by Nick Upton
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Fields near Thatorn, 23rd Oct 2001
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If you need help organizing a bird watching trip to Thailand, take a look at the suggested itineraries for ideas on creating a tailor-made trip and contact me for advice: Thailand bird tours.
Despite reports bemoaning the destruction of the rice paddies around Thatorn, in Chiang Mai province, that in the past was so productive for birds, I decided to take a walk around this area to see if it was still a worthwhile birding location. Walking south over the bridge in the village of TaTorn I took the second left towards the farmland. At the end of this lane is an abandoned resort, beyond this is a series of farm tracks, fields and ditches which one can wander around pretty freely in search of birds.
I stayed in the Thatorn Garden Home Nature Resort; cheap air-conditioned rooms, with private toilet and shower, and good food available.

Birding Highlights
  • Barred Buttonquail
  • Siberian Rubythroat
  • Eurasian Wryneck
  • Lesser Coucal
  • Oriental Skylark  

  • Birding

    Common open-country birds proved to be numerous with Common Iora, White Wagtail, Paddyfield Pipit and Black-collared Starling all putting in regular appearances throughout my walk. A short way along the track was a small field with a number of infield trees which looked promising; the ubiquitous Taiga Flycatcher was there and a gentle tail flicker caught my attention: an Olive-backed Pipit. These distractions set the stage for the most interesting birds so far to show up; a pair of Asian Barred Owlets which were quite actively attempting to hunt whilst being mobbed by a Black Drongo.
    Although there were quite a few birds to be seen, the reports that rice-growing had been exchanged for fruit and vegetable crops were clearly true and this would certainly influence the number and type of birds to be seen here.

    The trail along the river didn't appear too promising, veering away into some dry vegetable fields, so I walked southwards away from the river towards a series of reed-filled ditches. Eastern Stonechat, Pied Bushchat and Grey-breasted Prinia did their best to entertain me and it was whilst watching these that I heard an interesting call in the undergrowth. After much short-focussing of my binoculars I managed to get rather pathetic views of a Siberian Rubythroat; not the best way to see a new bird, but still an interesting observation.

    Having reached the reedy ditches I began to feel more optimistic about finding something interesting as the habitat appeared more promising. As expected I soon found both Dusky and Oriental Reed Warblers as well as a whole load of more everyday species such as Sooty-headed Bulbul and Spotted Dovel. The more I explored the area, the more encouraged I was that there was still sufficient habitat to make birding worthwhile; a few stubble fields survive, a few small reedbeds and some open pools. In fact, the further south I went from the river, the better the habitat became and with it some more interesting birds revealed themselves - it may be that birders have to explore further away from the river than before.

    Continuing my walk a pair of Barred Buttonquail showed themselves quite nicely on the edge of a stubble field, a species that is often only seen as a brief glimpse, and flying out of a dead tree a Eurasian Wryneck gave me a far more satisfying addition to my life-list than the earlier Rubythroat.

    Whilst poking around the knotted vegetation that surrounded a few muddy pools I managed to find a Common Greenshank, a Common Snipe and a single Green Sandpiper; a little disappointing as I was hoping for Long-billed Plover, although in hindsight this species would prefer exposed gravel on a river bed.

    After quite a long walk south I came across a largish area of reeds and water where an Intermediate Egret was perched on a dead tree. However, by this time the sun was becoming a bit too intense and bird activity had become low, so I decided to turn around despite the fact that this area of habitat looked very good. On the way back I continued to add species to the day's list with the most notable being an Oriental Skylark feeding on a farm track.

    Retracing my steps I found I had wandered off the series of trails and tracks and a couple of farmers got a little angry with me. Apologies accepted sticking to the obvious byways caused no problem and everyone I
      Birdwatching Trips To Northern Thailand:
    Northern Thailand is a superb region for birding
    with lots of good birds at all times, although between late November and late March is the best time for seeing migrants alongside a large number of resident species.

    Contact me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the best birdwatching options for you:
    encountered before and after this incident was friendly. It is important to remember that this area is all privately owned and birders should conduct themselves in an appropriate fashion.

    Finging quite a few interesting birds and some good habitat made me feel like this walk hadn't been a waste of time, indeed, it was interesting to get out into a habitat that isn't often visited in Thailand: farmland. Despite the fact that this area has obviously suffered a lot of habitat degradation over the years I feel it is still worth a look, especially due to its geographical position; a good place to find scarce birds or even a new species for Thailand. Certainly it is still a nice place to have a walk and TaTorn has some nice accomodation available and some decent places to eat; for me it is always somewhere I stop on a visit to the north of Thailand, due to its regular bus service from Chiang Mai, as it is a pleasant and quiet place to relax for someone who lives in busy Bangkok.

    For birders wishing to find scarce species such as Buntings and Bush Warblers investigating areas a kliometre or so south from the river could be rewarding as there is still rice agriculture and lots of weedy ditches to search in.

    Nick Upton (
     Birds seen at TaTorn
    1. Chinese Pond Heron
    2. Intermediate Egret
    3. Black-shouldered Kite
    4. Shikra
    5. Barred Buttonquail
    6. White Breasted Waterhen
    7. Common Greenshank
    8. Green Sandpiper
    9. Common Snipe
    10. Rock Pigeon
    11. Spotted Dove
    12. Greater Coucal
    13. Lesser Coucal
    14. Asian Barred Owlet
    15. Common Kingfisher
    16. White-throated Kingfisher
    17. Indian Roller
    18. Eurasian Wryneck
    19. House Swift
    20. Barn Swallow
    21. Oriental Skylark
    22. Richard's Pipit
    23. Paddyfield Pipit
    24. Olive-backed Pipit
    25. White Wagtail
    26. Grey Wagtail
    27. Common Iora
    28. Red-whiskered Bulbul
    29. Sooty-headed Bulbul
    30. Black Drongo
    31. Dusky Warbler
    32. Yellow-browed Warbler
    33. Oriental Reed Warbler
    34. Zitting Cisticola
    35. Grey-breasted Prinia
    36. Plain Prinia
    37. Common Tailorbird
    38. Siberian Rubythroat
    39. Oriental Magpie Robin
    40. Eastern Stonechat
    41. Pied Bushchat
    42. Taiga Flycatcher
    43. Brown Shrike
    44. Long-tailed Shrike
    45. Chestnut-tailed Starling
    46. Black-collared Starling
    47. Common Myna
    48. White-vented Myna
    49. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
    50. White-rumped Munia
    51. Scaly-breasted Munia
    Nick Upton can be contacted at
    More information on Thatorn Riverside & Rice Fields More information on birdwatching locations in the North of Thailand.
    If you are interested in arranging a bird watching tour you can see some suggested itineraries here - Birdwatching Trips - and you can contact me at the above email address to discuss the best options.

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