Trip February. 13th - 28th, 2007
Kaeng Krachan, Kao Yai, Doi Chiang Dao and Doi Inthanon
wife, Cynthia Su, and I had a wonderful birding holiday in Thailand
during the 2007 Lunar New Year. During this trip we spotted 279 species
in total. Most records were of terrestrial (forest) birds. This was
especially enjoyable for us.
Krachan (13-17th February) - KK is a good start and the birds
first stop was Kaeng Krachan
National Park (KK) which is located to the south-west
of Bangkok and takes
about a 3 hour drive to reach from the airport (Bangkok). I reserved
a rental car on the internet and took delivery of it at the airport.
Though the road conditions were not bad, it still took us about 5
hours to reach the hotel I had booked near KK. The major reasons were
the road signs were not very useful for a foreigner and most of them
were only in Thai script. Also, we had to find someplace to shop for
the food we needed for KK. We found there was a good shopping center
(Big C) on the way from Petchaburi to KK.
We stayed in KK for four days. Except for the first
night, the other three nights we spent camping at the km 15 campsite.
Well, I don’t think we were really camping in the wild because
the ranger let us set our tent up inside a building. The rangers
there were very nice and I think they treated us better than the
other tourists. Maybe this was because a birdingpal, Miss Pornkasem
Kantamara that I had contacted was quite familiar with them and
she had informed them of our visit.
The birds in the KK were fantastic. The campsite
was superb for a quite a few common species and even some canopy
birds about. I am not sure exactly how many species have been recorded
in the campsite but would think more than 50. Besides birding in
the campsite, we could also walk a short distance along the trails
into the forest. We also organized a truck to take us to the higher
part of the national park (km 30) for a one day trip (you can arrange
this with the ranger).
In total, we saw 116 species in KK and averaged
seeing more than 50 species per day. I got my first excellent spot
of a male Blue Pitta there. The woodpecker diversity was outstanding.
We identified 9 species and I think we saw one or two others which
we weren’t able to ID. KK is the first place where I have
recorded so many species of woodpeckers in such a short period.
Another highlight was a male Banded Kingfisher that
landed less than 10 meters from us and stayed for almost a minute.
The color pattern was really beautiful. I did not understand how
lucky we were to see it until the end of the trip. It was the only
male we saw. We also saw Silver-breasted Broadbill, Asian Barred
Owlet, a number of different Barbets, Sultan Tit, Orange-breasted
Trogon, and various kinds of babblers, bulbuls and warblers, which
were all very impressive. From the calls that we heard of the Grey
Peacock Pheasant, it appeared that it was not rare but we didn’t
have the luck to see one. It should not be too difficult to find,
I would tend to think, if we had more time.
The richness and abundance of the mammals in KK
were also excellent. Quite a few porcupines would walk around the
campsite every night. A Palm Civet always visited the kitchen in
the evening. Dusky Langur was almost everywhere. We joined a night-safari
when we visited Kao Yai (KY). It was very interesting to note the
contrast in the attitude towards the wild mammals between two different
national parks. A night-safari is kind of well-organized business
in KY but in KK the rangers always warned us not to go into the
forest during the night as it was too dangerous!
After visiting KY, we understood the differences.
Though the larger mammals are still fairly common in KY, they are
far fewer in number than in KK. I recall that even on the wide,
paved road that lead to the campsite where we stayed, piles of elephant
dung could be seen. Also, when we would walk along the road in the
early mornings, we found bamboo that had often been pulled down
by the elephants and it would obstruct the road. Rangers told us
that one female elephant leading two calves had passed through their
dormitory on the night before we arrived. One night a ranger showed
us the mammals around the campsite for about 10 minutes. We saw
more than 20 porcupines, a Palm Civet and a weasel which was quite
Yai (17-21st February) - A crowded place. However, peace
and quiet were still found in the forest.
I headed to Thailand, I made contact with a local guide, Mr. Nine,
who is based near Khao
Yai. I felt the guiding fee he asked was pretty high,
so I only hired him for a day and thought that it would help us to
become a little more familiar with the bird status inside the park
and then we could use this knowledge to form the basis of the rest
of our birding in KY. This proved to be a good plan. The guide showed
us some of the famous stake-outs. I believe it saved us quite a bit
of time and frustration and was the key to me finding a pair of Eared
Pittas by myself.
