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Independent Thailand

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Old Monday 31st December 2018, 10:02   #1
simmojunior
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Independent Thailand

It was a warm evening in May when Drew Lyness, Sophie Barrell and I were walking round the canal at Spurn discussing holidays abroad, specifically a joint desire to go to Thailand. I soon messaged Henry Cook, whom I travelled with in northern Peru last year. Before we knew it, we had hatched a plan for the 4 of us to spend Christmas in Thailand.

We eventually settled on spending just under 10 days doing a circuit from Bangkok and just over 10 days doing a circuit from Chiang Mai. I had been to Malaysia and Borneo before but it was the first trip to South East Asia for the others so we designed the route to maximise species and specialities rather than specific targets.

We did the trip completely independently using hire cars (Toyota Yaris saloon from Europcar for Bangkok circuit and Nissan Fortuner from Avis for the Chiang Mai circuit). The high clearance was definitely useful in the north but the Yaris was absolutely fine for the centre of the country as all roads were in good condition. We flew with Vietnam airways from Heathrow to Bangkok via Ho Chi Minh city (£500 return) and the superb Bangkok airways between Bangkok and Chiang Mai (£65 return). I booked most the accommodation in advance through Agoda, Booking.com, contacting the hotels directly or (for camping) on the Thai National Parks website. The total trip was excellent value, coming to less than £1,200 each including flights and food - £3,500 cheaper than the equivalent offered by tour companies and that does not even include flights!

The trip was hugely successful as I saw 433 species out of a total group list of 446, of which 185 were lifers for me. The north of the country was particularly good as we found several rare and spectacular species. The only disappointing part was Kaeng Krachan, where we were hindered by pointless park closures and an unfortunate incident with a dog, although a special encounter with a rare owl made the visit worthwhile (see below). In addition to the birds, we enjoyed some great mammal encounters, wonderful food and stunning landscapes.

Note: This report will not give precise costs or grid references but do get in touch if you want this information. You can tweet me @OSimmsBirding or drop me a PM.
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Old Monday 31st December 2018, 10:48   #2
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Khao Yai: (9th-12th)

Our flights went without incident and we landed shortly after ten. We whizzed through customs, picked up our hire car and were soon on the road heading to the south entrance of Khao Yai via a supermarket stop. The journey gave us our first views of some of the common Thai species including a Painted Stork, Black Kite and Black-winged Kite. I had brief views of a flyover Black-naped Oriole while Drew saw a Cinnamon Bittern disappearing in to the reeds.

The park was very busy as it was a Sunday but we made a stop at a viewpoint a few kilometres in to the park. Here was saw Shikra, Scarlet and Ashy Minivets, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Little Spiderhunter and some brief Vernal Hanging Parrots. We needed to get to Lam Takhong campsite to set up the hired tents before dark so could not stay long. The drive there produced 2 flyover Wreathed Hornbills, our only ones of the trip.

After setting up the tents in the packed campsite, we went for a walk along the river and up the road. Initially it was a frustrating start as the others all saw Red-breasted Parakeet while a calling Moustached Barbet refused to show as was the case with this species all trip. However, we were soon rewarded with Brown-backed Needletail and a brilliant show from 3 Great Eared Nightjars before returning to the tents for the night.

After a sleepless night and more Great Eared Nightjars, we headed up the Radar Road finding our target Silver Pheasant, just below the summit. At the summit, we added White-browed Scimitar-Babbler, Hill Blue Flycatcher and Black-throated Laughingthrush to our growing list. Working our way down the hill, we found Eastern Crowned Warbler, 3 Kloss’s Leaf Warbler, Ashy Bulbul, Radde’s Warbler, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and a surprise Little Bunting, seemingly a first for the park! At the open area at the bottom, we encountered a nice flock of Phylloscs including Sulphur-breasted Warblers and a superb Asian Emerald Cuckoo.

We then tried the famous stakeout behind the toilets in the Pha Gluay Campsite. Predictably no sight or sound of the Ground-Cuckoo but we did see a wonderful male Siberian Blue Robin, White-rumped Shama, Arctic Warbler and Hainan Blue Flycatcher. We headed towards HQ for lunch via a stop where a dull Phyllosc responded to Sakhalin Leaf Warbler tape but with no experience with the species, we cannot rule out Pale-legged Leaf.

