Birding trip report North Thailand Feb./March 2003 

John van der Woude  - 

Daily report
(for more practical details see other parts of this report!)

* = trip tick, ** = lifer

Saturday 22 February 2003 - arrival at Chiang Mai
After driving with the rental car from the airport to the hotel, and a short rest, we decided to go for a late afternoon visit to the Huai Hong Krai Royal Project garden for the Green Peafowl stake-out. And it worked! We waited around the cages with peafowl long enough (till about 18.00 h) to see the wary, wild Green Peafowl** arrive for their night roost near the cages. We first saw one walking up from the border of the lake, and later a group of 3, and then 6 or so just before we had to leave because the gates of the fenced area would be closed. They were all males. This was a very good start of the trip, and we celebrated it at the lively night market of Chiang Mai, by having a delicious Indian meal with beer at the food square near the central parking lot.

Sunday 23 Febr. 2003 - Mae Hia & on to Doi Chiang Dao
A Coppersmith Barbet** was singing from the bare top of the highest tree at the parking place of our hotel. We left early, for a visit to the Mae Hia agricultural school grounds. Arriving there after 15 minutes we had the first of many Red-whiskered Bulbuls**, and hundreds of Lesser Whistling Duck**. We heard several Chinese Francolin**, also nearby, but never saw it. Close views of Green Bee-eater warming up in the early morning sun were a real treat. It took us some time to identify Pied Bushchat**! The best bird here did we get rather soon, and this is Burmese Shrike**, a pair nearby. We studied both myna's again like in Malaysia (White-vented* and Common*), and did not let us be distracted by the Common Koel's* call, but soon saw a female. On a wire we had a beautiful bird and had to admit that it was "just a sparrow" (Plain-backed Sparrow**). The first of many Common Stonechats* brought back memories to the places where we see them back home. And look, there is a new pipit! Paddyfield Pipit** in the scope while it walked on the bare arable field, but it also flew up to some low bushes. Nearby we had, for comparison, the first of our daily Olive-backed Pipits*, in full summer plumage, in a tree. The usual brief glimpse of a malkoha in some small trees brought us another lifer, Green-billed Malkoha**. On a wire along the road we had two Ashy Woodswallows** and an Oriental Magpie-Robin*, and on the ground below it were some Sooty-headed Bulbuls** and Black-collared Starlings**. Now we took the road leading to the hills at the back of the area. In the fields we first had another good species, Indochinese Bush-Lark** singing from a wire above us, plus a near-adult Brown Shrike* and a Greater Coucal*. At the transition to the more wooded hills we had another wish-list species, Rufous-winged Buzzard**, splendidly showing its red upper wing while circling around. Here in this small-scale habitat of woods, ponds and pastures we also had Red-throated Flycatcher** (winter plumage, not an easy bird then), Common Iora* and Rufescent Prinia**. Other trip ticks this first morning were Tree Sparrow*, Spotted Dove*, Black Drongo*, White-throated Kingfisher*, Barn Swallow*, Chinese Pond-Heron*, Scaly-breasted Munia*, Zitting Cisticola*, Common Kestrel*, Greater Coucal*.
With our first 35 trip ticks including 17 lifers we returned to the hotel at about 9.30 a.m. just in time for a late breakfast. We took our time on this first day, and only left the very pleasant hotel at 14.00 h., for an easy drive to Malee's bungalows at the base of Doi Chiang Dao.
Just before arriving there we tried the steep unpaved road up Doi Chiang Dao for a few km to see how bad it was. Well it was bad, so we thought we should not do it one of these days in our normal car, but have Malee arrange a 4WD. After installing ourselves at Malee's bungalows for the next three nights, we did an exploratory walk to the Wat (temple) in the forest in late p.m. but only got White-rumped Shama* and Grey Wagtail*.
Enjoyed the first of Malee's shared meals, during which we were introduced to the Thai kitchen by a Canadian couple living in Laos now.

Monday 24 Febr. 2003 - Doi Chiang Dao
I had not slept well, partly because of the jet lag and partly because of the hard beds (for which Malee would have a solution later on the day). So we only left our cabin an hour after first light! We walked towards the Wat again, and in the low weeds at the start of the "nature trail" we had a small group of Rufous-fronted Babbler** and a Dusky Warbler**. The identification of the latter (one of the many Phylloscopus warblers wintering in Northern Thailand) was made possible by the close looks we had in combination with its 'tek' call, for which we consulted our minidisc reference collection.
At the stalls down the Wat we found two Streak-eared Bulbuls**, and meanwhile we knew that the sound we heard all the time was of Great Barbet. At the start of the stairs up to the Wat we had a persistent Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher* and a few Striped Tit-Babbler**. In the denser woods were Brown-cheeked Fulvetta** in the tangles hanging alongside the tree stems, and two Velvet-fronted Nuthatch* feeding each other. We found them less blue than in Malaysia. Halfway the stairs you have a view on the Wat across a wide open space inside the forest, and here we had a splendid view on Striated Swallow** and a distant but clear view on Asian Fairy-Bluebirds* flying around the Wat. Down at the parking place a Mountain Imperial-Pigeon* flew overhead.
During a late breakfast at Malee's we ticked a fine male Olive-backed Sunbird*. Then we drove to the park Headquarters to buy a three-day permit for 200 Baht per person, plus 30 B for the car. On we went, with the car now, up the 'road to the right' past the checkpoint. Here we soon had a nice group of Blue-winged Leafbird* in a bare but flowering tree. Up and up we went, to be in a different habitat from this morning at the Wat, and at a well wooded spot (GPS27) we ticked several good species. This started with Sultan Tit*, not a lifer for us but an absolute wish-list species for many birders. Then we had a group of several pairs of both Grey-chinned Minivet* and Scarlet Minivet*, a group of the intriguing Black Bulbul** (one of the better bulbuls), a group of Asian House-Martin** in the open space above the road, a male Indochinese Cuckooshrike**, a Blue-throated Barbet** a long time in the scope at eye-level, and finally a Chestnut Bunting**, our first true forest bunting ever. (We made a long video recording of the barbet, and back home we found out that its head has characteristics of both the Thai subspecies davisoni as the Burmese subspecies asiatica.)
Then we went up to the pine-oak zone where we arrived at 13.30 h. Here we finally got Great Tit* (missed that in Malaysia last year) - and what a strange black-and-white appearance compared to the colorful ones in Europe! We had a good view on a group of Himalayan Swiftlet* (also from above), and ticked the first of many Grey Bushchat**, a singing male in an open pine tree. There was also the somehow sinister Ashy Drongo* again, and playing hide-and-seek in an oak tree a male Asian Paradise-Flycatcher*. We also thought that we heard Giant Nuthatch calls here...
We drove down to the Wat area of this morning again, but now we chose the so-called Jungle trail. Pittas are possible here, but these birds are not for us - again we saw none on the whole trip. The trail goes into deep jungle forest indeed, but the trail is full of dead leaves so we made a noise as a heard of elephants and we had to stop regularly to hear birds anyway. But this provided us with the only Blue-bearded Bee-eater** of the whole trip. It was calling from high in the trees, from a bare branch.
Back at the parking place below, we ticked a pair of Orange-bellied Leafbird* in the trees above the stalls (as promised on Jurgen Becker's website), and a male Blue Whistling-Thrush (subspecies caeruleus) was sitting on the roof of the smallest shrine. We had to go back to Malee's, as she is serving her evening meals at 18.30 h already, half an hour before darkness.
At this meal we had a pleasant conversation with a Danish couple (non-birders), the only other guests tonight. The man had lived on Greenland for 20 years, and regularly saw Gyr Falcons there.
Today we had 33 trip ticks, including (only?) 10 lifers. Slept much better, because of the added layer of two covers on the mattress, which made it softer.

