Greater & Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus & Dicrurus remifer)

Since these two species are so similar and are found in roughly the same area, I am going to combine the profiles of the Greater & Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus & Dicrurus remifer).  You can tell them apart by the size of the bird, the crest on the Greater RTD and the shape of the tails.  The Greater has a fork shaped tail and the Lesser’s tail is more of a wedge shape.

This is a Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo from Mae Ping NP in Thailand with the smooth head and wedge-shaped tail.

IMG_0236Here is a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo with the forked tail in Taiping.

IMG_1174Both birds have a large, varied range in South-east Asia with the Greater having a larger distribution including India than the Lesser.  I saw both birds in northern Thailand, in Doi Inthanon and Mae Ping, also in Taiping and Taman Negara in Malaysia.

RTDGreater RTDLesserLEARN MORE ABOUT THESE BIRDS

Wikipedia – Greater

Wikipedia – Lesser

Birdlife – Greater

Birdlife – Lesser

Xeno-Canto

VIDEOS

A Gretaer RTD in India.

And another one singing.

See how his tail floats while in flight!

 

And here’s a Lesser from Singapore.

Grey-headed Parakeet (Psittacula finschii)

The Grey-headed parakeet (Psittacula finschii) is closely related to the Slaty-headed Parakeet (which I saw in Nepal a few years ago) which together form a super-species.  I briefly saw a small flock fly overhead as we turned down the road to Thung Kik in Mae Ping NP but they disappeared before I could get a shot.  This species seems to be very difficult to get a photo of in the wild, not even Wikipedia has one, they just have a drawing of one!

ghpwikiThey do have a fairly large range and Mae Ping is considered the easiest place to see them (blue dot).  While you are likely to see them, expect it to be a swift fly-by!

ghpmapLEARN MORE ABOUT GREY-HEADED PARAKEETS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Xeno-canto

Oriental Bird Club (only photography source of these birds in the wild I could find)

VIDEO

This is a pretty decent video of one eating even though he is partially obscured by leaves!  It seems everyone has trouble trying to photo/video this bird!

 

Black-headed Woodpecker (Picus erythropygius)

The Black-headed Woodpecker (Picus erythropygius) is a species of bird in the Picidae family.  This was as close as I could get when we were in Mae Ping.  There are much better shots on the links below.

IMG_0249 IMG_0251 IMG_0252 IMG_0257They are found in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.  Thailand is by far the easiest place to visit logistically and Mae Ping NP (blue dot) has a good population.

Woody rangeLEARN MORE ABOUT THIS BIRD

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Xeno-canto

VIDEOS

Some nice close-ups to make up for my shots being so far away!

 

 

 

Lodge Review: Thung Kik Camp & Hostel, Mae Ping

When I was researching this trip and where to stay in Mae Ping, I found mention of Forest Cabins but nothing about the camp & hostel at Thung Kik.

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I had no idea there was a hostel until I saw this sign.

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Thung Kik has a few facilities such as picnic huts, a small visitor centre and a few multi-bedded rooms that can accommodate large groups or individual travellers.

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We had a room in this bungalow that had 2 twin-share rooms and one 4 bed family room.  We were the only ones staying here for this one night.  A group showed up later, looked like Thai university students who took a large dorm on the other side of the grounds.

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Our room, small, cozy and very hot and humid!  No wifi so ignore the tablet.  They do have power so I could watch pre-loaded movies or read e-books.

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There are quite a few deer here, there’s a road just beyond the visitor centre that quickly becomes a dodgy dirt road so we turned back as I didn’t want to damage the car.

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Rabbits near our bungalow.  Coincidentally, we were here the day after Easter!

IMG_0284 IMG_0285 IMG_0286 IMG_0293 IMG_0300 IMG_0301 IMG_0303My husband trying to chat with the caretaker who didn’t speak much English!  The room was really cheap, def less than $10, cash only, no credit cards!

Visiting Mae Ping National Park

In direct contrast to the extremely popular Doi Inthanon NP, Mae Ping is well off the beaten track.  I was drawn here to see Grey-headed Parakeets and there are a few other bird species that attract birders.  After spending 2 mornings and one evening we saw very few people there and most were Thais in their own cars.  There was one group there, hence the Forest Cabins were fully booked when I inquired a few months in advance.  This is why we spent the first night in Baan Pailyn in Li.  The second night we left open and found a room at the hostel/camp in Thung Kik which I will review separately.

Here’s the entrance where you drive in and pay the 100 Baht entry fee.

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Visitor’s Centre (which was closed when we entered at 6am).  You may be able to book a Forest Cabin if they are available here.

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Snack bar ( I didn’t know this was here or I wouldn’t have bought so much food to bring in)

IMG_0311 IMG_0315Turn off to Thung Kik, it was shortly after we turned down this road that I saw a small flock of Grey-headed Parakeets fly swiftly overhead and disappear into the bush.  We couldn’t find them after that.

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There is just this one road so you basically drive up and down this road looking for birds or pull into a designated parking bay if you want to walk.

