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Old Wednesday 24th December 2014, 22:06   #1
JWN Andrewes
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Thailand: Spoon-billed Sandpipers!! (and some other stuff)

Morning arrival in Bangkok on 21st November, quick transfer across the city to the domestic airport (name escapes me) for a transfer flight up to Chiang Ria. Thin pickings from the taxi – Barn swallows, Peaceful Doves, Common Mynas , Large-billed Crows, don’t recall any of these coming up in discussions of target birds. Group consists of myself (obviously), father & son combo Glyn & Richard Taylor who I first met way back on the Chalice (which should date it), and Dave Hichliffe, a friend of theirs, all three of whom I have birded with (in various combinations) on Scilly and in Yorkshire, Kazakhstan & Costa Rica. At the airport a distant perched up Little Cormorant and a flock of Cattle Egrets continue the theme of nice-I-suppose-but-not-really-what-we-came-for birds. We were met at the airport by Punjapa Phetsri, aka Games, and Ian Dougdale from South Thailand Birding, who would have the dubious pleasure of our company for the next 12 days or so. Tree Sparrows & Black Drongos from the car as we headed west, and then the trip’s first ticks (for me at least) at a quick comfort stop – Bronzed Drongo & Sooty-headed Bulbul. Nothing special for the hardened SE Asia birder perhaps, but us tyros have to start somewhere. As we weren’t going to get to Doi Lang in time to start birding we decided to stop off at some potentially productive paddy fields (near somewhere called Thatton) en-route to make some use of the day. Almost immediately we got Great Myna (first of many during our travels) and a dapper, if distant male Pied Harrier (my third Harrier tick of the year). Prominent birds in the landscape included Long-tailed & Brown Shrikes and Pied & Stejneger’s Stonechats. (By the way, if my taxonomy is a bit all over the place then I apologise; the Robson guide to SE Asia seems a little out of date, and although Ian & Games did their level best to update us where appropriate eg White-vented Myna is now Great, I’m not sure all of it sunk in, so feel free to chip in and correct me whenever I’m behind the times, or just seem to be making it up.) Chestnut-tailed and Collared Starlings and Scaly-breasted Munias flew about in small flocks, occasionally obliging with perched views, and overhead birds included Ashy Woodswallows, a few Striated Swallows in amongst the Barns and at least 4 Amur Falcons. A Rufous-winged Buzzard sat up nicely for us in a nearby tree and a rather out of place looking Common sandpiper rose up off one of the fields and headed off across a landscape dotted with Pond Herons. Where we were up country the default Pond Heron is Chinese, but in winter plumage they are effectively indistinguishable from Javan, more of a southern coastal bird. Highlight of day one was in amongst the hedgerow and ditch skulkers. Here familiar Dusky Warblers were joined by Yellow-bellied & Plain Prinias, but stealing the show a stunning adult male Siberian Rubythroat. Ouch! Gave itself up to various members of the team before I finally nailed it, what a beaut. Arrived at the hotel full of anticipation, Doi Lang tomorrow…

Long-tailed Shrike
Thatton Paddyfields x2
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Old Friday 26th December 2014, 04:05   #2
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Looking forward to this report - we seem not to hear so much about birding in N Thailand these days.

Cheers
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Old Friday 26th December 2014, 06:40   #3
JWN Andrewes
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Up near the Burmese border, Doi Lang is a relatively recent addtition to the visiting birders’ itinerary, since a new road has improved accessibility. It has proved a good site for various species that are hard elsewhere in Thailand, although what with this being my first full day’s birding in south east Asia everything was new and I perhaps didn’t appreciate some of the trickier species because of this. So, from dawn’s Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush to dusk’s Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, from padders like Mountain Imperial Pigeon to megas like Giant Nuthatch, today was an absolute tick-fest! The road at Doi Lang, from which one birds, is a big loop, but unfortunately the army has closed a section of it due to its proximity to the Burmese border, rendering it effectively a fork, the right hand prong of which we spent the day on, an area of mostly fairly open woodland with grassy areas. This gave rise to an excellent variety of species, from more open country birds such as Grey-backed Shrike, Grey Bushchat and Chestnut Bunting, to more forest oriented species like Spectacled Barwing, Short-billed & Grey-chinned Minivets and Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers.

Flycatchers provide a great deal of entertainment and challenge to first timers in the area, and Doi Lang Day-One got the ball rolling with Sapphire, Verditer, Slaty-backed, Slaty-blue and White-gorgeted. Those last 2 species were seen at one of the bait stations so popular in the area, little clearings in the undergrowth with artfully placed logs & perches baited with mealworms. Sitting quietly by these can be a good way of seeing otherwise fairly skulky species, and occasionally looking in on a couple of these during the day notched up Hill Prinia, female White-bellied Redstart, Silver -eared Laughingthrush and Siberian Rubythroat as well as the previously mentioned Flycatchers. If it’s ID headaches you want though, wing-barred Phylloscs trump Flycatchers hands down, and being fairly rusty at the moment I found these quite a struggle, but with many helpful discussions we settled on Yellow-browed, Hume’s & Davison’s, but I never clinched Claudia’s (though I think others in the group did). The relatively large, un-barred Buff-throated were a doddle by comparison.

