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A fantastic bird excursion to Doi Inthanon

March 19, 2011

At 04 a.m. yesterday I stepped outdoors as quietly as I could not to awake anybody. Instead of the normal loud bird chorus I only heard the dripping of rain drops. I feared the bird excursion would be a rainy disaster with no bird sightings. At o4.30 the rain ceased and I went to pick up Tony Ball. We agreed it was daring to proceed according to the plan, but we believed that the weather forecast was correct, no more rain today, and we believed that the birds which had been hiding from the rain for two days would be hungry and hence active.

Back at Dokmai Garden we had the rendez-vous with the other participants at 05.30. We were relieved to hear a cheerful chorus of ‘Asian barred owlet’, ‘Asian koel’, ‘greater coucal’ and the ‘white-breasted waterhen’. A promising sign that indeed brought luck.

The first serious sighting at the foot of Doi Inthanon mountain was the dollarbird. Tony Ball, creator of the famous three CD:s on Thai bird calls and our tour guide, was glowing of excitement. “I have not seen this species in many years” – he exclaimed.

The ‘pygmy wren babbler’ was my favourite. Tony whistled the melody of the aliens in the movie ‘Close Encounters’. Suddenly he got a response from behind the mossy trees. Within a few moments a brown egg-like bird appeared, so cute and so lovely! This tail-less bird looks like it was made of ginger-bread and can only be found in evergreen forests above 1200 meters altitude.

At one place we heard a strange bubbling call from a tree. Tony burst out in a surprised ‘I do not know that call’. After 21 years of experience and 200 visits to Doi Inthanon you would think he had heard them all. The bubbling sound came from another rare winter visitor, the ‘grey-sided thrush’. The book did not mention its call and Tony thought nobody had ever recorded it.

Why would anyone get up disgustingly early in the morning and pay thousands of Baht to cross the world to look at wild birds? Because it is fun, and because it brings joy to your heart!

Is birdwatching important to the rest of society? Thanks to the birdwatchers we know that all hornbills and all vultures have disappeared from Doi Inthanon. That means that this beautiful forest which attracts 400 000 visitors a year suffers. To restore the forest ecosystems to their former glory, we need all sorts of experts, so that we do not crush the beauty of Earth due to incompetence. If paintings start disappearing at a national museum, something has to be done. If the birds disappear due to pollution and accumulation of insecticidal nerve-toxins, then humanity is in danger too. If the bird species are in great numbers and the bird individuals many and in good health, then we can relax and enjoy life.

Yesterday the birds swarmed and sung around us every time we opened the car doors: flocks of redtailed ‘scarlet minivets’, the stout and shiny ‘bronzed drongo’, the elegant ‘crested tree swift’, the yellow-billed and large ‘blue whistling thrush’, the enchanting ‘river chat’ in a cloud of waterfall mist, ‘blue-throated barbet’, ‘golden-throated barbet’ (a characteristic call of Doi Inthanon), ‘spectacled barwing’, the sweet song of the ‘mountain tailorbird’, ‘silver-eared mesia’, ‘green cochoa’, the fluiting song of the ‘maroon oriole’, ‘chestnut-tailed minla’, the energetic ‘chestnut-crowned laughing thrush’, the peculiar ‘white-browed shortwing’, the stout ‘snowy-browed flycatcher’ and the serious ‘collared falconet’ just to name a few of the 58 species we saw and/or heard within the borders of the national park (we saw some more outside the boundaries).

We ate a nice lunch at Khun Deang’s Doi Inthanon Bird Center. Here you can meet fellow birdwatchers and exchange experience and give each other advice and hints.

If you wish us to arrange a tailor-made tour to Doi Inthanon with experienced bird watchers and/or orchid specialists, simply contact Dokmai Garden:

Did you know that Dokmai Garden has created an Orchid Ark?

You can download the Doi Inthanon checklist from 1989 here. Please note that since this birdlist was printed in 1989 another 30 species have been reported. We have the exclusive permission to publish this on-line version from bird book author Philip D. Round. Transformation to pdf was kindly made by Marty Bergoffen.

Eric Danell

Black-tailed crake is one of the rarest birds in Thailand. We had the great pleasure of spotting this couple in a swampy area on Doi Inthanon mountain where Marty Bergoffen took this photo.

Young olive-backed sunbirds at Dokmai Garden. Photo: Eric Danell

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2011 11:03 AM

    Unfortunately, many rare birds are disappearing from Thailand due to mass tourism. The Bangkok Post posted an article on these birds

    • July 26, 2011 12:48 PM

      A very interesting article!

      Yes, like I have mentioned previously, fencing vulnerable areas is the only solution in some cases.

      On Doi Inthanon we do not have to worry so much as most visitors stay on the road, while the majority of the national park’s area is left undisturbed by tourists. The hill tribe village, the temple and the former American radar station on top of the summit are much more serious threats. If a bird population is vulnerable due to the tourists, that means illegal loggers and poaching farmers have already brought the species to near extinction.

      The illegal trade with endangered species, birds and orchids alike, is also flourishing, partly because many Thais are not even aware of the biodiversity decline, partly because many could not care less about extinction.

      Within the Orchid Ark we have taken the decision not to go to remote rare orchid sites with tourists, but to use sites which are well known anyhow, such as Doi Inthanon. Going with a guide is much better than going alone, as the lonely naturalist may have difficulties in finding interesting species, and he may accidentally damage something. Mass tourism should always be avoided unless inside a city.


  2. October 29, 2012 4:53 PM

    bird excursion, I like this post.
    I have never seen a Black-tailed crake bird before.
    roatan excursions


  1. The rarest bird in Thailand

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