Sunday 22nd January - Tuesday 31st January 2012
From a birder's point of view Thailand is a perfect destination to visit during the winter months, with an extremely rich and varied resident population augmented by an influx of migrants from the Himalayas and northern Asia. It is home to an exceptionally diverse range of habitats from coastal marshes and mudflats teeming with shorebirds to vast lowland rainforest and montane evergreen forest with their attendant mixed feeding flocks and seemingly endless possibilities! This newly-designed tour will visit the coastal hot-spots along the Gulf of Thailand, before focussing on the forests of Kaeng Krachen and Khao Yai which offers a wide range of localised, scarce and distinctly tropical specialities.
We have designed our Thailand 1 and Thailand 2 tours to be taken separately or joined together to create the classic full coverage on one of our favourite and most exciting tours.
And also please note our small group sizes which are so essential for tropical forest birding.
Day 1 UK - Bangkok - Sunday 22nd January
Overnight flight from UK to Bangkok.
Day 2 Bangkok - Petchaburi
After a morning arrival in Bangkok we will drive to the nearby Samut Sakhon area for our first taste of birding in this tropical paradise, where we can see a good variety of typical south-east Asian birds around the mangroves. Common species in the area include Little Green Heron, Chinese Pond-heron, Pacific Reef Egret, Black-capped and Collared Kingfishers, Pied Fantail, Yellow-vented Bulbul, and both Dusky and Yellow-browed Warblers. In particular we will look for a few species that we may not see elsewhere such as Mangrove Whistler, Golden-bellied Gerygone and Brown-throated Sunbird. A nearby temple is home to a colony of nesting Germain's Swiftlets and this spot is also good for Zebra Dove and Plain-backed Sparrow. From here we will drive further along the Gulf of Thailand to Petchaburi. This is a huge area of salt workings where the sheer numbers of waders is a very impressive sight indeed. In recent years this has been a regular wintering site for a small number of wintering Spoon-billed Sandpipers and we have a very good chance of observing this very rare species. We will also concentrate our efforts on the sought-after Nordmann's Greenshank and Asiatic Dowitcher as well. For the wader enthusiast this is heaven as amongst the more familiar species we can find Pacific Golden and Kentish Plovers, Broad-billed and Marsh Sandpipers, large flocks of Great Knots, Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Terek Sandpiper, Temminck's, Red-necked and Long-toed Stints and Red-necked Phalarope amongst an impressive total of around 40 wader species possible here!
In the late afternoon we will take a short boat ride through the mangroves to a nearby sandspit at Laem Phak Bia this morning where it is usually possible to see the recently discovered White-fronted Plover, a new species of wader for the world that has recently been discovered here and at a few other localities across south-east Asia. There should also be the regionally endemic and increasingly rare Malaysian Plover here as well, and other possibilities include Chinese Egret, Great Black-headed and Heuglin's Gulls, Great Crested Tern and a few commoner species. Night at Petchburi.
Days 3 - 5 Petchaburi – Laem Phak Bia – Kaeng Krachen
Leaving here, we will begin our journey to Kaeng Krachan, making numerous stops along the way. There is a nice patch of dry dipterocarp forest where we can look for the spectacula Black-headed Woodpecker, along with Rufous Woodpecker, Spotted Owlet and other species. Then at a few more open, scrubby areas we can find Indochinese Bushlark and Vinous-breasted Starling amongst others. In the late afternoon we will visit a special site where there is a bird hide and we can observe some interesting species coming to drink and bathe. This can be a very good place with such hard-to-see birds such as Bar-backed Partridge, Kalij Pheasant, Slaty-legged Crake, Blue Pitta, Large Scimitar-babbler and Abbott's Babbler. More likely are Red Junglefowl, Scaly-breasted Partridge, Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, White-bellied Erpornis, Black-crested and Sooty-headed Bulbuls. This is definitely a site you won't visit with other tour companies with their bigger group sizes! After checking in to our superbly situated accommodation near the park entrance for a 3 night stay we can do some night birding and try to find Collared Scops-owl and Large-tailed Nightjar.
