Thailand birding tour

11-28 March 2010

Tour leaders: Uthai Treesucon, Philip Maher & Patricia Maher


Pre-tour day
10 March
Participants should arrive in Bangkok by 10 March
Overnight: Maruay Garden Hotel

Day 1
11 March 2010
Bangkok to Kaeng Krachan
Today we bird the salt fields and ponds around the Bight of Bangkok on our way southeast to Kaeng Krachan. Birds we will be seeking include rarities such as spoonbill sandpiper and Nordmann’s greenshank. Other waders to be seen here are little and long-tailed stints, broad-billed sandpiper, spotted and common redshanks as well as Indian and little cormorants and brown-headed gull.

Further south, we’ll call in to some wetlands where good birds abound. These might include Asian golden and baya weavers, bronzewinged and pheasant-tailed jacanas, watercock, Javan and Chinese pond-herons, blue-tailed bee-eater and red-wattled lapwing.

Sewage ponds in the area could produce common snipe, ruff, paddyfield pipit and grey heron. At a beach further south again, we may see a pair of Malaysian plover.
Overnight: Kaeng Krachan Country Club

Day 2, 3 & 4
12, 13 & 14 March 2010
Kaeng Krachan NP
We will spend the next three days birding Kaeng Krachan, the largest national park in Thailand. It is situated on the eastern side of the remote Tenassserim mountain range near the Myanmar (Burma) border. This park has an even richer avifauna than Khao Yai NP and our time will be fully employed looking for specialities such as grey peacock and kalij pheasants, ferruginous partridge, large scimitar babbler, yellow-vented green pigeon and ratchet-tailed treepie (the only place for this last species in Thailand).

Woodpeckers also abound in this park. We have a chance for at least ten species including the largest extant woodpecker in the world, the great slaty as well as rufous, bay, streaked breasted, bamboo and heart-spotted woodpeckers and the diminutive white-browed piculet.  
Kaeng Krachan NP has a good contingent of broadbills with dusky, banded, black and yellow, black and red and silver-breasted broadbills.

Raptors in the park include besra, black eagle, mountain hawk-eagle, rufous-bellied eagle and the black-thighed falconet.

 Other highlights include rusty-cheeked (brown) hornbill, red-bearded bee-eater, green magpie, sultan tit, velvet-fronted nuthatch, white-hooded babbler and Asian paradise-flycatcher.

 The lower elevations of the park can be good for migrants such as tiger shrike, Siberian blue robin and the stunning yellow-rumped flycatcher. At higher elevations we have a good chance for the skulking spot-necked babbler, lesser and greater necklaced laughingthrushes and black-throated laughing thrush as well as the striking pin-tailed parrotfinch.

The park is a great place to see dusky langur (leaf monkey), grey-bellied squirrel and Burmese stripe squirrel. There is also a chance for iconic species like leopard, dhole and Asian elephant. Night birding in the park might produce white-fronted and mountain scops owl and great-eared nightjar. Northern thick-knee could be seen around our accommodation.
Overnight: Kaeng Krachan Country Club

Day 5
15   March 2010
Kaeng Krachan to Bangkok
Early morning we’ll bird around our accommodation before travelling back to Bangkok calling in en route to check out saltfields around Laem Phuk Bia for gulls, terns and waders.
Overnight: Bangkok

Day 6
16 March 2010
We visit to Rangsit Marsh on the outskirts of Bangkok. Being in the lowlands, it will be warm. We will try for some of the more difficult birds such as Pallas’s grasshopper-warbler, black-browed reed-warbler, ruddy-breasted crake and yellow bittern. Other great birds here include black-capped kingfisher, coppersmith barbet, brown shrike, Siberian stonechat and yellow-bellied and plain prinias.

Our next stop will be Wat Thien Thawai, the first of several Buddhist temples visited today. The area around temples is frequently good for birds as they are often in out-of-the-way places that retain some native vegetation. Wat Thien Thawai could produce spotted owl, small minivet, common iora, scarlet-backed flowerpecker (like our mistletoebird), Javan pond-heron and the stunning Indian roller.

We visit another temple, Wat Pai Lom, where we will see a congestion of Asian openbill storks. We lunch at a nearby restaurant before leaving the Bangkok area and heading to Khao Yai National Park. En route to Khao Yai we call in to another temple, Wat Phra Bhudthabat Noi (Shrine of the Holy Footprint).  This temple is set in rugged, limestone mountains and here we hope to see the delightful limestone wren-babbler. Other species here could include golden-fronted leafbird, pied fantail and lineated barbet. We continue on to our accommodation near Khao Yai National Park.
Overnight: Juldis Hotel

Day 7  & 8
17 & 18 March 2010
Kao Yai NP
We spend the next two days birding the semi-evergreen forest of Khao Yai NP, Thailand’s first national park. The park is home to a huge variety of birds as well as large mammals.