Tuesday 25 Febr. 2003 - Doi Chiang Dao
This morning we went up the same road as yesterday, partly because it had given already good birds and partly because we hoped that we would discover a new stake-out for Giant Nuthatch, as we thought we had heard it yesterday. We also knew that we would have one other morning for the real stake-out for Giant Nuthatch...
We went up straight to the pine-oak zone where we added Hill-Blue Flycatcher*, Common Rosefinch* (4 in a bare flowering tree, nicely sitting in the sun), Black-naped Monarch* (a pair), Streaked Spiderhunter*, and the first of numerous Yellow-browed Warbler** (yes a lifer...;checked the call). Meanwhile no sign at all of Giant Nuthatch... But searching for a special bird always produces new birds: the first of several White-browed Shrike-Babbler* (a male nearby at eye-level), Spangled Drongo** in a group, Grey-capped Pygmy-Woodpecker** nearby in the sunny top of a low tree, and a complete identification of a Blyth's Leaf-Warbler**. No nuthatch so we went lower down again, and added the first of many Flavescent Bulbuls**, Grey-throated Babbler* (two taped out with playback), a group of the funny Puff-throated Bulbul**, and Pale-blue Flycatcher**. By now we were at the same good spot as yesterday afternoon, and we were glad to see one of those hiding pigeons, the Wedge-tailed Green-Pigeon** in the scope, eating in a fruiting tree.
We shortly went back to Malee's, where Gruff and his wife Sara had arrived with their bird guide Rachen. We agreed that we would accompany Gruff and Rachen in their spacious 4WD the next day to the summit of Doi Chiang Dao, for the Giant Nuthatch.
At 15.30 h we shortly did the creek trail at the start of this right-hand road, where we only flushed an unidentified quail or so. The rest of the late afternoon we spent along the road amidst the small arable fields surrounded by forest. Here we had splendid views of Great Barbet**, Black-hooded Oriole**, Grey-backed Shrike** (on a hedge between two fields; what a beautiful shrike), and we finished at 18.00 h with a large group of Himalayan Swiftlets circling overhead, apparently a sort of pre-roost gathering. But we soon discovered another species between them, with a different call, and these were about 40 Crested Treeswifts**!
We tended to regard this day a bit as an off-day, with only 17 trip ticks. But 11 of these were lifers, and four of these did we never see again on this trip: the woodpecker, the pigeon, the shrike, and the treeswift. So it was not so bad after all.
We had a good meal with Gruff, Sara, Rachen and a Canadian birding family, and went to bed early, much in anticipation of the next day.

Wednesday 26 February 2003 - Doi Chiang Dao and on to Doi Angkhang
In the darkness below the stars we left the bungalows at 05.30 h for the bumpy drive up the mountain. Somewhere halfway we crossed a small stream at the start of the day, and here we had three Black-backed Forktails** walking on the dirt road, a good omen and even for Rachen a rare view. Then, after checking in at the checkpoint, we drove the good dirt road to the substation. Along this road often Giant Nuthatch are seen. We briefly saw and heard one in the distance, but hoped for better views later on. At the same spot we had an Asian Barred Owlet**, calling and briefly seen flying, and a Slender-billed Oriole**. We parked the car at the substation, a nice small open space amidst the pines. We now went walking the trail along the ridge left behind the substation. This is along some sort of orchard first, where we had Crested Bunting** in a small tree above our head, another Indochinese Cuckoo-shrike, Chestnut Bunting, Maroon Oriole** (female), Little Pied Flycatcher*, and Stripe-breasted Woodpecker** while searching for the Giant Nuthatch that we heard now again. We were a bit annoyed by the noisy Eurasian Jays*, but then we got them, a group of three Giant Nuthatch**! They were nearby, only 20 meters or so, thanks to Rachen's strong speaker. This is one of the absolute wish-list species of a trip to Northern Thailand.
Walking back to the substation, we heard Collared Owlet*, briefly saw Grey Treepie** in a lone tree in the valley behind the substation, where we also scoped a male Maroon Oriole and enjoyed the busy work of a pair of White-browed Shrike-Babbler.
Back at the substation we had our packed lunch from Malee, and on a short stroll around we picked up Hume's Leaf-Warbler** (all plumage characteristics plus the checked sound), and in the pines at the campsite we had a male Long-tailed Minivet** (the clear U-shaped wing pattern), but also a female Grey-chinned Minivet on a nest, which was a small cup plastered on the outside with lichen pieces. We had ample opportunity to study both birds. The male Long-tailed really seemed agitated by us, and this was so close to the nest of the Grey-chinned that it was tempting to think that they were interbreeding.
On the drive back down the mountain we ticked Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo*, and for some reason we stopped somewhere but then got an unexpected other bonus, the Sapphire Flycatcher**, a pair at eye-level in the forest along the road. Two Slaty-backed Forktails* didn't escape us at a stream below the road.
Back at Malee's at 17.30 we soon drove off towards the Angkhang mountains; we had packed our car already in the early morning. We arrived in the dark, but the roads were very good, also the last 20 or so km from the main road through the Angkhang mountain area. The Nature Resort was luxury like the hotel in Chiang Mai, but we thought we had deserved it.
Today we had exactly the same numerical result as yesterday: 17 trip ticks including 11 lifers. And again very good ones, with the nuthatch at the top of the list of course.

