Doi Lang and Doi Pha Hom Pok: 28-30 May 2012


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28-30 May 2012.
Warm to cool at altitude. Humid. Partly cloudy. Rain showers, some persistent and heavy.
Doi Lang, Thaton and Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park.

28 May. Having been hanging around in Chiang Mai the best part of the last month, mainly working on the website, decided it was high time to get out, rain or no rain, and do some birding. No much in the way of migrants at at this time of year, so opted for elevation, cool weather and the possibility of seeking elusive birds - namely Spotted Elachura. Known from a few sightings from Doi Lang, this bird should in theory be vocal at this time of year. Got stuck in early rush hour traffic leaving Chiang Mai, so didn't arrive at Thaton until about 10:45. Checked into the accommodation and immediately headed up Doi Lang. Newer guys on the lower army camp didn't seem to sure that birding was a bone fide activity on the mountain but a more senior person gave the nod. Early rains this year have the road in a pretty poor condition already with many wheel-eating pot holes and some impressively deep ruts. A few more months of rain and the condition will be back where it was last year before the temporary repairs. A number of tree falls had been cleared; most having been caused by the annual burn weakening larger trees. First stopped around 21 kilometres and walked the open track hoping for a few bird and butterflies. Disappointing for the former, with a cacophony of cicadas making birding almost impossible.

Indian Fritillary
Indian Fritillary - female

Only bird of note seen was Rufous-winged Buzzard soaring in the valley below. However, a couple of interesting butterflies in the form of the stunning Indian Fritillary, and the decidedly scarce Naga Treebrown.

Naga Treebrown
Naga Treebrown

Pressed on up the hill, eager to escape the cicadas, passing the upper army camp and pretty much straight to the summit area. As expected, the road up here had not been cleared much and several times had to bring out the machete to clear vegetation across the road. A pair of Yellow-throated Marten seen. A walk at the top produced a heard Rusty-naped Pitta plus a large group of Black-throated Bushtit. By mid afternoon it had clouded up, so descended a little and walked various stretches above the upper army camp. Some interesting finds including more Black-throated Bushtit, Black-eared Shrike-babbler, Whiskered Yuhina and a group of three Himalayan Cutia.

Black-eared Shrike-babbler
Black-eared Shrike-babbler

Around 17:00 showers became persistent with low cloud and poor visibly so headed down, making a couple of brief stops en route, but nothing really of note. Arrived back at Thaton around 18:30 where, judging by the amount of water lying around, it had been a pretty wet day.

Yunnan Fulvetta
Yunnan Fulvetta

29 May. An early start, through the lower army checkpoint before any one about. Overcast with light rain did not bode well for the rest of the day. Took a slow drive up stopping at a few patches, but poor weather kept bird activity to a minimum. Between showers worked the road above the upper army check point. Black-eared Shrike-babbler notably common at this time of year, as usually difficult to find. Species similar to yesterday, with more Black-throated Bushtit and a number of vocal skulkers such as Lesser Shortwing, Pygmy Wren-babbler and Slaty-bellied Tesia. The rain eased by lunchtime when, around the top the sun was out and a beautiful day had at last arrived. A great surprise at the upper viewpoint was a stunning male White-bellied Redstart which suddenly popped out atop of a bush, singing - it would seem this species breeds in Thailand after all. Also Bar-throated Minla, which is rarely seen on Doi Lang.

