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B2A guided trip, central & north Thailand, 12 - 23 December 2009.


Guests ; Magnus Jaderblad, Ante Strand, Sebbe Nilsson


This trip was merely designed to target some specialities, or gaps in a huge world list in Magnus’ case. Even though Thailand has no endemics except for an extinct, an invalid species and a dubious split if you want to count those, the country simply has a number of species that can be clear targets to find but are otherwise seldom encountered anywhere else. I’ll tell you more on which target species we had set for this trip, and how it all went finding them or not, but first something else.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper Great Barbet
                Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Pak Thale                                       Great Barbet, Doi Lang


Never thought we would end up with a high count on the bird list for this trip as we had concentrated on finding a few scarce species rather than do the more general birding where besides specialities also the more regular species get attention. Never bothered counting really until I got to compose the trip list for this report, (due to a lack of time months after the trip) -393 species…in just 12 days!!!- man, when I saw that number appear went for a beer immediately! Why is it? That the B2A trips consistently do so very well? We just had high counts in 2 previous Thai trips last November while we never went for the numbers. (12) There must be something to these trips!? Perhaps the food, or maybe doping isn’t just for cycling and top-sport, it must be the lovely guests we get on our trips, or the cars we use, maybe the brand name of our binoculars, would Buddha be watching us in Thailand? Or the friendly hotel staff wishing us good luck, ah it’s the sexy girls at 7/11 when we stop to buy soft drinks, actually that also explains why drinks are always included in our trip prices???

O-K, on a more serious note, -ah no-, don’t be silly to put this, the repeated success of our trips simply can not be because of experience and the smartest itineraries around. They all claim this anyway…

White-faced Plover Giant Nuthatch
               White-faced Plover, Laem Pak Bia                                   Giant Nuthatch, Doi Chiang Dao


-Back to target birding and the guys from Sweden had expressed wishes to see quite a few hard to find species. Let me, in this report, have a closer look at it. Perhaps it might be more interesting than yet over and again, waffle along the itinerary telling you how good it was when we saw this bird or that bird. I assume others can do that for you elsewhere. I’ll come back later with a brief overview so you can know what we did and where we went, the rest you may get from the trip list. It’s long enough to keep you busy for a while anyway.

-Target birding is an art! And not easy. It can be extremely rewarding and exciting with the right input but at the same time it’s so easy to get frustrated and sad. The right approach is essential and it would not be unreasonable to state that quite a few birders trying on target birding, are struggling. For example very few local birders in Thailand do fully understand about proper target birding. Not that this should be considered a negative comment as any approach to birding one is happy with, could be good. You do not ‘have’ to do target birding isn’t it? I reckon though that quite a few birders from abroad, on a visit to Thailand, want to see as much as possible incl. some goodies.

-So, what are the secrets of good target birding? Well, hard to explain in a few words, and there would be endless opinions and ideas around anyway. Perhaps just best to pick out what suits you best.

-I do find a few things very important though. Be relaxed in getting species (a nervous person sees less), but at the same time always remember that time and timing are most important, persist when necessary but also give up when the time is there for it. You’re simply losing time (=missing other birds) by keep trying for the bird that turns out nearly impossible to find, usually simply because the time or place, or both indeed, are wrong. Learn when to move on and learn when to stop! Use your time, don’t just fill the time. Then, if you get all of this right and balanced…you’ll indeed ‘have’ the time to enjoy and relax!

-While in the field, now and then, you meet those birders that look so unhappy. They seem desperate to get more birds, are nervous and checking their watch. Why really? Usually because they simply waste a lot of their precious time…keep scanning for Spoon-billed Sandpiper in the wrong wader flocks, or with the tide wrong, or keep trying to see this bird that they don’t know the call of, which of course turns out just to be a Striped Tit-babbler. Keep looking for a particular species in 1 place while it will be a lot more easier to find in a location they’ll visit later on the trip anyway… well, I could go on for a while, simply note that none of those birders will ever get to 393 species in 12 days, not even close that is. Once again good timing is essential and this starts with a good itinerary, but also how you fill it in at the spot, use it, change it, make it flexible…keep it feasible.

Olive-backed Pipit Malaysian Plover
               Olive-backed Pipit, Doi Chiang Dao                                   Malaysian Plover, Laem Pak Bia


Target birds can be put into 2 categories. Not sure how to name them but clear targets would be species that one knows of, that they will be in a certain spot. Key is to keep looking until you find them, or not get them indeed, because they proof too hard to find within the time available.

