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: The North 2007

14-19th of Feb 2007, Northern Thailand

By Peter Ericsson

This was to be my 3rd trip to Northern Thailand with Daniel Martin. This year the target birds were obviously fewer which made it all the more exciting.

Day 1.

We met up in the early morning at Chiang Mai airport. The airport is only a few minutes from the city center and our 4WD pick-up truck from Northwheels was waiting for us. After a little discussion we decided to head strait for Doi Angkhang some 170km North of CM. The reason being a good number of rare Turdus Thrushes had taken to the backside of the main restaurant inside the Royal Project at Bahn Khom, the main village at Doi Angkhang.

We took the more direct route via Fang as opposed to the more scenic route that has a turn off to the left shortly North of Chiang Dao. The 3liter engine worked very well and scaling up the steep mountain was a breeze.
Sure enough, the Thrushes were still there and Martin was able to tick off both Grey-sided as well as Black-breasted. Quite some treat! Also Eye-browed and Scaly Thrush were present.
These birds have been photographed extensively and though still shy are quite tolerant of all the commotion that goes on around the kitchen and workers tending to the Rose Garden right next to it. Of course the birds would fly off from time to time but always returning.

We had lunch at the restaurant and were entertained by a very nice wave of birds consisting of a pair of Black-throated Laughingthrushes, big flock of Japanese White-eyes, a few Blue-winged Minlas, White-tailed Warblers, a single White-browed Scimitar-Babbler and two female Slaty-backed Flycatchers. The later had taken their respective territory and we could enjoy them at length.

With the Thrushes in hand we continued on towards Nong Bong Kai lake at Chiang Saen near to the Golden Triangle. Baer’s Pochard being the main target bird.
There are accommodations available next to the lake and though they don’t offer food the caretaker brought us food from a restaurant a few kilometers away.
Thousands upon thousands of Lesser Whistling Duck were found in the lake and mixed in with the floating vegetation. We found some Pintailed Ducks and Spot-billed but no diving ducks. It soon turned dark so we had to wait till the morning.

Day 2.

Lots and lots of wetland birds in this area. Striated Grass Warbler is a charm with a lovely song, big groups of Purple Swamp hen at close range with their nice colors.
The area is great for Racket-tailed Treepies in the adjoining woodlands. Kingfishers are readily seen as well.

We found some diving ducks primarily Ferruginous Poachard and Tufted Duck. A few Wigeons that I somehow tried my best to turn into Common Pochards but without success. I haven’t seen this bird yet as it is very rare in Thailand.
Most disturbingly we failed to see any Baer’s Pochards in spite getting help from a local ranger. Temperatures has risen of late and he speculated that the birds had moved on.
His name is Pop and is very friendly (doesn’t speak English) but can assist in locating birds if he has time. Ask for him at the office of the Non-hunting Area Centre.
The 4WD came in good use as we drove on bumpy graveled roads all over the area.
Still, there was a reward up ahead for us. A female Mandarin Duck was seen and photographed in a more marshy area. My first life bird for the trip!

Other good birds were a rare pair of Mallards, some Coots (yes, I know what you are thinking but this is tropical Thailand!) and a pair of Chestnut-headed Babblers.

Driving through the scenic landscape with a strong car was a blessing. Then, when going down a smaller hill suddenly the breaks gave in. I lost pressure in the breaks but they were still working somehow. Had to slow down and keep going in search of a garage.
It took at least 50 km before we found one. As it was, a bearing had busted and according to the mechanic the whole wheel could have come off or at least exploded since all the brake oil was gone causing extreme heat.
It took them a couple of hours to have it taken care off and we were able to reclaim the expense later on. Felt so much better to drive with good brakes again.

It did shut down our afternoon plans of going up Doi Lang, instead we took to some rural areas looking in vain for Siberian Ruby Throat.

At Tah Torn we stayed at the very nice but inexpensive Garden Home resort, and treated ourselves to some good food.

Day 3.

Up early for the 45 minutes drive up Doi Lang. This time we didn’t need to look for Jerdon’s Bushchat as we saw that one last year.
The ridge on the top is at 2000m level with rather thick forest on both sides interspersed with grass and scrub. Many an exciting bird has been seen here and we were hoping for something rare to show up. Crested Finchbills were common this morning. A few Whiskered Yuhinnas a plus. More regular montane birds such as Spectacled Barwing, Rufous-backed and Dark-backed Sibias were around as was Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird.
Then a woodpecker came in full view. We both hoped for Crimson-breasted but alas it was a Stripe-breasted. A White-tailed Robin crossed the road, a Northern Goshawk came in for a quick perch. We kept driving the road back and forth till we decided to go on.
That is when the BIRD OF THE TRIP gave a brief performance. A bright male Golden Bush Robin was flushed from the roadside giving brief but clear views as it crossed the road to disappear into the vegetation! We were both delighted but also found ourselves wishing it would have lasted longer.