Thursday 27 February 2003 - Doi Angkhang
Although we skipped breakfast, we were not at the "orchard" (Km 19.9) before 07.20 h, but halfway the 7 minutes drive from the hotel to this famous spot we had a Scaly Thrush** (or White's Thrush, Dutch Goudlijster) on the shoulder of the road! We were so excited that we forgot to stay in the car after stopping and we jumped out of the car. The bird flew quietly away across the road, showing well the scaly back (I had already seen the scaled underside while passing it).
When we stopped at the entrance track to the orchard we immediately saw a group of four Mountain Bamboo-Partridge**, one of the specialties for this site. They were busily feeding on the grassy track and didn't seem to be bothered by us. But in order not to disturb them we did not enter the track but we took a path to the right, and were rewarded with a Chestnut-vented Nuthatch**, a smaller version of the Giant Nuthatch. It was gathering bark pieces above our head and flew away with it. After more Brown-cheeked Fulvetta (fulvettas always keep you busy) we had another specialty of the Angkhang area, Red-faced Liocichla**. At least three were busy (and calling) in the low bushes below us, in the first sun rays. Another Rufous-fronted Babbler, such a skulker, kept us busy for some time when we were back at the car after about 2 hours. Now the partridges had left the broad track so we entered that. A male Grey Bushchat was hunting like a shrike. A Dark-backed Shrike** was singing in a small tree. In the sun it showed its narrow yellow throat band. Far behind that, I thought to hear a third specialty for this site, Spot-breasted Parrotbill. We left the area to buy some bananas etc. in the village near the hotel and soon were back, but now at the wooded valley at Km 21.3. We walked very slowly down this track for a few hundred meters, and we got Black-throated Sunbird (female), Grey-crowned Warbler** (resembles a White-eye but has a more yellow eye-ring an a grey cheek), House Swift*, Yellow-bellied Warbler* (a brief view after we had checked its song), Chinese Leaf-Warbler** (light median crown stripe, light upper vent), another Blyth's Leaf-Warbler, Arctic Warbler*, and a group of Silver-eared Mesia* performing beautifully in a solitary pine in low deciduous forest. Then suddenly we saw an easy but special bunting on the track between the brushes on both sides: Tristram's Bunting, a subadult with a heavily striped head. At the same spot we scoped a Pale-blue Flycatcher that persistently hunted on the track. We had heard Golden-throated Barbet* all day already and now we had one in the scope. We had a close view of two Striated Bulbuls** in a small tree. On the way back we had White-browed Scimitar-Babbler** on a dark shady spot, and we ended this track at about 14.00 h.
After some rest in our nice room we went out again, and now took the road to the North, to the lookout where you have a view into Myanmar (Birma). There is a wide parking place and here we had splendid scope views of an adult Long-tailed Shrike** and of Brown-breasted Bulbuls**. Both species sat in the tops of the scrubs bordering the parking place. On this mountain pass a group of 20 Barn Swallows was foraging. A bit uphill we saw an adult male Stonechat with more red on the breast and less white in the neck than we are used to in Europe. This is the przewalski subspecies breeding here. Even before I had read it in the book I also thought that it was a bit bigger. Later on we also saw the female.
In an email on Orientalbirding I had seen that nearby a new stake-out for both water-redstarts had been found, so we went there now in this slow hour. And indeed we got them immediately at this site, a new lodge just before Ban Luang: White-capped Water-Redstart** and Plumbeous Water-Redstart**, even together in one scope view. Eventually we saw male and female of both species. By accident we also drove into the hill-tribe village itself, a poor but interesting Tibetan-like hamlet with everything and everybody on the street.
At 17.30 h we spent some time at Km 19.9 again but got nothing noteworthy. We finished the day at the dark spruce plot at the beginning of the 23.4 track. Here we had a rather confiding White-tailed Robin*.
Today we had 19 trip ticks including 13 lifers. We had briefly met Kingsley and Sharon upon their arrival here, and at the dessert of our delicious meal in the hotel's restaurant we gave them info about several of our observations in this area.

Friday 28 February 2003 - Doi Angkhang and on to Thaton
Before sunrise we were again at the Km 23.4 track, but went to the right at the fork now. We had a pair of Short-billed Minivet** in a pine in the first sun rays. Further on, where the trail goes uphill amidst low bushes, we briefly saw our first Spectacled Barwing** which we had missed yesterday all day. Here we also had Striated Bulbul again. We went back to the open spot near the start of this side trail and we had even better views of the Red-faced Liocichla than yesterday. A pair and later on also two immature males of Mrs. Gould's Sunbird** were playing in the sun most of the time. Now we also had a female Pale-blue Flycatcher, and there were a lot of Phylloscopus warblers here. We cautiously identified a new one, Eastern Crowned-Warbler**. At close range we had a preening Hill Prinia** and a Blue-winged Minla*, the latter bringing back good memories of Fraser's Hill in Malaysia. Back at the start of the 23.4 track we added Greater Racket-tailed Drongo* and a pair of Large Niltava*.
At 09.00 h we were back at the car and had a banana-and-cookie breakfast, so at 09.30 h we were at the 19.9 track again, the orchard area. It took some time to recognize an immature Long-tailed Shrike, and then we heard the calls of Spot-breasted Parrotbill again. We decided that we really had to go along the hill side to the left in order to see them. We did find a very narrow trail going there, and with the help of the minidisc we got fine views indeed of two Spot-breasted Parrotbills** nearby in a small tree uphill. Back at the start of the 19.9 track we ticked Lesser Coucal* and had two Spectacled Barwings again, but much better now. We went for a last glance at the viewpoint of yesterday and even had three Spectacled Barwings there, one of them eating from flower buds.
We found it hard to leave the Angkhang mountain area, but we also longed for the Thaton lowlands. An hour and a half later, at about 15.00 h, we arrived at our next hotel, the Thaton River View Resort. We had got directions about where others had seen Jerdon's Bushchat, and we wanted to explore that area at the water tower a few km S of Thaton now already. It took some time to find it, so we only were there at 17.00 h, where we met Gruff and Kingsley (who had met each other here; all because of the same info about this stake-out). They had seen a clear female of the bushchat, so we hoped to get more, either now or tomorrow morning (the others left Thaton now). We strolled around in this funny place near the river, with a maze of small asphalted roads for easier harvesting of the garlic etc., but got no more than several Pied Bushchat, an Indian Roller** (darker than ours), and close views of the leucopsis** subspecies of White Wagtail*, which is really different from ours.

