By virtue of being in Bangkok with wheels for a few days I was able to put my big toe into a new location, Sri Nakon Khuean Khan Park (ศรีนครเขื่อนขันธ์ ). First up, a big thanks to Nick Upton’s Thaibirding.com for bringing this location to my attention and helping me to get to the place. Nick rightly waxes lyrical about the site especially its potential for throwing up migrants and the ease with which it is possible to see some otherwise hard to see species: Stork-billed Kingfisher, Vinous-breasted Starling and Pink-necked Green Pigeon. I didn’t see the first two but I saw a lot of Pink-necked Green Pigeons: the presence of a couple of raptors, searching for a spot of breakfast, wreaked terror among the pigeons and kept them on the move.
I was in the process of attaching my camera to my telescope to get a shot of one of the raptors, which had perched about 80 meters away in the treetops, when some joggers came up to where I was in the birdwatching tower. They were very interested in the raptor and I could hardly deny them a view of it. Four of them had good views of the raptor which of course flew when I got my scope back! I suspect a Common Buzzard which I believe would be a bit of a rarity. It was simply too big for the more common accipters like either of the sparrowhawks, or either Besra or Shikra. Plus its upper flight feathers, a grayish brown were fringed in white, a yellow cere, it had a thin dark eyeline and whitish supercilium; its face was lacking gray which makes me rule out Grey-faced Buzzard; it also had a light coloured breast with fine streaks; when it flew its wings did not seem thin which also helped me rule out Grey-faced.
So I missed a great photo and a potential lifer! But I feel I have a responsibility to encourage non-birders to get interested and these folks were positively purring; plus I often carry a Thai language field guide, which I had today so they were able to get the names of the species in Thai read a little about them. A photo, however, would have enabled identification. I’m simply not able to make any claims but I do wonder! The other raptor was a Japanese Sparrowhawk based on flight and its very small size. There were other big raptors far away, too far away to see, though one may have been a Brahminy Kite as a white head and upper body with dark brown lower parts could be made out.
I probably missed out on the first hour of daylight as I got lost. It is not an inherently difficult place to find and once I connected with the sign posting there wasn’t a problem; it becomes very well sign-posted but the first few kilometres on exiting the expressway were a little bit confusing. I am glad I persevered!
In real terms this is a swamp turned into a public park and it has been done very well. There are small lakes, lawns and a lot of wild stuff. It even has a bird watching tower, which has been well constructed and is safe. I was surprised it had no seats as benches are liberally scattered throughout the rest of the park. From the bird tower I got decent views of the mystery raptor and lots of Pink-necked Green Pigeons, a fair few Black-naped Orioles and lots of Flower-peckers, mainly Scarlet-backed; the first birds I saw were two Black-capped Kingfishers. Apart from a Taiga and Asian Brown I didn’t see any flycatcher species nor any phylloscopus warblers. I did see a number of Ashy Drongos, lots of Green-billed Malkohas and Indian Rollers. There were also a lot of drongos in the park including several Greater Ratchet-tailed, another species which falls into the “elusive” category.
However I was taking it easy as I had the additional weight of a scope, camera and tripod for the first time during recovery. I have to confess this was pushing it – my foot swelled up a bit and that tends to focus my mind a little! So I didn’t want to cover too much ground and kept to the good quality tracks. I also didn’t know where I was going! However the park is compact and it has a good variety of habitat. A plus is that there are plenty of interpretative boards with English language information.
Sri Nakorn Kuen Khan Park is undoubtedly a little gem of a place……check out what Nick Upton recorded there last April. I also believe it would be possible for more adventurous birders to get there by a local ferry crossing the main Chao Phaya river at Klong Toey, near Sukhumwit; this may not however be conducive with an early start. I believe bikes are for hire cheaply on the park side of the river and it could be made into an interesting day…….the signage indicated a Thai fighting fish museum nearby, if that takes your fancy! Visitors might also like the locale – it is very much real Thailand and the road in winds through a rather built up, congested market area bustling with people and lots of temples, positively Zolaesque, (Émile as opposed to Gianfranco!). There are few facilities in the park but with a bike or car food is nearby.
Bangkok really is an amazing place for birds! I’ll say that again: Bangkok is am amazing place for birds!