This trip report to the Khao Kho area of Petchabun Thailand is split into two parts. 1. Thung Salaeng Luang National Park, covering park HQ and campsite(outside the park) 2. Sri Dit Waterfall.
I completed the trip on 5th February 2018 on my own, with two main purposes. Firstly I wanted to see if I could find and photograph any woodpeckers in the pine forest at Thung Salaeng Luang as they are often present around the camp ground and secondly I wanted to check out the potential of Sri Dit waterfall as a birding spot on a quiet weekday, since it is a popular venue with Thai tourists at weekends.
Thung Salaeng Luang National Park HQ
Thung Salaeng Luang National Park can be entered from the SE(Phetchabun province) and NE(Phitsanulok province). I have never actually photographed inside the park(entrance fee 500 ฿) where the habitat is largely savannah. However the approach road and campgrounds at the Phetchabun entrance can be productive for birds particularly my target, woodpeckers. This area is rich in pine forests and other mature trees.
I arrived on site about 10.30 am and was disappointed to find several campers still about, usually there are none in the week. I then spent about two hours moving around the area and sitting in the numerous Thai sala(shelters) dotted about the campsite edge facing the forest. Birding was quite slow with nothing really interesting showing, notably no woodpeckers. However the area hosts a decent population of Greater Racket Tailed Drongo(winter visitor) which are quite tolerant of human approach. I also saw, a solitary Black-naped Oriole, a couple of White Crested Laughing Thrush and some Grey-eyed Bulbuls. A full list of species seen can be viewed on this e-Bird checklist.
Sri Dit Waterfall Khao Kho Petchabun
After a leisurely lunch in the cool pine forest I headed off to my second target area for the day. Sri Dit waterfall is a beautiful location that is easy to access with ample parking. This makes it extremely popular at weekends, less so on a week day. It is quite a compact area being about 600m from car park to waterfall. There are lots of mature trees flanking the open areas around the waterfall while the feeder stream is flanked by bamboo and other low vegetation.
There are also several shops that serve food/drink along with local produce from the area.
I had previously seen a group the fairly uncommon Ashy-headed Green Pigeon when visiting with friends(non-birding) so I was hoping for some more of the same and perhaps something else of interest. Well as it panned out again I found birds quite scarce although my adrenaline rushed when I thought I heard a Bamboo Woodpecker off to the side of the trail. I could clearly hear the bird but never saw it.
Not a totally worthless trip mind as a group of around 10 Asian-fairy Bluebird’s provided a splash of colour and a noisy interlude high up in a fruiting tree. Other lower fruit bearing trees also provided opportunities to view a host of Black-crested Bulbuls and some Grey-eyed ones too. A solitary Grey Wagtail was spotted in the shallows. While a lone Mountain Imperial Pigeon ghosted by overhead.
A full list of the birds are saw can be viewed on this e-Bird checklist.
Summary Trip Report-Khao Kho Petchabun Thailand
A pleasant day in the West Phetchabun Mountains was a bit disappointing from both a photographic and birding standpoint. Both areas are quite challenging when it comes to taking photographs since they are heavily shaded. Add to that a cloudy day at times and I got very few keepers!
I still believe these areas have good potential for birds given the habitat, but tourists/visitors and parks staff do add to the challenge by making a lot of noise. Quite why National Park staff need to ride everywhere on loud motorcycles is beyond me!
Directions to Khao Kho Petchabun Thailand
The Khao Kho area of Phetchabun is accessible from both the South(Phetchabun City) and North(Loei and Pitsanulok Provinces). If you click on “map” feature on the e-bird checklists (above)you can see where I visited, the surrounding area, plus access roads & easily plan a trip.