Doi Angkhang is not very far from Doi Lang. On the way to Angkhang we dropped into the office of Mae Fang National Park. I wanted to enquire if the regular Spot-winged Grosbeaks were showing. Found out that they had stopped coming in a couple of weeks earlier. A bonus was a juvenile Grey-faced Buzzard munching on a lizard some 30 meters away.
Mae Fang National Park has natural hot springs with massage facilities. Tents and cabins are available and a nice destination for some relaxation if need be. River Chat is usually in the stream. This is also where permission to go up Doi Pahompok is obtained.

We made it to Angkhang in the early afternoon. Decided to check out the Thrushes again.
Some workmen were there installing an exhaustion system to the kitchen making a lot of racket. Very noise! We were told they were expecting a royalty for dinner and had to install the system quickly. Also, the Minister of Environment was around. He apparently has an interest in birds as well. Looking good for birds in Thailand for the present with the present Prime Minister also being a birdwatcher!

Angkhang also frequently has rarities showing up. Bramblings were seen and photographed earlier on in the season and a flock of up to 20 Black-headed Greenfinches were supposed to be around as well. We bumped into Wings tours with Philip Round who told us he had just seen the Finches. Off we went but couldn’t find them at the spot given.
Up a hill right before the village of Nor Lae there is some kind of governmental radio station. The man in charge told us that he had seen the birds daily for a month now and insisted that they would come around if we just waited. That’s just what we did. Sure enough, a flock of 10 birds came to perch in a barren tree defying the strong winds sweeping the mountain. My 3rd life bird! Now 713 for Thailand and hoping for more!

On to Bahn Luang resort where we found out that the Minister was staying.
Still, we got rooms and ended the day with good looks at River Chat, Plembous Redstart, and a male Dark-breasted Thrush in the little waterfall.
The owner of the resort, Mr. Tawatchai, enjoys bird watching and is a good host.

He told us that he had heard of a villager with 2 Hume’s Pheasants in his possession. He quickly tried to buy the birds from the man but the man said: ‘sorry, you are too late, we just ate one for dinner’…..

Day 4.

Next day we woke up to 4 degrees Celsius. A male Hume’s Pheasant had been showing at km 34 about a week earlier at 7:30 and we got to the spot by 7:15…….no birds showed! (I later found out that Wings had the birds the day following at 6:30)
Our biggest blooper for the trip!

We did some general birding at various spots and got to see quite a few things. Rufous-bellied and Large Niltava, Red-faced Liochicla, Eye-browed Laughingthrushes, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Mountain Bamboo Partridge and Slaty Blue Flycatcher were some of them.

Back to the Thrushes for a last view and lunch before we started our journey to Doi Inthanon.

Day 5.

Doi Inthanon Highland Resort is where most birders stay. The grounds are great for easy birding, the food is exceptional and not far to the park gate.

We visited the dry area at km 13 before dusk but as expected very quiet. A Collared Falconet being the most noteworthy.

Right at dusk a Spotted Owlet started calling and came to perch on a rood. I called for Martin who was showering. Once out the bird was gone.

Very good food again and some cold refreshing drinks.

We only had a few realistic target birds for DI and set out for the first one in the early morning. Speckled Wood Pigeons do come out to sun themselves a bit above the pagodas at higher ground. No sooner had we gotten out of the car when a flock of 20 birds showed. With that in hand we went on for Rufous-throated Partridges at the summit.
The birds often show at the ranger’s kitchen but hadn’t been seen for a while.
At 7:40 we had a pair feeding some 5 meters from us. Excellent views!

After that we relaxed and did some general birding at the summit. Common Rosefinches were up here as the mandatory Chestnut-tailed Minlas, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrushes, Blue Whistling Thrushes, Ashy-throated Warblers and Rufous-winged Fulvettas, not to speak of Green-tailed Sunbird.

Then back at km 31 to look for Fire-capped Tit in the plum orchard. No birds here yet this season the owner told us. Instead a nice Yellow-eyed Babbler popped out from the roadside grasses.

Lunch at Mr. Daeng’s restaurant. A tame Siberian Blue Robin hopped around the restaurant. Down below in the leaf litter a single Dark-sided Thrush poked around for food. Lifer for Martin. Good views of Asian Stubtail as it fed alongside the Thrush.

Jeep track after lunch gave us Vivid Niltava and a pair of Brown-throated Treecreepers but not much else to speak of.

Instead we settled for a visit to Mae Hia agricultural research station outside of Chiang Mai. We were trying to find the Rubythroat again but to no avail. Instead Martin got his Spotted Owlet as a pair were roaming about. Not an uncommon bird but one I don’t see very often.

The evening was spent at the Irish Pub located by the Anusarn food market. Great food at low cost and friendly atmosphere. It was a nice way of ending our time together. Martin ended up with 15 lifers and me with 3.

A list of birds seen only, in no particular order
Pictures are at the bottom of the page.

1. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
2. Scaly-breasted Munia
3. White-rumped Munia
4. Common Rosefinch
5. Black-headed Greenfinch
6. Plain Prinia
7. Grey-breasted Prinia
8. Hill Prinia
9. White Wagtail
10. Grey Wagtail
11. Olive-backed Pipit
12. Paddyfield Pipit
13. White-tailed Warbler
14. Ashy-throated Warbler
15. Blyth’s Warbler
16. Oriental Bushlark
17. Yellow-browed Warbler
18. Asian Stubtail
19. Hume’s Warbler
20. Dusky Warbler
21. Striated Grass Warbler
22. Little Egret
23. Great Egret
24. Chinese Pond-Heron
25. Great Cormorant
26. Grey Heron
27. Purple Heron
28. Common Moorhen
29. White-breasted Waterhen
30. Coot
31. Purple Swamphen
32. Pheasent-tailed Jacana
33. Pintailed Duck
34. Lesser Whistling Tree Duck
35. Spot-billed Duck
36. Wigeon
37. Mandarin Duck
38. Tufted Duck
39. Ferruginous Pochard
40. Little Grebe
41. Great Crested Grebe
42. Mallard
43. Black-winged Stilt
44. Common Sandpiper
45. Common Snipe
46. Barn Swallow
47. Striated Swallow
48. Asian Palm Swift
49. Ashy Wood Swallow
50. Common Myna
51. White-vented Myna
52. Chestnut-tailed Starling
53. Black-collared Starling
54. Indian Roller
55. Greater Coucal
56. Asian Koel
57. Spotted Owlet
58. Kestrel
59. Pied Harrier
60. Northern Goshawk
61. Common Buzzard
62. Grey-faced Buzzard
63. Black Kite
64. Collared Falconet
65. Grey-sided Thrush
66. Black-breasted Thrush
67. Eye-browed Thrush
68. Scaly Thrush
69. Dark-sided Thrush
70. Blue Rock Thrush
71. Blue Whistling Thrush
72. Plumbeous Redstart
73. White-capped Redstart
74. White-crowned Forktail
75. Magpie Robin
76. Golden Bush Robin
77. White-tailed Robin
78. Grey-chinned Fulvetta
79. Rufous-winged Fulvetta
80. Spectacled Barwing
81. Dark-backed Sibia
82. Rufous-backed Sibia
83. Silver-eared Mesia
84. Whiskered Yuhinna
85. Great Tit
86. Yellow-cheeked Tit
87. Green-tailed Sunbird
88. Mrs Gould’s Sunbird
89. Black-throated Sunbird
90. Purple Sunbird
91. Coppersmith Barbet
92. Lineated Barbet
93. Gold-whiskered Barbet
94. Grey-chinned Minivet
95. Short-billed Minivet
96. Small Minivet
97. Large Niltava
98. Vivid Niltava
99. Rufous-bellied Niltava
100. White-throated Fantail
101. Red-throated Flycatcher
102. Hill Blue Flycatcher
103. Slaty-backed Flycatcher
104. Slaty-blue Flycatcher
105. Grey-headed Flycatcher
106. Rufous-throated Partridge
107. Black-throated Laughingthrush
108. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush
109. Eye-browed Laughingthrush
110. Red-faced Liochicla
111. Chestnut-tailed Minla
112. Blue-winged Minla
113. Grey Bushchat
114. Pied Bushchat
115. Common Stonechat
116. White-browed Scimitar-Babbler
117. Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babber
118. Chestnut-capped Babbler
119. Yellow-eyed Babbler
120. White-browed Shrike-Babbler
121. Long-tailed Shrike
122. Brown Shrike
123. Grey-backed Shrike
124. Burmese Shrike
125. Common Kingfisher
126. White-throated Kingfisher
127. Spotted Dove
128. Zebra Dove
129. Flavescent Bulbul
130. Streak-eared Bulbul
131. Sooty-headed Bulbul
132. Black-headed Bulbul
133. Black-crested Bulbul
134. Red-whiskered Bulbul
135. Brown-chested Bulbul
136. Striated Bulbul
137. Crested Finchbill
138. Ashy Drongo
139. Black Drongo
140. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
141. Common Iora
142. Green Bee-eater
143. Blue-bearded Bee-eater
144. Grey Treepie
145. Rufous Treepie
146. Racket-tailed Treepie
147. Brown-throated Treecreeper

paddy field
paddy field
Grey-faced Buzzard, juvenile
Grey-faced Buzzard, juvenile
Spotted Owlet
Spotted Owlet
Long-tailed Shrike
Long-tailed Shrike
Pied Harrier
Pied Harrier
Black-breasted Thrush, female
Black-breasted Thrush, female
Black-breasted Thrush, female
Black-breasted Thrush, female
Grey-sided Thrush
Grey-sided Thrush
Grey-sided Thrush
Grey-sided Thrush
Scaly Thrush
Scaly Thrush
Dark-sided Thrush
Dark-sided Thrush
Slaty-backed Flycatcher
Slaty-backed Flycatcher
Crested Finchbill
Crested Finchbill
Slaty-backed Flycatcher, female
Slaty-backed Flycatcher, female
Slaty-backed Flycatcher, female
Slaty-backed Flycatcher, female
Greater Coucal
Greater Coucal
White-breasted Waterhen
White-breasted Waterhen
Purple Swamphen
Purple Swamphen
Spot-billed Ducks
Spot-billed Ducks