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Bird Photography Tour Of Thailand, 7-20th March 2013
 
  Bird Watching Trips:
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.
Introduction
Pieter Verheij and Roger Marchant accompanied me in January 2012 on a birding trip and at the time we discussed them returning for a bird photography tour. Consequent emails resulted in us planning a photography tour for March 2013 with the emphasis on spending the time needed to obtain the highest quality photographs possible and not worrying about chasing rare and difficult to see species or amassing a large and impressive list. With a large photographic community in Thailand it was easy to plan a promising and enjoyable itinerary and at the same time see some really spectacular species.
Transport
We had the luxury of a Toyota Commuter minivan between just the three of us. This gave us lots of space for all the bird watching and camera equipment and allowed us to use the vehicle as a hide. I arranged for the vehicle to be without the usual curtains around the windows to give us better visibility which proved to be great for taking pictures from the van. This vehicle was reasonably priced, economic on fuel and being a diesel with manual transmission, it flew up even the steepest of hills.
Accommodation
At Thatorn we stayed at Thatorn Garden Home Nature Resort with pleasant accommodation and excellent food. It takes about 1 hour to get to the birding spots on Doi Lang.

At Chiang Mai we spent a night at the Amora Tapae which is very comfortable and we got upgraded to the Presidential suite.

The Inthanon Highland Resort was where we spent one night at Doi Inthanon and they provided us with good food.

At Mae Wong we stayed at Makbun Resort which was comfortable and close to the park gate - no food available here though.

At Nakorn Sawan we stayed at Asia Nakorn Sawan Hotel - comfortable, cheap and central location.

At Khao Yai we stayed at Duangporn Resort close to the park gate - good food here.
 

In Bangkok we stayed in Nanatai Mansion - this was a last minute change of hotel as we changed our plans.

In Petchaburi we stayed at the Sun Hotel.

At Kaeng Krachan we stayed at Ban Maka, a short drive from the park gate - excellent food and helpful staff.
Notes on Finding Birds
We focused on birds that we knew we could get close enough to to photograph, so we concentrated on visiting the known stakeouts for birds. However, we did also balance things by spending some time walking roads, looking for birds, but only in places where I knew there was a good chance of some of them coming in close. Consequently we did not spend much time looking for particular species and never really struggled to find birds to photograph.

Many of the stakeouts were not quite as productive as hoped for and this was probably due to unseasonal rain, but even so, there were plenty of birds to photograph. The only place where activity was very low indeed was Khao Yai, a site which seems to very frequently disappoint these days.
Field Guides
1. A Field Guide to the Birds of South East Asia by Craig Robson
2. Birds of Thailand - Thai language field guide by various contributors
3. A Guide to the Large Mammals of Thailand by John Parr.
Highlights

Doi Lang: Spot-breasted Parrotbill, Giant Nuthatch, Hume's Pheasant, Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Spot-breasted Laughingtrush, Long-tailed Broadbill, Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Crested Finchbill, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Black-throated Parrotbill
Doi Ang Kang: White-tailed Robin, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Silver-eared Mesia
Doi Inthanon: Green-tailed Sunbird, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, Grey-sided Thrush, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, White-browed Shortwing, Bar-throated Minla
Mae Wong: Grey Peacock Pheasant, Rufous-throated Partridge, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Streaked Wren Babbler, Silver-eared Mesia, Northern White-crowned Forktail, Chinese Leaf Warbler, Small Niltava, Long-tailed Sibia, Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Kalij Pheasant
Bueng Boraphet: Yellow Bittern, Garganey, Cotton Pygmy Goose
Khao Yai: Great Hornbill, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Barred Cuckoo Dove
Nakorn Sri Kuan Kan Park: Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Black Baza
Pak Thale: Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Oriental Pratincole
Laem Pak Bia: Nordmann's Greenshank, Pied Avocet
Tung Bang Jak: Asian Golden Weaver, Streaked Weaver, Baya Weaver, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Pied Harrier, Eastern Marsh Harrier
Kaeng Krachan: Black-and-red Broadbill, Banded Broadbill, Black-and-yellow Broadbill, Great Hornbill, Tickell's Brown Hornbill, White-fronted Scops Owl, Sultan Tit, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher
Lung Sin Hide: Scaly-breasted Partridge, Bar-backed Partridge, Slaty-legged Crake, Large Scimitar-babbler
Birding Diary

Fang By Pass 7th March
Our journey from Chiang Mai airport to where we were staying at Thatorn saw us passing the town of Fang at around 4.30pm. This gave us a little time to take a look for some common species in the rice fields around the Fang By Pass. I wanted Pieter and Roger to take some practice photos, not so much for them as they are very good photographers, but more for me to see what sort of results they obtained with birds of different sizes from different distances and in different lights. I would use the knowledge learnt from this little session to know which birds in which conditions would produce the best photographs through the trip.

We very quickly found out that with just three of us in the van we could use it very effectively as a mobile hide, with the windows and the sliding door open. Driving along with the van barely moving we managed to creep up on Brown Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, Cattle Egret and a pair of Pied Bushchats but due to the failing light conditions and lack of time we did not get any top quality photos of any of these birds; the Cattle Egret pictures were okay and I got an idea of the conditions and distances required for getting the best photos. With this we went and checked into our accommodation and had a beer together before ordering dinner.

Doi Lang 8th March
Originally, when planning this trip, we had not intended to go to northern Thailand at all as we had visited this region in January 2012 together and done very well in terms of the number of good quality photos taken. However, with access to Doi Lang being possible from Fang and the photographic stakeouts that were established in December 2012 it seemed crazy to do a photo tour of Thailand and not visit this site, so with some hasty rearranging of the tour we headed up the mountain after breakfast.
Heading up the mountain through the pine forest one of the first birds we came across was a magnificent male Hume's Pheasant, a bird that we missed the previous year. Unfortunately we did not get time even for a quick photo as by the time I had manoeuvred the vehicle into position it had moved off into the undergrowth. However, a little further up the hill and we had a male Ultramarine Flycatcher sitting close to the vehicle and both Roger and Pieter got shots of it and although it was a little backlit, the result were quite pleasing.

Arriving at the photo stakeout zone we had a quick look along the road first, hoping to call out a Spot-breasted Parrotbill - no luck. In fact it was pretty quiet all round with bad weather looming on the hilltops; it was obvious that a storm was brewing and would not be too long in breaking. This was not the start we were hoping for. However, putting a few mealworms down in the appropriate place lured out a male White-bellied Redstart very quickly; he was only too happy to pose for photos in exchange for breakfast. This bird had been performing in the same place for months, so we were expecting him but it was still great to see this usually highly skulking species out in the open and obtain some excellent photos.

Another photo den along the road provided a female Blue-fronted Redstart which claimed our mealworms before disappearing but not before beautiful photos of it were obtained.

Out on the road I was doing my best to lure some birds in close using call playback but although Chestnut-vented Nuthatch reacted it never put itself in a place for a photo. However, I did hear a Giant Nuthatch which came in quickly to call playback but frustratingly stayed high up in the trees and in backlit situations. However, Roger did obtain a most unusual shot of it in flight, but sadly not of the quality that his high standards required. I glimpsed a Green Cochoa but despite it responding to call playback it did decided that it did not want its photo taken.

Oh dear! And then the rain began. One of those storms that rains so hard that you need a hat in order to prevent your head from bleeding. This was supposed to be the time to sit and wait for many good birds at another stakeout but instead we had to take shelter in the van. Anyway, we came up with a plan - to drive to the other side of the mountain which can often be dry when the other side is wet. This seemed overly optimistic as we drove through thick fog and rain but when we arrived at the border police checkpoint the weather had improved with no rain and broken cloud; this gave us the chance to try our luck and the long established feeding station here.

At first we got no results at all. In the past there was just one feeding station but now there are several and the birds seem to change their preference every time I visit. However, by baiting a few spots with mealworms we encouraged Dark-backed Sibia, Silver-eared Laughingthrush and the fantastic Scarlet-faced Liocichla to pose - a wonderful result in dreadful weather conditions.
 
White-bellied Redstart (male)
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 
Dark-backed Sibia
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Scarlet-faced Liocichla
(Photo by Nick Upton)
Roger and Pieter had made it clear to me that they were far more interested in getting very close views of a few birds than chasing around after all the specialities and getting glimpses of everything, so we just hung around this area where the weather was clear and over the course of the next hour we photographed Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Little Pied Flycatcher, Buff-barred Leaf Warbler and attempted to get shots of a fast-moving flock of beautiful Black-throated Parrotbills that came very close to us but frustratingly left us with really out of focus photos.

With the weather further improving we decided to drive back towards the most anticipated stake out, stopping along the road to get some shots of Crested Finchbills that were feeding on some roadside trees.

