The combined experience and motivation of Uthai Treesucon and Wich’yanan Limparungpatthanakij were the driving forces behind the first title of Lynx’s Field Guides Collection, Birds of Thailand. Published just over a year ago now, it’s a good time to talk to the authors about their work and personal experiences with the book, and also to see if the field guide’s goals have been accomplished.
How did you begin your birding careers in Thailand?
Uthai: I started as one of the volunteer leaders for birdwatching field trips of the Bangkok Bird Club (now it is the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand) for a few years. Then in March 1983, my friend who usually took people birdwatching was busy and asked me to take a group that was from Hong Kong for a birdwatching trip in Thailand. This was the first time I took people birdwatching and got paid doing so. Since then, I have been a birding tour leader for 36 years.
Wich’yanan: I have been a wildlife enthusiast, particularly about birds, since I can remember. I started guiding birding tours when I was in college as a part-time job. After finishing college I worked as Information Technology staff for a year. Having realised I wanted to travel and work with wildlife, I quit my IT job and pursued a Master’s Degree in Biology and chose to study the behavioural ecology of mixed-species foraging flocks. I now work as a freelance researcher, as well as a birding tour guide.
What would you highlight that your recent field guide to Thailand offers to visiting and local birders?
Uthai: The “Birds of Thailand” is a book with innovation inside, namely the QR codes that birdwatchers can scan and access the IBC (Internet Bird Collection) website to see photos, videos and sound recordings of each bird species. Also, the book covers the most updated numbers of bird species and subspecies recorded in Thailand, and all with distribution maps. The book is easy to use with a Quick Index (on the last page of the book) to find the birds and it shows texts of bird species on the left-hand page with the illustrations and distribution maps on the facing right-hand page. Thai names are also provided for all the birds, which will support the local birders and students who might not know the English names.
Wich’yanan: It is probably best known for providing the most up-to-date map for every subspecies group, and for the QR codes which redirect to the IBC website, featuring media and content beyond the scope of Thailand. But the highlight for me would be the section TN (“taxonomic notes”) in which we tried to provide information on different taxonomies as concisely as possible. This and the section AN (“alternative names”) are helpful since HBW’s taxonomic approach (including the Tobias criteria scoring system) differs from other literature and sources in some cases. Moreover, it is important for birders to be aware of the conservation aspect of the birds they are looking at. Therefore, I was pleased that the conservation status of each species is featured in the book as well as in its accompanying checklist.
What did you learn during the process of preparing the book?
Uthai: I learnt many things about subspecies and the distribution of each subspecies of birds in Thailand, which I did not pay much attention before. I was surprised that the excellent Lynx editorial team, led by Arnau Bonan, worked very fast on both texts and illustrations.
Wich’yanan: The thing that I found amazing was how fast each task was carried out, particularly with artists. I learned that they produce illustrations on the computer. This made it possible to perfect them when major editing was needed; some figures may have undergone multiple rounds of editing.
For this book was there a special effort to present updated maps. Have you received any feedback from birders using the book regarding this aspect?
Uthai: Yes, it took quite an effort to complete the map update. We worked very hard to input the up-to-date distribution of each species and subspecies of birds in Thailand into this book. Also, we would like to thank friends and visiting birders who sent their reports to us or to the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand or any website about birds in Thailand. In terms of the feedback, so far, we have received positive responses from birders who have used the book. They also gave us more information about distribution of some birds which will be used to update the maps in the next edition.
Wich’yanan: There were considerable to major revisions in distribution maps of most species. Thanks to all of the birders who submitted their records to online databases such as eBird. The feedback has been mostly positive so far. And many people have told me that they are especially happy with the juxtaposition of maps and bird figures.
This field guide is innovative by offering QR codes, allowing the birders to check photos, videos and sound recordings. Do you find these helpful when guiding groups, for example when preparing the list of birds seen/photographed?
Uthai: Yes, the QR codes are very useful during daily birdwatching in the field and when preparing the checklist of birds seen every day. The QR codes provide clear images of the birds that we have seen in the field.
Wich’yanan: Indeed. When internet access is available, I almost always see people scanning the QR codes to view online media. I find it very useful in the case that birds we have seen were not in the same exact position as the figures in the book. Still images and video recordings on the IBC website provide useful comparison.
We are aware of the growing number of local photographers in Thailand, especially in some areas. Have you noticed if the book is being used by them?
Uthai: I have noticed the “Birds of Thailand” being used only by some local photographers so far. Hopefully more will learn about it and find it useful.
Wich’yanan: Yes, to some extent. Some of them have asked me to sign it. I frequently bring it along in the field, so that photographers and birders who do not own it can have a look and decide if they would like to own one. It has worked well so far!
Download the Checklist of the Birds of Thailand as a PDF file, specially prepared by Uthai Treesucon and Wich’yanan Limparungpatthanakij. You will find checkboxes to register your sightings, as well as invaluable information, such as the local hotspots where you’ll find the most sought-after birds.