Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary - The hunt for Burmese Yuhina: 25-29 June 2012


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25-29 June 2012.
Cool, humid, windy and overcast with plenty of rain. Dry only the last day.
Thaksin Maharat National Park, Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary, Phacharoen National Park and Lan Sang National Park.

25 Jun. With Steve Tibbett. Having tried, in October 2010, to find Burmese Yuhina at Mae Wong without success, we thought to investigate, the somewhat remote, Mae Sot to Umphang road, which passes through the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary, and climbs to an altitude of just over 1,300 metres; well within the known altitude range of the species. Historically, the yuhina is know from the area, though the paucity of visitors means little is known about the area or the status of Burmese Yuhina there.

Yellow-cheeked Tit
Yellow-cheeked Tit

Bamboo Treebrown
Bamboo Treebrown

Left Chiang Mai early and headed to Tak and onward to Thaksin Maharat National Park, arriving around 11:00. Occasionally at Thaksin Maharat the entrance fee is not levied, but today, unfortunately, the staff were keen to collect. The weather was pretty miserable, with drizzle, low cloud and a strong wind across the open ridges, so headed to the parking area for the Big Tree and descended into the valley away from the wind.

Alongside the steps down a few White-throated Bulbul and Olive Bulbul were among the first birds seen as well as Black-throated Sunbird and Asian Fairy Bluebird. A Rufous-browed Flycatcher was a surprise. At the valley bottom we walked the one kilometre trail to Pang Ah Noi Waterfall, with Blue Pitta heard along the way. Surprised to find far fewer leeches than normal along this trail given the wet conditions. Returned to the Big Tree and decided to do the first part of the Nature Trail back toward the park HQ, mainly in the interest of finding Banded Kingfisher, but on which we failed. By 15:00 hunger struck so returned to the vehicle. By now the weather had improved so headed back to the park camp ground and spent time walking the Nature Trail from the other end. The main species of interest was an additional Rufous-browed Flycatcher. Around 17:00 the skies darkened considerably so we high-tailed it back to the vehicle, where at 18:00 the rain was just starting.

Drove to Mae Sot through heavy rain and checked into the highly recommended Poonnagunn Hotel in town. No restaurant at the hotel so we ate down the road at a very local open air restaurant where the hot red curry nearly blew out our brains.

26 Jun. Heavy overnight rain. A three hour drive to around Km 120 of the Mae Sot to Umphang road. The weather had been fairly dry en route, but low cloud and rain showers greeted us on arrival. Walked the forested section from Km 120 - 121 seeing Streaked Wren-Babbler, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Silver-eared Mesia, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker and a couple of fly-over Little Cuckoo-Dove. Headed down the road a little to Km 122 - 123 but heavy rain showers frustrated birding. Headed back up the road and spent the afternoon in persistent showers working the road between Km 116 and 120, seeing a variety of species including Buff-breasted Babbler, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Small Niltava, Clicking Shrike-babbler, Long-tailed Broadbill, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Long-tailed Sibia and Collared Babbler. Around 17:00 drove to Umphang and after a bit of a drive around eventually found the pre-booked Tukasu Resort.

27 Jun. Little rain overnight ensured that it started at first light! Coffee and toast at the resort, then up into the mountains again. Today we started at the old buildings around Km 116 and walked back toward Km 115 first - pretty much where the evergreen forest starts. Species included Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Orange-headed Thrush, Large Niltava, and several Slaty-bellied Tesia heard. Unfortunately, within half an hour rain started, and continued, sometimes heavily, till 10:00. All we could do was sit and wait it out.

With clearing cloud, we walked the four kilometres back to Km 112, with Red-headed Trogon, Black-throated Parrotbill and a single Olive Bulbul. This walk, to and from, took us until well after lunch, following which we reverted to Km 121, but really quiet there, so returned again to Km 116, but by which time is was raining again. The later afternoon was spent dodging showers from Km 115 - 116, then descending to Km 124, where in dismal overcast conditions and fading light only a Red-headed Trogon was of note. Drove back to Umphang.