We arrived at the Greenleaf Guesthouse, where we
planed to stay for the first night, at around 16:00. Since it was
not that late, we randomly chose a narrow field road nearby and
did some bird-watching before sunset. Several lovely birds were
seen, which included Indochinese Bushlark, Burmese Shrike, Plaintive
Cuckoo and a male Siberain Rubythroat, which gave us quite a surprise.
Early on the morning of 2/18, Mr. Nine lead us to
a big fruiting tree on the main road to the park headquarters. Many
different pigeons were seen eating the fruit and included Thick-billed
Pigeon, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon and Mountain Imperial Pigeon.
We also saw some Hornbills which included Great, Oriental Pied and
Wreathed Hornbills. These all showed well around the fruit tree.
In addition, there were some interesting minivet flocks around the
tree which included Rosy, Swinhoe’s and Scarlet Minivets.
After the fruit tree, we walked two trails to look
for pitta but did not see any. We then went on to the HQ. There,
we saw a flock of beautiful Pin-tailed Parrotfinches that was busy
searching for food in two clumps of blossoming bamboo. In the afternoon,
we visited a famous stake-out for the Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo.
An Orange-headed Thrush and two Coral-billed Ground-cuckoos showed
well. I had taken lots of pictures that day and for some unexplained
reason my memory card suddenly stopped working. Fortunately, the
birds did come out again the next afternoon and I was able to photograph
Over the next two days and on morning of the third,
we adventured along several trails and revisited the sites the guide
had showed us by ourselves. As mentioned above, we spotted the Eared
Pittas and also another male Blue Pitta. The Eared Pittas were very
elusive. I heard their slight vocalizations penetrating the forest
in the early morning. Since the light was still too dim to look
for them, we spent quite a bit of time listening so as to locate
their position. Interestingly, when I walked into the forest and
got close to them, about 3-5 meters, I found that they seemed not
to be afraid of me at all. This was very good as I had enough time
to take some pictures of them on the dark forest floor. Another
interesting observation was some Siamese Fireback. We spotted the
Firebacks twice at the same area (trail 9). The first time we saw
at least two males and one female feeding on the forest floor under
a big fruiting tree. The second time was also an excellent spot.
Again, it was a handsome male feeding quietly under another big
fruiting tree. The decorative feathers on its head were very unique.
Other highlights included a male Silver Oriole,
a flock of Red-breasted Parakeet, a Sulphur-breasted Warbler, a
Plain-tailed Warbler, a White-crowned Forktail, two Long-tailed
Broadbills and Slaty-backed Forktails, and several Red-headed Trogons.
Beside the birds mentioned above, I also started
to pay more attention to the leaf warblers. I expected that observations
of wintering leaf warblers in Thailand would be extremely interesting
and would be a big challenge. I identified several species of leaf-warbler
that also can appear on Taiwan sometimes. I felt that this experience
in KY would be beneficial to me for identifying leaf warblers on
The facilities at KY are very good. Maybe, they
are almost too good for a national park. At times I felt it is quite
strange that the bungalows were spread over such a large area. It
sacrifices much more forest doing this than if they had placed them
more compactly within a smaller area. International tourists were
super abundant during the period we visited. Further, I wasn’t
aware that many Thai people have a long Chinese New Year holiday,
either. The center area, like the HQ, was noisy. Troops of night
safari trucks drove around crazily on the second evening that we
were there. You can’t imagine how many people there were in
KY. We had planed to stay inside the park after our guided first
day but all the bungalows inside the park were full. Nevertheless,
accommodation outside the park was plentiful. The guesthouse we
had stayed in on our first night in the area was really economical
at only 300 baht per night, so we decided to go back there again.
Even though we had to pay the entrance fee of 400 baht per person
per day, again the next morning, it was still very economical. For
the final two nights we were able to stay inside the park. The basic
but clean bungalows with a king-sized bed cost 800 baht per night.
