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The 100th bird species

May 4, 2013

On Tuesday we had five visitors from Boston, Hawaii and Esan (northeast of Thailand) and while checking out a guanabana fruit and a tarantula hole, I raised my eyes to screen the sky for raptors. There was a large bird indeed, but it had a long neck, black and white wings: Asian Openbill (Anastomus oscitans)! This was the 100th bird species recorded at Dokmai Garden.

It was not even on my ‘candidate list’. Possibly this individual was gaining high altitude (11 a.m.) to make a move for the central plains or perhaps even go abroad for a visa run. An acquaintance north of town (Mae Rim) said he had 200 openbills in the rice fields next to his garden. That visit was a first time sight for him too. Rice fields are a more typical location for the Asian Openbill, as storks like wetlands, while Dokmai Garden is at the foothills of the mountains.

Here is the updated bird list of Dokmai Garden. We have had visitors who have used it to identify species around their hotel even before visiting Dokmai Garden. The list is arranged in groups such as ‘raptors’, ‘long-tailed’ etc. Instead of buying a book on 1000 bird species you get a list of the 100 most common birds in the Chiang Mai valley, so a short-term tourist can quickly home in on possible candidates, google the names and get an illustration.

Precipitation report: we got 7 mm of rain last night and this morning, transforming the landscape into a lush green. Termites have begun swarming so we keep lights out at night. One light was on outside the bathroom when I returned from the lab by midnight, and around the lamp were tockay geckos swollen of termite food, wings hanging out of their mouths. On the ground I saw the first ‘ung ang’ frog this season, also attracted by the smörgåsbord of termites. Normally they spend a six months long siesta underground until the rains begin.

With the appearance of amphibians snakes get more active too. I have a bronzeback in the orchid nursery. She looks offended if you spray her with water and she moves away like a chic lady splashed by the neighbour’s naughty kids during Songkran, but she likes the humidity there. She shares the premises with a very fat toad. This clumsy old troll lives inside a pot with a tiger orchid, and he likes to take a walk in the restaurant garden at night.

I have updated the blog on the slug snake thanks to exciting information from Sjon Hauser, my mentor in snake watching. As it turns out, there is another look-alike snake species in Chiang Mai, largely over-looked. Sjon kindly provided a picture of this slug snake so if you like to know more about your garden neighbours, take a look at this blog again!

At last, we also invite tourists and VIP card holders to join us for a mango leather making activity. It will begin on Wednesday, May 8th, at 10 a.m. Kindly send us an e-mail if you wish to attend (info at

Bufo melanosticta.72Bufo melanosticta

Eric Danell & Ketsanee Seehamongkol

2 Comments leave one →
  1. John Hobday permalink
    May 4, 2013 7:15 PM

    I am at our farm in the hills near Mae Chan. The summer storms commenced on 1st May with very high winds preceding the rain. Many trees have been blown down or damaged and among them is the one hosting the attractive orchid Rhynchostylis Retusa. Two large branches with about 50 specimen were on the ground. Should I leave them to perish as per the law, or collect them and attach them to other trees? Of course I have been very busy attaching these orchids to suitable trees and hope some will survive.

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