Back at the stakeout a group of Thai photographers were sitting in their blinds having their lunch. From previous visits I knew that a blind was not required here as the birds were tame, so after a quick word with the photographers we put some meal worms down and waited.
Well, we did not have to wait very long for a pair of Silver-eared Laughingthrushes to come in and gobble up all the food. Over the course of the next hour we fed these Laughingthrushes and also got photos of some other great birds; Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher, Large Niltava, male and female Slaty-blue Flycatchers and, eventually, a pair of Spot-breasted Laughingthrushes. These birds had been coming to this stakeout for a few months and are basically invisible under normal circumstances; most birders living in Thailand had been coming to this spot to get their first views of this skulking bird, including myself, and it was utterly amazing when they came closer and closer until they were virtually at our feet. This actually made it very difficult to get a nice photo of the birds as we were looking straight down at them!

After a few minutes of this they bounced off back into the undergrowth but incredibly they reappeared about 15 minutes later and did the same trick again; what an amazing experience with this bird that I had struggled to get even a glimpse of in the past.

With this performance over it was time for a long-overdue lunch and then the return of the cloud and rain. Both Roger and Pieter had enjoyed some great photo opportunities and decided that it was pointless to remain on the mountain in deteriorating conditions so we moved off the mountain and went to see if we could find better conditions in the rice fields.

Fang Bay Pass 8th March
When we got to the rice fields the rain was holding off, but only just. We cruised up and down the same stretch of road as yesterday with a little more luck, getting some nice shots of Scaly-breasted Munia, reasonable pictures of Pied Bushchat and Brown Shrike as well as Plain-backed Sparrow. With the rain clouds following us we drove a little further towards Thatorn and visited some more rice fields but there was only time for Roger to stalk down a female Eastern Stonechat before spots of rain started falling and bottles of beer started calling, so it was back to the guesthouse to celebrate a great day.
 
Spot-breasted Laughingthrush
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Silver-eared Laughingthrush
(Photo by Nick Upton)
Doi Lang 9th March
We repeated our journey up Doi Lang, having checked out of our accommodation. This time just before we got to the stakeout area we spotted a pair of Mountain Bamboo Partridges which both Pieter and Roger were able to get beautiful photos of from the van. This excellent start got us into a good mood and we went straight into the Laughingthrush stakeout, having the spot to ourselves on this day. However, mealworms did not lure that many birds out, probably the wet weather had made foraging in the forest rather easy, making soft-bodied invertebrates rise to the top of the soil. Still, we got better photos of Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Slaty-blue Flycatcher and Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher due to better light conditions before I heard a Spot-breasted Parrotbill out on the road.
We quickly got out onto the road and making sure we were ready for the birds I played a short burst of call playback and 2 birds were out, perched on some vegetation. As Roger and Pieter fired off dozens of shots I leaned over Roger's shoulder and one-handed fired off a hopeful shot that turned out rather well. Sometimes you can just get lucky!

We decided to use our remaining time looking for birds along the road and a few kilometres further on we found a few interesting species. A pair of calling Long-tailed Broadbills came close enough for a couple of dodgy photos and some Long-tailed Sibias flew across the road but it was a Chestnut-vented Nuthatch that we will remember most from this stop as it kept coming in to call playback but stayed frustratingly high in the trees until eventually it flew over our heads and landed on a banana plant where we were able to photograph it and get some rather unusual pictures of this common bird.

With the heat beginning to build we decided that if we left now we could go to Doi Ang Kang for a few hours and check out another stakeout there. However, as we left we definitely felt like we could have spent more time at Doi Lang and that some of the photos we obtained would be the best of the trip. I guess we did not realize what a successful trip this would turn out to be.
 
Spot-breasted Parrotbill
(Photo by Nick Upton)
Doi Ang Kang 9th March
Years before the route from Fang up to Doi Lang had been "discovered" by birders I had been in the area before and we found a through road from Doi Lang to Doi Ang Kang without having to go back to the main road; we ended up in the hilltribe village of Ban Nor Lae. Having lunch in the army camp there we took in the view at the Thai-Myanmar border and searched for some Purple Sunbirds that are usually there but to no avail. Our aim was not to struggle to find birds but to look for photographic opportunities so we headed into the King's Project at Doi Ang Kang to check out a stakeout.
Last year we had visited this spot and seen a lot of birds but the light had been so intense that the photos were not what had been hoped for so this was a chance to improve. The light conditions were better, with flatter light and after a short wait we had Oriental Magpie Robin, White-rumped Shama, Hill Blue Flycatcher and White-tailed Robin showing themselves.

A few months previous there had been a whole mob of Black-breasted Thrushes here but at this time of day there was no sign of any; perhaps if we had been here in the morning we would have got one. We had a walk around the gardens managing a shot of a Long-tailed Shrike but with a 3 hour drive back to Chiang Mai in front of us we decided to move off.

A brief stop at the Chinese cemetery was very quiet but we did see a Large Hawk Cuckoo and the drive back to Chiang Mai was uneventful and we arrived with time to relax for a while before having dinner together in a restaurant that specialized in northern Thai food.
 
White-tailed Robin
(Photo by Nick Upton)
Doi Inthanon National Park 10th March
Thailand's highest mountain is a location that Roger, Pieter and I visited together last year and whilst it is a good place for seeing some good birds it proved very difficult for photography with most of the birds moving quickly and high in trees, so this year I planned on visiting only those spots in the park that could give us good chances of getting pictures; at Doi Inthanon that means the summit where there are lots of birds that are virtually tame.

>We grabbed some breakfast from a 7/11 store in Chiang Mai after a very early start. This trip did not see us getting up really early too often but as we were starting from Chiang Mai and headed to the top of Doi Inthanon I did not want us to get there late considering we only had one day. Towards the end of the day we did not regret the decision.

Before reaching the top we made a stop at Watcharitan waterfall to look for Slaty-backed Forktail. However, this usually reliable bird was not to be easily found and although I hunted it down along the river it was not performing very well and I decided that it was best to get to the summit and return here later and hope that we would get luckier then.
The summit of Doi Inthanon is a wonderful place with mossy forest, orchids and birds that do not know that they are supposed to be scared of humans. I usually spend a short time up here finding all the specialities for visitors but today we had the luxury of spending almost all day hanging around, observing some really wonderful birds and getting some lovely photos.

At first things were a bit tricky and a little chilly too with the sun having not quite made it onto the forest. One of the first birds that presented itself was Yellow-bellied Fantail, a real little beauty when seen closely. Soon, though, we heard a Pygmy Wren Babbler and we followed the bird, getting glimpses here and there, until it was very close but unfortunately when it posed for a photo, everyone had their camera settings wrong and the only picture obtained was completely out of focus.

Our next target was Green-tailed Sunbird which was feeding on a flowering rhododendron and we spent up to an hour here struggling with intense light conditions and very fast-moving birds. In the end both the female and male were photographed well by Pieter and Roger (although I only got nice pictures of the female) as well as Buff-barred Leaf Warbler.

Throughout the day the summit served us really well with Grey-sided Thrush, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker and Bar-throated Minlas coming to a fruiting tree, Snowy-browed Flycatcher and Blue Whistling Thrush coming to mealworms and Silver-eared Laughingthrush plus Rufous-winged Fulvettas everywhere.

I always get a kick out of the antics of some of the birds up here and seeing crowds of people videoing Silver-eared Laughingthrushes using their ipads and phones as the birds forage right next to them was really amusing. At the end of the day most of the people left the summit and the Bar-throated Minlas emerged to clean up the mess. I got some nice photos of them from about 2 feet way while Roger got a funny photo of one raiding the coffee stand.
 
Grey-sided Thrush
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Chestnut-tailed Minla
(Photo by Nick Upton)
It was also interesting to observe Blyth's Leaf Warbler at length, performing its characteristic wing-shuffling action. This is often described as "wing-flicking" but that does not accurately describe the action at all as the bird displays an alternate shuffle of one wing at a time - quite slowly.

We had enjoyed spending all day at the summit with just a short break at Mr Daeng's for lunch, but with a few hours of light remaining a second effort at photographing Slaty-backed Forktail at Watcharitan waterfall was in order. This time we found a pair of these wonderful birds quite quickly and a little play of the call lured them in fairly close but they flew off before any pictures could be obtained. Eventually one bird perched on a fallen log, but with the light beginning to fade it was just a little further away than desired. However, some nice photographs were taken much to Roger and Pieter's surprise.

This day at Doi Inthanon was really wonderful and I know that Pieter and Roger enjoyed it as much as I did. Although we spent all our time on just a few species and ignored many good birding spots on the mountain, it had been great to relax and enjoy our time without any pressure and in the end we saw and photographed some really good birds. This was one of my favourite days of the whole tour.

