|Home||Pre-trip diaries||Travelogue||Itinerary||Packing List||Birding||Miscellaneous||Links|
Thailand birding diary
Bill & Doreen Stair, January 16 - March 6, 2001
The continuing saga of our year-long, theoretically low budget, RTW birding trip. Apologies for the spottiness in these trip reports, but compiling them is coming a distant third to birding and the day-to-day travel survival stuff. Hopefully I'll flesh them out when we get back (a likely story). As for Thailand, it's hard to talk about without splashing superlatives all over the place, so let's just say we love it here and leave it at that. The birding is great too, although you do need to hire a car to get around some of the best places. Fortunately, the roads are good (for the most part) and driving here is nowhere near as suicidal an enterprise as it would be in India or Nepal.
Black-capped Babbler, Khao Nor Chuchi.
Lumpini Park, Bangkok
No sign of the Vinous-breasted Starling, but a mid-afternoon visit to this smallish city park yielded many birds that we didn't see much of elsewhere in Thailand. Asian Koel, Alexandrine Parakeet, Peaceful Dove, Little Egret, Large-billed Crow, Pied Fantail, Oriental Magpie Robin, Black-collared Starling, Common & White-vented Myna, Streak-eared Bulbul, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Olive-backed Sunbird, Eurasian Tree Sparrow.
1/20/01 - 1/23/01
Khao Yai National Park
If we had known Thailand better, we would have hired a car for this park, but we had a great time here nonetheless. We stayed at the reasonably priced Khao Yai Garden Lodge, where the only drawback was the long drive to and from the park everyday. (The campsites inside the park looked good, and were well serviced with restaurants and snack stores. The availability of accommodation inside the park is still a subject of some debate). The Garden Lodge hires out a bird guide and driver by the day - the more people you can drag along, the cheaper it is. The guide, Nang, has excellent knowledge of where to find the birds, and is genuinely enthusiastic about birdwatching. She's only been leading tours for a couple of years, and doesn't yet have good enough optics to get into the heavy-duty species like Phylloscopus, but is already a very good guide.
On the train from Bangkok, we saw plenty of Indian Rollers, Little Egrets, Barn Swallows, Eurasian Collared Doves and Asian Openbills. The grounds of the Garden Lodge have Green-billed Malkohas crashing around, and in the fields next door we found Plain-backed Sparrows. On the afternoon we arrived we mistakenly signed up for their general nature tour, (we stupidly forgot that we'd been given Nang's name back in Nepal by someone who'd just stayed at the lodge), and while waiting for the millions of wrinkle-lipped bats to fly out of their cave, we spied a Hainan Blue Flycatcher. When the bats did fly out - quite an amazing sight - a Peregrine swooped amongst them, searching for an evening meal. Other birds seen today.
In Khao Yai, (over the course of three days and with Nang's help) we managed to see: Red Junglefowl, Laced Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Common Flameback, Green-eared & Moustached Barbets, Oriental Pied & Great Hornbills, Red-headed & Orange-breasted Trogons, Chestnut-headed & Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, Banded Kingfisher, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Green-billed Malkoha, Greater & Lesser Coucals, Indian Roller, Spotted Owlet, Red-breasted Parakeet, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Asian Palm Swift, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Spotted & Emerald Doves, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Shikra, Red-wattled Lapwing, Little & Chinese Pond Herons, Long-tailed Broadbill, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Golden-fronted & Blue-winged Leafbirds, Ashy & Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos, Green Magpie, Large-billed Crow, Black-naped Oriole, Black-winged & Large Cuckooshrikes, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrikes, Rosy, Scarlet & Ashy Minivets, Black-naped Monarch, Verditer Flycatcher, White-rumped Shama, Slaty-backed Forktail, Black-collared Starling, Hill Myna, Sultan Tit, Barn Swallow, Red-whiskered, Black-crested, Ashy, Grey-eyed, Stripe-throated, Puff-throated, & Black-headed Bulbuls, Plain Prinia, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Oriental & Chestnut-flanked White-eyes, White-crested & Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, Striped Tit-Babbler, White-bellied Yuhina, Olive-backed & Ruby-cheeked Sunbirds.