Saturday 1 March 2003 - Thaton, Mekong and on to Chiang Mai
We were early back at the water tower site, not only for the bushchat but for the open field and riverside birds in general. We did not get the bushchat, a dip in the trip maybe, but we got many other good birds. We started with a Black-winged Kite* and Black-faced Bunting**, a pair in the reeds near the river, the male in full adult summer plumage. The other birds came so fast that I did not note them down immediately but made a list afterwards (in reverse systematical order): Common Rosefinch* (a group in the same reeds as the bunting), White-rumped Munia** (some groups of about 4; well showing their white rump in flight), Scaly-breasted Munia (larger groups, darting around on many places), Baya Weaver* (1 group), numerous Tree Sparrows, Oriental Skylark** (only heard alas, underway to this site in a hurry for the bushchat...), Paddyfield Pipit in an arable field, Chestnut-capped Babbler** (2 in the reeds near the river bank; active and yet wary), Olive-backed Pipit (several in solitary trees), Richard's Pipit (scope view in arable field: stance plus call), Yellow-bellied Prinia** (in the reeds on the river bank, a few), Red-rumped Swallow (several), Black-collared Starling, several Pied Bushchats again, Common Stonechat (not the przewalski form), Grey Bushchat, Bluethroat* (red-throated; three in total), Siberian Rubythroat**!! (a splendid male in the early sun, at the base of the reeds on the river bank, wary), Red-throated Flycatcher, Long-tailed Shrike adult, Little Ringed Plover* (a few on the sand spit in the river).
We left the water tower area at about 10.00 h and tried another Jerdon's Bushchat site near a small Wat along the road to Chiang Rai, where we were going anyway. Again no bushchat, but we got a nice other bird, a juvenile Plaintive Cuckoo** that first seemed to be a Wryneck, and in the orchard also an Asian Paradise-Flycatcher and a Lesser Coucal.
On we went to be at about noon at the Mekong river. Gruff had given us details about a restaurant with a view on a sand bar in the river, the Rimkhong restaurant North of Chiang Saen. Upon arrival we scanned the sand bar with our scope while standing in front of the restaurant, and while waiting for a free table with full view on the river. We were struck by the dozens of Small Pratincole** on the sand, and also showing well in flight now and then. But there was more in this pre-lunch watch of the sand bar: Spot-billed Duck** (a group of about 40), Ruddy Shellduck** (4 or 5, finally wild ones after so many years), and a Temmincks Stint* amidst the dozens of the little plovers (Little Ringed Plover and Kentish Plover*). When Nollie was away to the toilet for a few minutes, I really thought that I saw another specialty of this region, the Long-billed Plover. Its size was between that of the Small Pratincole and the small plovers, and it was also more elongated in shape than the small plovers. I really think it was one, but when Nollie came back I had lost the bird and could not find it again, so I let it go (too far away to see more details anyway). This sort of half observations only strengthens my wish to see them again another time, another place. Other trip ticks on the sand bar were Great Egret*, Grey Heron*, and Common Greenshank*.
The open restaurant was very nice, and we liked the local fish especially (all from a buffet). The Golden Triangle site is only 4 km or so further North so we could not resist to go there as well, although we had a long drive ahead back to Chiang Mai. The Golden Triangle village is very touristy but we liked the vast view across the river there, towards both Laos and Myanmar (Birma). Moreover, there were dozens of Small Pratincole again, and now a bit nearer, on the big sand bar below us.
Halfway the 3 to 4 hour drive back to Chiang Mai (where we would arrive at dusk) we passed a large area with wet paddies and used it to pause a bit: Grey-headed Lapwing** (sitting on a small dike), a group of 20 Chinese Pond-Herons and a group of 20 Black-winged Stilts*.
In Chiang Mai we were welcomed in the same hotel as we had been a week before, and decided to have a cocktail in the lobby and eat a bit in their Italian restaurant in stead of going out again. This day of lowlands had produced 44 species, of which 25 were trip ticks, including 11 lifers.

Sunday 2 March 2003 - Mae Hia and on to Doi Inthanon
We did a pre-breakfast excursion to the Mae Hia site again, like a week before. We mostly saw the same species but added as lifers Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker**, a male calling in the treetops in the open woods in the center of the area, and Grey-breasted Prinia** in a tree fence between two small pastures. We were also very pleased to see a male Siberian Rubythroat again, and a total of three Burmese Shrikes. Trip ticks were Common Moorhen*, Common Tailorbird* and Stripe-throated Bulbul*, the latter in the sunny open woods at the back of the site, together with Rufous-fronted Babbler.
The luxury buffet breakfast was a typical rest-day extravagance, and we also did some e-mailing from the hotel lobby. We left the hotel at about 13.00 h and proceeded to the villages of Sankamphaeng and Bo Sang to buy some silk and a few paper umbrellas, respectively. From there it was a two-hour drive to the Inthanon Highland Resort, near the entrance of Doi Inthanon national park. The resort is a lovely place and the they gave us the Green Cochoa chalet which best overlooks the central pond with Common Kingfisher. We did not expect that we would also see the Green Cochoa bird itself up the mountain.
We realized a bit late that we might just not have enough cash to pay this place (no credit cards) so we drove back, in less than 10 minutes, to the town of Chom Thong where we found a cash machine upon entering the town center. We then proceeded to the Mae Klang waterfall close to the entrance of the national park but just outside it. It was still busy with local visitors on this Sunday afternoon. It was half an hour before the closure of the ticket booth (200 Baht per person, so in fact the normal day-ticket for the whole national park) but I stared questioning at the staff while pointing at my watch, and they let us pass for free. In 10 minutes we were back anyway, it was just the waterfall only, and no birds amidst the remaining few dozen of visitors of course. We better had some birding at our lovely resort! We walked around the rather large compound and its equally park-like direct surroundings, and we noted Hoopoe*, Striated Swallow, Streak-eared Bulbul with its thrush-like behavior on the lawns, Coppersmith Barbet, Purple Sunbird** (female), white-eyes (probably Japanese), Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and Verditer Flycatcher*, amongst others.
This "rest day" gave 8 trip ticks including 3 lifers. We were the only guests at the resort and had a good meal in the open restaurant, overlooking the pond.

Monday 3 March 2003 - Doi Inthanon
Stocked with plenty of breakfast and lunch food (brought from Chiang Mai), we went up the Doi Inthanon mountain, and were at the end-of-the-road parking place at 07.00 h. Now we had to find the so-called summit marsh, the famous birding site. We soon found out that this is a wrong name: it is not at the summit and it is not a marsh. It is the AngKa boardwalk in a moist forest before and below the parking place. Stone steps lead down to it and in the early morning at the top of these steps several Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes* were boldly walking around. This was nice of course, but then below the stone steps we entered the moist and epiphyte-laden forest and we were very impressed by its beauty. The first birds at the start of the boardwalk were two busy Yellow-bellied Fantails**, contrasting a lot with the still rather dark surroundings where the sun had not come yet. Then, after only 10 meters on the boardwalk, we had a flock in a very mossy tree. Both Green-tailed Sunbird** (male and female) as Mrs. Gould's Sunbird (male) were actively feeding alongside the always splendid Chestnut-tailed Minla* and a group of the piculet-like Rufous-winged Fulvetta**. And this was all only a few meters away from us! We were already so thrilled by the setting and the birds here that we decided that this was the best site we had seen so far on this Northern Thailand trip. We proceeded on the circular boardwalk anti-clockwise and only 40 m further on we heard a very clear and loud song on the forest floor at a few meters away and below us: White-browed Shortwing. At close range the black is shining bluish. Halfway the c. 200 m long boardwalk we heard the unmistakable song of Pygmy Wren-Babbler**, and we spent some 20 minutes trying to find it, partly by taping out, but without success. The bird moved a bit now and then but remained hidden near the forest floor, in a sort of gully. After that we had a group of three Ashy-throated Warbler** nearby but there will have been more around in this site. Back at the start of the boardwalk, we did the first 30 m again and added two Dark-sided Thrushes** foraging in the black mud to the right of the boardwalk, and at the more open spot we studied at length a group of about 20 white-eyes. This was a mixture of Japanese White-eye** and Chestnut-flanked White-eye**. There we also saw a Dark-backed Sibia again. At 09.40 h we were back at the parking place, and had breakfast from the boot of the car.
From 10.30 h we did the so-called Jeep track at Km 37.0. We had a flock straight-away, with Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Mrs. Gould's Sunbird, Golden Babbler* (with nesting material), Black-eared Shrike-Babbler*, Spectacled Barwing (him again!) and Dark-backed Sibia. Of course you can't say which species really belonged to the flock. A Golden-throated Barbet flew into a hole in a dead tree right along the track. Despite the flock from the start of the track it was rather quiet (doesn't this happen often?). On the way back (after 1 km or so) we had a Slaty-bellied Tesia** in the undergrowth, singing but also seen (finally a ground bird for us). We heard a Mountain Tailorbird, we remembered the funny song from Malaysia but also checked it on the minidisc. Again, at the start of the track there were more birds. We had a wonderful close encounter with Grey-throated Babbler feeding three young on a small twig in a bush at eye-level. A bit higher up in the tree was a pair of Yellow-cheeked Tit**. Again we were engaged in identifying a winter-plumage Red-throated Flycatcher. We often heard the song of White-tailed Leaf-Warbler but didn't see it properly yet.
We now walked a few hundred m up the Km 34.5 track, also because others had seen the small parrotbill here, a specialty species. We finally saw a Red Junglefowl male after having heard so many in Malaysia and on this trip. It flew off from a branch above the track. We saw some stuff like Olive-backed Pipit and Grey-chinned Minivet, and finally a convincing White-tailed Leaf-Warbler**. It really sings everywhere here on Doi Inthanon thus far. We met Gruff and Rachen again just while they were taping out a small group of White-necked Laughingthrush**. We heard the real birds several times but saw only a bit of it.
About halfway the afternoon we tried another stake-out of this moment, a special tree along the asphalted road above the campsite. Here Fire-capped Tit is seen regularly, but we didn't see it now nor on another occasion later. However, we saw our only Yellow-eyed Babbler** here, in the undergrowth at first but then in full view after taping it out from the reference minidisc. Here in the orchard we also had Pied and Grey Bushchat, Common Rosefinch (a pair), Chestnut Bunting, and Chestnut-flanked White-eye.
At 17.15 h we were at the small marsh next to the "second pond" of the campsite, and sat down on the dry hillside next to the marsh, under the pines. We had to wait only 15 minutes and there it was, the Black-tailed Crake**. This specialty of Doi Inthanon was just walking on the trail that traverses the little marsh. In fact we would have had the best and closest view if we had stayed in the parked car! It was a male and the scope view revealed its magnificent color gradations. Here we also saw our first Large-billed Crow* of the trip.
On the way back to the resort we made a short stop at the parking place for the Km 13 track, and there was a Green Magpie* (the only one of the trip) and a splendid performance of a group of White-crested Laughingthrush**, revealing their presence by calling loudly, and then going from one tree to the other along the rim of the parking place.
In the dusk we had a relaxing beer on the porch of our cabin, overlooking the pond with its Common Kingfisher, before having dinner again as the only guests. Today we had 26 trip ticks including 17 lifers.

