I have just returned (with 5 friends) from a birding trip to Thailand.
After much research (thanks to Birding-aus members for info on places to
go) we booked a trip with Pipith Kaewata.
The trip was well organised, with good hotels, food and transport and a
reasonable schedule. We had great weather (quite cold in the north), very
few annoying insects and no health problems. Pipith was friendly and
helpful (especially when one of the group had problems with an ATM!) with
reasonable English and he took us to lots of good birding spots. But as a
bird guide he left a lot to be desired. He had left his laser pointer and
sound equipment at a hotel on a previous trip and halfway through this trip
left his scope at Bangkok Airport! His normal mode of operation seemed to
be to take us to a specific spot for a specific bird (and to be fair he had
a good success rate at this). He would then spend lots of time taking
photographs of the target bird, oblivious to all the other birds in the
area. He seemed to find it hard to spot other birds, and needed to consult
the field guide far more often than any other guide I have used, and was
often wrong in his identification! We will never know how many birds we
missed because of his lack of equipment and skill. We saw around 379
species on an itinerary that usually seems to get 400-450 birds for most
The following is a summary of our itinerary – if you want more details or
bird lists please contact me. Spelling of Thai names is as good as I can
Jan 4th. We flew to Bangkok and were transferred to our Bangkok hotel.
Jan 5th. Pipith and his driver Ning picked us up early for the drive to Pak
Thale - an amazing area of salt processing ponds. Our first target of
course was the Spoonbill Sandpiper, and we found one by midday. Apart from
one bird seen the next day by two of the group this was to be our only
sighting of this key species, although other birders reported 2 in the
area. In total we found 18 wader species, including such Aussie rarities as
Broad-billed Sandpiper and Long-toed Stint. In the afternoon we had a boat
trip to Leamphak Bia, adding Chinese Egret, Malaysian Plover and the
“White-faced” form of Kentish Plover to our list, as well as a gull
identified as Heuglin’s which IOC does not list for this area. We finished
the day at the King’s Project, adding Slaty-breasted Rail and
Ruddy-breasted Crake to our list.
Jan 6th. We spent the day in the same area, seeing 30+ Nordmann's
Greenshank (my second major target) as well as both Spotted and Common
Redshanks and Asian Dowitcher to give a list of around 33 waders.
Jan 7th. We spent the morning in the same area picking up various ducks
including Lesser Whistling and Ferruginous. In the afternoon we went to
Nong Pla Lai looking for raptors, finding 5 species.
Jan 8th. We drove to Kaeng Krachan, where we would bird for the next couple
of days. Since the road to the summit was 4WD only we spent some of the
time in the back of a ute. On the 8th we saw a good range of birds
including Sultan Tit and 4 species of Hornbill.
Jan 9th. Kaeng Krachan. The highlight of the day was great views of a
perched Black Baza.
Jan 10th. Kaeng Krachan. On our final day on the mountain we had
frustratingly brief views of Grey Peacock-pheasant.
Jan 11th. Travelled to Wat Chalerm Prakiet where we saw Red-breasted
Parakeet and Spotted Owlet, and to Wat Pra Butthabat Noi to see Limestone
Wren-babbler. We were to visit several Wats on the tour – a sort of
combined Buddhist temple and monastery that often occupied a large area
where we were free to roam.
Jan 12th was spent at Khaoyai NP, the highlights of the day being both
Silver Pheasant and Siamese Fireback.
Jan 13th was also at Khaoyai NP. At dusk we found both Great-eared and
Jungle (Grey) Nightjars, but failed to see and Needletails which normally
come in at this time to a dam.
Jan 14th. We birded around the Rangsit wetland (Yellow and Black Bitterns,
Purple and Great-billed Herons) before flying to Chiang Mai (where we met
our new driver Toi) and driving north for an overnight stop at Rim Doi
(hardest beds on the trip!).
Jan 15th. We headed off Doi Angkhang for the day. Highlights included
Blue-winged and Silver-eared Mesias and Rufous-backed and Dark-backed
Jan 16th. Also spent at Doi Angkhang. Our day total included 9 species of
Jan 17th. A very early start for the drive to Doi Lang, where we birded for
most of the day before heading back to Rim Doi. Doi Lang has been taken
over by photographers who clear areas of forest, put mealworms on a log and
then settle down to photograph the resulting birds. Pipith seemed to also
disagree with this approach, but explained that birds now only came out to
be fed – rather depressing really. We did see Silver-eared Laughingthrush,
Red-faced Liocichla and Golden Bush Robin amongst other birds using this
Jan 18th. 2 more Wats, and we added Streaked Wren-babbler at one of them.
Then on to Doi Inthanon.
Jan 19th. A cold visit to the summit first thing, where most of us saw my 3
rd main target – Pygmy Wren-babbler (a new family!) as well as a
White-browed Shortwing. Lunch was at Checkpoint 2 where we were entertained
by 4 species of Niltavas – again feeding on mealworms. A forest walk after
lunch gave us brief views of Slaty-bellied Tesia, and then we walked down
beside the Watchirathan waterfall looking in vain for a Slaty-backed
Forktail – although we did get Plumbeous and White-capped Redstarts. A
final look at the bridge at Km 13 and we caught up with a Black-backed
Jan 20th. Another day on Inthanon. A long and steep walk at Km 13 added
Collared Falconet (5 of them) and Black-headed Woodpecker to our list. We
revisited the waterfall and the summit but alas did not find the Forktail
or the Pygmy Wren-babbler.
Jan 21st. We birded the Rai Dong area near our hotel for a couple of hours,
seeing Blossom-headed Parakeet and our first “real” cuckoo (Banded Bay
Cuckoo), before heading off to Chiang Mai and our flights home.
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