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Central and Northern Thailand February 2019

Central and Northern Thailand

12-26th of Feb, 2019

By Peter Ericsson, pkknjj@yahoo.com www.pbase.com/peterericsson

One would think that each trip to similar destinations are very similar but that is not the case.
What makes them different is seldom the birds encountered but simply the people one are with!

In this case, a personalized trip with Edward and Margaret Birch over a 15 days period saw us visit no less than 13 different birding areas. It involved a total of 3800km driving with myself doing the last 700 on my own as Edward and Margaret flew back to Bangkok from Chiang Mai.

Having worked as a chef in a lifelong career Edward was very interested in the Thai cuisine and that fits me like a glove. It isnít all that difficult to find good food here but to string the right combinations together takes a little bit of know how plus knowing where the best eateries are on each birding site. This is best done based on experience. We could say that this was a bird and food sampling trip in all earnest!

Each of the sites we stayed in hotels with AC and hot water.

Transportation in a comfortable spacious Toyota Camry.

Sites visited

1. Lampakbia and Paktaley
2. Kaengkrachan National Park
3. Lung Sin and Sonís feeding stations
4. Khao Yai National Park
5. Wat Praphutabahtnoi, Saraburi
6. Beung Borapet
7. Chong Yen, Mae Wong
8. Mae Ping National Park
9. Doi Inthanon
10. Doi Chiang Dao
11. Doi Angkhang
12. Doi Lang
13. Tha Torn, fields
14. Mae Dtaang, fields


Lampakbia and Paktaley

Naturally the tour has to start with a quest for the iconic Spoon-billed Sandpiper. We ended up with great scope views at length. Waders are a bit of my forte so we kept going for as much as we could find and ended up with a very long list that included stuff like Asian Dowitcher, Nordmannís Greenshank, Great Knots, Long-toed Stints, Terek Sandpipers etc.

The boat ride out to the sand spit of Lampakbia provided a different ambiance and the tranquility of the sandbars and the ocean has a way of calming the senses. The Chinese Egret out here is another highlight besides White-faced Plover and Malaysian Plover.

We also dipped our toes into the hinterlands that consist of large areas of fields and wetlands. 2 days of birding in these environments already saw us with a list of 140 birds.

Kaengkrachan

Kaengkrachan yielded a slew of colorful and interesting birds as we parked ourselves in the best spot on the lower levels of the park for the early morning. Hornbills, Barbets, Bulbuls, Malkohas, Woodpeckers kept us busy for the most part.

Lung Sinís hide was another experience Edward and Margaret enjoyed a lot as the rather shy forest birds that frequent the waterhole give great views from the hide. Seeing a pair of Mouse Deer wasnít too bad either.

Sonís hide is relatively new but still gave the desired bird, Blue Pitta!

Khao Yai

The flagship of Thai National Park still hold many good birds and is a very nice place to visit for a 1st timer to the country. Many different locality spots to visit and slowly we picked up one species after the other. We spend a day and a half in the park but could have done with 1 more.

Wat Praphutabahtnoi

Only one bird to offer but one of Thailandís only 2 endemic: Rufus Limestone Babbler. Formerly classified as Limestone Wren Babbler. The birds are very vocal in the early morning and one get to experience the birds almost at arms lengths at times. Evenings are not so.
The setting is spectacular with jagged mountain tops and typical Thai architectural temples nestled in between the rocky formations.

Beung Borapet, Nakon Sawan

Loads of birds in the vegetation surrounding the lake as well as a watch tower overlooking the area. Freckle-breasted Woodpeckers easy to spot, various reed warblers chucking away giving glimpses now and then. Striated Grassbird with its far reaching song fills the air. Glossy Ibises and Openbills fly about. A place with a load of birds! And a male Pied Harrier topped the cake!

2nd day we spend 3 hours on a boat getting close to the birds and targeting Cotton Pygmy Geese, Jacanas and White-browed Crake. No diving ducks on the lake this time so we decided to cut it short and invest our time in our next destination.

