Friday 8 March 2019

Northern Thailand - February 2019 : Part 4

Day 7 - Chiang Dao to Ban Hong

We packed our luggages and departed from Fang at 5:30am, our van headed south, we were to spend the next two nights near Chiang Mai, closer to Doi Inthanon National Park. Our first stop of the day was Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary, birding near the Cave Temple. We arrived after a very nice breakfast by a roadside restaurant. It is a large clearing at the edge of the forest, good to scan for birds perched on tree top during early morning. A few Pin-tailed Green Pigeon perched on a bare tree for a distant look, on the same tree were a pair of Asian Fairy Bluebirds and a few Greater Racket-tailed Drongos.

Pin-tailed Green Pigeon

Asian Fairy Bluebird - male

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo

Most birds were very far away, a closer bird came in form of a good looking Bronzed Drongo, while Captain spotted a Blue-throated Barbet singing fairly close-by.

Bronzed Drongo

Blue-throated Barbet

A fruiting tree above the toilet yielded many bulbuls, including a few Puff-throated Bulbuls, many Black-crested Bulbuls gave great views as they gorged on the fruits, while the similarly coloured Black-headed Bulbuls also joined in. The best species there was Grey-eyed Bulbuls, which is a lifer for most of us.

Puff-throated Bulbul

Black-crested Bulbul

Black-headed Bulbul

Grey-eyed Bulbul

Around the same area we also spotted a Streaked Spiderhunter. A pair of Green-billed Malkoha got everyone excited, although I've seen this species so many times, they are never boring, plus photographing them is such a challenge.

Streaked Spiderhunter

Green-billed Malkoha

A few Golden-fronted Leafbirds made an appearance. I imitated the song of a Red-headed Trogon and got a response, it came closer but not quite close enough. A Grey-backed Shrike was also seen in the area.

Golden-fronted Leafbird - male

Grey-backed Shrike

Ball drove us up to the Forestry Office nearby, there we added a few more common lowland forest species, including Black-naped Monarch and Pin-striped Tit-Babbler.

Black-naped Monarch - male

Pin-striped Tit-Babbler

I spotted a juvenile Siberian Blue Robin below the edge of a concrete platform, but it was too quick for a photo. A male Hill Blue Flycatcher was however a little more cooperative. A few Brown-cheeked Fulvettas came by shortly, although at first I thought they were Yunnan Fulvettas and thought little of them! Two Mountain Imperial Pigeons provided close views as they perched nearby.

Hill Blue Flycatcher - male

Mountain Imperial Pigeon

One of the more interesting species of the morning came in form of a Thick-billed Flowerpecker, a dull looking species that have some interesting 'dance moves', they often wag their tail left and right and fanning out their tail feathers.

Thick-billed Flowerpecker

Black-hooded Oriole finally showed itself after having called throughout the morning, while a pair of Asian Barred Owlets darted around as they were harassed by other birds. A pair of Shikra also made an effort to show up.

Black-hooded Oriole - male

Asian Barred Owlet


The best bird of the morning however was a single male Blyth's Paradise Flycatcher, anytime you see a male Paradise Flycatcher you know you are in for a treat. It was a shame that it only showed briefly. but long enough for everyone to get a good look.

Blyth's Paradise Flycatcher - male

We had a very nice lunch and coffee at the Royal Project Kitchen as we passed Chiang Mai city, the restaurant was surrounded by nice gardens. As with all the other facilities under the Royal Project Foundation in northern Thailand, they have became tourist attractions and are fairly well managed.

After lunch we headed further south to an area call Doi Lo Paddies, it is basically an open area with some marshes. We were there to specifically look for Small Pratincoles, which most of us have not seen. Here Pied Bushchats were very common, while Green Bee-eaters by the bank of the pond made great photographic subjects.

Pied Bush Chat - female

Green Bee-eater

Lesser Whistling Ducks were numerous, while a single Purple Heron was seen perched in the middle of an island in the pond. An Indian Roller was also spotted in the distance.

