Chiang Saen and Doi Lang: 10-14 October 2012


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10-14 October 2012.
Mixed. Hot at Chiang Saen and Thaton, but a pleasant 20-24°C on Doi Lang. Variable amounts of rain, some heavy.
Chiang Saen, Thaton and Doi Lang.

10 Oct. As the last visit to these areas had been in March, during the previous dry season, the main reason to spend a few days in Chiang Saen, Doi Lang and Thaton was to recheck accesses, logistics, states of roads and checkout accommodations for upcoming visitors this winter. Naturally it didn't hurt that the timing was also favourable for general birding and checking the arrival of winter migrants. It was also an opportunity to do some mapping work for locality write-ups; so potentially a busy trip.

Arrived Chiang Saen early afternoon and spent a few hours checking accommodations in town and along the road to the Golden Triangle. Despite the number of resorts and hotels in this area it has always been difficult to find something convenient, clean and reasonably priced. In passing the Rimkong Resort noticed also that access to the Mekong has been fenced off. Once the heat of the afternoon had faded somewhat proceeded to the northern shore of Chiang Saen Lake at Wat Phrathatsiwiangkam for a scan of the lake and surrounding edges and scrub. Very disappointed to find en route that the best hill top viewpoint of the lake has now been closed off and marked with very aggressive No Entry signs, complete with threats of police and court action - a continuing theme around Chiang Saen, where development, access and habitat quality continues to deteriorate.

White Wagtail
White Wagtail

Little in the way of ducks other than small numbers of Indian Spot-billed Duck, and a general search in the area produced Striated Grassbird, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Lesser Coucal and the usual wintering Taiga Flycatcher and Dusky Warbler. A brief view was obtained of what looked suspiciously like a Mugimaki Flycatcher but it disappeared too quickly for confirmation. Around 17:00 visited the harrier roost at Wat Bamakno, where surprised to find a number of harriers circling already. By dusk a total of about 100 birds had arrived the majority of which were Pied Harrier. Overnight tried the Hong Pak motel opposite the hospital which although well priced at 500 Baht can not be recommended.

11 Oct. Some overnight rain. Early morning around the Nong Bong Khai Non-hunting area offices and lake edge, with Burmese Shrike and Chestnut-tailed Starling of note. After, drove around the southern side of the lake mapping tracks and scanning the lake for any signs of wintering ducks, of which only Indian Spot-billed Duck present. Left in the afternoon to drive to Thaton. Once the weather had cooled, spent the last two hours of the day in the fields, very nearly coming badly stuck on a narrow muddy track that became impassible with no place to turn around. Rain started just after having extricated the vehicle - glad to have 4x4 or would still be there! No birds of particular note present.

Doi Lang road
Road up Doi Lang

White-necked Laughingthrush
White-necked Laughingthrush

12 Oct. Worked several areas lower on Doi Lang and gradually ascended to the upper areas by midday. At the upper army camp deposited the regulation bunch of bananas then spent some time photographing the 20 odd Dark-backed Sibia which were already enjoying a bananafest along with the usual suspects of Scarlet-faced Liocichla and Silver-eared Laughingthrush. Just below the camp a loose flock held several Yellow-browed Tit and Black-eared Shrike-babbler.

Yellow-browed Tit
Yellow-browed Tit

Scarlet-faced Liocichla
Scarlet-faced Liocichla

Near the top, Crested Finchbill and Brown-breasted Bulbul were much in evidence, although the summit itself had few birds, so worked areas lower during the afternoon finding Long-tailed Broadbill, Martens's Warbler and Slaty-blue Flycatcher. By the large bridge late afternoon a Grey-headed Woodpecker and Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon. The condition of the road up Doi Lang has deteriorated considerably over this wet season. Many additional stretches, previously fine, are now heavily pot-holed and rutted. Still no problem to ascend with any decent high-clearance vehicle, but it's surprising that no maintenance has yet been carried out. Above the upper army camp some machete work was required to remove overhanging vegetation and a couple of the narrow stretches are now exactly the same width as the vehicle - so after this year?