Himalayan Cutia
Himalayan Cutia

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker

Whiskered Yuhina
Whiskered Yuhina

At this point one of the army personnel came by and had a lengthy chat and a look at Burma through the binoculars. Apparently these guys work three month shifts on Doi Lang. He also mentioned they get short of bananas for feeding the birds behind the army camp. So it would be good for public relations to bring a bunch when coming up from Thaton. The remainder of the afternoon mainly along the same upper stretches with another rarely seen Doi Lang species - Snowy-browed Flycatcher, and some showy White-necked Laughingthrush. Despite the sun few butterflies about. Around 16:30 rain started in earnest, so made a hasty retreat off the mountain, with heavy rain. The last ten kilometres back to the lower army camp was akin to driving down a river. Rather disconcerting driving through the torrents flowing down the hill not being able to distinguish which ruts were 3 cm deep and which 30 cm deep. Totaling up the species list from the day and a half on Doi Lang came to a very respectable 92 species. Very few bulbuls in evidence, and no Crested Finchbill which is normally common. Despite quite some effort on the Spotted Elachura, no success there either. Over the two days a total of eight species not previously seen here were recorded; Rufous-winged Buzzard, Plaintive Cuckoo, Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Greater Yellownape, Bar-throated Minla, Striated Yuhina, Black-collared Starling and Snowy-browed Flycatcher.

30 May. Yet another wet start to the day around Thaton with low cloud and light rain. Spent the first hour along the river trying various places, without success, for Jerdon's Bush Chat; which given the weather was no surprise. A trip around some of the fields of Thaton was similarly unimpressive, and venturing along any narrower tracks not viable due to the soft conditions. After a couple of hours decided to head to Doi Pha Hom Pok to give it a quick checkout since never been there and it being largely ignored birdwise in the last few years. Would the road up would be in a drivable condition?

Arrived at the Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park entrance gate around 10:00 - much to the surprise of staff. A visitor! Caught them totally unprepared and unable to find even entrance tickets, pamphlets, maps or anything useful, so was waved in free of charge - being informed the road up was open but the campsite closed.

It took about an hour to climb the 17 kilometres up to the campsite. Much repair has been done on the upper sections of the road with road works ongoing. However, in the wet the middle sections of the road are very poor with good clearance necessary and 4x4 preferable due to the greasy mud. Not much to see at the campsite, other than low cloud and a few Whiskered Yuhina; here feeding in pines. As heavier rain set in, decided to retreat down the mountain, birding en route. Due to the continuing rain though simply ended up waiting it out parked near the bottom. As yesterday, just after lunch the rain stopped and the skies partially cleared, so decided to drive to the top once again. Much better weather and some fine views across the clouds toward Doi Ang Khang. A good number of Cook's Swift feeding low down. Around the campsite not a lot different so tried the summit trail behind the visitor centre, only to find it closed. Birded slowly down the hill and left late afternoon back to CM. As a short reconnaissance trip this was quite successful, but need to come back when weather better and summit trail open. An interesting place though for sure.

