Thailand, the “Land of Smiles,” evokes images of idyllic white sand beaches, golden Buddhist temples, and noisy open-air markets. It also evokes a passion for its justifiably world-famous cuisine, known for its enthusiastic use of fresh herbs and spices. However, there is so much more to this land of timeless culture. Thailand is also a country of great natural beauty: mudflats that throng with the movement of thousands of migratory shorebirds, misty montane forests alive with mixed feeding flocks of sunbirds and laughingthrushes, and verdant lowland forests that ring with the calls of unbelievable broadbills and hornbills. In addition, this country is a wintering ground for a wide variety of migrants from Siberia and China. In fact, a trip to Thailand in winter is almost like a lifetime of good birds on Attu, Alaska, with avian stars including Bluethroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Rubythroat, Brown Shrike, Little Bunting, Citrine Wagtail, and more. There is no better introduction to birding in the east Asia.
This tour focuses on two provinces in Thailand. Chiang Mai province in the north sports the first southern mountains of the Himalayas; many of the birds we try to see here barely spill over the border with Myanmar (Burma). Here, we enhance our avian vocabulary with such names as minla, tesia, yuhina, minivet, sibia, and fulvetta.
The other province is Petchaburi, just west of Bangkok. Shorebirds fill the saltpans along its coastline, offering some of the best shorebirding on Earth with up to 30 species possible in day. The star here is the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Kaeng Krachan National Park in its interior is the largest and most biodiverse in the region. Imagine a Great Hornbill, the size of a swan, plane overhead; a Blue Pitta, intricately patterned, appear like a jewel from a thicket; or a Red-headed Trogon, painted in crimson, sit stoically on a horizontal branch. These are some of the experiences we hope to have at Kaeng Krachan. There is even a chance for Leopard, White-handed Gibbon, and Asian Elephant. We also experience an amazing human landscape, rich in culture, architecture, and cuisine.
- Explore Doi Inthanon, the tallest mountain in Thailand at over 8,000 feet, for colorful birds typical of the Himalayas such as Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Large Niltava, and Green-tailed Sunbird
- Wander through a hill-tribe market in the northern mountains for artisanal crafts and other cultural items
- Seek out jewel-like pittas in the undergrowth at Kaeng Krachan, birds so beautiful that they inspired a man’s obsession to see every one of these elusive avian gems
- Marvel at the sheer number and diversity of shorebirds at Pak Thale, while learning about migration and conservation issues facing endangered species like Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann’s Greenshank, and Chinese Egret
Photo credits: Banner: Oriental Pied Hornbill by Carlos Sanchez; Chestnut-flanked White-eye by Carlos Sanchez; Scarlet-faced Liocichla by Carlos Sanchez; White-handed Gibbon by Carlos Sanchez; Doi Inthanon Waterfall by Carlos Sanchez; Lotus Flower by Carlos Sanchez; Painted Stork by Carlos Sanchez; Himalayan Bluetail by Carlos Sanchez; Spoon-billed Sandpiper by Carlos Sanchez.