Lesser Whistling Duck

Purple Heron

Indian Roller

Our van went past the usual habitat for Small Pratincoles, a pebble bank along the pond. Ball stated that they breed here every year, and had previously seen over a hundred individuals here. We however saw none, it is possible that most had already finish breeding and left. Just as we turned around and ready to give up, Captain spotted a single one very close to our van! We soon saw another one sitting on the pebble bank, it wasn't long until we realise it was incubating an egg! We took some photos and quickly left them in peace, happy that we got our target species.

Small Pratincole - at nest

I spotted a single Asian Pied Starling within a flock of Great and Common Mynas, a species I expected to be more common in this part of the world. This was our only sighting for the entire trip. A Black Kite also made an appearance and perched in a tree close to our van.

Myna and Starling flock

Asian Pied Starling

Black Kite

From Doi Lo Paddies we travelled further south towards Ban Hong district in Lamphun, our destination was a plantation within the Ban Hong Non-hunting Area, our main target there was Green Peafowl. We spotted our first Green Peafowl before we even got off our car. A young male with deformed legs often hang around the plantation headquarters, it had somehow became an ambassador for the Green Peafowls here, as local tourists are now also coming here to see these magnificent birds.

The friendly Green Peafowl ambassador

The plantation workers had noticed Green Peafowls in the area and started putting out food for them near the head quarters a few years back, and soon many Peafowls had learnt to come here for food in the afternoon. They roam the nearby forests and plantation during the day and roost near the headquarters in the evening. As an endangered species, I find this quite a good way to educate locals how men and wildlife can co-exist peacefully, and whats better than a large, colourful and charismatic species such as the Green Peafowl? We waited for a little while and soon an eclipse male and an adult male came into view.

Green Peafowl - eclipse male

Green Peafowl - male

Up the road from the headquarters, we saw another adult male, this one was no doubt a natural born performer, as it strutted around by the road, posing for us at every angle! It even displayed twice as a few females walked past in the woods. It's simply mind blowing that such an extravagant species exists in this world.

Captain and Alfee photographing the showy male

Green Peafowl - male displaying

Females looks similar to eclipse or young males, but is overall duller in colour. This was one of the females that eyed the displaying male with interest, but ultimately she left along with other females...the male impressed us enough, but I guess the female Green Peafowls have much higher standards then we do...

Green Peafowl - female

Further down the slope we observed another male displaying further away, which provided another feast for the eye. That marked the end of our stay at Ban Hong, we drove back near Chiang Mai and arrived at the R Hotel, a simple lodge not far from Doi Inthanon National Park. At dinner we encountered a festival at one of the nearby temple, in Thailand that usually means extravagant LED lights and loud music, although I must say these light shows were no match to the Green Peafowls displays.

Green Peafowl - male displaying

R Hotel

Day 8 - Doi Inthanon National Park

We got up early and headed towards the park, on the way we stopped to get some sticky rice and pork sticks breakfast. Our first location was the Huai Sai Lueang Waterfall, Ball suggested that the campsite is quite birdy in the morning, but when we arrived we were greeted by no fewer then two hundred boy and girl scouts having a camp there...What's more they were playing music off a loud speaker at full volume! Talking about respecting nature...

Sticky Rice with Pork Sticks & Thai Sausages - perfect breakfast!

Noisy Scouts...

We tried birding the area anyway, although not being able to listen out to the birds made finding them even harder. Black Bulbuls were spotted in the tall trees, while a Seicercus warbler caught our attention, it was quite far away but I managed a record shot and confirmed it to be a Bianchi's Warbler with complete eye-rings and a single wing-bar. A Burmese False Bloodsucker crossing the road provided some fun.

Black Bulbul

Bianchi's Warbler

Burmese False Bloodsucker

The actual campsite was not productive at all, our best find there was a single Plain Flowerpecker, while a Blue Rock Thrush darted around. With no birds to be found and music booming loudly, we decided to head to the summit area slightly earlier.

Plain Flowerpecker

Blue Rock Thrush - female

Doi Inthanon is the highest summit in Thailand, sitting at 2,565m above sea-level. It is also a very popular attraction to both local and foreign tourists. There's a wooden boardwalk to a sign saying "Highest Spot in Thailand" plus a buddhist pavilion in the moist montane forest. The footpath exits at the Summit Cafe. We saw very little inside the trail.

