Bird Watching in Chiang Mai

Magnificent virgin forests and ecological diversity are just some of the charms that attract visitors to Chiang Mai. Every year thousands of tourists from all parts of the world flock to Chiang Mai to admire the natural beauty to be found in the north. One activity which has gained increasing popularity over the past few years, especially among genuine nature lovers, is bird watching.

Bird watching is not confined to ornithologists alone but it is also a hobby or pastime enjoyed by thousands of people who wish to escape the pressures of their work and the stress of city life. Many people take pleasure in their visits to pristine forests where they can enjoy clean, fresh air and admire the multi-colours and melodious songs of many different varieties of birds. For them it is also a form of exercise and relaxation. By observing the behaviour of birds, through listening to the sounds of their songs, watching how they use their wings, observing their mating habits, and watching how they hunt for food we can learn about the benefits of birds and their relationship with nature. The joy we gain from these experiences remain with us all our lives.

Bird watching has been a popular pastime in Thailand for several decades now. The first group of bird watchers was formed in 1962. Interest soon spread and before long the Bird and Nature Preservation Society of Thailand was formed. Information on the different types of birds found in Thailand was compiled and published by Dr. Boonsong Lekhagul and associates. Studies revealed that there were 920 different species of birds in Thailand. However, the number of birds and species found in Thailand today has decreased with the reduction of forested areas as a result of natural disasters and human predators. Altogether 7 species have disappeared from Thailand, including the White-eyed River-Martin, Pseudochelidon sirintarae, which was found only in Thailand. Another forty are on the endangered species list. Some species have not been sighted for ten years. Sightings of other species are very rare and they can only be found in certain areas. This situation should be taken as an important warning and should not be overlooked.

Because of its unique topography of low lying valleys and soaring mountain ranges, Chiang Mai has won the attention of bird watchers. Diverse forest conditions including timber forests, virgin forests, mixed forests, pine forests and rain forests combine with a rich natural environment to make Chiang Mai more suitable than other provinces for discovering a wide variety of birds species. Some species, such as the Deignan’s Babbler (Stachysis rodolphei) which has its habitat at Doi Chiang Dao, are only found in Thailand. Chiang Mai is also home to a large number of bird watching sites. Among these are:

Doi Inthanon National Park which covers an area of 301,500 rai and ranges from low lying valleys to high mountain peaks reaching 2,590 metres above sea level making it the highest peak in Thailand. More than 382 different species, including both native and migratory birds, can be found in this area, more than in any other place in Thailand. Of interest are the Black-backed Forktail, Green-tailed Sunbird, Rufous throated Partridge, Purple Cochoa, Chestnut-tailed Minia, and Black-tailed Crake. The lnthanon Birds Center, situated on the road leading to the top of the peak at kilometer 31, has much useful information on birds and routes for bird watching.

Doi Pha Horn Pok At 2,285 metres, this is the second highest peak in Thailand. The peaks are covered with natural forests making it ideal for viewing high altitude birds and it is also the only place where the Beautiful Nuthatch can be seen. Other interesting birds in this area include Outia, Red-tailed laughing thrush, Crested Finchbilli, and the Firecapped Tit.

Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Conservation Centre which covers an area of 325,625 rai. The highest peak in the mountain range is 2,175 metres which makes it ideal for watching high altitude and migratory birds. It is also the only place where Deignan’s Babbler can be found. Interesting birds found in this area include Hume’s Pheasant, Giant Nuthatch, Great Tit, Sapphire Flycatcher, and the Orange-flanked Bush-Robin.

Doi Ang Khang which peaks at 1,800 metres. Even though the forests in this area have seen drastic change and deterioration, and only small forests remain in some of the valleys, sightings of rare high altitude birds are still reported. This is particularly so in the cool season when many birds migrate to this area. These include White-browed Laughing thrush, Red-faced Liocichia, Spot-breasted Parrotbill, and the Daurian-Redstart.

Doi Suthep-Doi Put National Park This park covers an area of 163,162 rai and reaches 1,685 metres above sea level. A rich variety of forests such as pine forests, virgin forests, and mixed forests can be found in this area making it ideal for a diverse collection of bird species. In 1928 more than 326 bird species were recorded residing in this area, Today, however, about 50 of these have disappeared. Birds commonly found in this area include the Lesser Shortwing, Speckled Piculet, Bluefronted Redstart, Dusky Thrush, and the Daurian Redstart.

Mae Ping National Park This park, in Lamphun province, covers an area of 626,875 rai and reaches into Chiang Mai, Lampang and Tak provinces. Lt is one of the most fertile timber forests in Thailand. A wide variety of birds are found in this part of the forest and include the Yellow-footed Pigeon, Whitebellied Woodpecker, Black-hooded Oriole, Eurasian Jay, Rufous Treepie, and the Burmese Shrike.

Bird watchers can also enjoy the many species of birds to be found in the immediate environment, in city areas and along small paths, where these little forms of life still live and breed amidst natural surroundings. For special viewings of special types of birds and endangered species, visit the Nakhon Ping Bird Watching Centre in the Chiang Mai Zoo. Even though you will not be watching birds in their natural habitat, the zoo has reproduced natural conditions. You will also save travel time and expenses.

No matter where in the world you go for bird watching, the most important thing to remember is the peace and happiness of the birds. They should not be disturbed or bothered and you should not distract other bird watchers. At the same time, the environment should be preserved for future generations. You should not catch the birds or put them in cages for sale. The natural surroundings and resources should be carefully looked after so that the birds can live their lives happily and peacefully. If you do this, you will gain great pleasure through bird watching.

How To Prepare Yourself for Bird Watching

Dress in their natural habitat, birds look upon us as their enemy. You should dress in colours that harmonise with the environment such as greens and browns. Clothing should be comfortable and well fitting.

Equipment It is important to have the correct equipment when going bird watching.. If you forget anything it will spoil your bird watching expedition. Essential equipment includes binoculars, a bird watcher’s manual, a notebook and other equipment necessary for recording such as a camera and cassette recorder. Appropriate travel equipment is also necessary.

Best Times The best time for bird watching is in the early morning hours at sunrise because this is the time that birds go out looking for food and they are easy to sight. At that time the weather is cool, which helps to make bird watching more enjoyable. As the morning wears on, the birds return to their nests and go out again in the evening to look for food.

Behaviour Bird watching should notbe done in large groups because most birds are easily frightened. It the group is limited to 2-3 people, the chances of sighting birds are better. You should be as quiet as possible and try to find a spot where you can watch the birds. If you are accompanied by an experienced bird watcher, your trip will be even more enjoyable.

Recording Making records is another important part of bird watching because it will help you to remember the details of the things you have seen. The information can be used for further study and research and can be used in preservation. Recording will help you become more absorbed in your bird watching trips and will provide a nice souvenir that you can look at later.

Details that should be recorded include dates, times and places, environmental and climatic conditions, features of the birds, their behaviour, their songs, colours, and outstanding features. You should also try to sketch them or take photos.

Points to Remember It is very important to remember that you should not disturb the birds too much, especially when they are nesting or laying eggs, because if they are too frightened, they may desert their nest and young. And, if you happen to come across rare species, only tell the appropriate authorities so that proper conservation arrangements can be made. If you tell other bird watchers, they may come in droves and frighten the birds away.

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