Bulbul variety was a new experience for me, with Flavescent, Black-headed, Brown-breasted & Crested Finchbill all noted in the day, and there were even a few family ticks in the mix – Dicaeidae (Fire-breasted Flowerpecker), Leiothrichidae (Dark- & Rufous-backed Sibias inter alia) and Paradoxornithidae (Grey-headed & Spot-breasted, is that right, now that Beardies are Panurids?) I was also introduced to a variety of bizarrely named birds that didn’t initially seem to fit into any previously encountered family, but bit by bit (and some with help from google when I got home) I’ve managed to figure them out (I think). So, Blue-winged Minla is a Laughingthrush, Yunnan Fulvetta is a Warbler, and Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler is a Vireo? Really? I’m almost certainly mixing several schools of taxonomic thought here, it’ll take me weeks to get it straight in my head.

Not too bad a day for raptors too, with displaying Crested Goshawk, Oriental Honey Buzzard & Mountain Hawk Eagle overhead. Also filling the skies were numerous Cook’s (split from Pacific?) Swifts. (And while we’re onto splits, the local grey looking Great are, I think, now Japanese Tits, that right?) What else? Well, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Hume’s (split from Brown-throated) Treecreeper, Spangled & Ashy Drongos, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Grey Treepie, Japanese White-eye, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker all good fare, but blown away somewhat by a couple of corking Great Barbets. Mrs Gould’s Sunbird managed to be a bit of a disappointing tick by virtue (vice rather) of being a drab (ok, let’s be charitable) subtly toned female (where’s the males?!), and the day’s birding ended with a delightful party of wee Black-throated Bushtits, just prior the eleventh hour Scimitar Babbler mentioned up-post. Oh, and whisper it quietly, Olive-backed Pipit was a tick! Several were feeding quietly near where we stopped for a peanut butter & jam sandwich lunch. It felt like a crazy day, it’s certainly been many years since I saw so many new species (48!) in one day.

Doi Lang Habbo
Really crap photo of Giant Nuthatch!
White-gorgeted Flycatcher
Bait station
Siberian Rubythroat
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Last edited by JWN Andrewes : Friday 26th December 2014 at 09:42. Reason: John's whinging (poor old thing)
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Old Friday 26th December 2014, 06:43   #4
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Looking forward to this report - we seem not to hear so much about birding in N Thailand these days.

Cheers
Mike
Odd, given Thailand seems, on brief accquaintance at least, to be such a great country to bird; good infrastructure, politically relatively stable, low crime, inexpensive, excellent avian diversity.

James
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Old Friday 26th December 2014, 08:40   #5
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Odd, given Thailand seems, on brief accquaintance at least, to be such a great country to bird; good infrastructure, politically relatively stable, low crime, inexpensive, excellent avian diversity.

James
Maybe thats the issue: everyone assumes all this is known and everybody's been there!

Can I put in a plea for bolded bird names and some paragraphing, makes reading easier for tired old eyes like mine...

I'm already very envious BTW.

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Old Friday 26th December 2014, 09:48   #6
JWN Andrewes
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Can I put in a plea for bolded bird names and some paragraphing, makes reading easier for tired old eyes like mine...

I'm already very envious BTW.

John
Done (although I lack the option to edit post 1).

Pics
Silver-eared Laughingthrushes
Spot-breasted Parrotbill x2
Black-throated Bushtit
Another one of my rubbish photos - Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler (in fairness it was almost dark at the time!)
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Old Friday 26th December 2014, 12:51   #7
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Great reports. I'm off to South Thailand at the beginning of February and emailed South Thailand Birding a couple of days ago but no reply yet. From your reports they are clearly first rate but is it just the two of them? I see from their calendar that they have an extended tour in the first three weeks of February which would scupper our plans for two isolated days. I'd hate to spend two weeks in Thailand and miss out on all the goodies!
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Old Friday 26th December 2014, 14:53   #8
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It is just the two of them, but I'm pretty sure Ian did say he sometimes helped out with itineraries for people he wasn't in a postion to show around due to prior commitments. They're both really good on mammals, herps etc too. I would definately recommend them, and if I ever get the chance to head back (I'd love to take Anna & the boys) they'll be my first port of call.