At HQ, we looked unsuccessfully for some Buffy Fish Owls that had been roosting in front of the café the past week. The loop trail was slow but we did manage to find Greater Flameback, White-crested Laughingthrush, Blue-eared Barbet and Common Green Magpie. The rest of the day was quite frustrating as we tried several trails to little avail but did encounter our first Oriental Pied Hornbill.

We were up early the next morning to the extraordinary sound of Gibbons. We spent the first few hours walking the road at km33, seeing Lar Gibbons, Brown-rumped Minivet, Large Woodshrike, Green-billed Malkoha, Common Flameback, Pacific Swallow, Thick-billed Pigeon, Asian House Martin, Pacific Swallow, Chestnut-flanked White-eye and Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike amongst others. The trail at km33 was initially quiet but eventually we found Alstrom’s Warbler, Claudia’s Leaf Warbler, Grey-eyed Bulbul, Sultan Tit, Two-barred Warbler and a calling Collared Owlet. This gave us one of the most amusing moments of the trip as a clueless guide walking past insisted it was a barbet and you cannot see owls in the daytime!

After lunch, we tried the famous trail B and it was alive with birds. The highlight was both Orange-breasted and Red-headed Trogons together while other goodies were Chinese Blue Flycatcher, White-crowned Forktail, Black-and-Buff Woodpecker and Asian Fairy Bluebird. Some of the others saw a brief Asian Stubtail while we were frustrated by several Blue Pittas, which would respond to tape briefly before going silent.

In the evening, we took an official park-organised night drive. This was surprisingly successful with Indian Nightjar, 2 Common Palm Civet, Masked Palm Civet, Muntjac and a brilliant Slow Loris, a mammal I had missed on my previous trips to Asia.

We decided to try Trail B on our final morning in another attempt for Blue Pitta but first tried the Radar Road again for Siamese Fireback. No luck there and a stakeout towards the bottom was full of birds but nothing new. In contrast to the day before, Trail B was quiet although we did manage to find a lovely flock of Silver-breasted Broadbills.

We had a long drive to Phetchaburi and a date with an endemic so had to leave the park late morning. A brief stop in Moo Si was successful as we saw several Red-breasted Parakeets and had our first of many green curries.
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Old Thursday 3rd January 2019, 21:34   #3
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Phetchaburi: 12th-15th

It took about 90 minutes to drive from Moo Si to Wat Phra Phutthabat Noi Temple, where we greeted by abundant barking dogs. Fortunately, it did not take long to find our target, the endemic Rufous Limestone Wren Babbler before we made a swift departure! We stopped at some fields by the end of the access road where we added some common open country species like Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Sooty-headed Bulbul.

The journey to Phetchaburi took over 4 hours but fortunately navigating the outskirts of Bangkok was uneventful. We saw Coppersmith Barbet and Black-capped Kingfisher by the roadside before arriving in the very nice town of Phetchaburi after dark. We stayed 3 nights at the very good White Monkey guesthouse in town.

We were up early the next morning as we headed towards Pak Thale, with 5 key wader targets (Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Malaysian Plover, Nordmann's Greenshank, Far Eastern Curlew and Asian Dowitcher). First though we stopped at some rice paddies on route, finding the only Watercock of the trip as well as Pied Fantail and Greater Coucal.

The saltpans at Pak Thale were full of birds with a surprise summer plumaged Javan Pond Heron on the first one we checked - the only positive identification of one all trip. Waders were abundant including Broad-billed Sandpiper, Red-necked and Long-toed Stint, Pacific Golden Plover and the very numerous Marsh Sandpiper. Terns were also a feature with Caspian, Common, Whiskered, White-winged and Gull-billed all present.

