Suanpalm Farmnok (bird farm) has long been on my “must visit” list for a number of reasons, but mostly because after being owned by a couple parrots for the last ten years I’ve developed a keen interest in these fascinating creatures.  However, something always seemed to get in my way every time I tried to plan a visit.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS @F4 1/50th ISO 200

 

Suanpalm Farmnok (bird farm) has long been on my “must visit” list for a number of reasons, but mostly because after being owned by a couple of parrots for the last ten years I’ve developed a keen interest in these fascinating creatures.  However, something always seemed to get in my way every time I tried to plan a visit.

 

On one perfect weekday the farms owner Dr. Bhokin graciously invited me for dinner and a tour of his facility and after arriving in the general area I drove around for the next 4-5 hours trying to find the place and failed. My Thai assistant was out of the country on business and I didn’t realize until that moment how much I counted on her for even the basics. I was forced to call and cancel dinner (with profuse apologies) and I headed back to Bangkok in shame and sorely disappointed. I knew my time in Thailand was short and I might not get another chance.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS @F3.2 1/80th ISO 400

 

On one perfect unseasonably cool weekday the farms owner Dr. Bhokin graciously invited me for dinner and a tour of his facility and after arriving in the general area I drove around for the next 4-5 hours trying to find the place and failed.  My friend who’s a professor at a top Bangkok university has a keen interest in photography and often volunteers as my assistant, was out of the country on business and I didn’t realize until that moment how much I counted on her for even the basics.  I was forced to call and cancel dinner (with profuse apologies) and I headed back to Bangkok in shame and sorely disappointed.  I knew my time in Thailand was short and I might not get another opportunity.

 

Later that month when my assistant returned I expressed my disappointment and cancelling some of her own plans, she arranged for us to make one last attempt to visit on my very last weekend in the Kingdom. I’ll always be grateful to her for this final adventure.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F5.6 1/400th 28mm ISO 400

Later that month when my assistant returned I expressed my disappointment and cancelling some of her own plans, she arranged for us to make one last attempt to visit on my very last weekend in the Kingdom.  I’ll always be grateful to her for this final adventure.

 

So it was with a large measure of excitement that I packed my gear (I even arranged to borrow back my 300/2.8 lens I’d recently sold), loaded it in my assistants small car, and headed out to Suanpalm Bird Farm. I didn’t know what to expect and quite frankly many such places have disappointed me in the past. I was humbled with how easily my assistant found Suanpalm Bird farm.

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS @F4 1/125th ISO 200

 

So it was with a large measure of excitement that I packed my gear (I even arranged to borrow back my 300/2.8 lens I’d recently sold), loaded it in my assistants small car, and headed out to Suanpalm Bird Farm.  I didn’t know what to expect and quite frankly many such places have disappointed me in the past.  I was humbled with how easily she found Suanpalm Bird farm. 

For future reference the GPS coordinates are:   N 13 44.760’    E101 09.467’

 

As we slowly entered the farm we could see it’s still a work in progress. And what a great work it is! This is a large scale bird farm with lakes, numerous aviaries, and even a VIP guest quarters which I found nicer than most hotels I’ve encountered in Thailand. This was obviously a first class establishment, but I had no way of knowing just how nice it would really be.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/30th 75mm ISO 400

 

As we slowly entered the farm we could see it was still a work in progress.  And what a great work it is!  This is a large scale bird farm with lakes, numerous aviaries, and even a VIP guest quarters which I found nicer than most hotels I’ve encountered in Thailand.  This was obviously a first class establishment, but I had no way of knowing just how nice it would really be.

 

Dr. Bhokin’s assistant greeted us at the entrance and showed me to my guest room.  My assistant had arranged to stay with friends nearby.  I couldn’t stop myself, despite it being too dark for quality photography I had my camera out and was busy taking pictures while they waited patiently for me to follow.  I quickly stowed my gear and headed out for a look around.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F5.6 1/25th 38mm ISO 200

 

Dr. Bhokin’s assistant Nattaya greeted us at the entrance and showed me to my guest room.  My assistant elected to make the drive back to Bangkok for the evening.  I couldn’t stop myself, despite it being too dark for quality photography I had my camera out and was busy taking pictures while they waited patiently for me to follow.  I quickly stowed my gear and headed out for a look around.

