Thailand Day 3, 4 February 2013, Pa Gui and Hua Pong Villages area

Our second tribal village trek day which saw us hike from Pa Gui to a picturesque temple a  few miles away and then on to the Karen tribe village of Hua Pong.
On the initial walk the birding highlights were a singing Bronzed Drongo, Large-billed Crow, 10+ Pacific Swifts (evoking memories of Cley many years ago!), Mountain Tailorbird, Plain Flowerpecker, Red Junglefowl and a couple of Grey-breasted Prinias. A brief pause at a likely looking spot while the others walked on and I'd also scored with Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker and Streaked Spiderhunter. The latter 2 being real stonkers! Yellow-browed Warblers were calling everywhere.
When at the temple a single dark-phase Oriental Honey Buzzard soared over and whilst back in the minibus during the afternoon 3 Long-tailed Shrikes (of the black headed race 'longicaudatus') and 1 Brown Shrike (of the pale race 'cristatus') were noted whilst in our overnight village of Hua Pong a couple of Taiga Flycatchers, Common Tailorbird, Sooty-headed Bulbuls, Oriental Magpie Robin, Spotted Dove and Common Iora were also present.

Long-tailed Shrike

Taiga Flycatcher

Red Junglefowl
Hua Pong village

Thailand, Day 2, 3 February 2013, Chiang Mai north to the Myanmar border

The next 4 days of the trip were devoted to a Hill Tribe Trek which was something Belinda was particularly keen to do. The 3 nights were spent in 3 different tribal villages with a mixture of minibus transport initially then walking for the remaining 3 days. The opportunities for birding were quite limited because whilst walking I couldn't linger too long otherwise I'd have been left behind, nonetheless I lugged my camera everywhere and did my best!

Today was day 1 of the trek and we had the luxury of minibis travel north past Chiang Dao and ultimately onto the Lahu tribe village of Pa Gui almost on the Myanmar (Burma) border.

En route we stopped at an orchid farm where I scored with c6 Japanese White-eye, several Sooty-headed Bulbuls, Arctic Warbler and White-vented Mynas.

At an elephant training centre a little further north a splendid male Siberian Blue Robin was flushed and flew right past me and the river held Common Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail.

At Chiang Dao cave 2 Blue-bearded Bee-eaters sat high in the trees, Striated Swallow, House Swift and Dusky Crag Martin were overhead and a marvellous Jerdon's Baza circled.

During the course of the day I also noted Ashy Woodswallow, White-vented Mynas, Red-throated Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Black Drongo and best of all a surprise Barred Cuckoo Dove that flew right beside the van when we neared our final destination near the Burma border.

One stop for provisions at a local market allowed me my 1st chance with the camera so I managed some shots of a few commoner species.

White-vented Myna

Spotted Dove

White-vented Myna

Common Myna

Sooty-headed Bulbul
Hill tribe country looking into Burma

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'.