We soon noticed a sizeable crowd of birders and photographers staring at a saltpan so we headed over there to find them watching 3 superb Spoon-billed Sandpipers, amongst Great Knot and both Sandplovers. On the next saltpan, we saw a superb summer plumaged Sharp-tailed Sandpiper that had been found the day before. We then spent some time scrutinising the curlew flock but despite many suspected Far Eastern, we did not really know how to split them on the deck.

We moved on checking further pans in the area, picking up more good birds like Eastern Yellow Wagtail, a suprise flock of 7 Ruddy Shelduck, Brahminy Kite and Collared Kingfisher. The mangroves held several Golden-bellied Gerygone (with their awful songs!), while offshore there were several Lesser Crested Terns.

We then drove south along the coast road and made a stop at the flooded field at Wat Khomnaram. This was full of birds headlined by the motionless Greater Painted Snipe that Henry somehow managed to pick out but there were also Cinnammon Bittern, Oriental Skylark and Grey-headed Lapwing! The only Common Snipe and Black-headed Gull of the trip were somewhat less exciting!

Next we tried Laem Pak Bia saltpans where we were fortunate to see a Slaty-breasted Rail fly across the road. However, we could not find any of our key wader targets here with the only additions Temminck's Stint and Indian Cormorant. It had been a whirlwind morning but we still had only found one of our 5 key targets so after a quick break for lunch, we decided to track down Mr Daeng. Mr Daeng was easy to find and, after paying the 1000 baht, we took the boat to the sandspit. The birds took some finding but we eventually saw "White-faced" (Kentish) Plover, Chinese Egret, Striated Heron, Pacific Reef Heron and, most importantly, Malaysian Plover.

The saltpans at the abandoned building were relatively quiet with no sign of any dowitchers but we did stumble upon a responsive if not showy Thick-billed Warbler and a flock of White-shouldered Starlings. Returning north along the road, we noticed a large flock of Great Knot on a saltpan so pulled over to give it a scan. Here we were rewarded with a single Terek Sandpiper and 24 Nordmann's Greenshank.

Further along the road, we could see the curlew flock was flying around so headed back to the Pak Thale saltpans. As we arrived, the flock was flushed by a dog and we could pick out 2 Far Eastern Curlews as the sun was setting. I am not sure my excited directions of "There is one! There it is" were very helpful but everyone got on to it. A superb end to a superb day with 31 species of wader.

After yesterday's success, we headed to Phetchaburi rice fields in the hope of something quite different. Highlights from a morning searching the area including the raptor viewpoint and Nong Pla Lai were Booted and Greater Spotted Eagle, Pied Kingfisher, Black-browed and Oriental Reed Warbler, Bronze-winged and Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Eastern Marsh and Pied Harrier, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Streaked and Asian Golden Weaver, Chestnut Munia, Osprey and Pin-tailed Snipe. Drew and Henry also saw 2 Black-headed Ibis in flight but I completely missed them.

In the afternoon, we returned to Pak Thale in the hope of finding the pesky Dowitchers. Despite searching all likely spots, we had no joy and all trip additions were relatively uninspiring like Wigeon, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot and Whimbrel! I guess that just gives us an excuse to come back! The highlight of the afternoon was a superb Greater Crested Tern. We spent the late afternoon cycling around the King's Project but this was largely devoid of birds with the best we managed being a Night Heron and a flyby Great Cormorant.
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Old Tuesday 8th January 2019, 01:20   #4
MKinHK
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Brings back memories of being driven nuts by Blue Pittas at Khao Yai 30 years ago. I had the additional pleasure of feeding the leeches for hours while the pittas laughed at us. Happy days!
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Old Wednesday 9th January 2019, 06:50   #5
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Kaeng Krachan 15th-17th December

We set off very early for Kaeng Krachan and arrived at the park entrance just after 6. The drive in the dark meant we picked up a single Indian Nightjar.

After a couple of kilometres, we made a stop at some decent looking habitat. I had a brief Bar-backed Partridge dart in to the forest but unfortunately it did not hang around for the others. We did all have superb views of a large perched flock of Chestnut-headed Bee-eater.