 

The grounds are beautiful.  But what really interested me was the main flight aviary and the building housing the hatchery and informational displays.  The weather was hot and muggy and soon I was soaking wet with perspiration, but I continued on exploring as much as possible.

 

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F5.6 1/50th 24mm ISO 800

 

The grounds are beautiful.  But what really interested me was the main flight aviary and the building housing the hatchery and informational displays.  The weather was hot and muggy and soon I was soaking wet with perspiration, but I continued on exploring as much as possible.

 

Now would be a good time for first impressions.  I remember standing there thinking it was obvious no amount of work or expense was spared in providing quality accommodations for the farms main residents.  Hundreds and hundreds of colorful parrots covering over 80 species from all the parrot continents.  The aviaries were first class, exceptionally clean, and obviously planned not only by an expert, but my someone who loves birds and wanted to give them the best home possible.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F5.6 1/50th 24mm ISO 1600

 

Now would be a good time for first impressions.  I remember standing there thinking it was obvious no amount of work or expense was spared in providing quality accommodations for the farms main residents.  Hundreds and hundreds of colorful parrots covering over 80 species from all the parrot continents.  The aviaries were first class, exceptionally clean, and obviously planned not only by an expert, but my someone who truly loves birds and wanted to provide for them the best home possible.

 

There’s much to describe Dr. Bhokin, his list of credentials are most impressive ranging from being a University Law Professor, to Minister of Interior, and even the Deputy Prime Minister among many other exalted positions. But what impressed me the most was his love for the birds.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F8 1/80th 48mm ISO 400

 

There’s much to describe Dr. Bhokin, his list of credentials are most impressive ranging from being a University Law Professor, to Minister of Interior, and even the Deputy Prime Minister among many other exalted positions. But what impressed me the most was his love for the birds.

 

As you wander the grounds you can’t help but feel this farm was created by someone who felt they were making their dreams come true.  Dr. Bhokin was raised in an animal loving family where his father was a guiding influence.  But he didn’t have his first bird until about 30 years ago when he acquired a Blue and Gold Macaw while he was lecturing law at Ramkhamhaeng University.  Like most of us when first introduced to parrots, he was captivated, and he quickly realized there was a real need to preserve these birds which included captive breeding and study.  With the help of his brothers and friends Suanpalm Farmnok was built.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F8 1/125th 32mm ISO 400

 

As you wander the grounds you can’t help but feel this farm was created by someone who felt they were making their dreams come true.  Dr. Bhokin was raised in an animal loving family where his father was a guiding influence.  But he didn’t have his first bird until about 30 years ago when he acquired a Blue and Gold Macaw while he was lecturing law at Ramkhamhaeng University.  Like most of us when first introduced to parrots, he was captivated, and he quickly realized there was a real need to preserve these birds which included captive breeding and study.  With the help of his brothers and friends Suanpalm Farmnok was built.

 

It’s not until you meet Dr. Bhokin that you realize his topical knowledge is only surpassed by his innate kindness defined by the personal relationship he has with nearly every bird we encountered.  As we walked through the farm every parrot seemed to know him and made efforts to interact.  When we enjoyed lunch together a small cockatoo dined with us and I was able to more closely watch how he trained his birds.  He didn’t do it with food and tricks, but by establishing a relationship on the birds level.  This takes incredible patience.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F8 1/100th 45mm ISO 400

 

It’s not until you meet Dr. Bhokin that you realize his topical knowledge is only surpassed by his innate kindness defined by the personal relationship he has with nearly every bird we encountered.  As we walked through the farm every parrot seemed to know him and made efforts to interact.  When we enjoyed lunch together a small cockatoo dined with us and I was able to more closely watch how he trained his birds.  He didn’t do it with food and tricks, but by establishing a relationship on the birds level.  This takes incredible patience.

