Lake is about 5km hike from Headquarters. You will need to arrange
permission and get a guide from headquarters to go there. 2.500
Baht should be plenty to pay a ranger for a two-day trip (if you
camp), and if another ranger comes maybe tip them an extra 500 Baht.
They will bring their own food and hammocks; you will have to organize
Just to give
directions, anyway: The headquarters office building is across the
road from a soccer pitch, with some of the rangers’ housing
on the opposite site. If you stand on the road with the HQ behind
you and the soccer pitch in front of you, turn right and walk down
the road, downhill. After a few hundred metres, you come to a large
lake on your right, and a couple of small artificial pools on your
left. A track leaves the road to the left just before you come to
the second small pool on your left. This track leads to Mon Lake.
The trail to
Mon Lake is a wide jeep track. It is a flat, easy hike through lovely
tall forest. Interestingly, as you start along the track, the vegetation
changes suddenly from dry dipterocarp/pine forest to lush hill forest.
I imagine the forest along this trail has the full complement of
montane birds. Common birds (judging sometimes by voice) include
Bar-backed Partridge, Oriental Bay Owl, Mountain Scops-Owl, both
trogons, White-necked and Black-throated Laughingthrushes. I heard
many White-handed Gibbon and saw a few troupes of Phayre’s
Langur. The rangers showed me many signs of Gaur and Dhole, and
there was the usual evidence of Elephant. The reserve is also supposed
to have many species of large cat including Tiger and Clouded Leopard.
Apart from the
tropical forest surrounds, Mon Lake looks much like a temperate
zone lake. The water is clear, and the main part of the lake has
a modest border of rushes (rather than a tangled mass of water lilies).
The waterbirds present on the lake changed every time I visited
– Darter in July, Moorhen,
Common Kingfisher and a lone Lesser
Whistling-Duck in October and November, and Black-capped
Kingfisher in October.
The jeep track
travels along one side of the lake on an embankment (I suppose the
lake must be dammed). Standing on the embankment, the lake at first
sight appears quite small and open, without many places for, say,
a White-winged Duck to hide. At the far end, however, channels lead
around to the left and right. If you walk to the far end of the
embankment, the jeep track peters out soon after the far edge of
the lake. However, a small trail leads to the right to a small,
scenic campground, and then continuing further around the edge of
the lake. It is indistinct in places but easy to follow, since you
are walking in fairly open forest right along the edge of the lake.
You can follow the trail around the corner, along the edge of the
“left channel”. This now looks more tropical, with small
mazes of water through big banks of grass and weed. A few dead logs
stick out into the water and by walking along them you can get a
good view of the water. I saw the White-winged
Duck from here on the evening of November 4th. I guess it
was there during the other visits, just hiding in the weeds the
The forest around
the lake also isn’t bad, with lots of Hill
Mynas in the tall dead trees at dawn and dusk, Blue Pitta
heard near the lake, and Hainan Blue Flycatcher
in a mixed flock. Another highlight during the November visit was
a flowering Sapria himalayana (a small, red Rafflesia with
white spots). I meant to take a photo, but it started pouring with
rain that night. It took us by surprise, since it was a bit late
in the year, flooded the tent and the food, and cut short the trip.
Phu Khieo doesn’t
feature on the itinerary of many western birdwatchers but it is
the favourite park of some of my Thai friends. If you have time
to visit this part of the country, Phu Khieo has many of the same
birds as Nam Nao, but also has lakes, large areas of wet hill forest,
and a wilderness feel.
– 4 seen during the July visit, including
2 on Mon Lake and 2 on lakes near Headquarters.
Pond-Heron – 2 on Mon Lake (November
Whistling-Duck – 1 seen on Mon Lake
during the visits in October and November, hanging out in the same
area as the White-winged Duck.
Duck – 1 on Mon Lake (evening of 3 November
– 1 on the lake at the junction of the
jeep track and the paved road through Headquarters (November visit).
Serpent-Eagle – 3 seen, 2 heard.
Sparrowhawk – 1 seen soaring over the
Headquarters area (15 October 2005).
Francolin – 1 heard in a village near
the park entrance (July).
Partridge – Commonly heard on jeep track
to Mon Lake
Partridge – 2 heard on jeep track to
Mon Lake (November).