1/30/01 - 1/31/01
Khao Sam Roi Yot
In Hua Hin we hired a car for Khao Sam Roi Yot and Kaeng Krachan - it would be very hard to bird either of them without your own transport. Khao Sam Roi Yot was a bit of a disappointment after Khao Yai - the mountain scenery is impressive, but the park isn't much more than a road that passes a few hundred shrimp farms.
The staff were quite helpful, the simple park cabins were clean and cheap (300 baht), and there was a restaurant at the HQ (it closes early, though, so watch out). If you have time, it's worth a visit - we were very happy to see the Malaysian Plover on one of the beaches - but, for us, the birding wasn't as good as in the other Thai parks we visited. (You might have batter luck, who knows?)
Birds seen at Khao Sam Roi Yot: Red Junglefowl, Coppersmith Barbet, Green Bee-eater, White-throated, Black-capped & Collared Kingfishers, Lesser Coucal, Green-billed Malkoha, Indian Roller, Hoopoe, Asian Palm Swift, Spotted & Peaceful Doves, White-breasted Waterhen, Eurasian Curlew, Common Greenshank, Wood & Common Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilt, Little-ringed, Pacific Golden & Malaysian Plovers, Red-wattled Lapwing, Shikra, Little, Intermediate, Great & Cattle Egrets, Purple, Grey, & Chinese pond Herons, Little Cormorant, Brown Shrike, Black & Ashy Drongos, Large-billed Crow, Common Iora, Pied Fantail, Red-throated Flycatcher, Oriental Magpie Robin, Stonechat, Asian Pied Starling, Common & White-vented Myna, Barn Swallow, Streak-eared, Yellow-vented & Sooty-headed Bulbuls, Plain Prinia, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Purple Sunbird, Yellow & Grey Wagtails, Eurasian Tree & Plain-backed Sparrows, Scaly-breasted Munia.
This park is great, although you definitely need a car, possibly four-wheel drive. We didn't even get to bird the higher altitudes because the road gets very rough, going over some steep-banked streams, and we were leery of destroying our rental car. Still, even though we missed out on some higher-altitude specialties, the birding was excellent throughout. The fig tree by the elephant salt-lick would attract dozens of hornbills every evening.
The park's organization leaves a little to be desired - the HQ is a long way from the park entrance, and we had to go there every morning to pay the entrance fee, wasting a considerable amount of time (it may be possible to buy weekly passes, but if so, we couldn't figure out how). The best bet would be to camp, but you'd have to bring in all your food and water - there aren't really any services here, although the campsites looked OK (The only real stores are a few kilometers before the HQ).
The brand-new park accommodations are excellent, if a little far from the entrance - two rooms with A/C were only 500 baht per night, and there was a very cheap restaurant next door. Plus, you have a nice view of the lake and Racket-tailed Treepies flitting around outside your bungalow. (The Ratchet-tailed are much harder to come by, however). To get there, head for the military base instead of the park entrance once you've paid admission. They also have cheaper dorm-style accommodation.
Birds seen at Kaeng Krachan: Red Junglefowl, Rufous Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Coppersmith, Green-eared & Blue-eared Barbets, Oriental Pied & Great Hornbills, Chestnut-headed & Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, White-throated Kingfisher, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, Green-billed & Chestnut-breasted Malkohas, Asian Koel, Greater Coucal, Orange-breasted Trogon, Indian Roller, Dollarbird, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Crested, Whiskered & Grey-rumped Treeswifts, Osprey, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Shikra, Emerald & Spotted Doves, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, White-breasted Waterhen, Red-wattled Lapwing, Cattle & Little Egrets, Chinese Pond Heron, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Blue-winged Leafbird, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Spangled, Ashy, Greater Racket-tailed & Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos, Large-billed Crow, Green Magpie, Racket-tailed Treepie, Black-naped Oriole, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Common Iora, Scarlet Minivet, Black-naped Monarch, Blue Rock Thrush, White-rumped Shama, Oriental Magpie Robin, Black-collared Starling, Common, White-vented & Golden-crested Mynas, Sultan Tit, Barn Swallow, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Stripe-throated, Black-headed, Black-crested, Puff-throated, Grey-eyed, Ochraceous & Buff-vented Bulbuls, Plain & Rufescent Prinias, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Rufous-fronted & Spot-necked Babblers, Striped Tit-Babbler, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Purple, Ruby-cheeked & Olive-backed Sunbirds.
