Trip Report Thailand

26. November to 17. December 2002


Trip Report                              Species List


Christoph Moning info@birdinggermany.de 

Christian Wagner Christian.Wagner@bio.tum.de

Structure and headings of the trip report

Strategy and Introduction

Logistics

Getting there and around

Accommodation

Costs

Safety

Books

Tapes 

Internet sources

Site information, accommodation and costs

Strategy and Introduction

This was our first birding trip to continental Asia. For this it was our aim to get an overview of the typical bird families of South East Asia and to see as many birds as possible. We also wanted to see many of the wintering birds. 

Therefore we decided to do the typical northern and central Thailand birding circuit which included five sites in the North:

- Thaton: Paddies on Myanmar border by river

- Doi Ang Khang: northern specialities including many wintering birds

- Doi Chiang Dao: Open pine/ oak forest at 1500 m (Den Ya Khat substation) and evergreen forest at the base of the mountain

- Huai Kong Krai Royal Project: Green Peafowl

- Doi Inthanon: Highest mountain in Thailand (2595 m): dipterocarp forest, cultivated areas, evergreen montane rain forest, summit marsh

and three sites in central Thailand

- Khao Yai: Montane Rain Forest

- Khok Kham: coastal salt pans hosting many Waders including Spoon-billed Sandpiper during winter months

- Kaeng Krachan: Birds of Malay peninsula as well as birds of Indochina

The trip lasted three weeks and we identified 358 species.

December is a good time to visit Thailand as many of the wintering birds are already present, although it has to be mentioned that for example thrushes are more numerous a few weeks later (by January/ February). The weather was quite reliable including two days with rain at Khao Yai and Chiang Mai. In average there should have been about four days with rain during the period we where travelling. If we went again, we maybe would have chosen February because there is more activity of the breeding birds additionally to the wintering species then.

Things we would do in other ways now:

We would visit any of the visited sites again, although we where a little bit disappointed by Thaton as we found no Buntings and other wintering birds we hoped to see in the rather dry Paddys. If you have the money (about 320€), it is a good idea to fly between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. We needed two full days driving between these locations: one day up and one day down. The distance is about 850 km but due to traffic and road conditions you can't go faster than an average speed of 80 km/h. We would not bring our own cooking gear with us again. There are plenty of restaurants and cooking might be more expensive than having a great meal in a restaurant. In Kaeng Krachan you might help yourself by making a fire, if you decide to camp there. Generally try to avoid National Parks during weekends and holidays (too many people).

Logistics:

Getting there and around

We took an Emirates flight via Dubai from Munich to Bangkok at a cost of 561,-€. In Thailand we hired a 4WD Suzuki Caribian which was booked in advance before we left Germany. The car was booked through Holiday Autos at a rate of  608,4€ for 21 days including fully comprehensive insurance. 4WD was necessary at Doi Chiang Dao and at Kaeng Krachan, especially the high ground clearance of the car was important. Driving in Thailand outside the towns is not a big problem although you have to drive quiet concentrated (see also safety). In bigger towns you should use a good map or just avoid driving through Bangkok or Chiang Mai. There are generally good road signs throughout Thailand (major destinations in English).

Other birders travelled by bus and then relied on hitching a lift inside the parks. But if you have only limited time, you should hire a car.

Accommodation

As we camped in the National Parks, we had no problems to find places to stay at. Also when we stayed outside the parks we had no problems to find any accommodation. Anyway some hints:

(i) Camping is very popular in Thailand. During weekends and holidays the campgrounds in the parks are crowded with people. These are playing guitar and do usually talk and sing until 3 a.m. . At about 5 a.m. they start their cars to watch the sunrise somewhere. It is easy to find new friends and to taste Thai food at the campgrounds. During the week it can be rather quite. Camping facilities were bad at every campground we have been at (Kaeng Krachan, Khao Yai and Doi Chiang Dao).

(ii) If you want to avoid to drive at least 24 km every morning in Kaeng Krachan, you have to camp inside the park. This means that you have to carry all your food with you, as there are no shops or restaurants in the park.

(iii) At Khok Kham do not stay over night at Mr. Tii's Birding Café.