Junglefowl – Commonly heard in all areas
of the park; 1 seen in November.
I found a feather of Silver Pheasant on the jeep track. The rangers
told me they see Siamese Fireback regularly along the roads. Pheasants
are generally difficult to see in the wet season.
Waterhen – 2 seen in small pools along
the jeep track (October) and 1 seen on Mon Lake (November).
Moorhen – 3 on Mon Lake in October,
and 8 (including some juveniles) on Mon Lake in November.
Dove – Abundant around Headquarters.
Cuckoo-Dove – 5 heard near Mon Lake
(July and October).
Dove – A few heard along the jeep track
and Mon Lake (July).
Pigeon – 1 seen and several green-pigeons
heard in a fruiting fig (small orange fruits) about half way along
the jeep track (November).
Imperial-Pigeon – Commonly seen and
heard around Mon Lake and along the jeep track.
Hanging-Parrot – Frequently heard.
Malkoha – 3 seen.
Coucal – A few in the tall grass around
the edge of Mon Lake.
Bay-Owl – 3 started calling about 9pm
near the campsite at Mon Lake (November visit). Got quite close
to one but it was too far off the trail.
Scops-Owl – Heard around Mon Lake on
all three visits. Got close to one during the October visit. This
species is common in Thailand but I have found it difficult to see.
Having seen this subsequently in Khao Yai, here are some tips: It
is quite hard to tell exactly where a bird is calling from, for
at least three reasons. First, a bird often varies the volume of
its calls (normally starting off with a few softer calls when landing
on a new perch). Second, the call can seem to come from a completely
different place when the owl turns its head. Third, it is quite
flighty and normally doesn’t stay in the same place for a
long time – so when the call appears to come from a different
place, it could be the owl turning its head, or else just flying
a short distance to a new perch. Aside from the issue of the call,
it is just difficult to pick up because it is small and tends to
perch fairly low (head- to lower-canopy-height), often in tangles
of branches or vines. If you shine the torch on one and it isn’t
looking directly at you, it would be very easy to miss. If you shine
the torch on one directly and it is actually looking at you, there
will be some eyeshine.
Wood-Owl - During the October visit, the ranger
walking some way in front of me on the jeep track said he flushed
a large owl (I could hear birds mobbing it), which he identified
as a Brown Wood-Owl.
Owlet – Often heard around Mon Lake
and the jeep track.
Barred Owlet – 2 heard (October visit).
Swiftlet – Several in July.
sp. – About 40 swooping around Mon Lake
in the late afternoon/evening (October visit). I identified these
at the time as Brown-backed, despite their obviously pale mantles,
based on their white loral spots (which rules out Silver-backed).
However, I must have had my brain switched off, because I didn’t
look at their throats. In retrospect, I think this was probably
a flock of White-throated Needletail.
Trogon –2 seen and 1 heard along jeep
track to Mon Lake.
Trogon – 2 heard along jeep track to
Mon Lake. This is the altitude zone of overlap between the two trogons.
Kingfisher – Total of 8 counted on Mon
Lakes and the lakes around Headquarters during the October and November
Kingfisher – 2 heard along jeep track
to Mon Lake (November visit).
Kingfisher – 1 seen on a lake near HQ
Kingfisher – 1 on Mon Lake in October
(probably a passage migrant).
Bee-eater – Commonly heard along trail
to Mon Lake.
Bee-eater – About 10 appeared in the
tall trees around Mon Lake after a rain shower (November visit)
Roller – 1 seen (October visit).
Pied-Hornbill – 3 seen and frequently
heard along jeep track to Mon Lake.
Hornbill – 1 heard near Mon Lake (July
Hornbill – A group heard in a fruiting
tree with small black fruit (July) and a distant bird heard (November),
along the jeep track to Mon Lake. The rangers say this bird is quite
Barbet – 2 heard near Mon Lake (November
Barbet – 1 seen, 3 heard (November visit).
Many barbets heard in July and October were making the wet-season
calls, which I can’t identify.
Piculet – 1 seen on the jeep track to
Mon Lake (November).
Woodpecker – 1 seen around the Headquarters
Rufous Woodpecker – A pair glimsed on
jeep track to Mon Lake (July).