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Old Friday 26th December 2014, 15:58   #9
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Thanks James - I'll make a follow up request to them if I don't hear by the New Year
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Old Saturday 27th December 2014, 16:40   #10
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Today we would bird the left fork of the Doi Lang loop. Oriental Turtle Doves dotted the road as it got light, and we stopped just after dawn on a bridge that ghave us views out over the forest, and immediately we were underway with a family party of Slender-billed Orioles sharing a snag with a Lesser Yellownape and (briefly) an immature Maroon Oriole. Here we go again! This area was much more forested then where we’d been the day before and in no time at all we were onto our first bird wave. New species came thick and fast, Rosy & Swinhoe’s Minivets, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Black Bulbul, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, but White-bellied Erpornis eluded me for now. Drat! Continuing on Greater Yellownape & Little Pied Flycatcher showed frustratingly briefly, but nothing like as bloody awfully as a party of Collared Babblers! How such a big group of noisy, active birds, bouncing around at the top of a bamboo stand can remain so unsighted beats me! I managed split second views of one, and the rest of the time kept getting onto the couple of Pale-billed Parrotbills that were accompanying them. They were darling little things, the Parrotbills, but the Babblers were an absolute mare. We then drove on to a bait station by an army checkpoint where we sat and snacked, watching Spectacled Barwing, Dark-backed Sibia and Whiskered Yuhina doing likewise, with Chestnut-flanked White-eyes, Mountain Bulbul and a continuous supply of confusing Phylloscs also in the area.

Once refreshed we headed off on foot, and were soon at yet another bait station, which had a White-gorgeted Flycatcher in attendance, and where a Chestnut-headed Tesia almost came in, but though better of it at the last moment and back-tracked. There was plenty to keep us occupied as we walked, but not much of it new, save for large numbers of Orange-bellied Leafbirds, until we hit a busy period which provided three new Bulbuls (Ashy, Striated and the glorious White-headed, plus another chance for those who’d missed it this morning, Black, which had an annoying habit of perching out in plain view, but then taking flight almost as soon as you got onto one) and then a completely bonkers looking bird – Long-tailed Broadbill! This gave excellent prolonged views, and was a new family for me, one I’d really wanted to connect with, as well as being a big target for the rest of the group, so smiles all round. Big broad ones! We then retraced our steps, back to the checkpoint, where a very vocal Bianchi’s warbler was showing well. While Dave & Glynn staked out the bait station (hoping in vain for the Red-faced Liocichlas that sometimes visit it) Richard and I headed down to a small stream where Forktails are occasionally seen. No Forktails, but a sweet little Chestnut-headed Tesia hopping about gave Richard a get-back after the one earlier today had eluded him.

Then it’s back to roadside birding and a procession of new birds, Golden-throated Barbet, Yellow-cheeked Tits, Emerald Doves, a fine Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, White-throated Fantail, Chestnut-crowned warbler, until we reached an open grassy area, where there was an almost non-stop movement of Crested Finchbills low overhead, down the slope into some middle-distant bushes, must’ve been 40+ while I was watching, in spite of being distracted by a displaying Mountain Hawk-Eagle and an out of season Fire-tailed Sunbird (immature or eclipse male, not sure which) for which this is the only site in Thailand. Acting on information received on the way back we stopped off in an area of paddy fields and picked up a couple of Grey-faced Buzzards. Other birds seen on the way back to the hotel included Crested Serpent Eagle, Greater Coucal and Grey Wagtail.
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Last edited by JWN Andrewes : Saturday 27th December 2014 at 16:46. Reason: Forgot photos!
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Old Saturday 27th December 2014, 17:09   #11
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Done (although I lack the option to edit post 1).
Thank you!

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Old Sunday 28th December 2014, 12:59   #12
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A strong, ultimately unfulfilled desire, to see Cutia took us back to the right hand fork this morning. A morning which followed a now familiar procedure, to whit stopping at 05:00 at one of the inaccurately named 7-11’s to pick up breakfast & coffee to go, troughing en-route and arriving pretty much at dawn, fed and more or less awake, to start the day’s birding. It’s worth mentioning at this point that pretty much anything we picked up for our 7-11 breakfasts was unbelievably sweet, be it a ham sandwich, pulled-pork roll, mini pizza, and I mean seriously, sugary, “if Krispy Kreme made pizzas” sweet. You got used to it.

Anyway, back to the birding, and a lovely male Mrs Hume’s Pheasant mid road brought us to a standstill and got the ball rolling and then we were off, and even with the law of diminishing returns seriously kicking in there were some new birds to enjoy in amongst the repeats (of which a Hume’s Warbler bathing on a dewy leaf and daylight views of Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler are worthy of mention). Crimson-breasted Woodpecker was particularly welcome, having been one of the bigger misses on our previous visit and Mountain Tailorbird (thus far seen only by Richard) did the decent thing by giving itself up to the rest of the team. Less obliging were the bloody White-browed Laughingthrushes, I think I was the only one of us with untickable views, hence no bold type (sorry John, my account, my rules), although Chestnut-capped Babblers obligingly crashed the party while we were trying to call the Laughingthrushes back in (and one of those weird looking eastern subspecies Eurasian Jays stopped by briefly too). Our tip-off for a recent Cutia sighting drew a blank, but chipped in with excellent views of Giant Nuthatch and an upgrade on Little Pied Flycatcher.

