Northern Thailand 25-31st October 2016
James Huntington and Keith Camburn are two high ranking birders from the ABA list.
They were on their way to Bhutan and wanted to do some birding in Thailand as well.
Someone else had arranged a tour of Central Thailand for them but they wanted to see the North also so contacted me. I had done Central Thailand with James and some of his friends a couple of years ago so doing the North was perfect for me.
End of November is still the wet season here with potential bad weather and not all migrants have arrived yet. Still, the 8 days gave Keith over 150 lifers and James around 50. James had birded Central Thailand before as well as Bhutan but Asia was a new destination for Keith.
Day 1. Early pick up as usual. Keith was getting lifers from the car window but it all got so much more intense once we arrived at Beung Borapet, Nakorn Sawan. We only did an hour stop here but saw plenty of good birds: Freckle-breasted Woodpecker, Eurasian Wryneck, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Oriental Reed Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Eurasian Hoopoe, Burmese and Brown Shrike, White-throated Kingfisher, Indian Roller, Oriental Darter, Asian Openbill, Green and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, White Wagtail, Taiga Flycatcher and Pied Fantail are some of those that come to mind.
We arrived at Klong Lan in time for lunch at the regular and only restaurant of good standard.
After that we slowly drove up to Chong Yen (1300m asl), Mae Wong National Park for the remainder of the day.
It was gloomy and bleak and bird activity was low but the Grey Peacock Pheasant thankfully showed well at its regular stake out and other birds of higher level followed suit: Great Hornbill, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, White-throated Fantail, Marten’s Warbler, Speckled Piculet, White-browed Piculet, Blue-throated Barbet, Davison’s, Claudia’s and Sulphur-breasted Warblers, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Golden and Grey-throated Babbler, Grey Wagtail and more.
Mae Wong is plagued with sand flies but this time we were not badly affected.
Day 2. Back up the mountain in search of the special birds of this place but we managed to find none: Burmese Yuhina, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Rufous-necked Hornbill, White-necked Laughingthrush, Olive Bulbul i.e. Instead we did see stuff like: Wreathed Hornbill, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Great and Gold-throated Barbet, White-throated Bulbul, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Verditer Flycatcher, Maroon Oriole, Rosy Minivet, Swinhoe’s Minivet, Grey-chinned Minivet, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Mountain Bulbul, Ashy Bulbul, Buff-breasted Babbler and Verditer Flycatcher.
After lunch we started our long drive to Mae Ping just 2 hours South of Doi Inthanon. It didn’t take long before we found a perched Rufous-winged Buzzard in a field. We also saw several Black-shouldered Kites along the way and an unidentifiable Harrier.
Mae Ping for an hour before dusk gave us two much wanted birds: Great Slaty Woodpecker and Black-headed Woodpecker. Also Common Flameback showed well as did Rufescent Prinias in the low vegetation.
Very nice lodging at Lee, the small town by Mae Ping National Park. A new restaurant had opened up as well so we were definitely not hurting.
Day 3. Back to MP for more of the same. The dry forest here has its own set of birds and we got on to a few new ones: Grey-headed Parakeets (many), Hainan Blue FC, Lineated Barbet, White-crested Laughingthrushes, Grey-capped Woodpeckers, Large Cuckoo Shrike, Gold-fronted Leafbirds, Hooded Oriole, Black-naped Oriole, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Great Racket-tailed Drongo and to our surprise a female Indian Cuckoo.
Next destination was Doi Inthanon and we headed straight up to the top where most of the goodies are. Low visibility, fog and rather cold for Thailand but still oh so lovely in spite of the many tourists around. The bog with its boardwalk was closed for repair so we missed some things but still managed to see many good birds: Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Bar-throated Minla, Dark-backed Sibia, Mrs Gould’s Sunbird, Green-tailed and Black-throated Sunbird.
A night at Mr Daeng’s place with no need for AC followed suit. Asian Barred Owlet, Collared Scops Owl and Mountain Scops Owl heard from the abode.
Day 4. The next morning we started out around the 2nd checkpoint, visited the top, and did the jeep track, 34.5 and a little here and there. Slowly we got on to more birds. The biggest surprise was a Red-throated Pipit at the car park on the top (2565m).
We managed to pull out a White-browed Shortwing from the thicket, got stellar views of Slaty-bellied Tesia, Mountain Tailorbird, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Large Niltava, Golden Babbler, Grey-cheeked Fulvettas, Blue Whistling Thrush, Eye-browed Tit, Ashy-throated Warblers, Bianchi’s Warbler, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Short-billed Minivet, Streaked Spiderhunter and Rufous-backed Sibias.
No Green Couchua inspite lengthy search.
The local fresh market had strawberries and avocadoes on offer, much to my delight.
Day 5. Up early for a drive to Doi Saket in search of Green Peafowl. We ended up with poor views of one bird in flight. Never had so few birds showing. So we promptly set off for Doi Angkhang along the scenic route. The afternoons are normally slow in the mountains but we did get on to some new stuff: Eurasian Jay, Grey Treepie, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Long-tailed Broadbill and Yellow-bellied Fairy Fantail.
Day 6. Early rise and off to Doi Lang. This time no Partridges or Pheasents along the road but a lot of fog! First bird was a cracking Ultramarine Flycatcher. So happy to see it! Soon we had stellar views of Giant Nuthatch. Where else can you go and see this species so readily? Spot-breasted Parrotbills as well as Grey-headed Parrotbills were another set of gorgeous birds. In addition to that we had other new birds: Long-tailed and Short-billed Minivets, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Spectacled Barwing, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Crested Finchbill, White-browed Scimitar Babbler, White-browed Laughingthrushes, Little Pied Flycatcher and a very vocal but refusing to show Spot-throated Babbler. The road at Doi Lang has Grey Bushchats all along and good numbers of Olive-backed Pipits and other more skulking birds can be heard: Buff-chested Babbler being one of them.
A lovely day came to an end and we drove down to our hotel in Fang.
Day 7. A full day at Doi Angkhang. Just great to be up in the cooler mountains hearing the sounds of birds, feeling the wind, smelling the vegetation and seeing a different way of life with the many local tribes still wearing their traditional clothing.
We got on to another Emerald Cuckoo, we had one DL the previous day.
The regular stake out for Rusty-naped Pitta was void of birds. Too early in the season.
The White-capped Redstart, a classic bird, also gave good views in a small stream. White Wagtails were not far away and there were places with big number of Bulbuls. We had good views of White-headed, Striated, Red-whiskered and Sooty-headed!
Big flocks of Chestnut-sided and Japanese White-eyes all over the mountain. Blue-winged Minlas also putting on a show.
We also got on to Yellow-vented and Plain Flowerpeckers….tiny birds hard to see well at times.
The last hour was spent trying to sort out Pacific Swifts from Cook’s Swift which revealed good numbers of both taxa.
Day 8. Up Doi Lang for the morning. We finally got great views of a pair of Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babblers. These birds are seriously inquisitive and can come quite close.
Radde’s Warbler, Bay Woodpecker and Japanese Tit were the only other new birds.
Three Swallows were seen on the tour: Barn, Striated and Red-rumped. Also plenty of Ashy Woodswallows.
Of course there were more birds seen enroute, especially in the paddies but the mountains always were our priority.
In the afternoon James and Keith left for Bangkok and an upcoming tour of Central Thailand. I decided to go back to Doi Inthanon to chill a bit.
It had been a good trip with skilled and enthusiastic birders. If the same trip had taken place in a month from now we probably would have gotten on to a few more things but it was well worth it! Thank you guys!