Mae Wong National Park 11-13th March
After yesterday's very early start we had a leisurely breakfast and a look around the grounds of Inthanon Highland Resort. Whilst there were plenty of birds, they were all in high trees and far away, with nothing coming close to giving us a chance of photographing it.
Species we did see included Lineated Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Asian Barred Owlet, Rufous Treepie and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, but we decided to head off towards Mae Wong where we knew that some really great species had been coming to some photographic stakeouts.

The journey from Doi Inthanon to Mae Wong took around 5 hours with a stop for lunch at Tak. On arrival at Mae Wong we checked into our accommodation and went straight into the national park. We paid the entrance fee at the gate and then went to the HQ to get our note to allow us up the road to Chong Yen campsite.

The photographic stakeouts at Mae Wong are becoming extremely popular and contrary to the information that we had been given, it turned out that it was necessary to book certain spots in advance. As we had not done this and there were lots of other photographers around we had to wait our turn for certain birds. However, ranger Annan, who organizes the photography sites here was extremely helpful and I told him what we were hoping to achieve in the couple of days that we were at Mae Wong and he really tried hard to get us into places for the species we wanted to photograph. Annan does not speak English much but he is helpful and those who cannot speak Thai will be able to make themselves understood easily enough.

Our first afternoon was spent at a site that Rusty-naped Pitta frequents. Unfortunately, this was not the right time for this bird and we were never able to get to this spot at the 8am "performance time" that was required. Others who were there at this time saw the Pittas, but only for very brief periods. We did, however, photograph Streaked Wren Babbler and Rufous-browed Flycatcher here as well as Grey Wagtail. A Northern White-crowed Forktail also showed up but was scared away before anyone had a chance to photograph it. Another session, the next morning, at this spot allowed Pieter and Roger to get nice pictures of a caeruleus Blue Whistlingthrush and while they were doing this I walked along the road, seeing Burmese Yuhina, Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo and a party of 4 Long-tailed Sibias.
 
 

Bird Photography Trips In Thailand:
Thailand has a large community of photographers and this has led to a number of excellent

stakeouts for birds having been established. By combining visiting stakeouts with wetlands and other places where birds are abundant Thailand is a great place for bird photography trips.

Contact me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the best options for you: nickupton@thaibirding.com

 
On our second day, after trying again for the Pittas, we sat at a waterhole that Annan told us attracted some birds on a regular basis. Although it was slow we did get very close views and excellent photos of a Chinese Leaf Warbler, a wonderful Silver-eared Mesia and a pair of Small Niltavas. The blind was pretty cramped so with this success we walked a short distance back to Chong Yen where we were shown where Flavescent Bulbul and Silver-eared Mesias were feeding and bathing. Things were a bit slow but by lunchtime we had top quality photographs of seven species of birds so we were happy.
After lunch we were hoping to have a chance at Grey Peacock Pheasant and Rufous-throated Partridge but as they had not performed in the morning or the previous afternoon, there was a backlog of photographers at the main stakeout for these birds and we were not able to get in. However, Annan took us to a second spot for them, telling us that they had been seen there sometimes. He baited the spot with split grain and left us in his blind to wait.

We did not feel optimistic about this setup at all, with the so-called "stakeout" being in the middle of the trail from Chong Yen campsite. Things seemed even worse when 3 tourists from Russia walked straight through the spot and just as we were getting out of the blind to go somewhere else I spotted a partridge emerging. Shoving Roger and Pieter back into the blind I told them to start taking photos and 3 Rufous-throated Partridges came out to feed on the grain. These birds stayed for several minutes before moving off into the undergrowth - amazing considering that moments before it had looked disastrous.

We spent some more time waiting and the tourists came back through the feeding area but I think it was the discomfort of the blind that made Roger and Pieter decide to abandon the spot and go back to the area where we had photographed birds bathing earlier in the day.

I returned to where the partridges had been and went and made a bit of a disturbance at where the grain was lying - sometimes these birds at stakeouts listen for a bit of human disturbance as their cue. Incredibly, I had only retreated for a few moments when a Grey Peacock Pheasant began to emerge from the undergrowth. I ran back to Pieter and Roger as fast as I could and hurried them back. When we returned it had gone but I knew it would come back as it had not had a chance to feed. Moments later it was out again and some wonderful photos were obtained - even I managed to get some reasonable pictures and some video clips. We had to laugh afterwards that we had managed to photograph two fantastic species despite our best efforts to mess things up.
  Silver-eared Mesia
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 
Grey Peacock Pheasant
(Photo by Nick Upton)
After we had finished laughing and checking our photos we went and sat at the blind next to the water again and were lucky that the three Rufous-throated Partridges came in for a drink and allowed for another set of lovely photos.

We had been told that the gate back at HQ would be locked at 6pm and we would not be able to get back to our guesthouse after that time we headed downhill. However, we arrived at a locked gate at 6.15pm and there was nobody around; things did not look good. Eventually, though, a ranger showed up on a motor cycle and let us out. Dinner was eaten at the nearby town of Klong Lan and we had a beer together back at Makbun resort.
For our final morning at Mae Wong the sporadic showing of Rusty-naped Pitta meant that there was a backlog of photographers at that site and that we were not able to get in there early, so ranger Annan led us to spot where he hoped some small birds would come in to mealworms. He was right but we had a lot of waiting between birds and unfortunately, the light was not really sufficient for good photos. However, a male White-tailed Robin, a Rufous-browed Flycatcher, a male Hill Blue Flycatcher and a Buff-breasted Babbler did arrive and some decent photos were obtained with some skillful use of very expensive lenses.

Later in the morning we ended up back at the site where we saw the Peacock Pheasant and placed down some meal worms again. Some nice birds performed well for us, including Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Flavescent Bulbul and a male Hill Blue Flycatcher allowing for some great photos.

After it became clear that no other species would appear we decided that our time at Mae Wong was over and that we should move on to Nakorn Sawan. As we left, we reflected on our time at Mae Wong; it had been good, with lots of opportunities to get close to birds but there had been lots more waiting then we had anticipated and no shows from species that we had been led to believe were very reliable. But, we all decided that it did not matter, we had had a good time and some great experiences with some great birds that are hard to find.
 
A Few Other Trip Reports
 
It took about 2 hours to drive from Chong Yen campsite to the town of Nakorn Sawan where we had time to check into our hotel and take a rest before heading to our next stop, Bueng Boraphet.

Bueng Boraphet 13-14th March
Bueng Boraphet is a semi-natural lake just outside of the city of Nakorn Sawan. Many bird watchers do not visit the site as most of the species that are likely to be seen there are easily seen elsewhere in Asia, but the amazing abundance of birds and access on a slow-moving boat means that it is a superb site for photographers.

On our first afternoon we spent a few hours walking around the "Nok Nam Park" on the south side of the lake where we were able to photograph some of the commoner open country species such as Pied Fantail, Common Myna, Oriental Magpie Robin as well as a Coppersmith Barbet coming to its next hole and a Lineated Barbet feeding on a fruiting tree. This was a nice finish to a nice day and we enjoyed a good dinner and a few drinks together in the evening.
On the next morning we got to the "Nok Nam Park" to begin our boat trip at 8am; it was nice not to have to get up at the crack of dawn. Pieter, Roger and I got ourselves comfortable on the boat and off we went. We had hardly gone any distance when our boatman, Phanom, spotted a Yellow Bittern which was very obliging and allowed us to get really close.

Once again, we did not spend our time racing around trying to find every last species of bird that could be found on the lake, or chasing birds that could only be seen at distance, instead, we concentrated on getting close to birds, in beautiful settings and getting the best light on them. In this way we amassed a huge number of excellent photographs of many waterbird species. One of the most wonderful things about doing things this way was that it gave us time to observe the birds' behaviour and get some images of them doing interesting things; this is something that one often does not get the chance to do on birding tours.

We spent around 3 hours on the boat, but never actually went very far from our starting point due to the large number of birds that were in the shallows and the expertise of our boatman, slowly manoeuvring us as close as he could to the birds. Species that we managed to get excellent photographs of here were Great, Little and Intermediate Egrets, Yellow Bittern, Chinese Pond Heron, Purple Heron, Purple Swamphen, Little Grebe, Little Cormorant, Indian Cormorant, Oriental Reed Warbler, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Garganey, Barn Swallow, Eastern Stonechat, Asian Openbill, Black Drongo, Pheasant-tailed Jacana and Bronze-winged Jacana as well as several other species photographed quite well.

Our morning on the lake was another highlight of the trip and we all agreed that a second morning there would have been great and would have allowed us to chance after some species that we had missed due to spending a lot of time on the ones we had seen. Species such as Lesser Whistling Duck, Oriental Darter, White-browed Crake and Pied Kingfisher would have been ideal targets for a second morning here. As it was, it was time for lunch in Nakorn Sawan and to move on to Khao Yai.
 