On this trip I can remember some out of this first category that were on the wish list;

Spoon-billed Sandpiper, White-faced Plover, Silver Pheasant, Siamese Fireback, Eared Pitta, Limestone Wren Babbler, Olive Bulbul, Jerdon’s Bushchat, Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, Giant Nuthatch, Rain Quail, Black-headed Woodpecker, Black-tailed Crake, Hodgon’s Frogmouth, Black-breasted Thrush…

-We all got those except for Eared Pitta (unlucky within the time we got), the Ground Cuckoo (remains very hard in December, better in Feb) and Rain Quail (perhaps water levels not right as plenty Barred Buttonquail around).


The other group of targets are those, that one simply has to spend the time for in the field, usually at no particular place but of course in the right habitat. They are species that can turn up about anywhere and anytime. The job here mainly consists of creating more chance and opportunities to see them. Like for example spend time in the bamboo habitats for Bamboo Woodpecker, although knowing it would never be a guarantee for a bird to even be present in the area unless breeding. This category always features a higher ‘dip’ rate.

A few of those we had set before the trip;

Bamboo Woodpecker, Streak-breasted Woodpecker, White-throated Rock Thrush, White-necked Laughingthrush, Purple Cochoa, Black-and-buff Woodpecker…

-We got the Laughingthrush on Doi Lang and Black-and-buff WP at Kaeng Krachan. Then spend some time for the others at various possible spots without getting lucky, it remains a game of hit or dip. I actually saw both Streak-breasted Woodpecker and White-throated Rock Thrush on other trips just weeks after this one and at other places in Thailand, while we had never targeted or even expected them!


Spoon-billed Sandpiper Spoon-billed Sandpiper
Couple more Spoon-billed Sandpiper photos.  Pity, just when I pushed, the Curlew Sandpiper didn't show its bill!


Magnus’ flight came in later on our first morning so went with Sebbe and Ante to Suan Luang, a city park with some nice greenery not that far from the airport. It proved quite good and gave us Pink-necked Pigeon and Small Minivet not otherwise seen on the trip. After that and together with our picked-up late arrival, birded Pak Thale, Laem Pak Bia incl. the sandspit and royal project for the rest of the day. Usual targets but no Spoon-billed Sandpiper yet as we had not arrived early enough, kind of important that is. Then went to Kaeng Krachan for 2 days, birding the various altitudes along the main track up to Phanung Thoeng. Excellent as always.

Another morning for the waders and stuff at Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia produced the essential Spoon-billed Sandpiper, we’ve never missed it so far anyway. This was followed by a visit to Bang Phra non-hunting area. The next day saw us at Khao Yai where the first thing we saw was 2 Elephants right next to the road. Superb close looks from the car but indeed with the engine running and foot ready on the gas. Had to keep Ante from getting out for pictures…birders often underestimate the dangers indeed!

Another morning at Khao Yai (trail 6) was followed by our Limestone Wren Babbler twitch and the drive to Tak, which got us ready for the visit to nearby ThaksinMaharatNational Park the next morning. One afternoon we spent some time in the superb old dipterocarp forests at Mae Ping NP before making our way to the foot of Doi Inthanon for the night.

We spend a first morning on Doi Inthanon although that was initially planned for the last days of the trip, before making our way to Thaton where we arrived just in time to twitch Jerdon’s Bushchat before dark.

Then a full day on Doi Lang, as always real good and enjoyable, and inclusive Fire-tailed Sunbirds for us.

I strongly believe the degraded habitats at Doi Ang Khan are worth just about 1 morning and consequently we did just that. Gave us Black-breasted and Dark-sided Thrush though + the usual targets + an unexpected Slaty-blue Flycatcher. Afternoon spent at Doi Chiang Dao temple grounds.

Day 11 up Doi Chiang Dao, where we started heavy with views of a Hodgon’s Frogmouth. Then Giant Nuthatch…afternoon at Huay Tung Tao near Chiang Mai.

Then the last day spent at Doi Inthanon with a start at the summit before birding our way down and drive to the airport in Chiang Mai for the flight back to Bangkok.

The Common Commander Yunnan Stripe-tailed Rat Snake
The Common Commander (Moduza procis procis), HTT          Yunnan stripe-tailed Rat Snake, Doi Ang Khan


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