Birds and Planes at Suvarnabhumi

There’s a popular spot for birding near the airport in Lat Krabang district of Bangkok. I decided to try it, equipped with low expectations. Birding can be hard enough by itself, when you are completely new to a place it adds another element of difficulty. Due to the wetland and scrubby habitat there are plenty of Acrocephalus warblers here. I’m still unable to identify any of them by ear, so low expectations were a requirement.

Bronzed-winged Jacana molting into adult plumage. 12th February 2022

Due to the nature of it being a new spot, the road being a mud-bath, plentiful disturbance and a bunch of other things I won’t go into, I was out of here relatively quickly. The highlights were Red-rumped Swallow, Pied Harrier, Spot-billed Pelican, Pink-necked Green-Pigeon and a bunch of warbler sounds from the tangled undergrowth.

Spot-billed Pelican with Painted Stork. 12th February 2022.

Cutting the visit shorter than expected, I stopped off at Suvarnabhumi airport. Years ago, I didn’t go there seeking birds but still managed to encounter interesting species. My favourite being a very approachable Long-tailed Shrike from 2019.

Long-tailed Shrike at the airport. 20th November 2019.

The area of the airport is humungous but I still have some general knowledge knocking around from the times we used to frequent the airport to go cycling at the skylane. Coming down the main-road I could see the usual sight of Black-winged Stilts in the concrete ditches, I couldn’t stop to check for other birds as the road wouldn’t allow it.

I found a quieter road, where there were Bronze-winged Jacanas, Gray heron, Purple heron, Asian Golden Weaver. Not much further I found a quieter spot to park beside what I’d refer to as Suvarnabhumi’s moat. I noticed lots of birds nesting or gathering nest materials. Red-collared Doves were in their nest, Asian Pied Starling was gathering nesting materials at both sites today and I saw a pair of Plain-backed Sparrows perched outside their nesting hole.

Female Plain-backed Sparrow emerging from their nest. 12th February 2022.
Male and female Plain-backed Sparrow couple. 12th February 2022.

I continued around the airport, along the long stretch used as a drag-strip by motorcycles. Parking at a quiet spot where I previously saw the Long-tailed Shrike. Today it hosted only a Brown Shrike and Paddyfield Pipits. It wasn’t long until I was issued an order to move the parked car. It’s kinda funny they police such things like this but don’t bother with bikes pelting down the straight at 200+ km/h.

By now there was a serious storm brewing, I headed to the skylane area. The shrine outside allows half-access to a nice little green area. I was shocked to see a Freckle-breasted Woodpecker fly over to a nearby tree. As the skies turned ever darker, a Black-winged Kite flew by stirring up the pigeons.

Male Freckle-breasted Woodpecker. 12th February 2022.
Perching in typical Woodpecker fashion. 12th February 2022.

Feeling uplifted by these encounters, I decided to enter the skylane area. I could walk around the walking/running path where there’s a forested area. The same area the Woodpecker flew out of. I’m aware they don’t allow photography on the main cycling track but I thought it would be okay outside of the track. I walked in, holding my huge lens, they didn’t mind, I even obliged when ordered to put the mask on my face in this open-air facility. Minutes later and a few metres in, a Barn Swallow landed on a bike rack.

I don’t think I’ll top this Barn Swallow photo. 12th February 2022.

Suddenly the encounter was cut short by a loud whistling sound. The guard came over, the same one that let me in at the gate, telling me no cameras in any area of the Happy and healthy bike lane facility. Rules are rules but it was rather pathetic. I was walked out for partaking in this illegal activity, of wildlife photography and documenting the lively bird life in the area.

The looming dark clouds gave way to heavy rain as I hightailed out of this godforsaken, at least for birding, place. A fitting ending to a turbulent sessions of birding around the airport.

All images © 2019 – 2022 hamsambly


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