Birders visiting the north of Thailand will be familiar with the quintessential hotspots of Doi Inthanon, Chiang Dao and Doi Pui, but what about other, lesser known locations? One area that is scarcely mentioned online and absent from popular bird books is the Mae Taeng valley, a jungle ravine located 45km’s north from Chiang Mai. Famous for whitewater rafting and elephant camps, Mae Taeng has a lot more to offer for nature enthusiasts.
In August 2019 I booked a trekking tour with 8Adventures with my father, a keen birder and first time visitor to Thailand. After spending time in the infamous Doi Inthanon national park and recording relatively few species due to the season and thunderstorms, expectations for Mae Taeng weren’t high. However, on the day that we visited we were pleasantly surprised by the diversity of birdlife!
As we begun our 3 hour trek to a waterfall we were fortunate to spot several raptors circling high in the sky in the clearing before the jungle. On closer examination through binoculars we identified two distinct species; Crested Serpent Eagles and Indomalayan Honey Buzzards. Next, as we passed through a bamboo thicket we were treated to a display of activity across the river by several birds that appeared to be catching flies. A little further down the trail we sighted a Green Billed Malkoha, its long tail visible amongst dense vegetation.
Whilst looking up at the sky hoping to be the one spot an exciting bird, I very nearly stepped on a bright green snake! Taking a step back to get photos, we waited a full ten minutes before moving the unperturbed, two metre long Oriental Whip Snake off the path so we could continue. The trail wound its way into a rocky area following the riverbed and in between balancing on rocks and criss-crossing streams we came across an Oriental Sunbird and Yellow-vented Flowerpecker. Another welcome site was a great variety of butterflies including beautiful swallowtails.
After taking a much needed break at a waterfall we turned around and headed back, conscious of the ever darkening sky. Above the sound of the river we heard many more unidentifiable bird calls and just before the rain came we sighted a Sooty Drongo and Black-crested Bulbul, all in all a successful days birdwatching and a trip that I would advise others to make!
We booked a 3 hour trek with 8Adventures and I’d definitely recommend going on the morning trip and combining it with another activity such as ATV or Whitewater Rafting in the afternoon.