Moving on to km9, we found a really good selection of birds including Black-thighed Falconet, Heart-spotted Woodpecker, White-browed Piculet, Black-headed Bulbul, Greater Flameback, Olive Bulbul, Common Flameback and Greater Yellownape. The others also saw Red Junglefowl and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush that I did not really get good views of. Unfortunately, after this flurry, the day ground to a bit of a halt. We tried more areas but saw very little apart from a flyover Oriental Honey Buzzard and a superb Reticulated Python curled up by the road before heading to Ban Krang campsite for lunch.

The road beyond Ban Krang was shut so we tried the Vanilla trail, seeing very little apart from a Green-eared Barbet in a fruiting tree. Back on the road, we had more luck with flybys from Rufous-bellied Eagle and Crested Goshawk.

We next tried the stream trail but despite getting wet feet, we did not see a single bird in the next two hours! Back at the campsite, a decent flock held our first Ruby-cheeked Sunbird and Blyth's Paradise Flycatcher. We then sneaked up the road as far as the first stream but this was also quiet apart from a lovely Crimson Sunbird and some Dusky Langurs. An evening search for owls drew a complete blank although we heard Collared Scops and Brown Hawk-Owl. A lovely Porcupine was feeding by the campsite.

The next morning, we attempted to sneak up the road only to be stopped by a park guard. Instead, we headed to the youth camp and did the only permitted trail around there.

The youth camp itself held a few birds such as Blue-throated Flycatcher, Heart-spotted Woodpecker and Abbott's Babbler. The 3 km loop trail was however very disappointing with my only trip addition being a Pale Blue Flycatcher though Henry saw Chestnut-breasted Malkoha. We heard Banded Broadbill and Banded Bay Cuckoo but had predictable results trying to find them.

We then took a break round the campsite over lunch. A fruiting tree by the restaurant held plenty of birds including our only Dark-sided Flycatcher. After a quick return visit to the youth camp that produced nothing more than a few Olive-backed Pipit, we headed back along the road. This was marginally more productive as we found Black Eagle, Grey-faced Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, both Crested and Grey-rumped Swiftlet and Yellow-vented Flowerpecker. A calling Black-and-yellow Broadbill refused to show.

We stayed out along the road after dark, finding at least 12 Large-tailed Nightjars before at about 6.30, a park guard appeared to tell us to go back to the campsite. We were desperate to salvage a very disappointing day so made a concerted effort to look for owls around the youth camp. This was unsuccessful but as we headed back to our tents, we heard a White-fronted Scops Owl. Unlike the common species, this responded to tape and we had superb views of this mega! It was even still there half an hour later after we had alerted some Thai birders and the ranger.

The next morning we headed to the youth camp with a ranger who had seen 3 species of Broadbill there the day before in the hope that would mean we had more success. It did not and we saw nothing new.

Back along the road, we found a nice Wedge-tailed Pigeon, Dollarbird, a huge troop of Stump-tailed Macaque and finally saw Banded Bay Cuckoo. We headed to Ban Maka for lunch and picked up Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush on their feeders.

In the afternoon, we headed to Lung Sin hide. In the 4 hours there, we managed Green-legged Partridge, numerous Red Junglefowl, Tickell's Blue Flycatcher, Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, 4 Siberian Blue Robin and Malayan Chevrotain.

We headed back to Ban Maka lodge but our plans were changed as Sophie was bitten by the pet dog during dinner. We had to leave Kaeng Krachan and get her to hospital in Phetchaburi. After getting her the jabs she needed and racking up a huge phone bill dealing with her incompetent insurance, we finally got to sleep at about 2am in a roadside hotel in Phetchaburi.

Apart from the special moment with the owl, Kaeng Krachan had been a great disappointment but we were ready to head north tomorrow to recover our trip.
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Old Sunday 13th January 2019, 08:14   #6
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Sorry this report has been slow. It won't get any quicker I'm afraid as I am away in Buenos Aires until next Sunday. After that, I'll resume the report.
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Old Monday 21st January 2019, 16:22   #7
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Chiang Mai, Chiang Saen and Thaton 18th-20th December

We decided to pass up birding this morning and take a much needed lie in. We drove the 3 hours to the airport, handed the hire car back at the airport and flew to Chiang Mai. All ran smoothly and we arrived shortly after 4.30pm. We picked up our massive Toyota Fortuner hire car and headed towards the B2 hotel on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. A brief stop at the agricultural college failed to produce the hoped-for Wire-tailed Swallow and we could not find anything more exciting than a Moorhen, a new bird for the trip!