Costs

The exchange rate at the time of our trip was 1€/ 43 Baht. Camping was about 30 Baht (two persons, tent, car) each night. Other accommodation (Bungalow, Hotel) ranged between 150 and 500 Baht the double. Fuel was about 14 Baht per litre. Food is very cheap and tasty. A simple meal (like fried rice) was about 25 Baht. A five course menu was about 250 Baht for two persons! Beer was comparably expensive: 1 bottle was about 40 Baht. 

Safety

There was no situation during our journey in which we felt unsafe. Nevertheless precautions should be carried out, especially when you are in towns and at crowded places. Driving at night is not advisable as there are many really deep potholes, vehicles without lights and dogs on the road combined with the little chaotic driving style of the Thaïs. We where stopped by the Police once because we drove on the right lane of the Highway (left lane too bad to go fast). The officer wanted us to pay him some money, but we did not understand him so he let us go. We were told by others that it is usual to grease policeman's palms, if one gets stopped. It is important that you carry your passport with you as there are regular controls in all bigger towns (bars, discos etc.) and checkpoints on the road. Only hire a car with fully comprehensive insurance as tourists are always guilty when involved into an accident. 

Books

A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand
by
Craig Robson - 272 pages - New Holland Publishers (UK) -October 2002 - ISBN: 1843300583: Excellent Field Guide especially the plates. At the moment the best Guide, although the texts are better in the Lekagul Guide.

A Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia: Thailand, Peninsular, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia by Craig Robson; Princeton University Press (April 2000)

LEKAGUL, BOONSONG; ROUND, PHILIP D. (1991): A GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF THAILAND - Saha Karn Bhaet Co., Ltd.; Bangkok. Difficult and expensive to obtain. Good texts, partly poor plates.

ORIENTAL BIRD CLUB (June 2000): SPECIAL ISSUE ON THAILAND - Bulletin 31. Nice additional literature but not essential.

TREESUCON, UTHAI (2000): BIRDS OF KAENG KRACHAN; CHECKLIST AND GUIDE TO BIRDS FINDING - Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, Bangkok. Very useful if you plan to visit this fantastic area. Can be obtained through Oriental Bird Club (http://www.orientalbirdclub.org/)

SRIKOSAMATARA, SOMPOAD; HANSEL, TROY (2000): MAMMALS OF KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK - Green World Foundation, 2nd edition, Bangkok. Can be purchased at the park headquarter, containing also a useful map of the park.

Tapes

We had some difficulties to obtain tapes, so we asked Moira and Graeme Wallace, who kindly sent us three tapes with songs and calls of about 90 species. The tapes showed to be extremely useful because it is very easy to hear many sounds in a forest environment but it can be hard to get clear views of the cause. It also showed to be useful to tape unknown calls and to repeat the call from the tape immediately in order to attract the birds.

Internet sources

parks and other sites

- Kaeng Krachan National Park http://www.thaiparks123.com/en/nationalpark.cfm?parkid=18 and http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Palace/5087/3h_kkc_br.html

- Birds and other wildlife around Chiang Dao (http://home.worldonline.be/~fr018787/birding/chiangdao.htm): Rather detailed Guide to the area by Jurgen Beckers, including a birds and mammals checklist

- Doi Inthanon National Park: http://welcome-to.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/int-park.htm; here you may also find a map and a detailed article about the birds at DI

Trip Reports

- The WORLDTWITCH THAILAND PAGE: http://worldtwitch.virtualave.net/thailand_bird_reports.htm

- Thailand Trip Reports at Birdtours: http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/thailand/index.htm

- Moira and Graeme Wallace (January-February 2002). Very good report: http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/thailand/thailand16/thai-feb2002.htm 

- John Penhallurick (May 2002). Some useful directions: http://listserv.arizona.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0204e&L=birdchat&F=&S=&P=2901 

- Nick Ransdale (February 2002). Kaeng Krachan and the North, with Krabi (February 2002): http://www.surfbirds.com/mb/trips/thailand-0202-nran.html

- Barry Cooper and Gail Mackiernan (February 2001). Northern Thailand: http://www.surfbirds.com/mb/Trip%20Reports/thailand-gm.html

- Phil and Charlotte Benstead (winter 2000/2001). Especially useful if you are planning to go by local bus: http://www.birdtours.co.uk/tripreports/thailand/thailand10/thailand2000-2001.htm

- Roger Ahlman (January-February 2000). Northern and Central Thailand: http://worldtwitch.virtualave.net/roger_ahlman_thailand.htm

Site information, accommodation and costs (South to North)

Note: There is a practical system of kilometre stones (they show distance in kilometres) along nearly all the tarred roads in Thailand. So nearly all the given kilometre figures refer to this milestones.