 

Perhaps my favorite genre of photography is what we call environmental portraits.  They’re very difficult to pull off correctly because you must capture the person involved in their professional or personal ‘essence’.  I didn’t visit Suanpalm Bird Farm to photograph Dr. Bhokin, though I knew an obligatory photo or two would be necessary.  Yet, soon I found myself almost spellbound while watching him at work with his birds.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F8 1/125th 46mm ISO 400

 

Perhaps my favorite genre of photography is what we call environmental portraits.  They’re very difficult to pull off correctly because you must capture the person involved in their professional or personal ‘essence’.  I didn’t visit Suanpalm Bird Farm to photograph Dr. Bhokin, though I knew an obligatory photo or two would be necessary.  Yet, soon I found myself almost spellbound while watching him at work with his birds.

 

I was so involved with my observations that I made capture after capture without realizing I was working the camera.  The environment while target rich, was not conducive to the best quality photographs, poor light, humid conditions, and stifling heat rarely are.  But we do our best.  You can’t use flash as a rule with animals and expect natural compositions.  But I noted on my next visit (and there will be a next visit) I’d bring specialized lighting gear to enhance my photography.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F5.6 1/40th 24mm ISO 400

 

I was so involved with my observations that I made capture after capture without realizing I was working the camera.  The environment while target rich, was not conducive to the best quality photographs, poor light, humid conditions, and stifling heat rarely are.  But we do our best.  You can’t use flash as a rule with animals and expect natural compositions.  But I noted on my next visit (and there will be a next visit) I’d bring specialized lighting gear to enhance my photography.

 

Inside the main building you’ll find large informational displays covering areas from diseases, topography of specific species, species geography, and much more.  You can spend hours looking at the pictures and reading the displays.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F5.6 1/60th 70mm ISO 400

 

Inside the main building you’ll find large informational displays covering areas from diseases, topography of specific species, species geography, and much more.  You can spend hours looking at the pictures and reading the displays.

 

As you head upstairs towards the hatchery you pass through a thoughtful display designed to show parrots in their natural habitat.  But soon you notice the plants are plastic and the parrots professional mounted.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F5.6 1/80th 24mm ISO 1600

 

As you head upstairs towards the hatchery you pass through a thoughtful display designed to show parrots in their natural habitat.  But soon you notice the plants are plastic and the parrots professionally mounted.

 

I suppose it gives the timid a birds eye view as you can get as close as you want without fear the birds will decide to use your shoulder as a perch. ;o)

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F5.6 1/4th 48mm ISO 1600

 

I suppose it gives the timid a birds eye view as you can get as close as you want without fear the birds will decide to use your shoulder as a perch. ;o)

 

A parrot hatchery must be environmental and hermetically sealed from the outside environment.  You can observe through the windows, but only trained personnel who observe specific precautions can enter the sealed area.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F8 1/8th 24mm ISO 3200

 

A parrot hatchery must be environmentally and hermetically sealed from the outside environment.  You can observe through the windows, but only trained personnel who observe specific precautions can enter the sealed area.

 

The incubators control both temperature and humidity which must be kept constant.  Notice the UPS devices attached to each?  There’s a lot more to this area but I didn’t bring the proper lens to photograph the area, so I’ll need to do that next time.  I’m hoping I can talk him into letting me inside the sealed area to make proper photographs, but I couldn’t ask him this time because I wasn’t prepared with the proper equipment.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F8 1/30th 46mm ISO 1600

 

The incubators control both temperature and humidity which must be kept constant.  Notice the UPS devices attached to each?  There’s a lot more to this area but I didn’t bring the proper lens to photograph the area, so I’ll need to do that next time.  I’m hoping I can talk him into letting me inside the sealed area to make proper photographs, but I couldn’t ask him this time because I wasn’t prepared with the proper equipment.

 

Perhaps the main attraction is the flight aviary. I’ve seen many of these, some inside Thailand, but I’ve never seen a nicer more thought out flight aviary than this one.  Anywhere.  And this includes the west.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F8 1/40th 48mm ISO 400

 

Perhaps the main attraction is the flight aviary. I’ve seen many of these, some inside Thailand, but I’ve never seen a nicer more thought out flight aviary than this one.  Anywhere.  And this includes the west.