Species List

  Doi Lang Count   Thaton Count
  Rufous-throated Partridge 5   Lesser Whistling Duck 4
  Red Junglefowl 2   Cinnamon Bittern 4
  Crested Serpent Eagle 1   White-breasted Waterhen 1
  Rufous-winged Buzzard 1   Spotted Dove 10
  Mountain Hawk-Eagle 2   Greater Coucal 2
  Spotted Dove 2   Asian Koel 2
  Common Emerald Dove 1   Eastern Barn Owl 1
  Greater Coucal 2   Collared Scops Owl 1
  Green-billed Malkoha 1   Asian Barred Owlet 2
  Plaintive Cuckoo 1   Asian Palm Swift 10
  Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo 1   House Swift 20
  Large Hawk-Cuckoo 1   White-throated Kingfisher 2
  Cook's Swift 3   Ashy Woodswallow 4
  Red-headed Trogon 2   Common Iora 2
  White-throated Kingfisher 4   Black Drongo 4
  Blue-bearded Bee-eater 2   Barn Swallow 20
  Eurasian Hoopoe 1   Common Tailorbird 2
  Great Barbet 5   Chestnut-capped Babbler 3
  Golden-throated Barbet 4   Great Myna 10
  Blue-throated Barbet 2   Common Myna 2
  Stripe-breasted Woodpecker 1   Black-collared Starling 4
  Greater Yellownape 1   Eurasian Tree Sparrow 10
  Bay Woodpecker 2   White-rumped Munia 4
  Rusty-naped Pitta 1      
  Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike 2   Doi Pha Hom Pok Count
  Grey-chinned Minivet 2   Red Junglefowl 1
  Short-billed Minivet 3   White-breasted Waterhen 1
  Scarlet Minivet 6   Common Emerald Dove 3
  Long-tailed Shrike 1   Greater Coucal 2
  Blyth's Shrike-babbler 10   Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo 1
  Black-eared Shrike-Babbler 10   Cook's Swift 100
  Maroon Oriole 2   White-throated Kingfisher 3
  Bronzed Drongo 5   Blue-bearded Bee-eater 3
  White-throated Fantail 3   Great Barbet 3
  Grey Treepie 5   Golden-throated Barbet 4
  Yellow-bellied Fantail 3   Blue-throated Barbet 3
  Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher 2   Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike 4
  Yellow-cheeked Tit 8   Common Iora 2
  Yellow-browed Tit 1   Blyth's Shrike-babbler 4
  Striated Bulbul 4   White-throated Fantail 2
  Black-crested Bulbul 2   Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher 3
  Brown-breasted Bulbul 2   Japanese Tit 2
  Sooty-headed Bulbul 6   Black-crested Bulbul 4
  Flavescent Bulbul 5   Flavescent Bulbul 10
  Grey-eyed Bulbul 2   Puff-throated Bulbul 2
  Barn Swallow 10   Grey-eyed Bulbul 4
  Pygmy Wren-babbler 10   Black-throated Bushtit 20
  Mountain Tailorbird 6   Davison's Leaf Warbler 15
  Slaty-bellied Tesia 4   Hill Prinia 3
  Black-throated Bushtit 45   Rufescent Prinia 4
  Davison's Leaf Warbler 30   Common Tailorbird 1
  Hill Prinia 10   Dark-necked Tailorbird 1
  Grey-breasted Prinia 2   Buff-chested Babbler 4
  Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler 1   Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 10
  White-browed Scimitar Babbler 2   Yunnan Fulvetta 10
  Buff-chested Babbler 3   Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush 1
  Golden Babbler 4   Silver-eared Laughingthrush 1
  Rufous-winged Fulvetta 10   Blue-winged Minla 6
  Yunnan Fulvetta 25   Rufous-backed Sibia 3
  White-necked Laughingthrush 10   Dark-backed Sibia 4
  Silver-eared Laughingthrush 6   Whiskered Yuhina 12
  Himalayan Cutia 3   Oriental White-eye 4
  Blue-winged Minla 10   Chestnut-vented Nuthatch 4
  Bar-throated Minla 1   Velvet-fronted Nuthatch 3
  Scarlet-faced Liocichla 6   White-rumped Shama 4
  Spectacled Barwing 2   Little Pied Flycatcher 3
  Rufous-backed Sibia 2   Verditer Flycatcher 1
  Dark-backed Sibia 6   Hill Blue Flycatcher 4
  Striated Yuhina 2   Orange-bellied Leafbird 2
  Whiskered Yuhina 8   Plain Flowerpecker 1
  Oriental White-eye 2   Fire-breasted Flowerpecker 10
  Velvet-fronted Nuthatch 5   Black-throated Sunbird 3
  Great Myna 3   Little Spiderhunter 1
  Black-collared Starling 4   Streaked Spiderhunter 2
  Lesser Shortwing 7   White-rumped Munia 4
  White-rumped Shama 1      
  White-bellied Redstart 1      
  White-tailed Robin 2      
  Slaty-backed Forktail 3      
  Siberian Stonechat 2      
  Grey Bush Chat 5      
  Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush 2      
  Snowy-browed Flycatcher 1      
  Little Pied Flycatcher 8      
  Hill Blue Flycatcher 4      
  Large Niltava 6      
  Plain Flowerpecker 3      
  Fire-breasted Flowerpecker 10      
  Black-throated Sunbird 10      
  Streaked Spiderhunter 4      
  White-rumped Munia 5