Yellow Bittern
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Great Egrets
(Photo by Nick Upton)
Khao Yai 14-15th March
The drive to Khao Yai took about 3 hours in some quite heavy traffic and storm clouds were building as we neared our accommodation which was just a few kilometres from the park gate on the north side of the national park. As it was getting late and the weather looked bad in the hills we decided to spend our time in a small government compound that is close to the park gate where Red-breasted Parakeets nest in some large old trees.

We spent around 1 hour here before the rain began pouring down and the Parakeets proved harder to photograph than anticipated due to the fact that they were so high in the trees. Eventually, though, we found one that was not too high and photos of this bird and White-vented Myna were obtained. At our guesthouse the storm had resulted in a power cut which meant cold showers and no air conditioning. Fortunately the rain had brought the temperature down to a bearable level.

Every bird tour has its highlights, so far ours had been the stakeouts at Doi Lang, the summit of Doi Inthanon and our morning at Bueng Boraphet. However, trips such as these inevitably have their low points too and our next morning, at Khao Yai, was to be that low point.
Khao Yai national park has long been a favourite of visiting bird watchers but overuse of the park and mismanagement by an unmotivated and unhelpful park administration have made the roads busier than in the past and left trails unmaintained. However, Pa Gluai Mai campsite is usually good for photographing birds so we headed there in the morning. Unfortunately, things were very quiet there with no fruiting trees and very few birds. We did find Scarlet Minivet, Hill Myna, White-rumped Shama, Blue Rock Thrush and Black-crested Bulbul but it was really slow going.

Our best moments came at the Boonsong Lekagul camp where we found the nest of a Thick-billed Green Pigeon. The female was sitting on the nest while the male kept flying off to a bare tree, breaking off twigs and then taking them back to the female who would place them where she wanted them. Every time the male came out to get more twigs he sat on the same perch for a few seconds before launching himself off. This allowed us to photograph him nicely.
 
Thick-billed Green Pigeon
(Photo by Nick Upton)
A flyover Great Hornbill here was another highlight and Roger managed to get a couple of decent shots of it in flight. However, there were few other birds around and the overcast weather gave us very bad light.

We moved to a known Great Hornbill nest site and the male came to feed the female quite quickly but the position of the nest meant that getting decent photos was basically impossible. Somehow things were just hard work, no real bird activity, bad light and it felt like we were struggling. Now, I am sure that if we had remained in the forest and exercised the utmost patience, sooner or later we would have got some good opportunities to photograph some good birds but we were not really enjoying ourselves this morning so we decided to leave Khao Yai and head to our next locations a little early as we anticipated much better things there, so we packed up and headed into Bangkok where we had a relaxing evening and dinner. Strangely enough, though, another storm resulted in another power cut as we arrived at our hotel. The power came back on pretty quickly though.
A Note On The Photographs On This Page
  If you were thinking that the photographs here are not really of the high quality that you would expect from a photography tour, you are right. All the photographs displayed here were taken by me, on this tour, using just a point and shoot digital camera; Canon SX160 IS.

Roger and Pieter were using camera equipment worth many thousands of dollars; both were using 300mm lenses, F 2.4, which allowed for photography in low light conditions and their photographs are many times better than mine, in fact they are superb.

I use a simple camera as I am busy locating birds for those who accompany me and do not want a bulky piece of equipment hampering me in this, nor do I want those with me to feel that my priority is taking my own
photographs; I only take photos after everyone else has located the bird and is able to get the photos they want.

However, compact digital cameras have advanced so much that it is possible to take internet quality photographs of birds with cameras that cost less than $200. Digital cameras do not work miracles, though, it takes some practice and the right light conditions to get the best out of these cheap cameras and one needs to get fairly close to get a decent shot.

Over the course of this trip I was able to improve the results I could obtain with this camera, learning a lot about how to set shutter speeds etc. according to the conditions, but some of the slightly more expensive compact cameras I have seen people using are considerably better than this one. If you want to be able to take some nice photos from time to time, but do not want to spend lots of time and money on bird photography, one of the most up-to-date compact cameras may suit you.
Nakorn Sri Kuan Kan Park, Bangkok, 16th March
We opted not to get up very early and instead have breakfast at the hotel, spending a few hours at Sri Nakorn Kuan Park where a few nice species of birds can usually be seen close up. In reality we got to the park a little too late, about 7.45am, and it was extremely hot and humid after the previous day's storm lingering. However, despite how uncomfortable the climate was we saw some nice birds and got several great photos.

At first we struggled to get any birds close enough or in good enough light to photograph but a couple of Pied Fantails cooperated for a short time and when we climbed up the bird watching tower we were presented with close up views of both Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and Pink-necked Green Pigeon; they both hung around long enough for Pieter and Roger to get some nice shots. Pink-necked Green Pigeon is a real speciality of this park and is just about the best place in Thailand to see and photograph this lovely bird and it was one of the main reasons we visited this location.
 
Pink-necked Green Pigeon
(Photo by Nick Upton)
We also saw a few migratory species from the tower, including 2 Black Bazas, a Black-winged Cuckooshrike and several Black-naped Orioles. It is always funny to see birds like this in Bangkok.

Things began to slow down so we decided to head towards Petchaburi but on the way out of the park we came across some very obliging Collared Kingfishers and a Vinous-breasted Starling perched on a wire. This is an uncommon bird but regular in this park and luckily, the wire looked something like bamboo in the photographs obtained - with none of us being fans of photos of birds on wires, we were happy with this. With five species photographed very well this had turned into a decent morning stop on our way out of the city.
Tung Bang Jak & Wat Khao Takrao, 16th March
After checking into the Sun Hotel, in Petchaburi, and having lunch we spent the late afternoon in the rice fields close to Petchaburi where there are always large numbers of birds, our intention being to drive along the network of small roads here and use the vehicle as a hide to get close to the birds.

This is a really good time of year to be in these rice fields with Baya, Asian Golden and Streaked Weavers all in breeding plumage and constructing their nests. We quickly found a colony of Baya Weavers that were very actively nest building and allowed us to get close. We spent twenty minutes or so watching their amusing behaviour and taking a lot of photos of them chasing each other around and perching on their amazing nests. Males begin construction of the nests and females will come and inspect them, if they are not up to scratch the females will reject the nest and the males will often start a new nest and maybe later come back to the first one again later. In the photo here you can see that this nest has been built in two stages with the old, dry material at the top and fresh, green material further down.

Driving a little further down the road we located a small colony of Asian Golden Weavers, with several males in stunning breeding plumage and we enjoyed these for some time and were very pleased with some of the images obtained.

A couple of other birds that are in breeding plumage at this time of year are the pond herons. In non-breeding plumage Chinese and Javan Pond Herons are inseparable (don't rely on the idea of them being separable on the colour of the wing tips, that is just wear and tear on the feathers) but at this time of year they are both quite beautiful birds and we had lots of opportunities to obtain pictures of both species in varying states of plumage.

Over the next hour or so we had lots of opportunities to photograph open country species with many Asian Openbills loafing around that were hard not to keep photographing even though it was easy to get good shots of them quickly - these birds are present in huge numbers here these days. A juvenile Pied Harrier came in very close and a Black-naped Oriole teased us in a tree before giving itself up. Other birds we got photos of included White-vented Myna, Green Bee-eater, Red-wattled Lapwing, Little Egret and Eastern Cattle Egret.

With our success here I decided to take Pieter and Roger to some pools near Wat Khao Takrao where I knew there would be large numbers of Painted Storks feeding. By driving around a dirt track we were able to get close enough to these colourful giants for some nice shots even though the light was starting to fade a little. Many other birds were also feeding in the shallow water of this pool and we also managed photos of Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Great Egret and Common Sandpiper here. A small group of Long-tailed Macaques were also made interesting photographic subjects.

We were hoping for the chance to take some photos back out in the rice fields in the soft late afternoon light but unluckily the skies began to cloud up, with a storm in the distance, and instead of the nice glow we were anticipating it just got gloomy and too dark for taking nice photos, so we headed back to our hotel and enjoyed a nice dinner before watching some Premier League football on television.
 
Baya Weaver & nest
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Asian Openbills
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Painted Stork
(Photo by Nick Upton)
Pak Thale & Laem Pak Bia, 17-18th March
These two adjacent sites are the premier sites in Thailand for shorebirds and one of the world wader hotspots with many rare species regularly wintering here, including the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The previous year we had managed to see all the species that we had hoped for and some photos of Spoon-billed Sandpiper were obtained, but not as good as hoped for so we went in search of this bird first thing.
On arrival at the Spoon-billed Sandpiper site we could see quite a few bird watchers already there and they were spread out all over the place. A quick look showed us that the Spoon-billed Sandpipers were quite distant, on a drained pool so we decided to move elsewhere and concentrate on getting as close as we could to birds and photograph them while the light was good.

