Trip Report: Thailand, December 15, 1996 - January 4, 1997

Aidan G Kelly, Physiology Dept., Trinity College, Dublin 2, IRELAND; tel: 00353 1 6081351, fax: 00353 1 6793545;

The following is a daily account of a three week birding trip to Thailand over Christmas and New Year made by A. G. Kelly, Tom Shevlin, Victor Caschera and Sean Doherty. Our combined trip list was 390 species. Since the birds and birding sites of Thailand are relatively well known, with a number of comprehensive trip reports available, I'm not going to give access details for/directions to the birding sites visited, nor a complete checklist of the species seen. The daily birding highlights are mentioned, with some comments where relevant. I have put less emphasis on Western Palearctic species which winter in Thailand.

Daily account:

Saturday 14 Dec.

Left Dublin for London Heathrow at 07.00hrs. Departed Heathrow on Thai Air non-stop flight to Bangkok at 11.50 hrs.

Flight costs: Dublin-Bangkok Rtn. (via London Heathrow) IRP 585 incl. tax, Bangkok-Chiang Mai: IRP 41, Chiang Mai-Phuket: IRP 85. All flights booked through a travel agency in Dublin.

Sunday 15 Dec.

Arrived into Bangkok at 06.30 hrs. Transferred to domestic terminal to connect with flight to Chiang Mai. Picked up pre-booked 4WD Suzuki jeep from Avis. Fairly small! Drove to Doi Chiang Dao. Birded at a few spots along track, as far as barrier point. Drove back down track to Chiang Dao. Stayed at Chiang Dao Inn. (650Baht/dbl. room). OK. Ate in restaurant across road.

Birding highlights: Great Barbet (Megalaima virens), Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis), Golden-spectacled Warbler (Seicerus burkii).

Monday 16 Dec.

Up at 05.00. Drove up Doi Chiang Dao again. Drove past barrier towards substation. Never got as far as substation. Road too bad for underpowered 1.3L jeep (clutch starting to smell badly!). Afternoon: Drove north through Fang to Thaton. Birded Thaton area 'til dusk. Looked for Jerdon's Bushchat (Saxicola jerdoni) along Mae Kok river (no success). Stayed at Thaton garden lodge chalets as prices at recommended Mae Kok River Lodge had increased enormously from those quoted in other trip reports.

Birding highlights: Giant Nuthatch (Sitta magna), no problem in higher pine trees at Doi Chiang Dao, Collared Owlet (Glaucidium brodiei), Silver-breasted Broadbill Serilophus lunatus), Maroon Oriole (Oriolus traillii), Slender-billed Oriole (Oriolus tenuirostris) all at Doi Chiang Dao.

Tuesday 17 Dec.

Birded Thaton paddy-fields. Looked for Jerdon's Bushchat again. No joy. Did fields south of Thaton. Fairly quiet. Drove south and drove up to Doi Ang Khang. Ran short of daylight and never really found the best areas. Drove south to Hang Dong (getting lost for a while trying to find the right road out of the centre of Chiang Mai). Stayed in hotel on left on southern side of Hang Dong.

Birding highlights: Pied Harrier (Circus melanoleucos) and Oriental Skylark (Alauda gulgula) at Thaton.

Wednesday 18 Dec.

Drove from Hang Dong to Chom Tong and up to Doi Inthanon. Birded various spots up mountain (k10, k13, Waterfall) as far as k37 jeep track. Booked a chalet for three nights at HQ. Fairly basic! Ate at Mr. Deang's Cafe.

Birding highlights: Black Baza (Aviceda leuphotes) 2 at k10, Dark-rumped Swift (Apus acuticauda) 8 together at k13, a Thai rarity, Plumbeous Redstart (Rhyacornis fuliginosus) and River Chat (Phoenicurus leucocephalus) both at Waterfall.

Thursday 19 Dec.

Doi Inthanon. Summit marsh at dawn. Then birded various sites down mountain as far as our chalet. Dinner at Mr. Deang's.

Birding highlights: Rufous-throated Partridge (Arborophila rufogularis), White-browed Shortwing (Brachypteryx montana), Dark-sided Thrush (Zoothera marginata), Green-tailed Sunbird (Aethopyga nipalensis) all at summit marsh. Spectacled Barwing (Actinodura ramsayi) lower down.

