the southeast and the north 31st March - 13th April 2005
this holiday, I visited Cambodia first. The Cambodian part of the
trip is treated separately: Vincent's
Birding Trips. I had more time than my friends, so after
visiting Cambodia and Khao Soi Dao together, I travelled alone. The
original plan was to hit for Vietnam instead of Thailand , but visa
problems forced me to change plans. Therefore I could not prepare
this part of my holiday as well as usual. Having said that, taking
my refuge here was far from a disappointing, second option. Northern
Thailand was teeming with birds and together with last year's trip
to the south, I got the country pretty much covered now. Much has
been said and written about Northern Thailand already, so in this
report I won't be extremely detailed about the famous sites Doi Chiang
Dao and Doi Inthanon. I only added information that seems to be new
or interesting otherwise, like bird ringing (banding if you like)
at Doi Chiang Dao and night spotting in Khao Yai.
March: Khao Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary, spent the night
at fishing resort at the beginning of the road to the park
Khao Soi Dao W.S., spent the night at fishing resort at the beginning
of the road to the park
Khao Soi Dao W.S., spent the night at fishing resort at the beginning
of the road to the park
travelling to Northern Thailand, spent the night in the bus
travelled to Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Santuary, spent the night at
Doi Chiang Dao W.S., spent the night at Malee's
Doi Chiang Dao W.S., Den Ya Khat, spent the night at Malee's
morning Doi Chiang Dao W.S., travelled to Doi Inthanon, spent the
night at campsite Doi Inthanon
morning Doi Inthanon, travelling to Central Thailand, spent the
night in the bus
travelled to Khao Yai National Park, spent the night at Lum Tahkong
April: Khao Yai N.P., spent the night at Lum Tahkong campsite
April: Khao Yai Khao Yai N.P., spent the night at Lum Tahkong
April: early morning birding Khao Yai N.P., travelled to
Bangkok, spent the night in Bangkok
April: Bangkok, departure
the very start of the road to Khao
Soi Dao there's an ugly but clean and friendly fishing
resort. We hired a bungalow for 400 B a night here. You can get
food here as well. The owner is one of the few people around that
In both Doi
Inthanon and Khao
Yai I camped. Camping gear can be hired at the park's
headquarters. Prices: around 150 Baht a night, including tent and
Chiang Dao I stayed at Malee's very tranquil bungalows,
6 km outside the village (take a moto). I think I paid 600 B for
a double. The food is great and the forest is at walking distance.
It's wise to make a reservation: tel. 019618387 or 053456426. There's
a birder's log and Malee can arrange trips to Den Ya Khat, a must
if you want to tick off Mrs. Humes Pheasant and Giant Nuthatch.
only used public transport (buses, moto's, songtaews and taxi's),
except on the trip to Den Ya Khat, the higher part of the mountain
at Doi Chiang Dao. Den Ya Khat cannot be reached without a car (See
Upton's report 2002), so I hired a 4WD with driver (1.500B) at
Malee's. Hitching is safe and easy and is a great way to move around
once you have entered the Doi Inthanon and Khao Yai National Parks.
Soi Dao (31 March-2 April)
little visited area is best reached by minibus from Aranyaprathet.
Mind that no one seems to speak any English or other foreign language
around here. At the beginning of the road to the park there's a
fishing resort where you can sleep. Walk or hitch (if possible)
to the park. On the road to the park we saw, amongst others, two
Barred Buttonquails and a Thick-billed Warbler, so walking can be
productive. If you arrive at the park's gate early, no one's there
to charge the entrance fee (200 Baht). There are a few trails and
there's a small restaurant in the park. This area is on the Thai
side of an Endemic Bird Area. Specialties include Orange-necked
Partridge, Siamese Fireback, and Eared, Blue and Blue-rumped Pitta.
Bar-bellied Pitta might occur here too, though none of the park
rangers recognised pictures of the bird. Download the skecthy map
to get a better understanding of where the birding places are. Check
the cages with birds near the restaurant if you want to see White-headed
1: This is a very confusing trail, where both Rob and I
got lost. At the start you'll see a very big tree on the trail.
The trail goes through (!) the tree, so you can't miss it. This
is a good spot for Banded Broadbill and other people saw Dusky Broadbill
here as well. The rest of the trail was rather birdless: a Heart-spotted
Woodpecker and a Siberian Blue Robin were the highlights.