Chiang Dao (22-24th February) – I need to go back again.
our stay at Kao Yai, we spent a night in Bangkok for a short relaxing
break from birding and then flew north to Chiang Mai the next morning.
For the first three days (2/22-24) we stayed at Doi
Chiang Dao (DCD) which is located about 70-80 km north
of Chiang Mai.
Accommodation at DCD is plentiful. We chose the
famous Malee Nature Lover’s Guesthouse and found it to be
run by a Chinese Thai. Some of the staff still has the ability to
speak basic Mandarin. Malee is very experienced in organizing transportation
and food for birders. We had asked her to organize transportation
for us from the airport to DCD and then a round trip to the mountainous
area for the two famous birds found there, Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant
and Giant Nuthatch.
Because time was short, we only visited some trails
near the temple that was close to Malee's Guesthouse and then a
full day trip to Den Ya Kat (DYK, which is a mountainous area).
The temple gully is famous for the Rusty-naped Pitta and Slaty-bellied
Tesia. We walked the area twice but no sign of the pitta was found.
The tesia was easily heard. However, it is extremely difficult to
try and locate its position because of the dense vegetation there.
Though we weren’t lucky enough to spot the pitta and tesia,
there were plenty of other interesting birds that showed well around
the temple. These included Streaked Wren Babbler, Grey-headed Babbler,
Puff-throated Babbler, Striated Yuhina, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon,
Asian Stubtail, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta and Buff-throated Babbler
which were all not difficult to see.
DYK is definitely worth a visit. Not only for the
two stars but also for many other beautiful birds that we were only
to record in this mountainous area. Though our driver could not
speak any English, he did know the site well and had the hospitality
to look for birds for us on the way. He stopped at the junction
of the Firebreak trail where we walked along the trail to look for
the pheasant. Before we met our one and only pheasant, we saw many
birds feeding on or near the trail. Hoopoe and Scaly Thrush were
pretty common. The pheasant flushed away almost before we detected
it. Grey Bushchat and Burmese Shrike also inhabited the route along
the trail. Mixed-species flocks were often met, too. Leaf warblers
were everywhere. We also had our first spots of Stripe-breasted
Woodpecker, Jay, Slender-billed Oriole, Grey-chinned Minivet, Large
Woodshrike, Chestnut-bellied Thrush (a beautiful male), Little Pied
Flycatcher, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch,
Concerning the Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant and Giant
Nuthatch, we found that we had experienced the exact same situation
as another birder who had gone the day before. He had a glance of
a pheasant as it flushed from a big hole and had not found the Giant
Nuthatch. I inquired as to where the pheasant was spotted and from
my experience it would seem that the pheasant tended to hang around
the same site during that period of time. It seems that it is difficult
to have a good view of it. The bird was clever to choose a site
that is obstructed by walls from three directions. We struggled
looking for the Giant Nuthatch for quite some time. Thereafter,
we shifted our attention to other birds and soon after we started
walking on a narrow trail behind the toilet we started to see other
birds. The trail passed through some disturbed and sparse forest.
We saw a pair of Rusty-cheked Scimitar Babbler, a Blue-bearded Bee-eater,
a singing Orange-bellied Leafbird and a pair of Grey-headed Parrotbills
busy collecting nesting material.
Inthanon (24-27th February) -A truly lovely place that any
keen birdwatcher must go to. Surprises are everywhere.
hired a taxi to take us back to Chiang Mai Airport and from there
we took a rented car at around 14:00 and drove to Doi
Inthanon (DIN). The road to DIN was excellent and it
only took us about 1 hr to drive to the Inthanon Highland Resort where
we stayed for that night. We managed some bird watching around the
orchard near the resort before sunset. A Rufous Treepie and a small
flock of Chestnut-capped Babblers were spotted near the resort. A
White-breasted Waterhen also showed well inside the resort. Interestingly,
it was first time we saw this common bird in Thailand.
It is easy to
see that the resort was often used by the birdwatchers. Pictures
of some famous Thai guides hung on the wall. Bird paintings and
sculptures were everywhere. The staff was very nice. They sent the
bird log and a birding map to us. And a Spotted Owlet living there
was a bonus. I think it is well worth it to stay at the resort for
one night, especially if you are a birder and come to DIN too late
in the day to go into the park and do a birding trip. In addition,
the food there is really good when compared with the food found
inside the park.
