Part five of Two Months in Thailand: A Forest Cabin Awaits by Richard Baines, an ecologist and birder enjoying a two-month “nature holiday” in Thailand.
If you love gregarious birds you will love Bulbuls, and if you love Bulbuls you will love Thailand! From the far north to the far south of this nation, six families have evolved to thrive in virtually all available habitats from high mountains to urban gardens.
The large diversity of species within this family is very impressive. In Europe I am used to a relatively small number of species in most adaptable bird families; a quick count up in Birds of Thailand reveals 35 species of Bulbul!
When we arrived in Chaing Mai we were greeted at the gate of our suburban accommodation by Sooty-headed and Streak-eared Bulbuls, chattering and squabbling – they immediately make an impression, one of the first birds we notice, creating a wonderful image of a country full of birds and crazy bird sounds!
Moving north into the high mountain forests we were treated to the appropriately named Mountain Bulbul joined by Ashy and Puff-throated, all three noticeably more secretive than the suburban class. They appeared in small foraging groups following bird waves moving through the trees. But a short distance away in the tourist village of Ang Kang amongst the cherry blossoms they all struggled to resist the lure of a Bulbul party!
Here in the foothills below Doi Chaing Dao in that bird-rich interface where village meets jungle we have a single fruiting tree close to us with beautiful epiphytes cascading down the trunk. This is Bulbul city! Every morning about 30 minutes after sunrise seven species take to the tree. Quick of the blocks are the Red-whiskered Bulbul arriving in small groups. First landing is on the top most branches for a safety check then another chat and squabble before the fruit feast.
Inevitably I have pondered on which is my favourite. My prize goes to White-headed Bulbul, a really smart bird and made all the more attractive by being a tease. We have only seen them in smaller numbers often in higher elevations making a brief appearance amongst the Bulbul pollen party before flitting off for a better show!
Stay tuned for next week’s post!
Part IV: Two Months in Thailand: Wild Gardens
Part VIII: Two Months in Thailand: Birding Nirvana