Some of the outstanding but elusive birds we will be hoping for in Khao Yai include scaly-breasted partridge, silver pheasant, Siamese fireback, banded kingfisher, blue pitta and coral-billed ground-cuckoo.

Birding along the road in Khao-Yai is usually productive and we hope to see white-rumped shama, green-eared and moustached barbets, vernal hanging-parrot, scarlet minivet, green-billed malkoha and blue-bearded bee-eater. Looking skywards, raptors in Khao Yai could include Jerdon’s and black baza, crested goshawk, shikra, Chinese and Japanese sparrowhawks and crested serpent-eagle.

One of the most delightful bird families in Thailand has to be the woodpeckers. In Khao Yai NP we could see greater and common flamebacks, laced woodpecker, greater yellownape and the very cute black and buff woodpecker.  

We have a good chance for long-tailed broadbill, like all the broadbills, an odd looking bird.

Hornbills are a feature of Khao Yai and we should encounter plenty of great and oriental pied hornbills and a few of the spectacular wreathed hornbill.

After dark we will try for night birds such as collared scops owl, brown hawk owl (like our boobook) and possibly oriental bay owl.

The next day we will concentrate on any of the six difficult birds that we haven’t seen: scaly-breasted partridge, silver pheasant, Siamese fireback, banded kingfisher, blue pitta and coral-billed ground-cuckoo.

We will also be looking for more easily seen species such as orange-breasted and red-headed trogon, the marvellous white-crested laughing-thrush, black-throated laughing thrush, Abbott’s babbler, Siberian blue robin and hill and golden headed mynas. Along the streams and waterfalls we could see the spectacular white-crowned and slaty-backed forktails.

Mammals we could encounter in Khao Yai include Asian elephant, sambar, red muntjac (a small deer), pig-tailed macaque, white-handed gibbon, black giant squirrel, variable squirrel and Indochinese ground squirrel.

At dusk we’ll visit roosting caves of the wrinkle-lipped bat as thousands emerge in a great swirling mass to be ambushed by a pair of shikra.
Overnight: Juldis Hotel

Day 9
19 March 2010
Khao Yai to Tap Lan NP to  to Chiang Mai
An early start this morning as there is quite a bit of driving to get to the dry dipterocarp forest of Tap Lan NP. The forest is reminiscent of the tropical woodland of northern Australia and like that woodland is burnt most years.

Tap Lan NP has some great woodpeckers such as white-bellied, black-headed, grey-capped and lesser yellownape. Other specialities of the area include blossom-headed parakeet, Chinese francolin, white-browed fantail, Indochinese cuckoo-shrike and brown prinia. Other species we could see include chestnut-bellied nuthatch, green bee-eater, rufous treepie, chestnut-tailed and vinous-breasted starlings, crested treeswift and yellow-footed green-pigeon. The dry country is also good for raptors, such as rufous-winged buzzard (not unlike our brown falcon) and oriental honey buzzard.
We take a evening flight to Chiang Mai and drive up to the Doi Inthanon area
Overnight: Doi Inthanon Highland Resort

Days 10,11 & 12
20, 21 & 22 March 2010
Doi Inthanon National Park is protecting the Hill Evergreen forests of Doi Inthanon (2565m), Thailand’s highest mountain. The birdlife of this great mountain changes dramatically as one ascends from low to high altitudes. Species we will concentrate on will be those characteristic of higher altitudes together with some scarcer ones occurring only at lower levels.

At the summit of Doi Inthanon, we should see pygmy wren-babbler, the colourful chestnut-tailed minla, rufous-winged fulvetta, yellow-bellied fantail and Blyth’s leaf warbler. We should also see chestnut-crowned laughingthrush, white-browed shortwing, rufous-throated partridge and dark-sided thrush, ashy-throated warbler and snowy-browed flycatcher; and not forgetting the brilliant male Gould’s and green-tailed sunbirds at the rhododendron flowers. If we are lucky we will come across ashy wood pigeon, scaly thrush and yellow-bellied flowerpecker.

At the mid elevation, we should see large niltava, grey-throated and golden babblers, chestnut-fronted shrike-babbler, blue-winged minla and grey-cheeked fulvetta mixing with chestnut-crowned warbler, white-tailed leaf warblers and yellow-cheeked tit. Along the road we should find short-billed minivet, spectacled barwing and rufous-backed sibia. Fruiting trees give us our best chance for the rare and secretive green cochoa or even purple cochoa.