We have 2 full days to explore the hill and lowland evergreen forest of the largest national park in Thailand which protects 3,000 square kilometres of pristine habitat and the richest avifauna in the whole country. It is located on the eastern flank of the remote Tenasserim mountain range that borders Myanmar and to reach the highest point we may have to use four-wheel drive vehicles as the road becomes increasingly eroded inside the park. Our visit here gives us the possibility of seeing many lower elevation species as the park only rises to 1513m on Panern Thung, the highest point of the mountain. Birding is done mainly from the 36 kilometre long entrance road and a series of trails and amongst many fantastic possibilities here we can find Grey Peacock-pheasant, Scaly-breasted and Bar-backed Partridges, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Black Baza, Grey-faced Buzzard, Thick-billed and Yellow-vented Pigeons, Collared Scops-owl, Southern Brown and Wreathed Hornbills, White-browed Piculet, Common Flameback, Greater Yellownape, Great Slaty and Grey-and-Buff Woodpeckers, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Great, Red-throated, Moustached, Green-eared and Blue-eared Barbets, Black-thighed Falconet, Large-tailed Nightjar, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Vernal Hanging-parrot, Violet, Asian Emerald, Indian and Banded Bay Cuckoos, Black-naped Oriole, Banded Kingfisher, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Red-headed and Orange-breasted Trogons, Blue, Eared and even Giant Pitta, Chestnut-naped Forktail, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Himalayan Swiftlet, Brown-backed Needletail, Long-tailed, Silver-breasted, Banded and Dusky Broadbills, Great Iora, Large Woodshrike, Sultan Tit, Rosy, Grey-chinned and Swinhoe's Minivets, Flavescent and Ochraceous Bulbuls, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Yellow-bellied and Sulphur-breasted Warblers, Hill Blue, Taiga, Dark-sided, Rufous-browed and Asian Brown Flycatchers, White-browed Shrike-babbler, Large and White-browed Scimitar-babblers, Spot-necked, Collared and Golden Babblers, Black-throated Laughingthrush, Pin-tailed Parrotfinch, Crested Jay and the extremely localised Ratchet-tailed Treepie. This park is probably the most 'birdy' in the whole country and some more night birding is a definite 'must' as there is Barred Eagle-owl, White-fronted and Mountain Scops-owls, Oriental Bay-owl, and sometimes even Javan Frogmouth present. We would indeed count ourselves fortunate to catch a glimpse of even one of these but you never know! More likely are Brown Hawk-owl, Asian Barred Owlet and Collared Scops-owl. 3 nights at Kaeng Krachen.
Days 6 - 8 Kaeng Krachen – Khao Yai
Tearing ourselves away from this amazing site we will drive to Khao Yai for a 3 night stay, stopping en-route at a couple of sites for Indochinese Bushlark, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Black-collared and Vinous-breasted Starlings if still needed, and close to our destination the localised Limestone Wren-babbler. Our exploration en-route includes numerous marshes, open fields, some nearby scrub, lakes and mangroves which can produce a fine selection of other birds including Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns, Black-crowned Night-heron, Javan Pond-heron, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Grey-faced Buzzard, Greater Spotted Eagle, Osprey, Watercock, Slaty-breasted Rail, White-browed and Ruddy-breasted Crakes, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas, Grey-headed Lapwing, Great Black-headed, Brown-headed and Heuglin's Gulls, Whiskered, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, Plaintive Cuckoo, Pink-necked Green-pigeon, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Black-capped and Collared Kingfishers, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Siberian Rubythroat, Streak-eared Bulbul, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Black-browed and Oriental Reed-warblers, Long-tailed and Brown Shrikes. Racket-tailed Treepie and White-vented Myna. We can, of course, have another look at Spoon-billed Sandpiper if we like!