Following a recommendation, I had arranged for us to go owling around Chiang Mai with Chan Dongkongsaleng (find him on Facebook - highly recommended despite absurd price of 4000 THB). I was feeling pretty tired after last night so can't pretend I was as excited as I should have been. Anyway, the night with Chan was hugely successful as we found Eastern Barn Owl, Collared Scops Owl, 3 Brown Hawk Owl, 2 Spotted Owlet and a superb Hodgson's Frogmouth, which eventually came in to tape after a long effort. At my instigation, we called it a night at 1am but I'm sure if we had stayed out longer, we would have seen more.We also heard Blyth's Frogmouth and Brown Wood Owl though we drew blanks with Mountain Scops Owl and Oriental Bay Owl.

We decided on another lie in and headed out of Chaing Mai just after 8. We stopped at Huai Hong Khrai but failed to find the presumably plastic Green Peafowl in the 90 minutes we spent there. We did however see a superb Black Baza, Barred Owlet and a brief Rufous-winged Buzzard.

I did a rare bit of driving and, after the only western lunch of the trip at a shopping mall in Chiang Rai, we arrived at the famous harrier roost site of Wat Bamakno in the Yonok wetlands. We had a few hours before dusk so had a walk round the area for a couple of hours, finding a few new birds like Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler, Racket-tailed Treepie, Japanese White-eye, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Red-throated Pipit, Baya Weaver and the only Laced Woodpecker of the trip, frustratingly only seen by me. This was however a pre-cursor to the main event. We stood on the viewing tower and witnessed the magical spectacle over 350 (mostly male!) Pied Harriers, 80 Eastern Marsh Harriers and over 1000 Swallow come in to roost on the marshes.

We headed to our hotel, Gin's Maekhong, for a surprisingly disappointing dinner but we could not complain after the spectacle we had witnessed. We were up early the next morning and headed to Nam Kham nature reserve. It was very birdy but finding them was a struggle in the reeds and persistent drizzle. The others all saw a Ruddy-breasted Crake but we all managed to see Baikal Bush Warbler, Red Avadavat and Black-browed Reed Warbler.

We then returned to the hotel for breakfast before failing to find anything of consequence through stops along the river. Chiang Saen lake was also quiet although we did see Ferruginous Duck and I saw Plain Flowerpecker amongst several trip padders.

We decided to cut our losses by midday and drive to Thaton. After deciding against trying to go up Doi Lang, we headed to Mae Ai paddies where Yellow-breasted Bunting had been seen recently. Despite drawing a blank apart from some unconfirmed bunting flyovers, we had a much-needed hugely successful afternoon.

Highlights included a flock of 13 Ruddy Shelduck, 2 Lesser Coucal, 2 Plaintive Cuckoo, Hoopoe, 25+ Long-tailed Minivet, Yellow-bellied Prinia, male Siberian Rubythroat, Bluethroat, 8+ Black-collared Starling, numerous Citrine Wagtail and a lovely flock of Plain-backed Sparrow. Dusk by the water tower in Thaton predictably failed to turn up Jerdon's Bushchat but this was more than made up for by 3 Chestnut-eared Bunting, 2 adorable Small Pratincole and a huge Wagtail and Pipit roost. The afternoon really helped put the trip back on track!
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Old Wednesday 23rd January 2019, 18:23   #8
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Doi Lang: 21st & 22nd December

We left our hotel in Thaton (Saranya River House) early and arrived at the entrance to Doi Lang East just after 630. The guard took our details and let us through as we headed up the hill. The forest took a while to get going so we did not make our first stop until the concrete bridge. Here we found a great selection of birds including several Grey-headed Parakeets, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Speckled Piculet, Lesser Yellownape, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Maroon Oriole, Slender-billed Oriole, Rufous Treepie, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Mountain Bulbul, Short-billed Minivet, Rufous Treepie and Blue-throated Barbet.

