Gecko Villa offers a convenient base from which to explore the local woods, meadows, and fields, and in particular from which to explore the listed wetlands of Nong Han Kumphawapi. The lake and wetlands are easily accessed by bicycle (or car), and deeper excursions into the region may be made by small boat. Alternatively of course, Gecko Villa's rural location and extensive decks make it an excellent place in which to laze on one of the terraces with a pair of binoculars to observe the local bird life. Endangered species and migratory waterfowl will be of principal interest to bird watchers.
North East Thailand has to a large extent been unexplored in terms of its indigenous and migratory bird populations, although a number of rare and endangered species have been sighted in the region.
The wetlands of Nong Han Gumphawaphee, next to Gecko Villa, have at least 79 species of bird, including the endangered Haliastur indus (Brahminy kite)and Nettapus coromandelianus (cotton pygmy-goose). Other species include Ardea cinerea (grey heron), Ardea pupurea (purple heron) and Milvus migrans (black kite).
Location: the wetlands of Nong Han Kumphawapi stretch around 12.5 kilometres north of the town of Kumphawapi in Udon Thani Province. They cover an area of 4,100 hectares at an altitude of170 metres.
The wetlands of Nong Han Kumphawapi are an ideal location for bird watching, and consist of a freshwater lake of about 1,760 hectares, surrounded by approximately 2,360 hectares of marshland - which fringes the entire shoreline and extends back as far as 1.5 km. The map of the area shows that this constitutes one of the largest natural wetlands in the northeast part of the country. The lake extends for seven kilometres from north to south and three kilometres from east to west at its widest point. The lake is shallow (generally less than 1m deep) and permanent, with considerable seasonal fluctuations in water level.
The region enjoys a tropical monsoonal climate with an average annual rainfall of 1,367 mm, around 87% of which falls during the southwest monsoon (May to October). The mean annual temperature is 26.8 C. The main vegetation includes Scirpus grossus, Eichhornia crassipes, Nelumbo nucifera and many short grasses, whilst some patches of dry dipterocarp woodland remains, especially on the uplands. For an authoritative site on bird watching throughout Thailand, do visit Nick Upton's Thaibirding site or FatBirder's Thailand Birding page.
Rice paddies constitute an important and very extensive, seasonally inundated habitat for birds. The extent to which these areas can be utilized, however, depends upon the availability of undisturbed roosting and nesting sites, such as clumps of trees and permanent water bodies. Egrets and herons feed to a considerable extent in flooded paddies; cormorants utilize ditches around their margins, and the Asian Open-billed Stork Anastomus oscitans feeds both in flooded and dry paddies. Areas of hard, dry paddy stubble in the late dry season are utilized by huge numbers of nesting Oriental Pratincoles Glareola maldivarum.
The north eastern part of the country consists of a plateau, the Khorat Plateau, which was raised to its present elevation of 100-200m during a period of uplift in the Tertiary Epoch. The poor soils are derived from marine sands, clays and salt deposits. The entire area drains into the Mekong River, which forms the boundary between Thailand and its neighbours to the east. Thailand is a zoogeographic crossroads, supporting Indo-Burmese, Indo-Chinese and Sundaic elements in its lowland fauna, together with a Sino-Himalayan montane element. Migratory species from the Palearctic Realm comprise an important proportion of the country's avifauna; many such species are mainly or entirely dependent on wetlands.