MAE WONG NATIONAL PARK
|# Excl Vagrants:||316|
|# Near Endemics:||2|
|Habitat: Lowland forest, bamboo, secondary forest, montane evergreen forest|
ABOUT THE BIRDING
Mae Wong National Park is located in western Thailand. It's home to the rare Indochinese Tiger, where a population of about 300 individuals remains. The tigers are now seriously threatened by planned construction of a dam on the Mae Wong River, despite all efforts by World Wildlife Foundation and other groups to stop construction. Aside from this issue, the park offers excellent birding and is also the best place to see several rare species not readily seen elsewhere in Thailand, namely Rufous-necked Hornbill and Burmese Yuhina. Neither of these species are easily found. The yuhina is mainly near the summit of Mokoju Peak, which requires a 3-day trek to reach and is closed from July-September. The best time to see the hornbill is July-September near the end of wet season while trees are fruiting. Then flocks sometimes appear at Chong Yen and other higher elevation sites along the main road.
The lower section of the park offers excellent birding along the entrance road and around the headquarters area. A notable target bird there is Red-billed Blue-Magpie. A bit farther up the road to the lower campsite it's possible to see Crested Kingfisher, though must be lucky enough to be there when one flies by. Some fairly common birds around the lower campsite are Black-capped Kingfisher, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, and Blue Whistling-Thrush. The Waterfall Trail begins at this campsite and through about 8km of forest. It's a possible place for Coral-billed Scimitar-Babbler, along with various other forest species.
Beyond the checkpoint at the headquarters, the road winds uphill some 30km through dense lowland forest, then cleared forest, secondary growth, and grasslands. Possible species during winter include Ashy Minivet, Abbott's Babbler, and Brown-cheeked Fulvetta. The viewpoint at Km 16.5 offers excellent views across the valleys where one can sometimes see Rufous-necked Hornbill. Another specialty there is Large Scimitar-Babbler, which inhabits scrub around the viewpoint.
The upper Chong Yen campsite offers the best birding in the park. It's located 8km beyond the viewpoint, which is a good place for raptors soaring over the valley. The 4km of road before the campsite contains the most accessible evergreen forest and is worth walking several times over a few days. Possibilities include Mountain Imperial-Pigeon, Great Barbet, Golden-throated Barbet, Blue-throated Barbet, Bay Woodpecker, Gray-chinned Minivet, Gray Treepie, Flavescent Bulbul, Davison's Leaf-Warbler, Striated Yuhina, and Yunnan Fulvetta. A variety of other less common species are also possible. The Umphang Trail, which is the old road to Umphang, begins at the far end of the campsite. It's easy walking and a good place to find White-browed Piculet, Short-billed Minivet, Maroon Oriole, Yellow-bellied Fairy-Fantail, Mountain Tailorbird, Hill Prinia, and Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush. Also possible is Burmese Yuhina, though less frequent there than at the top of the mountain. When trees are in fruit, Chong Yen is the best place to find the prized for Rufous-necked Hornbill along with the more common Wreathed Hornbill.
The ranger station is located at the entrance to the campsite. In recent years rangers have set up several blinds for photographers and put out food to lure in difficult species such as Rufous-throated Partridge, Gray Peacock-Pheasant, Rusty-naped Pitta, and White-necked Laughingthrush, especially during dry season. The partly deforested hill behind the ranger station is a good place for Chestnut-headed Bee-eater and Stripe-breasted Woodpecker. A steep hill descending behind the ranger station can be good for understory species such as Rufous-throated Partridge and White-throated Fantail as well as several species of Laughingthrush.
It should be noted that biting flies are a very big nuisance around the Chong Yen campsite and ranger station at all times of year. The 'Koon' flies bore into one's skin to cause large wells and significant itching. The best defense is to wear long-sleeved shirts and keep bare skin to a minimum.
LOCATION OF SITE
Mae Wong National Park is located in western Thailand about 100km northwest of Nakhon Sawan. Driving time from Bangkok is about 3-4 hours. Driving time from Chiang Mai is about 5 hours.