The 542,000 acres of hills and mountains of khao Yai are covered by dry deciduous forest at lower elevations and tropical moist evergreen forest higher up, interspersed with productive areas of grassland. This site represents some of the best remaining tracts of lowland forest in the country and is a haven for all forms of wildlife. A single road ascends to the highest point at 1,300m and from here a network of trails will give us access to the forest where we will search for a good selection of the numerous species to have been recorded here. By quietly walking the trails we have a chance of finding some of the shyer denizens of the understory such as Silver Pheasant, Siamese Fireback, Red Junglefowl, Blue Pitta, Forest Wagtail or Scaly Thrush, whilst there is a pretty reasonable chance of locating the much-wanted Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo from a conveniently situated temporary hide. One of the features of our birding will be the sudden appearance of a mixed species flock within which numerous birds occur and just as quickly as they arrived, the flock moves off deep within the forest leaving silence where mere minutes before the trees reverberated to strange calls and the noise of wings. These bird waves usually contain species such as Red-headed Trogon, Verditer Flycatcher, Striped Tit-babbler, White-bellied Erpornis, Spangled Drongo and Blyth's Leaf-warbler, whilst we need to thoroughly search each flock for new species such as Long-tailed Broadbill, Green-billed Malkoha, Little Spiderhunter or Common Green Magpie amongst many other possibilities. Other birds here include Collared Owlet, Great-eared Nightjar, Great Pied and Wreathed Hornbills, Mountain Imperial-pigeon, Blue-bearded and Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, Blue-eared and Banded Kingfishers, Brown-backed Needletail, Blue-eared, Moustached and Green-eared Barbets, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Asian Fairy Bluebird, White-rumped Shama, Indian Roller, Rosy and Ashy Minivets, Siberian Blue Robin, Siberian Rubythroat, Puff-throated and Grey-eyed Bulbuls, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, White-crowned Forktail, Olive-backed Pipit, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Yellow-vented and Buff-bellied Flowerpeckers, Grey-eyed Bulbul, Pale-legged, Thick-billed, Two-barred, Yellow-browed and Radde's Warblers, Black-throated, Purple-throated and Crimson Sunbirds, Black-throated, White-crested and Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrushes, Large and White-browed Scimitar-babblers, Abbott's Babbler and Pin-tailed Parrotfinch. Other animals present here include Asian Elephant, Pig-tailed Macaque, White-handed Gibbons, Sambar, Muntjac, East Asian Porcupine and a whole range of amphibians and small reptiles to keep the all-round wildlife enthusiast happy. One of the major non-avian highlights is a visit one evening to marvel at the exodus of 500,000 Wrinkle-lipped Bats from their hillside caves. 3 nights at Khao Yai.
Day 9 Khao Yai – Bangkok
After a final morning's birding chasing any new species we may still need this morning, we must return to Bangkok in time to connect with our afternoon international flight and the conclusion of this wonderful tour.
Day 10 Arrival in UK and End of Tour - Tuesday 31st January
Arrival in UK and conclusion of the tour.
Leaders: Nick Bray & local guides.
Single supplement: £150.00
Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 4 and maximum of 8 with 2 leaders
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin rooms en-suite, all meals (including bottled water) transport in air-conditioned minibus throughout the tour, boat trip, all reserve entrance fees and services of the leaders.
Not included: International airfare, insurance, departure tax, hotel in Bangkok night of 14th January, drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: The lodges and hotels used on this tour range from good to very good, all with en-suite facilities. We will stay in the best available lodges/guest houses close to the birding sites.
Tour Code: This is a standard tour where early starts and some late finishes when owling, can be expected. Usually there is some time off during the middle of the day to relax. Most of our birding walks will be of a usual slow pace and relatively easy. Expect a typically tropical climate with most days being hot and humid, and some light showers are possible at Kaeng Krachen.
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