16th of August:
Pha and Tu picked us up at 05:30 for the trip to the Doi Inthanon Mountain Resort. Why is it that bird watching always involves these bl…y early mornings. I mean I really enjoy it, but I wouldn’t mind getting up a little later in the morning once in a while.
Anyway, we got to the resort, dumped our bags, and headed off for Doi Inthanon. On the way, we saw some Striped Swallows. Straight after the entrance gate, the first great bird: A Black Baza sitting in a dead tree right next to the road. The surrounding bushes were teeming with birds, and in short order, we added Small Minivet, Coppersmith Barbet, Grey-capped Woodpecker, Black-crested and Sooty-headed Bulbuls.
Our next stop was at the Wachiratharn Waterfall. The idea was to look for Slaty-backed Forktail. However, the first birds we came across were Black-headed Bulbuls, and a sole Green-billed Malkoha, before we found the Slaty-backed Forktail near the end of the track.
We stopped for lunch, and to get the latest gen, at Mr. Deang’s Bird watching Center. The food was decent enough, and we did add Large-billed Crows to our list whilst eating.
We then went on to the Marsh nearby and sure enough, within minutes we saw two Black-tailed Crakes. Apparently, this is the only place in Thailand where you can find them, and the birds obliged with giving us extensive views. Venturing on further from there, we had a pleasant little walk, turning up Scarlet Minivets, Grey-breasted Prinia, White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Long-tailed Shrike, a single Black-shouldered Kite, Grey-eyed Bulbul, Flavescent Bulbul and Ashy Drongo.
Next stop was a garbage dump. The smell was not really great, but we did see White-bellied Yuhina, White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Speckled Piculet, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Black-naped Monarch, Spotted Dove, and a lone Hoopoe.
Back for a quick pit-stop at Deang’s Bird watching Center, where we added another Minivet to our list: Short-billed Minivet.
On the way to the summit, we stopped at the King and Queen Pagodas, where we straight away found one of the local specialties, Green-tailed Sunbird. A Grey Wagtail was also present, whilst a Little Spiderhunter and Chestnut-tailed Minlas were mixing it up.
At the summit it was bitterly cold and pretty foggy. However, we straightaway came across some very tame White-browed Shortwings. Whilst trying to track down a very loud singer (we never did succeed), we had a Yellow-cheeked Tit giving excellent views sitting on a fence. Four Black-headed Sibias took a moment of sunshine to dry out and, undoubtedly, warm up, with an Ashy-throated Warbler nearby. Other birds seen here were Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, and Grey Bushchat.
On the way down to warmer climes, we stopped at a river about 2 km from the main entrance. Light was fading fast, but there was enough time for a Collared Falconet, a Blue Whistling Thrush, and a few White-crested Laughingthrushes.
Over a well-deserved cold Singha, I chose the Black Baza as my bird of the day; Ha thought the Scarlet Minivets the most delightful.
17th of August:
Nothing new: another early start. We headed straight for Gate 2 on the way to the summit. The lights here attract a lot of moths and with them come the birds. It was a real flurry, with birds literally at our feet. The bushes were swarming with Spectacled Barwings and Silver-eared Mesias. Grey-cheeked Fulvettas and Rufous-backed Sibias were everywhere, with Pied Fantails on the ground. Striated Bulbuls and the first Mountain Bulbul were also seen. A Greater Racket-tailed Drongo flew overhead, whilst Yellow-cheeked Tits and Grey Wagtails joined the fray. A Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush was inches away, struggling with a huge moth. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner all rolled in one.. Walking away a bit from all this activity, we saw a beautiful male Black-throated Sunbird, a number of calling Golden-throated Barbets, a single Orange-bellied Leafbird, Hill Prinia, Grey-throated Babbler, Bronzed Drongo, and the second Imperial Pigeons for the trip, Imperial Mountain Pigeon this time.
After a couple of coffees and a bite to eat, we went to the Mae Pan Waterfall. At the parking lot, we heard a few Red Junglefowl. Other birds on the way to the falls were Scarlet Minivet, Sooty-headed Bulbul, White-bellied Yuhina, Rufous-fronted Babbler, both Stripe-throated and Grey Capped Woodpeckers, Bronzed Drongo, and numerous Silver-eared Mesias taking a bath in a small stream.
Lunch was at the tourist trap just before Mr. Deang’s. Food was so-so, but the fish sauce was great, and we did add Eurasian Tree Sparrow to our personal park list here.
After lunch, we took the next trail left leaving the restaurant in direction of the summit. As soon as we got out of the car, we heard a bird singing loudly in the scrub. Neither Pha nor Tu knew what it was, and the bird sure was elusive. However, we eventually got it pinned down, it was a White-gorgetted Flycatcher. Pha was besides himself; this was only the second time he had seen the bird.