After an hour or so, we reluctantly tore ourselves away and made further stops along the road, picking up Grey-backed Shrike, Gould's Sunbird, Grey Bushchat, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Oriental Turtle Dove, Buff-throated Warbler, Rufescent Prinia and, best of all, a Bay Woodpecker that came in to tape.

The road was in better condition than we were expecting so we made it up to the army camp with few issues. We decided to bird round the camp, which was in hindsight a mistake as the army had shut the road by the time we were ready to move on. Nevertheless, we had a brilliant time at the camp seeing 3 Scarlet-faced Liocichla, White-tailed Robin, female Himalayan Bluetail, 4 Spectacled Barwing and abundant Black-backed Sibia on the banana feeders. Nearby and along the road, we added Davison's Leaf Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Blue Whistling Thrush, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Golden Babbler and some furtive Whiskered Yuhina that were seen only by me.

As the road further was closed, we worked our way slowly down. It had gone pretty quiet but we did manage to see several Mountain Hawk Eagle, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and Blyth's Shrike-Babbler.

We called it a day by about 5 as we had to get Sophie to hospital in Chiang Rai for her second inoculation. Henry and I were both unwilling to drive the 5 hour round trip so instead I joined Sophie in the back of a truck that we had arranged through a nearby restaurant as we were unable to find a taxi in town. Due to traffic and delays at the hospital, we did not get back until around 11pm.

Despite that, we were up very early the next morning and headed up Doi Lang West before it was light. This paid dividend as I spotted a female Hume's Pheasant, that was quickly joined by two more and a stunning male! The next hour is a bit of a blur but we saw several Giant Nuthatch, Ultramarine Flycatcher, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush and Japanese Tit all in the same area. In the excitement, we forgot to carry on along the road for Mountain Bamboo Partridge or Parrotbills - we never saw either on the trip.

We moved on to some stakeouts higher up the road, finding Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, female Slaty-blue Flycatcher and a showy Siberian Rubythroat that I only found because I went back to pick up the car! Unfortunately, it then got very quiet for the next couple of hours as we struggled to find much at all beyond some Flavescent Bulbuls and a Hill Prinia that gave Sophie in particular the run around. We also spent some time fruitlessly chasing a sound that was very close to the call of Green Cochoa but it was not quite right so who knows.

The quiet was spectacularly interrupted when I was called back from fetching some water from the car by Drew as some Thai birders had spotted a Cutia! We had superb views of a flock of 7 in a crazy flock that also contained Rufous-backed Sibia and Blue-winged Minla.

After this excitement, we failed to find anything much in the next couple of hours so headed down the hill to our hotel. At some bamboo second growth near Fang, we stumbled on a couple of new birds like Yellow-bellied Warbler, White-faced (Eurasian) Jay and Grey-bellied Prinia. We had dinner in a nice restaurant in town and had a much needed early night at the bizarre Ton Fang Hotel (nice enough but lacked any paint!).
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Old Saturday 26th January 2019, 21:04   #9
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Doi Ang Khang & Chiang Dao: 23rd-25th

We were aware the 1249 between Fang and Doi Angkhang was closed but we had some advice from a friend who had been recently to drive past the closure signs and over the roadworks to save a 60km round trip. This advice was wrong as after a terrifying drive over dug up road, we were turned back a few 100 metres from Doi Angkhang and had to make an hour round trip.

We started a little later than planned at the Chinese cemetry, where we saw a superb Daurian Redstart, a Chinese Leaf Warbler, a Davison's Leaf Warbler, excellent views of Blue-winged Minla and a confusing female flycatcher that was probably a Sapphire. We slowly worked the road and the campsite area, picking up more species like some responsive White-browed Laughingthrushes, numerous Brown-breasted Bulbuls and Gould's Sunbirds and 2 Common Rosefinch.