2/13/01 - 2/18/01
This is a great park, but for some reason the park staff are very unwilling to rent out the park bungalows - perhaps because they're quite grotty and considerably overpriced. (See Doreen's Thailand diary for the full story). Camping is a better option, but if that's not your speed (and it's not ours) the Little Home Guest House, located just before the main entrance, is a good option - clean and cheap. And, once again, a car is almost a necessity when birding this park. (We rented ours in Chiang Mai, about ninety minutes away).
The log-book at Mr. Deang's cafe is full of useful information (as is Mr. Deang himself), and there are tons of other birders around to compare notes with. Our favorite spots were the trail uphill at km 13 (Black-headed Woodpecker and Chinese Francolin), the jeep track at km 37.5 (Purple Cochoa) and ,of course, the boardwalk at the summit, where the Rufous-throated partridges are just one of the amazing species on show. You can also see many great birds just by the roadside - we saw a White-headed Bulbul on top of a flowering tree on our first afternoon there.
Birds seen at Doi Inthanon: Rufous-throated Partridge, Chinese Francolin, White-bellied & Black-headed Woodpeckers, Lineated & Golden-throated Barbets, Indian Roller, House Swift, Collared Falconet, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Grey-backed Shrike, Eurasian Jay, Green Magpie, Large Cuckooshrike, Ashy & Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos, Yellow-bellied Fantail, Rosy Minivet, Black-naped Monarch, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Purple Cochoa, Dark-sided Thrush, Blue Whistling Thrush, Grey-headed Canary, Verditer, Red-throated & Snowy-browed Flycatchers, Large Niltava, White-browed Shortwing, Oriental Magpie Robin, White-crowned Water Redstart, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Pied & Grey Bushchats, Brown-throated Treecreeper, Chestnut-bellied & Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Black-crested, Red-whiskered, Sooty-headed, Puff-throated, Mountain, White-headed & Flavescent Bulbuls, Chestnut-crowned, Ashy-throated & Buff-barred Warblers (among many others), Hill Prinia, Oriental & Chestnut-flanked White-eyes, White-crested & Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, White-bellied Yuhina, Pygmy Wren-Babbler, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Silver-eared Mesia, Rufous-winged & Grey-cheeked Fulvettas, Spectacled Barwing, Dark-backed Sibia, Rufous-backed Sibia, Green-tailed, Black-throated, & Mrs. Gould's Sunbirds, Grey Wagtail.
2/20/01 - 2/26/01
This park has some great birds, and you don't need to rent a car - but the best reason to go is so you can stay at Malee's and enjoy her great food and wonderful personality. Get a bus from Chiang Mai to the town of Chiang Dao, and then get a songthaew driver to take you to Malee's - everyone in town knows Malee's. At Malee's you can consult the log-book and walk to several nearby birding sites, or Malee will arrange for a truck to drive you to the summit where you can look for the Giant Nuthatch and Hume's Pheasant. On the way to the temple, watch out for the Radski Warblers - are they Radde's or Dusky? We'll have to go back to check.
