Guided by Phil Chaon. This was a set-departure tour.
Thailand is a place that needs to be visited to be understood. Whether it is for the legendary food, the spectacular temples, or the pristine beaches millions of people make the journey to this country, some time and again. Among the myriad of reasons to visit the Kingdom of Thailand, the birdlife is paramount for a select few who will be treated to a slice of the country experienced by few. With an incredible variety of habitats, a country list hovering around 1000 species, and comfortable, easy travel Thailand is truly a world class birding destination.
In only two and a half weeks, we saw well over 500 species including many of Thailand’s most sought after birds. Birding the famous coastal wetlands of Pak Thale we found what is considered by many to be THE bird in Thailand – Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The supporting cast of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds including the endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank made the searching all the more exciting. Heading inland to the steamy hills of Kaeng Krachan (Thailand’s largest national park) we tracked down the full compliment of Broadbills, Banded Kingfisher, Scaly-breasted and Bar-backed Partridges and the celestial Blue Pitta.
Turning north to Khao Yai National Park we toured the rolling hills, towering forests and open plains in search of Silver Pheasant and Siamese Fireback, which we came up with in a thrilling last minute encounter. A rare encounter with a flock of Brown Hornbills and a sublime sunset with the mind-blowing Great-eared Nightjar were a fantastic bonus.
Our long journey to Himalayan influenced northern mountains was highlighted by an incredible evening spent with the otherworldly Green Peafowl. We reached new birding heights at the peak of Thailand’s highest mountain where in the cool mossy forests we tracked down shy Rufous-throated Partridges, the mouse-like Pygmy Cupwing and a glittering cadre of sunbirds. Following Doi Inthanon, we watched Pin-tailed Pigeons and Great Barbets from the golden spires of the Tham Pha Plong temple en route to the majestic gardens of Doi Ang Khang. The manicured orchards and flowerbeds of the Ang Khang Royal Projects held many avian delights – from the gargantuan Giant Nuthatch to the crimson-blushing Scarlet-faced Liocichla this location offered spectacular birds and ideal viewing situations in a spectacular locale. Our last major site, Doi Lang may have been a case of saving the best for last. Everything fell into place as we were greeted by a long-staying Ultramarine Flycatcher before reaping the benefits of an incredible flowering tree where Gray-headed and Spot-breasted Parrotbills held court with the legendary Himalayan Cutia. A displaying Hume’s Pheasant could not have been more cooperative, rearing up and beating the air as if he and his mate where the only living creatures around. A final dash to see an elusive Rusty-naped Pitta was a great end to this incredibly successful tour.
Thailand is full of surprises, great birds and varied experiences. Even veteran birders will see new species after multiple trips and newcomers to Asia can expect hundreds of lifers and a broad exposure to the region’s classic families. It is easy to see why Thailand is a perennial favorite for guides and clients alike.
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