February 17, 2020. Hotel birding and a trip to see a holy owl.
This is Day 1 of a 19-day birding tour of Thailand; it was a private group arranged through Field Guides, adhering to their typical itinerary. The pictures in this post are just some of the many Thailand pictures I’ve uploaded to GreatBirdPic.com. Check out the site before you leave: see the Latest Pics uploaded by our members or read the About GPB to find out more about the site. You are welcome to join if you enjoy bird photography.
We met our guide Dave in the lobby of the Rama Gardens Hotel at 6:45 AM for our first bird walk of the trip – around the grounds of the hotel. During that first hour and a quarter we saw 30 species of birds, some of them Lifers for me. It was during this first walk that I began to appreciate Dave’s birding skills; he excelled at spotting and hearing many different types of birds. One of my favorites was the Coppersmith Barbet, with a variety of bright colors.
They have pigeons and doves in Thailand, just like we do, but different species of course. This female Pink-necked Green-Pigeon (or Pink-necked Pigeon) was a beautiful green color with striking red eyes.
The Zebra Dove and Spotted Dove were also interesting varieties of the doves we see in the U.S.
The Asian Koel was a constant companion during our trip; it was always heard but seldom seen. The Koel’s call “Co-ELL” was heard everywhere we went from early in the morning till we fell asleep. We didn’t know it at the time but we were lucky to see this one on the hotel grounds.
There are many different types of warblers in Thailand, but most of them are almost indistinguishable from each other. We are used to seeing bright colorful warblers here in the U.S. Midwest. In Thailand the vast majority of warblers look like drab greenish birds with a dull supercilium. Most of the time our guide Dave wouldn’t even give a second look at a warbler because it was so difficult to differentiate them. This Yellow-browed Warbler’s supercilium (line above the eye) is much brighter with a yellowish color, allowing for a positive ID.
By now the hotel’s restaurant was open so we ended our first bird walk and adjourned for breakfast. After then gathering our things for the day we loaded into the vans with our drivers Chiang and Bong, and took off for our first birding excursion outside of the hotel. As we drove north through Bangkok I was amazed at how clean the city was. No litter or graffiti was seen, the roads were in good repair (as we found everywhere we went, even in rural areas) and the buildings were modern, clean and well-maintained. For a city of over 8 million I was impressed with Bangkok’s appearence. Thailand would not be considered a “Third-World” country.
Our first stop was the Thain Thawai Buddhist Temple where we hoped to find our first Target Bird of the trip – the Spotted Owlete. According to our Field Guides guide Dave, a family of Spotted Owletes have been nesting here for as long as he’s been doing tours in Thailand. The Owletes’ nest was built in the roof of the temple and they accessed it through a hole they created over the years. We lucked out and the owlet peered out to see what the ruckus was about when we arrived. If you look closely at the first picture you’ll see its head. The second picture is a close-up of the same owlet.
After taking my obligatory 40-50 shots of the owl (I deleted all but 5) we walked through a lovely little pond with a small temple at one end. Don’t think “building” when you hear “temple” but think of it as a place of worship. Buddhist temples can be grand buildings built on a mountainside or a wooden crate filled with sacrificial ornaments (a bottle of orange soda was often seen in them) by the side of the road. Here’s a picture of the pond and temple.
Bouncing around within the lily pads and flowers of the pond was a Yellow-bellied Prinia. There are six different species of Prinia found in Thailand with the Plain Prinia being most commonly found; this was the only time we saw the Yellow-bellied.
We hopped back into our vans and drove a short distance to Wat Phai Lom (a Wat is a temple). Here we saw about 30 species, but I couldn’t get pictures of most of them. I did get a pic of this interesting Chinese White-faced Ashy Drongo.
Thus ended our first day of birding in Thailand. However we weren’t quite done. When we gathered for dinner this night, and every night, the first thing we did was to complete our Field Checklist. Field Guides supplied this invaluable document; it was a 28 page booklet (see below) listing every possible species we might find in Thailand. Our guide Dave would go through the document page by page noting what we saw or heard that day. Each person in the group seemed to have a different way of recording their observations. I marked an X for each species I actually saw, an O for those species others saw but not me, and H for species only heard but not seen (usually by Dave).
After completing our Field Checklist we enjoyed an excellent buffet dinner at our Bangkok home, the Rama Gardens Hotel. Our marching orders for Day 2: up at 5:30 AM, breakfast, and a one-hour drive to our next birding destination.
For each stop we made, our guide Dave completed an Ebird checklist in which he indicated which species we saw and how many of each. This was an invaluable tool for me as he knew every species by name. The lists show which species I saw and some of my pictures. At the bottom you can see which species Dave (and others who were copied on the checklists) saw in addition to my observations. For the over-achievers; if you click on any of the species’ names you’ll get additional information and pictures of that bird.
Click HERE to read about Day 2 of my Thailand Bird trip.