One of the first species we were able to get great pictures of was a fine Javan Pond Heron in breeding plumage with the morning light illuminating it and bringing the colours vividly out. By slowly making our way around the salt farms at Pak Thale we were able to get really beautiful photographs of several species of shorebirds, including Red-necked Stint, Temminck's Stint, Long-toed Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover and Wood Sandpiper; all common birds but all with very intricate feather detail when you see them close up.

A visit to nearby Wat Komnaram gave us time for some "touristic" temple photos as well as some surprisingly nice shots of Feral Pigeons, a species that we had largely ignored but this was our time to get it onto our "species photographed list". However, the main reason for me to bring Pieter and Roger here was to photograph oriental Pratincole and Oriental Skylark, both of which nest in a huge field in front of the temple. We managed to get very lucky with the skylarks very close to the van as we entered the area and some really nice images were obtained of this bird walking around in the grass.

The pratincoles were rather more distant but Pieter said that he had managed to stalk pratincoles in Europe before so we tried moving slowly towards some. Incredibly we got very close to them before they started to move which was our cue to leave them alone. Another couple of Oriental Pratincoles further along allowed us to get even closer and both Roger and Pieter got stunning photos; mine were ok too.

I decided that it was time to head to Laem Pak Bia where a road into the salt farms allows close contact with many wader species. Although there were not as many birds as I expected here, we found a small patch of mud with some birds feeding on it and drove very, very slowly up to it. We just sat in the van and Red-necked Stint, Temminck's Stint, Little Ringed Plover and Long-toed Stint all came closer as they were feeding. It was amazing to see how close they came and in our photographs we could see every aspect of their plumage as well as being able to see the long toes of the Long-toed Stint under the water! This was a fantastic experience.

After this a visit to the King's Project revealed that the sewage settling pools had been drained and that it had left a lot of scummy water, full of dead fish and feeding birds. Being able to drive right up to many of the birds here it was fantastic for taking pictures with Red-wattled Lawping, Paddyfield Pipit, Great Egret, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Little Egret, Marsh Sandpiper, Brown Shrike, Red-necked Stint and Black-winged Stilt all being photographed here. My favourite was the Common Redshank in the colourful scum with a dead fish behind it - you can see the photo on the right.

After a visit to a dump for some Green Bee-eaters and Plain-backed Sparrows the time was 11.20am and the sun was intense making it almost impossible to take photos without them being ruined by shadows and glare so we went back for a break and lunch.

Heading out again at 3.30pm we hoped for that nice afternoon light, only to be presented with grey skies and a potential storm again. The windy and gloomy weather conditions made things difficult and the fact that the tide was way out and all the waders were in the distance on the mudflats cut our options. Still, we managed to find a few interesting birds and Pieter got the most unusual photograph of a male Plain-backed Sparrow collecting nest material from a dead and desiccated dog! We caught up with some other open country birds but this ended up being a bit of a disappointing afternoon. With the rain imminent we went back to the hotel for dinner and drinks.
 
Oriental Pratincole
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Feral Pigeon on a temple roof
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Common Redshank
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Common Sandpiper
(Photo by Nick Upton)
Our second morning at these sites saw us go looking for Spoon-billed Sandpiper again. This time we had the site to ourselves and we soon found one of these endangered birds feeding with a flock of stints. Unfortunately it was too far away to take good photos of but I spotted another Spoon-billed Sandpiper in a much better spot and with some very slow stalking we got really close to it and very many shots of it were taken. This success set us up for another good morning and we again used the van as a hide. Over the course of the morning we photographed many of the same birds as the previous day but also added breeding plumage Kentish Plover, Brown-headed Gull, Caspian Tern, Plain Prinia, Curlew Sandpiper, breeding plumage Red-necked Stint, Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers and Common Tern. Finishing with some great photos of Spotted Redshank at around 11am we began our drive to Ban Maka where we would be staying for the last few days of our trip.

Being able to take the time to get close to shorebirds at Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia allowed us to take great photos of many species and was yet another highlight of this trip.

18-20th March, Kaeng Krachan
The drive to our accommodation at Ban Maka took about 1.5 hours so that we were there in time for lunch. The restaurant here overlooks a feeding station on a large log where several species can usually be seen. Over the next couple of days we managed to photograph Streak-eared Bulbul, White-rumped Shama and Red Junglefowl here as well as Grey-bellied Squirrel and Burmese Striped Squirrel. After lunch a quick walk around the garden also produced a very obliging Drongo Cuckoo which sat out in the open for some time.
We had intended to visit Lung Sin Hide where lots of birds can usually be photographed but with yesterday's rain and another storm looming the waterhole there was not likely to be at its best so we went to check out Ban Song Nok. Unfortunately the news was not good and the ongoing wet weather had resulted in few birds visiting this usual hotspot. However, the owner kindly showed us a roosting Large-tailed Nightjar which we were able to get great pictures of.

With the storm imminent we went to a small orchard where we had been told Vernal Hanging Parrots were visiting and got there a few minutes before the downpour. We were able to photograph Brown-throated Sunbird, a juvenile Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and a Vernal Hanging Parrot before having to take shelter. Although this rain could have dampened our spirits we waited it out and made the best of what time was remaining by driving around the area near Ban Maka and we got some nice photographs of Greater Coucal, White-breasted Waterhen and Barn Swallows before going back for dinner.

The morning of the 19th saw us heading into Kaeng Krachan national park. We knew that photography here would be difficult, as it always is in the forest, but I knew a few spots where, if we were patient, we would get close to a few great birds.

On the way in we stopped for a Vinous-breasted Starling and a very nice Indochinese Bushlark, singing from the top of a pile of gravel - a good start. We drove straight to Bang Krang camspite which usually is quite birdy; but not today! Despite my best attempts to call out birds nothing responded but we did find a lovely male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher which, after some effort, Roger and Pieter got some good shots of. A few other common birds were photographed here but we decided to move further into the forest where I knew there was something special awaiting us; a pair of roosting White-fronted Scops Owls. These posing birds allowed for wonderful photos of a bird which is very scarce and usually hard to see.

Walking along the road a little we got the result I was hoping for after some patient waiting. First of all an Asian Barred Owlet sat out in the open for us and shortly after I called in a pair of Silver-breasted Broadbills which were carrying nest material; both really nice species to get photos of. The next bird to show itself was Sultan Tit. We had been hoping for these but they were way up the top of some trees. However, we followed them along as they fed and after some time they descended and came very close allowing lots of time for photographs of them. Whilst we were with the Sultan Tits some other birds presented themselves too, showing that patience is rewarded; Swinhoe's Minivet, Crimson Sunbird and Ochraceous Bulbul.

By this time it was rather hot and the bird activity was decreasing so we went back to Ban Maka for lunch and a very nice Grey-headed Woodpecker feeding on the lawn, which we were alerted to by the owner, before going to Lung Sin Hide for the afternoon.

This hide overlooks a small, man-made, waterhole and can be quite spectacular, attracting lots of common birds as well as some real stars. The hide must be booked in advance and for those that do not speak Thai this is best done by contacting Ban Maka or Samarn Bird Camp first. The fee is 200 baht per person and the hide(s) can fit a maximum of nine people. I had been visiting this location regularly so knew that a few really good birds were expected but with the weather making the whole forest wet the possibility of a wash out was high. As it had been raining in the late afternoon I decided to go to the hide much earlier than normal, at 1pm. This is because I figured that birds would come to drink and bathe at the hottest part of the day and that the late afternoon would be wet (the late afternoon is when the most birds usually arrive to bathe under normal conditions).

Things started off slowly and it started to seem like I had put us in the hot hide for nothing but then things started to happen, including one of our most hoped for birds - Slaty-legged Crake which came in twice to bathe - quite wonderful and as the crake never came back again it justified my decision to get to the hide early.

Over the course of the next 4.5 hours we were treated to some wonderful birds and the waterhole was always full of activity. In this time we obtained high quality photos of almost every bird that arrived to drink, feed and bathe: Red Junglefowl, Bar-backed Partridge, Scaly-breasted Partridge, Racket-tailed Treepie, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Black-naped Monarch, Abbott's Babbler, Puff-throated Babbler, Pin-striped Tit Babbler, Tickell's Blue Flycatcher, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, White-rumped Shama, Black-crested Bulbul, Streak-eared Bulbul, Stripe-throated Bulbul - what a bounty! Only one bird was seen but not photographed at Lung Sin Hide, Large Scimitar-babbler which never came out into the open.
 
Barn Swallows
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

White-fronted Scops Owl
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Slaty-legged Crake
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 

Racket-tailed Treepie
(Photo by Nick Upton)
This location really provided one of the highlights of the trip, perhaps the most outstanding moments, which was no mean feat considering some of the great moments we had enjoyed. In addition to the birds we also saw and photographed 5 species of mammals at Lung Sin Hide - Grey-bellied Squirrel, Indochinese Ground Squirrel, Burmese Striped Squirrel, Northern Treeshrew and Lesser Mouse Deer as well as a nice Skink which posed as it took a drink.