Kaeng Krachan

KK National Park comprises c3000 sq. km. of evergreen forest adjacent to the Myanmar border at the northern end of Peninsular Thailand. It is one of the species-richest parks in Southeast Asia (413 species of which 305 are resident). From the park gates a road runs through lowland evergreen forest before climbing steeply through well forested hills. The best birding areas are km 16-18 from the park gate, c2km after the lower control barrier (Ban Krang substation), where the forest closes over the road and you cross the first of three small streams. km 26-28 are also particularly good with a pull off at km 27. Next to the pull off a track leads down the hill to a small stream. This is good for Khalij Pheasant, Ratchet-tailed Treepie and others like Banded Kingfisher and Black-and-buff Woodpecker just to name a few.

You need a permit/ticket to enter KK which is purchased at the HQ which opens at 08.00. It costs 200Baht per person per day and 30Baht per day for the car. The Park HQ does not open until 08.30 but the park itself is open at 06.00. If you stay outside the park, you should buy date stamped tickets for the next days thus avoiding the hassle of having to leave the park each afternoon to return to HQ to buy the ticket that would enable an early start the following morning.

The road through the park has an up and down vehicle control system, using a sometimes manned upper (Panoen Thung substation) and lower barrier (Ban Krang substation)

Round

Time to go up Time to come down

1

2

3

05.00-8.00 

11.00-12.00

15.00-16.00

09.00-10.00

13.00-14.00

17.00-18.00

You need a vehicle with high ground clearance to drive along this road. To get to KK from Bangkok take Rt. 4 southwest to Phetchaburi (160km) and then a further 20 km to Tha Yung. In the centre of Tha Yung turn right onto a road which leads to Song and then after 30 km to Khoa Phanoen Tung. From there follow the road up to the dam and around the reservoir passing the Park HQ on the right. After a few kilometres there is a turnoff to the left in the direction to Ban Nong Pun Taek (if you get to the army barracks you have missed the turn) onto a new road. Take this turnoff. At the end of this road turn right.  Now the road gives way to unsurfaced road before becoming surfaced again up to the park gates (Sam Yot substation).

The best way to do Kaeng Krachan from a birdwatchers point of view is to stay inside the park. There are two campgrounds in the park itself but you need to take all your food in with you. The upper campground is upgraded now and placed on a very nice plateau from which you have a great scenic view. If you stay outside the park, you have to do at least 24 km one way only to reach the lower substation. This means a lot of driving and a very early stand up. 

The campgrounds can be crowded and noisy at weekends (but this is still nothing compared to Doi Inthanon). The facilities are very basic.

Important birds at KK include; Grey Peacock-Pheasant, Collared and Black-thighed Falconet, Great, Brown, Wreathed and Plain-pouched Hornbills, Black and Buff and Heart-spotted Woodpeckers, Banded, Black and Yellow, Long-tailed and Silver-breasted Broadbills and Ratchet-tailed Treepie. 

Ban Laem and Laem Phak Bia

Although we did not find the time to visit this site it should be mentioned here as it is a really great shorebird birding area and most visiting birders do not yet know about it. We got this directions from Philip D. Round: 

"Laem Phak Bia and the Ban Laem area are close to Phetchaburi town. Turn off just past (S of) Phetchaburi town and follow English language signs for Hat Chao Samran (Chao Samran Beach). 300 m before the beach turn left at a crossroads which is signposted to Ban Laem. After 5 or 6 km (a little beyond Lam Luang resort) the road crosses a canal packed out with moored fishing boats. Walk in here and a wooden walkway extends out to the beach (about 700 m walk). When you reach the shore you have about another 3 km walk north up the beach to the end of a beautiful sand-spit with Malaysian Plovers, Sanderling and a roosting flock of Larus heuglini taimyrensis, plus often a few Pallas's Gulls. Sometimes Great Knot and other waders can be found here -Terek Sandpiper is easy also.

But it is also worth driving along the road through the salt-pans and prawn ponds north from Hat Chao Samran to Ban Laem - an extensive area with a good variety of waders.  At high tide the Great Knot flock (up to 60 or so birds in mid-winter) is sometimes on the ponds."