Mae Wong

One afternoon and one morning in this place is definitely not enough but is a great introduction to birds of Northern Thailand. I just love hearing the sounds of Great and Gold-throated Barbets in the mountains (1300m at Chong Yen). A Rusty-naped Pitta was also heard calling from a valley and just knowing its whereabouts is another addition to the senses. Fantastic views of White-necked Laughingthrushes, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Silver-eared Mesia were definite highlights but in general it was a bit on the quiet side. A perched Rufus-winged Buzzard was a very welcomed addition at the end of the day.

Mae Ping

Another long drive saw us in the little town of Li where we settled in a comfortable hotel.
The dry forest at Mae Ping is perfect habitat for medium sized birds such as woodpeckers, cuckoo-shrikes, parakeets and orioles. We spend one afternoon and one morning here and inspire of the many fires in the area (terrible really, the visibility reduced sharply in some areas) got on to some good birds such as Black-headed Woodpeckers, Greater Yellownape, Grey-headed Parakeets, Large Cuckoo-shrikes and Collared Falconets. And, not to forget the flocks of the large and colorful Red-billed Blue Magpie roaming about.

We didnít know it was a religious holiday while dining and no beers were sold. But where there is a will there is a way and after dinner I did a search in town and did not walk away empty handed!

Doi Inthanon

Another day and a half visit to another park. In all earnest Doi Inthanon has most to offer on the higher levels and that is where we spent most of the time. The bog is a world of magic and beauty with its moss laden rhododendrons. A fruiting tree helped us to get on to several Grey-sided Thrushes, an uncommon visitor. Some of the regulars seen, Snowy-browed FC, Pygmy Wren Babbler (cupwing), White-browed Shortwing (Himalayan), Ashy-throated Warbler, Mrs Gouldís and Green-tailed Sunbirds, Dark-backed Sibias and Chestnut-tailed Minlas plus a few Common Rosefinches.

Someone tipped us off of a new hide in the park. It proved to be extremely productive with excellent views of several good birds: White-crowned and Slaty-backed Forktails, Plumbeous Redstart, Lesser Shortwing, Rufous-bellied Niltava and the normally very withdrawn Dark-sided Thrush.

Jeep track was as usual, very quiet. Only a few singing Slaty-bellied Tesias none which wanted to show. Grrr!

Km34.5 gave great views of Humeís Treecreeper in the late morning.

Outside the park we saw a flock of 7 Blossom-headed Parakeets coming in to roost.

This time of year the fruit and vegetables grown on the mountain are at their best and we got to sample some fantastic strawberries as well as avocadoes.

Doi ChiangDao

Since the road up to Doi Angkhang from Fang was closed for road repair we decided to stay overnight at DCD at Maleeís place. She still offer nice affordable lodging and her resort includes a massive orchid collection cared for by her Swiss husband.
The area holds a lot of birds on paper but we only saw a few in the late afternoon and left before light the day following. We did find a restaurant with good food and Thai craft beer. A real treat!

Doi Angkhang

The road winds its way along a mountain ridge gently upwards until you arrive at DAK. The rugged mountains on the other side of the valley are impressive and one can only imagine what lies beyond these tops.

As usual it was very birdy. First bird was Little Bunting soon followed by Brown-breasted Bulbuls. We visited several spots in the area including a couple of stake outs, one which held no less than 8 Black-breasted Thrushes. Loads of Chestnut-vented Nuthatches but no Giant this time.

A pair of Spot-breasted Parrotbills kept us entertained.

There is some local politics about the ownership of the land and businesses causing the many resorts to be closed. This has impacted the tourist industry and there were very few tourists around compared with normal years. The area is dependent on tourism and fruits, flowers and vegetable gardens so hopefully the issues will be resolved without forcing the locals into unwanted businesses as in the past.

San Ju,, Doi Lang

The best place in the very North away from the crowds. Birding along the road that divides
Thailand from Myanmar is a must. Loads of new birds for us including the Giant Nuthatch and Mrs Humeís Pheasant plus flycatchers like Slaty-backed, Slaty-blue, Rufous-gorgetted, Ultra-marine, Siberian Rubythroat, White-browed Laughingthrushes, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers, White-bellied Redstart, Crested Finchbill, Aberrant Bush Warbler and not
the least a flock of 5 Cutias!