2: Very good trail that provided two Eared and two Blue-rumped
Pitta's! Somehow far more birds were present here than at Trail
1. Other nice species included several Siberian Blue Robins, Blue-bearded
Bee-eaters and Orange-headed Trogons, as well as another Heart-spotted
Woodpecker. I birded the trail three times. Rob and Jacques also
did the trail a couple of times without me.
centre: There was a very large fruiting tree next to the
educational centre, where I spent two afternoons. Best birds included
a Violet Cuckoo (Rob) and two Thick-billed Flowerpeckers. Easy birding!
Near the centre there are some cages with birds (other ones than
at the entrance). Orange-necked Partridge has been seen there.
road: The paved road up leads to a popular waterfall. Later
on the day quite some Thai tourists come visit this area, but early
in the morning the birding is good. A male Siamese Fireback (seen
by Jacques), a Violet Cuckoo, a Barred Cuckoo Dove (Jacques), three
Yellow-rumped Flycatchers and several Blue-beared Bee-eaters and
Forest Wagtails were the best birds. At the top there's a toilet
and a small shop with drinks. Blue-rumped Pitta has been seen here.
3: This sometimes steep trail leads to the waterfall. The
birding wasn't really spectacular, but a splendid male White-throated
Rock Thrush and a Blue Whistling Thrush were good. I heard that
it's possible to go higher up into the mountains, probably good
for different species. However, we never found the, probably poorly
Chiang Dao (4-7 April)
village is easily reached by bus from Chiang Mai. Take a moto taxi
in the village to Malee's, six kilometres out of town. In Doi Chiang
Dao there are two main birding areas: the jungle around the temples,
known as Wat Tham Pha Phlong (next to Malee's Bungalows) and Den Ya
Khat, the mountain. Both areas have different species and for several
specialties you have to visit Den Ya Khat. Malee can arrange a 4WD
and driver for you (in April 2005 1.500 Baht for a full day).
the Wat complex:
Several trails provide good birding opportunities. Best birds around
the Wat complex included Rusty-naped Pitta (at the crossing of Nature
and Fence Trail), Lesser Shortwing (Nature Trail), Long-tailed Broadbill
(crossing North and Scary Trail, also several Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes
here) and a calling Spot-bellied Eagle Owl (at Malee's on one night).
Blue Pitta is possible here as well (try Gully Trail). Several babbler
species are common, including the magnificent Streaked Wren Babbler.
I strongly advise not to walk Scary Trail: with its long, steep, slippery
hills with a complete lack of grip you can easily fall pretty hard
here. There are enough other good trails, though supposedly this is
the best trail for Rusty-naped Pitta. Sultan Tit is sometimes seen
around the temples, though I failed in finding one.
Ya Khat: This is a very good spot to see two species classified
as 'Vulnerable' by BirdLife: Giant Nuthatch and Mrs. Humes Pheasant.
The pheasant can be seen while driving up hill (I had splendid views).
For the nuthatch try the large pines after you pass the substation
(the place where they check your ticket). I found two birds in the
first big pine I checked, but those proved to be the only ones of
the day! Other goodies while driving to the hill station included
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, three Black-backed Forktails and a few
Chestnut Buntings. The area around the hill station is very good for
birding. Amongst others I saw Rusty-cheeked and Large Scimitar Babbler
and Chestnut Bunting. I 'lost' a lot of time while trapping birds
for research here.
Trapping: To my surprise I found nets while birding on Den
Ya Khat. They belonged to researchers taking DNA-samples. As a bird
ringer I know how to handle birds, so I helped out for an hour. The
highlight was an adult female Hodsgon's Frogmouth. The following species
were trapped: White-browed Piculet (several), Hodsgon's Frogmouth,
Eye-browed Thrush (several), White-tailed Robin (several), Mountain
Bulbul (several), Rufous-fronted Babbler and several bats (species
unknown to me).
Inthanon (7-8 April)
disappointment of the trip. After I'd been to the tranquil and relaxing
Doi Chiang Dao, I ended up in this over-crowded national park, with
loads of tourists, agriculture and villages. A national park where
you can get a bloody hair cut is not my idea of fun. The birding was
great, but I just didn't like the place. I suggest you go to this
place first and than to Chiang Dao instead of the other way around.
Anyway, the first thing you should do when you arrive is visit Mr.
Daeng and ask for some info (eat there; he also has two rooms). He
can explain where to find good birds, including the Black-tailed Crake
on the campsite. There's a birding log available. You can find him
near the headquarters: walk uphill and after two hundred metres you
will find the sign on the left side of the road. Even early morning
it is easy to hitch within the park. Apart from the campsite I only
birded two areas: Jeep Track 37.5 and the Summit Marsh.