Guests are provided a great view through large windows, but my assistant and I were given special access directly into the aviary.  I’ll admit, even though I own two small African Grey parrots the experience can be a bit unnerving, these are large birds with large mandibles, and their high intelligence is immediately apparent.  I couldn’t help but think of the scenes with raptors from Jurassic Park.  My assistant I’m sure was thinking right along the same lines, but without experience with parrots I’m sure it was all the more terrifying.

 

Guests are provided a great view through large windows, but my assistant and I were given special access directly into the aviary.  I’ll admit, even though I own two small African Grey parrots the experience can be a bit unnerving, these are large birds with large mandibles, and their high intelligence is immediately apparent.  I couldn’t help but think of the scenes with raptors from Jurassic Park.  My assistant I’m sure was thinking right along the same lines, but without experience with parrots I’m sure it was all the more terrifying

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.0 1/100th 70mm ISO 400

 

It was time to cowboy up, so I stepped through the double environmental doors and into the aviary, camera at the ready.  I moved slow and easy and at first just stood there watching.  There were many Macaw species and some much smaller but familiar African Grey’s mixed in as well.  It was feeding time and I noticed the smaller African Grey parrots held their own to the point of almost controlling who was allowed to eat in their small area.  It is possible intelligence is more powerful than size in the animal kingdom as it is with animals vs. humans?

 

It was time to cowboy up, so I stepped through the double environmental doors and into the aviary, camera at the ready.  I moved slow and easy and at first just stood there watching.  There were many Macaw species and some much smaller but familiar African Grey’s mixed in as well.  It was feeding time and I noticed the smaller African Grey parrots held their own to the point of almost controlling who was allowed to eat in their small area.  It is possible intelligence is more powerful than size in the animal kingdom as it is with animals vs. humans?

Canon 5d Mark II, 300mm F2.8L IS @F4 1/30th ISO 800

 

I felt I was being watched and there at my feet was a beautiful Blue Hyacinth which looked more like a cartoon than a real bird.  He was looking up at me like he wanted to say hello.  Soon I noticed he was following me everywhere.  This young Macaw was probably less than 4 months old, a baby for sure.  Later when I was bracing against a pole I felt a large man’s hand grip my shoulder, except it wasn’t a man.  It was the baby Blue Hyacinth and he’d decided to get to know me better.  I could really feel his weight as he settled on my shoulder for the long ride.

 

I felt I was being watched and there at my feet was a beautiful Blue Hyacinth which looked more like a cartoon than a real bird. He was looking up at me like he wanted to say hello. Soon I noticed he was following me everywhere. This young Macaw was probably less than 4 months old, a baby for sure. Later when I was bracing against a pole I felt a large man’s hand grip my shoulder, except it wasn’t a man. It was the baby Blue Hyacinth and he’d decided to get to know me better. I could really feel his weight as he settled on my shoulder for the long ride.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F5.6 1/250th 38mm ISO 400

 

Immediately after the birds finished their dinner several staff came out and cleaned the feeding area.  Perfectly.  You could eat your own dinner from the cleaned surfaces.  There wasn’t any “bird smell”, no build up of droppings, no mess from their food, this aviary was exceptionally clean.

 

Immediately after the birds finished their dinner several staff came out and cleaned the feeding area.  Perfectly.  You could eat your own dinner from the cleaned surfaces.  There wasn’t any “bird smell”, no build up of droppings, no mess from their food, this aviary was exceptionally clean

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/100th 70mm ISO 200

 

And more importantly, the birds were at ease with the staff and in some cases sought them out for special attention.  This Blue Hyacinth wanted his head scratched and checked for bugs.  The staff member seemed to know exactly what he wanted and he took the time to give it to him.  Everywhere you looked you’d see similar interactions between birds and staff.