Birds seen around Chiang Dao: Great & Blue-throated Barbets, Emerald & Spotted Doves, Himalayan Swiftlet, Green-billed Malkoha, Greater Coucal, Hoopoe, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Asian Barred Owlet, Crested Serpent Eagle, Shikra, Oriental Honey-Buzzard, Grey-backed Shrike, Striated Swallow, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Blue-winged & Orange-bellied Leafbirds, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Long-tailed Broadbill, Large Woodshrike, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Scarlet & Short-billed Minivets, Common Iora, White-throated Fantail, Oriental Magpie Robin, Verditer, Grey-headed Canary & Hill Blue & Sapphire Flycatchers, White-rumped Shama, Dark-sided Thrush, Siberian Blue Robin, Pied Bushchat, Black-naped Monarch, White-crowned Forktail, Stripe-throated, Black-headed, Black-crested, Red-whiskered, Black, Flavescent, Sooty-headed & Puff-throated Bulbuls, Bronzed, Ashy, Black & Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Great Tit, Velvet-fronted & Giant Nuthatches, Greenish, Grey-crowned Warbler, Asian Stubtail, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Japanese White-eye, Rufescent Prinia, Rufous-fronted, Puff-throated, Grey-throated & White-hooded Babblers, Streaked Wren-Babbler, Striped Tit-Babbler, White-crested & Black-throated Laughingthrushes, White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Striated Yuhina, Thick-billed & Plain Flowerpeckers, Black-throated Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter, Grey Wagtail (breeding plumage), Scaly-bellied Munia, Chestnut Bunting
4/4/01 - 4/6/01
Back in Thailand after a few weeks in Vietnam, we headed down to Krabi. As recommended by Wheatley, we booked a boat trip with Mr. Dai through the Chan Pen cafe, but when we showed up the next morning we were told that he was at the doctor's. We subsequently found out that we'd been bumped by another party. We also found out that confusion can be avoided - and money saved - by booking Mr. Dai Directly. (If you ask around the dock, you can find him eventually.) The next day we went out with him twice, splitting the costs with a couple of English birders. In the morning we had great views of three Mangrove Pittas calling, and in the afternoon we were able to watch one foraging from a distance of only a few feet. The pittas didn't seem very interested in either Mr.Dai's calls, or the English tapes, and it seems that we were quite lucky to see four of them. No sign of the Masked Finfoot, which has barely been seen this year.
In Krabi we met up with Nigel and Donna Crook, who we'd met in Chiang Dao. We had a great time birding with them, as well as keeping the Beer Chang corporation in business, and were very grateful for their shared expertise. They had met a boatman named Adam, and we hired him to take us looking for waders and also for another look at the mangroves. He doesn't have Mr. Dai's specialized knowledge of birding locations, but if you have an idea of where you want to go he's a lot cheaper.
Birds seen around Krabi: Common Flameback, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Collared, Ruddy & Brown-winged Kingfishers, Spotted Dove, Dollarbird, White-breasted Waterhen, Slaty-breasted Rail, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Brahminy Kite, House Swift, Grey-backed Treeswift, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Common & Nordmann's Greenshank, Terek & Common Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstone, Great Knot, Sanderling, Red-necked Stint, Lesser Sand, Kentish, Pacific Golden & Black-bellied Plovers, Little & Great Crested Terns, Striated Heron, Great, Little, Chinese & Pacific Reef Egrets, Chinese & Javan Pond Herons, Mangrove Pitta, Dark-necked & Ashy Tailorbirds, Common Iora, Oriental Magpie Robin, Asian Glossy Starling, Pacific & Striated (badia) Swallows, Dusky Crag Martin, Common Myna, Eurasian Tree Sparrow.
4/7/01 - 4/9/01
Khao Nor Chuchi
We hired a car in Krabi and drove down to the Merikot resort with Nigel and Donna. We decided not to hire the famous former warden who will show you Gurney's Pitta (for a price), and so managed to miss seeing it all by ourselves. There are, however, many other great birds to be seen - we would have liked to have spent several more days there, but did manage to see a few good ones nonetheless.
Birds seen at Khao Nor Chuchi: Blue-eared Kingfisher, Brown Hawk Owl, Grey-backed Treeswift, Crested Serpent Eagle, Rufous-winged Philentoma, Black-headed, Ochraceous, Stripe-throated, Yellow-vented, Hairy-backed, Yellow-bellied & Cream-vented Bulbuls, Rufescent Prinia, Arctic Warbler, Striped Tit-Babbler, Pin-tailed Parrotfinch, Black-capped Babbler, Scarlet-backed & Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers, Purple-throated Sunbird, Thick-billed Spiderhunter, White-bellied Munia.