Track 37.5: The place for cochoa's. I birded this place twice:
a morning and a late afternoon. The trail is marked with meter-signs.
I heard two Green Cochoa's around 800 metres (700 metres is a famous
spot) and saw and heard one at 1.200 metres. At 1.200 metres several
Green and two Purple were present in the weeks before I arrived. Other
goodies included a calling Rusty-naped Pitta at the very start of
the trail, Slaty-bellied Tesia, four Dark-backed Sibia's (endemic
for Southeast Asia), two White-tailed Robins and three White-necked
Marsh: As this place is near the summit, it won't get hot,
so you can bird here during the day. The forest is really pretty and
the boardwalks make it easy to bird. It does get crowded with tourists,
but the good news is that most birds are so incredibly tame, that
you have to watch out not stepping on them. Great photographic opportunities,
it's a shame I did not bring my gear. What you should look for is:
Green-tailed Sunbird, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Chestnut-tailed Minla,
White-browed Shortwing, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Yellow-cheeked
Tit, Ashy-throated Warbler and two species I did not find myself:
Pygmy Wren Babbler and Dark-sided Thrush.
Yai (9-12 April)
Doi Inthanon early meant that I had some time to do something else.
I decided to go to Khao Yai, which I already visited before. For detailed
discriptions about this famous park (logistics, sites) I refer to
my 2004 report. As last year, the site was excellent, especially for
mammals. I spent a couple of days here during a Thai holiday, so it
was rather crowded which was especially frustrating while birding
Radar Road. I slept at one of the campsites: Lum Tahkong (ask for
camping possibilities at the headquarters). There is another campsite
near the Haew Suwat waterfall, which is close to some interesting
forest. Asian Elephants walk around there at night, so this is not
a place for the faint hearted. I had an appointment with James Eaton
and Rob Hutchinson in Bangkok, but fortunately I met them a few days
earlier: right here in the park. They hired a car, which allowed me
to do some interesting night spotting. This year's birding highlights
were four Siamese Firebacks, two Wreathed and two Great Hornbills,
a Coral-billed Ground-cuckoo, three Long-tailed Broadbills, two Eared
and two Blue Pitta's, two Lesser Necklaced and a Black-throated Laughingthrush.
Suwat Waterfall and Lum Tahkong: There is an easy trail around
near the waterfall. Not many birds were present there. Highlights
included Chinese Sparrowhawk and a Long-tailed Broadbill. James Eaton
saw a Blue-winged Pitta here. Mammals around included many Sambar
and Barking Deer and many calling White-handed Gibbons.
Road: Last year the birding on this road was very succesfull
with 2-3 Siamese Firebacks, a Silver Phaesant and a Blue Pitta. This
year the phaesants were not so co-operative, probably due to the relatively
heavy traffic caused by Thai toursists. On two mornings I tried to
locate the firebacks at the beginning of the road and I looked for
the phaesant around the area with the three bridges twice as well.
During an evening stroll I heard a calling Blue Pitta. Other highlights
here were a Wreathed Hornbill and a Black-throated Laughingthrush,
which was easily taped in. Pileated Gibbons were heard calling.
Spotting: The night spotting on Radar Road was a far more
succesfull story. We did it twice. Officially it isn't allowed go
spotlighting yourself (you can book a night safari), so make sure
you hide your lights when you see other traffic coming: they might
be park rangers. We heard several Long-tailed Nightjars, Mountain
Scops, Collared Scops and Brown Hawk Owls. On both nights the definite
highlights were the three Reticulated Pythons - two on the first evening
and one on the second - the longest being an estimated 4.8 meters.
Mammals seen were a Large Indian Civet (first night) and three Malayan
Porcupine (second night). Make sure you return to the campsite before
21.00, when the gates closes.
6: Of course I also did some birding on this famous trail
(one morning and one late afternoon walk), which proved to be very
rewarding again. An excellent pair of Eared Pitta's were the biggest
highlight. They showed really well and given the pictures of the birds
on surfbirds.com many other birders saw them as well. Other highlights
were a 'South American' flock of about 150 birds, including 100 Eyebrowed
Thrushes and two Long-tailed Broadbills. Furthermore I saw four Siamese
Firebacks, two Lesser Necklaced Laugingthrushes, a Siberian Robin,
a Coral-billed Ground-Cuckoo and a perched Long-tailed Nightjar. Nice
mammals included many calling and (just) one sighting of White-handed
Gibbons, calling Pileated Gibbons (surprisingly at this locality)
and two Black Giant Squirrels.
Van Der Spek http://www.tripreports.nl
for more information on Khao
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for more information on Doi
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