Friday, 12 June 2009

Doi Inthanon

I was going to post this last Saturday, but I couldn't be bothered and anyway, it's better late than never. Travelled to Doi Inthanon (pronounced Intanon) on 3rd June, leaving Chiang Mai at 1015 am and arriving at Mr Daeng's at 1215. Went up with Marie and we did some birding on the way there. An unexpected tick was a Cinnamon Bittern which flew across the road by the Tesco store (yes, they have Tesco's in Thailand, too) at Chom Thong.

After paying our 200 Baht each at the gate we went up to the summit, via Mr Daeng's where I was staying for a couple of nights for me to drop my bag off,  Thailand's highest point at 2565 metres above sea level, where Green-tailed Sunbird (the race of Green-tailed Sunbird on Doi Inthanon is endemic to there), Chestnut-tailed Minla and Chestnut-headed Laughingthrush were active around the summit visitor's centre. Also at the summit, round the marsh area, were Ashy-throated Warbler, Dark-backed Sibia, Grey-throated Babbler, Rufous-winged Fulvetta and Large Niltava, the latter very hard to see high up in the trees as it called it's 'Doe Ray Mee' song. It was pretty cold at the summit, which made a pleasant change from the hot humid lower elevations.

On the way back down the mountains to Mr Daeng's we got - in the fog - Hill Prinia and Flavescent Bulbul.

The next day I was joined by guide Somchat, from a nearby village. He works for Mr Daeng and is a pretty good birder, finding stuff I most likely wouldn't have found by myself. It wasn't without some trepidation that I set off, at 0615, on the back of Somchat's motorbike, but it was perfectly safe and in no time did I feel in any danger, despite coming down the mountain at 35mph with no crash helmet (I don't think my mother reads this, or I will get in trouble!), in fact it was brilliant fun. The first lifers of the day happened to be in Mr Daeng's garden - Streaked Spiderhunter and Japanese White Eye. Further up the road, at KM 34 we encountered Green-billed Malkoha, White-browed Shrike-babbler (great names these birds), the fabulous Silver-eared Mesia, Oriental Magpie Robin (not a lifer as I'd already seen these in Singapore and Bangkok) and at Check Point 2 were Yellow-cheeked Tit, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta and Mountain Tailorbird. We also got a good view of Asian Emerald Cuckoo and a briefer one of Violet Cuckoo, just up the road from CP2. Also on that stretch of road was a Japanese Sparrowhawk, high in the trees.

We continued upwards in fog and rain to the summit where we got Grey-cheeked Minivet and Yellow-bellied Fantail. After a summit visit to Thailand's highest point and a look, from the road, at the grandly named 'Princess Sirindhorn Neutron Monitor', an astronomical observatory for cosmic ray detecting, and the shrine to the late King Inthawichayanon of Chiang Mai who the mountain is named after.

It was then straight down to the lower-altitude dipterocarp forest at around KM 15, but this only resulted in three new birds: Common Flameback, Collared Falconet and Blue-winged Leafbird. Following this it was up the mountain again, to KM 20 and the Vachirathan Waterfall, in the hope of a forktail species and Blue Whistling Thrush. We found Blue Whistling Thrush easily, plus Ashy Drongo, but no forktail.

Later, we went to some paddyfields, but only saw Pied Bushchat and Paddyfield Pipit and a lot of rain. I got soaked to the skin, so as we were passing Mr Daeng's anyway we went in and I put on a dry t-shirt before we headed out again (and me having purchased a plastic raincoat from the Doi Inthanon 7 Eleven store!) to look for the Black-tailed Crake at the campsite by the park HQ. Expecting the bird to be elusive and hard to see we went armed with worms, expecting a lengthy wait but it was actually walking around, plain as anything. The supposed hardest bird to see turned out to be the easiest, as often happens.
Further up the road, beyond the market stall area, again in torrential rain (was greatful for that 25 Baht plastic raincoat!) we went down a turn off towards Mae Klang Lung, and on the road, was a Slaty-backed Forktail. We'd only been to just about every waterfall and suitable-looking riverine habitat that afternoon searching for one and there it was, on the road, of all places!

The following day, Marie came to collect me and we headed back to Chiang Mai, but not without another couple of lifers - female Scarlet Minivet (I was to see the stunning male a few days later in Khao Yai) and Black-throated Sunbird. We birded our way back to the park entrance but got nothing new, bird calls were all around but the birds themselves kept hidden, apart from a Green-billed Malkoha and a Racket-tailed Drongo.

Had to stop at the Chom Thong Tesco store for some groceries, but there was no sign of the Cinnamon Bittern.

I didn't take many pics on Doi Inthanon, due mainly to poor light and rain/fog but what I did take are in the post below.

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