Mangroves can be a very tough environment for birding in due to the low density of birds, low number of species and the often fragmented habitat with limited access. However, over the last week I have visited a couple of areas of mangroves in Southern Thailand where the birding has been surprisingly good and I have succeeded in seeing most of the species that occur in the mangroves at Phang Nga and Satun, including a couple of very scarce ones.
Phang Nga Bay National Park
This is one of those areas where there frustratingly little access to what is a huge area of excellent quality mangrove habitat. However, by walking around the headquarters area and up and down a small section of road we found quite a few nice mangrove species in a short space of time. Here are a few photos of some of them.
Mangrove Pitta by Nick Upton
We got really excellent views of two calling Mangrove Pittas. This was a good place to observe this species as the mangroves were quite open and easy to see into.
Chestnut-bellied Malkoha by Nick Upton
Chestnut-bellied Malkoha is a rare species but we were lucky enough to see one climbing slowly around in the canopy of the mangrove trees. It was very inconspicuous and could have been easily missed. Due to the lighting you can’t see the chestnut on the belly; you will just have to take it from me that it was very clear to see at some angles.
Black-and-red Broadbills by Nick Upton
Black-and-red Broadbill is one of my favourite birds. It does not matter how many times I see this species, it is always amazing. The contrast of the blue bill against the deep red and black makes it a stunning sight and there were several pairs at Phang Nga Bay that were easy to see.
Other species we saw included a very prolonged view of a Brown-winged Kingfisher sitting on an exposed branch, an adult White-chested Babbler feeding 2 juveniles which were begging for food in a strange way by stretching their necks up, a female Streak-breasted Woodpecker, a single Ashy Tailorbird, a pair of Olive-winged Bulbuls and around 50 Asian Glossy Starlings roosting on the roof of our hotel.
Ban Bang Phut
This area of mangroves, in Phang Nga province, has a nice walkway through the forest, giving unusually good access to the mangroves. We walked along it slowly and back to the car along the road finding most of the birds that we were targeting. I have visited this site a few times and find it consistently good at various times of the day; in particular it seems to be a good site to see Mangrove Whistler.
Mangrove Whistler by Nick Upton
We saw a pair of Copper-throated Sunbird foraging at the base of the mangrove trees; I was not sure if they were looking for food or collecting nesting material. There were several Oriental White-eyes along the mangrove edge along with a Common Iora, more Mangrove Whistlers, an Ashy Drongo and lots of Golden-bellied Gerygones whistling their distinctive tune.
Golden-bellied Gerygone by Nick Upton
Collared Kingfisher was common at this site and we also saw another Brown-winged Kingfisher which gave itself away by calling. A Javan Pond Heron in breeding plumage was a nice bird – formerly rare in the south but a species that seems to be increasing in the region. As we drove along the road to this site we were vigilant to look on all the wires for Jungle Myna. This is a species which is disappearing in Thailand but we managed to find one as we left the site.
Jungle Myna by Nick Upton
The mangroves at Satun is as far south as one can go on the West coast before the Thai-Malay border and is the only known location in Thailand for Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker. There are a couple of other species which are easier to see there than elsewhere too and on my visit over the last few days I have managed to see most of them – most pleasing was finding a Mangrove Blue Flycatcher in the late afternoon. This species is usually only seen by those brave (or stupid?) enough to go to Yaring mangroves in Pattani where there is a lot of terrorist/insurgent activity, so it was great to see a new bird and great not to have to go to Pattani to see it.
Mangrove Blue Flycatcher by Nick Upton
Copper-throated Sunbird is a species that is far more common at Satun than anywhere else I know and I caught a pair bathing, although the male had really let himself go – possibly the scruffiest sunbird ever seen.
Copper-throated Sunbird by Nick Upton
I made a trip to Satun mangroves two years ago to look for Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker and Cinereous Tit and today I found both of them in exactly the same spot as I did two years ago. There was also Brown-throated Sunbird, Ashy Drongo, Oriental White-eye and Golden-belied Gerygone to go alongside them.
There is a mangrove walkway at Tammalang port but it was really busy with people and the secluded piece of coastal scrub that it used to go to is now a slab of concrete with buildings all around it – totally destroying the habitat and atmosphere. Satun has a large areas of mangroves but again they are frustratingly tricky to get into although I found a quiet piece of road where I managed to get great views of 2 Mangrove Pittas, 2 Ruddy Kingfishers, Ashy Tailorbird, a couple of Collared Kingfishers, Common Iora and a pair of Pin-striped Tit Babblers – a bird I don’t usually associate with mangroves.
Ashy Tailorbird by Nick Upton
Although boat trips are available at Phang Nga and Satun I chose not to bother as I find locating birds from a moving boat difficult as well as finding getting a good sighting almost impossible. Instead I opted to struggle to find ways into the mangroves on foot – not easy but with a little poking around it is possible.
For the full lists of what I saw I have created some eBird checklists;