Location and logistics
Mae Hong Son is Thailand’s most north westerly province, bordering Myanmar. The province still has roughly 70% forest cover, and has many ethnic minority groups (“hill tribes”) amongst it’s population.
Following several friends’ and colleagues recommendations to visit Mae Hong Son, I finally went in March 2005 for a short trip, and realising what a fantastic part of the country it is, I returned in December 2005 for another short trip.
Travel to Mae Hong Son town is straight forward - you can fly from Chiang Mai for about 3,000 Baht return with Thai Airways, the flight takes about 25 minutes…the alternative is to drive (this takes about 6 hours).
I stayed at the Fern Resort http://www.fernresort.info/index.asp about 7km out of Mae Hong Son town, rooms vary in price depending on the season, but start at about 1,300 Baht. The advantage of the Fern Resort is that it is right by the entrance gate to Nam Tok Mae Surin National Park, on the only road through the Park and is surrounded by deciduous forest, and has a good selection of birds which specialise in this habitat (most notably White-rumped Falcon). The road through the National Park requires a 4WD and I hired a Suzuki Caribian through the Fern Resort for 1000 Baht per day (you can pick them up for about 700 baht p.d. in Chiang Mai, but then you have to endure the 6 hr drive!).
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
Seen once in December, along the road between the National Park gate and Fern Resort.
Seen once in March, in area where the metalled road turns to dirt track.
Seen once in March, along the road between Fern Resort and the National Park gate.
Banded Bay Cuckoo
One singing in secondary growth between the Fern Resort and the National Park gate, in December.
A noisy flock seen in December on the edge of agricultural land where the Fern Resort nature trail meets the road through the National Park.
Three birds (1m, 2f) seen in fruiting trees near the National Park gate, in December.
A pair seen once in March, along the National Park road.
Seen once in March, from Fern Resort nature trail (circling over adjacent hillside).
In December a pair (the female seen well at close range for 2 minutes) at 750m a.s.l on the road through the national park (approaching the viewpoint). What was thought to be another W-r F was heard calling close to the National Park gate (go through gate, road turns left and bird was calling from forest circa 300 metres beyond bend – a pair of Collared Falconets also seen in this area).
Red-billed Blue Magpie
Common. Seen on both visits, but more regularly in December. Seen both around Fern Resort and along lower part of National Park road.
Seen once in March, in forest along roadside where the sealed road turns into a dirt track.
Seen once in March, where National Park road turns to dirt track.
A small group seen along the National Park road circa 3km from National Park gate, in December.
Flock of circa 7 birds seen in overgrown orchard where Fern Resort nature trail meets road through the National Park, in March.
Fairly common, seen in March and December along Fern Resort nature trail and along road in National Park.