Yellownape – 2 seen
Flameback – 2 seen; I guess flamebacks
heard frequently along jeep track were probably this species (given
Woodpecker – Frequently heard along
jeep track to Mon Lake.
Woodpecker – 1 seen at Headquarters
Slaty Woodpecker – 1 seen along jeep
track to Mon Lake (July).
Broadbill – A few heard along the jeep
track to Mon Lake (July).
Broadbill – 3 seen (October) and frequently
Pitta – 2 heard near Mon Lake (October).
Swallow – Several seen around the Headquarters
(July and October); I guess the ones in July, at least, must have
been Striated Swallow. Many swallows at Mon Lake might have been
Barn Swallow, but I never got a good look at them.
Wagtail – 1 seen around Headquarters
(July). NB: both Grey and Forest Wagtails
normally return to Thailand well before the end of the rainy season.
Cuckoo-shrike – 1 seen around Headquarters
Cuckoo-shrike – 5 seen along jeep track
(October and November).
Minivet – At least one seen on the jeep
Minivet – At least five seen. Several
others could have been this species or Brown-rumped.
Minivet – 6 seen.
Bulbul – 6 seen. It seems to be more
common here than most places.
Bulbul – 9 seen, 1 heard.
Bulbul – 26 seen.
Bulbul – 3 seen around Headquarters.
Bulbul – 6 seen, 2 heard.
Bulbul – 1 seen (November), frequently
Leafbird – 2 seen near Headquarters
Iora – 2 around Headquarters (July).
Thrush – 1 seen along the jeep track
to Mon Lake (July).
Tailorbird – 2 seen along the jeep track
Tailorbird – 2 seen, 3 heard along the
Warbler – 2 seen (November), commonly
heard (October and November).
Phylloscopus sp. – One in July seems
a bit early for migrating warblers but a bit low for White-tailed.
Two in November were either White-tailed or Blyth’s Leaf-Warbler.
Warbler – 3 seen (November).
Flycatcher – 5 seen (October and November).
Blue-Flycatcher – 2 males and 1 female
along the jeep track, and at Mon Lake (November visit). One of the
males was taped in with a recording I made of an unidentified flycatcher
at Khao Yai, where I have heard this species is rare.
Blue-Flycatcher – 1 female (fairly sure,
but ID from above on song).
Canary-Flycatcher – 8 seen, 3 heard.
Shama – 3 seen and 2 heard at Mon Lake
and along the jeep track.
Stonechat – 3 seen in tall grass at
the edge of Mon Lake (October and November).
Monarch – 7 seen, 2 heard.
Laughingthrush – Commonly seen and heard.
Mae Wong is the only other NP in Thailand I’ve been where
this is common.
Laughingthrush – 2 seen in a vine tangle
(November) and frequently heard.
Babbler – 4 heard along the access road
Scimitar-Babbler – 1 seen, many heard.
Tit-Babbler – About 10 seen and many
heard, both on the jeep track and around HQ.
Fulvetta – 2 seen along the jeep track
to Mon Lake (July).
Yuhina – 3 seen, many heard along the
Tit – 6 seen along the jeep track (November).
Nuthatch – 1 seen along the jeep track
Sunbird – 1 seen.
Sunbird – 1 male seen near Mon Lake
Oriole – Commonly seen and heard (October
Fairy-bluebird – 3 seen, frequently
Shrike – 1 seen hear Headquarters (November
Shrike – 1 seen near Headquarters (October
Woodshrike – 2 seen near Headquarters
Drongo – About 40 seen (October and
Drongo – About 20 seen.
Racket-tailed Drongo – 2 seen along
the jeep track to Mon Lake (October visit).
Racket-tailed Drongo – 4 seen.
Woodswallow – Common, often perched
at the top of dead snags emerging from the lakes.
Jay – 4 seen around Headquarters (October
Magpie – 6 seen around Headquarters.
Magpie – Frequently heard along jeep
Treepie (probable/very likely) – I’m
almost certain 2 birds I saw near Mon Lake in November were this
species, although there were quite a few branches in the way.
Myna – Common around Mon Lake; about
40 seen in the July visit.
Myna – In villages outside the park.
Starling – 1 seen in a tall tree next
to Mon Lake (October) was probably a passage migrant.
Munia – A group of about 8 seen at the
edge of Mon Lake (October visit).