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Chiang Dao Paddies
 Introduction 

Doi Chiang Dao from the paddies
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Chiang Dao Paddies, in Chiang Mai province, is a small area of wet rice agriculture and other, drier, agricultural systems with fabulous views across the lowlands of the imposing Doi Chiang Dao. There are also some fringing woodlands which may be worth investigation.

A number of paved roads and dirt access tracks makes this site easily accessible and the friendly local people don't seem to mind birdwatchers who wish to investigate further, so long as they keep to the obvious field boundaries and take care not to damage the crops and park their car in a sensible place.

With its close proximity to Doi Chiang Dao, a morning or evening at these paddies is an excellent way to see a good range of open-country species, including a few that are uncommon elsewhere, particularly in the "winter". In the wet season, though, the birding here is less interesting.

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 Birding Highlights 

Apart from a good selection of the more common open-country and wetland birds, this location affords birdwatchers an excellent opportunity to watch Grey-headed Lapwings as they forage and fly around. The charismatic and attractive Wire-tailed Swallow is regular here and this location provides a reliable alternative to Mae Hia for this species. Green Sandpiper can also be found in the wet paddies here, a species which is less often seen further south.

The drier parts of agricultural land in this area also have a few specialities, including Black-shouldered Kite, Rufous-winged Buzzard and Oriental Skylark which performs its incredible song-flight throughout the day.

For those who wish to spend time at this location other species which can be found with patience include Lanceolated Warbler, Greater Painted Snipe, Barred Buttonquail and Chestnut-tailed Starling.

  Grey-headed Lapwings
(Photo by Peter Ericsson)
Click here for a checklist of the birds of Chiang Dao Paddies
  Bird Tours : Check the suggested itineraries for ideas on creating a tailor-made birdwatching trip to Thailand: Thailand bird tours.
 Travel Information 
Chiang Dao Paddies  

Chiang Dao is an easy place to get to whether arriving from the north or south. Most people arrive via Chiang Mai by bus from Bangkok's Mor Chit terminal or by plane and I'm told the train is a pleasant if rather slow option. The bus journey takes about 9-10 hours, the train takes about 17 hours and the plane takes about 45 minutes from Bangkok.

From Chiang Mai take a bus from the Chang Puek (Albino elephant) bus station to TaTorn; these leave about once every hour. Tell the conductor that you will get off at Chiang Dao and he will tell you when to get off: the journey takes about 2 hours.

If coming from the north it is a simple affair to catch the same bus from TaTorn to Chiang Mai getting off at Chiang Dao. The bus terminal in TaTorn is on the south side of the river. The journey from TaTorn to Chiang Dao takes about 3 hours.

To get to the paddies the following directions will get those with their own vehicles and those without into the birding zone. As one enters Chiang Dao from Chiang Mai a 7/11 store can be seen on the left, very shortly after this (just a few metres) there is a flashing amber light on the right indicating a right hand turn. Take this turning and continue for 1-2 kilometres, crossing a fairly large bridge and ending up at a cross roads where the left hand turning is a dirt road. You will now see the paddies in front, to the right and the dry agriculture to the left.

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 Finding Birds 

Wire-tailed Swallows are usually found in the vicinity of the cross roads one stops at when entering the site; they nest in the culvert under the road connecting the two ditches.

Grey-headed Lapwings can be seen in the paddies at the southern part of the site.

Oriental Skylarks can be found on the drier areas north of the crossroads; listen for their song and then try to spot them in the air.

Crossroads Lapwing Viewpoint

 

Crossroads: This is a good spot to park if wishing to walk around the site. Wire-tailed Swallows can usually be found in this area particularly when nesting when they alight on the nearby fields to collect mud and then disappear under the roadside culvert. From this spot other open-country birds that can be seen are White Wagtail, Brown and Long-tailed Shrikes and Black-collared Starling. In the winter months the nearby paddies usually hold a few Green Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers and a host of White Wagtails. This is also a good spot to watch for raptors as it is possible to see up and down the valley; Rufous-winged Buzzard, Northern Goshawk, Black-shouldered Kite and Kestrel have all been seen.

