Trip report: Thailand (March 2014) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Scott Watson. This was a set departure tour.

From mountaintop forest, to ocean shore, from steamy jungle, to thick mangroves, Thailand’s rich bird diversity is attributed to the huge variety of habitats. Some of the best bird families in Asia are represented here with hulking hornbills, spectacular pittas, and the incredible broadbills. Dozens of Palearctic and Himalayan migrants are also added to the bountiful colourful residents. Combine this with some of the best tasting food in the orient, the legendary Thai hospitality, the pleasing culture, with great accommodation and infrastructure, and you have yourself one of the most popular Asian birding destinations. Not to mention the perfect introduction to the birds of tropical Asia. This tour was highly successful with a bird list of 482 along with 20 species of mammals.

The first days of the tour were fast and furious, starting off in the salt pans of Pak Thale where we bagged 22 Nordmann’s Greenshank, then getting everyone’s favourite small shorebird, the infamous yet critically endangered, Spoon-billed Sandpiper. We also managed to get another 25 shorebird species from this prize site in the gulf. We then made it to Kaeng Krachan National Park where we watched Common Green-Magpie and a family of Bar-throated Partridge compete at the same waterhole against a less than sizeable Lesser Mouse-Deer, all from a new bird hide close to the lodge. This site also got us a few gems such as Rusty-cheeked Hornbill, Black-thighed Falconet, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Spot-necked Babbler, and even the tricky yet stunningly beautiful Black-and-red Broadbill.

On to the famous Khao Yai National Park, land of the modern day Pterodactyl or Great Hornbill of which we saw many. Amazing targets here included in your face views of Silver Pheasant and Siamese Fireback, and seeing both turned out to be easy this trip, forgetting both, impossible. We journeyed north from here to the mountains of the north-west but first stopping of at Thailand’s largest lake, Bueng Boraphet, to bag a few tricky ducks and other marsh birds on an enjoyable boat ride. The mountains of Doi Inthanon, Doi Chiang Dao, and Doi Ang Khang were productive this tour, with great weather and great sightings such as; Rufous-throated Partridge, 7 Hume’s Pheasants, Black-headed Woodpecker, Collared Falconet, Gray-headed Parakeet, 6 species of Minivet, Giant Nuthatch, 13 species of Phylloscopus warbler, Spot-breasted & Black-throated Parrotbill, Crested Finchbill, and the blushing Red-faced Liocichla and stunning Red-flanked Bluetail at Doi Lang, near the Burmese border.

This tour also included the extension to the south of Thailand where we again cleaned up the targets. We started at the coastal tourist town of Krabi which also happens to have a huge mangrove estuary, meaning we picked up a whole host of mangrove specials including Mangrove Pitta and yet another Black-and-red Broadbill. At night we had great views of the rare Gould’s Frogmouth, Spotted Wood-Owl, and Brown Boobook. In the hot forests of Khao Nor Chuchi we were treated to incredible views of both male and female Malayan Banded-Pitta among dozens of other broadbills, bulbuls, and babblers. Our final stop was at Krung Ching Waterfall where we found the stunning Banded Broadbill amongst many more great forest birds.

Now I am just mentioning the birds, I could go on and on about the very warm and welcoming people, the incredible food, the great infrastructure, and the cold beer. Need I say more? Thailand really is the perfect introduction into the diverse wildlife of tropical Asia.

Click this link to view the full report in PDF format (file size 1.5MB).