Eventually it was time to decamp and head off to Doi Inthanon for a couple of nights. A couple of stops on our way out of Doi Lang gave us Yellow-bellied Warbler, Hill Blue Flycatcher and Plain Flowerpecker at the first and japponicus (split as Eastern?) Buzzard and Common Kingfisher at the second. More birding at our lunch stop yielded some nice leucopsis White wags, a couple of Snipe sp (I think we decided probably Pintail but far from certain), some Wire-tailed Swallows and a female Olive-backed Sunbird.

Arrived fairly late at Doi Inthanon and clanged out on our first target, an occasional pre-roost gathering of some sort of Parrakeet (isn’t it awful, I can’t even remember which species). Got nice views of Collared Starling, distant views of Rufous Treepie and our first Eastern Jungle Crows of the trip and were frustrated by seemingly abundant Chinese Francolins that were as intractable as they were vocal (I mean we heard loads but didn’t bloody see any). Highlight of the evening was excellent views of male Burmese Shrike, possibly the prettiest Lanius Shrike I’ve come across thus far.

No photos today. At some point I hope to get a few pics off the others on the trip, at which point I’ll be able to post some better efforts that my own sorry examples. (I’ve said elsewhere I’m not really much of a photographer, just get lucky occasionally, and always tend to concentrate on getting good views first and only really reach for the camera if a bird is either ridiculously close or I’ve already had a good long look).
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Old Sunday 28th December 2014, 18:12   #13
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No photos today. At some point I hope to get a few pics off the others on the trip, at which point I’ll be able to post some better efforts that my own sorry examples. (I’ve said elsewhere I’m not really much of a photographer, just get lucky occasionally, and always tend to concentrate on getting good views first and only really reach for the camera if a bird is either ridiculously close or I’ve already had a good long look).
Looking like a great trip! Must put it on my agenda soon I think!

I'm with you on the photo business. View first, then if they're near enough point the camera to scare them away! At least that's what they usually do!
In Uganda I had the privilege of seeing Thibaut take lots of stunning images too!
More soon please!
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Old Sunday 28th December 2014, 23:16   #14
JWN Andrewes
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More soon please!
Tomorrow if I get the chance, and I realised I forgot to mention I did manage to upgrade my female Mrs Gould's Sunbird the following day with multiple views of males. Also, on the mammal front in and around Doi Lang we had notched up Red-cheeked, Grey-bellied & Western Striped Squirrels and a Northern Tree Shrew.

EDIT - make that later today, just checked the time!
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Old Monday 29th December 2014, 06:38   #15
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Doi Inthanon. Back in ’89, after an epic 5 months blundering round Ecuador, I decided that world birding was definitely the bag I was into, and started planning for my next trip, with Thailand being strong in the running. Back then that involved sending off for trip reports from Steve Whitehouse (interwhat? don’t know you’re born, you young ‘uns, but some of us still remember, eh? eh? what? eh?), and one name from reading those reports stuck in my memory more than any of the others. Doi Inthanon. As it happened saving up for the next trip took a little longer than I’d hoped, and it was another 11 years before I next needed a passport, and it was west, to Manitoba, rather than east that it took me, but still, Doi Inthanon stayed lodged in a deep cerebral recess. Not for any particular species, couldn’t recall a single one mentioned in those trip reports, but mostly for its presence at the heart of so many of the reports I was reading, as the place to see highland species, and a little bit because I liked the sound of the name.

That was 25 years ago, and on 25th November this year, after a night at the renowned Mr Deang’s, my first Doi Inthanon bird was a dawn tree-top Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker. Good start. A lot of folk about this morning, often the case apparently. So much of the country is so hot that Thais quite like to come up to any high altitude spot with easy vehicular access. It’s a popular thing to drive up in the late afternoon and camp for the night just to “experience coldness” (more than once saw people pointing at, indeed photographing, thermometers with big smiles of awe). So we stood in a car park at the top of the mountain, surrounded by people, watching Ashy-throated & Buff-barred Warblers in the scrub below, with Blyth’s Leaf Warblers in the nearby trees. We then explored along a boardwalk, incense smoke drifting through the understory, picked out by the morning sunbeams punching through a canopy that was hosting a small band of Bar-throated Minlas, a high piercing “threeee bliiiiind mice” sounding from down among the ferns. The unseen songster was one of the chief target birds up at the summit and was soon called into view, and gave such wonderful views, running out from underneath the boardwalk like a wee mouse and sitting out in plain view. Pygmy Wren Babbler. Perhaps it was the smell of the incense, the smoky, atmospheric light dappling the nearby shrine, but seeing this bird was one of the most moving, almost spiritual, experiences of my birding life, and I was literally trembling as we continued along the boarwalk afterwards, and I wasn’t the only one. A gaudy Green-tailed Sunbird, a saturated riot of red, orange, yellow and shining bottle green, nice though it was, suffered a tad from being after the lord mayor’s show of that tiny little bundle of earth brown, off white and sombre grey. Such is birding.