With Ha being tired and opting to stay in the car, Pha and I ventured further. We soon came across yet another elusive bird. We could see it flitting everywhere; the bird must have been on speed or something. It took us forever to get a good view, but it turned out to be yet another pleasant surprise, a Slaty-bellied Tesia. Other birds seen here were Verditer Flycatcher and Large Niltava.
We slowly headed back to the Resort, stopping at a road to the right near the 23 km marker. The large Pines here turned up Great Tit, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and Grey-capped Woodpecker.
Further on, we stopped at the same river as the previous day, turning up another Black Baza flying overhead, a male Shikra, and three Collared Falconets.
Back at the Resort, it was just time for a quick beer and the restroom, enough to turn up the only Common Kingfisher of our trip.
We arrived in Chiang Mai at night, a quick dinner and a couple of beers and it was early lights out after an exciting day.
Birds of the day were Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and White-gorgetted Flycatcher for Ha and me respectively.
18th of August:
On the Way to Doi Chiang Dao (or so we thought, but more on that later), we stopped at the Research Facility of Agro-Industry for breakfast and some birding. This is a huge area of research fields and ponds.
Whilst having our first cup of coffee, we saw Black-collared Starling, Black Drongo, Stonechat, Barn Swallow, White-vented Myna, Grey-breasted Prinia, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Common Moorhen, Rufous-winged Bushlark, Long-tailed Shrike, and Green Bee-eater.
Duly refreshed, and awake, we started walking and driving around the facility. We had excellent views of Barred Buttonquail, with Red-wattled Lapwings screaming overhead. A few Ashy Woodswallows were snuggling up to each other on the telephone wires. Pha scanned a flock of Barn Swallows and turned up a rather uncommon bird, a single Wire-tailed Swallow. There were Pacific Swallows overhead, and Bright-capped Cisticolas singing their hearts out.
A pond held a very lonely-looking Lesser Whistling-Duck, with another pond turning up a White-breasted Waterhen preening itself. A single tree held not one but three Spotted Owlets. Other birds seen here were Pied Bushchat, White-throated Kingfisher, Paddyfield Pipit, and Grey-breasted Prinia.
We had lunch at the restaurant across the Chiang Dao Inn in Chiang Dao. Food was good and, although we did not know it at this stage, we were to return a few more times.
After lunch, we proceeded to the Chiang Dao Park Headquarters to sort out the paperwork. This took time, and I turned up Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Blue-winged Leafbird, Striped Tit-Babbler, Bronzed Drongo, Black-crested Bulbul, Speckled Piculet, Golden-fronted Leafbird, and Asian Emerald Cuckoo in the trees around the headquarter whilst waiting.
Once the formalities were taken care of, we headed off for our accommodation right inside the park. The road was pretty bad as it had rained a lot, and we soon became stuck. We had a huge 4WD Pick-up truck, but the tires were better suited for cruising in Bangkok than going off-road. It soon became apparent that we would never reach our destination. Here, I have to say “thank you” to Pha, a few minutes on the phone and he had organized another destination, as well as another car for a couple of days later.
Thus, we found ourselves in Doi An Khang that afternoon instead. We straight away did some birding on a trail not far from Doi An Khang town, which turned up some good birds before dinner: Spectacled Barwing, Crested Finchbill, both male and female of Gould’s Sunbird, and Buff-bellied Flowerpecker.
Ha fell for the Spotted Owlets, whilst I settled for the Gold-fronted Leafbird.
19th of August:
Pha was decked out for combat: boots, Leech socks, and a family-sized can of Deet. He obviously knew something I didn’t. Ha, after seeing this (and being scared to death of leeches) opted to stay near the car, whilst Pha and I descended into the “Valley of Leeches” (if that is not the real name, than it should be). I wish I could say that the birds made up for the onslaught of the little buggers, but they did not really. A miserable and wet slog turned up Short-billed Minivet, Long-tailed Minivet, Plain Flowerpecker, Striated Bulbul, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Verditer and Grey-headed Flycatcher. Not really bad birds, but the leeches took some of the pleasure out of it.
After this somewhat unpleasant experience, we headed to the drier Nature trail, where we found a loudly calling Grey Treepie, and a real prize: good views of a Red-faced Liocichla (if anyone can tell me how to pronounce this, I would be grateful). Ha stayed behind again because of the leeches, and saw Chestnut-vented Nuthatch and Streaked Spiderhunter.
Out of curiosity, we gave the Thai-Burmese border a quick visit. Only Brown Shrike here, but the Burmese border guards seemed to be pretty thrilled, must be boring as hell to be stationed there.