13 Oct. An early morning investigation of tracks to the Mekok River in a fruitless search for Jerdon's Bush Chat. However this did turn up a Slaty-breasted Rail a species rarely seen in the north. A quick breakfast and then back up Doi Lang, moving quickly to the lower reaches of the evergreen forest. Almost the first bird found was Common Green Magpie, which despite its name is decidedly rare up here. This was followed with an immature Black-breasted Thrush - a good start to the day. Around 11:00 rain started, and continued till about 13:00, where with improving conditions went to the top in search of interesting migrants. However, little seen so worked the way down again with some good bird activity lower - Asian Stubtail, Pygmy Wren-babbler and Claudia's Warbler. Also Yellow-browed Tit very evident and in good numbers; a species sometimes not found here. Around 16:30 the rain started again, so took a slow drive down with a few uneventful stops en route, although a group of three Amur Falcon seen from the large bridge, as well as passing Himalayan Swiftlet and good numbers of Asian House Martin.

14 Oct. Some off-road driving and mapping around the Thaton fields had been planned, but overnight rain restricted access to only major tracks by vehicle. As most of the paddies were still a rice mono-culture little in the way of interesting birds with the exception of a Rufous Turtle Dove, presumably descended from Doi Lang. After a couple of hours ascended Doi Lang for a final session. On this occasion almost all the time was spent birding the more open woodland, secondary growth and trashed habitats of the middle section.

Straight Treebrown
Straight Treebrown

unidentified beetle
Coppery-bordered Ground Beetle (Mouhotia planipennis)

Asian Emerald Cuckoo
Asian Emerald Cuckoo

Having almost never concentrated on birding these areas it was interesting to see what turned up, including a couple of surprises in the shape of Asian Emerald Cuckoo and Pale Blue Flycatcher, having seen neither on Doi Lang previously.

Variable Squirrel
Red-cheeked Squirrel

Good numbers of warblers, Ashy Minivet and Long-tailed Minivet. The weather was poor with persistent and prolonged showers. Around 15:00 the rain started in earnest, so descended back to the lowlands through some pretty heavy torrents, and returned to Chiang Mai.