The next boardwalk held mixed fortunes. First up a pretty little Yellow-bellied Fantail, then an uber-nondescript Yellow-browed Tit in amongst a feeding flock and after that our first big ID cock-up of the trip (there’ll be another, more forgivable one later). I’ll try and be as frank about this as I can. We stringed a Common Rosefinch into Dark-breasted. Ok, so I have to offer up some sort of defence, and I’m speaking for myself here, but my experience to date of adult male Common Rosefinch had been in Central Asia, with birds that looked splashed with concentrated raspberry juice, whereas this bird looked more painted with raspberry yogurt (this making sense at all?), and did seem to have a dusky wash across its breast, and nothing like my mental picture of Common. Well, Ian was far from convinced from the get go, and subsequent e-mail correspondence with his fellow Thai birders did little to persuade him but it wasn’t till I got home and had the chance to swim in the internet that I realised just how limited my experience with the full range male Grotfinch plumages was, and my confidence evaporated. I do hope we didn’t cause Ian too much embarrasement with our keenness to promote such a duff ID. Hooh! Cathartic. Now quick, distract everyone, oooh look! Chestnut-winged Fulvettas, lots of them, aren’t they pretty!

The boardwalk we were working was the site, which is to say the site for the much wanted Dark-sided Thrush, with the accepted method of scoring being to walk slowly, looking out for the slight movement of a dark brown mottled bird foraging quietly in amongst the dark brown mottled leaf litter on the dingy forest floor. Up and down the boardwalk, round and round the boardwalk, slowly scanning floor of this strange, mountain top swamp. While we were rewarded with fine views of Snowy-browed Flycatcher, of Dark-sided Thrush there was no sign. Acting on information received we took a quick break to stake out the back of a nearby café for Rufous-throated Partridge which showed eventually, but not before probably my best “upgrade” of the trip. My tick Blue Whistling Thrush had been a roadside bird seen from a moving bus in Kazakstan 13 years ago, this monster just jumped out of the undergrowth and flaunted itself at me. Oof! Unfortunately Richard, who shared my previous experience with the species (he was on the same bus) was further back along the track and never got onto the bird. Ooops. Anyhoo, back to the Dark-sided Thrush boardwalk, this time picking up White-browed Shortwing, female Himalayan Bluetail, Woodcock and another Whistling Thrush (no sign of Richard again). No sign of Dark-sided Thrush either. This was turning into a pressure bird. Even with pressure birds though, scanning fatigue can set in, so we decided to take another break, this time driving a little way to a waterfall where we found a female Plumbeous Redstart, Verditer Flycatcher and Grey Wagtail and then started getting itchy, so back we went to the boardwalk for another go.

Pics

Richard’s pics of “that Rosefinch” x3
Summit car park
Boardwalk birding
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Old Wednesday 31st December 2014, 08:41   #16
dandsblair
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Great report

We didn't have Northern Thailand even on our radar but some great birds seen. This report is making us think this should be another place to add to the growing to do list (for every two places we do we seem to add three new one). Thanks for posting.
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Old Wednesday 31st December 2014, 12:41   #17
JWN Andrewes
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Back at the boardwalk things felt quieter. No more false alarms from Silver-eared Laughingthrushes tossing leaves about, just four increasingly desperate Brit birders and their guides patiently working the boardwalks, stepping aside for cheerful parties of chatting tourists, foreign and Thai. We walked, we sat, we scanned, we walked. Time was getting on, this wasn’t funny anymore, and then, after passing Glyn sitting glumly staring at the forest floor I came to a corner in the boardwalk and paused to peer into the gloom. Was that a movement down there? I felt that familiar adrenalin rush, my blood tingled in my veins, my senses sharpened and I turned and whispered as loud as I dared to Glyn “GOT IT”. Glyn soon had it too, but the rest of the group was strung out along the boardwalk, and the bird flew back out of sight before they got onto it, leaving us with a fifty fifty split. Not comfy, but at least I was sitting on the right side of the divide. But now we could focus our search on the area we knew the bird was in, and before long it was refound in the same spot, and I broke off from trying to photograph bathing Fulvettas in insufficient light for second helpings of a classic birder’s bird; Dark-sided Thrush, in bold at last, with its absurdly long, fat, hooked beak, pot belly and stumpy little tail, a vision in brown. Phew!

