This trip to Thailand was a stopover on the way back to the UK after 6 months backpacking in Australia and Fiji. The aim of the trip was to take it easy and cover just a few sites thoroughly and get an introduction to Asian birding rather than tearing around the country trying to see as much as possible.
I arrived at Bangkok from Melbourne in the very early morning and crashed out in a hotel in the middle of the city somewhere. Around midday I set off from the Hotel to head towards Khao Yai National Park. This was easily done with a bus from Mor Chit bus terminal to the town of Pak Chong, and then a songthaew up to the National Park entrance. After paying the entrance fee I hitch- hiked from the gates to Pha Kluai Mai campsite, arriving in the late afternoon. After getting the tent set up I birded around the campsite. This was quite productive with several Raddes Warblers and Red- throated Flycatchers within metres of the tent. The river behind the restaurant held Slaty-backed Forktail and Grey Wagtailand a Blue-bearded Bee-eater was perched up in dead tree next to the restaurant.
A dawn start was rewarded with a Coral-billed Ground-cuckoo feeding behind the restaurant along with several Red Junglefowl and an Orange-headed Thrush. A female Blue Rock-thrush sat up on top of the toilet block as I walked past onto the Pha Kluai Mai Waterfall trail. This was a very productive trail and highlights along the trail included Red-headed Trogon, Blue Whistling Thrush, Banded Kingfisher, Siberian Blue Robin, Green-billed Malkoha, Lesser necklaced Laughingthrush, Common Green Magpie, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Scaly-breasted Partridge, Ashy Minivet, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Mugimaki Flycatcher and Blue Winged Leafbird.
The area around the Haew Suwat restaurant at the end of this trail held another Orange Headed Thrush, Asian Brown Flycatcher, White-throated Rock Thrush, and a mixed Warbler flock containing Yellow-browed, Eastern-crowned, Arctic and Grey-crowned.
In the afternoon I hitched out along the access road from Pha Kluai Mai campsite to the TAT pond. The pond held Chinese Pond Heron and a Common Kingfisher, along with a Verditer Flycatcher perched high up in a dead tree. Walking along the road through the open ground between here and Mo Sing To Reservoir produced a pair of Indian Roller, a Besra, Grey Buchchat, Brown Shrike, a flushed Lesser Coucal, Richards Pipit, a small group of Plain Prinia, Ashy Woodswallow, and a pair of Red-wattled Lapwing.
After a quick look at the Coral-billed Ground-cuckoo behind the restaurant I stood next to a large fruiting tree on the road about 100m west of the campsite entrance. Over the course of an hour the tree held Great, Oriental pied and Wreathed Hornbills, along with a pair of Vernal Hanging Parrots and a Blue-eared Barbet.
I then hitched out to the HQ and walked out along Trail 6 towards the Wildlife Watchtower. This a very long and exhausting hike but provided some good birds in the form of White-crowned Forktail, White-browed Scimitar-babbler, Hill-blue Flycatcher, Rufous-throated Partridge, Greater Yellownape, Barred Cuckoo Dove and White-crested Laughingthrush. After emerging from the rainforest near to the Watchtower a Crested Serpent Eagle soared overhead and a Greater Coucal showed well. I hitched back to the HQ where a flock of Pin-tailed Parrotfinch were feeding in the seeding Bamboo.
I walked back up the hill to Mo Sing To reservoir where I took the track across the dam and went a short way up the hill into the woods. One flowering tree held Little Spiderhunter, Fire-bellied Flowerpecker and Chestnut-flanked White-eye. The open ground next to the reservoir held a Siberian Stonechat.
As dusk approached that evening, a Great-eared Nightjar flew over the campsite several times.
I spent all day travelling. I left KhaoYai at first light and hitched back to Pak Chong, then got a bus back to Mor Chit in Bangkok, then in the evening boarded the overnight bus to Chiang Mai.
Arrived in Chiang Main before dawn, then took a songthaew out to Jorm Tong, then another songthaew up to Doi Inthanon National Park HQ. After a quick look around I decided that my best bet for accommodation would be Mr. Deangs, a few hundred metres uphill from the HQ. Mr. Deang very kindly provided a free but basic room at the back of his restaurant.
After dumping my stuff I spent the rest of the morning birding the Hmong farm and woodlands over the road from Mr. Deangs. The farm held Grey and Pied Bushchat, a few Olive-backed Pipits, a leucopsis White Wagtail, Long-tailed Shrike, and several Red-rumped Swalllows and an Oriental Honey-buzzard soared overhead.
The woods at the back of the farm were alive with birds and I saw Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Eye-browed Thrush and Little Pied Flycatcher.
After lunch at Mr. Deangs I hitched up to the summit. By this time of the day the summit march walk was very crowded and birding wasn’t easy but I still saw the site specialities: Chestnut-tailed Minla, Dark-backed Sibia, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush and Mrs Goulds and Green-tailed Sunbirds.
Walking and hitching back down the mountain I saw Scarlet Minivet, Grey-throated Babbler, Flavescent Bulbuland Rufous bellied Niltava.