Early the next
morning, we drove to 37.5km (Checkpoint 2) and birded around the
main road and the Jeep Trail all morning. Birding here was another
new experience in Thai birding. Most of the birds we saw here we
hadn’t seen before or hadn’t been common at the other
sites we had visited. A small babbler, the Grey-cheeked Fulvetta,
which most Taiwan birdwatchers are familiar with, was abundant there.
Chestnut-crowned Laughing-thrush, Dusky-backed Sibia, Rufous-winged
Fulvetta, Golden-throated Barbet, Maroon Oriole, Chestnut-vented
Nuthatch, Flavescent Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Yellow-cheeked Tit,
Mountain Tailorbird, Silver-eared Mesia all showed well in this
region. Minivets were common. Besides the more common Scarlet Minvet,
the Long-tailed and Short-billed Minivet have been recorded here.
We, however, were only able to spot the Scarlet and Long-tailed
Minivets. Quite often their individual characteristics were quite
difficult to observe when they stayed in the tree tops. All of the
birds we spotted that morning were very impressive. However, the
Rufous-winged Fulvetta was most attractive to me. This bird has
a strange color pattern on its face and often walks on the trunk.
Sometimes it looks rather like a nuthatch.
We had our lunch
at the famous Mr. Daeng’s shop that is located opposite the
park HQ. The birding log here was more useful than the one in the
Highland Resort. There was a female Siberian Blue Robin that lived
there and it is quite tame. Dusky Thrush has often been recorded
in the gully next to the shop.
We visited the
Jeep trail again in the afternoon. The birds were not as active
as in the morning. However, we had an excellent spot of a male Silver
Pheasant and another pair of birders kindly showed us a male Large
Niltava they had found. Before sunset, I heard Slaty-bellied Tesia
singing again. I managed to attract it closer. I saw why it had
been so difficult to see in the Temple Gully at DCD. It moves so
fast and is very difficult to spot the tiny, concealed body within
the obstructing mass of dense vegetation. The Tesia is a bird that
has a similar body shape to the pitta and was one of my most wanted
birds for this trip.
The second morning
we visited the mountain summit which is the highest point in the
Kingdom of Thailand. The birds were astonishing there. Many species
in large numbers flew again and again in front of us and at a very
close distance. We were so busy all morning that when we finally
checked the time it was already close to noon. Green-tailed Sunbird
and Ash-throated Warbler were two that can almost only be seen here
in Thailand. We saw Gould’s Sunbird, Yellow-bellied Fantail,
Rufous-tailed Minla, Grey-sided Thrush, Snowy-browed Flycatcher,
Buff-barred Warbler, White-browed Shortwing, Chestnut-flanked White-eye
and Yellow-browed Tit, which were all our first sightings of these
species in Thailand. There was a male Shortwing that was very easy
to observe. Its color was slaty-blue with a pair of short but clean
white brows. It was difficult to believe it was the same species
as the one we have in Taiwan. We spotted the Slaty-bellied Tesia
again here. This time it did not move as fast as others on the Jeep
Trail, so we could see it clearly. It really looked like a cute
toy from a cartoon.
In the afternoon
we tried the Jeep Trail again to look for the Dusky Thrush and Rusty-naped
Pitta. I walked slowly and tried to hear any disturbance type noise
from the forest floor. Though it shouldn’t have been so difficult
to detect their presence, we didn’t hear or find any sign
On the morning
of the 27th, we tried the km 13 trail and two waterfalls at km’s
30 and 22, respectively. The lower part of the DIN was really dry
at the time we visited. We did not spend too much time there and
only walked a short distance along the river. We recorded at least
four male Golden-fronted Leafbirds chasing each other. We also saw
three Black-backed Forktails and a lovely Collard Falconet, there.
Km 22 waterfall is a good site for the White-crowned Water Redstart
and Plumbeous Water Redstart. We spotted a pair Common Rosefinch
feeding on nectar in a big tree near the entrance of the km 30 waterfall.
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