Pressure off, we stopped to bird the roadside a little lower down in what remained of the light. Not much was happening, just a feeding party of Yunnan Fulvettas, until we were distratced by some Asian House Martins overhead and while watching these picked up a circling White-rumped Falcon. A good bird, deserved better views, but you get what you get. One last bird, a male Black-throated Sunbird, and it was back to Mr Deang’s for beer, curry & beer, and an attempt at owling that was devoid of birds but featured a real sweet little Flying Squirrel. So ended a very, very emotional day.

Pics
Bar-throated Minla
Pygmy Wren Babbler
Green-tailed Sunbird
Rufous-winged Fulvetta
Sooty-headed Bulbul
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Old Wednesday 31st December 2014, 15:58   #18
MKinHK
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Your report is making me come over all nostalgic - had you gone to Thailand in 1989 we may well have met - I was there in May/June and visited Thaton,which was hot and disappointing, and Doi Inthanon, which was very good. We scored big with a Brown Wood Owl at the summit marsh, missed the thrush and never had a sniff of a White-rumped Falcon . . .

The attached pic was taken while waiting for the fog to clear and the rain to stop, both of which made it unexpectedly cold up there, hence the creative, but ultimately futile use of a Kenyan kikoi to keep warm. Sharp-eyed binophiles will be able to identify the dodgy pair of Bressers. The pic is a bit faded, but it does make me laugh every time I look at it!

Cheers
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Old Wednesday 31st December 2014, 21:03   #19
JWN Andrewes
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Originally Posted by MKinHK View Post
Your report is making me come over all nostalgic - had you gone to Thailand in 1989 we may well have met - I was there in May/June and visited Thaton,which was hot and disappointing, and Doi Inthanon, which was very good. We scored big with a Brown Wood Owl at the summit marsh, missed the thrush and never had a sniff of a White-rumped Falcon . . .

The attached pic was taken while waiting for the fog to clear and the rain to stop, both of which made it unexpectedly cold up there, hence the creative, but ultimately futile use of a Kenyan kikoi to keep warm. Sharp-eyed binophiles will be able to identify the dodgy pair of Bressers. The pic is a bit faded, but it does make me laugh every time I look at it!

Cheers
Mike
Oh, very fetching. We had the benefit of a tip off that it could get a bit chilly up in the highlands, so had spare layers to hand. And Brown Wood Owl? Hmmm.... watch this space.

James
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Old Friday 2nd January 2015, 12:47   #20
Larry Sweetland
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Enjoying the report, a reminder that there's still a fair few goodies to give me an excuse for a another trip.
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Old Saturday 3rd January 2015, 06:34   #21
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The following morning could never hope to match the drama of the previous day, and so it was. A pleasant bird along what I think I heard Ian referring to as the jeep trail (could be wrong here). Things kicked off in similar style to yesterday, with a tree top Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, followed by one more for the Bulbul tally; Black-crested. There followed a gentle walk, with lots of repeat views of recent ticks (Yellow-cheeked & Japanese Tits, Little Pied Flycatcher, Hume’s Treecreeper, Chestnut-capped Warbler, Maroon Oriole) but I manage to stuff up White-bellied Erpornis yet again. Reaching a more open area Red-whiskered Bulbul was new for the trip, as was a White-browed Scimitar-Babbler (not seen by me though, boo) and Rich and I got onto what was almost certainly an immature Chestnut-bellied Eagle sweeping swiftly by, too brief and partially obscured by trees to nail for sure.

Time came to leave though, and as we began to retrace our steps we were treated to a party of dazzling Silver-eared Mesias moving quickly through. Back near the road I stopped to indulge in one of my favourite tropical forest persuits; snag-watching, and came up trumps with an adorable little Collared Falconet topping a dead tree limb sticking up out of the forest. And then we were back at the car, and back on the road. Fare thee well Doi Inthanon, and thanks for the experience; it shall be long remembered.

So now we’re off to Mai Ping, diptocarp forest and home to, amongst other things, a goodly variety of Woodpeckers. Roadside birds included two new for the trip, Common Kestrel & Large Cuckoo-Shrike, and then we stopped for lunch at a roadside café where we had our other ID clanger, though not so bad this time I reckon, at least the individual involved was atypical. Back home I’d not have hesitated in calling it as a Black Redstart. It was sat up on some metal contraption by a track behind the café, and just Rich & I saw it before it flitted across the track into some sort of plantation where it couldn’t be relocated. Wouldn’t have looked twice at it on Scilly, just moved on looking for something better. Major major rarity in Thailand though but we just couldn’t make anything else fit. Remained as an uncomfortable presence, halfway onto the trip list, until we got home and Rich did some digging and found that Daurian Redstart can lack the supposedly diagnostic white wing patches. Atypical common species sits better than a typical mega-rare one, but I really don’t feel happy allowing it onto the life list without having had the chance to examine it properly, so, lose lose I’m afraid.