28 Jun. Further heavy rain in the early hours had cleared by 06:00 when we set off, and an overcast but at least not foggy morning ensued in the mountains.

Burmese Yuhina
Burmese Yuhina

We started at Km 124 at a slightly lower altitude, and spent several hours walking and birding the stretch from Km 122 to Km 125 with little success. Several species not previously seen included Maroon Oriole, Black-throated Laughingthrush, Bay Woodpecker, Black-naped Monarch, Striated Yuhina (close but not close enough!) and a few Bar-backed Partridge heard. Late morning headed to Km 121 and walked the stretch back past the HQ toward Km 120. In an amazing eleventh hour stroke of luck we were finally rewarded with a group of 12 Burmese Yuhina, which performed well and gave excellent views.

Feeling rather happy we left at 12:30 and drove the two plus hours toward Mae Sot where we dropped into Phachareon Waterfall National Park. Surprised to find entrance to this park is free apparently, and only need to sign the visitor book.

Phacharoen Waterfall
Phacharoen Waterfall

Although birds were largely absent we took a look at the waterfall - which would be picturesque without all the brown mud coming down the mountain - and walked around photographing butterflies. Found a trail behind the HQ which apparently runs for 1.5 kilometres but looked steep and muddy so gave it a miss. The forest here looks OK, so potentially holds some interesting birds. The park itself makes a pleasant place for a stop along the way. Late afternoon to Mae Sot where we intended to check into the Poonnagunn Hotel, as before, but found it full so stayed at the nearby J2 Hotel which was new and comfortable. Evening dinner at the Chinese restaurant on the main intersection in town with beer to celebrate.

29 Jun. Left 06:00 and drove to Lan Sang NP near Tak which we'd passed on the way to Mae Sot previously. This was to be very much an exploratory visit as we knew little about the park or its habitats, No sooner had we turned into the park entrance than we heard several Blue-winged Pitta, but were not able to catch any decent views as they belted across the road and remained in cover. A short walk provided Chestnut-headed Bee-eater and Small Minivet. Continued to the park checkpoint, where they kindly let us in without charge, and drove to the parking area and waterfalls a further two kilometres into the park. From here we looked at the waterfall trails but decided to walk to main road as the habitat looked good and most of it was still in shade. Other than a couple of excellent views of Blue-winged Pitta we saw an immature Besra and a couple of long-tailed birds against the light briefly, which were likely Chestnut-winged Cuckoo but we could not be certain.

Once we reached the entrance barrier again we took the Nature Trail through the forest back toward the waterfalls, but as most of the habitat along here passes through bamboo this trail revealed few birds. The trail also petered-out after about a kilometre, so we exited back onto the road after crossing a slightly dicey weir. Once back at the waterfalls we tried the Nature Trail from the opposite end, expecting it to join up somehow with the trail we'd just abandoned. However, this proved not to be the case and the trail exited at the campsite. This section of the trail passes along the edge of the clear river and the habitat looks excellent for Blue-eared Kingfisher which we'd hoped to find but were not successful.

Left the park mid afternoon and proceeded to Bhumibol Dam north of Tak, en route looking for access into the wildlife sanctuary which borders the southern edge of the dam - without success. At the dam itself a couple of Red-billed Blue Magpie were seen. All in all an excellent trip and successful in finding Burmese Yuhina. We'll be back to Umphang in the winter as the birding here was was really interesting. Due to the weather the trip was unfortunately generally poor for photography.

