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Peter Ericsson | profile | all galleries >> Tripreports! >> Thailand tripreports! >> Northern Thailand Feb 2010 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Northern Thailand Feb 2010

Northern Thailand 19th-27th/02/2010

Participants: Robert and Trish Sothman, Peter Ericsson

Background: Robert (Australian) is a very keen birder whom I had taken out to Lampakbia and Banbahktaley for a day trip in January.
Robert then expressed an interest for a trip to Northern Thailand.
I later made a proposed itinerary and Robert decided to go for it.

I had been doing a lot of trips to Lampakbia and Kaengkrachan in Dec/Jan so a trip to the North was more then welcomed. The North always has a real pull on me in the cool season as the temperatures drop, birds show and migrants are here.

Day 1.

We met at the airport in Bangkok and flew with Airasia to Chiang Mai.
All went well and getting through the airport in CM is a breeze. Checked in luggage is almost instantly on the conveyer belt.
A representative from was waiting for us and we checked out
our brand new Mitsubishi Pajero (not 4WD but high clearance at 2100Baht/day).
The drive to Doi Inthanon was easy and we checked in at Inthanon Highland Resort.
(Birders pay 1200/night, other guests 1500)

Day 2.

Doi Inthanon

We settled for an early start and headed up to the checkpoint at km 37 directly in the morning. The checkpoint has a lot of birds attracted to the many moths that are
drawn to the neon lights. This is true for wet or rainy nights and as this time of the
year is very dry; there were precious few birds around besides Grey-cheeked Fulvetta.
Instead we headed to the Summit where we stayed for a good part of the morning.
The environment down at the bog is simply ‘out of this world’. The rhododendrons
were blooming and many a Green-tailed Sunbird alongside the migratory Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird were feeding on the nectar. Ashy-throated Warblers and White-tailed Warblers are abundant at the summit and easy to see well.
Chestnut-tailed Minla is both commonly heard and seen and not to be missed.
Dark-backed Sibias always present as well as Flavescent Bulbuls.
We also had close views of a handsome Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Silver-eared Laughingthrushes (split from Chestnut-crowned) and Rufous-winged Fulvettas.
A Pygmy Wren Babbler kept calling but we simply couldn’t get our eyes on it.
A Grey-backed Shrike was a good sight along the roadside as was a calling Eye-browed Shrike-Babbler.

Late morning we walked inside the jeep track. Again, one of those intriguing but elusive little birds of the mountain played us a trick. A Slaty-bellied Tesia kept responding to playback but never showed. Instead we were treated to a very nice surprise: Pale Blue Flycatcher. This is a bird not easily seen and one many confuse with Verditer Flycatcher. We also saw a male Large Niltava.

Lunch at visitor centre. Then off to see if we’d have some luck with Black-tailed Crakes. I had kept a few grain of rice from lunch. I walked out to their regular whereabouts, made my presence known and put a few grains on the ground.
I had hardly gotten back into the car when a bird came out. It got some rice and went back inside the vegetation again. Then a minute later another bird came and repeated the performance. Quite neat, and at mid day at that! I have been to the place many times but seldom encountered the same immediate positive results.

Near the campground there is an orchard where a Daurian Redstart has taken up territory. It didn’t take long for us to lay our eyes on this handsome male.

So then, what’s next? Off to Queen Sirikit waterfall not far away. Another very handsome Redstart was soon to be seen: White-capped or commonly named: Riverchat. A further search showed another amazing little bird, a male Plumbeous Redstart. So within an hour we had seen 3 Redstarts! Amazing!

The late afternoon we spent on lower grounds where we were able to add a bunch of
common birds.

Dinner at Inthanon Highland resort is always good and that is where our day ended.

Day 3.

Having a week in Northern Thailand makes for a joggle as to how best utilize the time. Thus we headed off for lower levels in the morning and a very dry dipterocarp forest. First bird was Gold-fronted Leafbird, then a pair of Black-backed Forktails in the stream. These are easily the hardest of the Forktails and it was a bit amusing for me that these were to be the only Forktails we saw during our trip.
Birding was slow but we did get to see a colorful Hooded Oriole, Eurasian Jay, Radde’s Warbler, Small Minivets, Lineated Barbets and a few more.

Along the way to our next destination, Doi Angkhang, we stopped a few places and birded the roadsides. Rufus Prinia, Pied Bushchat, Green Bee-eater, Asian House Martin and Wire-tailed Swallows being the more interesting ones.

The road goes through scenic country side once the turn is made towards Doi Angkhang slightly North of Chiang Dao. Farmlands, fields and hill covered forests are part of the journey as well as driving through several hill tribe villages.

The afternoon was a bit quiet but there were still a few things to see that we hadn’t seen before: Little Pied Flycatcher, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch and Grey Tit leading the way.

