Don’t melt down at home, Bangkok. Not when these nearby nature hotspots call! (Photos)

All photos Coke Smith

I can’t be the only one to go a bit stir crazy when too much time has been spent indoors and, more often than not, behind a computer screen. During these trying times, an escape outdoors and into nature, even for just a little bit, is good for the soul.

So, I recently took a jaunt with my family to two very local destinations, both less than an hour from Bangkok city center, where a wide variety of wildlife can be enjoyed under a wide sky.

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

These activities pose virtually no risk of contact with infected areas, and social-distancing is easy to achieve in the middle of a rice field or mudflat. Now is a good time to take such a trip while there are no restrictions on interprovincial travel.

My first recommendation for an outstanding wildlife experience in the greater Bangkok metropolitan area is just north in Pathum Thani.

The Rice Research Center

The Rice Research Center consists of a vast mosaic of rice fields covering at least a couple thousand rai of land. Each of the fields is in differing stages of production from empty, fallow paddies to fully mature rice crops of various strains. These fields attract many birds and are good for different species of difficult-to-see rarities such as Greater Painted Snipes and Watercocks. The center is open to the public, and it is common to see other bird watchers and wildlife photographers there as well as joggers, bicyclists and people just enjoying a lovely late afternoon in the spectacular fields. Here’s what you can see:

Asian Golden Weavers are native to the Golden Triangle and known for their distinctive ... CHECK OUT THESE WINGS!
Asian Golden Weavers are native to the Golden Triangle and known for their distinctive … CHECK OUT THESE WINGS!
Asian Golden Weaver auditioning for a 10th-century Chinese painting.
Asian Golden Weaver auditioning for a 10th-century Chinese painting.
Actually, this Watercock IS just happy to see you.
Actually, this Watercock IS just happy to see you.
Right back at you, Greater Painted-Snipe.
Right back at you, Greater Painted-Snipe.
Just a snipe out sniping for other Greater Painted-Snipes.
Just a snipe out sniping for other Greater Painted-Snipes.
The legs of the Marsh sandpiper, aka Tringa stagnatilis, evolved over centuries to make for amazing sunset photos.
The legs of the Marsh Sandpiper, aka Tringa stagnatilis, evolved over centuries to make for dramatic sunset photos.
Africa. Europe. East Asia. We're Purple Herons. We'll wade pretty much anywhere.
Africa. Europe. East Asia. We’re Purple Herons. We’ll wade pretty much anywhere.
Enough bird puns, from heron out just call me a Javan pond heron or Ardeola speciosa if you're fancy.
Enough bird puns, from heron out just call me a Javan pond heron or Ardeola speciosa, if you’re fancy.

 

Salt Pans and Mudflats? Oh, heck yes.

My next one- or possibly half-day destination is just east of town in the southern part of Chachoengsao province. Ideally a mid-winter destination for the tens of thousands of migratory waders and shorebirds found then, the locale is still excellent at this time of the year for catching a few stragglers in their spectacular breeding plumage. Here you can spot birds like Lesser Sand Plovers and Common Redshanks in the salt pans courting each other and loads of other species searching for a meal in the coastal mudflats. This is a very hot location with little shade, so it is best to come prepared with lots of water, a hat and sunscreen. This location is a rarely visited gem that can be easily accessed on a trip to Pattaya – it is right off the tollway!

Seen one kingfisher, seen'em all, they say. Not until you get a load of me, the Black-capped kingfisher.
Seen one kingfisher, seen’em all, they say. Not until you get a load of me, the Black-capped kingfisher.
Why do they have to call us Lesser Sand Plovers? I've seen the 'Greaters.' They're not all that.
Why do they have to call us Lesser Sand Plovers? I’ve seen the ‘Greaters.’ They’re not all that.
I think you should see a doctor about that, the Painted Stork told the other.
I think you should see a doctor about that, one Painted Stork told the other.
Again, not a stork. Pelican. Spotted Bill, they call me.
Again, not a stork. Pelican. Spotted Bill, they call me.

 

 

Coke Smith is the Environmental Science Leader at Bangkok Patana School and is an avid wildlife and nature photographer.  Coke’s wildlife photography has been published in many books and magazines and showcased on BBC Planet Earth and Nat Geo Science. He welcomes inquiries at cosm@patana.ac.th.

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