Friday 20 Dec.

Doi Inthanon. Up at 06.00. First stop k37.5 checkpoint for dawn. Then Summit Marsh. Back to Deang's for lunch. Went to jeep track and ravine at k34.6. Fairly quiet in ravine. Then stopped at roadside at k35.5 'til dusk. Met British birder who told us of a Black-tailed Crake (Amaurornis bicolor) site. Directions difficult. A small pool and creek at the side of a grassy field near the back of the chalet grounds. Ask Mr. Deang for details.

Birding highlights: Emerald Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx maculatus), Bay Woodpecker (Blythipicus pyrrhotis), Maroon Oriole (Oriolus traillii).

Saturday 21 Dec.

Doi Inthanon. Up at 06.00 hrs. Quick look at Black-tailed Crake site. No joy. Drove to Chiang Mai Airport. Left jeep back to Avis and caught flight to Phuket. Arrived Phuket at 13.15 hrs. Collected car (1.6L Corolla) from Avis HQ near airport. Drove from Phuket airport to Ban Nai Chong. Managed 1.5 hrs. birding 'til dusk. Drove to Krabi. Booked into Thai Hotel (550 B/dbl. room), good. Ate in Good Luck restaurant, (across road from Grand Hotel). Good food.

Birding highlights: Ashy Wood-swallow (Artamus fuscus), Spectacled Spiderhunter (Arachnothera flavigaster) and Yellow-eared Spiderhunter (A. chrysogenys) both at Ban Nai Chong.

Sunday 22 Dec.

Up at 06.00. Went on boat trip to fish traps and mangroves with Mr. Dai. Up to the time of our visit there had been no recent sightings of Masked Finfoot (Heliopais personata) in the mangroves. Mr. Dai expected it's return any day however..! Went to Ban Nai Chong in afternoon. Met Kieran Fahy and Geraldine Harhen here. They were on a separate trip to Thailand. Exchanged news. We all birded here 'til dusk. Heard from Kieran that tracks to Khao Pra-Bang Khram (Khao Noi Chuchi) were very muddy (after recent rain) and probably not passable without 4WD, which they had. Decided to hire a 4WD for the following day (c. 30 pounds/ day from a Thai rental co. in Krabi).

Birding highlights: Fishtraps: White-bellied Sea-eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), Nordmann's Greenshank (Tringa guttifer) up to 30 seen, Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris), Crested Tern (Sterna bergii), Lesser Crested Tern (S. bengalensis).

Mangroves: Mangrove Pitta (Pitta megarhyncha) 1 seen briefly, Malayan Bronze Cuckoo (Chalcites minutillus), Arctic warbler (Phylloscopus borealis), Mangrove Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis rufigastra).

Monday 23 Dec.

Drove from Krabi to KPBK. Definitely needed 4WD! Found the place eventually after getting lost twice (even with Kieran's precise directions!). Birded trails A, B, C and D looking for Gurney's Pitta (Pitta gurneyi). Very hot and humid in afternoon. Met an English birder, who had a male Gurney's on trail N yesterday. Needless to say headed to trail N, remaining in the area 'til 17.00 hrs. No luck however. Then headed back to Krabi, getting some driving done on the worst parts of the road in daylight. Managed to get lost again briefly before reaching main road! Stayed in Thai Hotel again and ate at Good Luck restaurant.

Birding highlights: Red-crowned Barbet (Megalaima rafflesii) trail N (I missed it), Green Broadbill (Calyptomena viridis) 1 in fruiting tree on trail D, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (Clamator coromandus) 1 on trail B, Wallace's Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus nanus) trail N (VC only), Eye-browded Thrush (Turdus obscurus).

Tuesday 24 Dec.