Our next port of call was the Hm21 trail where we failed to find the Firebreak trail mentioned on Thai Birding. Nevertheless, the trail was productive as we encountered a very large flock that included many species we had previously seen as well as 2 Golden-throated Barbet. As usual, there were plenty of Bianchi's / Marten's type warblers but they were unresponsive to tape, not calling and eluded identification. I also saw both White-gorgeted Flycatcher and Mountain Tailorbird along the trail but they were not seen by everyone else, while Sophie had a Hill Prinia, much to her relief after missing it at Doi Lang.

After a tasty lunch, we headed in to the King's project. Despite its manicured nature, the trees were in blossom and it was full of birds. Highlights included huge flocks of all three species of White-eyes found in northern Thailand, large numbers of bulbuls including several White-headed, 2 Black-breasted Thrush at the restaurant stakeout and excellent views of Crested Goshawk and Himalayan Buzzard. Drew also had decent views of Crested Finchbill but the rest of us only saw it in flight.

As our final stop of the day, we decided to try Mae Per trail. At the back of the camp, Henry commented that he was suprised we had not seen Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo only for Sophie to immediately point one out sat on a branch in front of us! This was part of a huge flock and we had possibly the most exciting 10 minutes of the trip. Henry spotted a Grey-chinned Minivet while I was watching a Clicking Shrike-Babler and Drew was on a Silver-eared Mesia! Fortunately, they all hung about and we all saw them well. We were prevented going further along the trail by an aggressive buffalo so called it a day, adding two flyover Grey Treepie by the camp. We arrived in Malee's Resort in Chiang Dao just after dark.

The next morning, we decided against going to the high elevations as we had seen most the key targets and instead start at the famous temple. At this stunning spot, we enjoyed Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Great Barbet, Short-billed Minivet, 2 Black Baza, Little Spiderhunter and a shock juvenile Chinese Sparrowhawk. We had a quick check of the Gully trail before returning to Malee's for breakfast and found a responsive Eyebrowed-Wren Babbler, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush and a skittish White-crowned Forktail that taunted the photographers amongst us.

After breakfast, we went to the cave area and encountered several nice flocks that included Buff-breasted Babbler, Arctic Warbler, Asian Stubtail, Blue-throated Barbet and two superb Bamboo Woodpeckers. We also scrambled up on the rocks to explore some caves and enjoyed our best views of Crested Serpent Eagle.

Our next stop was the national park, which was generally quiet and not easy to bird due to the lack of stopping places along the road, but we did find 6 Striated Yuhina, Large Cuckooshrike and a Yellow-streaked Warbler. We returned to the gully trail in the late afternoon and found Grey-crowned Warbler, Siberian Blue Robin, Grey-throated Babbler and two lovely Streaked Wren Babbler. Evening owling in the temple area was unsuccessful as unfortunately a calling Blyth's Frogmouth never showed.

The next morning, we tried the Gully trail again in the hope of a Christmas present but Santa did not oblige and we saw nothing new. We set off mid morning for Chiang Mai, making two wholly unproductive stops. The first was at a small lake near the road where a Mandarin had been seen recently and the second was at the sterile lake of Huay Tueng Tao mentioned on Thai Birding.

As a result, we decided to take a small break from birding and go sight seeing in Chiang Mai, where we enjoyed some temples and a "traditional" Christmas lunch of Pork Curry or Sweet and Sour Chicken!
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Old Sunday 27th January 2019, 11:28   #10
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25th-28th December Doi Inthanon

We left Chiang Mai mid afternoon and headed towards Doi Inthanon. We first headed to the Blossom-headed Parakeet pre-roost site, where after a short wait, we obtained reasonable views. We also had good views of Rufous Treepie and Banded Bay Cuckoo.

We ended the day along them km13 road in the park hoping for a roosting White-rumped Falcon or Collared Falconet but saw very little. We headed to the rather grim but cheap and well-located Mr Daeng's for the night.

We started the next morning amongst vast hoardes of Thai tourists at the summit. It took a while to get light enough but when it did, the small summit trail boardwalk area was full of birds. Highlights included Dark-sided Thrush, White-browed Shortwing, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Yellow-browed Tit, Green-tailed Sunbird, a showy group of Rufous-throated Partridge, Yellow-bellied Fairy Fantail, Pygmy Cupwing, Buff-barred Warbler, Ashy-throated Warbler, Blyth's Leaf Warbler, Pallas' Warbler and Chinese Leaf Warbler (you get the picture). Superb!