Tuesday 4 March - Doi Inthanon
From 06.30 h we were on the Km 13 hill track, which soon appeared to be a foot-and-motorcycle corridor for people from a village above. An impressive group of the large (and large-tailed) Red-billed Blue-Magpie** flew across. We were glad to add Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch** to our nuthatch collection, with fine scope views in a dead tree. Collared Falconet is one of the target birds here and we probably saw one flying away from us, right across the valley, and seen only from above, although for a good 15 seconds: flying in a straight line, but slightly undulating, with short, pointed and rather triangular wings, and a dark upper side. Later in Khao Yai we had a same unconvincing bird, when we saw one from below. So we didn't see much on this track, and finished with scope views of a male Purple Sunbird.
From 08.30 h we did the Km 37.0 track again, hoping to see a cochoa. It's much cooler here than at Km 13 so 08.30 is still a good time. We started with a Streaked Spiderhunter in the bananas along the road. We heard the Slaty-bellied Tesia again, as well as the family of Grey-throated Babbler. We had a sort of marten we thought, but later, from a mammal booklet we bought in Khao Yai, this appeared to be Giant Squirrel. We walked on slowly, and then, only a few hundred meters from the start of the track, we clearly heard the Green Cochoa**, although it took some time before we managed to see it. We succeeded in this only because we used the song playback in order to have it fly from one hiding place to another, and the last hiding place between the leaves gave us enough to identify the bird visually too for a few minutes: bill and head, wing, and tail tip. The contrast in the wing pattern was remarkable. We walked on, and had a Rufous-winged Fulvetta again (the piculet-like bird from the "summit marsh"), and Grey-cheeked Fulvetta in a more open spot, in the undergrowth. We waited a long time near a dead tree because we heard the call of Bay Woodpecker (at least it was quite like the call on the reference minidisc), but it didn't show. One of those opportunities about which you think on hindsight that you should have tried longer, especially because we saw in fact very few woodpeckers at all here up North. Suddenly, after about 2000 m from the start of the track, there is a wide open vista across a valley, and in fact the forest ends here. We rested a bit, and saw a large raptor in the distance, probably a hawk-eagle. Nearby an unmistakable Large Hawk-Cuckoo** was calling often, and despite taping out it hardly showed itself. On the way back we had a large flock of fulvetta's with a Golden Babbler, and a hawk-eagle flew overhead.
At about 14.00 h we went into the "summit marsh" again, just because we liked the site so much so we liked to see it one last time. No new birds now, and also less birds than at the morning visit of course.
Se we soon tried the Km 37 track again, and this time for the Purple Cochoa, that was seen here today by Gruff and Rachen. And now we met Kingsley and Sharon too, who had just arrived on Doi Inthanon. So we tried at the spot where it should be, with our minidisc sound of this bird, and we heard its reaction several times. Typically for a cochoa, it showed only briefly after about 20 minutes. It was a female, which in this species is as special as the male. So we were all happy.
Down we went for a last try at the Km 34.5 track for the Black-throated Parrotbill. We met two Swedish birders on the track and they were rather gloomy about the scarcity of birds, had " only" seen our target bird! We think we heard its call at the bamboos after about 200 m from the start of the track, but we did not see them.
We ended our last day at Doi Inthanon with an "obligatory" visit to the Vachirathan waterfall which we did not really need because we had seen both water redstarts at Doi Angkhang already. But the scenery is interesting, and look, there was a thrush on a rock amidst the cascading water in the upper part of the waterfall. It was deep black on the head and upper back, had a brightly yellow-orange bill, and very briefly Nollie saw also a reddish belly. The only species that fits is a male of the rare Black-breasted Thrush**!
This night we had a lively dinner with Kingsley and Sharon in the resort. Today we only had 6 trip ticks though they were all lifers. We had planned to stay another morning at Doi Inthanon (before heading on to the South) but meanwhile had decided to leave the resort well before dawn in order to do some birding at the Mae Ping national park about 2 hours to the South, on our way further down.