Everyone did their own thing today. I decided to hire the 4WD for a second day and head back to KPBK and try again for Gurney's. TS went to Ban Nai Chong. VC and SD went to Ko Phi Phi. Spent day in KPBK, birding trails N, S, A, B, C and D, meeting English birder again. No pittas however. Drove back to Krabi and Thai Hotel. We all met up with Kieran and Geraldine and ate at Good Luck restaurant. Daily log call more interesting today! Birding highlights: Pin-tailed Parrotfinch (Erythrura prasina) flock of at least 20 feeding on bamboo along road on way up to trail N, Large Wren Babbler (Napothera macrodactyla) 4 on trail N, Streak-breasted Woodpecker (Picus viridanus), Orange-headed Thrush (Zoothera citrina) 7 was the total count.

Wednesday 25 Dec.

Up at 06. 00 hrs. Met Kieran and Geraldine as arranged and we all went with Mr. Dai to the mangroves and then the fish traps. Afternoon: Got 14.30 boat to Ko Phi Phi Island from Krabi. Arrived c. 16.00 hrs. Chartered boat towards Phi Phi Leh and islets offshore to see Frigatebirds come in to roost towards dusk. Fantastic! Appropriately, ticked Christmas Island Frigatebird today. Ate in pizza restaurant. A welcome change from fried rice! Stayed in Phi Phi cottages.

Birding highlights: Mangroves: Black Baza (Aviceda leuphotes). Fish traps: as 22 Dec.

Ko Phi Phi: Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) and Lesser Frigatebirds (F. ariel). No Great Frigatebirds (F. minor) picked out.

Thursday 26 Dec.

Birded area around cottages briefly, leaving Phi Phi on 09.00 ferry. Breakfast in Mrs. Lee's Cafe, Krabi. Drove to Khao Sok and birded here for a few hrs. Started the long drive towards Khao Sam Roi Yot, getting as far as Chum Phon where we overnighted.

Birding highlights: Pacific Reef Heron (Egretta sacra), 5 species of Flowerpecker (Dicaeum).

Friday 27 Dec.

Early start (04.00) from Chum Phon to finish the drive to Khao Sam Roi Yot. Rest of day birding here. Left at dusk and drove to Pranburi. Got hotel and went out for food.

Birding highlights: Long-toed Stint (Calidris subminuta), Malaysian Plover (Charadrius peronii), Greater Sandplover (C. leschenaultii), Lesser Sandplover (C. mongolus), Brown-headed Gull (Larus brunnicephalus), Flyeater (Gerygone sulphurea).

Saturday 28 Dec.

Up at 05. 45 hrs. Headed back to KSRY. Spent morning here. In afternoon headed for large marshy areas of KSRY off k276 from main road. Left at dusk and drove to Phetburi. Stayed at Khao Wang hotel (300 B/dbl. room). OK.

Birding highlights: Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis), Cinnamon Bittern (I. cinnamomeus), Watercock (Gallicrex cinerea), Pintail Snipe (Gallinago stenura), Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris).

Sunday 29 Dec.

Left Phetburi at 05.10 hrs. Drove to Kaeng Krachan. Got permit at HQ. Drove from HQ to checkpoint. Took longer than expected along long dirt track. Didn't get as far as we wanted as time getting on and realised fuel was getting a bit low. Birded back down the track. Rented a chalet beside dam, 4 km north of HQ. Ate in village. Booked permits for dawn at HQ.

Birding highlights: Large Hawk Cuckoo (Cuculus sparverioides), Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus), Orange-breasted Trogon (Harpactes oreskios), Heart-spotted Woodpecker (Hemicircus canente), Sultan Tit (Melanochlora sultanea).

Monday 30 Dec.

Up at 05.00 hrs. Collected permits at HQ. Spent day at Keang Krachan. Looked for on Ratchet-tailed Treepies (Temnurus temnurus) at k27-30 without success. Also birded k36/37, k17/18, k7. Ate in restaurant at HQ. Stayed another night in chalet. Decided to do a few hours on the following morning at k27-30. Booked permits again for dawn at HQ.

Birding highlights: Red-bearded Bee-eater (Nyctyornis amicta), Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis), Long-tailed Broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae), Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra). Saw Bay Woodpecker (Blythipicus pyrrhotis) at nest hole.

Tuesday 31 Dec.