After this afternoon, quite frankly, we were on a high as we ate a very nice dinner at Ban Maka.
Some Notes On Taking Photos At Lung Sin Hide
  Lung Sin Hide attracts many birds during the dry season that come to the food and water provided by the locals. Many of the birds are fairly tame and repeatedly come back to bathe and drink and they are used to the sound of camera shutters going off and talking in low voices.

However, over the course of many visits I have noticed that sharp noises, such as zippers, water bottles falling over, chairs moving etc startle the birds. Mostly the birds do come back very quickly but it prevents the shyer birds from coming out and the times I have visited the hide and not seen some of the shy species is when people are shuffling around the most.

Flash photography is not encouraged either. In fact I was told by the locals that if you want to use flash then you must pay to book out the whole hide.

Once again, the commoner and bolder birds tolerate the camera flash but often the shy birds, such as the crake, do not come out when the flash is going off. So, it may seem that the birds are not disturbed by camera flash, but in actuality it can be the difference between seeing species such as Slaty-legged Crake and Large Scimitar-babbler or not. This is something I have had confirmed by the local photographers.
On our final day we decided to go back into Kaeng Krachan national park and try our luck to see if we could photograph some more of the colourful forest birds. Our first stop was a location that usually has Great Flamebacks around and we got lucky with 2 males and 1 female presenting themselves well for us. A bonus was a group of 3 Black-and-red Broadbills - this is a spectacular species that makes for great pictures!

Further into the forest we exercised great patience and were eventually rewarded with shots of a Banded Broadbill but we had to wait a long time for it to turn its head as for a long time its bill was behind a branch from whatever angle we looked at it. A pair of Crested Jays showed themselves briefly also but despite our best efforts these fantastic birds never came into a place where we could get any sort of shot of them. A couple of Tickell's Brown Hornbills calling from high in a tree were good birds to see but the pictures obtained were awful! After taking more photos of the White-fronted Scops Owls we decided it was time to begin going back to Bangkok via lunch at Ban Maka and another session back at Tung Bang Jak rice fields.
Tung Bang Jak, 20th March
We arrived at the rice fields with time to spend a few hours looking for some species that we had not got good photographs of on our previous visit to the site. The opportunity to get more shots of large waterbirds such as Eastern Cattle Egret, Javan Pond Heron and Asian Openbill distracted us for a while, but when you can get so close to these birds with good light, against nice green rice fields, it is hard not to take the opportunity for yet more shots with perhaps better composition than the last.

However, although we had already photographed these species earlier on the trip, our last session at this location did provide us with some new birds and I was happy to find a few of the species that I had expected to see. One of the first "new" birds was a subadult Eastern Marsh Harrier which we found hunting over the rice fields, which made for some very nice images indeed, and we teased out a Yellow-bellied Prinia using call playback; a beautiful and comical little bird which was exceptionally curious, coming very close to us in the reeds, blasting out his call to attempt to drive us off although his speed made taking his portrait rather tricky.

On our way to a location that I knew would contain some more weaver birds we came across a Blue-tailed Bee-eater sitting in the middle of the road, which was rather an odd sight, but it eventually obliged us by perching in a tree for some nicer shots than we had obtained whilst it was sitting on the line in the road.

After leaving the bee-eater we were able to find some Streaked Weavers at exactly the spot I had been expecting them, which was very satisfying, and they gave us some entertainment with their squabbling and nest-building. With some patience a nice male in breeding plumage eventually came close enough for us and this was the last species that Roger and Pieter got excellent photos of on the trip. However, this was not the last bird to be added to our species photographed list - it was a pair of Red Avadavats that were nesting in the same reedbed as the weavers and I obtained perhaps the worst pictures in existence of these beautiful birds; out of focus, under-exposed and too small!

It was very pleasing to have some nice birds to finish our trip with and being mindful of the fact that the traffic could be bad we decided that it was time to begin our drive back to Bangkok. In fact we turned out to be lucky in that there were no unusual traffic problems, just a few small delays, and we managed to reach our hotel in around two hours which gave us time to take a much-needed shower and change our sweaty clothes before taking our last dinner together.

While having dinner we were able to reflect upon the whole trip. We had aimed for a relaxed pace and had surprised ourselves at just how enjoyable and relaxing the trip had in fact been. We had all enjoyed seeing lots of great birds close up and not putting ourselves under pressure to find every last species. We had also really enjoyed lots of good Thai food and some interesting locations as well as a lot of wonderful birds.

By planning to spend most of our time at locations where birds would come to feeding stations or where birds were very abundant we had managed to photograph a large number of species, including many hard to see birds. By spending some time walking and looking for forest birds we had also found a few gems that would not be seen at stakeouts too and we felt that we had got the balance just about right.
 
Eastern Marsh Harrier
(Photo by Nick Upton)
 
 
If repeating this tour we were all in agreement that we would skip Khao Yai and spend another morning at Bueng Boraphet and also add another day at Kaeng Krachan so that we could go up to Panoen Tung and look for the specialities there too. Another day here or there would not go a miss either, particularly a little more time at Doi Lang, Doi Ang Kang and Laem Pak Bia where we would include a boat trip that we did not do this year. However, even without these improvements this had been more successful and more enjoyable than any of us had expected.
Nick Upton (nickupton@thaibirding.com)
  Bird Photography & Bird Watching Trips:
The locations visited on this trip are some of the premier sites in Thailand and they are all worth visiting on any bird watching or bird photography tour. Doi Lang, Mae Wong, Bueng Boraphet, Lung Sin Hide and Pak Thale/Laem Pak Bia, in particular, are excellent sites for photography.

Look at some suggested itineraries, Thailand bird tours, or contact me for more information: nickupton@thaibirding.com.
 Species list with notes
Fang By Pass: FBP
Doi Lang: DL
Doi Ank Kang: DAK
Doi Inthanon: DI
Mae Wong: MW
Bueng Boraphet: BB
Khao Yai: KY
Sri Nakorn Kuan Kan Park: SNKK
Wat Komnaram: WKN
Pak Thale: PT
Laem Pak Bia: LPB
Wat Khao Takrao: WKT
Tung Bang Jak: TBJ
Kaeng Krachan: KK
Lung Sin Hide: LSH
Ban Song Nok: BSN
Ban Maka: BM
Birds Photographed: The following is a list of all the bird species that were photographed between the three of us. I have given each a scale of 1 to 5 to indicate the quality of the best photos obtained, with 5 being top quality and 1 being more or less instantly deleted. It was fun to try and get better quality photos of some of the commoner species as we traveled.

1. Rufous-throated Partridge (5): 3 at MW.
2. Bar-backed Partridge (5): 2 at LSH.
3. Scaly-breasted Partridge (5): 3 at LSH.
4. Red Junglefowl (5): A few at MW & LSH.
5. Kalij Pheasant (4): Photographed at MW were we saw c12; also seen at KK.
6. Grey Peacock Pheasant (5): 1 at MW.
7. Lesser Whistling Duck (4)
: Many at BB.
8. Cotton Pygmy Goose (5): Many at BB.
9. Garganey (5): Many at BB.
10. Little Grebe (5)
: Many at BB; a few at LPB & WKT.
11. Painted Stork (5): Photographed at WKT, also seen at LPB.
12. Asian Openbill (5): Many at BB & TBJ.
13. Little Cormorant (5): Photographed at BB; also seen at WKT, LPB & PT.
14. Indian Cormorant (5): Photographed at BB; also seen at WKT, LPB & PT.
15. Yellow Bittern (5): Photographed at BB; also seen at TBJ & BM.
16. Grey Heron (3): Fairly common at BB, WKT, PT & LPB.
17. Purple Heron (5): Photographed at BB; also seen at BM & TBJ.
18
. Chinese Pond Heron (5): Photographed at FBP, BB, TBJ, PT & LPB; also seen at KK, SNKK, BM & WKT.
19. Javan Pond Heron (5): Photographed at TBJ, PT, LPB; also seen at WKT.
20
. Eastern Cattle Egret (5): A pair at SS.
21. Great Egret (5): Photographed at BB, WKT, TBJ, PT & LPB.
22. Intermediate Egret (5): Photographed at BB; also seen at WKT, LPB & PT.
23. Little Egret (5): Photographed at BB, LPB, PT; also seen at WKT & TBJ.
24. Brahminy Kite (3)
: Photographed at TBJ; also seen at PT & LPB.
25. Pied Harrier (4): A subadult at TBJ.
26. Eastern Marsh Harrier (5): A second-year male at TBJ.
27. Mountain Hawk Eagle (3): Photographed in flight at DL; also seen at MW.
28. Slaty-legged Crake (5): 1 at LSH.
29. White-breasted Waterhen (5): Photographed at BM & TBJ.
30. Purple Swamphen (5): BB.
31. Black-winged Stilt (5): Photographed at BB, PT, LPB, WKT & TBJ.
32. Pheasant-tailed Jacana (5): BB.
33. Bronze-winged Jacana (5)
: Photographed at BB; also seen at BM
.
34. Oriental Pratincole (5): About 50 at WKN.
35. Red-wattled Lapwing (5): Photographed at MW, BB, PT, LPB & TBJ.
36. Lesser Sand Plover (4): Photographed at PT; also seen at LPB.
37. Greater Sand Plover (5): 30+ at PT.
38. Pacific Golden Plover (4): Photographed at PT; also seen at LPB.
39. Little Ringed PLover (5): Photographed at PT & LPB.
40. Kentish Plover (5): Photographed in breeding plumage at PT & LPB.
41
. Ruff (4): A few at LPB .
42
. Common Sandpiper (5): Photographed at LPB & WKT; also seen at PT.
43. Wood Sandpiper (5): Photographed at BB, PT, WKT & LPB; also seen at TBJ.
44. Spotted Redshank (5)
: A few at PT & LPB.
45
. Common Greenshank (5): Photographed at PT & LPB; also seen at WKT.
46. Common Redshank (5): Photographed at LPB; also seen at PT.
47. Spoon-billed Sandpiper (4):
2 at PT.
48. Red-necked Stint (5): Common at LPB & PT.
49. Temminck's Stint (5): LPB & PT.
50. Long-toed Stint (5): Common at LPB & PT.
51. Broad-billed Sandpiper (5): Common at LPB & PT.
52. Curlew Sandpiper (4): PT.
53. Whiskered Tern (5): Common at PT & LPB.
54. Common Tern (5): A few at PT.
55. Caspian Tern (5): Photographed in flight at LPB; also seen at PT.
56. Brown-headed Gull (5): Photographed in flight at LPB; also seen at PT.
57. Feral Pigeon (5): Surprisingly nice photos obtained at WKN.
58. Barred Cuckoo Dove (3): Photographed at KY; also seen at MW.
59
. Emerald Dove (4): Photographed at KY; also seen at MW.
60. Peaceful Dove (5): Photographed at LPB, PT, TBJ; also seen at FBP.