After this little episode, we went back to the Nature Trail where, thanks to Swarovski, Pha managed to pick up two male Mountain Bamboo Partridges. Excellent. We also saw Japanese White-eyes, Hill Prinia, and Blue-winged Minlas.
Ha went for the Chestnut-vented Nuthatch. As I didn’t see it, I chose the Mountain Bamboo Partridges.
20th of August:
Back to the Nature Trail. The first bird we saw was a Dark-sided Flycatcher. Looked like nothing in the book, but Thu said that they can indeed be very variable; the short bill is the give-away. We also got pretty good views of two Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babblers. There was a group of six Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrikes, and a pair of Stripe-breasted Woodpeckers.
And back it was to Doi Luong Chiang Dao. We once again stopped at the same restaurant, before proceeding to Park headquarters, where a monstrous pick-up with huge, and suitably profiled, tires was waiting for us. The trip up was still hair-raising, eventually the driver had to put on chains to get us up there. Having to stop every so often to let the engine cool down, we did see Streaked Spiderhunter and Emerald Dove on the way.
But all was soon forgotten when we arrived the camp. We had spectacular views of Doi Chiang Dao, and set off to use the remaining sunlight. We just had enough time to add White-headed Bulbul, Mountain Tailorbird and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch to our list.
Ha added the latter bird to her birds of the day, whilst I was pleased to opt for White-headed Bulbul.
As mentioned in the introduction, there was no hot water in the camp. You might think this is not a problem in the Tropics, but it did actually get pretty cold once the sun set, and the shower was a somewhat abbreviated affair.
After an excellent dinner under the stars, it was yet another early night. I was out cold by the time the generator was turned off at 20:30.
21st of August:
Once again, we headed uphill from the Camp to start the day’s birding. The trail is easy to walk, and there are only a few leeches. The first bird added to our trip-list was Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo. We also got excellent views of Blue-bearded Bee-eater, a truly outstanding bird. The White-rumped Shama finally made it, too. Not exactly an uncommon bird, it was a surprise that we had not picked it up earlier. Both Blue-throated Barbet and Greater Yellownape were nice, and we had yet another Hoopoe.
We than took the car a bit further down to the sub-station to look for Giant Nuthatch and Hume’s Pheasant, on both of which we dipped. Luckily, this was made up for by some other spectacular birds. But first Ha had a total fit when she discovered leeches on her legs. She decided to turn around with Pha, whilst Tu and I headed on. The very first bird we saw was almost as good as Giant Nuthatch: a male Maroon Oriole. Great start. We did see Nuthatches, both Velvet-fronted and Chestnut-vented Nuthatch. Of course, Flavescent Bulbuls where everywhere, I was slowly beginning to dislike those. We saw both Black-winged and Large Cuckoo-Shrike, as well as Striated Yuhina. A real surprise was the Black-headed Woodpecker. According to the guidebooks, it should not be at this altitude but, obviously, this particular bird hadn’t read the books. A Mountain Imperial Pigeon, all body and a no head, made a brief appearance, and the walk finished with yet another Oriole, this time Slender-billed Oriole.
My bird of the day was the Maroon Oriole, ha went for the Spot-breasted Woodpecker.
22nd of August:
Before we started birding, we had to get some serious business out of the way: it was Ha’s birthday (being all gentleman first, and birder second, I will omit her age). Once again, Pha and Tu managed the near impossible by improvising a birthday cake out of strawberry jam and biscuits.
As we had a long drive ahead of us, we restricted our birding to the vicinity of the camp. We were desperately trying to come to grips with a number of Warblers flitting around. After some very good views, it turned out that we had both Blyth’s and White-tailed Leaf-Warblers in front of us. Whilst walking, we managed to surprise a pair of White-hooded Babblers. Grey-cheeked Fulvettas were fairly numerous, as were Silver-eared Mesias. Other birds seen that morning were Short-billed Minivet, Spectacled Barwing, Blue-winged Minla, Plain Flowerpecker, a female Stonechat, and Hill Prinia.
And thus, we came to the end of the trip. A quick stop at a lake halfway between Chiang Dao and Chiang Mai produced two more birds for the trip list, Cinnamon Bittern and Little Grebe.
We spent a couple of more days at the Belle Villa Resort in Chiang Mai, where I had the most harrowing experience of the whole trip: Elephant riding. No laughing matter this, it is pretty strange to sit a couple of meters off the ground and trust a trundling behemoth to put its feet right.
The total number of species seen was 173, out of which 67 species were "lifers" for me. A detailed list is here: List of birds seen
The last two days of our holiday were spent shopping and recuperating in Bangkok.
If you would like to contact me for more information, corrections, or abuse, you can do so at hannostamm(at)hotmail.com.
The full trip list is here: Trip List