Dao from the paddies
(Photo by Nick Upton)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Photo by Peter
here for a checklist of the birds of Chiang
Tours : Check the suggested itineraries for
ideas on creating a tailor-made birdwatching trip to Thailand:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Lapwings can be seen in the paddies at the southern part of the
can be found on the drier areas north of the crossroads; listen
for their song and then try to spot them in the air.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Photo by Johan
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
(Photo by Johan
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.
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
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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Northern Thailand Birding Locations
Dao Rice Paddies Notes
Chiang Dao National Park
Pollution in Chiang Mai
of Thailand, 17 January to 6 February 2008 -