 

And more importantly, the birds were at ease with the staff and in some cases sought them out for special attention.  This Blue Hyacinth wanted his head scratched and checked for bugs.  The staff member seemed to know exactly what he wanted and he took the time to give it to him.  Everywhere you looked you’d see similar interactions between birds and staff.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.0 1/250th 85mm ISO 400

 

Throughout the aviary there were smaller areas for specific birds, just like you’d see in nature.  A nesting box here, perches there, a tree cradle up there, in a way it was a small city for birds, each with their own small area with large community areas they’d share.

 

Throughout the aviary there were smaller areas for specific birds, just like you’d see in nature.  A nesting box here, perches there, a tree cradle up there, in a way it was a small city for birds, each with their own small area with large community areas they’d share.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.0 1/250th 145mm ISO 200

 

My assistant was finally getting comfortable so we sat her down and introduced her to a Blue and Gold Macaw.  Professor, meet Mr. Macaw.  You could tell she was apprehensive, maybe even just a bit scared, but when that big Macaw flighted on her shoulder and wanted to make friends she forgot all her fears and was delighted!

 

My assistant was finally getting comfortable so we sat her down and introduced her to a Blue and Gold Macaw.  You could tell she was apprehensive, maybe even just a bit scared, but when that big Macaw flighted on her shoulder and wanted to make friends she forgot all her fears and was delighted!

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F8 1/160th 35mm ISO 400

 

Soon she was seated on the ground making friends with his entire family. These larger Macaws have a way with you, they almost seem animated.

 

Soon she was seated on the ground making friends with his entire family. These larger Macaws have a way with you, they almost seem animated.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F8 1/40th 24mm ISO 400

 

Soon the birds accepted us and we wandered throughout the aviary without notice.  It was quite the experience and an absolute pleasure.  But soon the heat and humidity got to us and it was time to head over to a fine lunch with Dr. Bhokin and his family.

 

Soon the birds accepted us and we wandered throughout the aviary without notice.  It was quite the experience and an absolute pleasure.  But soon the heat and humidity got to us and it was time to head over to a fine lunch with Dr. Bhokin and his family.

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F8 1/100th 45mm ISO 400

 

We chatted about his bird farm over lunch and I learned he’s not yet finished, ongoing plans for additions and improvements are everywhere.  When I return for my next visit I’m sure there will be many changes.

 

We chatted about his bird farm over lunch and I learned he’s not yet finished, ongoing plans for additions and improvements are everywhere. When I return for my next visit I’m sure there will be many changes.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/80th 95mm ISO 200

 

One area I hope he improves is his website.  This is a great place, perhaps even my favorite location within a few hours drive of Bangkok, and I’m sure many of you would really enjoy yourselves during a visit.  I’d encourage you to make reservations in the comfortable VIP rooms where you’ll wake in the morning with a balcony view over a lake filled with swans, geese, and other species.  It’s an absolute great weekend destination.  A word of caution:  There aren’t many restaurants (that I could find) or minimarts close by, so either plan on driving the 6-8km towards the closest town for dinner, or bring something with you.  There is a small restaurant on the premises and I must say the food was great.

 

One area I hope he improves is his website.  This is a great place, perhaps even my favorite location within a few hours drive of Bangkok, and I’m sure many of you would really enjoy yourselves during a visit.  I’d encourage you to make reservations in the comfortable VIP rooms where you’ll wake in the morning with a balcony view over a lake filled with swans, geese, and other species.  It’s an absolute great weekend destination.  A word of caution:  There aren’t many restaurants (that I could find) or minimarts close by, so either plan on driving the 6-8km towards the closest town for dinner, or bring something with you.  There is a small restaurant on the premises and I must say the food was great.

Canon 5d Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS @F5.6 1/125th 155mm ISO 200

There’s a lot more to share about Suanpalm Bird Farm, but it will have to wait until I have more time to organize my notes and process images.  With my move back to the states I’d already delayed this piece far too long and I wanted to get the main information out.  What a treat!

 

There’s a lot more to share about Suanpalm Bird Farm, but it will have to wait until I have more time to organize my notes and process images.  With my move back to the states I’d already delayed this piece far too long and I wanted to get the main information out.  What a treat!

Canon 5d Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L @F8 1/250th 24mm ISO 400