Where are the birds we wondered? We saw very few bird species in Japan, China, and Vietnam. Of those few, we could identify only 6 species that were new to us. Pathetic! We had looked for birds but not in the right places and not at the right time of day (obviously). We had reason to believe that our experience in Thailand would be different.
Years ago we started observing birds on our travels. We weren’t knowledgeable or experienced birdwatchers, but we certainly enjoyed seeing new birds in new places. Shortly after we began birding, we discovered guided bird walks. Our stay at La Paloma Lodge on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica included a walk with an excellent guide in Corcovado National Park. We saw so many new birds and animals on that trip we realized good guides make a big difference. Now, we look for opportunities to go with guides when it’s affordable. Last April, we watched birds with guides in southern Arizona and, in the summer, we joined weekly, guided, group bird-walks in Los Gatos, CA.
When we planned our around-the-world trip, we stumbled upon the website, birdingpal. The site lists volunteers and professional guides in many corners of the world who will take travelers bird watching. We contacted Steven, a volunteer in Chiang Mai, Thailand and arranged to meet at 6:15 A.M. for a full morning of bird watching nearby.
When we arrived at Huay Tueng Tao at daybreak, the park was already noisy with bird chatter. At our first stop, we quickly identified six new birds without moving more than 10 yards. We knew then that Steven is a great bird guide. He knew just where to go, and, once there, he knew just where to look.
We used our binoculars, and Steven carried a spectacular camera that he used to great advantage by photographing the birds so we could look back to review the details we might have missed. The photos created a helpful record of what we’d seen that day.
As we searched the tree limbs, bushes, and ground for birds, Steven filled us in with information about the birds, about their environment, and, also, about an expatriate’s life in Thailand.
By 11:30 A.M., we had seen more than 30 birds and, of those, 27 were new to us. Here are a few of the birds that we saw (with such wonderful names): lesser whistling duck, eastern stonechat, scaly-breasted munia, and greater racket-tailed drongo.
For us, the morning was spectacular. We were tramping in a natural setting, learning a lot, and in the company of a truly congenial fellow and helpful guide.