We tried a few more stops lower down the road like the chedis but the vast crowds made it difficult to find very much at all! We had more luck at the km37.5 jeep track as while there were not too many birds and the birding was difficult, we scored with views of at least 3 Slaty-bellied Tesia and a Lesser Shortwing that both came in to tape. We were also frustrated by a flyby dark zoothera, a flushed partridge and several interesting calls, showing the potential of this trail!

After lunch at the summit market, we tried km34. This was quite birdy even if most the flocks only contained species we had already seen. We did however add Large Niltava, Rufous-bellied Niltava, White-throated Fantail and Marten's Warbler to our list. Henry also had a very brief Black-backed Forktail that eluded the rest of us. We cut short our exploration to head to the campsite in an attempt to find the notoriously difficult Black-tailed Crake. We did not even hear it but we had more luck with the Plumbeous Redstarts during a brief stop along the river.

The next morning, we returned to km13 where we quickly found a key target in the form of 3 superb Black-headed Woodpecker at the start of the road. In the area we also found Red-billed Blue Magpie, 3 Black-hooded Oriole, 2 Rufous-winged Buzzard, Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, 3 Rosy Minive amongst a varied Minivet flock, Greenish Warbler, 2 Black Baza and 2 Lineated Barbet, which was a relief as their calls had taunted us all trip! A White-bellied Woodpecker called repeatedly down the valley but was frustratingly only seen by Drew. We need not have worried about not finding Collared Falconet though as we soon spotted one perched along the main road at KM18. White-rumped Falcon was however nowhere to be found.

We then proceeded to check the river and waterfalls at spots mentioned in Thai birding in the hope of White-capped Redstart. The views of the waterfalls were very nice but distinctly bird less so we were relieved when a friendly Thai photographer took us to see a showy White-capped Redstart behind a cafe down a side road.

After a very slowly served lunch interrupted by a female Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher, we headed back to km37. The trail was fairly quiet although the same Tesias and Shortwing were present, while calling White-necked Laughingthrush refused to show. Just as we were debating whether to give up and try the lower elevations, I spotted a thrush-sized bird fly in. As I raised my binoculars, I could not believe what I was seeing! Green Cochoa!!! Somehow I stayed calm and got the others on to it quickly before it flew off. What a thrill!

The remaining few hours of the day were unsurprisingly a bit of an anti-climax but we did have brief views of our only Slaty-backed Forktail fly down river. We had an excellent green curry at Mr Daeng's as our celebratory final dinner and hatched a plan for our last morning.

We headed back to the summit early to watch the sunrise and waited for pigeons. This plan was partially successful as the clouds largely obscured the sunrise but we did see 2 Ashy Woodpigeons! The summit trail however was much quieter and contained nothing new.

After a delicious breakfast of steamed buns, we had a final look at the km34 trail. This was very birdy and we added the final 3 new species to our list, namely Fire-capped Tit, Hume's Treecreeper and a female Vivid Niltava. A low-flying but brief buzzard evaded firm identification but was probably Japanese.

Unfortunately, we had to leave just after 10 to start the long journey home. Everything ran smoothly enough and we arrived in the UK the following morning after a brilliant trip!
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Old Sunday 27th January 2019, 11:32   #11
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Full list

This is my full list of species seen downloaded directly from e-bird. It also contains the first site we saw them at. It does not include heard only or species seen only by the others. I think there are 14 of these in total and they are mentioned within the report.
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Old Sunday 27th January 2019, 13:12   #12
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Nice report of what sounds like a great trip with a good bird list.
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Old Monday 28th January 2019, 06:19   #13
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Green Cochoa is a great bird to wrap up the trip. Any pix?

Cheers
Mike
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Hong Kong: European Golden Plover, Blunt-winged Warbler, Fire-capped Tit (472)
Greater China: Franklin's Gull, Buff-breasted Sandpiper European Golden Plover (972)
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