by Richard Baines, ecologist and birder enjoying a two-month “biodiversity holiday” in Thailand.
Reporting from home in the North Yorkshire Forest: a place where I know my birds, I know their sounds. Sauntering through the trees I am immersed in the beauty of the woods; I am in control.
Flash back to my first visit to Thailand, winter 2011: I encounter dense towering forests where I don’t, despite extensive research, know my birds. What the hell is that sound? Birds flick into the foliage but the views are too brief – I’m tripping on biodiversity and I am most certainly NOT in control!
A familiar desire is nearly fulfilled: the desire to return to a country, to enrich my birding knowledge and experience. So here’s my project…the launch of my skiff. At last I have my chance to return to the montane forests of northern Thailand – but this time with time to think, time to drink in the experience; time, maybe, to gain a measure of control and prolong the bio-rush! For a modest sum my wife and I are renting a log cabin from the head man of a village. From here we will have the privilege to concentrate on one area: Doi Chiang Dao, Thailand’s third highest mountain.
Thailand is a bird-rich country with a huge variety of habitats. According to the World Wildlife Fund, in 2000 almost a third of the land was covered in forest. Montane forest is split into categories dependent on moisture, altitude and disturbance. A typical mountain is evergreen above 1,000 m, sloping down through mixed deciduous and evergreen all the way to bamboo, which merges into Dipterocarp* Oak forest on the lower slopes.
On our last trip I was dazzled and inspired by the mix of resident and migratory forest birds to be found, from gorgeous stream-side Forktails to travelling parties of wintering Olive-backed Pipits from Siberia. The latter is a species we are familiar with back home, though not in large numbers. This presents one of many challenges: can I nail the sub-species this time?
So from the insanely beautiful to the spectacularly nerdy I will be posting a diary of our trip. Watch this site for my next entry.
*The Dipterocarpaceae are a large family of tropical hardwood trees that are long-lived and can grow to exceptional sizes.
Stay tuned for next week’s post!
Part IV: Two Months in Thailand: Wild Gardens
Part VIII: Two Months in Thailand: Birding Nirvana