A follow-up to Two Months in Thailand: A Forest Cabin Awaits by Richard Baines, who is an ecologist and birder enjoying a two-month “biodiversity holiday” in Thailand.
All the most valuable jewels are usually hidden, but when found their colours dazzle in sunlight. In north-western Thailand on the border with Burma (Myanmar) lie mountain forests dripping with birding gems.
Doi Lang is the second highest mountain in Thailand and the destination for our first week in this beautiful country. An opportunity to take in some New Year treats before settling in to our cabin and some serious birding…
From an early age I’ve held a special place in my heart for Siberian and Asian passerines, especially chats, starts, flycatchers, thrushes and warblers. I quickly realise Doi Lang is paradise! From the far north in eastern Siberia come gorgeous garnet-coloured Siberian Rubythroats, sapphire Orange-flanked Bush Robins and jade Pallas’s Warblers. Winter in northern Thailand is an irresistible pull for these birds. They arrive and mix with many Asian jewels, creating my birding Nirvana.
In our first few days we saw Ultramarine Flycatcher, Sapphire Flycatcher, Golden Bush Robin, White-gorgeted Flycatcher and Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher. We had superb views of these and many other dazzling birds such as Chestnut bellied Rock Thrush and Blue Whistling Thrush occupying every forest niche from high canopy to leaf litter.
Mixed with the familiar bird families are many Asian specialties such as Scimitar Babblers, Parrotbills and Laughingthrushes. Learning some of the names such as the crazy Red-faced Liocichla can be a challenge. One of the best things about this mountain is the opportunity to find rare birds and we were fortunate thanks to the sharp eyes of our friend and guide Neil Parker to find a small party of Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbills, a very difficult bird to see in Thailand.
After taking leave of the jewels of Doi Lang, I am acutely aware of the fragile nature of these magnificent forests. Despite being a National Park, large areas of habitat have been degraded. Just as we guard our national treasures, so we must protect these globally precious birds and their habitats in order that future generations can be dazzled by Nature’s gems.
Stay tuned for next week’s post!
Part IV: Two Months in Thailand: Wild Gardens
Part VIII: Two Months in Thailand: Birding Nirvana