Thailand, Day 1, 2 February 2013, Urban Bangkok and Chiang Mai

I'd been planning our 3 weeks in Thailand for a long time and although this was essentially a holiday catering for the needs of 4 of us (Belinda, her brother Craig and his wife Mandy, all non-birders!) I'd managed to out some time aside for birding.
The basic plan was flying from Heathrow to Bangkok, then heading north on an internal flight to the Chiang Mai area for about 10 days before. After that to head south on more internal flights to the Krabi area where we planned to visit Ko Phi Phi Don and Khao Sok NP.
The main birding sites were to be:
Doi Chiang Dao and Doi Inthanon in the north
The Phi Phi islands, Krabi and Khao Sok NP in the south
But of course I birded pretty much everywhere we went!
As ever I went with the attitude that 'I'll see what I see and don't see what I don't see' which makes for relaxed stress-free birding. I'd looked at the possibility of hiring a guide at Doi Inthanon but the prices for a 3 day/2 night trip for 2 of us were in the region of £650 - £700 which, in my opinion is exorbitant. Instead we did it ourselves with a hire car at a fraction of the price. Doing everything solo also meant I solved all the id issues myself which added greatly to my learning (the curve of which was pretty steep!)
I was joined by Stuart Cavaliero from Chiang Dao nest for 1 days birding at DYK, Doi Chiang Dao but I wouldn't call it guided birding, more of a day out birding with fellow Norwich City fan which he was kind enough to provide 4-wheel drive transport for and get permits in advance.

We landed in Bangkok after dark on 1 February so my first birding was from our hotel balcony on the 2nd, the Plai Garden Guesthouse near the airport. The balcony overlooked a scrubby marshy area from which 12 Chinese Pond Herons and 2 Great White Egrets emerged from roost, c10 Asian Openbills circled and 2 Oriental Pratincoles flew through. Also of interest were a Greater Coucal, Pied Fantail, 2 Oriental Magpie Robins, Black Drongo and it was here I quickly realised that Tree Sparrow is the common urban sparrow in Thailand!

It was then back off to the airport where we were to catch our flight north to Chiang Mai. The manicured airport gardens still produced a few birds through the glass though - namely c4 Peaceful Doves, a pair of Red Collared Doves, Streak-eared Bulbul, c6 Asian Palm Swifts and 3 fly-past Painted Storks.

Bangkok airport gardens

Once in the lovely northern city of Chiang Mai birding near the city centre hotel (The Awana House Hotel) gave me 4 Ashy Woodswallows, Red-whiskerd Bulbuls, several Olive-backed Sunbirds, Grey Wagtail, Spotted Dove and a pre-roost gathering of 500+ White Wagtails of the race 'leucopsis'.            

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