Khok Kham (near Samut Sakhon)

KhK is a large area mainly of salt pans which contain large numbers of over wintering waders which in recent years has become notable for small numbers of over wintering Spoon-billed Sandpiper, making it one of the easiest places to see this enigmatic species. The provincial town of Samut Sakhon lies about 45 km south of Bangkok. Whether you approach SS from the south or the north you exit the expressway at the SS junction. As you drive into town you will come across a large fountain/monument at the first major intersection. Turn left here and follow the road straight ahead and take the third major turn on the right at the second set of traffic lights. This road shortly leads to a large steep bridge. Drive over the bridge, follow the road for a distance until it curves to the left and continue until there appear to be 2 bridges in front of you. Turn off here and park by the right hand bridge. There is a café right here with a sign that says Khok Kham Bird Club. Here you will find the local expert Mr. Tii who will guide you through the extensive area of saltpans that lie ahead and can save you a lot of time. The guiding was 300Baht. If Mr. Tii is not there or if you prefer to try it on your own (you might need a lot of time), use this map:

"our Spoony" (Calidris pygmeus; adult nonbr.); Picture by Thiti Tanaree

Khao Yai National Park

KYNP is an extensive area of moist evergreen forest located some 200 km north east of Bangkok. From Bangkok take Rt.1 north and follow the signs for Saraburi. At Saraburi turn on to Rt.2 and follow this to Pak Chong where there is a turn-off for KY. The park entrance is located at km 23 from Pak Chong and the road is lined with hotels/motels. A good road runs through the park providing easy access to all the trails (see map below). The park headquarters, visitor centre and food stalls are at km 37.5. A trail map is available at the Park HQ.

Entry to the park cost 200 Baht per person and Baht 50 for the car. Camping is available in the Park as is some very basic dormitory accommodation. Facilities at the campgrounds are very basic. You save long driving distances when you stay inside the park. 

The trail numbers on the map, that can be bought at the headquarter differ from the numbers mentioned by other authors in earlier reports. Unfortunately we realized this quiet late at KY. The map below is a modified copy of the map available at the headquarter:

1: Headquarter: Facilities on both sides of the road. In the Information Centre on the eastern side of the road (round building) you will find rangers that can give quite detailed and update information about birds and where to find them (fruiting trees etc.).

2: Trail 6 (now trail 5): The trailhead for this legendary trail is located just beyond the footstalls. The southern part is especially good for Pittas (along the stream). The trail is also good for Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, Abbott's Babbler, Pheasants and many more. The total distance between HQ and watch tower in the north is 4.5 km and 5.4 km to the road. There is also a parking area at the northern trailhead. The tower is good for raptors, especially during late morning.

3: "New Trail 6": We where here three times as we thought that this is the old trail 6. The parking area was really good at early morning. The path will lead you to a stream which is also very good (Slaty-backed Forktail, Blue Pitta etc.). The rest of the trail was full of leeches so we didn't find too much time for birding.

4: Trail 10: Said to be good for the Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo.

5: Radar Road: This is said to be THE spot for both Pheasants. We tried hard for them but we never saw any pheasants here. The road has been "upgraded" recently and there seems to be more traffic than before. We never managed to be the first on the road, as always some vehicles already passed before dawn.

6: Pha Gluai Mai Campsite: On the lower right side of the campground (at the bottom of the grassy camping area) there is a restaurant. Other birdwatchers found Coral-billed Ground-Cuckoo behind this restaurant regularly. At night good for owls. We heard Mountain and Oriental Scops Owl, Collared Owlet and Brown Hawk Owl here. Spot-bellied Eagle Owl is said to roost in the trees at the campground.

The Road to the North between HQ and park entrance is a good spot to see Asian Elephants if you go there by dusk, night or dawn. You will notice their droppings on the road at any time of the day.

View point at km 30: next to the road to Pak Chong. Good for raptors. We observed Jerdon's Baza here. 

Bat Cave: The Caves are situated a few kilometres outside the park and can be approached via the road to Pak Chong. You will see a sign "Bat Cave" on the left (if come from the park). The road to the caves starts at an entrance gate as the area is part of a kind of holiday resort. Signs will lead you close to a cliff on your left. You can watch the six millions bats coming out of the cave about one hour before sunset. Unfortunately we didn't see the bats. Maybe we arrived too late.