Thai Torn, fields


To add variety to the trip a morning at the fields is a great change. Citrine Wagtails, Oriental
Skylark, Chestnut-capped Babbler, Pied Bushchat, Eastern Stonechat but alas no buntings in sightÖ..

Mae Dtaang

A brief visit on the way to Chiang Mai in search of Grey-headed Lapwings and we
did see a dozen birds!

We had sampled a lot of local food such as Khao Soi,, Sai oo-a, Namprick Ong and many
more. Edward and Margaret by now did not struggle with the spicy ingredients.

At Khao Yai we had had local gai yahng, khao niew, som tum, nahm tok moo cooked in
uncompromised fashion. We had worked the a la carte menu from many angles and I know why we all felt it was time to go home and tighten the belt a bit.

Around 400 species were recorded on the trip without trying to break any records but birding in a fairly relaxed tempo.

I initially made 3 different plans for the 2 weeks and this was the plan Edward and
Margaret choose. Hiring a personal guide as a couple is cheaper then joining a group of up to 12 participants in an overseas tour company. Add to that the freedom to change the schedule at will. To have personal attention of the guide at all times. I am not sure why not more people do it! Ha!

Yes, it was a long lonely drive back home to Bangkok but a friend had alerted me to a
Baikal Teal an hour North of Bangkok. It so worked out that I arrived at the site and got to
not only see the bird but also photograph it! My lifer for the trip!

Thanks Edward and Margaret for a good trip!



Scaly-breasted Partridge
Scaly-breasted Partridge
Siberian Rubythroat
Siberian Rubythroat
Grey-headed Lapwing
Grey-headed Lapwing
Indochinese  Roller
Indochinese Roller
Blue-winged Leafbird
Blue-winged Leafbird
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes
Racket-tailed Treepie
Racket-tailed Treepie
Brown Hawk Owl
Brown Hawk Owl
Spoon-billed Sandpiper
Spoon-billed Sandpiper
Lesser Mouse Deer
Lesser Mouse Deer
Asian Dowitchers
Asian Dowitchers
Zitting Cisticola
Zitting Cisticola
Indo-chinese Bushlark
Indo-chinese Bushlark
Blue Pitta
Blue Pitta
Great Hornbill
Great Hornbill
Crested Goshawk
Crested Goshawk
Crested Serpent Eagle
Crested Serpent Eagle
Eye-browed Thrush
Eye-browed Thrush
Great White Egret
Great White Egret
Bronze-winged Jacana
Bronze-winged Jacana
Radde's Warbler
Radde's Warbler
Brown-rumped Minivet
Brown-rumped Minivet
Rufous-browed Flycatcher
Rufous-browed Flycatcher
Grey-headed Parakeets
Grey-headed Parakeets
Grey-sided Thrush
Grey-sided Thrush
White-crowned Forktail
White-crowned Forktail
Dark-sided Thrush
Dark-sided Thrush
Plumbeious Redstart
Plumbeious Redstart
Slaty-backed Forktail
Slaty-backed Forktail
Silver-eared Mesia
Silver-eared Mesia
Burmese Shrike
Burmese Shrike
Abberrant Bush Warbler
Abberrant Bush Warbler
White-browed Laughingthrush
White-browed Laughingthrush
Cutia
Cutia
Kale with crispy pork in oyster sauce
Kale with crispy pork in oyster sauce
Fish paddies with sweet chli sauce
Fish paddies with sweet chli sauce
stir fried
stir fried
Sizzling seafood tom yum soup
Sizzling seafood tom yum soup
sweet and sour
sweet and sour
seafood salad
seafood salad
papaya salad
papaya salad
Namprick ong
Namprick ong
Khao Soi
Khao Soi
Edward and Margaret
Edward and Margaret
At the bog Doi Inthanon
At the bog Doi Inthanon
Birding with intent
Birding with intent