Bangkok’s fantastic beasts and where to find them (Photos)

From left, a black-winged stilt, in Bangkok’s Lat Krabang Wetlands, a smooth-coated otter in the Baan Khlong Suan area and an Asian Emerald Cuckoo spotted in the Rama IX Park. Photos: Coke Smith
From left, a black-winged stilt, in Bangkok’s Lat Krabang Wetlands, a smooth-coated otter in the Baan Khlong Suan area and an Asian Emerald Cuckoo spotted in the Rama IX Park. Photos: Coke Smith

TOP: From left, a black-winged stilt, in Bangkok’s Lat Krabang Wetlands, a smooth-coated otter in the Baan Khlong Suan area and an Asian Emerald Cuckoo spotted in the Rama IX Park. Photos: Coke Smith

Cuckoos the color of oxidized copper? Families of otters cavorting in urban waterways? Right here in Bangkok?

While this era of COVID-19 has spoiled plans for epic “nature expeditions” to far-off, exotic places, that’s made it a great time to experience the great outdoors right here in the capital. With that in mind, here are three awesome local escapes to find nature and view wildlife in urban or semi-urban conditions.

All photos by Coke Smith

South Bangkok Shrimp Farms

This area of Bangkok is famous for its awesome seafood restaurants and mangrove- and nepa palm-lined khlongs. This rarely visited part of town can be easily accessed in less than an hour by car from most locations.  Bird-watching is great in the area for egrets and herons, but the main attraction for this wildlife enthusiast are the otters.  Many are surprised to find numerous families of smooth-coated otters.  How on earth could such a magnificent carnivore prosper in a polluted urban water system?  Somehow they do.  On a good day, one can see them at play, especially now that there’s a designated viewing area. I’d put the odds at 50-50, which is pretty high considering most people can live their entire lives around otters and never see them.

Not just an egret but a Great Egret, aka Casmerodius albus
Smooth-coated otter, aka Lutrogale perspicillata perspicullata, just chilling.
Smooth-coated otter, aka Lutrogale perspicillata perspicullata, just chilling.

Get out into the wetlands around the location below but be prepared for some off-roading.

Rama IX Park

Located just behind Paradise Mall and Seacon Square on Srinakarin Road, the Rama IX Park has hundreds of rai of beautifully manicured gardens with accessible trails and spectacular views. It’s a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of busy Bangkok, right next door.  

What many folks don’t know about Rama IX is that it is a major stopping off point for many migratory forest birds.  On any given day one can find dozens of local nature photographers and birdwatchers out focusing on the many rarities that pass through while migrating.  Beautiful species such as Emerald Green and Violet cuckoos can be seen this time of the year.  Rama IX Park is open 5am to 7pm daily.

Asian Emerald Green Cuckoo, aka Chrysococcyx maculatus
Violet Cuckoo, aka Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus
Violet Cuckoo, aka Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus
Large Hawk-cuckoo, aka Hierococcyx sparveroides

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Lat Krabang Wetlands

Just east of town beyond Suvarnabhumi Airport is an area famous with birders – the Lat Krabang Wetlands.  On a good day, one can see nearly 100 species of birds throughout the winter months.  This is a great spot to get fantastic views of many species of egrets and herons, as well as countless waders and grassland birds.  This location gives a glimpse of the immense biodiversity that can still be found here in the greater Bangkok area.  Sadly though, it’s also being developed incredibly fast and will soon be a thing of the past, unless government intervention can stop or slow the destruction of these vital wetlands.

Bluethroat, aka Luscinia svecica
Common snipe, Gallinago gallinago, with a water cock in background
Black-winged stilt, aka Himantopus himantopus

Wild Encounter Thailand arranges otter-sighting trips, or people can try their luck along the canal in the area below.

 

Coke Smith is environmental science leader at Bangkok Patana School and an avid nature photographer.  Coke has published his wildlife images in books and magazines over the years and has been included in publications by BBC Planet Earth and Nat Geo Science.

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