Before hitting Mai Ping we dumped bags at tonight’s motel (picking up Asian Palm Swift & Common Tailorbird in the process). First bird in the forest was Radde’s Warbler, and other than that things seemed pretty quiet, but bit by bit things started to come together, with the first real goody being a Grey-headed Parrakeet which bucked the trend for Parrakeets by perching up in plain view rather than simply screeching over. Nice one. One Christmas a few years back my brother gave me a framed print of Red-billed Blue Magpies. It’s a lovely picture but I’m sure there are birders out there who get this, it can be a bit sort of odd having pictures up of birds you haven’t seen. Anyone else get that? Anyone at all? And Rob, if you read this (I guess you might, I did go and send you the link after all) please understand I am not ungrateful, I love the picture, it’s just that birders can be a bit, well, odd. Sometimes. Anyway, as you’ll probably have guessed by now, we saw some Red-billed Blue Magpies at Mai Ping, a bunch of them flying through the mercifully open forest (or we wouldn’t have been able to see them) in the middle distance. Just like in my picture! A roving, noisy flock of White-crested Laughingthrushes also passed through giving some of the best views as they crossed the road but never settling in view for long, and the tree tops held Black-naped Monarchs and a Golden-fronted Leafbird. Down by a bridge over a stream things really started to hot up, with a pair of White-rumped Shamas and a party of Pin-striped Tit-Babblers and then came the headline act, a magnificent White-bellied Woodpecker giving show-stopping views, just fabulous, best Woodpecker ever (so far…). To round the day off we improved on previous views of Lesser and particularly Greater Yellownapes, and I managed to get onto a Burmese Nuthatch in a feeding flock in the last of the light, leaving us just with Black-headed Woodpecker missing from our Mai Ping shopping list.

Pics
Diptocarp forest at Mai Ping
Grey-headed Parrakeet
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Old Saturday 3rd January 2015, 10:28   #22
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Originally Posted by JWN Andrewes View Post
One Christmas a few years back my brother gave me a framed print of Red-billed Blue Magpies. It’s a lovely picture but I’m sure there are birders out there who get this, it can be a bit sort of odd having pictures up of birds you haven’t seen. Anyone else get that? Anyone at all?
Yep.

I recently had the same experience with Pied Thrush - on the wall of my hotel room in Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka, and ONLY on the wall of the hotel room . . .

However Odd is not the word I'd choose - "really fricking irritating" is more the mark in my case.

I even met a guy who refused (so he claimed) to look at pix in a field guide of birds he's yet to see. How he ever worked out some of the trickier birds I don't know, but it shows how deep the psychosis can go.

As for your redstart - un-spotted Daurian Redstarts are extremely rare here in HK where they are a common winter visitor. Sometimes birds on the deck can hide the spot beneath fluffed up flank feathers, but in flight such hidden spots soon become apparent. A bummer you didn't see more, and I would agree that putting it down as an aberrant Daurian does not solve the problem of not getting enough on a potentially very interesting bird. And just to make it more complicated . . . It's probably also worth mentioning that you have to add female Hodgson's Redstart into the mix.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Saturday 3rd January 2015, 20:05   #23
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Did consider Hodgson's but I think they're just as rare as Black (or rarer?) in Thailand, and would be paler and greyer. Also Blue-fronted was considered but should have shown a wing bar & distinct eye ring and I think is less of an open country bird (this was lawn, dirt track, cultivation, roadside, commerce and a few scattered trees), but can't remember all the details of the various discussions we had. Deep down I consider it to be an odd Daurian. There's a mostly obscured pic of it somewhere, when we all swap photos I'll see if I can post it here.

Cheers

James
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Old Saturday 3rd January 2015, 22:55   #24
Larry Sweetland
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"Anyone else get that? Anyone at all?"

brilliant. Never thought of it before, but I reckon I might suffer from this too!
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Old Sunday 4th January 2015, 06:34   #25
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It’s one of those things you have to face from time to time on world birding trips. Do you stick to the plan for the sake of one target bird you’re missing, or change plans to capitalise on having seen nearly all of what you were after at a given site. In a nutshell do we try again for just Black-headed Woodpecker the following morning, with pretty much all the other realistic targets in the bag (necessitating a long drive in & then out again) or do we bail early and give ourselves more time at our next site; Mae Wong. We bailed. Shame about the Woodpecker, I really like Woodpeckers, but the knock on effect of hitting Mae Wong early was definitely worth it in the end.

As we headed south Red Collared Doves joined the Spotted & Peaceful Doves, Great Mynas, Ashy Woodswallows, Large Cuckooshrikes and Brown Shrikes as a roadside wire birds, and then someone (Richard I think) called a stop for a Black-winged Kite hovering by the road. Being a fair way into our journey at this point we decided to have a break and bird some roadside pools for a bit. Good views were had of the Kite, and then one of the first birds that flew up from the pools as we worked the track was a male Greater Painted Snipe! One of my most wanted birds, a family tick to boot, totally fluked! A male Yellow Bittern was also a new bird for me, while Purple Heron, Green Bee-eater & Red-wattled Lapwings padded things out nicely.

