It’s difficult to believe that any wild life can exist among Bangkok’s noxious atmosphere beyond a few sparrows, pigeons and cockroaches. But the City of Angels is home to an amazing number of bird species and many can be found alongside one of the main arteries, Phahonythin Road.
Alongside the more famous Chatuchak weekend market Suan Rot Fai, or Railway Park, is a northern version of Lumpinee Park. A few small acres of green where Bangkok’s residents can jog around the 3 kilometre track, lift weights or just stroll aimlessly among the well manicured lawns while a few metres away the rest of the city is snarled up in yet another traffic jam.
A lake dominates the park with paddle boats for hire. An oriental Serpentine. But round the lake a variety of trees and shrubs are home to a bustling eco system that does its best to survive in less than promising surroundings.
After five minutes of strolling round the track I had already seen five different types of bird including Tree Sparrows, Rock Pigeons, Olive-backed Sunbirds, Magpie Robin and Great-billed Crows. The sounds from the trees hinted at many more but these birds, less at ease in the company of humans, kept themselves hidden in the canopy while high above swifts circled the early morning skies.
Obviously binoculars would come in handy as well as patience. Birds for the most part are shy and wary of danger. And with good reason. One blogger spied a Reticulated Python curled up in one of the trees but it is unclear if it had been raised in the park or had escaped from the nearby Chatuchak Market where a brisk trade in endangered wildlife carries on apace.
I saw cuckoos, herons and doves but I heard plenty more. The sounds teased you to the tree and vainly you would scan the upper branches looking for some tell tale sign of feathered movement. Sometimes you would get lucky but often they remained just out of reach.
Not so the Tree Sparrow. These small birds coloured various shades of grey are unafraid of humans and collect confidently in small packs. They can be found all over Bangkok and their dullness and ubiquity can breed familiarity. Likewise the pigeons. But among the feral mongrels that hunt in pack it is possible to see the Rock Pigeon as well as Spotted Dove.
Magpie Robins are another that has little fear of man. About the same size as the Tree Sparrow but with a longer tail these black and white birds can often be seen at ground level and are a frequent sight in the park.
With the MRT right next to the park, Suan Rot Fai makes for an interesting early morning wander, with or without the birds. For a map and list of species that can be found in the park check out www.thaibirder.com.