Wednesday 5 March 2003 - Mae Ping and on to Bung Borapet
The pre-dawn drive through many villages revealed a social aspect we had totally missed thus far: every village had a lively market where people from all sides and with all means of transport gathered in the total darkness! It may be related to a wish to have food as fresh as possible, to get it home in a cool state. But the markets also had goods like shoes and clothing.
At 07.30 h we were inside Mae Ping NP, at the dirt road to Tung Gik. We had been advised that this would be a good birding road for woodpeckers, and the scenery would be different from any of the other sites we had been thus far. The forest is much more open indeed, and the trees not very high and not having a dense foliage, so our chances on woodpeckers were greater. We heard several but in the end saw only one, a Common Flameback*. We definitely also heard Greater Flameback (which we would see in KY later on). We walked the road for about 2 km up and down. We had a lot of Eurasian Jays, always funny to see this bird here to be so different in color from ours. Even the behavior seems to be different - operating in social groups much more than in Europe. We were also surprised by a dog well inside the forest, the finest and fittest dog we have seen on this trip, with remarkable heavy eyelids. From the mammal booklet that we bought later at KY we learned that it can hardly have been a wild dog. We had a fine view of a new leafbird, Golden-fronted Leafbird**, it's always nice to see a leafbird really well. That is an advantage of the open nature of this forest here. In the same way we had a prolonged view on a bare stake of a Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, and we made a nice recording of its song. We had missed one lifer minivet thus far and here we got it: Small Minivet**. It was a small group of males and females in a tree right along the road. When they flew off it just seemed a group of tits. A lifer barbet also is a nice happening, and the forest here is full with the song of Lineated Barbet**, which we also saw briefly. In Malaysia we had briefly seen a Black Baza inside a forest, and here we had it in full swing above the tree tops. This adult Black Baza* was involved in a display flight for several minutes, a strongly undulating flight. So it showed its white wing patches very well, even better than in the plate of the book. We recorded its calls during this display flight. Then another raptor flew in and landed on a tree top nearby. We had scope views of it but still were puzzled, and this appeared to be because we did not see the upper wing well enough. It was a Rufous-winged Buzzard.
We left the park at 10.30 h (when it had become hot) and in these three hours we had seen 5 trip ticks including 3 lifers. This is not overwhelming for a totally new sort of forest, but we were glad we had seen this national park, if only for the change of habitat.
We had a long drive South towards Bung Borapet, and we had two breaks along the road in order to pick up some of the classic culture of Thailand. First, when we entered the town of Thoen we were so glad about having finished the endless number of curves ever since Mae Ping, that we took some time for a Wat, a temple complex. This one consists of a new and an old Wat, and we liked the older one best, with its more simple lay-out. Then we drove on again in the sweltering heat (but no problem thanks to our airco), and we had a second and longer stop in the town of Kamphaeng Phet. This was for the Historical Park with its very old temples and Buddha's etc., a World Heritage cultural site that we had picked up from our Lonely Planet guide (for Northern Thailand). In fact this was one of the very few occasions that we used this booklet (the main other ones being Chiang Mai night market and street plan, and the Golden Triangle area). It was blazingly hot between the dark stone statues and buildings at this site, but it was impressive, and it is only a few minutes from the main road that we were going South, the 1. In Nakhon Sawan city, where we would stay for the Bung Borapet reserve, out hotel (Piman) was only 50 meters from the 1.
After check-in we decided to do a reconnaissance of the Bung Borapet reserve, and after a long search we came first at the quay for the boats at the North side of the lake. Hundreds (maybe a few thousand) of Lesser Whistling-Ducks were visible from the shore. It was late already, but we really wanted to see the other side of the lake as well, because the marsh reserve there would be the first site to go in the early morning tomorrow. Eventually, and almost at dusk, we found this, much further East than we had understood from a description in a trip report. So we noted down every km-marking that would make it easier for others to come here. The marshy site looked very promising, and we regretted a bit that we had not come here straight-away after arrival in the city. But anyway we also knew now where the boat-landing is at the North side.
We had dinner at the hotel itself, and this was easy and OK but not so good as we had had in the North.

Thursday 6 March 2003 - Bung Borapet and on to Khao Yai
We were on the road at the start of dawn, and were at the Southern Bung Borapet site at 06.45 h. There is an asphalted dike trail going around the marsh and lake border, and it took us a full hour to do the first 200 meter of it, a straight sort of avenue (for pedestrians only) leading to the statue of the two river-martins, the lost bird species. Chinese Pond-Heron was the first bird seen flying around, as can be expected. Then we had Purple Heron* (not seen again later in the morning), and we enjoyed the activities of an otter* nearby. Two Asian Pied-Starlings** were active at a nest in one of the small trees at the start of the avenue. We also had the first Purple Swamphen* here walking around at 20 m only, and other easy species were Grey Heron, Common Moorhen and Black-winged Kite. Then we had our first reed warbler, busy on the ground in decayed reed: Black-browed Reed-Warbler**. This was immediately followed by another, less easy one (if only seen and not heard): Oriental Reed-Warbler**. We would see and hear many of both reed-warblers further on, mostly in the reeds. Several Yellow Bitterns** were hanging in the reeds and flying short distances. This is the one that mostly resembles our own little bittern. A beautiful other lifer was the next one, the Black-headed Munia**. We saw several flying around, and one with nesting material, a very long grassy string. A huge but distant lifer was next, a Painted Stork**: banded wing pattern and (in the scope) the decurved bill (both quite different from the also present Asian Openbill that we saw a bit later). We were not even halfway those 200 meters and on it went with trip ticks and lifers: White-breasted Waterhen* in the floating vegetation to the left, and a few Little Cormorants** flying around, with a remarkable brown neck indeed, and with the same duck-like profile as Pygmy Cormorant, especially when landing in the water. A Long-tailed Shrike was quite tame (again: what a beautiful bird). Here at the pond we also had both Common Kingfisher and White-throated Kingfisher. There were several Common Mynas in the small trees along the avenue, and a few Large-billed Crows and a Zebra Dove*. Now we had a totally new water bird, the Cotton Pygmy-Goose**, a female swimming between the water lilies in the open water to the right. A bit further on we would also see some males. Two Asian Openbills** flew in the distance, and two Lesser Whistling-Ducks a bit closer. Little Grebe* finally was the last bird of this 200 meters.
We now walked onto the smaller curving trail (also surfaced) that leads to an observation tower, for another 200 meters or so. An Eastern Marsh-Harrier** came along quite near to us. In the denser row of small trees along this trail several Oriental Reed-Warblers were present, even in groups of 2 or 3. They often flew in from the reed beds. If we had not seen the latter occurring then we would not have believed they were reed-warblers. Their behavior is also much busier than our Great Reed-Warbler. In this habitat with some more small trees and shrubs, we also noted a pair of Common Stonechat. From the reed-fringe below the small dike that we walked on, two bitterns flew up together: a Cinnamon Bittern* and a Yellow Bittern. Several times we had a prinia-like bird in the grass, with striped back and wings and a tapering tail, and eventually this turned out to be Rusty-rumped Warbler**. In the more small-scale marsh habitat along this trail we had a beautiful male Bronze-winged Jacana** quite nearby, and we were impressed by the enormous toes. Rather close together in the grassy areas a bit further away were both Great Egret*, Intermediate Egret* and Little Egret*. On a drier place in those fields we saw Red-wattled Lapwing. In the small trees along the trail a Pied Fantail* reminded us of the coastal marsh we had seen in Malaysia.
We ascended the observation tower and this really gives a splendid view over the marshes, the lake and the fields and meadows. But even nearby we had new birds: a small group of White-shouldered Starling** at eye-level in a tree, and a small group of Oriental Pratincole** hunting at eye-level as well. We had the sun right onto them so we even saw the throat well. In the large, shallow and marshy open water in front of us we saw Grey-headed Lapwing and the wish-list Pheasant-tailed Jacana** (non-breeding plumage) walking around. We walked back and saw four Cattle Egret* in a tree, and a Wood Sandpiper flew up. Now we also had a clear Plain Prinia** for the first time. At only 8 meter we had a Ruddy-breasted Crake** in the mud along the trail, even in the scope. We lingered a bit at this confiding bird, and even met a Thai birder here. The heat was coming so we walked back to the start of the trail and avenue, and saw Bluethroat and two Yellow-vented Bulbuls*. It was 10.00 h now. We had a coca-cola at one of the shops at the entrance, and we spoke with the owner mr. Panom. If we would have had another 2-3 hours he could have taken us out on the lake with a boat, but we had to drive on, and we (and he) also thought it would be a bit too hot now.
In this remarkable 3 hours of intense but easy birding we had added 29 trip ticks, including 15 lifers! We were very glad that we had decided to do this Bung Borapet reserve, although it was merely meant as a break on the drive from Chiang Mai to Khao Yai.
So we drove on to Khao Yai, doing some shopping along the road, and getting some more baht from a cash machine in Pak Chong (outside a very modern bank when entering the town, on the left-hand side of the road). This was also because we had just phoned to the resort (called Chalet Hill) and they told us that they didn't accept foreign credit cards. When we arrived at the pretty and quietly located resort we understood why they preferred cash: this is not a normal hotel resort, but a Thai vacation homes club, and they willingly let in foreign tourists as well. We think this is a real discovery, we had just found it by surfing the internet and hitting their website. It is a 10 minutes drive along the quiet side road that goes left just before the entrance of KhaoYai national park. A bonus is even that there are some well stocked shops along this side road too, and when we asked the kind girl of the reception (here name is Dome and she speaks English) where to eat at night, she advised without hesitation the restaurant Toscana back along this same side road.
First however we wanted to see the famous exodus of bats which takes place every night somewhere near the entrance of Khao Yai. So after installing ourselves in the spacious bungalow of the resort we drove back to the Khao Yai entrance and asked the guard where we could see the bats. That appeared to be at the back of the Garden Lodge, a few km back along the main road to Pak Chong. This "lodge" is an area with widely scattered bungalows and we saw nobody at the reception so we just drove on to find the rock face where the bats might come out. After at least 1.5 km we found such a cliff and asked a gardener of a wealthy weekend home if we were at the right spot. Yes it's here he said, and we still had ample time, it was only 17.30 h now. So we walked along the empty road a bit and ticked the only Little Heron* of the trip (adult male, in an irrigation canal). We also had Paddyfield Pipit quite nearby again, and Spangled Drongo. Then, from 18.05 to 18.10 h enormous groups of bats flew from a small valley to the left of our rock face, although not as nearby as we had hoped for. But after that, at 18.25 h, a long string of bats came out of the largest cave opening in our rock face. It was as if smoke spiraled out of the hill, and this went on for at least 5 minutes. A raptor landed on a bare tree just in front of the cave opening, and it must have had an easy meal.
We too had a good meal that night, at Toscana. It was so delicious and fresh and the people were so friendly, that we would go here more often these days. Only on the last night did we ask why it is called Toscana (it is not an Italian but a Thai restaurant), and they explained in their poor but enthusiastic English that it was because of the hills all around.