Dinner was at the restaurant next to the entrance to the Royal project in Ban Khum village. This is easily the best place for genuine local cuisines, always prepared with
fresh vegetables from the surrounding fields.

At our choice of lodging: Ban Luang resort a White-capped Riverchat greeted us in the small waterfall. Rooms at Ban Luang 1200/night with breakfast.
Theses rooms have no air-con but more importantly, good warm water heaters.
The following morning temperatures were only 4C, so bring a jacket!

Day 4

Doi Angkhang

As many people know, DAK can be both challenging and rewarding. It is a place I have a hard time getting too much of. The blend of serenity, forest covered mountains, grass and scrub laden mountain slopes, free roaming asses (domesticated animals), hill tribe culture and tropical coniferous forest mixed with evergreen broadleaved makes for an ambiance hard to resist.

Our best birding was done at km 21 trail. In here I had my very first Spot-breasted Laughingthrush, a real skulker and rare bird. I didn’t dare take my eyes of the bird ones the bins were logged on to it through the thick under storey. The strong eyebrow and spotted breast revealing its identity. This bird has an incredible song that must be heard to fully enjoy. Red-faced Liochicla also has a nice song but more interestingly, its striking red face is a thrill to see in a world otherwise dominated by shades of green.

Large Hawk Cuckoo seemed to be singing wherever we went. I used playback and one came flying over our heads. These birds are so accurately named as it looked very much like an accipiter.

A Collared Owlet kept calling and after some search showed well.

We took a little break at the hotel after lunch. A Thai photographer had left his hide out at the resort so I got inside for half an hour. I put out a few earth worms and it didn’t take long for the birds to show: Hill Blue FC, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Dark-breasted Thrush and White-capped Redstart.

We also had a flock of at least 6 Grey-headed Parrobills along the ridge (km 38)….
They stayed high in the trees and were hard to get any decent shots of.
Other mountain specialties were: Blue-winged Minlas, Slaty-backed Flycatcher,
Mountain Tailorbird, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Hill Prinia, Chestnut-bellied Rockthrush, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Grey Bushchat and Eye-browed Laughingthrush.

Day 5

Doi Angkhang

Up early to look for Hume’s Pheasant and Giant Nuthatch. Dipped on both. (the roadside had been cleared where they normally cross the road and now they simply resorted to roost in the trees a bit inside the forest I was told).

The restaurant inside the Royal project is an excellent place for rare Thrushes.
Within a few minutes we had seen a male Grey-winged Blackbird and several Black-breasted Thrush plus 1 Dark-sided Thrush and a Scaly Thrush not far away. Some general birding brought sights of Maroon Oriole, Long-tailed and Short-billed Minivets. Black-throated Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter, Hill Blue Flycatcher and Grey-headed Flycatcher.

After that we did a little drive to the border of Myanmar. The border is right inside a tribal village. It was very hot but we had fun working on our bird list for Myanmar as we could see birds across the fence. Best bird for Myanmar, Eye-browed Laughingthrush!

Several Yellow-streaked Warblers were around (much like Radde’s but has faint streaks seen at close range)…

The latter part of the day was spent in the fields of Tha Torn. Very hot compared with the nicer temperatures of the mountain. We did locate the tall water tower mentioned as a spot for Jerdon’s Bushchat but no signs of the birds. A very handsome Siberian Rubythroat showed well, Yellow-bellied and Grey-breasted Prinias, Pied Bushchat,
Siberian Stonechat, Barred Buttonquail, Brown Shrike, a male Pied Harrier and best of all, a male Black-faced Bunting.

Day 6

Doi Lang

Now here is the real hot spot in Northern Thailand. Doi Lang is part of Doi Pahompok National Park but there is no park fee or entrance. For directions how to get there see:

Our chosen hotel was Garden Home Resort in Tha Torn. A family run hotel that is price friendly and offer good food.

First bird in the early morning was a Woodcock caught by the car’s headlights.
Most of our birding was done once up on the ridge. It is hard to describe the beauty of this place in words, it is a very uplifting feeling to begin the day on high grounds in cool air, seeing the sun slowly rise over peak covered mountain ranges. All the while, the birds of the mountain begin their morning chorus thus providing a tremendous backdrop.

Crested Finchbill (part of the Bulbul family), were rather common this day. A male Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher perched nicely in the open. Yellow-bellied Fantail did its regular fly catching sorties from another perch. Himalayan Bluetail was easy to see.
A striking Chestnut Thrush came in full view as it fed on the ground. Spectacled Barwings were very obtrusive and allowed prolonged views. Maroon Oriole and Gold-throated Barbets were singing from tree tops. Whiskered Yuhinnas were foraging the roadside. Red-faced Laochicla came to feed on a banana put out by some rangers. A Little Bunting showed well.