Other species in this altitude include rufous-bellied, vivid and small niltava and brown-throated treecreeper. In the lower part of the mountain, rushing streams and waterfalls are home to the shy slaty-backed forktail, plumbeous and white-capped water redstarts. In the dry dipterocarp woodland in the lowest part of the park, we should find a selection of birds that are very different from the Hill Evergreen forest: white-bellied, black-headed and grey-capped woodpeckers, common flameback and greater yellownape. The black-hooded oriole, golden-fronted leafbird, common woodshrike, chestnut-bellied nuthatch and purple sunbird are common in this type of forest. If we  are lucky, the rare white-rumped falcon and collared falconet may be seen in roadside trees.Overnight: Inthanon Highland Resort.

Day 13,14 &15
23, 24 & 25 March 2010
After a final morning’s birding on Doi Inthanon we head back through Chiang Mai and north to Doi Angkhang, stopping to bird along the way. Our abode, Angkhang Nature Resort, is the pinnacle of our accommodation in Thailand.

Doi Ang Khang is mostly deforested and partially cultivated by hill tribes. There are some species that have a very restricted distribution outside Myanmar and South China found in this area, such as brown-breasted bulbul, white-browed laughingthrush, spot-breasted and grey-headed parrotbills and buff-throated warbler. Other species regularly encountered here include speckled and white-browed piculets, stripe-breasted woodpecker, striated bulbul, silver-eared mesia, rusty-cheeked scimitar-babbler, white-bellied redstart, common rosefinch, crested and chestnut bunting. We should come across a few of the more elusive birds of the area, such as crested finchbill, giant nuthatch, red-faced liocichla, russet bush warbler or the rare Hume’s pheasant. We will try to find Hodgson’s frogmouth, during our night excursion.
Overnight: Angkhang Nature Resort.

Day 16
26 March 2010
Doi Angkhang to Thaton
Early this morning we’ll drive to Mae Fang NP for spot-billed grosbeak if we haven’t yet encountered that species; otherwise we will head to the Thaton marsh. While this marsh has been largely drained, it still holds some good birds. We could see yellow-eyed babbler, Baikal bush wabbler, thick-billed reed warbler, cinnamon bittern, little-ringed plover and grey-headed lapwing.

In Thaton, we’ll check in to our hotel and have lunch before venturing up to Doi Lang on the Thai/Myanmar border. Here we could encounter the rare Jerdon’s bushchat and oriental turtle-dove and have another chance for spot-breasted parrotbill
Overnight: Thaton chalet Hotel

Day 17
27 March 2010
Thaton to Chiang Mai
This morning we’ll venture up into the hills again to Doi Lang. Birds we will be looking for include whiskered yuhina, strip-breasted, grey-headed, bay and crimson-breasted woodpecker and speckled piculetWe have a good chance for the mountain bamboo-partridge, and possibly even spotted wren-babbler — a new species for Thailand recorded by Uthai, our guide, in early 2007.

After lunch in Thaton we head back to Chiang Mai with perhaps a stop along the way to search for blue magpie should we still need it.

For those with enough energy, there is shopping at the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.
Overnight: Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel

Day 18
28 March 2010
Early morning we will drive to the King Project area at Huai Hong Khrai for green peafowl. Other species we could find here include black baza, rosy minivet, Tickell’s blue flycatcher. We drive to the paddyfields of Doi Saket for open area birds such as grey-headed lapwing, baya weaver, Siberian rubythroat and bluethroat, oriental skylark and greater painted-snipe. We then drive to Doi Suthep-pui NP to find some more birds like sapphire flycatcher and pale blue flycatcher or even rusty-naped pitta if we are really lucky. We’ll lunch in the park before driving to Chiang Mai airport and taking a late afternoon flight back to Bangkok

End of tour

Cost: $6,850 AUD
Single supplement: $785 AUD maximum*

Details: We will arrive back at Bangkok International Airport in time for connections to Australia if departing Thailand on the evening of the final day of the tour.

Cost includes accommodation from pre-tour evening 10 March to 27 March 2010. Meals from breakfast on 11 March to lunch on 28 March; all transport in Thailand from 11 March to our arrival back at the international airport on 28 March and park entrance fees and internal flight to and from Chiang Mai.

The cost does not include alcohol, mini bar charges, phone calls, laundry or personal items. It also does not include international flights to or from Thailand.

The maximum number of participants will be limited to seven because we believe that large numbers of participants in what is largely rainforest habitat doesn't make for a great birding tour.

possible bird list

trip report 2007