Species List

  Chiang Saen Count   Doi Lang Count
  Lesser Whistling Duck 700   Mountain Bamboo Partridge 4
  Indian Spot-billed Duck 70   Crested Goshawk 2
  Little Grebe 30   Shikra 1
  Cinnamon Bittern 1   Amur Falcon 4
  Chinese Pond Heron 15   Rufous Turtle Dove 7
  Eastern Cattle Egret 15   Spotted Dove 15
  Grey Heron 1   Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon 2
  Purple Heron 2   Mountain Imperial Pigeon 4
  Little Egret 1   Asian Emerald Cuckoo 2
  Oriental Honey Buzzard 2   Banded Bay Cuckoo 1
  Eastern Marsh Harrier 20   Himalayan Cuckoo 1
  Pied Harrier 80   Collared Owlet 2
  Shikra 1   Himalayan Swiftlet 5
  White-breasted Waterhen 4   Cook's Swift 80
  Grey-headed Swamphen 4   Blue-bearded Bee-eater 5
  Common Snipe 3   Great Barbet 6
  Whiskered Tern 1   Golden-throated Barbet 7
  Spotted Dove 20   Blue-throated Barbet 15
  Greater Coucal 5   Speckled Piculet 1
  Lesser Coucal 2   Stripe-breasted Woodpecker 4
  Green-billed Malkoha 1   Lesser Yellownape 2
  White-throated Kingfisher 2   Grey-headed Woodpecker 1
  Common Kingfisher 2   Bay Woodpecker 5
  Lineated Barbet 3   Long-tailed Broadbill 2
  Freckle-breasted Woodpecker 1   Large Cuckooshrike 12
  Common Iora 4   Black-winged Cuckooshrike 2
  Brown Shrike 2   Ashy Minivet 10
  Burmese Shrike 1   Grey-chinned Minivet 10
  Long-tailed Shrike 2   Long-tailed Minivet 12
  Black Drongo 20   Short-billed Minivet 3
  Racket-tailed Treepie 4   Scarlet Minivet 10
  Sooty-headed Bulbul 4   Brown Shrike 1
  Streak-eared Bulbul 6   Long-tailed Shrike 2
  Barn Swallow 20   Grey-backed Shrike 4
  Dusky Warbler 20   Blyth's Shrike-babbler 5
  Yellow-browed Warbler 2   Black-eared Shrike-Babbler 4
  Oriental Reed Warbler 1   Slender-billed Oriole 2
  Striated Grassbird 2   Maroon Oriole 4
  Common Tailorbird 2   Ashy Drongo 20
  Common Myna 20   Bronzed Drongo 5
  Black-collared Starling 10   Hair-crested Drongo 20
  Oriental Magpie-Robin 5   White-throated Fantail 10
  Stejneger's Stonechat 3   Common Green Magpie 1
  Taiga Flycatcher 3   Grey Treepie 50
  Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker 2   Yellow-bellied Fantail 5
  Purple Sunbird 1   Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher 15
  Olive-backed Sunbird 2   Yellow-cheeked Tit 6
  Eurasian Tree Sparrow 20   Yellow-browed Tit 10
  Baya Weaver 4   Crested Finchbill 10
  White Wagtail 10   Striated Bulbul 3
  Richard's Pipit 1   Black-crested Bulbul 12
  Paddyfield Pipit 2   Brown-breasted Bulbul 4
  Red-throated Pipit 1000   Sooty-headed Bulbul 30
        Flavescent Bulbul 15
  Thaton Count   Grey-eyed Bulbul 4
  Cinnamon Bittern 1   Mountain Bulbul 20
  Chinese Pond Heron 10   Ashy Bulbul 6
  Little Egret 1   Black Bulbul 300
  Black-winged Kite 1   White-headed Bulbul 3
  Slaty-breasted Rail 1   Barn Swallow 10
  White-breasted Waterhen 2   Asian House Martin 100
  Common Snipe 3   Striated Swallow 20
  Wood Sandpiper 1   Pygmy Wren-babbler 1
  Rock Dove 10   Yellow-bellied Warbler 4
  Rufous Turtle Dove 1   Mountain Tailorbird 10
  Spotted Dove 20   Slaty-bellied Tesia 3
  Greater Coucal 5   Asian Stubtail 1
  Plaintive Cuckoo 1   Buff-throated Warbler 1
  Eastern Barn Owl 1   Chinese Leaf Warbler 1
  Collared Scops Owl 1   Yellow-browed Warbler 30
  Asian Barred Owlet 4   Greenish Warbler 3
  House Swift 30   Claudia's Leaf Warbler 1
  Indian Roller 3   Davison's Leaf Warbler 35
  White-throated Kingfisher 5   Martens's Warbler 2
  Ashy Woodswallow 4   Chestnut-crowned Warbler 3
  Brown Shrike 4   Hill Prinia 5
  Long-tailed Shrike 2   White-browed Scimitar Babbler 3
  Black Drongo 15   Grey-throated Babbler 2
  Sooty-headed Bulbul 10   Buff-chested Babbler 2
  Barn Swallow 30   Golden Babbler 2
  Dusky Warbler 10   Rufous-winged Fulvetta 10
  Zitting Cisticola 5   Yunnan Fulvetta 40
  Yellow-bellied Prinia 2   Collared Babbler 3
  Common Tailorbird 3   Puff-throated Babbler 2
  Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 2   Buff-breasted Babbler 3
  Great Myna 40   White-necked Laughingthrush 10
  Common Myna 50   Silver-eared Laughingthrush 4
  Black-collared Starling 20   Blue-winged Minla 6
  Chestnut-tailed Starling 30   Scarlet-faced Liocichla 2
  Oriental Magpie-Robin 2   Spectacled Barwing 2
  White-rumped Shama 1   Rufous-backed Sibia 3
  Stejneger's Stonechat 15   Dark-backed Sibia 25
  Pied Bush Chat 4   Oriental White-eye 4
  Eurasian Tree Sparrow 50   Velvet-fronted Nuthatch 4
  Scaly-breasted Munia 30   Blue Whistling Thrush 3
  White Wagtail 5   Black-breasted Thrush 1
  Paddyfield Pipit 5   Lesser Shortwing 1
  Red-throated Pipit 20   White-rumped Shama 1
        Siberian Stonechat 2
        Pied Bush Chat 3
        Grey Bush Chat 8
        Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush 1
        Taiga Flycatcher 10
        Snowy-browed Flycatcher 1
        Little Pied Flycatcher 8
        Slaty-blue Flycatcher 1
        Verditer Flycatcher 1
        Pale Blue Flycatcher 1
        Hill Blue Flycatcher 10
        White-gorgeted Flycatcher 1
        Large Niltava 3
        Orange-bellied Leafbird 30
        Yellow-vented Flowerpecker 1
        Plain Flowerpecker 10
        Fire-breasted Flowerpecker 2
        Ruby-cheeked Sunbird 1
        Mrs. Gould's Sunbird 50
        Black-throated Sunbird 8
        Streaked Spiderhunter 5
        White-rumped Munia 4
        Scaly-breasted Munia 2
        Grey Wagtail 10
        Olive-backed Pipit 10
        Common Rosefinch 1