Saturday, 23 February 2013

Thailand - the north

A short piece about our recent trip to Thailand (28th December 2012 to 20th January 2013)

I’ll split the trip into three sections – the north, the middle and the south.

The North.

Day 1 - Chiang Saen

We flew into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport and then caught a connecting flight to Chiang Rai in NE Thailand. We picked up a car and drove the 50 or so kilometres to Chiang Saen Lake.

We arrived just in time to see harriers arriving into the world’s largest harrier roost. We only caught the end, but still witnessed over 50 pied harriers and 20 eastern marsh harriers coming to roost.

Oriental honey buzzard near the harrier roost
Overnight at the very comfortable Viang Yonok hotel on the edge of Chiang Saen Lake

Day 2 Chiang Saen and the Mekong River

In the morning we explored the lake before heading to the Mekong River beyond Chiang Saen town towards the ‘Golden Triangle’. Our target species here was small pratincole, accessing the riverside was very difficult due to development and we only managed to view from a couple of points. No pratincoles were found but long-billed plovers were nice.

Lake Chiang Saen
White-throated kingfisher at lake Chiang Saen

Plain Prinia at Chiang Saen
ashy woodswallows at Lake Chiang Saen
Mekong River with Laos in the distance and a golden Buddha  behind the crane
From here we drove west to Tha-ton our next overnight stop. In the evening we birded around River Maekok looking for Jerdon’s Bushchat without success.

Overnight at Garden Home Nature Resort in Tha-ton

Days 3 & 4 – Doi Lang

The entire day was spent in the Doi Lang area, a high area of evergreen forest with scrub. The road from Tha-ton was rough in places for our little Toyota Vios, but with care we made it.

The birding here was excellent, easily the best site on the whole trip – we wished we could have had more time here.

Doi Lang
Rice paddy area at Doi Lang - Jerdon's Bushchat habitat

In the paddy area, Janet found a brambling - a very rare bird for Thailand. It caused a bit of a twitch!
grey-faced buzzard

Davison's leaf warbler
dark-backed sibia - coming to rice
Himalayan bluetail
Himalayan bluetail
and another - can't get enough of these!
large niltava
male grey bushcat
We left Doi Lang after two excellent days for the short drive west, via Fang to Doi Ang Kang arriving quite late into our accommodation at Ban Luang.

Day 5 and 6 Doi Ang Kang

These days were spent around  Doi Ang Kang, an area high on the Burmese border with forest, scrub and hilltribe villages. For some reason I hardly took any photos at Doi Ang Kang.We visited several areas including the King's Agricultural Project, the Arunthai road and Chinese Cemetery and the Ban Nor Lea Army Camp. Some of the target species here included gaint nuthatch, Mrs Humes' pheasant, daurian redstart and crested finchbill.

Doi Ang Kang


brown-breasted bulbul

grey bushchat

Thai-Myanmar Border - seemingly we may have strayed into Burma.....
orange-bellied leafbirds
We left Doi Ang Kang early for the long drive, via Chiang Mai, to Doi Inthanon. Again, we wished we's ahd more time here.

Day 7 and 8  - Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon is the highest point in Thailand at 2, 565m above sea level, it is about 60km south-west of Chiang Mai.

We spent most of our two days in the National Park, birding the summit area and various forest-habitat types at different altitudes. We also visited the blossom-headed parakeet conservation area near to our accommodation at Inthanon Highland Resort.

Some of our target species connected with here included pygmy wren babbler, green-tailed sunbird, ashy-throated warbler, bar-throated minla and white-capped water redstart

Boardwalk at Doi  Inthanon summit

Mr Deang's shop and birding centre

blue whistling thrush (eugenei ssp) at Doi Inthanon summit

ashy-throated warbler

green-tailed sunbird

Stejnerger's stonechat in farmland near hotel

white-capped water redstart or river chat

blossom-headed parakeets.
From Doi Inthanon we drove back to Chiang Mai airport for our flight back down to Bangkok for part two - the middle bit!