Lapwing Viewpoint : One can stop the car on the road here (ensuring that there is enough passing space for other vehicles) and scan the fields to the south. Between November and late March Grey-headed Lapwings can almost always be found. Wire-tailed Swallows are also usually in the area, frequently perching on the wires over the road. Egrets, mynas and other common open-country birds such as Black Drongo and Paddyfield Pipit are abundant here and in winter a few shorebirds can be found - particularly Green Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover.

Point 3 : If one stands here in the late afternoon and looks a little to the southeast, mynas and starlings usually gather on low bushes and stacks of vegetation before moving on to their roost sites. Common Myna, White-vented Myna and Black-collared Starling are all common and decent numbers of Chestnut-tailed Starlings can be seen. Who knows, something rarer may turn up in winter and/or on migration; this is a pleasant way of ending the day as the sun sets.

Point 4 : In the mixed farming in this area it is usually possible to locate Oriental Skylark - I always find it easiest to locate this bird by listening for the song being uttered in flight and searching the sky for the "speck". Eventually the bird must come down giving you a good view. It is interesting to note that Oriental Skylars sometimes sing from a post or even the ground, something I have never seen a European Skylark doing. Pied Bushchat is common and in the winter Eastern (Siberian) Stonechat is also numerous. Pipits and wagtails are often here too and this would also be a good spot to look for buttonquail.

Point 5 : In the winter, stubbles here often contain both Pintail and Common Snipe. Oriental Skylark can also be seen and birders can entertain themselves attempting to separate Richard's Pipit from Paddyfield Pipit. There are a number of raised bunds that divide fields which birders can carefully walk along and this tactic could easily turn up a quail or even flush a wintering bunting. In the undergrowth it is worth looking out for Bluethroat, Siberian Rubythroat and Lanceolated Warbler.

 


Pied Bushchat
(Photo by Johan Svensson)

 Facilities
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Virtually all birders visiting this site will also be visiting Doi Chiang Dao and the accommodation there (just a few kilometres away) is well-known and pleasant.

Malee's Nature Lovers Bungalows a few kilometres beyond Chiang Dao cave is a long-established guesthouse and is a quaint setup, with some excellent views of the mountains. Malee has 9 bungalows here to rent here, set in a very attractive garden, at rates from 500-1100 baht per night, all with private, hot showers. There are also 4 small rooms at 250 baht per night, with a shared hot shower and toilet. All rooms are equipped with fans, although at times it can be chilly at night.

Malee also has a rooftop restaurant, which is really nice, allowing visitors to make full use of the great views here. Packed breakfasts and lunch are also available for those wishing to get out early and stay out all day, She can be contacted by e-mail maleenature@hotmail.com to book accommodation which might be necessary during the dry season and at weekends, otherwise just turn up. For those without their own transport Malee can arrange for pickup from Chiang Mai and the airport; a very convenient alternative to public transport! A bird log has been maintained at Malee's for some time now and it continues to be a good source of information. Malee has high speed internet available, so please send me your notable observations for the latest sightings section.


Black-collared Starling
(Photo by
Johan Svensson)

 

Right next to Malee's there is Chiang Dao Nest, another very pleasant place to stay. A number of bamboo huts are for rent here and excellent western food is served to order, as late as 9 pm, for those who want to stay out and spotlight birds. Thai food is available at the nearby Chiang Dao Nest 2; a very extensive and unusual selection of Thai and Western food is available. Free wireless internet is available in all rooms and works at a reasonable speed.

At Chiang Dao Cave there a number of small restaurants that sell really good Thai food at low prices and in Chiang Dao town itself there are many shops, small restaurants and a 7/11 store that sell all sorts of snacks and drinks. There is even a pizza restaurant.

This area is not a national park and there is no charge to go birdwatching there but please just show some respect for the people who live and work in the area.

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 Other Related Pages

Birdwatching Trips

Other Northern Thailand Birding Locations

Chiang Dao Rice Paddies Notes

Doi Chiang Dao National Park

Air Pollution in Chiang Mai

 Related Blog Entries
Tour of Thailand, 17 January to 6 February 2008 - posted 05/03/08
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