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Thailand: the southeast and the north 31st March - 13th April 2005
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During 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.

31 March: Khao Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary, spent the night at fishing resort at the beginning of the road to the park

1 April: Khao Soi Dao W.S., spent the night at fishing resort at the beginning of the road to the park

2 April: Khao Soi Dao W.S., spent the night at fishing resort at the beginning of the road to the park

3 April: travelling to Northern Thailand, spent the night in the bus

4 April: travelled to Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Santuary, spent the night at Malee's

5 April: Doi Chiang Dao W.S., spent the night at Malee's

6 April: Doi Chiang Dao W.S., Den Ya Khat, spent the night at Malee's

7 April: morning Doi Chiang Dao W.S., travelled to Doi Inthanon, spent the night at campsite Doi Inthanon

8 April: morning Doi Inthanon, travelling to Central Thailand, spent the night in the bus

9 April: travelled to Khao Yai National Park, spent the night at Lum Tahkong campsite

10 April: Khao Yai N.P., spent the night at Lum Tahkong campsite

11 April: Khao Yai Khao Yai N.P., spent the night at Lum Tahkong campsite

12 April: early morning birding Khao Yai N.P., travelled to Bangkok, spent the night in Bangkok

13 April: Bangkok, departure


At 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 speak English.

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 sleeping bag.

In Doi 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.

I 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 Nick 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.
Khao Soi Dao (31 March-2 April)

This 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 Duck.

Trail 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.

Trail 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.

Educational 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.

Paved 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.

Trail 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 marked, trail.

Doi Chiang Dao (4-7 April)
The 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).
Around 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.
Den 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.
Bird 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).
Doi Inthanon (7-8 April)
The 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.
Jeep 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 Laughingthrushes.
Summit 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.
Khao Yai (9-12 April)
Leaving 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.
Haew 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.
Radar 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.
Night 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.
Trail 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 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.
Vincent Van Der Spek
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