I managed to hitch an early morning lift to the summit with a pick-up truck full of Buddhist monks in the hope of avoiding the midday crowds. An Ashy Woodpigeon flew over the road next to the marsh, and the marsh itself held all the birds seen the day before along with several Common Rosefinch, Ashy-throated Warbler, White-browed Shortwing and Black-throated Sunbird. Whilst at the Summit I met Doug and Donna Witt and their friends Cathy and Larry, from California. They offered to provide my Accommodation and food, plus use of their car in exchange for guiding them over the next few days, an offer that I gratefully accepted. As the marsh walk was getting busy, we headed down the mountain to the 34.5km Jeep Track. It was getting hot so birding was difficult but we still got saw Chestnut-fronted Shrike-babbler, White-browed Fantail, Black-throated Sunbird and a fleeting glimpse of a Chestnut-vented Nuthatch.
A quick stop at Vatcharitan Falls on the way down the mountain failed to add White-capped Water-redstart but Plumbeous Water-redstart was nice.
A walk around the farmland near the Inthanon Highland Resort that evening was quite productive with Green Bee-eater, Rufous Treepie, Hill Prinia, Striated Swallow, Great Tit, Bronzed Drongo and Pied Bushchat.
This was one of the best days of the trip. We started off at the 37.5km Jeep Track. At first we really struggled and hardly sae any birds. A confiding Dark-sided Thrush and a small flock of Eye-browed Thrush kept the interest going until we finally bumped into a spectacular feeding wave that included Black-eared and White-browed Shrike-babblers, Yellow Cheeked Tit, White-browed and Yellow-bellied Fantails, Maroon Oriole and Slaty-bellied Tesia. I got a quick look at what was most probably a Brown-throated Treecreeper but it eluded the rest of the group.
After this we headed out along the road to Mae Chaem. A quick stop in the coniferous woodland produced a Grey-backed Shrike, Chinese Leaf-warbler and Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher. Once we got out into the dry woodland further down the mountain a short walk found a small group of leucotis Eurasian Jaysand a scanning from a convenient high point produced a pair Rufous-winged Buzzard.
We then headed back towards Doi Inthanon and went back downhill to the Dry woodland at the 13km. It was unbelievably hot, but a Coppersmith Barbet was still belting its heart out in the car park and a Black-hooded Oriole showed briefly just across the river from the car park. Walking up the hill onto the ridge trail Doug expertly picked out a tiny Collared Falconet perched up on the tip of dead tree. We were really struggling in the heat but carried on and soon enough were rewarded with a superb group of 3 Black-headed Woodpeckers.
We drove back up the hill for an evening at the HQ campsite, unfortunately the vegetation by the ponds had encroached to such a level that there was no sign of the Black-tailed Crake but we did see a Snowy-browed Flycatcher and an Asian Barred Owlet. I said my goodbyes to my American friends as they were leaving to Doi Angkang the next day and I returned to my room at Mr.Deang’s for the night.
After a little lie in I started walking up the mountain with no particular plan in mind. On the way up I saw Dusky and Hume’s Yellow-browed Warblers, White-headed Bulbul and White-browed Shrike-babbler next to the road. A short walk down the 34.5km track gave a pair of Rufous-backed Sibia, the 700th bird of the trip since leaving home in June 2006, and Short-billed Minivet. I hitched up to the 37.5km trail, which produced Eye-browed Wren-babbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler and another look at the Dark-sided Thrush.
After hitching back down to the HQ, an evening walk around Siriphum Waterfalls was excellent, as it was very quiet as the workers had finished for the day. Highlight was a stunning White-capped Water-redstart, along with Slaty-backed Forktail and Plumbeous Water-redstart. Walking back along the ‘nature trail’ added a pair of Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and an Orange-bellied Leafbird.
I managed a quick morning trip up to the 34.5km track before leaving. This was well worthwhile as I finally managed to pick out a Golden-throated Barbet for good views having been frustrated by their calls all week. Also seen were a Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Striated Bulbul and an Asian Emerald Cuckoo.
I was very lucky as I got a lift back to Chiang Mai with Mr. Deang who was going in anyway and caught the overnight bus back to Bangkok.
After arriving in Bangkok and finding a hotel, I took a taxi out to Muang Boran fishponds to the South-east of the city in the afternoon. By the time I arrived I didn’t have much time before the light started to go so concentrated on the first of the big ponds. This was very birdy and I wished I had more time to explore the site properly. Several Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and a pair of Sand Martins were hawking over the ponds, which held Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, White-browed Crake, Javan Pond-heron, Black-crowned Night Heron and a pair of Cinnamon Bitterns.
This was an interesting day exploring the public Transport of Bangkok, starting out with a Tuk-tuk to the southern train station, taking the train out to Samut Sakhorn and then a motorbike taxi out to Khok Kham Saltpans. Unfortunately, the legendary Mr. Tii was away for the day so my chances of connecting without transport and a scope were always going to be slim and unsurprisingly I failed. However a superb selection of commoner waders out on the pans was almost compensation. Star bird was a single Nordmanns Greenshank in a mixed flock of Greenshanks, Redshank and Marsh Sandpipers. Other good birds were Temminck’s and Long-toed Stint, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Brown-headed Gull, Yellow Wagtail and Little Ringed Plover.
I just had enough time to dash back to Bangkok, grab my stuff from the hotel and make the final call to board my flight back to the UK after almost 7 months abroad, of which these 11 days in Thailand were a big highlight, that has definitely whetted my appetite for the region.