The park has a fantastic bird list and important birds here include Siamese Fireback, Silver Pheasant, Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, Eared and Blue Pittas, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great, Brown and Wreathed Hornbills, Black and Buff, Heart-spotted and Great Slaty Woodpeckers, Banded, Silver-breasted and Long-tailed Broadbills.

Doi Inthanon

Thailand's highest mountain DI offers a range of varied habitats from dry deciduous forest in the foothills to montane forest at higher levels and sphagnum bog and rhododendron forest at the summit. There is good birding throughout the c45 km road that runs from the entrance to the summit. Going up the mountain the major birding sites are:

km 06 From the road Red-billed Blue Magpie (early morning) and Rufous-winged Buzzard.

km 13 Turn off to the right to a parking area, cross the suspension bridge and follow the trail that meanders through the open deciduous forest. Birds here include Collared Falconet, White-rumped Falcon, and Black-headed Woodpecker. Just downstream from the suspension bridge another small stream joins the main stream and is a traditional site for the shy Black-backed Forktail.

km 18 The Bridge is a good place to spot Black-backed Forktail

km 20 Vachiratharan Waterfall. Turn off to this signposted waterfall and park in the large car park (take the lower (first) car park, in order to avoid a long and steep walk!). White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstart are seen regularly here.

km 23 Jeep Track

km 30 Just beyond km 30 is a road to the right that leads to the Hmong Village. Take this road and after a short distance take the first right, pass the checkpoint and follow the road to park guesthouses (camping area). Keep right until you pass a dam. Now you will enter an open area just before the guesthouses. Park here and watch the grassy/marshy area left of the track as Black-tailed Crake was being seen regularly here. Especially watch the path that crosses the marsh. The Crake is calling in the morning. We camped next to the marsh but maybe due to hundreds of noisy campers, the Crake kept silent.

km 31 Just before km 31 on the right is the park HQ situated on a circular road enclosing a large lawn. Driving anti-clockwise park at the first buildings that you come to. Behind this buildings is a toilet block and slightly further on is a stream which flows under the main road. Both Scaly and Dark-sided Thrush were seen here by others in February.

Mr. Daeng's Birding Cafe At km 31 a steep access road leads to Mr. Daeng's. Mr. Daeng will provide you with a lot of information.

This is a modified copy of the map that can be obtained at Mr. Daeng's Shop:

km 34,5 Park the car at the start of the Jeep Track. Follow the track for about 2 km. Nice forest. We are not sure if the footpath in Mr. Daeng's map (right) still exists.

km 37 Just beyond the checkpoint is the famous Jeep Track which is the place for Purple and Green Cochoa, neither of which we saw. We did see many others including Slaty-bellied Tesia, Bay Woodpecker, Maroon Oriole, Small Niltava, Slaty-backed Forktail, White-tailed Robin, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch and Fire-capped Tit. Opposite the Jeep Track the road to Mae Chaem also provided some nice birds including Pygmy Blue Flycatcher and a variety of warblers. Others saw Spot-winged Grosbeak one week earlier.

km 45 This site has to be avoided during holidays and weekends as hundreds of people will crowd the path. The Summit Marsh is the traditional site for Dark-sided Thrush. Other birds at the marsh include Pygmy Wren Babbler, White-browed Shortwing, Mrs. Gould's and Green-tailed Sunbird (endemic subspecies), Chestnut-tailed Minla, Ashy-throated and and many other warblers. There are two platforms along the trail, from which you can look on the muddy ground of the marsh (e.g. opposite the entrance). This is where we saw Dark-sided Thrush and White-browed Shortwing.

DI is located about 80 km south-west of Chiang Mai on Rt.108. At the town of Chom Tong turn right onto a road signposted for DI and drive straight to the park. The park opens at 06.00 am and costs the standard 200Baht per person plus 30Baht for the car. 

We camped in the park. The facilities are very simple and there were many people around as we stayed during a long weekend here. Generally all National Parks in Thailand should be avoided during holidays and weekends.