Friday 7 March 2003 - Khao Yai NP
At 06.30 h we entered Khao Yai and drove on until the start of trail "6" signposted about 100 m after the headquarter. We were full of anticipation, expecting several lifers, but this didn't materialize today. OK we started with a trip tick, a noisy group of Abbott' s Babbler*. We heard several Red Junglefowl, and saw fresh elephant droppings when we came to a small stream with a small clearing (tree fall?) some 150 m from the start of the narrow trail. Here we saw Asian Palm Swift*, Barn Swallow, Asian Fairy-Bluebird, Thick-billed Green-Pigeon*, and again we saw a probable Collared Falconet fast flying away, now from below (at Doi Inthanon from above), but still not tickable. We heard several gibbons calling and the rainforest habitat was lovely. We left the small clearing and proceeded along the little stream. We had a busy group of Puff-throated Bulbuls, heard a Collared Owlet, and a raptor flew up from only 7 m high in the tree. It was light colored below but the tail was too short for an accipiter, maybe it was a Jerdon's Baza. Then we had our first lifer (although we had heard them at Mae Ping already), a group of four Greater Flameback**. We detected them by their sound (they are quite noisy), and after playback of the reference sound we saw one very well in the sun against a tree, showing its large bill. We heard Scaly-breasted Partridge and a lot of Green-eared Barbet. A stealthy but noisy White-rumped Shama didn't escape us. A next lifer was White-bellied Yuhina**, a small group with nasal tit-like calls. By now we had come onto the ridge. We only heard some junglefowl there. On the way back we saw a group of White-handed Gibbons. One was a white phase, with a black young attached to its belly. A black teenager gibbon didn't move away from us and sat right above our head at only 6 meter high. We walked on and had a lifer subspecies of Black-crested Bulbul, the johnsoni**, with red throat in stead of black (Eastern Thailand). A very agitated female Hill-Blue Flycatcher kept us busy for a while before we could name her. Back at the start of the trail we had a group of White-crested Laughingthrush. It was 13.00 h now, so we had spent 6 morning hours on this famous trail and had seen only14 species, of which 5 were a trip tick, and 2 a lifer.
At the stalls behind the headquarters we carefully picked up some food and sat down in the breezy and shadowy place with the tables and chairs. From here you have a nice view on the surrounding trees and we saw a Green-eared Barbet** entering a hole in one of the trees.
After some rest we went to a spot along the road a bit back, where we had seen a lot of fruits on the road and a group of monkeys (Pig-tailed Macaque**) eating from it. We parked the car at bout 50 m from it but saw no birds now, so decided that an other time of the day would be better. Moreover there were nasty bees, possibly attracted to the fruits as well.
So we went on to the campsite at about 16.00 h, because sometimes the Coral-billed Ground-Cuckoo is seen there. But the campsite has changed drastically we think, so we could not find last year's stake-out despite precise directions in the reports. One of the staff did point out another likely spot however, but to no avail for us. It is busy here. We only saw a Stripe-throated Bulbul.
From 17.15 h we were on the so-called Radar road where we had an Oriental Honey-Buzzard* directly overhead. We also heard heavy wing-flapping inside the forest and thought that it was a hornbill but we saw nothing.
However, on the way back down to the entrance of the park, we made a stop at 18.10 h at the parking place at Km 35. From there you have a wide view on the forest edges all around. Now we did have a hornbill, a pair of Great Hornbill*, gradually moving from one large tree to the other. A great sighting.
Much further down, in the dusk, we had to stop for a nightjar on the road, just a few meters in front of us. In the headlights it kept sitting on the road and we identified it as Grey Nightjar*.
Again we had a nice meal at Toscana, with a good bottle of beer. We are really impressed by the beauty of the scenery of the Khao Yai NP but not so much by the number of bird species we have encountered thus far...