The absolute highlight of our trip happened here. An extremely high-pitched song penetrated our ears. The bird was very close. I taped it and played the song back. The bird kept calling. Finally we realized we weren’t going to see it so we decided to crash the vegetation to get better views. Unbelievably, the bird didn’t nudge.
After a few minutes, it came in view for a couple of seconds and it was then that I realized I had seen my very first Spotted Wren Babbler. This bird was first seen only 2 years back and presumably this was only the 2nd record for Thailand.

Day 7

Doi Lang
Some great birds were added this morning: Fire-tailed Sunbird, now moulting into full breeding plumage. A pair of Crimson-breasted Woodpeckers. Very rare birds in Thailand. Another Woodpecker: Bay, was also seen at a distance. The churring sound of Spot-breasted Parrotbills gave them away and another cracking bird was added to our list. On our way down we came across an Oriental Turtle Dove.

After a nice lunch in Tha Torn we did the relatively short drive to Chiang Saen and the Golden Triangle. The river was extremely dry and hardly any birds were around.
We still managed to see a Long-billed Plover and a number of Small Pratincoles which were two of our target birds.

Day 7

Our main target for the day was Baer’s Pochards. But, alas, none were to be found. Instead we saw Pintails, Ferruginous Pochards, Northern Shoveler, Spot-billed Ducks, Gadwall, Whistling Tree Ducks and a BLACK-FACED SPOONBILL!
We were taken out on the lake by Mr. Boonpop and thus avoided the hassle of driving around the lake and crashing through thick vegetation. Boonpop is quite updated and aware of what is on the lake and happy to assist in the field.

Near the lake we saw Purple Swamphens, Racket Treepie, Spotted Redshank, Greater Cormorant, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Yellow Bittern, Oriental Reed Warbler, White-throated Kingfisher amongst other things.

In the afternoon we drove to Chiang Mai. We stopped briefly at a Mae Chaem National Park were we added a few trip birds: Whiskered Treeswift, Blue-throated Barbet and Black-winged Cuckoo Shrike.

At Anusorn market in CM there is an Irish Pub with good food. We took a local tuk-tuk from our hotel; Prince Hotel. The pub is good value for money and also offer imported beers.

Day 8

Up early again and off to Huay Teung Tao a few kilometers outside of town.
A recreational area with small shops, bicycle lanes, lake and surrounding country side. First bird of the day was a very vocal Rufous Treepie, we later saw many more.
A few Indo-Chinese Bushlarks were singing in their towering flights over a field.
A first Purple Sunbird for our trip showed well. One of very few raptors seen, Shikra, gave good perching views. A number of more common birds were seen as well.

We returned the car at the airport and got on our flight before noon. Our ways departed once in Bangkok from where Rob and Trish flew back to Adelaide.

It had been a most rewarding week.

We could have seen more species but concentrated on the birds of higher altitude and what Bob hadn't seen before.
Bird list:

