Thursday, April 7, 2016

10 days of fun in the North!

Short-tailed Parrotbill

16-25th of March 2016
By Peter Ericsson

No more bookings for 2nd half of March gave me an excellent opportunity to do some birding on my own. For so long I have wanted to see the two specialties of Poo Suan Sai National Park in Loei province. Having visited it twice but only briefly so had not yielded neither Short-tailed Parrotbill nor Rufous-throated Fulvetta. 

I had heard of the drought in the park with resultant visits from the Parrotbill to a small man made waterhole.  The drive was long but on good roads and took me the better part of the day.
I did manage to arrive at 3 pm and immediately arranged to visit the hide. One of the rangers has taken upon himself this little project and for a small fee let’s one use the hide.
The hide was made inside of a rather large water pipe and made me feel like I was sitting inside a 2WW bunker. It was dark and most of the birds coming in were small little brown things.
I had seen pictures of up to 5 Parrotbills on the same branch so I was optimistic.
However, after 2 full hours of nothing but the common stuff, I started to wonder.
Then, suddenly, my eyes caught sight of a small bird coming through the thicket/bamboo. Out popped a single Short-tailed Parrotbill, perched for 3 second before it decided to take off. It appeared intimidated by a huge Blue Whistling Thrush occupying the pond.
Well, that was enough for me to get a few frames and my eyes filled with a cracking little bird I had wanted for so long.

Rufous-throated Fulvetta
Instead of staying inside the park I drove 20 km back to Nah Haew where I found a very nice resort (Nah Haew Resort)……..nearby was an outdoor restaurant and so I settled for the night after some good local food and cold refreshments. 

Yellow-bellied Warbler
Buff-breasted Babbler

Golden Babbler

Day2.  Up fairly early and back into the park. This time to another stake out. I didn’t have to wait at all to get my target bird here. A small flock of Rufous-throated Fulvettas were eagerly waiting to be fed some juicy meal worms. What a neat looking bird this is! It’s amazing to think it only is known from here! 

White-rumped Munias
Spotted Bush Warbler

My next destination included another 6-8 hour drive so I packed up my gear fairly early and started the drive. It took me through some windy, 
 hilly areas I have never been through before. The area was not very populated and seemed to hold substantial amounts of growth in the form of forest, scrub and plantations. These rare birds probably occur on other mountains in that area but no one goes birding there.
So in the later afternoon I arrived at Mae Chan, near Chiang Saan, Chiang Rai province.
There is a nice hotel in town that I have used a number of times and it provided all the comforts I needed including Wifi.

Day 3. For a few years now I have wanted to visit the hides at Nam Kum, Chiang Saan, without having to rush through. My main problem was to decide whether to visit the Cettia hide for Firethroat or the Rubyhide for the reed and bush warblers. Well, it was easily solved as I was told by a ringer that the Firethroat often shows at around 8 am. I popped in at 8 and no sooner had I sat down when it showed. Didn’t even have time to set up my tripod! Wow!

After that it was all about the Rubyhide where I parked myself till 2:30 pm when my last wanted bird decided to show. Look at these names and you can imagine my delight: Paddyfield Warbler, Spotted Bush Warbler, Baikal Bush Warbler, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Siberian Rubythroat and Red Avadavats……….

The ringer also showed me a Blunt-winged Warbler he had caught that morning! What a treat! Thank you Worapot!

Baikal Bush Warbler

Red Avadavat
A very late meal by the Mekong River at the Golden Triangle over looking Myanmar and Laos while dining in Thailand followed!
After the meal a fairly short drive (little over an hour) to  Tha Torn and the night at Garden Resort. As usual good food and lovely ambiance.
Day 4. I bit of a drive out of town to some fields where both Black-headed and Red-headed Buntings had been reported seem. I failed to see either one but enjoyed a lot of other open country birds and as the heat started up I moved up to higher grounds at Doi Lang.
Fires had gone through and the roadside looked burned out in most places in a very dry landscape. There were hardly any other birders around in spite of it being Saturday. My very first bird was a rather obliging Giant Nuthatch!
I met a sweet Thai couple that asked me if I had seen Hodgson’s Frogmouth. Ha! That was my reason for visiting….so they proceeded to give me the details to where the nesting bird was! Another lifer I had wanted for very long but not had time to pursue!
I spent the rest of the day enjoying whatever came my way, listening to the birds and trying to put name to what I heard.
Day 5. Both morning and evening at the field in search of Buntings. This time it went better as I got some good views of Black-headed but still not Red-headed. There were several Yellow-breasted Buntings around, Siberian Rubythroat, Bluethroat, and the local race of Plain Prinia, a male Pied Harrier and Yellow-eyed Babblers to name some of the more interesting ones.
I had now shifted to Fang where I stayed for 3 nights. Inside of Fang it is a little tricky to find good eating places but I have a clear winner. As you drive out of Fang going south, pass Tesco Lotus and hit a stop light there is a restaurant on the right hand corner. This place doesn’t look like much to the world but they sure know how to cook up a storm of succulent local food! 

Day 6. Again I spent the morning looking for more Buntings and I did manage views of Red-headed howbeit not very good ones. Laid back afternoon. 

Day 7. An early drive up Doi Angkhang to enjoy a change of scenery. It was very windy up there so proved futile to look for Bush Warblers which is what I had hoped to do.
Instead I did some general birding and started the drive towards Doi Inthanon in the late morning. I arrived at DI safe and went for a nice meal at DI Highland Resort. 

Day 8. Up the mountain to a stake out for a male Blue-fronted Redstart. Having seen this bird elsewhere I hadn’t put priority on seeing it but I was hoping for some quality pictures.
Half an  hour in the hide and the bird popped up in front of my lens. So nice to sit there on high grounds enjoying the bird songs and the cool weather in striking contrast to the temperatures  below in the lowlands.
I spent a long time at the Summit and primarily in the bog where birds were quite active. Such a plays of wonder! I never get tired of it!
The night at Mr. Daang’s home stay. But first a lot of sweet strawberries were consumed. Very cheap and sweet this time of year and simply delicious! 

Day 9. Both morning and evening inside the track at km 34. I never have time for this when on a tour but just being there on my own opened up my eyes and ears to the potential. I had a Hume’s Treecreeper at arm’s length for the longest of times, watching it as it would move from tree to tree.
A pair of Green Cochuas was calling for at least 30 minutes and I finally managed to find the male high up in a tree!
Day 10. So it was no wonder I went back inside of 34 again to reinforce my impressions before I started a long drive back home to Bangkok.
The trip gave me 8 lifers, 10 photographic lifers and a few sound recordings. It gave me time for reflection, winding down, eating well and dreaming of things to come!

Hodgson's Frogmouth

Yellow-breasted Bunting

Yellow-eyed Babbler

Siberian Rubythroat

Blue-fronted Redstart
White-browed Shortwing

Yellow-bellied Fantail

Green-tailed Sunbird

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