61. Pink-necked Green Pigeon (5): 50+ at SNKK.
62. Thick-billed Green Pigeon (5): A pair at KY.
63. Vernal Hanging Parrot (5): 2, a little outside KK.
64. Red-breasted Parakeet (4): A few outisde KY.
65. Drongo Cuckoo (5): 1 at BM.
66. Asian Koel (4) : Photographed at BB; heard in many places.
67. Greater Coucal (4): Photographed near LSH; also seen at DL, FBP, BB, MW and TBJ.
68. White-fronted Scops Owl (5): A pair at KK.
69. Asian Barred Owlet (5): 1 photographed at KK; also seen at DI.
70. Large-tailed Nightjar (5): Photographed on daytime roost at BSN.
71. Collared Kingfisher (5): A few at SNKK.
72. Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (3): 1 at KK.
73. Green Bee-eater (5): Photographed at TBJ & LPB; also seen at WKT.
74. Blue-tailed Bee-eater (5): Photographed at TBJ; also seen at BM.
75. Oriental Pied Hornbill (5): Several at KK.
76
. Tickell's Brown Hornbill (1): 2 at KK.
77. Great Hornbill (4): 2 at KY.
78
. Lineated Barbet (4): 1 at BB.
79. Coppersmith Barbet (5): 1 at BB.
80. Spot-breasted (Fulvous-breasted) Woodpecker (2): 1 at BB.
81. Grey-headed Woodpecker (5): 1m at BM.
82. Greater Flameback (5)
: 2m & 1f at KK.
83. Long-tailed Broadbill (1): A pair at DL.
84. Silver-breasted Broadbill (4): A pair at KK.
85. Banded Broadbill (4): A pair at KK.
86. Black-and-red Broadbill (4): 3 at KK.

87. Scarlet Minivet (4): Photographed at KY; also seen at MW.
88. Black-naped Oriole (3): Photographed at TBJ; also seen at BB & SNKK.
89. Black-hooded Oriole (5): A pair at BM.
90. Yellow-bellied Fantail (5): A few at DI.
91. Pied Fantail (4): Photographed at BB; also seen at PT, WKT, TBJ & PT.
92. Black-naped Monarch (5): A few at LSH.
93. Hair-crested Drongo (2): Photographed at BM; also seen at DL & MW.
94. Black Drongo (4): Photographed at BB, TBJ, FBP & LPB; also seen at PT & WKT.
95. Red-billed Blue Magpie (5): Several at MW.
96. Racket-tailed Treepie (5): 3 at LSH.
97. Brown Shrike (2): Photographed at FBP; also seen at LPB, PT, WKT, WKN & TBJ.
98. Long-tailed Shrike (5): Photographed at DAK; also seen at FBP.
99. Crimson Sunbird (5): 1 subadult male at KK.
100. Green-tailed Sunbird (5): A few at DI.
101. Brown-throated Sunbird (4): Photographed at KK; also seen at SNKK & BB.
102. Olive-backed Sunbird (5): Photographed and seen at many places.
103. Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (4): cambodianum subsp photographed at KY.
104. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (5): A juvenile and female photographed at KK; also seen at BM & KY.
105. Scaly-breasted Munia (5): Photographed at FBP & BM; also seen at BB & TBJ.
106. Red Avadavat (1): 2 at TBJ.
107. Eurasian Tree Sparrow 95): Photographed at DI; seen in all urban areas.
108. Plain-backed Sparrow (5):FBP & LPB.
109. Olive-backed Pipit (4): DAK & MW.
110. Paddyfield Pipit (4): Photographed near KK; also seen at LPB & TBJ.
111. Forest Wagtail (2): 1 at BM.
112. Grey Wagtail (5): MW & KK.
113. Baya Weaver (5): BB & TBJ.
114. Asian Golden Weaver (5): TBJ.
115. Streaked Weaver (5): TBJ.
116. Chestnut-vented Nuthatch (5): DL.
117. Giant Nuthatch (2): DL.
118. White-vented Myna (5): Photographed at BB, KY, TBJ; also seen at FBP, PT, BM & WKT.
119. Common Myna (5): Photographed at BB; common in all open country.
120. Vinous-breasted Starling (5): SNKK & just outside KK.
121. Indochinese Bushlark (5): Photographed near KK; also seen at LPB.
122. Oriental Skylark (5): WKN.
123. Blue Whistlingthrush (5): eugenei at DI & caeruleus at MW.
124. Grey-sided Thrush (5): 3 at DI.
125. White-tailed Robin (5): DAK & MW.
126. White-bellied Redstart (5): 1 male at DL.
127. Oriental Magpie Robin (4): Photographed at BB, SNKK; also seen at BM.
128. White-rumped Shama (5): Photographed at DAK, KY, BM, LSH; also seen at KK.
129. Siberian Rubythroat (5): A female at DL.
130. Blue-fronted Redstart (5): 1 female at DL.
131. Grey Bushchat (3): DL.
132. Pied Bushchat (3): FBP.
133. Eastern Stonechat (5): Photographed at FBP, BB, TBJ; also seen at WKN.
134. Slaty-backed Forktail (4): 2 at DI.
135. Hill Blue Flycatcher (5): DAK & MW.
136. Tickell's Blue Flycatcher (5): LSH.
137. Blue-throated Flycatcher (5): 1 female at MW.
138. Large Niltava (5): DL & DI.
139. Small Niltava (5): A pair at MW.
140. Little Pied Flycatcher (4): 1 male a DL.
141. Ultramarine Flycatcher (4): 1 male a DL.
142. Rufous-browed Flycatcher (5): A few at MW.
143 Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (5): KK & KY.
144. Slaty-backed Flycatcher (4): A pair at DL.
145. Snowy-browed Flycatcher (5): 1 male at DI.
146. Slaty-blue Flycatcher (5): A pair at DL.
147. Taiga Flycatcher (1): MW; also seen in many locations.
148. Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher (5): DL.
149. Asian Brown Flycatcher (5): KY & KK.
150. Sultan Tit (4): KK.
151. Crested Finchbill (2): DL.
152. Black-crested Bulbul (5): KY, KK & LSH.
153. Stripe-throated Bulbul (5): LSH.
154. Flavescent Bulbul (5): DL & MW.
155. Yellow-vented Bulbul (1): BB; also seen at TBJ.
156. Streak-eared Bulbul (5): BM, LPB & LSH; also seen at BB.
157. Ochraceous Bulbul (5): KK.
158. Barn Swallow (5): BB, LPB & near KK.
159. Oriental Reed Warbler (4): BB & TBJ.
160. Ashy-throated Warbler (2): DI.
161. Buff-barred Leaf Warbler (5): DL & DI.
162. Chinese Leaf Warbler (5): 1 at MW.
163. Spot-breasted Parrotbill (5): A pair at DL.
164. Black-throated Parrotbill (1): A small flock at DL.
165. Grey-cheeked Fulvetta (5): DI & MW; also seen at DAK & DL.
166. Brown-cheeked Fulvetta (5): LSH.
167. Rufous-winged Fulvetta (3): DI.
168. Golden Babbler (4): MW.
169. Pin-striped Tit Babbler (5): LSH.
170. Pygmy Wren Babbler (1): 1 at DI.
171. Streaked Wren Babbler (5): A pair at MW.
172. Buff-breasted Babbler (2): A pair at MW.
173. Puff-throated Babbler (5): LSH.
174. Silver-eared Laughingthrush (5): DL, DI & MW.
175. Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush (5): LSH.
176. Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush: LSH.
177. Spot-breasted Laughingthrush (5): A pair at DL.
178. Scarlet-faced Liocichla (5): DL.
179. Bar-throated Minla (5): DI.
180. Silver-eared Mesia (5): MW; also seen at DAK.
181. Long-tailed Sibia (1): MW; also seen at DL.
182. Dark-backed Sibia (5): DL & DI; also seen at DAK.
183. Plain Prinia (5): LPB, BB; also seen at FBP & TBJ.
184. Yellow-bellied Prinia (5): TBJ.

