February 18, 2020. Arriving in Bangkok, meet the gang, and birding the hotel grounds.
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This is the first report on my 19 day birding trip to Thailand. I left on February 14, 2020 and returned on March 7, 2020. The trip was arranged through the popular birding tour service Field Guides, but it was a private tour as all of the participants were invited to join the trip locally by our mutual friend Denis. I have already written much about my experiences and impressions of my first international birding trip; they can be found in the Daily Messages Forum entries (members only access) starting on 3/10/20 and ending on 3/20/20.
These entries are different from what I previously posted as they focus on where we went and what birds we saw. The blog also allows me to attach non-bird pictures to the post – you can see the pictures here but they will not appear anywhere else on the site.
After a 13-hour flight to Seoul, South Korea, a 4 hour lay-over, and another 6 hour flight to Bangkok, Thailand we arrived at our hotel at about midnight on February 16 (we lost a day when we crossed the International Date Line). Midnight Bangkok time is noon Chicago time, but being tired from over 24 hours of travel I managed to get to sleep until about 7 AM.
Four or five of us met in the lobby of the Rama Gardens Hotel to go out and wander the extensive grounds surrounding it looking for birds. It was my first opportunity to do some bird photography and I got about 15 Lifers that morning, as just about every bird I saw was a new species to me. I loaded all my pictures from that day into GreatBirdPics and highlight some of them below.
You’ll note that I titled this entry as Day 0. We decided to add an extra day before the tour actually started to give us a day to rest up from our travels. Field Guides pre-arranged a tour of some city sites and there was some question as to whether or not the tour would take place, as it was reported that the sites we were to visit had many Chinese tourists there, and there was some concern about something called the Coronavirus. However by the time we met that morning many of the tourists had cleared out. At this time, we had never heard the term “Social Distancing” but our local tour guides knew that being around too many Chinese right then was cause for concern.
It was at this time we met the four people hired by Field Guides to be our constant companions and tour leaders. First and foremost was Dave Stejskal, our tour guide. Dave is a partner with Field Guides and has done birding tours on six continents, and most importantly (to us), 20 bird tours in Thailand. He is, without a doubt, the best birder I’ve ever met: able to ID hundreds of birds by sound, spot a bird deep in the foliage, and train his scope on a bird a mile away. Almost as important as Dave was our local “concierge” Wat. Wat did all the behind-the-scenes work to make the tour go smoothly: he arranged for our hotel rooms, checked us in to each, made coffee for us each morning, purchased the soft drinks and snacks we enjoyed on the road, and even cooked many of our lunches. He was indispensable to the tour and greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the trip; he had a fascinating personal history I’ll share later. Chiang was one of our two drivers and he was also an excellent birder in his own right. He would often scout ahead of our group to find the best birds for us. Like Dave, Chiang was excellent at spotting and hearing the birds, and he also had a local network of bird guides who shared information with each other to help us find the best birds. Our second driver was Bong, who didn’t understand much English, couldn’t find a bird if it landed on his shoulder, and would bend over backwards trying to accommodate our every need.
This first shot is our group with Dave Stejskal, the tallest in the center of the back row. The Thai on the right operated a bird viewing platform we visited later in the trip.
The next is a selfie in the lobby of the Rama Gardens Hotel – the nicest place we stayed in while in Thailand.
Below is a picture is of Wat cooking lunch for us, which he did most days.
The last picture is of Chiang and me – I had just purchased my hat from him, which his wife made.
A couple of birds to note from our first foray out into the grounds of the Rama Gardens Hotel.
This was literally the first bird picture I took on the trip. This beautiful bird was just outside the front doors and was with another. What a colorful introduction to the birds of Thailand! (You can click on any bird picture and go to their entry in GreatBirdPics to read more and see camera settings, etc.)
We’re all familiar with Mynas as exotic pets or in TV Shows (Dennis the Menace and Twin Peaks). There are not as many Great Mynas as Common Mynas but still a beautiful bird.
Not a great picture but this was my first view of a Bulbul. Bulbul was a whole new family of bird species for me. Like there are many different types of Warblers, there are many different types of Bulbuls. I photographed 10 species of Bulbuls there, but this was the only place where I got pics of the Yellow-vented.
This is a Pond-Heron. There are two types of Pond-Herons mostly seen in Thailand; Chinese and Javan. Even our expert guide could not tell which of those two species this one was (and many others see the first few days). In their non-breeding plumage they are identical, however when we traveled north, the difference was more apparent (in breeding season there). Pond Herons are widespread in this region of the world and was not a Lifer for me, as I saw them frequently in India a year ago.
As an “extra bonus” for each of these entries I will include a link to my Ebird checklist for that day. The checklist will show a list of all the birds I saw during that observation and some pictures, some of which appear on GreatBirdPics.com and other that don’t. For the over-achievers; you can click on the name of any species on the list to see additional information and pictures. Today’s Checklist
Enough for now. Next post included some pics from the city tour.