Species List

  Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary Count   Thaksin Maharat Count
  Bar-backed Partridge 4   Bar-backed Partridge 3
  Crested Serpent Eagle 1   Common Emerald Dove 5
  Barred Cuckoo-Dove 2   Mountain Imperial Pigeon 2
  Little Cuckoo-Dove 4   Green-billed Malkoha 2
  Common Emerald Dove 2   White-throated Kingfisher 1
  Mountain Imperial Pigeon 6   Great Barbet 6
  Red-headed Trogon 2   Blue-throated Barbet 3
  Blue-bearded Bee-eater 3   Blue Pitta 2
  Great Barbet 5   White-bellied Erpornis 4
  Golden-throated Barbet 10   Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 4
  Blue-throated Barbet 2   White-throated Fantail 2
  Speckled Piculet 2   Black-naped Monarch 3
  White-browed Piculet 5   Grey Treepie 5
  Stripe-breasted Woodpecker 4   Black-crested Bulbul 10
  Bay Woodpecker 2   Sooty-headed Bulbul 8
  Long-tailed Broadbill 7   White-throated Bulbul 20
  Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike 14   Olive Bulbul 15
  Grey-chinned Minivet 10   Ashy Bulbul 10
  Scarlet Minivet 12   Yellow-bellied Warbler 6
  White-bellied Erpornis 14   Common Tailorbird 2
  Blyth's Shrike-babbler 4   White-browed Scimitar Babbler 1
  Clicking Shrike-babbler 5   Grey-throated Babbler 3
  Maroon Oriole 1   Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 10
  Bronzed Drongo 24   Buff-breasted Babbler 2
  Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo 2   White-crested Laughingthrush 6
  Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 4   Oriental White-eye 2
  White-throated Fantail 10   Asian Fairy-bluebird 2
  Black-naped Monarch 3   Great Myna 10
  Grey Treepie 3   Common Myna 4
  Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher 14   Blue Whistling Thrush 2
  Yellow-cheeked Tit 20   White-rumped Shama 5
  Striated Bulbul 4   Northern White-crowned Forktail 4
  Black-crested Bulbul 4   Rufous-browed Flycatcher 2
  Flavescent Bulbul 60   Ruby-cheeked Sunbird 1
  White-throated Bulbul 20   Black-throated Sunbird 1
  Olive Bulbul 2   Little Spiderhunter 2
  Mountain Bulbul 20   Streaked Spiderhunter 4
  Ashy Bulbul 5      
  Yellow-bellied Warbler 4   Lan Sang Count
  Slaty-bellied Tesia 6   Besra 1
  Davison's Leaf Warbler 30   Greater Coucal 1
  Chestnut-crowned Warbler 3   White-throated Kingfisher 1
  Hill Prinia 2   Chestnut-headed Bee-eater 6
  Rufescent Prinia 2   Lineated Barbet 3
  Dark-necked Tailorbird 10   Blue-winged Pitta 10
  White-browed Scimitar Babbler 4   Small Minivet 2
  Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler 1   Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 4
  Grey-throated Babbler 20   Malaysian Pied Fantail 1
  Golden Babbler 15   Blyth's Paradise Flycatcher 2
  Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 25   Eastern Jungle Crow 3
  Yunnan Fulvetta 60   Black-crested Bulbul 10
  Streaked Wren-Babbler 10   Sooty-headed Bulbul 3
  Collared Babbler 8   Common Tailorbird 4
  Buff-breasted Babbler 6   Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 10
  White-crested Laughingthrush 4   Puff-throated Babbler 10
  Black-throated Laughingthrush 3   Blue Whistling Thrush 4
  Silver-eared Laughingthrush 3   Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker 4
  Blue-winged Minla 10   Olive-backed Sunbird 4
  Silver-eared Mesia 30      
  Rufous-backed Sibia 1      
  Dark-backed Sibia 10      
  Long-tailed Sibia 5      
  Black-throated Parrotbill 2      
  Striated Yuhina 35      
  Burmese Yuhina 12      
  Oriental White-eye 15      
  Velvet-fronted Nuthatch 3      
  Orange-headed Thrush 1      
  Northern White-crowned Forktail 10      
  Rufous-browed Flycatcher 6      
  Large Niltava 2      
  Small Niltava 3      
  Blue-winged Leafbird 5      
  Orange-bellied Leafbird 6      
  Plain Flowerpecker 2      
  Fire-breasted Flowerpecker 12      
  Black-throated Sunbird 25      
  Little Spiderhunter 30      
  Streaked Spiderhunter 40      
  White-rumped Munia 10