Other Species Seen: A large proprtion of these were seen only by myself as Roger and Pieter were busy taking photos of other birds, although some of these were birds that we were trying to photograph and they got away; such is the nature of bird photography!
1. Hume's Pheasant: 1 male at DL.
2. Northern Pintail: 1 at BB & several hundred at WKT.
3. Black-headed Ibis: 1 at WKT.
4. Oriental Darter: A few at BB & 1 at WKT.
5. Common Kestrel: 1 at FBP.
6. Jerdon's Baza: 1 at MW.
7. Black Baza: 2 at SNKK.
8. Black-shouldered Kite: BB.
9. Black-eared Kite: TBJ & WKT.
10. Crested Serpent Eagle: KY.
11. Shikra: 1 at DL.
12. Oriental Honey-buzzard: 1 at DL.
13. White-browed Crake: 1 at BB.
14. Watercock: 1 at LPB.
15.Common Moorhen: BB.
16. Common Coot: BB.
17. Pied Avocet: LPB.
18. Grey Plover: PT & LPB.
19. Black-tailed Godwit: PT.
20. Whimbrel: PT.
21. Eurasian Curlew: PT.
22. Nordmann's Greenshank: A few at LPB.
23. Dunlin: 1 at PT.
24. Little Tern: A few at PT & LPB.
25. Gull-billed Tern: PT & LPB.
26. Oriental Turtle Dove: A few at DL.
27. Spotted Dove: Many locations.
28. Large Hawk Cuckoo: 1 at DAK.
29. Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo: 1 at MW.
30. Lesser Coucal: KK & TBJ.
31. Himalayan Swiftlet: MW.
32. Germain's Swiftlet: Many at TBJ, WKT, WKN, PT & LPB.
33. Asian Palm Swift: Many locations.
34. Cook's Swift: DL.
35. Orange-breasted Trogon: 1 male at KK.
36. Red-headed Trogon: 1 at MW.
37. White-throated Kingfisher: TBJ.
38. Black-capped Kingfisher: 1 at KK.
39. Common Kingfisher: 1 at LPB.
40. Pied Kingfisher: 1 at BB.
41. Indian Roller: Several locations.
42. Dollarbird: A couple at KK.
43. Chestnut-headed Bee-eater: MW.
44. Common Hoopoe: 1 at KK.
45. Golden-throated Barbet: A few at DI & MW.
46. Moustached Barbet: KY.
47. Speckled Piculet: MW & DL.
48. White-browed Piculet: 1 at MW.
49. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker: 1 at DL.
50. Stripe-breasted Woodpecker: DL.
51. Rufous Woodpecker: 1 at KK.
52. Black-and-yellow Broadbill: A pair at KK.
53. Blyth's (White-browed) Shrike-babbler: DL.
54. Large Cuckooshrike: DL.
55. Black-winged Cuckooshrike: DL, KK & SNKK.
56. Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike: 2 at BM.
57. Swinhoe's Minivet: A few at KK.
58. Grey-chinned Minivet: MW.
59. Short-billed Minivet: DL.
60. Maroon Oriole: 1 at MW.
61. Ashy Woodswallow: A few at DL & TBJ.
62. Ashy Drongo: Many locations.
63. Bronzed Drongo: A few at KK.
64. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo: DL & MW.
65. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo: DI, KY & KK
66. Crestd Jay: 2 briefly seen at KK.
67. Eastern Jungle Crow: FBP, BB, KY & TBJ.
68. Eurasian Jay: 1 at DL.
69. Common Iora: A few at BB & BM.
70. Grey-backed Shrike: 1 at KY.
71. Mrs Gould's Sunbird: A few at DL.
72. Black-throated Sunbird: 1 male at MW.
73. Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker: 1 at DI.
74. Blue-winged Leafbird: A pair at KK.
75. House Sparrow: TBJ & LPB.
76. Hill Myna: A pair at KK.
77. Black-collared Starling: FBP.
78. White-shouldered Starling: A few at BB.
79. Blue Rock Thrush: KY.
80. White-browed Shortwing: 1m at DI.
81. White-crowned Forktail: 1 at MW.
82. White-gorgetted Flycatcher: 1 briefly at DL.
83. Yellow-cheeked Tit: DL.
84. Red-whiskered Bulbul: DL & KY.
85. Brown-breasted Bulbul: A few at DL.
86. Sooty-headed Bulbul: FBP, DL & BM.
87. Mountain Bulbul: DAK.
88. Red-rumped Swallow: A few at MW.
89. Aberrant Bush Warbler: 1 at DL.
90. Asian Stubtail: 1 at MW.
91. Black-browed Reed Warbler: BB.
92. Mountain Tailorbird: 1 at DL.
93. Marten's Warbler: 1 at DL & 1 at MW.
94. Bianchi's Warbler: 1 at DL.
95. Davison's Leaf Warbler: DL & DI.
96. Blyth's Leaf Warbler: A few at DI.
97. Dusky Warbler: BB.
98. Chestnut-flanked White-eye: KY.
99. Burmese Yuhina: A small group at MW.
100. Spot-necked Babbler: MW & KK.
101. Grey-throated Babbler: 1 at MW.
102. Rufous-fronted Babbler: A few at KK.
103. Large Scimitar-babbler: 1 at LSH.
104. Black-throated Laughingthrush: 2 briefly at MW.
105. Common Tailorbird: BM.
106. Dark-necked Tailorbird: KK.
107. Hill Prinia: DAK.
108. Grey-breasted Prinia: A couple at DAK.
Mammals
1. Northern Treeshrew: KSD
2. Pig-tailed Macaque: KY
3. Long-tailed Macaque: WKT
4. White-handed Gibbon:
KK
5. Banded Langur:
KK
6. Pallas's Squirrel:
DL, DI
7. Variable Squirrel:
KY
8. Grey-bellied Squirrel:
KK, BM, LSH
9. Indochinese Ground Squirrel: LSH
10. Cambodian Striped Squirrel:
KY
11. Burmese Striped Squirrel: BM, KK, DL, MW, LSH

12. Crab-eating Mongoose:
KK
13. Red Muntjac:
KY
14. Sambar:
KY
15. Lesser Mouse Deer:
LSH
Nick Upton can be contacted at nickupton@thaibirding.com
More information on Doi Ang Kang
More information on Doi Inthanon
More information on Bueng Boraphet
More information on Mae Wong
More information on Khao Yai
More information on Sri Nakorn Kuen Khan Park
More information on Laem Pak Bia/Pak Thale
More information on Petchaburi Rice Fields
More information on Kaeng Krachan
More information on Birdwatching Trips
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.
 More photos from the trip
Select the thumbnail photos to see larger images.
lesser-mouse-deer2
Lesser Mouse Deer
lizard
Unidentified Skink
long-tailed-macaque
Long-tailed Macaque
variable-squirrel3
Variable Squirrel
sambar-eye
Sambar close-up
tractor-egrets
Tung Bang Jak Rice Fields
chong-yen
View from Chong Yen, Mae Wong
summit
Doi Ang Kang
rice-fields-view
Rice Fields at Thatorn
salt-piles
Salt Piles at, Pak Thale
common-greenshank2
Common Greenshank
chinese-pond-heron1
Chinese Pond Heron
kalij-pheasant2
Kalij Pheasants
green-tailed-sunbird-female
Green-tailed Sunbird (female)
banded-broadbill1
Banded Broadbill
 
Thailand Photography Tour 2013
I have also created another report of this trip in which the focus is upon more general photography and not just birds: Thailand Photography Tour of the North & Central Regions
   
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