If you just walk into the parks here. The locals will tell you where the birds are and where to find them. It really is just that easy.
I have never had a guide and I would guess I have photographed and seen most of the sought after birds in Thailand.
As far as equipment? You don't need much really. If you shoot in the jungle, a 300 or 400 mm lens will be just fine to get award winning photos. Shooting shore birds you need 500 or more in my opinion. But 400 will do and I have seen many great shots with a 400 mm lens.
The main thing for photographers is learning the proper way to post process. Once you learn the basics of post processing and Photoshop. Your battle is won IMO.
With basic Post processing skills. You will blow away the hard core birders photos. It is a digital world and if you don't keep up you will be left behind. Bird photography is no exception.
You will learn the birds habits and how to get close as you go birding. It is just a learned process. By trail and error you will get it. It not rocket science by any means. Extremely easy to do.
If you want to do bird photography and want more than just a record of the bird. Just get digital and technical. IMO Photoshop is a MUST.
A lot of people think it is the equipment, it is to some extent. But with a 300-400 mm lens with proper Post processing skills. You will run all over the other photographers. That do not learn how to use the proper software with out exception. It is just a fact.