of Bangkok to this turn-off will take about 1.5 hours in the early morning before the traffic builds up; leave at 6am at the latest to arrive at Bang Pra well before the heat gets too intense for birdwatching.

This will get you to the right place, but there are many alternative routes from Bangkok to this region. The good news is that the zoo is signposted frequently.

Having turned off for Khao Khieo zoo, immediately do a U-turn and cross the bridge over the motorway. A few hundred metres further on turn left at a T-junction. Turn right after 1-2 kms on this pot-holed road. This turning is pretty obvious with a sign indicating that this is a wildlife site and an open area with some wooden buildings. One can drive down this track to the car park or simply park anywhere it is safe to do so.

It is possible to get to Bang Pra by public transport, but it is not easy. Go to the Eastern bus terminal at Ekamai, on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok and take any bus to Pattaya, but get off before that. It is best to tell the bus conductor that you want to go to Khao Khieo zoo (Suan Sat Khao Khieo, click here for Thai script) and the bus will stop at the right place.

Here is the difficult part; at this dropping off point one must find the songtaew to the zoo which is hidden up a small road on the opposite side of the road. Ask around for the songtaew to the zoo and hope it can be found. The journey passes along the lakeside of Bang Pra, but do not get off when you see it, wait until the junction where the songtaew turns left and get off just before it crosses the motorway, then walk. Most of you will have probably stopped reading by now and with good reason, this method will get you to Bang Pra in the midday sun - useless for birdwatching!

Another option would be to stay in Pattaya and hire a motorcycle to drive to Bang Pra. This would be an easy option, although I have never personally tried it.

  Bang Pra Non-hunting Area
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 Finding Birds

Anywhere around Bang Pra will serve up a good helping of birds and most of the same species can be found all around. However, I regularly see certain species in particular spots. 

Rufous Treepie can nearly always be found in the open woodland immediately to the right as one drives along the entrance dirt track, along with Laced Woodpecker and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.

Osprey and Whiskered Tern can often be seen fishing over the open water of the lake and sometimes White-bellied Sea Eagle puts in an appearance.

The grassland holds Prinias, Bushlarks, Quail and Cisticolas.

 

Road : In the early morning it is worth a stop on the road just before turning into the site. Groups of birds often sit on the roadside wires here and are active in roadside trees and the few trees in the fields opposite. This spot is where I most often see Vinous-breasted Starling and Lineated Barbet, Hoopoe, Rufous Treepie, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Indian Roller, Ashy Woodswallow as well as White-crested Laughingthrush can often be seen sat on a wire in the first light of day.

Egret Lake : This small lake has fairly deep water which attracts White-throated, Common and Black-capped Kingfishers, Little Cormorants and, sometimes, Oriental Darter. The island in the middle is also a favourite roosting spot for Cattle Egrets and Black-crowned Night Heron; Malayan Night Heron has been seen here occasionally.

The water here is inundated with vegetation and frequented by many Yellow Bitterns and a few Cinnamon Bitterns. Some bare trees on the island are an excellent place for watching Drongos, Black-naped Oriole, Lineated Barbet, Racket-tailed Treepie and others in the early morning when the birds seem to enjoy sitting on exposed perches and enjoying the morning sun.

Egret Lake Woodland Birds Grassland Birds Car Park Turnaround Spot Road Grassland Birds 2  

Car Park : In the early morning the car park can turn up some nice species. Rufous and Racket-tailed Treepies often pass through and a flock of White-crested Laughingthrushes are never far away. Greater Racket-tailed Drongos are always obvious and at the right time of year Hoopoe and Black-naped Oriole will easily be seen. In the treetops, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Brown-throated Sunbird and Common Iora are all common.

For those with mobility problems a shelter overlooking egret lake provides the possiblity of viewing quite a variety of nice birds.

Woodland Birds : A small selection of woodland birds are relatively easily found here; White-crested Laughingthrush, Lineated Barbet, Asian Barred Owlet, Rufous Treepie, Black-naped Oriole and Laced Woodpecker are all regulars here and I have seen a pair of Black-throated Laughingthrushes on a few occasions - perhaps they are feral but they may have found their way here from nearby Khao Khieo. Outside of the breeding season a number of other woodland species occur as migrants including Ashy Minivet, Asian Paradise Flycatcher and Black-winged Cuckooshrike.

Grassland Birds 1: This area always used to be good for grassland birds - unfortunately it is often inundated with water these days. If there is any habitat available Chinese Francolin will often be heard calling and it may be possible to track it down; if it is on the ground you might flush it but if it is in a tree you will have a chance to spot it. Rain Quail used to be quite numerous here, but I haven't seen them for some time - there is much more disturbance than in the past. Yellow-legged and Barred Buttonquails can sometimes be found with the possibility of Blue-breasted Quail. Chestnut-capped Babbler is another bird which is sometimes found in the long grass too and a few patches of Phragmites hold some Asian Golden Weavers.