Saturday 8 March 2003 - Khao Yai
We now started at the other end of trail "6", at the parking place of last night's hornbill. It was 06.30 h and of course in this more open habitat (sort of savanna strip with trees) the birding was a bit easier than yesterday's rainforest. At the parking place we had Stork-billed Kingfisher*, Mountain Imperial-Pigeon, Black-naped Oriole*, Spotted Dove. A bit down the track we had a new and vocal woodpecker, Rufous Woodpecker**, in a small tree along the track. In the top of a tree on the left we had Orange-breasted Green-Pigeon** (rather long bill, yellow along whole wing side, rather long tail). Again we had a group of White-crested Laughingthrush, and we had two Green-eared Barbets in the scope, and saw them better now than yesterday. We had another Plain Prinia, and a group of 6 Brown-backed Needletails* passed us at eye-level nearby, so we even could see the white dot near the eye. For the first time we had a scope view of the beautiful Chestnut-headed Bee-eater**. (On hindsight, it does occur on a photo taken somewhere at Doi Angkhang.) We were closer to the pond with the watchtower now, and had Red-watlled Lapwing and Red-rumped Swallow, Little Cormorant and White-throated Kingfisher. We got a male non-breeding Blue Rock-Thrush* in the scope, of the subspecies philippensis**.
Then, at 08.00 h we entered the true forest to the left of the watchtower. In the nice transition zone we had mating Variable Squirrel**, a female Black-naped Monarch in a group of (as usually) unidentified warblers, and two nearby Vernal Hanging-Parrots** eating fruits in a rather bare and low tree. Their red bill competed with the fierce eyes. In the bamboo-brush below this tree we heard Scaly-breasted Partridge** calling very nearby and yet we didn't see them, not even after 10 minutes. In such a special case of invisible but close and long lasting encounter I tick a species as lifer. Soon after that we crossed a stream and here we had a splendid view of a Slaty-backed Forktail in the shade on a trunk in the water. Going uphill now we saw and heard a noisy group of Spangled Drongo, and with some patience we taped out (with its own call) a Moustached Barbet**. We had heard several of them in Khao Yai but now we finally saw one nearby perched in a low tree above us. Further on we had a flock with White-bellied Yuhina, Puff-throated Bulbul and a very plain female sunbird eating spiders (not a spiderhunter). In a larger tree above us we heard a soft singular croaking sound of hornbills but only saw them in silhouette when they flew off, about ten in total. In view of their size and shape they must have been Brown or Oriental Pied. Nearby I had already made a recording of hornbill sounds, and I will compare these later with the reference sounds. At 11.25 h we were back at the stream, where small fast "trains" of white butterflies migrated through all the time, all Southward.
Back at the watchtower area a subadult Crested Serpent-Eagle circled around a long time. From the watchtower we ticked Dollarbird* in the trees between the tower and the pond. We also had a Great Hornbill in the distance again.
Walking back to the road, we had a Hill Myna** in the scope, highly visible in a distant but bare tree to the left, the same tree where we had seen the Great Hornbills yesterday night. This is the very vocal and mimicking myna species that we often talked to in the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam in the seventies. A bit further on we had a convincing view of a dark phase Changeable Hawk-Eagle**. It held the wings absolutely level while soaring, unlike Black Eagle, which moreover has longer wings.
It was now about 13.00 h and we went back to our bungalow for some rest. We stopped at the large fruiting tree again, and there were no monkeys now, but it did have some birds now: Asian Fairy-Bluebird, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker* (scope view) and a very mobile group of white-eyes (Chestnut-flanked and/or Oriental). At our bungalow we saw the only other Common Tailorbird of the whole trip.
From 16.30 h we did about 2 km of the trail which starts exactly at Km 33. It is a beautiful trail with very impressive trees and tree falls, but we saw practically no birds. We made some sound recordings of an imperial-pigeon, a Collared Owlet nearby, and a drumming woodpecker which might easily have been the much-wanted Heart-spotted...
In the meantime a cloud cover had come over the hills and this was the first one of the whole trip. A drizzle started at about 18.00 h when we in vain tried to spot some last birds along the river behind the visitor's center in the HQ area.
This last night of our trip we tried another restaurant, one along the main road, but we didn't like the food at all. As the food is so cheap here, we only ate a bit of it and decided to go back to Toscana for the third time. They welcomed us heartily again and we had another delicious meal.

Sunday 9 March 2003 - Khao Yai and back to the airport
This morning would be our last chance of picking up some more specialties in Khao Yai. Despite the rather slow birding two days ago at trail "6" we opted to go there again, because this forest trail really looked very promising. And even if we would not get any new birds, this trail would be a fine farewell in terms of the tropical forest scenery.
Along the road up we had an Asian Pied Hornbill* sitting in a tree next to the road. At 06.45 we started at the trail "6" and it was a bit misty after the rain showers of yesterday night. At the stream crossing we surprised a deer (Sambar; bigger than our roe deer). We made several sound recordings in this forest, also of a distant CBGC. We didn't see any specialty but then at 08.45 h it was bingo! There we had the Coral-billed Ground-Cuckoo** very nearby, and this an absolute wish-list species for Khao Yai. This was at a lovely spot, where the trail is at the transition from the stream valley to the hill ridge, at the educational sign for the Erythrina subumbrans tree. We made a recording of its call and took our time for playback now and then. Finally we saw it, first uphill in full view when I just scanned the forest with my bins; then a bit later we flushed it from near the trail. The way it jumped away from there reminded us of that other great ground-cuckoo we had seen in Southern Venezuela (Rufous-winged).
We still proceeded a bit along the trail, and saw (and recorded) a fully singing female Hill Blue-Flycatcher! Then from 10.00 h we walked back, and had more sunshine now. Not far from the CBGC spot we had a another very much wanted bird as well, two White-crowned Forktails** along a narrow part of the stream. We saw all details very well, while we followed them for a while along the stream. It's a big bird, with a black breast and a steep white forehead. The white of the forehead is shorter than depicted in the book (less extended towards the nape). A last good bird we saw flying up and then sitting along the trail was a Red-headed Trogon*, a species that we had heard nearby at Fraser's Hill but not seen then.
Satisfied we drove back to our bungalow, and saw Ashy Woodswallow on the wire along the road not far before the resort. We leisurely packed and said goodbye to the ever friendly Dome, and a bit later to the lady of the Toscana restaurant (Nollie gave her some presents from Holland). Along the road down to Pak Chong we ticked a last lifer, the Red-breasted Parakeet** at its nest hole in a large lone tree along the road (at Km 15.8).
We arrived in the Bangkok area well in time for delivering the car and having the airplane. However, finding the exit from the highway to the airport was difficult already, but delivering the Budget car was far more difficult. Our papers said that we should deliver it "at the airport" but we found no office at all. Finally, after several fruitless phone calls, we got somebody and she said she would send somebody to the airport. All in all this took us a very nerve-racking hour, with the car parked at a forbidden spot. The girl that finally turned up was very kind, and said that we should have been told long ago to call them an hour before arrival, so they could make an appointment with us somewhere on the airport... (And this is a major car rental company in a major world city...!) However, our flight back home with Cathay Pacific was fine again. We arrived at Amsterdam airport exactly in time, early the next morning (Monday 10 March), and the taxi brought us home in 15 minutes. There we were very glad to see all the new bulb flowers in the garden, and while we were admiring this, one of the best birds of the whole trip landed in our garden - a stray Woodcock!