Up at 04.50 hrs. and collected permits. Drove to k30. Got the Tree-pies. I nearly dipped! Birded back down to k27. Also spent a while at fruiting tree found yesterday at k7. Late morning/early afternoon: Drove from KK through Bangkok to Khao Yai NP, arriving at 19.15 hrs. Accomodation near park all booked up (because of holiday period). Eventually got accomodation at Garden Lodge resort, (c. 15-20 k)? from park, good. Ate here. Went to the very plush (and expensive) Juldis (Jules?) Khao Yai resort lodge for New Year celebrations. Bed at 02.00 hrs.

Birding highlights: Ratchet-tailed Treepie (Temnurus temnurus), White-hooded Babbler (Gampsorhynchus rufulus), Golden-crested Myna (Ampeliceps coronatus).

Wednesday 1 Jan.

Up just after 06.00 hrs. Spent day in KY NP. Park thronged with people. In hindsight best avoided on public holidays. Too many visitors on trails. Did Trail 1 (nature trail loop), trail 6. Lunch at a Wild West theme (name?) restaurant outside park (not great). Hired tents and got camping sorted out. Ate at HQ. Cheap and good.

Birding highlights: Eared Pitta (Pitta phayrei) a female perched in full view along the stream on trail 6 for c. 20 seconds., Great-eared Nightjar (Eurostopodus macrotis), Wreathed Hornbill (Aceros undulatus) (VC and SD), Black-and buff Woodpecker (Meiglyptes jugularis), White-crowned Forktail (Enicurus leschenaulti).

Thursday 2 Jan.

Day in KY. Trail 6 just after dawn. Breakfast at HQ restaurants. Then trail 1. Afternoon /evening: headed to bat cave, 4 km outside park. Climbed the very steep track to mouth of cave. Tough going. First bats out at 18.00 hrs. Streaming out continuously for over 20 minutes. Very impressive. Ate at HQ. Camped again at camp site which was very busy and noisy.

Birding highlights: Siamese Fireback (Lophura diardi) a male crossed trail 6 with a group of Silver Pheasants (L. nycthemera) and continued up the slopes (brilliant!), Scaly-breasted Partridge (Arborophila chloropus), Red-headed Trogon (Harpactes erythrocephalus), Banded Kingfisher (Lacedo pulchella) a male on trail 1, Mountain hawk-eagle (Spizaetus nipalensis), Blue Pitta (Pitta cyanea) near stream on trail 6 (TS and VC).

Friday 3 Jan.

First did beginning of trail 6. Then breakfast at HQ area. Did bridge and main road area up towards trail 7. We split up and I continued down trail 7 looping back around to trail 6 and main road at HQ. Due to previous night's noise at camp site we checked out and went back to Garden Lodge resort. Ate there also.

Birding highlights: Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo (Carpococcyx reynauldi) one seen and heard calling half way along trail 7 then unbelievably another two seen running up the slopes from the stream on trail 6 (bird of the trip), Banded Broadbill (Eurylaimus javanicus) 1 on trail 6, Long-tailed Broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae) fairly common on trails 6 and 7, Silver-breasted Broadbill (Serilophus lunatus), Banded Kingfisher (Lacedo pulchella), Slaty-backed Forktail (Enicurus schistaceus), Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa).

Saturday 4 Jan.

Up at 06.00 hrs. Started on trail 6 and did loop around to trail 7 to Wang Jumpee, walking back to HQ along main road. Breakfast/lunch at HQ area. Split up again. I did beginning of trail 6 again, in last attempt for Blue Pitta. Left at 17.00 to drive to airport in Bangkok. Long drive to Airport (3hrs.) due to very heavy traffic heading towards Bangkok. Got Thai Air flight back to London Heathrow.

Birding highlights: Blue Pitta (Pitta cyanea) 1 seen briefly along trail 6, Blue-bearded Bee-eater (Nyctyornis athertoni), Eared Pitta (Pitta phayrei) a pair gave excellent views as they fed quietly on the forest floor near the stream on trail 6 (one bird seen to feed on small frog, bashing it on a rock), Common (Asian) Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) finally managed to see one outside Garden Lodge resort after hearing many during the trip.

Sunday 5 Jan.

Arrived into London Heathrow at 06.30 hrs. Connected with flight to Dublin and back to boring reality.

(Monday 6 Jan.
Back to work and started thinking about the next foreign trip.)

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