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CHIANG SAEN AREA, MEKONG RIVER

green-slate

THAILAND
LOCALE

Altitude (m):550-630
# Species*:245
# Excl Vagrants*:245
# Endemics*:0
# Near Endemics*:0
*Based on partial or incomplete data.
Habitat: Lakeside, river edge, scrub, farmland

ABOUT THE BIRDING

Chiang Saen is a small town in northeast Thailand situated near the Mekong River in the "Golden Triangle" bordering Laos and Myanmar. Several birding sites near the town are of interest, namely the Mekong River itself and Chiang Saen Lake. The only protected area is the small Nong Bong Khai non-hunting area at the northeastern corner of the lake. The main attraction is waterfowl wintering in the area. It's also a place where rarities show up on occasion. In recent years the area has declined significantly due to conversion of scrubland to agriculture and major dredging operations plus development of general tourism attractions.

Wintering waterfowl numbers have dwindled but the lake is still a good place to see Indian Spot-billed Duck and Common Pochard along with other widely distributed ducks. Interesting species can be found along the Mekong River for those knowing where to look, including River Lapwing, Long-billed Plover, Small Pratincole, Jerdon's Bushchat, and Black-faced Bunting. Several first records for Thailand have been recorded in the area over the years, namely Graylag Goose, Bar-headed Goose, Common Crane, and Australasian Grass-Owl.

The eastern and southern sections of Chaing Saen Lake should be birded in early morning. A boardwalk and short loop trail as well as surrounding trees in the non-hunting area in the northeast can yield up interesting species such as Purple Sunbird and Burmese Shrike. Along the lakeshore Lotus beds are good for crakes, possibly Cinnamon Bittern, sometimes Freckle-breasted Woodpecker and Racquet-tailed Treepie, and various wintering migrants. The eastern side of the lake offers some good vantage points for seeing wintering waterfowl. Some taller trees are good for wintering migrants. Access to the northern shore of the lake is through the non-hunting area or ever-changing back roads. Scrub and swampy vegetation can be good for bitterns, Chinese Francolin, Long-tailed Shrike, Striated Grassbird, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Plain Prinia, and other species.

The Mekong River can be birded anywhere north or south of town where one can find access. Small Pratincoles still nest on sandbars despite constant nest depredation by locals. Until recently, River Lapwing could be reliably found, but it's increasingly difficult now. The most likely place for the rare Jerdon's Bushchat is in scrub or farmland 20 or more kilometers south of town toward Chiang Khong.

LOCATION OF SITE

Chiang Saen is located in northeast Thailand near the Laos border. It's about 875km from Bangkok with driving time of about 11½ hours.