Huai Kong Krai Royal Project

It was not at all clear what purpose this Royal Project serves, but it seems to be a zoo/aviary containing, amongst others, many of Thailand's most beautiful pheasants either in dismal cages or more open enclosures. It is not therefore a great natural birding experience but it does contain free flying Green Peafowl attracted to the calls of the "caged birds" and may be readily seen. These fantastic birds are supposedly more likely to be seen in the early morning but we had stellar views of several males in late afternoon.

The Project is located on Rt.118, 24 km north of the ring road around Chiang Mai and has a large sign at the entrance on the right. From the gate drive 4 km past several lakes until you reach a dam/causeway in front of you. Do not follow the road that bends to the left here but drive straight and pass the dam. Beyond the dam drive up to the right where you will reach a fenced area. Park here. The Peafowl, both caged and wild are found inside the fenced area.

Doi Chiang Dao

There are really two sites at DCD, the area around the monastery at Wat Tham Pha Phlong close to Mallees Nature Lovers Bungalows (see below) which is where most birders stay and the pine forested ridge some 25 km from the main road at the Den Ya Khat substation. Mallee has copies of a booklet "Birds and other Wildlife around DCD" by Jurgen Beckers which is useful. This is also available here: http://home.worldonline.be/~fr018787/birding/chiangdao.htm

Site 1 - At the monastery there are a number of trails: 

The Nature Trail starts opposite the entrance to the Forestry Dept HQ some 200 m before the parking area. The first part at the Mae cut creek is good for Rusty-naped Pitta and Limestone Wren Babbler. The trail will lead you to the village at the Bat Caves. Where the trail runs along the Wat area, there is a hole in the perimeter fence, so you might walk along the fire break inside the fenced area (very steep).

The parking area holds some nice flowering and fruiting trees at certain times of the year. Sultan Tit and Grey-rumped Treeswift (in the early morning) can be observed regularly here. 

The walk up the steps up to the Wat (Temple) is good especially in the early morning. Some 40 m before the bridge that leads to the temple other steps go up to the right. Follow these and at a cliff follow the track up the slope. You will pass some Bamboo forest and then reach the fire break (about 5 m wide) at the perimeter fence. Follow the fire break to the left. Do not turn right, as this leads to an exceptionally steep slope. Go back down the path.

The Temple Gulley Trail starts after the bridge that leads to the temple. Steps are leading down to the right to the stream just behind the bridge. Follow the creek upstream. You have to walk through the stream at times. This trail is good for Rusty-naped Pitta (which we saw here) and Forktails.

The jungle trail does no longer exist. You can also birdwatch at Pong creek. For details see Jurgen Beckers Booklet (see above).

Birds around the Temple include Violet Cuckoo, Golden-fronted, Blue-winged and Orange-bellied Leafbird, Silver-breasted Broadbill, various Laughingthrushes, Greater Yellownape, Sultan Tit, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Limestone Wren Babbler and Red-headed Trogon. 

This is a modified copy of the map that can be found in Jurgen Beckers booklet:

Site 2 - The road leading up the mountain to the pine forest ends at the Den Ya Khat substation where there is a campground. The last 2-3 km of the road are the place to look for the specialties such as Hume's Pheasant, Giant Nuthatch and Hodgson's Frogmouth. Ask the ranger for Hume's Pheasant and others. Beyond the campground a track leads to the summit of the mountain. Walking here was very productive in the evening and also in the morning: Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Eyebrowed Thrush, Large Niltava, Giant Nuthatch (not uncommon, learn the call), Yellow-streaked, Buff-throated, Arctic, Two-barred and Yellow-browed Warbler, White-browed Shrike Babbler, Grey-headed Parrotbill, superb Mrs. Gould's Sunbird and Chestnut Bunting were some highlights. We walked only a few kilometres. To reach the summit, you would need a full day. Black-tailed Crake can be heard at the pond next to the DYK substation.

To access DCD you first need to obtain a permit from the Forestry HQ just beyond Mallees. To get to DCD and the DYK substation from Mallees return the 6.9 km to the main road, turn right heading back towards Chiang Mai and after 5 km on your left you will see a green bus/rest shelter and a small lane on your right. Drive up the (unconvincing) lane, there is a sign on which only the number "21" can be read. Also a Wat is on the left. After a few kilometres the road forks: take the left track. On a sign at the track to the right only the number "1500" can be read. Continue until you reach the checkpoint where you will be asked for your permit (total distance between checkpoint and bus shelter is 21 km). Drive a further 5 km to DYK substation. The road is steep and washed out in places - 4WD and a vehicle with high ground clearance is needed. The journey from Mallees takes c2hours.