Onward then, to Mae Wong, with a Taiga Flycatcher (first of several) feeding near our rooms when we dumped our bags, and then we headed up to the top, seeing Flavescent Bulbuls & Oriental White-eyes by the campsite while Games arranged a session at a nearby blind. This done we headed downhill again and were soon settling in behind a tatty sheet of plastic sacking held up with sticks, and with half a dozen ragged holes torn in it. The lucky ones amongst us baggsied a couple of folding stools, I was left perched uncomfortably on a rock. The view out through the holes was relatively open, some mossy rocks more or less centre stage, with mealworms scattered about for bait. So we waited and, bit by bit, the birds came.

Female White-tailed Robin was first up, with its big, peering eyes (so tame that later in the afternoon it joined us in the blind, by flying through a viewing hole passing inches from Rich’s face). A Hill Blue Flycatcher then dropped in, female again, to snack on mealworms, and then finally Richard got decent views of Blue Whistling Thrush, and by decent I mean stonking, an adjective that could be used over and over when writing up these sessions in blinds. Next to join the party was the first of three new Babblers; Buff-breasted. These, I’m afraid, ranked alongside Yellow-browed Tit as contenders for blandest bird of the trip, they reminded me a bit of House Wrens without the interesting markings. That’s not to say I wasn’t delighted to see them but they didn’t really compare with the subtle scaliness of the duo of Streaked Wren Babblers that followed them, and certainly not with the handsomely adorned and richly coloured Spot-necked Babblers that rounded off the trio. Stonking they was. A very smart black male White-tailed Robin, with its blue highlights and white tail flashes put in a brief appearance, and then all of the above was comprehensively out-stonked by a dazzling White-crowned Forktail strutting in from the back and performing to perfection. The snowiest of whites alongside the jettest of blacks, a true nightmare of a bird for the proper lensman to get the exposure right for, but oh my, what a stonker.

Ok, that’s enough stonking for the time being, my arse was now in spasm from two hours crouching on a rock, so we took a break to go do some trail birding with the aim to come back and finish the day off with another session. The trail walk started well enough with a delightful party of Silver-eared Mesias and then went quiet, with no sign of the target Burmese Yuhina (which we never did catch up with) pretty much until we reached the farthest point of our walk, when we were treated to excellent views of a pair of Rufous-browed Flycatchers. The walk back was considerably better, though not without its frustrations! It started with a good bird wave, and I finally managed to get onto a White-bellied Erpornis (yay!) although the views were ever so brief (less yay!) as well as a Speckled Piculet, but then I managed to be in completely the wrong place for a very showy Bay Woodpecker and had a bit of a strop (come on, who hasn’t?). A Golden Babbler on the way back, followed by a couple of Sulphur-breasted Warblers put me in a better frame of mind by the time we reached the campsite & car park back at the head of the trail and spotted the ranger (Annan I think his name was) beckoning from up the road, where it bends round to the right out of sight. Thais beckon with the palm down, and Annan was doing this furiously with both hands, in an almost “Wayne’s-World-we’re-not-worthy” fashion. Clearly this was something good, and Ian speculated Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, one of the site’s special rarities as we rushed up, but it turned out to be something so much better. We were put onto a black shape halfway up a tree across the valley side, and initially, before I got a feeling of scale I though “hmmm, Binturong”, but no, this was much bigger. This was a Bear! Asiatic Black Bear as it turned out, shaggy coat and big prominent ears distinguishing it from Sun Bear. Totally unexpected sighting of an extremely rarely seen mammal, we watched it draped over a branch for ages. At that distance the photos really don’t do it justice, through the scope at x60 it was so much better, at one point lifting its head and revealing its chest crescent, what a beast, beyond stonking.

Eventually though we managed to tear ourselves away and head back to the blind for one last treat. A bird we’d been waiting for at our previous blind session, and hoping for since hearing a couple of days previously that it had been visiting this blind off and on for about a week; Rusty-naped Pitta. Happily, it did not disappoint, and after a nervous wait suddenly it was there. Bounding in and settling down to scoff mealworms, a much bigger bird than I’d been expecting, the colours of the surrounding moss-covered sandstone paying perfect homage to this subtly hued beaut of a bird.

The day wasn’t quite over though, and once the sun was down, the reptiles came out, with Tokay & some sort of Day Gecko just outside our rooms, and then with a night drive that produced more herps than birds (including an as yet unidentified gecko, some sort of Kukri Snake (forget which) and an Indian Black Turtle), with the only bird being a glorious Brown Wood Owl giving stunning flight views in the spotlight. A great end to a great day.

Pics
Flavescent Bulbul
female White-tailed Robin
female Hill Blue Flycatcher
Blue Whustling Thrush
Buff-breasted Warbler
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