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White-bellied Woodpecker

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Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

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Here you can see how the tall trees close in above the road making visibility very difficult.  You will hear a lot more birds than you can see, let alone photograph.  I did the best I could with those that were perched near the road!

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Black-headed Woodpecker – one of the most sought-after birds for this park.

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Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo trying to hide.

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I can’t find this bird in my bird book, if anyone can identify him, please comment below!

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Motel Review: Baan Pailyn, Li, Lamphum (Near Mae Ping)

I wasn’t sure of when we would arrive in Mae Ping and the forest bungalows were all booked up so we decided to leave it to luck and find something when we got there.  We were in luck!  This fairly new motel isn’t listed in Trip Advisor but we spotted it when we were driving around town.  Rooms were very cheap around 800 Baht-ish.

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The rooms were spotless and had balconies overlooking the fields.

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Be aware that the restaurant next door closes very early.  We were caught out and missed dinner so had to go back to town and find something.  We ended up with sandwiches from 7-11.  Li rolls up the sidewalks at 6pm.

Like most places in Thailand, the Baan Pailyn has a nice spirit house in front.  They have a security guard at night and our car was safe.  We left really early so we were told by reception to give the key to the guard.  Although it’s much better for birders to stay in the park, this small motel is a reasonable overnight if you can’t get to the park on time.

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From Doi Inthanon To Li Village Near Mae Ping Via Backroads

One of the best things about renting a car is that you can explore as you wish.  Northern Thailand is so beautiful with interesting small villages that tourists don’t get to so we enjoyed a pleasant road trip as we left Doi Inthanon and headed towards Li Village for birding in Mae Ping.

This is what the route basically looks like with the offshoots to Doi Inthanon and Mae Ping in red.

Doi Inthanon-Mae PingChom Thong is a fairly large town but once you are through it, you won’t see any more towns until Li.

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Roads are well marked usually in both Thai and English so just be sure of what town you are headed for or which highway/road you are looking for.  We were looking for 1103.

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Now you are on a pleasant smaller road with only the occasional truck to spoil the view, just pass them.

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Keep following signs to either Li or Mae Ping.

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Once you are on 106 heading through Li, at the opposite end of the town is a very nice restaurant with nice views and various Thai dishes.  They will with-hold chilis on request.  The Baan Pailyn motel is next door.  It was getting a bit late to approach Mae Ping with nothing booked so we decided to stay there one night and go to the park first thing in the morning.

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There’s a small market in town good for fruit and snacks.  They do have other food options but everything looked too spicy for us.

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Li temple

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We stopped at a small grocery store to stock up for the park.  We took a pass on these fresh chicken feet!

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More of the market.

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Beautiful temple on the road towards Mae Ping.

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Entrance to Mae Ping.

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Chiang Mai As An Eco-tourism Gateway

Chiang Mai is one of the most popular cities in one of the world’s most popular countries to travel in and there are 1000’s of blogs that specialize in travel to Thailand.  I am only going to cover Chiang Mai as the gateway to several fantastic parks in which you can enjoy Thailand’s best birding.  In the map below, you can see just how close you are to Doi Lang, Doi Ang Khang (name not on map, 2nd yellow line) north of Chiang Mai and Doi Inthanon and Mae Ping south of Chiang Mai.

Thai ParksTRANSPORTATION

Arriving at the airport, it is easiest to get one of the flat fare taxis to your hotel.  If you fly straight through from Australia with the Bangok connection, you will arrive in Chiang Mai late at night.  Whatever you do, don’t rent a car if you are spending any time in the city.  It’s very difficult to negotiate the small back streets and you are likely to get lost.  Use taxis and tuktuks while in Chiang Mai

Once you are ready to leave the city and get to the parks, you will need a rental car.  Most car hire companies are located at the airport.  Chiang Mai’s airport also has a variety of fast food places and coffee bars for a quick snack.

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We rented from Hertz and were very happy with the service.  As usual, I took photos of the car and had no problem when returning it.

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ACCOMMODATION

Just about every hotel chain (except Club Carlson) is represented here.  I chose to go indie because hotels are so cheap here I didn’t think it was a good use of hotel points and prefer to save them for expensive countries.  I booked the Lannathai Guesthouse on Hotels.com because it was cheap, well located and counted as one of 10 bookings to get a free night in Welcome Rewards.  This place cost around $12 and was fine for one night pre-birding and 2 nights post birding.  It’s right in the middle of the night bazaar and there are lots of small spas to get a massage.  In a later post, I will go into how we spent our 2  post-birding days.

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Our first birds in Thailand, these little bulbuls on the Spirit House.

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Having a suit tailor made is a good idea while in Chiang Mai.  Order your suit before you go birding, then go back for fittings afterwards.  This Armani shop was the cheapest in the night bazaar and did a good job on my suit.

IMG_9787After ordering my suit, we took a tuktuk to the airport to get the car and headed off to Doi Inthanon.