Birding in Thailand (Part 1 of 4)

Trying my hand in writing about my travels and birding for the first time and Thailand happens to be a great place to start it. I am writing this in four parts, the first parts starts with my arrival in Bangkok and a few hours I got to bird before the conference started, the second part discusses the birding frenzy in and around Bangkok on the first weekend I was there. In the third part I talk about the lull during my work week there, but the birding I managed during that time and in the last part I write about the wonderful time I had in the tropical evergreen rain forest of South-Western Thailand for the weekend before I left for home. Thanks for reading through it and please let me know your opinion as it would help me to improve it in the future.

A country with more than 1000 bird species, Thailand is a wonderful country for birding and nature watching. With more than 40 national parks in a country that is just 5% the size of the United States, it provides a lot of opportunities to bird. While Thailand itself doesn’t have many endemic birds, but its unique geographical position makes it a great place to see lots of Himalayan endemics that otherwise would be a challenge to visit or locate in its native range and many forest species from across Indomalayan areas. Thailand also hosts lots of migratory birds both for their northward and southward flights and few of them migrate to Thailand itself for nesting. I was just at the end of the wet season (fortunately I had great weather throughout my visit) and November to February seems to be a great time to visit the country and is the time many visitors flock the country for birding.

I visited Thailand from October 23rd to November 6th to attend a conference and start some collaboration work with my collogues from Thailand. I had Bangkok as my base and traveled around from there either using the public transport/taxi (for urban birding spots) or rented a car and drove around (for further areas). During this short visit I did manage to visit 10-12 different areas. Of these three were urban parks, one shore bird habitat (salt pans), one national park & its surrounding areas and one crop research station that is great for birding. While hiring a guide is an option (any many good ones available), but for a single person it could be expensive (but you would probably see more species than on your own), there are lots of excellent online resources available if you are DIY kind of person! I will list some excellent ones at the end.

During my short stay, I managed to see 130 species of birds with around 96 lifers! Not bad for someone who birded on their own, could have got a few more if I did hire a guide or spend a few more days in certain places. Unfortunately, these were not an option for me for either financial or time constraints.

I arrived in Bangkok by 11 PM on 10/23 and was out looking for birds on 10/24 (though there was a full 12 h difference between my home and Thailand!!) in a large local park called Rot Fai park or Wachirabenchathat park. This is a great place to bird in Bangkok (with more than 200 species observed) throughout the year. Some details where to find birds there could be read here, this website has some great details. The first bird to greet me there were the many vociferous Common Mynas along with some Great Mynas (a lifer)! Subsequently saw Eurasian Tree Sparrows, Taiga Flycatchers, Asian Brown Flycatchers, Ferruginous Flycatchers (all winter residents), and extremely vociferous Black Collared (check out the video below for their short song!) and Siamese Pied Starlings-all lifers!! Finally ended the trip with around 13 lifers! Had to head back as the day was getting hotter and I had to catch some rest and be ready for the start of the conference that evening. The next birding trip won’t be till 10/28, after the conference ended. A complete list from this first trip could be found here.

Black-collared Starling

Did see some new non-birds like some huge Southeast Asian Water Monitors (Varanus salvator ssp. macromaculatus), lots of active Northern Treeshrews (Tupaia belangeri) and few very shy Finlayson's Squirrels (Callosciurus finlaysonii). The unfortunate issue with the invasive species is not only in the US, but US has its fair share of contribution, which was evident by a Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta ssp. elegans) seen in the park ponds.

This was from the first day of birding and I will have a few days more in later part of my trip. Some successful and some not so. A complete album from the trip could be found here. I managed to photograph 125 species (out of total 130) with varied levels of quality. In addition, saw a couple of species of mammals (no large ones and just heard some Gibbons) and some butterfly and moth species along with some spiders. Will write about them in subsequent notes. Some useful resources for birding in Thailand:

1. - managed by birder and birding guide Nick Upton

2. eBird - one of the best tools available for birders to plan their trip. There is the "explore hotspots", where you can get a lot of info on a particular hotspot and what bird is seen and their frequency etc, but by far my favorite section of eBird is the "search photos and sounds", where you can look for specific regions and times for that region and view all the birds that could be viewed there. This was my most used tool in eBird during this trip and a great tool for any DIY birders 

3. - another nice website managed by birders.

4. - which has nice tricks reports from across the world, from both individuals and guides alike.

5. Lastly there are many birding guides available, you can look them on facebook or a word of mouth. The average cost for them is 300 USD per day and the more people you have it will work out economically. That is one of the reasons I didn't hire one.

I did create a eBird trip report for the entire trip that could be found here.

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