This area, used to be particularly good for finding Indochinese Bushlark. Australasian Bushlark can also be found but is scarce.

One can approach the water's edge here too and it is usually quite easy, in winter months, to see Oriental Reed Warbler and Black-browed Reed Warbler in what little emergent vegetation remains.

 
 

Birdwatching Trips To Bang Pra Reservoir:
If you have only a day or two for birding from Bangkok, Bang Pra is an

excellent location, coupled with a visit to Muang Boran Fishponds. At any time of year a good selection of colourful birds are present and in the dry season a whole range of migrants visit this location.

Contact me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the best birdwatching options for you: nickupton@thaibirding.com

Turnaround Spot : This where I always turn around; I am always hot and tired by this point. This area is a great place for locating Bright-headed Cisticola (Golden-capped, Bright-capped or whatever combination of terms it is currently masquerading under); it will be easy to find in the breeding season when it doesn't stop calling (it sounds like an ecaggerated kiss, followed by a bell). Chinese Francolin also seems abundant in this spot, but spotting one is difficult, however, I frequently get lucky with this species here. During passage migration, Blue-throated Bee-eater is regular in the tall trees in this area, but Green Bee-eater will be seen here at any time of the year and Lesser Coucal and Yellow-eyed Babblers are always in the area - keep your eyes and ears peeled!


Chestnut-capped Babbler
(Photo by Peter Ericsson)

 

Grassland Birds 2: This area always seems to have some grassland habitat no matter how high the water levels are and it can be reached by walking off of the paved trail which goes around the back of "egret lake".

Many interesting birds can be found in the scruffy vegetation here with both Yellow-eyed and Chestnut-capped Babblers being fairly common - both very attractive birds. Other grassland species include Bright-headed Cisticola, Rufescent Prinia, Yellow-bellied Prinia and in the winter Oriental Reed Warbler, Dusky Warbler and Black-browed Reed Warbler. Those who have time to spend can track down skulking birds such as Siberian Rubythroat here, but the vegetation can be thick so a little call playback may be needed!

The emergent vegetation here holds Yellow Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Painted Snipe and many others. At the right time of year you may also be lucky enough to see Black Bittern here.

 Facilities

Quite simply, there aren't any facilities here! If one has somehow arrived by public transport (it is possible but not a good idea) then it would be advisable to ensure that you have enough food, water and sun lotion for the day; it can get exceptionally hot and humid at this site so lots of water is required. If arrival is by private vehicle then within a short drive to various villages there are a few small shops selling cold drinks and snacks. On one visit my wife managed to get the people in a nearby shack to cook us some food to take away, so if you get really desperate I'm sure someone in one of the few houses nearby will take pity upon you. In a private car it is possible to drive towards Khao Khieo open zoo where a number of small food selling places will be seen as one travels.

The best option for car drivers is to take a packed lunch for birding and then at the end of the day drive to Bang Saen on the coast, where you can eat seafood on the beach, enjoy a beer and have change from 1000 baht! There are a number of places to stay at Bang Saen, but most people will probably opt for a hotel in Bangkok: Bangkok Hotel Reservations, or Pattaya: Pattaya Hotel Reservations.

Bang Pra is not a National Park and there is no entry fee.

 
Scaly-breasted Munia
(Photo by Alister Benn)m
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 Some Useful Books

Birds of Southeast Asia by Craig Robson

Pheasants, Partridges & Grouse & Allies by Madge & McGowan

Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson

Pipits & Wagtails by Alstrom, Mild & Zetterstrom
 Other Related Pages

Birdwatching Day Tours

Other Southeastern Thailand Birding Locations

Leg-flagged Shorebirds in the Inner Gulf of Thailand

 Photo Galleries
Click on the thumbnail photos to see larger images.

Grassland and Hills, Bang Pra
Grassland & Hills

 

Grassland, Lake & Hills
Grassland, Lake & Hills
Degraded Grassland, Lake & Hills
Degraded Grassland, Lake & Hills

Cattle
Cattle

Cattle
Cattle

Grassland & Hills
Grassland & Hills
Aquatic Vegetation
Aquatic Vegetation
Egret Lake
Egret Lake
Egret Lake
Egret Lake
 
Birdwatching Trips in Thailand  

Birdwatching Trips:
Bang Pra is a good place to visit if you have limited time in Thailand, but it is also a great place to see some species that are infrequently seen on longer birding trips and as such is worth considering building into extended itineraries.

Look at some suggested itineraries, Thailand bird tours, or contact me for more information: nickupton@thaibirding.com.

 Trip Reports

Bang Pra, 13th March 2011

Bang Pra, 11th January 2003

 

by Nick Upton

by Nick Upton

 Related Blog Entries

Yellow-vented Bulbul - posted 14/09/08

Bang Pra in the Morning - posted 16/07/08

Quick Visit to Bang Pra - posted 09/06/08

1 Day, 3 Sites, Lots of Birds - posted 28/04/08

Late Afternoon at Bang Pra - posted 11/04/08

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