Accommodation at Mallee's Nature Lovers Bungalows. Most birders stay here; it is pleasant and relaxing. 500Baht for a two-person bungalow with hot showers, 400Baht for one with cold showers, 100Baht for a simple dormitory room (hot showers are available in separate building). This is a little bit expensive compared to other accommodation facilities we have been at. Nevertheless you will get the a lot of birding information at Mallee's. To reach Mallees from Chiang Mai drive 67.5 km to the village of Chiang Dao. Turn left at the road signposted for the Chiang Dao Cave; follow this road past the cave until you reach a fork. Take the left hand fork and Mallees is almost immediately on the right 6.9 km from the main road and 400 m from the Temple. Just after Mallee's you will find Chiang Dao Nest (Rates: 250 Baht per bungalow per night). They are also able to provide you with birding information. Further information about birding and accommodation at Chiang Dao Nest can be found on their nice website: http://www.chiangdao.com/chiangdao.htm.

Doi Ang Khang

DAK is a traditional site which used to support localised rarities including Giant Nuthatch, Spot-breasted Laughingthrush, Red-faced Liocichla, Spot-breasted and Black-browed Parrotbills as well as other commoner species such as Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Silver-eared Mesia, Spectacled Barwing. Hume's Pheasant, Rusty-naped Pitta and Cutia have also been recorded here. Most of the forest around DAK has been destroyed but some species still persist although Giant Nuthatch seems unlikely. Good birds we saw included Great Barbet, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Striated, Brown-breasted and Black Bulbul, Chestnut-crowned and Red-tailed Laughingthrush, Red-faced Liocichla, Spectacled Barwing and Mrs Gould's Sunbird. 

From the Chiang Mai -Thaton Road at km 137 (or 68 km from the exit from the road to Mallees) turn left and follow the very steep road signposted to DAK for 19 km until you reach a checkpoint. The scrubs and trees about 1 km before the checkpoint were also very productive. Especially the flowering Prunus trees. Turn right at the checkpoint. At km 19.9 there is an abandoned orchard on the right which holds Mountain Bamboo Partridge and Spot-breasted Parrotbill among others. We saw Red-tailed Laughingthrush here.  Just beyond the orchard is the entrance to the steep Trekkers Route which climbs the hill and descends to a scrubby area at the other end of the trail. At 21.3 km there is a path on the right. This forks after c100 m. If you take the right path along some tall pines, you will come to the scrubby area (Spectacled Barwing and Crested Finchbill) at the northern exit of the Trekkers route. If you take the left track, you will come to a nice wooded valley where we saw Red-faced Liocichla.

After 6 km beyond the checkpoint you will reach the end of the road at the village of Ban Khoom. If you continue ahead (left fork) at the km 19 checkpoint you will pass through some remnant forest where Hume's Pheasant is said to persist and eventually to another checkpoint.

We birded the site from Thaton, as we didn't want to stay in the area at night due to possible security problems. Nevertheless other birders reported that it is possible to stay in the village Ban Khoom. 

Thaton

The target here is Jerdon's Bushchat found in what remains of the native elephant grass that borders the Mae Kok River. There are two options to bird the area: first: rent a boat and drift along the river (Jerdon's Bushchat, Oriental Pratincole and Long-billed Plover; all rare). Second: Bird the fields to the east of Thaton (Jerdon's Bushchat, Pipits, Buntings, Siberian Rubythroat etc.): 

The tracks are partly very poor and might be not accessible without a high clearance vehicle. The water tower is a useful landmark to find the place, where we scanned the elephant grass along the Mae Kok River. We watched a male Jerdon's Bushchat for a longer period east of Thaton (see map above). However we saw only very few wintering birds like Red-throated and Richard's Pipit, Bluethroat, Siberian Rubythroat or Dusky Warbler. Also birded the fields to the south of Thaton accessed by turning left off the Thaton – Chiang Mai road 6 km south of Thaton. 

Accommodation at the Garden Home Lodge in Thaton. Drive over the bridge into Thaton, take first left and drive 300 m to GHL. Great little chalets in pleasant grounds and nice people. 300Baht the double with hot shower.


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