1. Little Egret
2. Cattle Egret
3. Great Egret
4. Grey Heron
5. Yellow Bittern
6. Black-faced Spoonbill
7. Great Cormorant
8. Purple Swamphen
9. Chinese Pond Heron
10. Little Grebe
11. Spot-billed Duck
12. Pintail
13. Ferruginous Pochard
14. Northern Shovler
15. Gadwall
16. Lesser Whistling Tree Duck
17. White-breasted Waterhen
18. Black-tailed Crake
19. Woodcock
20. Black-winged Stilt
21. Little Ringed Plover
22. Long-billed Plover
23. Common Sandpiper
24. Spotted Redshank
25. Small Pratincole
26. Barred Buttonquail
27. Green Peafowl
28. Collared Owlet
29. Collared Scops Owl, Heard only
30. Pied Harrier
31 .Eastern Marsh Harrier
32. Shikra
33. Indian Roller
34. Large-billed Crow
35. Racket Treepie
36. Rufous Treepie
37. Grey Treepie Heard only
38. Eurasian Jay
39. Common Myna
40. White-vented Myna
41. Black-collared Starling
42. Chestnut-tailed Starling
43. Coppersmith Barbet
44. Lineated Barbet
45. Gold-throated Barbet
46. Blue-throated Barbet
47. Great Barbet Heard only
48. Crimson-breasted Woodpecker
49. Bay Woodpecker
50. Bronzed Drongo
51. Ashy Drongo
52. Hair-crested Drongo
53. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
54. Asian Koel
55. Greater Coucal
56. Large Hawk Cuckoo
57. Green-billed Malkoha
58. Black-winged Cuckoo Shrike
59. Hooded Oriole
60. Maroon Oriole
61. Common Kingfisher
62. White-throated Kingfisher
63. Peaceful Dove
64. Spotted Dove
65. Red collared Dove
66. Oriental Turtle Dove
67. Feral Pigeon
68. Small Minivet
69. Short-billed Minivet
70. Long-tailed Minivet
71. Grey-chinned Minivet
72. Scarlet Minivet
73. Gold-fronted Leafbird
74. Asian Brown Flycatcher
75. Taiga Flycatcher
76. Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher
77. Hill blue Flycatcher
78. Pale-blue Flycatcher
79. Slaty-backed Flycatcher
80. Snowy-browed Flycatcher
81. Grey-headed Flycatcher
82. Little Pied Flycatcher
83. Verditer
84. Yellow-bellied Fantail
85. Large Niltava
86. Rufous-bellied Niltava
87. Blue Whistling Thrush
88. Chestnut Thrush
89. Black-throated Thrush
90. Dark-sided Thrush
91. Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush
92. White-crested Laughingthrush
93. White-necked Laughingthrush
94. Spot-breasted Laughingthrush
95. Eye-browed Laughingthrush
96. Silver-eared Laughingthrush
97. Red-faced Liochicla
98. White-browed Shrike-Babbler
99. Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler
100. Grey-cheeked Fulvetta
101. Rufous-winged Fulvetta
102. Pygmy Wren Babbler, Heard only
103. Spotted Wren Babbler
104. Golden Babbler, Heard only
105. White-browed Shortwing, Heard only
106. Chestnut-tailed Minla
107. Blue-winged Minla
108. Spectacled Barwing
109. Whiskered Yuhinna
110. Dark-backed Sibia
111. Grey-headed Parrotbill
112. Spot-breasted Parrotbill
113. Chestnut-vented Nuthatch
114. Olive-backed Pipit
115. Paddyfield Pipit
116. Grey Wagtail
117. White Wagtail
118. Siberian Rubythroat
119. White-rumped Shama
120. Oriental Magpie Robin
121. Himalayan Bluetail
122. Daurian Redstart
123. White-capped Redstart
124. Plumbeous Redstart
125. Pied Bushchat
126. Grey Bushchat
127. Siberian Stonechat
128. Grey-backed Shrike
129. Long-tailed Shrike
130. Brown Shrike
131. Sooty-headed Bulbul
132. Streak-eared Bulbul
133. Mountain Bulbul
134. Black-creasted Bulbul
135. Red-whiskered Bulbul
136. Flavescent Bulbul
137. Grey-eyed Bulbul
138. Crested Finchbill
139. Grey Tit
140. Slaty-bellied Tesia, Heard only
141. Common Tailorbird
142. Dark-necked Tailorbird
143. Mountain Tailorbird
144. Ashy-throated Warbler
145. White-tailed Warbler
146. Yellow-browed Warbler
147. Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
148. Hume’s Warbler
149. Radde’s Warbler
150. Dusky Warbler
151. Yellow-streaked Warbler
152. Oriental Reed Warbler
153. Plain Prinia
154. Yellow-bellied Prinia
155. Rufescent Prinia
156. Hill Prinia
157. Grey-breasted Prinia
158. Indo-chinese Bushlark
159. Striated Swallow
160. Barnswallow
161. Wire-tailed Swallow
162. Ashy Wood Swallow
163. Asian House Martin
164. Asian Palm Swift
165. Himalayan Swift
166. Whiskered Treeswift
167. Pacific Swift
168. Japanese White-eye
169. Mrs Gould’s Sunbird
170. Green-tailed Sunbird
171. Black-throated Sunbird
172. Fire-tailed Sunbird
173. Olive-backed Sunbird
174. Purple Sunbird
175. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
176. Streaked Spiderhunter
177. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
178. Black-faced Bunting
179. Little Bunting

Green-tailed Sunbird
Green-tailed Sunbird
Chestnut Thrush
Chestnut Thrush
Black-breasted Thrush
Black-breasted Thrush
White-capped Redstart (Riverchat)
White-capped Redstart (Riverchat)
Rufous-bellied Niltava
Rufous-bellied Niltava
Whiskered Yuhina
Whiskered Yuhina
Large Niltava
Large Niltava
Scarlet-faced Liochicla
Scarlet-faced Liochicla
Fire-tailed Sunbird
Fire-tailed Sunbird
Himalayan Bluetail (Chestnut-flanked Bush Robin)
Himalayan Bluetail (Chestnut-flanked Bush Robin)
Spectacled Barwing
Spectacled Barwing
Crested Finchbill
Crested Finchbill
White-gorgetted Flycatcher
White-gorgetted Flycatcher
Chestnut-headed Tesia
Chestnut-headed Tesia