We got a coffee at the cafe and waited around for birds, the fruiting tree above yielded a single Grey-sided Thrush, while Silver-eared Laughingthrushes were quite abundant here.

Summit Cafe - a great place to wait around for birds

Grey-sided Thrush

Silver-eared Laughingthrush

Ball led us towards the back of the buildings to an area that looks like the washing basin for staffs, and to our surprise a few Rufous-throated Partridges foraged in the undergrowth! They have learnt to forage for the leftovers staff dump out in the back, hence becoming acclimated with people around them.

Rufous-throated Partridge

Back near the cafe, Michelle spotted a flock of Chestnut-tailed Minlas, a very beautiful species that displayed no fear for men. A dozen of these foraged by people's feet, most of the time too close for my 500mm lens to focus!

Chestnut-tailed Minla

Green-tailed Sunbirds visited the flowering trees outside the cafe, the subspecies here is on Doi Inthanon is angkangensis, which is endemic to Doi Inthanon. A few Buff-barred Warbler also came through at close range, but photographing them was still challenging.

Green-tailed Sunbird - race angkanensis

Buff-barred Warbler

We moved on to the Ang Ka Nature Trail, the forest trail and boardwalk here is very well maintained, no surprise as it receives a steady stream of tourists. The moss covered montane forest is beautiful and orchids grew on many tree trunks, such as the elegant Coelogyne corymbosa.

Coelogyne corymbosa

A Dark-sided Thrush was observed below the wooden boardwalk, foraging on the damp forest floor. This is one of the more interesting looking thrush in the zoothera family, with a massive downward curved bill. We also saw a few more Grey-sided Thrush here.

Dark-sided Thrush

Grey-sided Thrush

The trail was quite birdy, but being very dark in the forest, photography was quite a challenge. A large feeding flock kept coming back to the same area, Rufous-winged Fulvetta being the most numerous. While a few Yellow-browed Tit also made an appearance, along with the lightning quick Ashy-throated Warbler.

Rufous-winged Fulvetta

Yellow-browed Tit

Ashy-throated Warbler

A female White-browed Shortwing showed sparingly below the boardwalk, while a male Snowy-browed Flycatcher attracted the attention of a group of local bird photographers.

White-browed Shortwing - female

Snowy-browed Flycatcher - male

After a quality lunch at Royal Project Inthanon, Ball took us to a stakeout by the stream for several stream specialist. Ashy Drongo was seen outside the stakeout hide. The first bird we saw in there was in fact a juvenile Dark-sided Thrush.

Ashy Drongo

Dark-sided Thrush

A Slaty-backed Forktail was seen further down stream, but it never came close. While a Grey Wagtail came in front of the hide. The White-crowned Forktail which is said to frequent the hide did not show up.

Slaty-backed Forktail

Grey Wagtail

Despite the lack of forktails, other species showed well, including a Taiga Flycatcher, a juvenile male Hill Blue Flycatcher and best of all a Lesser Shortwing which came out to the open shortly.

Taiga Flycatcher

Hill Blue Flycatcher - juvenile male

Lesser Shortwing

Ball suggested we try for the Collared Falconet down at KM13, a piece of road that runs through dry dipterocarp forests at lower elevations. We got there and immediately saw a Shikra perched to the left hand side of our van. A White-faced Jay showed briefly but remained very far.


White-faced Jay

Ball told us that the roosting tree used by the Collared Falconets had been raided by construction workers around six months ago, and that the Falconets seemed to have abandoned the tree for sometime, therefore he did not know whether we will see them. Luckily for us, Ball spotted one and we soon got closer to it for a better look.

Collared Falconet

As it turns out, the Falconets had returned to the same tree, as two more joined in at the roost. I was especially pleased with this lifer, and others were happy to have gotten closer views than Yunnan. It always amazes me how these little raptors had adapted completely to a lifestyle of a Flycatcher, either way they are easily one of the cutest raptor on earth!

Collared Falconet

Our final bird was a Lineated Barbet under the fading light, singing on a tree top. It's always nice to get a good look at them after hearing their calls all day.

Lineated Barbet

To be continued...

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